Monday 18 April 2016

Mandalpatti Revisited

Back in March this year, I considered a proposal from Abhijnan (a colleague, who rides a UCE Electra to work) to conduct a ride to Bisile Ghats. A bit of research on the secluded route and the deep forest cover of that stretch got me all excited. We kept a date of April mid and continued with our daily grind. I made some rough route planning and itinerary and passed it on. As the days got closer to the second week, Abhi started getting calls from family and friends on chucking this idea of 'Bisile Ghat', as they were worried about the elephant menace in that part of the jungle and add to it there were some recent casualties due to similar human-animal encounters. Eventually, due to the growing concern about our safety in that abandoned stretch of the mountain road, we decided to change our plan and head towards Mandalpatti instead, which in my experience has some good off-road stretch with a possibility to camp for the night. I had done this stretch near Madikeri, back in 2014. Meanwhile, Manju (another colleague who heard about this plan) jumped in, with a Pulsar NS200. I prefer to ride solo or else would prefer to ride with old school bulleteers, simply because of the die-hard attitude some of them have towards travel. But for this ride, I made an exception for Manju, considering his genuine interest and enthusiasm for going on his first long ride, and so he was in. We three decided to start from Bangalore after office hours and reach Hassan by midnight. Considering my personal experience with riding in summers, our expectations as a group seemed spot on about starting the ride at 6:30 PM from Bangalore and reaching Hassan, which is 180 KMs away, at around midnight, with a quick dinner break on the way. But something was waiting for us ahead, which I least expected to be honest. Read on to find out.

It was a beautiful calm night... with surprises ahead.

Sorry no photos for this bit, though I wish I had some. We were struggling to keep the bikes up and rolling, which took more courage than I had assumed. For starters it included rain..wait, actually no. It included storms, a bunch of lighting all around us, bursting electrical lines on both sides of the road (yep, movie kinds!), heavy crosswinds and not to forget freaking 'HAILSTONES'!!! Tons and tons of it. So much that even armored riding jackets couldn't help our hands and shoulders from feeling the brunt. Eventually, we stopped at a bus stop and took shelter for the next hour or so, sharing the space with some stranded NHAI staff. One of the most fun ridings in rain experiences I have ever had. Bit scary due to the flashes of lightning striking around us, but nevertheless, it was tons of fun:) Wait, there is more. When the stormy rain calmed down after some time, and we were ready to make a run, Abhi's bullet refused to start. Perfect timing is what I must have told myself. I love troubleshooting motorcycles and this was more of an opportunity than an issue, for me. We got to work with a small torch, a tool kit, and a bit of patience. Well, we won the challenge and got it started in 15-20 minutes. The carburetor drainage bolt was so tight, it couldn't be removed. So it took a bunch of kicks to drain the water that had gone in, which was making the engine stall at high revs. I was instructing and Abhi tried the kicks, adding to it the rain, which was still on. The smiles at the end were well worth the effort I would say.

Made it to Hassan by 2AM and after just 10 minutes of checking in, this was the view of our hotel room. Riding in the rain is indeed fun, but on a multiday ride, this is the price you pay to have so much fun in rain.

Saturday morning brought us a lot of joy and more importantly fairly dry weather. The joy was mostly due to the all-dried-up underwear I guess :P, especially after going through that horrible (but fun!) ride on a stormy night.

Good weather continued and the enjoyment of being on a roll was just kicking in ;)

Bullets, both new and old generation models, but there is one thing in common; the touring pedigree!

We went through all kinds of roads; city roads, state highways, national highways, and mountain roads. Some of these routes can be called beautiful, like this stretch near Madikeri. It had a lot of flowers on the side of the road in full blossom. We couldn't help but stop for a photo.

My arch nemesis (or so I thought about it) is this route. In the December of 2014, I rode this stretch with Gopal, and labeled it as a Leh contender in terms of off-road terrain, cause both me and my steed struggled to make it to the peak. The stretch in this photograph is probably in the best condition compared to the rest of this road. 95% of this road has no surface at all, let alone a tarmac. There is a reason why only hired Jeeps are seen on this road not a single private vehicle.

Never get so engulfed in the process that, you forget to absorb the view around you. Despite the craving to keep riding, and keep pushing through the rough terrain, we chose to take a break, just for the heck of it. We all should!

Just before the last steep climb, there was this broad and good stretch of road, where it was safer to stop for a good view of the mountains and we stopped. All thanks to the self-timer who gave me 20 seconds to run down the mountain and join the boys in this frame. Thank you, Nikon!

Beautiful place with, a stunning view, but was a horrible idea to set the tent on the surface seen in this image. It's a concrete surface used for drying coffee or pepper seeds. At first look, it looked alright, but after 2-3 hours of setting up, the temperature inside the tent soared to such a level that we got almost grilled. It was not before 3 o'clock in the night we realized, that it was not the weather that hot here, it was the surface we have set up the tent on. We had to do a hunt for a better (more importantly cooler) place to move the tent to. Same we found on the veranda of the cottage we had booked to keep our luggage in. And so we moved.

Manju (the guy in the red Tee), was enthusiastic to take some pictures, and as Abhijnan had slept off, I was the one who got photographed. As I got a chance to get photographed with my bike, I didn't mind. My happiness was more due to the stunning performance it gave on both on and off-road stretches compared to my last visit.

Remember the midnight fiasco?!! ..well it ended well after all. This is where we finally found peace. Considering we could only sleep after around 3, waking up at 8 was nothing but expected. We got all the rest we needed to do the long return ride home.

After the amazing hospitality, sumptuous homemade food, and a crazy night of camping, this place felt more like home than a homestay. This was the last recorded memory before we said goodbye to our hosts.

A detour at Kushalnagar and a quick stop at Golden Temple (/monastery). 

We rode all the way to Bangalore just to come across maddening traffic on Mysore road. We did a lot of lane splitting and somehow got into NICE road and took the Bannerghatta exit. All in all, it was a fun and memorable ride and the stormy night we were cursing on the first day, clearly had become the highlight of this trip.

Until next time...

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


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