Monday 4 November 2013

2013 Diwali with Crackers and Lights


This post is my belated Diwali Wish to all Bikers and Motorcycle Enthusiasts in India (and abroad who celebrate this festival). Hope you had a great time during the festival of lights.

Let me give you a brief idea of my Diwali in the last 3 years

2012 - Celebrated with a friend and his family at his flat

2011 - Celebrated when I was in the UK. It was a challenge to safely put candles inside the house as it was completely carpeted

2010 - Decorated my rented flat in Bangalore and headed out to a friend's place for the rest of the night

Coming to my way of celebration, am more of a peaceful Diwali celebration supporter and have been celebrating the anti-cracker way ever since I could remember. Now seeing the heading of this post, you might be wondering why the change this year. Well, this Diwali was a bit different. I celebrated it with lights and "crackers" for a change and was on a roll as I did that:) Read on to know how.

Having four days off in a row gets every working person a bit restless, for obvious reasons. To travel, meet friends, read a book been kept aside for some time, or simply relax. Having time to yourself is not anymore a thing you can take for granted, especially if you are in the tech field.

Now, if you ride motorcycles, 4 days in a row will make you grab a map or hop on your desk and type :D Well...I did the latter one;)

The ride plan started with Gokarna being one of the waypoints and a touchdown at Goa was in sight. I started looking for an offline GPS map on my phone and saved other necessary location details to make this trip happen. However, on a penultimate day, Gopal called up suggesting for a completely new location (as well as route)...Munnar. I have ridden to Goa (check older post) and wasn't much attached to that route as such, so I agreed and the direction of the ride changed from North-West to SOUTH. Add to it we decided to visit Ooty on the way back. Since my last ride I was itching to hit the hairpin turns again, this time solo :-D

Gopal had heard enough from me about how challenging the road to Ooty was, that he couldn't miss it this time, as we will be passing through that location. So the plan was made as follows:

Bangalore (my house) > Ooty > Coonoor [Halt] > Valparai [Halt] > Munnar [Halt] > Bangalore

At this point only a day was left and we had our office chores to take care of along with the ride preparation. Somehow I managed to give my bike for a pre-ride checkup and was hoping to keep the expense down.

The recent trouble I had had with my bull was the spark plug getting full of carbon to the point, the bike refused to start. This happened twice, where the second time it was predictable enough for me to stop by a mech shop and got the plug cleaned. I am still not sure what caused it. Whether it was water somehow finding its way into the fuel tank or a rich air-fuel mix in the carburetor, causing incomplete burning during the combustion process leaving some residue. It happened twice and each time I just cleaned the spark plug which got me going again, but until the root cause is found out, there will always be a feeling of dangling uncertainty. Anyway, I had to live with it now, as time left was very less to investigate this. My last ride to Ooty with my cousin was an awesome experience overall and there was one area of improvement identified. The luggage. The (false) leather bags and backpack combo ain't really that interesting or convenient. So I knew I have to pick a saddle bag asap. Btw I had ordered and waited for a 'Longranger Pro' for months now and the product is not worth missing a ride for. So I called up Cramster and placed an order immediately for a pair of saddle bags (and picked it up later that day).

After some discussion over a few phone calls we decided to start by Friday morning at 4AM and my house would be the meet-up point. I finished the office a bit late and headed home to do the packing. I am being a solo rider at heart, always ensuring that am self-sufficient and don't have to rely on others for anything. Add to it I have been riding long enough to estimate the essentials expected. Riding an old Bullet makes you friends with your tools and I am no exception. I buzzed Gopal (who also rides a Bullet with CI Engine) not to carry the same spares (Tube, Cables for Clutch and Throttle), first-aid kit, and bullet tools which am carrying. As it's highly unlikely that we both would need the same spares on this ride. So his luggage was reduced drastically, which mostly comprised of personal use stuff. 

None of us could have a good sleep the night before the ride, as most of the time spent (by me at least) packing and partly due to the excitement of the event kept us awake. This is not a safe thing to do. Got up in the morning by 3AM and had a call with Gopal to check his status and the plan was on track. 

