Sunday, 4 December 2016

Bangalore to Kanyakumari : A two-up round trip

Let me start by apologizing to my beloved car, for not being able to take it out on those long trips anymore. Which is why, for the long weekend of October (thanks to Diwali and Karnataka Rajya Mahotsava joining hands together), there seemed to be a silver lining in the proverbial dark clouds for my car. It was indeed an epic travel opportunity. 



One of my school time friends; Sujit and myself planned to head somewhere out during this holiday weekend. It wasn't that long since I had returned from my big ride and the motorcycle was pending a thorough check-up before I could put it out on the road again, that too for a long trip. So the car seemed like an obvious choice. With this reasoning done on the mode of transport, Pondy (a long pending must-visit-beach-location) was shortlisted for the preferred destination. I spoke with my buddy Gopal (another biker), and got some inputs on the location and where to stay, etc. Everything was looking good and perfectly planned. Meanwhile, I shifted my focus on wrapping up the work at my office, so that nothing comes up for me during the upcoming weekend. But as the days got closer, I started to get that itch, of why not ride the motorcycle instead :D Instead of thinking too much in the head, I bounced the idea off Sujit, as his comfort was the priority for me, for this trip. It turned out he too had no particular fondness for being in a car, other than for the fact that, it will give us a shelter in case of shower en route. I checked the weather for the coming weekend and it looked pretty much dry except for few shades of clouds during the last two days of the trip. After having ridden in rain for days at a stretch, a possibility of slight drizzle on the way couldn't really bother me (nor my bull).



Getting the sticker job redone on lever guards...old ones ripped off during the last trip.

The only challenge for this plan was that, I had a bit less time to prepare for the trip. It had been couple of weeks since I got back from one epic trip and my touring setup was not been "set up" for another trip. Saddlebag was dusty as hell, all other gears were stuffed in a carton, etc. So I had to organize all that the way I would for any trip. Additionally I got one of my spare helmets cleaned up (with the 3M helmet cleaner) for Sujit to use. I picked up Sujit on my way back from office and we had some catching up to do, as I hadn't met him since months. But I had to also work on the packing and preparation. So by the time I was done it was around 2:30. Though I had asked Sujit to sleep on time as being awake he couldn't really help much.  My alarm was set for 3:30, as in the morning we had to saddle up and leave the city by 5 or 5:30 at the latest. You can figure out the amount of sleep I would've gotten this night. Damn!! This has been the trend with almost all my trips, so much so that it may seem as if I plan to be sleepless the night before any big trip. So anyway, with or without enough sleep, we were ready to roll.

" Heading to God's Own Country "
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Saturday | Bangalore - Mysore - Coorg - Thalassery, Kerala


We were up and out on the nice road by the time clock hit 7am. Clearly we didn't start as early as we had thought of, but still, it wasn't that late either. We were lucky to have moderate traffic on Mysore road so we could filter through our way pretty quickly. By the time it was 9, we stopped to have some breakfast. Idlis are my favourite during travelling due to very low possibility of adulteration in its preparation and also the sambar thats served along with it is a simple composition and boiled; so the chances of any bacteria is almost negligible. Call me paranoid, but I have travelled enough to know how much that could matter when you going to be on the road for days.

This was one of the fastest two-way stretch of road on the way to Coorg/Madikeri


So good to have so much free space on the side to safely pull over.


This was one the worst helmet hair days of mine :P 


Somewhere near Coorg. Taking snacks and water break in the shade.

The western ghats brought beautiful lush green twisties to this ride... this stretch again meant for two-way traffic, but for the motorcycle, it was alright, provided you maintain the line of ride well and don't surprise yourself (or the incoming traffic)


A small patch of space on the side of the road, always ensured that we stopped for a break. This was during a pee break however :P And we had to stop!


This was supposed to be a test shot but decided to keep it.. focus is not on these two (Sujit and the bull)


Forest and a beautiful stretch of road coming along together really well here.


Some more admiration for my road stallion :)


It is always better to pick a spot with ample amount of space to pull over (so that traffic still have some leeway, just in case they swerve a little for whatever reason) and also the spot should be visible to vehicles from a distance, for them to slow down. This is a thumb rule you follow and trust me you would never have to be risk yourself (or the bike) during the breaks, anywhere in India (or even abroad).


