Thursday, 26 October 2017

A Ride to Kolli Hills


What would happen when two solo riders plan a ride together? First of all it doesn't really happen that often, then when it finally does, it turns out to be an epic trip. A very short one though, but still, epic! So Sandesh and I had been talking about doing a short spin together, ever since we bumped into each other in our office after my north-eastern ride. It was enough of an introduction on his part that, he too had done the Indian north-east belt (all the way from Bangalore) solo, in early 2016. We had our own stuff (life, ride, job, family matters, etc) to take care of, so, despite our regular coffee time discussions, nothing really materialised regarding a ride together. This was the case for almost a year, up until last Thursday; i.e. 19th of September 2017, when we finally could take the bikes out for a spin.

For the ride, the suggestion of route came from Sandesh and he picked Kolli Hills (also locally known as Kolli Malai). Now mountains are always the preferred destination when motorcycling pleasure is what we seek. This mostly had to do with the twisties one gets to enjoy flicking the bike on, also the lean angle you achieve (MotoGP anyone ?!!) while doing it. Now, these aspects also have a lot to do with making motorcycling dangerous as well. Because on the mountains, we may not always get a second chance to correct ourselves, after a serious mistake. As that would either throw you off the cliff or put you right in front of an oncoming vehicle or ram into the stone sidewall/tree within seconds. These scary bits of scenario needs to be told, as we have a higher number of younger and inexperienced riders in the country now (including some from my family/friends circle) than experienced ones. So they must not follow everything they hear or read (even in this blog) without knowing all possibilities of a route/ride.

So coming back to the ride planning, I had a look at the route to realise, its 80% highway and 20% twisties, that to hairpin turns. What surprised me most is the number of hairpin bends this place has. Guess what 70 in total!!! I personally have never ridden (or been through) that many continuous hairpin-bends in my life so far. Take a look at the map view of that stretch:-




Sandesh rides a Duke 390 like a pro and I was supposed to ride my bull. The average speed a KTM 390 can do on a good road like Hosur-Salem highway, would be close to 120 kph;  Mind you, I am talking about the average here, not the top speed. So one day trip to do a highway run with such a route, got me thinking to try something new in terms of my ride. Why not the very best mountain carver out there to match; there I was enquiring about the Duke 390 itself as my prefered motorcycle for this very trip! I found one available with Wicked Ride (WR), Koramangala. Booked it in a jiffy. I had some prior experience with WR guys and they were fairly good in terms of rentals and choice of motorcycles they had. Sandesh wanted me to try out the Ducati Scrambler, but unfortunately, that was no more available at the time I was booking. Plus, both riding the same bike will not only allow us to keep up with each other, it will also mean we carry only one set of spares and tools for the road repair scenarios, resulting in reduced luggage. This actually turned out to be a good decision, as we were able to do some good speeds on safe stretches and none of us had to struggle to keep up (slow down or speed up) unnecessarily, which happens when you ride with different bikes with different capabilities.

Picking up the motorcycle from Koramangala:
Wednesday night, the plan for me was to leave my car at the office, take an Uber to WR outlet in Koramangala, pick up the motorcycle and ride home. And so I did. However, I had to replace the Duke they first gave me, as it was part of a crash recently. Even though it was serviced after the incident, I didn't want to risk my safety on the highway or twisties, suspecting possible fork or wheel alignment issues. Thankfully they had another 390 around and they were happy to offer that. That had just come from a ride and was covered with mud. Getting it cleaned was a much simpler task on my part than figuring out a handling issue while on the road (had I taken the other bike). So  I picked up the motorcycle, tanked up just enough to get to Shell Bunk near my home, and rode back. To be honest I hated the ride back home in heavy traffic. I cursed the bike and it's short gearing all the way until I reached Shell at Bannerghatta road. However, just before reaching Shell, I took some back roads which were empty and it allowed me to open up the throttle a bit and whoa!!! The feel was so much better, that I decided to keep the Duke and see what it does when it gets the much-needed highway. I called up Sandesh to give me a quick 101 on recommended tyre pressure and about the tell-tale lights on the console, etc. I didn't have time (or energy) to go through the user manual for the bike. Thankfully Sandesh's instructions were good enough for me to get going on this machine. Oh wait, the bike was still dirty and I don't like a dirty motorcycle to start a trip with. It was already 10PM1 and hardly any bike-wash shops were open. Still, I was able to locate an open garage and thankfully was successful in convincing the workshop guy (who was working late) to get this baby cleaned and it's chain lubed. Am so glad he obliged and did a great job too.


Getting rid of the mud and grease

Applying the chain lube

Once the bike was all ready, I was relieved. Now all I had to do was to pack. This time packing was much lighter, as I didn't have to carry any tools at all. Only clothes, my RAM mount, first aid kit, few bars of sneakers for snacking and usual electronics. Chucked the camera this time. So all in all, it was one of the lightest setups I have had in a very long time. This allowed me to focus on handling the beast that the 390 is on the highways as well as while cornering in the mountains. So with packing done, the alarm was set at 4AM. Meet up time was decided to be at 5:30AM, at NICE road's Bannerghatta entry point, while heading towards Hosur/EC exit.

Leaving Bangalore on Thursday Morning:

Motorcycle is all set with a duffel as the tail bag


I had used 2 bungee cords tied in X shape, which held up fabulously during the whole trip


Got onto the NICE road from Bannerghatta Road, and waiting for Sandesh


Early morning fog and usual traffic on Nice road


Sandesh was riding so fast, he missed seeing me standing on the side of the road, so he stopped some 3 kms ahead and sent me his location. I caught up and we officially started off together from that point, with he riding in the lead. 