DAY 1: Friday

By 4AM both Gopal and another rider Ayaz were near my house. Ayaz had a loaded backpack, but no rear seat to tie it to. Seeing the weight of the bag, it's not possible to carry it as a backpack on such a long ride. And Gopal already had his bag tied to his rear seat. So I decided to tie it to mine. I have ridden two up the steep Ooty route, so I am confident this luggage can be pulled as easily. So there we go, all luggage was wrapped and tightened with bungee cords in no time and we headed towards the City's exit via Kanakpura road. We took the NICE road to connect with Mysore road. We tried to cover as much distance as we possibly can, to avoid the flood of traffic that appears with the daylight. We continued to ride till we had to stop for a pee break:p

No camera crew was covering this ride. This shot is taken with the self-timer on Ayaz's cam.

Inside Bandipur National Park (Note: Stopping inside the forest is not allowed, we just took a minute for this shot and rolled off.)

After passing through Bandipur National Park and then Mudumalai Forest we crossed Masinagudi (another waypoint while going to Ooty). On the way, we stopped at 'The Temple' (this is the place you would notice and most of the people stop here, as there is some space to pull over)

RE Classic 350 (2010)

RE Electra 5s (2004)

RE Electra 5s (2009)

Ayaz and Gopal with the steeds

Me at the 34th turn, cooling off the bike and myself...:)

First view of houses in Ooty

We reached Ooty around noon. Without spending much time there, we enquired our way toward Coonoor. Which was around 20 km from Ooty. The roads were narrow and we were a bit tired by this time, as we has skipped our breakfast as well as last night's sleep. After roaming a bit in Coonoor we finally found a hotel that was located off the market area and was quite peaceful for relaxing. This was exactly what we needed. Once the room was booked we shifted all the luggage off the bike straight to our room. Had brunch at the retro and then slept like logs till evening. At night time we walked around the town and had some tea at a stall. Bought some engine oil for backup. Then headed back to the hotel for dinner. 
While roaming around in Coonoor. My eyes tell the tale in this pic. Tiredness is so evident.

I wish I had my tripod..but never mind. This photograph represents the view of Coonoor@Night

We did a  top-up of engine oil on Gopal's bike. Didn't have a funnel, so around 5-6 staff of the hotel jumped in to help (more so to see the activity and the bike). Finally, someone got us a funnel which made the task easy.

DAY 2: Saturday

Due to yesterday's fatigue (add to it the lack of sleep and breakfast) we had learned our lesson and this time we had to enjoy our breakfast thoroughly before even touching our bikes. So we headed to the restaurant inside the hotel and belted on the breakfast buffet. And I think we took our own sweet time here:P We didn't feel like moving until the clock showed 10:00am. It means a lot to lose daylight and this got us going again. We decided to check out two viewpoints in Coonoor before leaving the town. One was 'Lamb's Rock' 8 km away and another one was 'Dolphin's nose', which was another 7km from there. So we got back to our room and got ready. 

Bikes are loaded for the day's ride.

Riders posing along with their steeds.

When we reached 'Lamb's Rock' (in some places it's written as Lamp's Rock as well), there was a lot of mist and we didn't see a reason to stop there and wait. So we continued riding towards 'Dolphin's Nose'. And man what a view it turned out to be. Check here for yourself...Absolutely magical.

Dolphin's Nose, a viewpoint around 15 km from Coonoor

We rode through the following route:

Mettupalayam > Coimbatore > Pollachi > Uddumalapetai

Ayaz had an assumption that Valparai is connected to Uddumalapetai. But after reaching this place and enquiring from the locals, we got to know, the only route to Valaparai was via Polachi and hence we need to ride back to Polachi. This would be a sheer waste of time. So we took a call here and decided to head to Munnar and visit Valparai the next day maybe. So we continued towards Munnar. And Man!!! as the daylight faded we realized we are on an endless journey through miles of narrow forest road. Now as I see the map I could see we rode through the following forest areas: Anamali Reserve Forest, Amaravathi Reserve Forest, and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Other than the bright lights of our bikes and the thunder sound of our silencers cruising on those curvy forest roads, there was nothing on that route that was giving us any sense of civilization being around. Once every 40 minutes or so a bus used to appear from the opposite direction, which we had to slow down to give way to. Then again there is the eternal nothingness and the bikes. What a ride!!! Loved it, as if we were in a trance. After riding for hours we came across a shop and some people around. Realized that the country is celebrating Diwali at this moment and so were we:) *Lights* couldn't be better than our headlights shinning the brightest they possibly could on the darkest forest road and *Crackers* never sounded so good as they did when our silencers were roaring thunderously as we were climbing uphill:) There you go 'Diwali at its Best!'.

