Wild Winter Ride 3.0: Come away with me

Day 4: Come away with me

The winds from the ghats were strong and chilly and they hit my dried and tired face. My chin itched. Over the past week, I had grown quite a beard. As I glanced in the mirror of the Enfield I was sitting on, I noticed her walk behind me. Dressed in a black sweatshirt, denim shorts and boots, she bought a cup of coffee from over the counter and walked up to me.

“Do you have a light?”
Mentally caught between answering the question in the most macho manner and in sucking in some air, I managed a not-so-weird nod in disagreement. The man beside me however had one and helped the damsel in distress. After a quick drag from the Wills Classic she just lit, she brought the white coloured plastic cup of steaming hot coffee, to her pink lips. A second later, a smile followed and then a glance. Smiling to myself, I took a sip of coffee from my cup. There I was, with a smokin’, hot, chic, on a cold December morning, in the very green, very hilly, very beautiful, Sakleshpur.

DSCN1474 DSCN1464 DSCN1485 DSCN1504

The tarmac was in fantastic condition. With yellow fields on either side of the road, I banked along the twists and rode hard on the straight roads that were lined with trees on either side. The air was fresh and the weather was good. But as Shenaz (whom I seem to have forgotten while writing these posts) and I crossed Hassan, a very different landscape greeted us. We were on National Highway 48.

Most national highways bore me quickly. Especially when I am on a bike that isn’t made for cruising at triple digit speeds. At times, I was doing more than 125 kmph and I sensed the instability owing to the cross winds. Then there were times, when I was too bored to and hence did not cross 60 kmph. No matter what I did and how I rode, it seemed as though there was no end at all. As though I was stuck in a Norah Jones music video.

tn

After nearly 170 kms of highway and lunch at a roadside dhaba, we were finally approaching Bangalore. It was just 5, but it had gotten quite dark. Vehicular traffic had also increased. As we took the right onto the Tumkur road, a sense of unfamiliarity began to set in, even though this was Bangalore. Over the past  four days, I did not remember seeing a flyover and yet I now was on one that led home. There were numerous times when I was the lone soul on the road, and now, I was stuck in traffic. The air was dusty and polluted. I no longer heard the sound of Shenaz’s engine amidst all the honking on the flyover. I did not want to go back into the city and return to the grind.

A part of me wanted to do a wheelie and jump off the flyover back onto the highway to Mangalore. Stop on the way to meet the hot chic from Sakleshpur and catch that missed sunset at Bekal fort. We would then ride into the wilderness of the Bhagamandala forest and climb all the way up to Talacauvery, where I would sit down on the rock and forget my worries, staring into the beautiful Brahmagiri hills.

As I looked right, instead of the hot smokin’ chic by my side, sat a family of four on a Bajaj Chetak trapped like me in the madness of a thousand red lights.

blr traffic

— La Fin —

Previous post:Fatigue, Fort, fatt gayi…

Wild Winter Ride 3.0: Fatigue, Fort, fatt gayi…

Day 3: Fatigue, Fort, fatt gayi*…

I had it. I was too exhausted and irritated to carry on fighting any further. I finally gave up and lost the battle.

Alarm:7 Sangeet: 6

The fatigue from the previous day’s ride had got me. Bad roads till Panathur had ensured that my body ached all night. As I walked up to the mirror, I looked at myself. Exhausted, tanned and beaten. Definitely not the face of a tourist on a holiday.

It was a straight road from our hotel, Bekal International (which had nothing international about it) to Bekal fort. After riding for a few kilometers by the beach, we were soon parking our motorcycles in the parking area of the 17th century fort. Constructed in 1650 AD by Shivappa Nayaka for fulfilling defense and other strategic requirements, the Bekal fort, in more recent times, has been  a popular tourist spot in the malabar region. The renowned director Mani Ratnam had also used it as a backdrop for the heart wrenching ode, Tu hi re… in his film; Bombay.

As we entered the fort, I tried to imagine, how different a landscape Bekal would have been. This fort would have been a monument standing lone in all its glory, with soldiers with watchful eyes observing the coast. Now, it was only me and a few other tourists clicking away pictures. One could perhaps see the Bekal fort in all its grandeur during the evening, when the tides rise high and come crashing against it’s walls only to retreat after admitting defeat against the old and mighty fort.

DSCN1437 - Copy DSCN1448 DSCN1157 DSCN1206 DSCN1260 DSCN1262 DSCN1380 - Copy DSCN1129 DSCN1181 DSCN1187 DSCN1178After an hour or so at the fort, we had brunch at the Vivanta by Taj, Bekal followed by nearly 2 more hours of sleep. Before 2:30pm, there we were, yet again on our motorcycles, headed to our next destination; Sakleshpur, via Mangalore. I shall not get into the details of this leg of the ride except for the picture below and a few points that follow.

