From eating silkworms in the North-East to travelling solo across Palermo, biker girl Kalki Koechlin shares her globetrotting stories
Kalki Koechlin started riding when she was 12. But regardless of whether she’s riding beastly steeds across Nantes (France) or skiing in Gulmarg, her fearless wanderlust has never ceased. Most recently, this National Award-winning actor-boho fashionista-screenwriter joined her dad, photographer and veteran rider Joel, on a 13-day ride across the North East (filmed for Fox Life). As we near Father’s Day (June 19), the actor shares life lessons from long bike trips with Koechlin senior, the importance of travelling solo, and why she dislikes self-help travel guides. Read on.
What exactly inspired this daddy-daughter duo to embark on a 5,000 km-long journey across largely uncharted territories, from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya? “One day my dad and I were watching television and we came across this British television series called Long Way Around. Just witnessing Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ride over 30,390 km from London to New York City on all-terrain BMW motorcycles instilled this need in both of us, to try out something akin,” says the 32-year-old.
“I can be very stubborn sometimes, but if there’s one thing I learnt from riding pillion with dad during our (earlier) bike trips across Salem-Dindigul, it’s this: keep going when things get tough (recalling punctured tyres, hauling bikes down empty roads and bunking down in strangers’ homes),” she shares, adding that riding on her own, across the North East, on a Royal Enfield Himalayan gave her a better perspective on life: comparing her minuscule self to the mountains she was riding through helped. “We also learn to appreciate and become comfortable with silence,” she explains.
On a loop
A self-confessed fan of ’70s rock and indie music, Koechlin shares that she personally creates all her ‘on-the-road’ playlists and they always include tunes by Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Beirut, REM, and the like. “A personal favourite during the ride across the North East was Roadhouse Blues by The Doors. There’s something exciting about the way Jim Morrison sings Keep your eyes on the road,” she laughs.
Off the shelf
She’s not very fond of travel books and despises using Lonely Planet guides as they go against her spontaneous nature. “I prefer getting travel advice from locals and finding out what they do, when I visit a new place. On my trip across the North East, I chose to carry my copy of the political memoir of feminist militant, Andrea Rita Dworkin. It’s called Heartbreak.”
Besides poems like The Printing Machine (which has amassed almost 1.5 million views on YouTube), soliloquies like Soul of a Woman, and the play, The Living Room, written and directed by her, Koechlin admits that she hardly finds time to write anymore, due to her busy schedule. “I intend to change that soon. I can’t wait to head back to my home in Pondicherry—just off the ECR, amidst a large coconut groove with a laid-back surf school called Kallialay nearby—for some quiet time and maybe write something new,” she explains.
“I will be working with director-actor Rajat Kapoor on his theatre interpretation of Macbeth, with clowns. We’re taking the show to the US in July for three weeks,” says Koechlin, who has been critically applauded for her role in Waiting. She will also be seen in Konkona Sen’s directorial debut, A Death in the Gunj. But first, she has plans to make—for a ride with her dad and brother in Sri Lanka.
Joel and Koechlin’s biking adventure will air in August on Fox Life as an eight-part mini series. Details: facebook.com/foxlifeindia
“The food was a big discovery in the North East. We came across some insane, exotic dishes there. The weirdest thing I ate was silkworms. Definitely not something I’m going to try again. My dad has now decided to become a vegetarian—that’s how bad it was,” she laughs.
A strong advocate of hitting pause to stop and reflect on everything that matters when life gets too much, Koechlin admits that she needed some “alone time to get away from it all” and ventured out to Sicily, alone, last year. “Palermo is a such great isle town. Friendly people, great cuisine,” explains the actor, explaining, “I also ended up exploring a quaint-yet-beautiful beach town called Cefalu which also appeared in Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 classic, Cinema Paradiso.”
“I was wearing Enfield’s biker gear head-to-toe. Since they don’t have a women’s section, I had to get extra small menswear. But their riding attire is really solid—it withstood the rains and the slush we encountered,” she shares, adding that she picked up a lot of original local weaves—like a kimono-like traditional attire she came across in a homestay in Arunachal’s Sangti village.
“I love going skiing in Gulmarg (Jammu and Kashmir) with my family. Especially in February when the snow is good. I’d recommend staying at the log cabins within the ski resort, Highlands Park,” shares Koechlin, adding that she also has fond memories of exploring the Pachmarhi-based wildlife sanctuary, Satpura National Park, with her Dad, when she was 15.
I prefer getting travel advice from locals and finding out what they do, when I visit a new place
— Anoop Menon
(with inputs from
Surya Praphulla Kumar)