This was I guess after entering Kerala. By now we were done with the western ghats and now the temperature and humidity were gradually changing.

So we made it to our for destination; Thalassery, Kerala. Got ourselves a hotel on the side of the highway, got fresh and snuck into a comfortable pair of clothing before hitting the Muzhapallingad beach, known as the longest 'Driveable Beach' in India. This is my second visit to this beach and to this stretch on my motorcycle. You can read about the first one here

Someone is having fun on the sandy beach, with the bull :) Only being a childhood friend can earn you such perks!


There are bunch of bikes and cars whoozing through the beach and many I guess would be the first timers are a bit too excited for their own good (and the public safety)


SLR on the helmet wasn't the most brilliant idea, but best at that point. Due to vehicles doing drag runs inches from the camera setup, no wonder it missed the focus by the time the timer triggered.


Evenings gets a bit busy on the driveable beach.

If you haven't noticed it yet, the bike and the frame remains unchanged in the last 3 photographs. Well, I was tired to be creative at that point (so didn't really try different perspectives) and it was damn hard to push the motorcycle on the sand and also to stop the kickstand from sinking into the soft beach sand. Here we have put a pair of our slippers under the kickstand. There you go, you now know how to make your motorcycle stand upright on a soft ground like sand (same works for mud too, albeit I prefer a piece of rock, if around). This seems like one simple yet effective idea, and it came from a local bullet rider, who was with his group having fun. "Thanks for that mate".


So after playing in the sand for as long as we could, we got back to the hotel by around 7-7:30 and just passed out. We didn't intend to but I guess we seriously had a lack of sleep by this time. And with that comfort of the hotel bed, it was imperative that we took some rest ASAP. While at the beach I had noticed my rear right indicator bulb wasn't working. So soon after I got up the recovery power nap, I went straight to the bike and got busy sorting that out. Looks like it was due to an unhinged wire clip, possibly due to mud going into the rear light assembly during the north-east trip. There were dried mud inside the rear assembly and I had to clean that up with the help of hotel staff. They also got me a chair to sit and work on the motorcycle near their open restaurant. It had a nice ambiance. Once I was done, we could have some delicious food from the live counters sitting right next to the motorcycle. There couldn't have been a better way to enjoy the dinner on a motorcycle trip. :)



" Nomads in Kerala " 
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Sunday | Thalassery - Kochi - Trivandrum

With a proper rest, we could keep up with our plan of an early morning start, around 5:30 am. Idea was to cover most distance before the traffic comes on the highway. The NH17 which goes along the coast through Kerala is one of the slowest dual carriage routes. It allows a slow passage because the highway is graced with tons of shops and houses on  the sides, all through. So if you ever think of covering distance on this one, fast, then you better be riding during odd hours only (i.e. either early morning or late in the night). I chose early morning, given our itinerary. All thanks to Sujit, that he could keep up with the plan. So by 5:30 am, we were on road again and it felt fresh and the road was all for us to ride on. We munched miles like we wanted to, yet getting to enjoy the views of coastal towns, backwaters, houses on the way. Unlike me, Sujit hadn't been to Kerala before and riding through the state at our own pace, on a motorcycle was one the best ways he experienced the state. A bus or car trip would have drastically reduced the whole experience for sure. So we rode till the morning break and then some more, as it was tempting not to ride when the road was so empty. 

After a while, we stopped for the breakfast, which was essential to keep us energized during the day. To be honest, I had told Sujit that this round trip would be challenging as the distance to cover is quite high for this stretch and we may need to be doing hundreds of kilometers during the day. He is a fit guy and well aware of (/trusts) my adventures, way back since our school days. So he was up for it. With that bit agreed, I wanted to keep more time in hand for the last day stretches, so that when we complete the trip we wouldn't be that fatigued and we could have normal work days afterward. To pull that off, we had to do some serious riding in the first two days. Yesterday we actually had a good run of 300 plus kilometers. It was perfect for the first day and we had to up the scale for today. Add to it now we are on a slow route. So we gotta make it as far down south along the coast as we could so that we have more time to spend in Kanyakumari, which Sujit was all excited for. This was what mostly our conversations and planning about the ride that took place, during our breaks. Other than that we were thoroughly enjoying the ambiance of this beautiful coastal state.