First stop at the fuel bunk next to A2B; for filling up fuel in Sandesh's bike


Two KTMs with full tank of fuel and an open road; you can see the smile right through the helmet :D


First proper break during the ride to cool off and have some breakfast

We were staying above 110 all through, as the road condition was excellent and traffic was manageable. I remember touching 1X0+ (X=unsafe digit to be shown here :P) at few patches (unintentionally of course!) when the road allowed. Duke got me hooked with the power delivery and the ABS-assisted braking. Then came the first few corners before Salem. These are 3-5 bends on the highway which are notorious for accidents, as they bank too sharply for a 3 lane national highway. I realised I was going wide on first two turns. So I had to dial down the speed and get the knee down a bit to maintain my line. It took me few hours of riding the 390 and a couple of more turns to realise, that the chain on my bike was loose than it should be. The night I brought it home, I hadn't noticed this. It affects the bike so much, I never had assumed. This was (one of) the reason, I had a tough time riding it in stop-go traffic the night before, as the chain was making noise at the lower gears and making me to shift too much in traffic. Having said that, once we got the chain adjusted, I was right at home in the twisties. The bike handled flawlessly from that point on. This was a good learning for me. I wish I had noticed/fixed the chain issue much earlier.

Stopped here to check map/GPS, just after leaving the Salem highway, to head towards Kolli Malai


The only viewpoint on the way up to Kolli Malai

Found this small tea shop on the side, just before the temples' area.

We made it to the top by noon as planned. Found ourselves a restaurant inside a resort, for having lunch. We took rest at the restaurant post lunch before our descent started from Kolli Hilltop. Our destination for the night was Yercaud, which too have a couple of twisties but neither as many nor as sharp as what we came across at Kolli Hills. So we started off around 3PM from Kolli Hills towards Salem and then from Salem towards Yercaud. By the time we entered the foot of the Yercaud, it was dark already and there was this crazy beeline of cars on the ghat road. Most of the traffic was coming from the opposite direction. That was the good part. We could filter through easily and made it all the way to the top of the hill station by late evening. We could find ourselves a comfortable accommodation. We didn't have to sweat much to find this place, all thanks to Sandesh and his contacts. Got fresh, had some coffee and then decided to head out for a spin and possibly find a good place for dinner.


While looking for a place for dinner, came across this interesting place. Alas, it required a prior appointment to get a table here.


So finally after a bit of goofing around the hill station at night, we got into Silver Oak Restaurant, inside Shevroy Hotel. It was a bit pricey, but the food was delicious, and we had a stomach full. Well deserved supper after a long day of riding. I presume they stay open till late. So just in case you land in Yercaud late and don't find any decent eatery nearby, do enquire for this hotel. Post dinner, we sat there with a cup of coffee in our hand, discussing the day's ride. After a good long hour, we headed back to our hotel and before we know, we had dozed off.

Morning at Yercaud:

Our stay at Yercaud.


We checked out from the hotel around 9AM and headed to the place for breakfast, which we had found last night :). Visiting this cafe was an interesting experience for sure. The place is called 'Sweet Rascal', it's a resort and cafe. Founded and owned by Mr Vishu Kalliappa. Our visit here became more interesting when we bumped into the man himself, who turned out to be a biker. Well, what are the odds?!! We had a great time chatting with him and knowing about his collection of motorcycles. His taste in things and choice of businesses that he has created and runs are very unique.



We had a booking for breakfast this time :D @ Sweet Rascal Cafe!

This place is green, tastefully decorated, with lots of bonsai plants, many dogs, few exotic birds and tons of funny quotes :) Yep all these are part of this quirky resort and cafe.

After a hearty brunch and a cup of coffee, before we catch up again with our good 'ol National Highway 44

Taking a break under shade for sipping water and some chit-chat; on the way down from Yercaud 


The beasts in their natural habitat; at the twisties.


Stopped at Krishnagiri around 3PM, for the last fill-up of our hydration packs. 


Whew! By this time, it was starting to get a *butt* painful to be on the saddle :P Hence this break!


So that's how I celebrated this year's Diwali :) Riding a cracker on and off the twisties and open highway!

We had recorded some footage on Sandesh's action cam, but not sure when that will make it to youtube. As and when that gets uploaded, I will try and put a link here.

On Friday I finally made it to my office around 4 PM and after a quick change in the washroom could get back to my desk (with normal clothes) and finish some work. I wasn't that tired from this ride, so decided to save half a day worth of leave, maybe for some future ride ;)

My observations from riding the KTM Duke 390:

It was a fun group (well.. kinda!) ride I had in a long time. KTM Duke 390 got me hooked and I ended up loving this machine. My elated appreciation partly could be due to the exceptionally good condition of the roads which we picked to ride it on. Even then, for a newbie (to KTM) like myself, I could push it through its paces, and not a single time worrying about its ability or my safety. Handling was way better than I had expected, both on the highway (while doing higher speeds) or while cornering in the mountains. KTMs (in my limited knowledge) mostly have the short stroke, high revving motor and that is evident from the moment you push the start button. They behave/handle better when they are pushed. This trait is completely opposite to what bullets (or even the Honda motorcycles) offer in terms of riding experience. I had to change my mindset as a rider from passive (/relaxed) riding to that of an active (assertive!) riding, and only then the bike starts obeying your commands (or so to speak). Yes, its weight and power might be a bit too much to handle for a new rider. For them, I would suggest Duke 200 would be better (and much safer) choice, yet equally fun.  Lastly, both the KTMs we rode were running on Michelin tyres, which performed well without any issues.