09bgani-roads-touri_832239eThat is the route we took .So did EVERYBODY else (including lorries and buses)

  • It was past 8pm and I hadn’t eaten enough.
  • The condition of the roads were undeniably pathetic. There were ditches so big, that I often felt the road slip away from beneath the bike.
  • On many ocassions, I was caught in between two lorries, eating dust.
  • I have no idea how, but my key chain broke off midway.
  • Many a time, I almost lost control of the bike and myself (due to anger, hunger and frustration).
  • This was the worst leg of the entire ride.
*fatt gayi (hindi): in this context refers to however you would have felt had you been riding with me on the bad roads mentioned above.

Click here for the next pit stop: Come away with me 

Previous post: Blitz to Bekal

Wild Winter Ride 3.0: Blitz to Bekal

Day 2, Night: Blitz to Bekal

Photo by Chris Leakey

Photo by Chris Leakey

As I rode my way through the forest, I could hear the streams flowing beside. It was pitch black and there were all sorts of sounds. Afraid whether I would come across a wild animal, I tried to speed along, however the low visibility and the bad condition of the roads kept that idea at rest. I lost track of Shenaz and was soon riding alone in the wilderness. I thought of my colleagues who were then attending the fashion show at the Annual Day celebrations back in Bangalore. Quite a contrast.

A few hours had passed and Shenaz had caught up. His bag was torn and had lost some cakes and bread that he had brought along from Madikeri. As we rode along in the darkness, a change in temperature and landscape was felt. The trees slowly gave way to shorter plants and then eventually fields. The roads were wider too. Only a few minutes had passed since these changes, when suddenly in front of me, three bright white stripes emerged on what seemed like a newly laid road. In a matter of seconds, the unmistakable sound of the RX 100 engine filled the air, and Shenaz overtook me in a flash.

Smiling to myself, I pulled down the visor, switched the headlamp to high beam and revved the throttle away on the circuits of Panathur.

Click here for the next pit stop: Fatigue, Fort, fatt gayi…

Previous post: Windmills of my mind

Wild Winter Ride 3.0: Windmills of my mind

Day 2, Evening: Windmills of my mind

Talakaveri was never part of the plan. But then again, the WWR has never been about plans. As I paid my respects inside the Bhagandeshwara temple upon the thriveni sangama, Shenaz was busy discussing with local shopkeepers about the road ahead. ‘Sangeet, we can either make a dash for it and try to reach Bekal fort just in time for sunset. Or we could catch it from up above, at Talakaveri and ride through the jungle at night.’ I wasn’t comfortable with night rides, but my previous experiences had taught me better. It was decided that we make a quick stop at Talakaveri so that we try and reach Bekal before 9.  As we ascended the ghats, the evening had begun to set in and the temperature had begun to drop. The sky, blue while we entered Bhagmandala, now had turned a shade of orange. Talakaveri is considered as the source of the river Kaveri. Legend has it that water from a fallen container that was used by sage Agasthya, who was meditating on the Bhramagiri hill, trickled down to being the river Kaveri. A tank has been constructed at the spot where the container supposedly fell.

On top, we parked our motorcycles outside the huge temple gates. There were more people than I had expected. Inside, were wide stairs that led to a sprawling courtyard that had a tank at its corner. This was the origin of the Kaveri. Further up ahead was an arch with stairs leading to the top. Although we were tired, we followed enthusiastic school children who were climbing the stairs with much haste. Only a minute had passed, since I began the climb, when I thought my hamstrings might rupture and break under the weight of my heavy bag, my camera, my leather jacket and of course myself. With each step that I climbed, I cursed my gym membership. The air was lighter and the steps didn’t seem to end. As I neared the end of my climb, I saw people celebrating and running around a metal staff. Cursing our decision to visit the spot, I continued until I was on top.

As, I climbed the final staircase, I felt overwhelmed. Perhaps it was the altitude and the strong winds. Perhaps it was the fatigue in my body or the sheer beauty of the vast hills that laid out like green waves. Although, It was nearly six in the evening, there still was a lot of sunlight around me. Tired and awe-struck at the same time, I dropped the bags and my jacket to the ground. Ahead of me, laid lush green hills with windmills  erected on top of them. The blades moved in unison slicing out the strong winds and the rays of sunlight onto vast green expanses that laid below. The earlier sense of calmness began to prevail over me as I sat cross-legged, upon a rock, facing the hills that now basked in the evening sun, humbled by the sheer beauty of God’s creation. As the strong winds lashed against my face, I closed my eyes and sat quietly, in peace.

DSCN0868 - Copy

DSCN0899 - Copy - Copy DSCN0886 - Copy DSCN0930 - Copy DSCN0912 - Copy

Click here for the next pit stop: Blitz to Bekal

Previous post: Welcome to the jungle

Wild Winter Ride 3.0 : Welcome to the jungle

Day 2: Welcome to the jungle

The following morning, I woke up to the smell of filter coffee. After the first few sips, I already felt energized. Over some idlis for breakfast, we discussed the agenda for the day. As it was too sunny to go exploring Mandalpatti and too early for a scrumptious lunch at East End Hotel, we decided to visit Abbey falls and the Omkareshwara temple. Both lovely tourist spots (the latter less lovely than the former, but richer with history and folklore.) After lunch, we decided to hit the road again. To Kasargod via Bhagamandala.