After riding for miles through the forest area, we reached the base of Munnar. We badly needed a break by this point and definitely some coffee. We were lucky enough to find a small stall with some confectioneries and biscuits and most importantly tea.

There was this family from Kerala, who were bursting some crackers on the road. Gopal is watching eagerly.

After the break (+ some tea + chocolates + biscuits + don't remember what ) we checked that it was still 45 km to reach Munnar (top of the hill). 45km of the climb is not a small distance, that too on ghat sections. But by this time, we had lost the anxiety to keep track of time. So all we decided to do is, RIDE! So we rode. After a couple of bends, we were abruptly stopped by a Marshall and a bunch of people. This was a bit unsettling as we had no clue what they were talking about, as none of us understands Malayalam. First, we thought the guy was asking for a lift, so we responded telling we don't have space for a pillion rider. That didn't convince them it seems and they continued talking and pointing ahead of the road. Before we could get completely disinterested in what they were saying, one of them said 'Elephant'. got our attention now and the crazy behavior of the bunch of people, the vehicle stopped in the middle of the way, and everything started to make sense. We paused on our ways and had a quick chat among ourselves, about what to do. To move (we ain't that old to be scared of this situation) or to stop (we have enough responsibilities on our shoulders not to take a chance on life). We decided to move slowly until we see someone coming from the other side. So we slowly continued moving, despite these guys' warnings. We met a biker coming from the opposite direction and he spoke in English. He told us there is a wild elephant on the road and insisted not to go that side, it will be dangerous. Better wait for some time and if any bigger vehicle comes, follow them. We were now sure that we must see that elephant and just to be on the safer side we would stay on high alert. Also had a backup plan ready in case we encounter the elephant in a bad mood (i.e. to Honk together to scare it off:p Trust me it sounds silly now thinking about this plan if we really had to rely on this. Definitely I won't be here writing this blog for sure. Lol). As the road had a curve every 10 feet, we used to move a bit and before entering the turn put the headlights on high beam and scan both sides of the road. We continued in this manner until we finally saw the big guy.

This was one of a kind experience for all of us. Initially, I thought it fun to see one, but sooner realized it's more serious than I assumed in my first thought. As locals are familiar with them and still they were scared, as they clearly know that if a wild elephant gets angry, then there is no escape. Especially when you are standing on a mountain(/ghat section of a) road, certainly there is no escape. Unless you are too lucky to ride off, it's either him (the elephant) or the cliff. So we followed the instruction from the locals and switched off our headlights and engines so that the animal loses interest in the road (as well as the vehicles) and moves away from the road. This trick worked out. He moved a little bit towards the side of the road and started playing with the light glowing on the building nearby. After gathering some courage we slowly and quietly (Mind you, with Bullets it's difficult to be quiet!) rode past it when it was busy looking away from the road. Hell, it was fun!!

That big stone kinda thing on the bridge is an elephant.

Passing the elephant helped us get rid of all fatigue of riding all day long. We were now kinda alert like African meerkats :D This alertness lasted for a while and then we met with our next challenge. The MIST. Gosh, it was so dense that we could barely see a foot ahead. Ayaz tried to lead but with the halogen headlights not able to make it through and asked me to lead. My bull has an HID and you would know it once you see it;) I started leading the way but with no more advantage than another foot of visibility. So I tried my best to keep the bike in the middle of the road and avoid going to the edge at any cost. The other two bikes followed my trail without any errors. Lesson Learnt: DO NOT RIDE/DRIVE TO MOUNTAINS IN MIST CONDITION! With this blindfolded riding somehow we reached Munnar around 9:45PM. Much to our surprise the shops near the entrance to the city were closed except for one bakery. Upon enquiring with the shopkeeper, we got to know that the city closes at 9PM on usual days and add to it the fact that today is Diwali. Anyway, we didn't waste much time there, and being on the safer side we shopped for a few food items from the bakery for dinner, in case we don't find any restaurant (we were right about this part too:P).