** Useful Info: **

Bangalore to Salem (195 KM)

Bangalore > (via Electronics City road) > Hosur > Krishnagiri > Dharmapuri > Salem bypass road
NH 44: Srinagar-Kanyakumari Highway: 3 lane, in very good condition


Salem (bypass) to Kolli Hills (60 KM)

Salem > (via bypass road and then on NH44) > After appx 40 KM Turn Left onto > Kalangani-Thirumalaipatty Road > Thirumalaipatty > Karavalli > Hairpin Bends Starts!

Salem Bypass Road: Flyover construction was going on, so in some stretches bypass road was narrow creating a bottleneck for 3-4 KM or so.
Kalangani-Thirumalaipatty Road: Good tar condition, but undivided (/single carriage) highway, can maintain 50-60+ KPH safely.

70 Hairpin Bends (14 KM)

95% in very good condition and remaining few patches have mild gravel due to damaged tar surface. Corners are free from debris/sand hence safe for tyre grip.

Ghat Riding Dos/Don'ts:-



  • Always decide your speed before you arrive at the turn and select the right gear for that speed beforehand (downshifting mid turn would put stress on your gearbox and risky as the rear wheel may lose traction due to the sudden change in speed)
  • Slow down before entering a turn and always be careful/attentive to correct/change your line of the ride; Because turns are very sharp, and all vehicles (going up or down) would take wider turns sometimes coming on your path.
  • Before braking, check rear-view mirrors, that no vehicle should be behind you (or approaching fast).
  • For breaks/halts, pick a spot visible to traffic coming from both sides, at least 50-100 meters away.
  • Do not over speed on the way down, and do not overuse the brakes (you may wear out your brake pads and that would be very dangerous).
  • Always give way to vehicles climbing up the ghat, so keep an eye on those and slow down before a turn to allow them to climb safely.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front (even if it's your riding buddy) at all times. And at the bends, have more space for your own safety.
  • Avoid this route at night (so better plan your climb and decent when daylight is still around).

General Tips for riding on this route:-


  • Ensure the engine oil level of your motorcycle is proper (if a cast iron bullet, carry extra engine oil, as highway is good and you possibly would end up ripping at higher speeds than usual, which in turn would burn more engine oil)
  • Ensure your brake fluid level is proper and brake pads are in good shape
  • Ensure your motorcycle chain and sprocket are in good shape
  • Ensure your motorcycle chain tightness is adjusted correctly (or at least get it done at Salem before reaching Kolli Hills ghat section)
  • Carry hydration pack or water bottle and keep filling it on the way as you run out (stay hydrated at all times!)
  • Too much sun and too little shade on this highway, so use sunglasses/built-in sun shade/tinted visor.
  • Wear protective gear (as always), as the highway is good and most vehicles would be at high speeds (even if you are not riding fast)
  • There are many petrol stations on NH44, but not that many once you turn towards Thirumalaipatty; so better do a full tank at Salem

Hope you enjoyed being part of this ride.


Ride Safe & Ride Far, 

Sid

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Weekend Solo Ride to Rameshwaram



After 5 months of hibernation, it was time; for both myself and the good ol' bull to hit the road again. I was more concerned about it's ageing battery getting dead due to lack of charging. Well, this concern turned out to be pointless, as I, later during this trip, figured out that it was already dead. So anyway, with the trip thought in mind, I decided to ride to work for a week for some warm up. This was to charge the battery enough for self-start motor to work and for me to get my rider reflexes on point. These warm-up rides to office turned out to be fun commutes for a change:) I enjoyed every minute of it. There was this coffee coloured Maruti Ritz which used to beep its lungs out everytime I rode up the platform while leaving the basement parking. It was so predictable that it was funny. Every time that car starts to scream, the security guard on duty used to come running, but then later he realised the reason and used to chill with a smile and watch this evening ritual.

Stuff would be packed into the backpack (used as tail bag) and the small tank bag

So once the trip route was decided, the only thing to be done was packing for it. Nowadays, packing for a 3-day trip is not something I worry about too much. For me, if I am not doing any extreme weather riding, then packing becomes fairly easy. Bike's needs are somewhat simple, i.e. tools, spares and engine oil. Only my clothes and accessories vary based on where am heading and what I plan to be doing there while off the motorcycle. So this time, it was a highway riding and mostly populated (i.e. non-remote) areas and cities. The only consideration was for hydration and breathable clothes. This is because most part of my journey would be either mildly hot (first leg till Rameshwaram) or very humid (coastal sections, especially Pondicherry).


 Day 1  
Bangalore - Rameshwaram


This was the first day, yet the longest day in this trip and we (me and the motorcycle) had close to 600Ks to cover. So there was no rush to stop for the first 200 kilometres. We took short breaks on the way and started to relax when we got closer to Salem. I guess that's when the eternal peace of being on the road started to dawn on me.  So no more schedules, no more to-do lists, just an open road, a rumbling motorcycle and an assorted playlist playing some of my recent favourites with no real sense of time. This combination is like a trance for me I would say, with the changing views adding the necessary freshness to every passing moment.


