I may soon author a research paper titled ‘Why do planned trips never work and unplanned ones rock?’. Yet another weekend trek plan to Kodachadri hit rough waters and it seemed I was destined for two days of wholesome sleeping and growing fatter. But, I chose to fight destiny (aha!).
A 11:00 am call to Manoj, a 11:10 am confirmation from him and the destination decided and a 11:30 am exit from my house. This was going to be my first trip with Manoj, the eternal tripper and also a constant inspiration for my own jaunts and fitness-enhancing activities. I reached his place by 11:45 only to find his Thunderbird idling, all set for a 150-km ride to Sravanabelagola. All that experience of frequent traveling by him showed – a weathered leather jacket, a helmet that you can wear over your spectacles and a belt-pouch that is handy as hell! He also has a customized tank-bag, an idea borrowed (as he says) and implemented by him. The bag has magnets in the straps that enables it to stick to the tank and hence, no sore shoulders for pillon. How much this would have helped on the 3-day trip to Kerala! All I had needed to bring with me is a helmet, some cash and my bulk, the rest was all set, courtesy the expert!
We started out at 12pm, planning to reach the destination by 3. The much-abused Nelamangala road was as chaotic as usual. We took the road to Hassan at the deviation and the whole landscape gave way to green farms and cool skies. Thankfully the sun had decided to take a break this Saturday and provided us with much respite. On a bike, you jell into the landscape, nature, climate and every thing around you. From the smoothness of the roads to the change of breeze direction to the sights, none of it is missed when you are on a bike. This is why I love riding on a bike – you are not just commuting from place A to place B, you are experiencing every moment of the ride.
Manoj handled the stick for most part of the ride, except for a brief while after Kunigal, where I got to drive a Bullet for the first time :) The machine is a much stronger beast than the Avenger. Even with a half-open throttle, I managed to touch close to 100-kmph mark on this stretch. Man! With excellent roads, sparse traffic and lot of downward slopes, the feeling was exhilirating. The combination of the wind and bike-momentun was enough to almost knock off my loosely-fit helmet.
Lunch was at an ex-adda of Manoj’s from his engineering days. Gobbled down plates of idli-vada and pongal (I always prefer idlis at a new place – risk-averse behaviour!) and we were off on the last 60 kms of our ride. The roads got even better (hardly any vehicles) once we left the highway to take the road left to Sravanabelagola. Lot of frequent turns and counter-balancing acts later, we finally reached the abode of Gomateshwara, the world’s tallest monolith, at 3 pm. On schedule and under the hot sun. Off went the shoes and sandals and we had to scale a 2km odd climb up to the statue, barefoot. The climb was excrutiatingly tough on an unexercised body while Manoj was laughing up his way the hill. The last straw was when a couple of 4-year old girls started to overtake me and I had an aunty, older than my mom, catching up with me. I mustered all my remaining strength and the last drops of Bisleri to finally meet Goma.
‘Not very imposing’ was my first thought. For some reason, I had always pictured the statue to be much, much taller, thanks to the TV coverage. I was slightly disappointed but nonetheless it is a magnificient structure, sculpted out of a single piece of rock. Few more rounds and snaps later, we started the walk down. Much faster this time, we (ok, I) regained our strengths through couple of Cornettos and by 4, we were heading off for the ride back home.
I got a chance to drive on the curves and came to face the larger radius that the Thunderbird needs to take, to negotiate these turns. It was as usual an enjoyable ride and I got quite a kick from over-taking Maruti 800s and other bacchas of the highway :):). But, just as I was touching the 150 kmph mark (ok, ok 115), unexpected showers came down, just before Kunigal. After a brief stop and lots of admiring glances from onlookers (no, they weren’t girls and no, not for us, but Manoj’s beast – the Thunderbird), we set off again under gloomy skies. The race to beat the rain and the dusk meant that this was one of the fastest stretches of our ride.
Both of us fell silent and the ride was all we were soaking into. I took in every bit of the cloudy weather, the cool breeze and sights of the lush farms against a dark grey backdrop, as Manoj revved it up. Speeds were such that not a single vehicle, four or two wheeled, overtook us and we crossed all and sundry. Apart from one red Accent. The bugger was a smooth driver and he must have been easily hitting 150. Though we did come close at few places, he was just too fast and too consistent to even catch up. But, quite a kick again, over-taking Qualises and even one competitively fast Santro!!
We didn’t stop anywhere from the rain-induced pit-stop, an easy 120 kms drive non-stop. The pain in my butt had given away to a sad acceptance of its fate by my gluteus maximus. We finally stopped at the Nelamangala crossing, not to eat, but to coax our muscles back into life. I knew the ride was over here, the next stretch was going to be like rush-hour traffic on a Monday morning Cauvery Road. It’s the saddest part of any trip for me – the last stretch before the city, where everything that is nice and good slowly fades away and concrete, smoke and noise is what takes its place.
But, this one was different for the sheer time in which we completed it. Just under 6 hours for a 300 km trip, with the last 150 kms back home covered in just over 2 hours. God knows how badly I needed this one!
Thanks to Manoj and Thunderbird, the tour-in experts! Manoj also took some amazing snaps on his S-o-A Nixon. What did it all cost? Just a paltry 320 per head, less than what I would end up spending if I went to INOX and ten times more fun.
Click here for the snaps. (The laugh on my face required the use of all my exhausted muscles, so please some thaaliyan for that!).