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. This 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 as the preferred destination. I spoke with my buddy Gopal (another biker) and got some input 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 my 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 shelter in case of a shower en route. I checked the weather for the coming weekend and it looked pretty much dry except for a few shades of clouds during the last two days of the trip. After having ridden in the 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 with this plan was that I had a bit less time to prepare for the trip. It had been a 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 the office and we had some catching up to do, as I hadn't met him for 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 "
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 favorite during traveling due to the very low possibility of adulteration in its preparation also the sambar that's served along with it is a simple composition and boiled; so the chances of any bacteria are almost negligible. Call me paranoid, but I have traveled 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 stretches 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 breaks in the shade.

The western ghats brought beautiful lush green twisties to this ride... this stretch was again meant for two-way traffic, but for the motorcycle, it was alright, provided you maintain the line of the 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 has 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 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 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 a bunch of bikes and cars wheezing 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 get a bit busy on the driveable beach.

If you haven't noticed yet, the bike and the frame remain 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 soft ground like sand (the 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 the comfort of the hotel bed, we needed to take some rest ASAP. While at the beach I noticed my rear right indicator bulb wasn't working. So soon after I got up from 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 northeast trip. There was dried mud inside the rear assembly and I had to clean that up with the help of the hotel staff. They also got me a chair to sit on 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 dinner on a motorcycle trip. :)

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

With proper rest, we could keep up with our plan of an early morning start, around 5:30 am. The idea was to cover the most distance before the traffic comes onto 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, 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 got to enjoy the views of coastal towns, backwaters, and 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 on some biscuits and sip little water. Sujit posing with the signboards 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 our 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 a few choco pies (Not sure why was craving that time :P lol)

Can you believe this ?!! It's the 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 "
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 km 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 night of proper sleep and started a bit late, around 9ish. 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 a 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 inquiries and search for that elusive coastal road and got rewarded with such views on the way.

A short (15-minute) 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 a 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 realize 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 in 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 is 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 the others visitors waiting eagerly for some time now... Thankfully, being on a motorcycle allowed us the pleasure of witnessing the best of the sunrises and sunsets en route. So we didn't really have 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 such moment when I realized 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 proactive 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 realization came, I was all excited to try my hands at 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 a day to mark on my DIY diary (or so to speak). This didn't ensure that we had a winner's welcome afterward, 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 "
Tuesday | Madurai - Salem - Hosur - Bangalore 

The hotel stay was amazing and the 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 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 a 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 a 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 offense, but 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 centers 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. 

The Spark plug was 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 realizing 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 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 of wasting money replacing these stupid kickstands from the company.

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

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 the rest of the time, we were busy ripping the highway and munching up miles :)

Last image of the day.
We covered more than 400 km 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, who were making their way back for a Wednesday office. So were we. Now that creates chaos on the highway and traffics comes down to crawling speeds. We just switched back to the map 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 been stuck there till the next day morning for sure. Thankfully we were not, and we made it all the way to 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 an end. We hadn't really started with it having anything specific in mind. And I think that's the best way to approach traveling, as too many predefined expectations may restrict one from experiencing what's around, which may be way more subtle, yet substantial in experience. 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 alongside the beach again :)

Until next time. 

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


1 comment:

Roger David said...

Hope it will be a lovely experience for you to travel.
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