This patch has been like an old friend, I somehow stop here every time I ride through. Maybe due to the high ground and the road vanishing into the hills, that catches the eye.


One of the eminent leaders in this country. Her sudden demise caused quite a stir in her state and which was no less impactful than her entry into the political scene of Tamil Nadu state. No wonder it has been a challenge to find a successor.


This part of the highway is too good of a tarmac to cruise on, yet the lack of shade on the way takes out every ounce of moisture out of your system. I had already planned to take enough breaks on the way and this place was a great discovery for that purpose.


One more opportunity for a break en route the famous (due to the fine condition of tarmac on) highway 44


There was some beautiful scenery on the way as well.


I had to capture this frame for my own satisfaction :)


So I reached Madurai around 3 or 4 pm and took the diversion towards Rameshwaram. The route was a dual carriage highway which was under construction. So most parts of it were actually single carriage and I had to keep switching sides based on which part was under construction. Again this stretch was not that commercially populated, as in there were not that many shops or houses on this route. So I just continued to ride, with the sun still shining bright and my hydration pack giving hints that it's about to run out. By this time, I was on road for almost 10 hours straight and 'that' urge to push through had kicked in. As I was trying my best to stay on the saddle and not think about any more breaks, a thought just passed through my buzzing mind; the bike had been doing constant 90/100 kmph for the last couple of hours without many breaks to cool off. It certainly deserved a break now! While this internal debate was going on inside my head, we had already covered some 10 odd Ks, hoping to find that exotically shaded place (a.k.a mirage) which would tick all the checkboxes, but alas; there was none. So we better stop anywhere on the side of the road, and so we did. At this time, the soreness (you know where!) was catching up with me. Dammit! This is a common mistake I do almost all the time; trying to push through, just to realise taking breaks would have been a better approach. So anyway, during this break, I had a check on the engine oil level and it was low, but not critically low, which was a big relief. For those of you who have no idea on iron barrel engines, they were never meant to do continuous highway runs, especially at constant high speeds. As the cooling tech (apart from many other aspects) is archaic and hence when pushed hard like this without adequate breaks they tend to complain. When engine cooling is not able to keep up, then it starts burning engine oil; which can have catastrophic (engine siezure??) outcome if goes unnoticed for long. So despite my long continuous run with the mistake of less number of breaks, the bull having a safe engine oil level was quite an achievement (for the bull of course :P). However, when I decided to resume my journey and hit the self-start with utmost certainty that it must have taken charge by now, there was only this mild humming noise and no cranking. Well, so it was quite clear that the battery is dead for sure, as with more than 500Ks of run it hasn't been able to take sufficient charge. Then there was this memory flashback of my ride from Ladakh when my battery had died and the only replacement I found was more than 500 kilometres away, all the way down in Chandigarh. Well, it was way back in 2014 and this was that battery that I had purchased from Chandigarh. So this has run its course and today am somewhere close to Rameshwaram today and have to look for a replacement. What an irony. So basically, Exide acid batteries seem to be lasting for roughly 3 years on the bullet, as it appears at least in my case.

So I decided to kick start the bike and immediately got started with the drill. Then came the next discovery; the bike won't start despite a bunch of full-swing-pro-level-hard-core-bullet-kicks. Usually, when the engine has been running for hours and is this hot, it should start with even a half kick. But clearly, there was something not right here. And ironically I had an idea already about that 'something'. The last time I rode on the Madurai highway, I did long continuous stretches and constant high speeds with the mistake of fewer breaks, which had caused my bull's cast iron engine to get heated up a bit too much, resulting in jammed pushrods and improper valve sealing, which resulted in reduced engine compression. So this time without wasting time I got started with the investigation. So here I was sitting on a deserted road (there was not a single soul for as far as I could see), the sun was shining brightly above my head, with a feeling of an early sense of dehydration in my mind, with the motorcycle's tappet cover open and a spanner in each hand. After the required inspection, I found out that my hunch was spot on and the exhaust tappet was tight as **** (fill in your favourite adjective here!). This was actually a relief, as I knew what to do in this case. The sense of relief soon got overshadowed by this stupid sense of pride (only bulleteers would understand) in being able to predict my bullet's problems so accurately. From another perspective, it was no achievement really, as I was the one who caused it :P LOL So I adjusted the pushrods to a level, wherein I could have some compression in the engine, for it to start. So I keep the tappet cover open and start to kick again with new found hope and enthusiasm. The bike started after few kicks, but something else was totally not right! "Now what ??", you must be thinking. It was the kicker this time. After starting the engine, it just hung loosely all the way down. This was a first for me. First I blamed the clutch plates until I realised, it was something else. The only part (among this series of unfortunate events), where I was happy was, I could start the bike. With all things said and done, I actually love this bike for the level of patience (and mechanical skills) its company has helped me acquire. You know what I mean right ;) Someone has rightly said: "Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors". This proverb I find so apt for motorcycles in general and spot on for old bullet riders. 

So after some half hour of this ordeal (which as you saw was quite educational in nature), I started riding ahead looking for a garage to get the kicker checked and possibly fixed. After some riding, came across a township on the way, with a small workshop, where the mechanic helped me adjust the tappets and confirmed that the kicker spring has broken. He said the only place I may find a replacement part is in the town of Ramanathapuram (locally called Ramnad) which was another 40 Ks ahead. The broken kicker was hanging so low that it was hitting on the bumps and rocks during some enthusiastic sprints on the way. So I stopped on the way and tied it to my airbox with a metal wire, while the engine was running. It worked out pretty well and was the solution up until I reach Trichy the day after (read on to know more on this). So I somehow found the Enfield Showroom at Ramnad but was disappointed to know that they have parts only for newer UCE engines. What a shame! Despite the broken kicker spring, I was confident in my bull's ability (and condition) to ride on. So I decided to carry on and try my luck with the repair work after reaching Rameshwaram. 

