Apr 13, 2010

Two days on Two wheels

Bikes have always been a deep passion for me. May be because I was forbidden by super-cautious parents to even touch a bike - forget riding - till I was formally deemed fit at 18 by the Govt. of India to ride one. May be because I did not have one at my home - not even my father had one  - to be used as the rabbit for amateur tests and I had to learn to ride secretly from friends and sometimes shamelessly from friends of friends too :-) To sum up , this passion can be attributed as a function of two factors.
1. They say the longer you wait for your love on a breezy evening, the more beautiful she looks to you ....
2. They also say that stolen mangoes sweeter than the normal ones....
So my long wait for my own bike and the secret stints with borrowed bikes hidden from my home explain the correlation.

The weekend of April 10 & 11, 2010, became special with my first long ride. Of course the bike was borrowed but the stint was not secret. As I am now legally above-age, my parents have reduced the level from super-cautious to cautious and only advised me to stay cautious on the ride.

Thus it started. At 4 AM from Bangalore. Destination : Kannur, Kerala. Distance: 350 km. Estimated time to reach: 1 PM. Route: via Mysore (Karnataka), Mananthavady (Kerala). What was planned to be a story of two states (my own - not Chetan Bhagat's :-) ) eventually turned out to be a story of three states , leaving us in a near dead state when we reached Kannur at 5 30 PM , hanging onto the last drops of energy in the body.

This is how it happened ... All was well until breakfast at Mysore. At the threshold of the route to Mananthavady, we consulted a God-sent guide about the route. He said the route was bad and suggested an alternative via SultanBathery (Kerala) to Mananthavady which is 30 km longer but a good road. That proved to be the turning point ! And we turned !! To SultanBathery.

I have read once that the best philosophers were long travellers and lost travellers! We travelled long and on the way to Sultanbathery we were lost too (!!). Time is to tell about the quality of our philosophies but sure the ride and the wander opened our eyes to a new experience. Luckily for us, the lost stretch of 90 km was through Bandipur National Park (Karnataka) through Mudumalai wildlife reserves(TamilNadu)  to SultanBathery (Kerala) -  - did I mention about the story of three states :-)

We knew very well that we were lost in the jungle - literally. The only option that we had was to change our plan to accommodate an elephant sanctuary and a tiger reserve at the cost of some historic forts in Kannur. Going back was not an option because poor chaps , we , realised very late that we were lost. The hilly roads were  shady , scenic and inviting. We waved to a few elephants, dears and rode along with a few unknown species of birds - they took the aerial route :-)

Instead of being fuelled by petrol, our ride was fuelled by adrenaline. Ambitiously, we skipped lunch and rode on from SultanBathery to Mananthavady and on to Kannur. This was a stretch of typical Mallu roads - narrow two lanes with a deep turn every fifty feet apart. On an empty stomach, these curvy roads could have given a lot of headspins but we had enough adrenaline to keep us going!

And then came Kannur - after a ride through three states, four hills and thirteen hours. Yes you guessed it right ... we hit the beds in the lodge with the same vigour with which we hit the roads earlier. Stay in Kannur in the late evening was uneventful but as our plan was by now a trip to Bandipur, Mudumalai etc. we were not surprised. Kannur's beaches can wait for another morning :-)

Monday morning schedules and the unknown shortest route to Bangalore made us start early the next morning. The bikes were tired too. We did not risk the unknown and decided to hit the usual route to Mysore via Mananthavady, come what may. In stead of us hitting the roads , the hilly roads from Kannur to Mananthavady hit us hard with their bumps and potholes. Literally, another uphill task !! But we stuck to our tour plan and stopped our pulsar at the drop of a hat to capture the mountain's splendour - the hat dropped very often though :-) . Lessons from the previous day were well taken for you can't become a good philosopher even if you were a lost traveller if you are not a fast learner. We listened to our body's calls and the bike's calls and did not let both of them to get overheated. We found shelters at a a village bus stop and even a Durga temple in the midst of Nagarhole National Park ( Yeah... we crossed another one in this route)!

Except for a 20 km stretch for which the road was real bad, the route from Mananthavady to Mysore was heaven-like, considering what we went through earlier. 5 30 PM this day, we were at Mysore. Bangalore was only a three hour cruise from here in an amazing highway. This window of time and the grandeur of the Mysore Maharaja's erstwhile residence tempted us to accommodate a visit to the palace too. Thus the trip added another wonderful first-time for me at the Mysore palace. Stunning would be a milder description to describe the magnificience of the fully lit-up palace against the evening's darkness. Stunned was I .... :-)

After a brief stint at the Maharaja's place, we continued the last leg of our trip to Bangalore on the expressway. At 1 30 AM when we hit the familiar warmth of our hostel beds at Bangalore, we were too tired to even wave good nights to fellow riders. Two days hence ... those two days on two wheels seem amazing and amazing may well be a milder description. I learnt a lot, lived my passion, soaked in sweat, reeled in some back pain ( :-) ), got lost, found a new dimension of myself and what not ......Amazing !!!

Cheers to my fellow riders - Saurabh Trivedi, Tituts Raju and Ajay Amarnath (the owner of my borrowed bike who shared the wheels with me).