Nothing beats an early morning run on a freshly tarred road, along the coast of this beautiful country :) 


Sujit was doing a great job with the iPhone photography.. :P So one more shot of me and the bull :D


A quick break since we have been trying to outrun the traffic before the day breaks. Stopped here to munch some biscuits and sip little water. Sujit posing with the sign boards here.

Stopped here for some coconut water. Not sure what was there in those bottles though :/ 


We had a long day ahead of us, and breaks were crucial in keeping us relaxed. So instead of just stopping on the roadside, we just snuck into some beach close to the highway, by taking a detour.


So thankful to have this beast with me. We have explored all the way from the Himalayas to the ocean shores and the friendship has grown beyond that of a man and machine. #zenphilosophy


As lunch was getting delayed, it made perfect sense to stop over and have something light to fuel ourselves. I had a chocolate milkshake and few choco pies (Not sure why was the craving that time :P lol)


Can you believe this ?!! It's Taj Mahal right there and we were not even in Agra. Possibly it was a mosque, which we saw on the way.


" Looking for THAT coastal road "
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Monday | Trivandrum - Kanyakumari - Madurai

Being in Trivandrum by the second day meant that a big milestone had been achieved. Kanyakumari was a mere 90 odd kms away. So I was assured that Sujit will get to spend some time in Kanyakumari and I would have some time to search for that secret coastal road which had got me hooked ever since I found it two years ago. We had a proper sleep and started a bit late, around 9'ish. Met a taxi driver from Chennai who had newly bought an Enfield and wanted some advice on maintenance and stuff. So couldn't just brush him off. So spoke with him for a while and told him few things that would help. He was really happy. The irony here is, Enfields are manufactured in his hometown of Chennai, but his queries got answered by someone from the east, who lives in Bangalore and doesn't really follow the new bullet trend. But then, I hope I gave him the right understanding about this vehicle so that he can think beyond the current fad and enjoy his motorcycle in a better way. Soon after we bid farewell to our hotel in Trivandrum and headed towards the famous Kanyakumari, albeit in a leisurely manner.

Breakfast stop for the day and that was one of the lightest tasting (and looking) coffee I have had in a long time. And it tasted good actually :) #dontjudgecoffeebyitscolour


This was a shortcut we took after a lot of enquiries and search for that elusive coastal road and got rewarded with such views on the way..


A short (15 minutes) clip to summarise, the search for that elusive road, which I had enjoyed so much during my last visit...


What a view it was!! I just love the untouched, non-touristy, refreshing feel of such places.

When we reached here, we were not sure, if it was meant for vehicles (we only saw cycles going over it). While we parked the motorcycle and were walking around enjoying the place, we saw few local bikes going over the bridge. And well, we too went up and over it :) Video follows ;)

Don't forget to turn up your speakers before you hit play.


After a lot of struggle, we finally found the road we were looking for, just to realise it had vanished into the sea now. It was an interesting sight.


The fishermen's villages can be seen in the background.


Bull looked at peace at this place. No more rush, no worries, just being there and listening to the waves.


Sujit too had his share of quiet time.


I wish I could compose the photographs I have been in. It would be so much nicer. #notbraggingoranything #justsaying

Vivekananda Rock and the statue of Thiruvalluvar (a famous Tamil poet and philosopher)

A view from the sunset watch tower..


My favorite view from the sunset viewpoint.

Enjoy this short clip of the waves hitting the rocky shore..


The number of visitors kept on increasing, as the sun got closer down to the horizon. Undoubtedly the best place to witness the magnificent sunset over the Indian ocean from.

This was the last sight of the sun before the clouds covered it completely and spoiled the sunset for all others visitors waiting eagerly for some time now... Thankfully, being on motorcycle allowed us the pleasure of witnessing the best of the sunrises and sunsets en route. So we didn't really had any complaints on this particular day :)


This is the famous Standard Fireworks store at Sivakasi on the NH44. And this is where the bike broke down. Am still not sure if the breakdown wasn't because of the seductive poster though :P

There is a reason we face challenges so that we can learn from them. And this was one of such moments when I realised after trying every troubleshooting step in the book, that the valves could be jammed. This is the only thing I never had an issue with (due to the pro-active maintenance of my motorcycle and partly due to luck) till now, so I never had the opportunity to learn how to fix it. So when this realisation came, I was all excited to try my hands on this. Called up a friend who is mechanically trained, to assess the situation and we tried a couple of things. It took an hour to get the bike started.