I reached 'Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge' in the evening around 6 or 7 pm and what a crowd. The bridge was chock-a-block with tourist and private buses and cars. There were people everywhere. This was my first visit here and I had no idea about the popularity of this place. So I somehow filtered through the crawling beeline of vehicles on the narrow bridge and got a little breathing space after touching the road in the island town of Rameshwaram. I was so glad my accommodation was taken care by a friend for the night. So I straight away headed to the place, on the way passing Ramanathaswamy Temple. The famous high pillar corridor was glowing in the night accentuating its already tall stature and the sense of space inside the temple. My accommodation was merely 100 meters from the temple, so I decided to drop by later at night.

I parked the motorcycle inside the premises in a safe spot and headed for the shower. Up until Madurai, the highway is dust free, but after that, it was a different story. I had enough dust and grime to get off my face (as thankfully rest of the body was covered due to riding gear) and not to mention the sunburn on the exposed parts of my wrists and neck. Surprisingly after a shower and a short yet relaxing stretch on the bed, I realised that I wasn't really that tired; at least not yet! So I decided to head out to the temple for the show (so to speak), which I had noticed on my way here.


Too much to ask for during a motorcycle trip, but very thankful for such a comfy accommodation!


So it was Vijayadashami Pooja (to celebrate the victory of Lord Ram/good over Ravana/evil) I guess and the crowd I saw on the way were devotees and families coming from all over the country to attend this.


Getting into the temple was a suicide mission unless that's what you are here for, but you can enjoy the temple being right at the entrance.

As the night progressed, I saw many such processions where they brought statues of deities inside the temple. At one point an elephant also entered the temple and vanished (you can now imagine the size of the famous corridor I told you about earlier in this post).


So after enjoying the pooja rituals till late, I decided to call it a day. Just


Though the GPS was showing that I very close to the seashore, but the darkness of the night and the noise of the gathering gave away very little for me to feel it. This doubt was cleared, with the first ray of sun the next day morning, when I woke up and looked outside my room's window. Read on to *see* what I am talking about.

Route Info: Bangalore > Hosur > Salem > Madurai > Rameswaram (599 KM)
NH44            : Bangalore > Hosur > Salem > Madurai (434 KM)
NH87, AH43: Madurai > Ramanathapuram (113 KM)  > Ramesharam (60 KM)

Road Condition:

NH44: 3 lane, dual carriage, top notch condition
NH87: 2 lane, dual carriage, unmarked lanes, under construction, not much shops/houses on the side
AH43: 2 lane, undivided, lot of diversions, gravel patches due to on-going construction, no shops or houses

Things to know  : 


  • Rameshwaram is a small island town
  • It is the hometown of late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, famed ISRO scientist and ex-President of India.
  • It doesn't have even one Royal Enfield workshop (you can guess the chance of other brands like KTM, etc) or knowledgeable mechanics
  • For any major technical assistance, nearest 'town' is Ramanathapuram (also called Ramnad), or the nearest 'city' is Madurai
  • People do speak and understand Hindi and English (to some extent) and very helping (based on my experience during this trip)
  • Looks like other than fishing, the second major source of income for this island town is tourism
  • Usual weekends are busier than you may think (and Dushera duration this island receives flood of devotees from all over the country)
Places to See:

  • Pamban Railway Bridge (visible from the road bridge which you will ride/drive on while coming to Rameshwaram)
  • Ramanathaswamy Temple
  • Dhanushkodi (route info and more about this place in Day 2 of this trip)
  • Etc
Challenges faced:

  • Hardly any shade to be found on the side of NH44 (so if you see one, stop right there and take a break, as the next one might be 100 KMs away)
  • Exhaust tappet/valve got jammed due to the prolonged highway run at 90/100 kph for 500+ Ks
  • Kicker spring broke (first time in the history of this bike), making the kickstand to hang loose
  • The battery wasn't charging enough to use self-start
 Day 2 
Rameshwaram > Dhanushkodi > Rameshwaram > Trichy


I had a sound sleep, with the A/C switched off. I was in no rush to get up, as I had planned to look for a workshop first to fix the bike, which usually opens only by 10 am in most parts of India. So I got up around 7 (or 8, don't exactly remember) to a pleasantly surprising view like this from my window.


Wow!!! So the GPS was right, after all. I was indeed close to the seashore.


Met this kiddo guarding my bull. Played with him for a while before stepping out for breakfast and a leisurely stroll near the temple.

So I had breakfast in a traditional restaurant near to the temple. Due to the tourist-y season, there was a good deal of waiting involved after placing the order for something simple (and delicious) like 'Ghee Roast Dosa' and 'Coffee'. So had my breakfast and then decided to head to the lands end, known as 'Dhanushkodi Point'. I decided to complete this stretch by the time clock hits 10, so that I can be back to fix the bike and head on my way as planned. Well, first part went as per plan and it was awesome. No, not the fact that it went as per plan, it's the experience of the road to Dhanushkodi as well as the beach there. A must visit for beach lovers.