DSCN0613 - Copy

DSCN0714

We started towards Bhagamandala around 4pm. We departed Madikeri, banking along the curvaceous ghats and slowing down in order to not miss the small turn to Bhagamandala. What greeted us left me spellbound. Within minutes, I was transported into an entirely different world of varying contours and colours. Yellow fields, large green trees, dense forests, plantations in so many colours, orange, purple, blue… I stopped many a time to click many a picture. But no amount of focus can capture the raw beauty of the place. Tired of stopping repeatedly for photographs, I decided to stop once again, this time for longer. I parked my motorcycle beside the road and walked off, into the forest. Surrounded by dense trees, I felt a certain sense of familiarity, a certain calmness while I stood in silence and in gratitude.

Then my phone rang…

DSCN0827 - Copy - Copy

DSCN0814


Click here for the next post: Windmills of my mind

Previous post: The simplicity of gold

Wild Winter Ride 3.0: The simplicity of gold

Day 1, Afternoon: The simplicity of gold

Riding on the lovely roads, we entered the district of Kodagu, or Coorg. The tree cover was much dense. We rode beside each other.  After a quick-lunch followed by a sulaimaani, from a roadside hotel we continued till we reached the Golden Temple at Bylaguppe or the Namdroling monastery. Here was a settlement of Tibetan monks who had carved a world of their own. As we rode inside their village, I noticed a distinct change in landscape. The big trees were replaced by vast plains. There were fields and plantations of varying shades of green and yellow. Far from the hustle bustle of the city that I came from, the only sound I could hear was that of the RX 100 that rode ahead. For those who don’t know, the RX 100, like most Yamaha motorcycles, has a unique sound, that is quite pleasing to ears of a racer. But at that very moment, to me, it was noise and I felt as though we had disturbed the calmness and the ZEN in the air. As I overtook the RX 100, I scowled and made a mental note to convince Shenaz to buy an electric scooter for the next ride.

Once inside the monastery, I saw kids aged 6-12 ran around draped in their traditional clothes coloured maroon and saffron. They had received tonsure. Some of them played on the lawns, while some of them silently watched school kids who were on an educational trip to the golden temple. We paid our respects inside the temple to the idols of the three incarnations of Lord Buddha. As we walked around admiring the Tibetan architecture and rituals in the temple, I wondered how nosy we Indian tourists were . Here we were, clicking pictures of every single idol of the lion. Some of us even spending time and effort convincing the little lamas to pose with us while we decided which photo best suited our Facebook profile picture. The lamas were polite, and perhaps nonchalant about the whole deal. I guess they had learnt to forgive us pesky tourists, something I know, I could never do.

A village and along with it a civilisation, so pure, with a majestic golden temple at its centre. It was astonishing how such a place was so calm and serene in a state where other temple cities were crowded and more often than not, dirty. Perhaps, it was the way how the people here led their lives. Principled and disciplined. I could feel the energy in the air. Strong, positive and spiritual, the one that cleansed the soul, unlike what one feels while dancing away to loud beats of trance, inside clubs of Bangalore.

As the sun began to set, we were back on the wonderful road, on our way to taste some delicious chicken  at our next stop; the East End hotel; Madikeri.

“The little lamas are so simple Sangeet. Just look at them. Not a worry in the world. They are children. Unaware of the materialistic pleasures offered in a world like ours. For them we are nosy, pesky, ignorant fellows, yet they forgive us and smile. This is how they will live and grow. This village, this temple, these rituals, This is life as they know it.”

DSCN0542DSCN0464 - Copy - Copy DSCN0535 - Copy - Copy BS DSCN0439

Click here for next post: Welcome to the jungle

Previous post: Royal Relief

Wild Winter Ride 3.0 Royal Relief

Day 1, Morning: Royal Relief

The two of us took the Kanakpura road that headed towards Mysore. Though this was the longer route, it was more scenic. We managed to leave the city before the rush hour began. Soon enough, we were riding along the beautiful, black, curvaceous, slender roads adorned with trees and fields on either side. The sun had risen and sunlight streamed through the trees onto the road and bounced off the chrome on my bike. The air was still very pleasant. Sights of school girls, holding hands and  running upto the school bus greeted us. Their bags seemed heavy yet they had faces that were eager and happy. As I waved back at a few kids by the side of the road, I felt a strange sense of happiness.

I rode alone. There was no sight of Shenaz, but then again we were familiar with each other’s riding style. About two hours had passed, when I decided to stop beside a beautiful yet empty spot to click a few pictures. After a few customary shots of the place, myself and the motorcycle, I felt the need to remove excess water in my body. As  I packed my camera into the tank bag and chose a less beautiful spot to heed nature’s call, I heard a distant rumble. Before I could suspect my stomach, I glanced behind to see  nearly twenty-five motorcycles, all of them Harley Davidson, thumping away to glory, towards me. Caught in quite a moment of sorts, I wasn’t, well let’s say comfortable. The thumpers parked their rides on the same side of the road. Soon enough, I and many others were heeding nature’s call, standing in between, an Avenger and twenty five Harleys.

DSCN0356

Click here for the next pit stop: The simplicity of gold

Previous post: Prologue