2 hours of hardcore troubleshooting after a long day, on the side of a highway and middle of nowhere.  This is what real world motorcycling look like B-) Finally got the seized valves sorted and made it to Madurai by 2 am.

 It was a victory and day to mark on my DIY diary (or so to speak). This didn't ensure that we had a winner's welcome afterwards, actually quite far from that. We met with a thunderstorm and some more starting trouble on the way, but we made it to Madurai around 2 or 3 in the morning (don't remember the exact time). I had a sound sleep due to the interesting day and knowing tomorrow I can access a workshop and get the motorcycle trip ready again. Sujit on the other hand, slept well as if he has been there and seen it all. lol. That's what I like my childhood friends for, no fuss, pure friendship. lol


" The long ride home "
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Tuesday | Madurai - Salem - Hosur - Bangalore 

Hotel stay was amazing and bed was super comfy. Also the fact that all Royal Enfield workshops open by 9:30/10 at the earliest, gave me enough time to sleep a little more, then get fresh and to pack the luggage. So I told Sujit to catch up on more sleep if he wishes to, as the workshop visit should take an hour (at least). I marked the nearest Enfield showroom and workshop to the hotel and just rode there. I had a bit of challenge in being understood and understanding the workshop staff, but then I made them speak to a friend who knows Tamil and things worked out fine. It was a small showroom and there were few bikes already in the queue, so I had to wait for some 30 minutes. Mine being a Cast Iron model, I wanted it to be looked after by some experienced (possibly middle aged/old) guy than the new quick-fix kinda mechanics who handle the new UCE engines. No offence, with the recent amount of sales of RE bikes, their service quality needs some serious attention. One of the reasons I don't do regular servicing at the company service centres at all. With that bit of irritation out of my system, I actually had a good time chatting with the staff who looked after my bull at the workshop. 


Spark plug being checked for spark strength after being sand-blasted to get rid of the carbon deposits (which was due to the innumerable kicks I had given, before realising it was a valve issue)


Tappets (push rods) adjusted to perfection :)


I always wanted to see the chassis geometry of a Himalayan, considering it is a thoroughbred adventure tourer.


This is a common issue I face and currently looking for a solution. After prolonged use, due to the weight of the motorcycle and luggage, the side stand seems to develop a slack, and it bends too much. As can be seen in the picture, the reason for that is this worn out part, in the middle. I think I have to design a better hinge and get it fabricated, as am just so tired wasting money replacing these stupid kickstands from the company.


Chilly paranthas looked scary. but wasn't that hot or spicy afterall..


Motorcycle all happy, riders well rested and well fed, a butter smooth 4-lane highway all the way home; what more one could ask for on the last day of a ride :) #BangaloreCalling


This is probably the last photo we took, as rest of the time, we were busy ripping the highway and munching up miles :)


Last image of the day.
We covered more than 400 kms this day and the beast didn't skip a beat!

We had to hustle our way through unimaginable traffic on the way, as it was the end of a really long weekend. So there were these vacationers (like ourselves) and many residents from Tamilnadu and Kerala, who live in Bangalore, were making there way back for a Wednesday office. So were we. Now that creates a chaos on the highway and traffics comes down to crawling speeds. We just switched back to the gmap app to find alternate routes and were able to successfully avoid some of the most stuck stretches of the highway. Had we been in a car, we would've bin stuck there till the next day morning for sure. Thankfully we were not, and we made it through all the way till Bangalore and took the flyover from Electronic City. I love the view of the city from that flyover, every time I return from a ride via Hosur. We made it to Bangalore by 10:30pm. Not to mention we could grab some dinner on the way and have it peacefully in the comfort of our home.


So for both of us, this epic ride came to and end. We hadn't really started  with it having anything specific in mind. And I think that's the best way to approach travelling, as too much of predefined expectation may restrict one from experiencing whats around, which may be way more subtle, yet substantial in experience. For me personally, I was happy to be able to find out the lost road which I had discovered during my last visit to the coastal belt. I could only hope that the road gets rebuilt so that I can ride along side the beach again :)


Until next time.. 


