Wrangler True Wanderer
Praful Tripathy



LoneWolfRides - iTheWanderer

 

 

NOTE: The page is image content heavy and will take a while to load.

 

 

Content Navigation

Day 1 - The Beginning

Day 2 - Slicing across Malnad

Day 3 - A Ride on the Wild Side

Day 4 - I shouldn't be alive

Day 5 - Fish Curry Quest through Uncharted Routes

Day 6 - Ride! Ride! Ride on the 'plain' Plains

Day 7 - Blown across the windy plains to the Mystical Lost City

Epilogue - The end that 'Never' comes

 

 

 


LoneWolfRides - i TheWanderer

 

Prologue

 

"Congrats! Your blog has been selected for the Wranglers True Wanderers contest" ... so read the subject line of an unassuming mail that I received a little over a month ago. Splashed across the mailer was an image that just personified the very essence of the spirit of 'Free Biking', it promised me that I could have the Hyosung ST7 forever if I rode my bike for week. My mind was automatically sent spiraling into a dream world wherein I was cruising the highways on the ST7 with wind in my face and nothing but limitless highways to rides. But alas! This was but a dream. It was at that time, reality struck! Thoughts about my career, personal life and a whole gamut of other things brought me rushing back to a reality called 'Life'! I knew no way I would be able to get time off to be one with the road and my bike for a week. Yes! Reality had bitten, and oh! so hard. With a heavy heart I just accepted the terms & conditions and let my blog be published, I knew I just would not be able to accommodate 'this' in the craziness that I call my life. Little did I know that actually three of my blogs were published on the True Wanderers website (1. Ladakh! A Journey that Dreams are made off.... 2. My bike went Home! - Bangy-Goa-M'bai-Pune-Bangy - 2600+Kms & 3. LoneWolfRides® : Re-Initiation to Biking). I knew that the Ladakh trip log could have a chance amongst all the entries, but I knew that I just will not be able to manage the time off so I just voted for myself and forgot about this little dream that I had dreamt off!

 

Fast forward to month after that, I received a pleasantly surprising yet completely shocking mail that stated that I had cleared the Level -1 filtration process for the selection of the top 10 True Wanderers. My jaw being on the floor would be an understatement, I was ecstatic, not for the fact that I had cleared the first level but there were people out there who had voted for my trip log and shown support without being asked for it. I am forever grateful to all these people who put me right up there. But wait a minute, such moments are only short lived, the 'Reality' that had bitten me hard earlier came back. But this time, I decided to put up a fight against it. This was a once in a life time opportunity, not something that every Tom, Dick & Harry get and not something that comes by daily. I decided to give it a one time shot! If things fell into place, well and good else Aloha! Life!!. I walked to my manager at work, and asked told him with a straight face that, "I know this is short notice, but I have the opportunity to do such and such, would it be possible to get a week off?". He scans my eyes to see if this was one of the jokes I was trying to pull off that no one really got. I am not sure if he saw the fire of passion in my eyes or was it the straight face that was being brutally honest, but he said the magic word...The one word that just went back and gave life a Kung-fu shot back to hell, he said "Yes"! :)

 

What ensued was just nothing short of pandemonium, my trusty bike the Red Devil was aging and had seen almost 70,000 kms with my in the past 3 years and it was already in service much before True Wanderers came through. Now it might sound like a good thing that my bike was already in the process of getting a service, but this was no regular service, this was one of those gargantuan services which meant the bike was stripped to the bone and a lot of the worn parts were being replaced. This by no means is an easy task and neither is it something that takes your run of the mill type one day to service, this is something that takes up devotion, patience and loads of time. With just days left in for the intended start of the Wrangler True Wanderers ride, I was panic stricken with the thought of missing out on the ride just because my bike was in service. I spoke to Mr. Venkat Shyam of AutoService, the owner of the Bajaj Probiking service that has been taking 'care' of my bike for the past 3+ years. He immediately got his team into action and my bike was ready to roll within the next few days. But there was a flipside, I was running a brand new bore-piston kit, this meant I would have to remain in strict speed limits for the first 500/1000Kms. This is but a minor aberration in the bigger picture of things.

 

Remaining true to the statement 'True Wanderers', even a day prior to the ride I was neither sure if my bike was in a ready state, nor had I planned anything for the ride. All I knew was, I wanted to 'Wander'...'Wander' wearing only one pair of Wrangler True Wanderers jeans ;)...Yes you read that absolutely right!