Though we have been riding the whole day, like there is no tomorrow, we still weren't done for the day yet. Now one (probably you!) would wonder what on earth could still be there to do other than
finding a place to crash? :D Bingo!!! Finding 'that' place took us an hour and a bunch of drunk agents, who promised to get us homestays at a variety of prices. Finally, Gopal didn't give up trying with the hotels and got us a big room for 2000 odd (which was for 2500) bucks. Posh (that's what I would call it) parking for our steeds and a super comfy bed for the riders and a hot water facility. What more we could ask for?!! We had the snacks we bought, watched a bit of tv (don't even ask me about it, I had no clue what was going on, it was just fun to change channels:P), and finally dozed off.

  DAY 3: Sunday

The rest during bike rides are kinda miraculous in my opinion. We got up fresh and all charged up. Ayaz was on a call for a while and once its over, he gave us news. His friend was leaving Bangalore for good and he has to see him. So he suggested we carry on without him and he will ride back to Bangalore. This was silly as the next location 'Valparai' wasn't that important for us and letting Ayaz ride alone is something against our ethics. So the plan was made. We are riding home today! Once we were through with this new plan there was this buffet breakfast waiting for us. We belted at it. Never know where we would stop for lunch or even dinner (we were right about this part too:P). After breakfast, we saddled up and rolled from the hotel, straight home:)

The Steeds

Relaxing after a decent breakfast.

Guys posing with their bikes.

it's my turn now;)

All Geared up! Saying adieu to Munnar.

At the base of Munnar, I and Gopal were running on reserve by this time. We moved on to find a fuel bunk a few km ahead.

We stopped while crossing Tamilnadu to take some pictures with the windmills..and one more time for tea before it started to rain...

The tire on the classic 350 gave up just before reaching Hosur. The wall of the tire collapsed (as seen in the picture). Luckily it stopped after a bit of fishtailing. After looking for a tire near and around the toll booth after Krishnagiri, we got a used tire of Yamaha YBX (I guess), which matched the wheel size. So we bought a new tube and got this tire fitted. This got us to Bangalore, albeit at a slow speed of 40kph. 

Just like any ride this ride too had its high and low moments, achievements, and breakdowns. After all, that's what makes them so special. Hope you enjoyed reading through this text, which am sure at times might not make any sense to you. I wrote it as it came to my mind and am confident that it may not undergo proofreading anytime soon. This blog has mostly been like my personal diary and I make note of my experiences to come back to. This post fulfills the same intentions. Hope it inspires you to take up those journeys you have been pushing aside for a while.

On the way down from Munnar.

Here are some numbers on the distance between the places (as per Google):

Bangalore to Ooty - 265 km

  • Bangalore - Mysore: 135km : SH17 : Road condition is good. Keep an eye on fast cars/cabs. No need to enter Mysore city, instead take the bypass road. We took a right turn from the first Signal which comes as the entrance to the city.
  • Mysore (via Bypass Road) - Bandipur : 128 km : 
           NH 212 (Kozhikode-Mysore-Kollegal Hwy) : Excellent 4-lane road. Maintain a lane and keep an eye on people crossing the road. It's a broad road, so you will be able to see for a mile if you are riding during the daytime. This multi-lane road comes to an abrupt end where it meets the usual narrow city roads. So keep the same in mind. This route continues all the way via Nanjangud and Gundulpet

          SH66 : After Gundulpet we headed straight (NH 212 turns right) for the Ooty hairpin turns
Ooty to Coonoor - 20 km

Ooty to Coonoor is just 20 km, so we asked our way there. Coonoor is relatively a smaller city and may not have much to offer, from a tourism point of view. But if you go with fewer expectations, the view and the location would definitely entice you into enjoying the valley.

Coonoor to Munnar - 224 km

We had to cross the following locations to make it to Munnar:

Coonoor > Coimbatore > Polachi > Udumalapetai > Munnar

Munnar to Bangalore - 475 km

Lol. Just rode back the way we came here:P Just kidding. This is how we went back home:

Munnar > Udumalapetai > Palladam > Avinashi (took right) > Follow NH 47 (via Perumannalur) >  Salem > Follow NH7 / AH43 > Dharmapuri > Krishnagiri > Hosur > Electronic City > Bangalore:)


Map: MUNNAR > Udumalapettai > Avinashi > Salem > Dharmapuri > Krishnagiri > Hosur > Electronic City > BANGALORE

We didn't track the distance during this ride, but our odo roughly indicated around 1100km:) Not bad, not bad at all.

Ride Safe n Ride Long !!,