Around 20 Ks of nothingness; the lack of resistance is evident from the strong crosswinds on this road. I had to grab on to my handlebars even while doing a speed below 40 kph.

This is where the road ends and you have to park your vehicle here and walk on the beach.


Beautiful sea green colour of Bay of Bengal, there was not a single wave on this end, unlike the other side (Arabian Sea); that was full of high rising waves scaring people off that side of the beach.


View standing at the end of the Dhanushkodi Beach, possibly the farthest of point of Indian territory


Seeing the motorcycle number, these two guys approached to have a chat. Turned out to be from Orissa, working for a construction company from Tamil Nadu.




Thanks to the gentlemen above, I could have a picture taken :)


Though I wasn't really done enjoying the beach, I had one more place to visit on my way back; the ghost town. So left the beach and on my way back stopped at this spooky yet historic place known as the 'Ghost Town of Dhanushkodi'. You can read a brief write up about this place here.


This structure used to be a water tank.


Once a city, now barely recognizable. Unbelievable that in a single night the whole town got wiped out


Now, what is this ?? Not an overweight chicken am sure :D


The most photographed and the famous church of Dhanushkodi. This one goes underwater in those parts of the year when sea water level rises and this patch of land gets submerged.


I wish I had this place to myself without any people around, for good spooky photo shoot. But this is all I could get during my short visit.


The backside of the church, with the remaining part visible.

So after spending some time in this place trying to visualise how this town must have looked, back in the day, I finally decided to head back to Rameshwaram.


So after heading back, I straight away went looking for a mechanic. I wasted an hour or two both looking for and waiting at a mechanic shop, just to be disappointed. To keep it short, I realised that there was no way to procure a battery or even a kicker spring in Rameshwaram, that too on a Sunday. Their only source of modern amenities was Ramnad, which I crossed the day before and that wasn't of much help. So I decided to head to my next option on the way; Trichy, which is a city and had better chances of getting my stuff. Well, there was a place called Karaikodi on the way to Trichy, but by the time I would reach there, stores would be closed if at all they were open on a Sunday. So best bet was to ride to Trichy with the motorcycle as is and get it sorted the next day.



Some failed effort at a garage in Rameshwaram.


Finally, I learned what a kicker spring's role in my bike. You only realise the value of some employees, after you lose them, you know ;)

Before leaving the island shot some more photographs, which you can enjoy below.
Agniteertham, the place of 64 baths ritual (google it up for more details!)

A better view from the balcony on my floor.


Fishing is primary source of income (apart from tourism), for the people of Rameshwaram


Close up shot of the fishing vessels


The bridge connecting the island of Rameshwaram to the mainland of India (visible in the far end of the bridge)



I knew I would be riding through the evening, so there was no point rushing. During a break to enjoy the sunset on a narrow single lane road in the middle of nowhere. I just love the sense of serenity of such a place and such moments.


So I reached Karaikudi early in the evening and then made it to Trichy by night 10 (I guess). This wasn't without some more drama and adventure. There was this hellish storm that hit the patch just 30-40 Ks prior to Trichy. It was so intense that almost all four wheelers pulled over from the highway as the wipers were failing. Even a perfectly tarred highway was filled with water, as the camber was too slow in wading the water off given the rate at which it was raining. Somehow I got an itch to ride :P Kids, don't do this, ever! I rode little slow (50 kmph I guess) until my front wheel hit something really hard on the way. It took a moment for me to realise it was a depression on the highway filled with water. I think I was riding faster than I should have in such an extreme weather condition. Glad it didn't bend my front wheel or threw me off the motorcycle. I was alert from this point on and slowly the rain reduced to a drizzle and then vanished completely, by the time I entered the city of Trichy. I had booked a lodge while I was on the way, so I headed there straight away. Imagine this; Trichy was dry as a piece of paper straight from the mill and I was standing at the reception all drenched, with water dripping out of every part of my jacket and luggage. The lady in charge was kind and told me to put my gear on the terrace to dry if I wished. It was a new place for me, so I decided not to take chance and rather keep the riding gear in the room under the fan to dry. I was away from the coast now and the humidity was at the minimum, which helped a lot. I spread all my stuff around, as most of the waterproofing gave up in the face of that crazy storm I rode through. Thankfully the camera was dry. That again has seen its share of snow, dust and rain, so I wasn't really that worried about it, but glad it was all ok. I must admit I had a great sleep, as I knew without a doubt, that I would be able to get my bike issues sorted real soon. So with stuff spread all around the room, I found myself some space on the bed to stretch my limbs and have a sound sleep.

Wait, again as you must have noticed, I reached here well after dark. So the morning view was again quite a stunner. Looks like am killin it with such ride routines :P LOL. Read on to find out.