 

I was to be flagged off from the Wrangler brand store at Indira Nagar in Bangalore on the starting day of the ride. For this ride I have two firsts, one was actually blogging the ride Live! And the second was media coverage. Maybe its just me, but the limelight maybe just isn't me. Wrangler had an elaborate plan outlined out with photo shoots and media coverage lined up prior to the start of the ride. Whilst I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame, a couple of friends from the xBhp forum joined me wishing me and seeing me off, common faces was a sight for sore eyes midst the complete frenzy of media activities. As I reached the store, the very first activity lined up was for me to don complete Wrangler gear. I must add that the moment I got out of the jeans I had come in and into the True Wanderers lineup of Wrangler jeans, I could immediately felt a comfort which my jeans from a brand who shall not be named :D did not offer, the fit and comfort of these jeans were immediately apparent and I felt completely at home in them. Kudos! To Wranger for coming up something that's actually meant for bikers like me. The media circus finally ended (well almost!) at around 11AM and I finally began my trip.

 

The Red Devil ready hit the highways!

 The xBhp team from Bangalore seeing me off!

[From L to R : Nisarg, Phanikar, Rathish, Avin, Me in the centre]

 

 

 

 

….And thus began the journey of a lifetime! Watch this space for more ;)

 

 

 


 

 

 

The beginning - Day #1

 

A ride never starts until you hit the highways, as I left the Wrangler showroom at about 11.30AM all I got was a sea of vehicles vying for every inch of the road. Its an annoying feeling to be riding around in peak traffic with complete luggage and riding gear, but this was just a necessary evil, something that cannot be avoided. My slightly frayed nerves heaved a sigh of relief as I touched the 9 Kms long almost straight flyover over Hosur road to Electronics City. Beyond this I had to turn back and enter the NECE corridor which would help me get off to Mysore road. The plan so far was to hit Mysore road and from there decide where do I head to, Mysore had an avenue of options in front of me, could go to Wayanad/Ooty/BR Hills/Coorg/Chikamagalur. I took a small break just as NECE road started, here's something to keep in mind whilst the epic journey is in progress.

 Safety first! The ride begins on this note.

 

I got a call from RJ Jeevan at this point wanting to know when would I be able to give him a media byte, we fixed up an approximate time in which I would get in touch with him, but I wasn't one bit sure if I would even remember to stop then nor did I know what the time as my watch was tucked away well inside my riding gloves. For me it was at this place where the journey began. It was a shade over 12PM, and with some really dark clouds looming the horizon all I could think was "Rain! Rain!, please come today, a not so Lil Praful wants play with you today!!" :D. All I did here was pull out the camera bag's rain proof cover (Thank you! Deejay for this nifty bag for the trip!). This is where Me, My Red Devil and the road become one.

 

Red Devil all set to roll!

 

Due to the fact that I was running a brand new bore-piston kit, I was limited to 6K RPM :( with a few breaks thrown in to cool the engine down as well. I knew that this would be a slow day, but exciting never the less. Mysore road to me is one of the scariest highways that I know off, not that it can beat the absolutely dangerous stretch of NH17 between Mangalore and Udupi. But Mysore road does hold its own in my list of dangerous highways, accidents are an everyday fare on this stretch and one has to extra extra careful as even a single mistake can prove to be fatal. This can largely be contributed to the design of this highway and the general mentality of those using this highway. I said a small prayer as I gunned the throttle from NECE road, the exit ramp for Mysore road took its own time to show up and again I hit a loosely packed traffic jam. A steady stream of towns went passing by as I kept riding at my extremely sedate speed.

The first town I passed was Ramanagaram, the rocky terrain was the setting used for the 1975 bollywood blockbuster 'Sholay'. It was on these stony nooks and corners the lines 'Kitne aadmi the Kaalia' & 'Naach! Basanti naach' were made famous. This was the first time I was seeing a lot of greenery surrounding these rocks and it made for a beautiful sight. Not wanting to loose any time I just pressed forward in hope of finally deciding a destination for the day. Mysore road or SH17, is lined up with eateries of all shapes and sizes. You have young, trendy joints like Cafe Coffee Day, Barista and at the other end of you some really small eateries which bring to you some really delectable local cuisine. As I passed the town of Bidadi at the start of reaching Mysore road, I remembered all the times I had stopped here to have 'Thatte Idly'. I had been warned about new road humps being installed on Mysore road (between you and me, as if it didn't have enough of them already :p), now along with the new engine bore, I was also running a brand new rear suspension setup. This was stiffer than my previous one and every abnormality in the road surface was sent right up my spine, this was not really a cause for concern as I am used to this, but the new suspension takes it all up to a new level. Soon enough I was passing through the town of 'toys', Channapatna. If one wants to buy wooden toys from yesteryear's, but can't seem to find them the modern shopping malls of today. This town is the one place where you surely find them, this is a very major source of livelihood for the people of this town. I realized I had made one big error, I had not eaten anything since morning. The whirlwind Wrangler jeans brand promotion followed by the fighting of traffic had made me completely forget the rumble in my tummy. In fact even now, I was not really feeling hungry the sheer joy of doing LoneWolfRides all over again was so exciting that everything else just became immaterial. And I quite literally forgot that I needed to eat, maybe it was all the cheese from last night's pizza that kept me going ;). But the negative effect of not eating was hitting me in the form of extreme sleepiness. But this was also due to the fact that for the past few weeks, my schedule has been to tightly crammed that late nights followed by early mornings have become the norm. The town of Maddur came and went in a blur, in my sleepiness I had completely forgotten that I could have gorged some of the authentic Maddur vada. There came a point of time where I was almost falling asleep in the saddle, decided to pull over to have a few shots. No! not the alcoholic kind, but the 'Chai' kind :)

 

Chai Time! Somewhere after Maddur.