Ride Safe & Ride Far,


Sid

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Day 15 - Guwahati to Bangalore

If you are still around and have been following my journey through the daily posts here, then there is a chance that you would be able to relate to my feelings for this day. Read on..

As the alarm went off on my phone, I just opened (rather tried to) open my eyes, while still being in bed. The noise of an already awakened city wasn't something I could have missed, as I was staying in a budget hotel, right next to the railway station. So with the half opened drowsy eyes, I just skimmed through the room. While doing that I spotted few items en route; my good'ol dusty riding jacket, hanging by the door, the trusty helmet lying on the table. Finally when I got present of my thoughts at that moment, there was no sense of my itinerary today, which has been shaping my days ever since I rolled the throttle a fortnight ago. To be honest, this realization was a bit unsettling for first few seconds, as I was coming to terms with the fact that, this trip has finally ended. There is no more new place to explore, there is no more possibility of experiencing something amazing during the day or meeting new people in unexpected ways. This was a bit hard to accept. But then I convinced myself of the interesting stuff next on my (never ending) to-do list, which was waiting at home. I also thought about my family and few friends eagerly waiting to hear from me. Once home, I had so many images to vet from the camera  and the experiences to re-live. Honestly, all this self-talk gave me the much-needed motivation to get up from the bed and get on with this day of transition.

The best part of doing all packing the night before, is to have the day only to execute tasks and not waste time on anything else. I took a shower and slipped into a comfy pair of shorts and a tee and the pair of brand new slippers:) "Boots, I will miss you until our next adventure!!!", is what I uttered in the silence of the room, before putting them into the bag, along with all other motorcycling gear already stuffed inside the night before.

My Bull had to be seen off at the railway station, for its journey to Bangalore. Sadly, we won't be traveling together on this one. However, I will be eagerly waiting there, to receive it once it arrives, and bring it home.

I rode the motorcycle along with the luggage all the way on to the platform, right in front of the parcel office. Waiting for the packing guys...

So after haggling a bit, finally could get this bunch to pack my motorcycle and luggage...

Headlight being wrapped up with a sheet of cardboard and some more cushion to keep the front headlight doom safe, during the transit..

Looks like its almost ready for the train journey..

Once parcel booking is done, the booking id and shipping details are marked on the packages (both motorcycle and the box carrying the remaining stuff).

Once all done, I had a flight to catch as well. As I was heading back to my life in the city, I could feel the presence of a new found enthusiasm for life and a whole lot of experience about the least explored part of this beautiful country. I knew I had to catch up some sleep during this long 3 hours flight. As I certainly won't have enough after my arrival at home, to be ready for a usual work day on Monday.

The return flight home.. :)

While sitting at the Guwahati airport and waiting for the boarding, I was just thinking.. When you are in the zone doing what you love, time flies by so fast. There was a time, I used to lose track of minutes spent on riding my motorcycle off few blocks and now its been more than two weeks since, I left home and it feels like, as if it was just yesterday, that I was tying my luggage to the bike for an epic adventure. Now as I look back, except for few key moments, rest all were just a blur. In case some people don't realize this, rides, vacations or for that matter any form of break from a routine, are meant to do more than just relax your soothing nerves. For me personally, when I am pursuing my passion for riding, I am actually at the purest state of mind, without any need for societal rules, expectations and judgment to be and feel the way I am. No adulteration, whatsoever. This gives me the perfect opportunity to have a look at my life and assess, if what I am doing in different areas of life are worth it, or should there be a change. For the first five years of my work life I have been busy as hell and earned the so called money and reputation that I desired. Now still I do appreciate those, but I realized something; that these are too shallow to be set as the goals of life. There should be something more, there has to be. Its for me to find out if it exists or else I need to create it. A trip alone may not be enough to figure out the whole vision for life, but it surely brings me the clarity and courage to take the next set of actions, that I need to take. At least this has helped me escape a mediocre life so far. And I hope some (if not many) of you have experienced the same.

With that, I conclude this travelogue and hope it stays here to inspire me for my future endeavors as well as for you to come back to, when you need a dose of adventure in your daily lives.



Ride Safe & Ride Far,

Sid

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