Route Info: 

*New* Dhanushkodi Road: Rameswaram > Dhanushkodi Point (21 KM) > Rameshwaram

NH336: Rameshwaram > Karaikudi (141 KM) > Tiruchirappalli (88 KM)

Road Condition:

Dhanushkodi Road: This is in perfect condition (as on 01/10/2017)
NH 536/336: Undivided (single carriage) highway, dusty, at times narrowing down to almost a single lane

Things to know  : 

  • Dhanushkodi road opened for public in July this year (2017) and allows traffic from 6 am to 5 pm (not so sure of the closing time, so just enquire once if this is critical
  • This new road is flanked by the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other; due to lack of wind resistance, the crosswinds (a.k.a force) are quite strong on this route. So, in summary, drive safely and grip your handlebars well!
  • Karaikudi is a decent sized city with modern amenities (you should be able to find auto parts and workshops here)
  • Trichy is one of the big cities in India and should be the place to go, should you seek service centre of any Major brands (RE, KTM, Honda, etc)
Places to See:
  • Dhanushkodi Point (and beach) is the last point of Indian mainland towards Sri-Lanka, merely 20 km swim across the Indian Ocean (provided you don't get shot at or arrested by their coast guards)
  • Ghost town on the way to Dhanushkodi point (ruins of a town washed away in cyclone in 22nd of December 1964 killing around 1800 people and wiping off this port town from the map)
  • Trichy has lot of architecturally beautiful (IMHO) and huge temples and temple-sque arches
Challenges faced:
  • None except the kickstand spring which was already broken and a battery which was already dead; so all cool! lol
  • This route as I remember was quite dusty, at least till Karaikudy 
  • There was this heavy downpour on the way to Trichy

 Day 3 

Trichy - Auroville / Pondicherry


Good Morning Trichy :)

Just in case you are wondering, this elephant did bless me and the bike :D

Shoes and insoles kept for drying on terrace

Bike to had a safe and sound sleep am sure.

So at around 8 am, I was done with my breakfast. I searched online and made a couple of phone calls to Authorized Enfield workshops in Trichy. The main retailer Oxina Motors (which was also nearer to my location) didn't have the spare part I needed. However, there was this gentleman named Munesh who worked there, went out his way and fetched me the contact info of another workshop which might be having the spare parts. I contacted on the number and spoke with Arun from K V Motors (formerly NA Motors) located at Beema Nagar. I was assured of the spare parts and mechanical help to get my bike sorted. So without delay, I packed up my bags from the lodge and headed straight to Beema Nagar.


Gearbox opened up and the culprit was spotted

Broken half of the spring


When on road, finding a genuine spare is a blessing


Finally got a new spring. Yay!!! Mr Srinivasan a veteran in bullet maintenance is doing the work. He was quite happy to see an iron barrel still on the road.


Got a battery from the Exide dealer at the best price:) So the battery from Trichy, replaced the one from Chandigarh, which had replaced the one from Orissa :D


Bull getting pampered at the workshop, with chain lubing and a new side stand, etc

So after taking care of the necessities and splurging a bit on vanity, myself and the bull said goodbye to Mr Srinivasan and the team at KV Motors. They were not an official service centre, but am very happy with their reasonable cost for parts and labour with very dependable service. If you happen to be in Trichy and need some work done on your bullet, do give them a visit (on gmap app search for their old name: NA Motors, Beema Nagar). Don't forget to mention my name, you might get some special treatment. ;)

So by the time I was done here, it was past noon, so I just stopped at a small restaurant on the way and had lunch.

So with the bull back in its full glory, I was ready for a trip till of Ladakh. But I was in south India and had a much humbler terrain to conquer; a ride up north to Auroville, near Pondicherry. So we rolled without a damn worry about anything. I reached the entrance of Auroville in the evening, as it was getting dark. I had only heard about this place and had done no prior research or booking. It seems people only visit here on prior (online) booking, otherwise, there is no one to greet you at the entrance; other than the security guard at the gate. The campus closes for visitors after 5pm and only people with a booking are let inside. So I did a bit of research online and tried few numbers and got a booking done in 'Afsana Guest House'. Similar to this, there were many other guest houses inside the Auroville campus, which is kind of a reserved forest area. With the very patchy network inside the campus, I struggled a bit to find the guest house. Have a look at my route after entering the Auroville campus.

Finding my way to the guest house

Finally, after fooling around for some time, I found the place. The accommodation at roughly 4000 INR a night, was on the expensive side, but after having seen the property, I feel it was alright.
Entrance to the cottage; my boots are kept outside to dry (from sweat this time, not rain :P)

Just in case you are wondering, there was water in those bottles ;)


Nice!


After a day of riding in a hot and humid weather, this was my favourite place :)


So once I was all fresh, I wanted to go out. On my way to the guest house, I bumped into more foreigners than Indians. I wasn't sure what was the deal here. Also, it was a quiet place, I mean no noise, no crowd, etc. Which I loved the most about my Auroville stay. The only option for dinner was to go out of the campus and find a restaurant. I found 2-3 restaurants right outside. The decor of those cafes was nice and quite contemporary. After dinner, I was getting the itch to ride around Auroville forest a bit, as I had a suspicion there could be some nice trails. Trust me, with the lack of phone signal (which means data connection for using the GPS), I had tons of trail riding at night when I lost my way there.


In search of trails at night. :D Trust me, this wasn't the only such experience of this night ride!

So after I had enough of getting lost and riding through some interesting routes, I finally found my way back. Went straight to bed, and thankfully this time I had not many things to be put to dry, unlike the previous night.

Route Info: 
NH32: Tiruchirappalli > Tindivanam (200 Ks) > Auroville (40 Ks)

Road Condition:

Decent road, nothing specific that I remember of this route. Oh yes, it was dusty in most parts as I remember.

Things to know  : 

  • Auroville (Aurobindo Village) is a model village which is based on a concept, that welcomes people without any bias of their cast, creed, religion, gender, nationality, etc
  • To visit or learn more about Auroville, this link should help
  • Near around Auroville ATMs are scarce and so is swiping machines; so withdraw and carry sufficient cash for your needs
  • Auroville to Pondicherry beach is merely 15 Ks, so if you driving/riding, you can stay at either of these places and still visit the other one any time of the day
  • Each of the places has a closing time of 4 or 5 pm, so inquire beforehand and plan your visit accordingly
  • Network is patchy at Autoville, so any work (which needs active data connection) try and get it done before entering the premises
Places to See:
  • Matri Mandir inside Auroville (closed on Monday)
  • Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry
  • Pondicherry Beach
  • French Colony
  • few more are there (google it)
Challenges faced:

  • Finding an accommodation in Auroville
  • Finding an ATM (which had cash) near to Auroville
  • Nothing else really!

 Day 4 

Pondicherry - Bangalore


Waking up at Auroville was a bit different, as in you don't have the cellphone network, so when you pick up your phone out of your usual dose of anxiety, but you find no new messages or emails or missed calls waiting on your phone. The place is so quiet, you get to hear more of the ambient noises mostly due to the wind. I am not sure of other guest houses, but Afsana was pretty quiet and tranquil. Breakfast I was told was complimentary so I had to visit the breakfast hall for that. Also, the night before I had spoken with the manager of this guest house, who had allowed me the last minute booking. So I wanted to meet him in person, firstly to thank him for the booking and then to know about this nicely maintained property. So I stepped outside and was delighted with the morning view of this place. Hope the pictures below give you some idea.

The noticeboard at the breakfast hall was sort of a sneak preview of activities that happen in and around Auroville.



A well-stocked library with some interesting (and diverse) collection of books. Next time I visit, I wish to stay longer and possibly read a book from this collection.


The cottage on the left is where I stayed for the night.

The breakfast choices were simple and healthy (bread, omelette, choice of fruits, some variety of upma if I remember correctly and few more items). So I was enjoying my downtime here completely disconnected from the crowd and traffic. The only place remaining on my to-ride list for this trip was Pondi, which was close by. So I took my time in packing my luggage and started off a bit late. In Pondi, I had to visit the Aurobindo Ashram, to meet a relative of mine, whom my mom wanted me to meet. So I rode towards Aurobindo Ashram. As I got closer to the Ashram area, the architecture of the building around that area really got me surprised. It was as if I am somewhere in Europe (where I had spent quite some time to know). Vintage European architecture all around. Starting from the street lamps to the cobblestone streets. Not a speck of dust (no really!) on the streets. At least close to the Ashram, this was the scene. If not for the Ashram, do give this place a visit for the sake of beautiful houses on this part; apart from the beach and cheap liquor of course (if that's your thing).

I have seen images of Sri Maa and Sri Aurobindo since my school days from various sources. Some kids used to keep their photos or dried flowers from their samadhi (the place where their ashes are kept).  It was a nice experience to finally getting to see the place where they lived. It's only during this visit I got to know that Sri Maa was a French lady and that explained the western followers and the European influence on Pondicherry city. It seems the Ashram helped the city develop to its current state and still attracts the major percentage of tourists here, throughout the year. So after spending some time at the Ashram, it was time for me to leave and say goodbye to my relative there. On my way out of the city, I drove around the city a bit and finally decided to visit the beach road before my exit. 


Pondicherry beach road


As can be seen in the pictures it's very neat and well maintained... there was this pier visible at the distance.


Bullet just shines anywhere it stands :) #eternallyinlove

Once I was through with Pondicherry, it was now time for a long ride home. I was happy thinking about the last few days on the road and glad we could get a good run after such a long break. Before I could head home, it was already getting late for lunch. I keep trying things which are out of my comfort zone. So this time decided to go for thali for lunch; last I tried a thali meal was 5 or 6 years ago. I am comfortable in eating with hands only at home. It is mostly due to hygiene reasons while on the road and partly due to self-consciousness (blame it on western influence! lol). Anyway, it turned out to be awesome. I was lucky the place I chose, had really good food. Just to sink all this in, I got myself some filter coffee, which was served in a copper glass and vessel. Trust me it does improve the (perceived) taste of the coffee. Try it if you haven't yet.

A wholesome traditional South-Indian lunch.


After lunch, the ride continued with some more breaks on the way to sip some water or just to stretch and let the bike cool off. Breaks started to reduce as I got closer to Bangalore.


This is another spot I usually stop before entering Bangalore while coming from Hosur. This view is beautiful with the hills in the background.

So I made it home well before my dinner time. I had to order for the night. There was also some unpacking to do. Which I totally postponed until the weekend. 

It's always a great feeling to reflect on the encounters you had and places you saw and things you experienced during a trip. Next time I am on the east coast again, I will try and find a new road which takes me closer to the sea. That will be so cool.


Route Info: 
NH77: Pondicherry > Tindivanam (40 K) > Krishnagiri (180 K)
NH44: Krishnagiri > Hosur (55 K) > Bangalore (30 K)

Road Condition:

NH77: Patchy condition (if I remember correctly) and at places a single lane broken road. Manageable for a motorcycle, but if you are in car, then enquire for a better road
NH44: In good condition, all the way till Silk Board.

Things to know  : 

  • Pondi to Bangalore has multiple routes, so enquire to know the better one
Places to See:
  • Umm..in Bangalore ??! Lalbagh may be :P ROFLMAO
Challenges faced:

  • Nostalgia, of the last few days of this ride
  • Thoughts about office work, as I was getting closer to Bangalore
  • Some random yet serious thoughts on whats next !??



Hope you enjoyed this trip and the experience. Until next time...


Ride Safe & Ride Far


Sid