 

The new 'bore' :D, see the difference in colour.

 

I had two 'small' shots of piping hot tea, that slapped me out of my somnolent state. As I glanced at my watch I realized that my timing was just as I had promised RJ Jeevan, so quick call to him and I was told that it was lunch break time and they would do the media byte when I took the next break. The people behind the tea stall looked at me with a curiosity one would only reserve for an alien. As I packed up to leave, I did a good bye wave and immediately the wall of curiosity was broken they realized I was just as human as they were :D. Next I passed the Sugar town of Mandya, and after that in quick succession Srirangapatna. Passing through this town sped my back in time to almost 3 years back when I was doing my very first long ride, I rode down from Chennai to Bangalore and then was to head towards coffee country Coorg. This ride had a special place in my heart, not just because it was my very first long ride covering almost 1300 Kms over a long weekend, but also because I shared this ride with very special person. A person who somewhere along the path of life faded into sunset, as the intricate web of life had different plans for each one of us. It was at this moment that I decided, that at least today's leg of journey will be spent relieving some of those memories, maybe a final good bye if you will. And turned in the direction of the Coorg district!!

 

After Srirangapatna, there is road that goes towards the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary and Krishna Raja Sagara dam, this cuts almost 20 Kms and puts us right onto SH88 avoiding the Mysore road traffic completely. But things aren't so rosy, this stretch of road is bumpy broken and almost to the extent that its back breaking at times, this intensified thanks to my all new stiffer suspension setup. For the non-mechanically inclined, a stiffer suspension means that I now have a even greater control over my bike, this is much more apparent in the twisty roads of the mountains. The lack of comfort was a trade-off I 'was' ready to live with, now I'm not so sure :D This 'shortcut' takes one off the regular highway onto a more rural atmosphere. I stopped here to take yet another break, but this time it was to pull out the rain cover for my tank bag, as the sky just got darker and hopefully little more rainy.

 

The country is making progress they say, Is it?

 

Lush Green Fields line the route, the incoming monsoons have made it beautiful.

 

i TheWanderer - A Wrangler True Wanderer

 

 

After spending a considerable amount of time clearing this stretch, I finally hit Yelwala. If you look up my previously linked blog the one about 'Re-initiation' to biking, you will see that I had done this exact stretch almost a year ago, with a different purpose of course. On earlier occasions I have taken about and hour to reach this stretch, but today its taken well over 4 hours to get just here.

 

As I reached SH88 little rain drops began to appear, there was a pitter patter of rain that I could hear from the inside of my helmet. There would be little section of light rain, followed by a dry spell. For a biker this is BLISS! I have been down this road a couple times over the past 3 years, but today none other the first time I crossed this road what comes to my mind as the prevalent weather conditions were almost similar. Made a mental prayer asking for 'Inner Peace'. And my next major pit stop for the day was exactly for to help me attain that inner peace. I took a small break to capture the road once again.

 

Never ending highways! Red Devil winks to me and says what are you waiting for, lets ride!

 

 

 

 

I kept up whatever little pace I could with the running limit prescribed for my bike, but I was starting to enjoy it now. Lesser speed meant, the scenery whizzes past much slower allowing me to appreciate even more deeply the beauty that nature has to offer. The highway is lined with gulmohar (if I'm not wrong!) tree that make for an amazing sight with the rain laden clouds and smooth tarmac. There were a couple of places where I willed myself not to stop, but quite a few times the will was just not enough. So just a few kilometers ahead of my previous stop, I pulled over for yet another photo shoot.

 

Painting the town err! Highway Red!

 

This ride is in associate with Wrangler True Wanderers Jeans!

 

Hmm! Is this where I should go?

Lush farms on either side of the highway

i TheWanderer - A Wrangler True Wanderer

 

 

Now let me just re-iterate what I just said, it was very difficult to will myself to not stop again and again to capture the scenery played out in front of me. Within just 15 mins I stopped again to capture a few pictures, but as I glanced at my watch I realized that it was time to talk to RJ Jeevan. Spoke to them for a long time, as I was standing on the along the highway in the drizzle it was very difficult for the studio to get a clear sound clip, and I had to do retakes over and over again. My shots at stardom :p, after a few takes and all questions answered I was back to my ride. By now the rain had not yet picked up any intensity, but it did not show any signs of stopping either.

 

Rain swept country side, reminds me of the song 'Country Roads take me home!'

 

The western ghats visible in the horizon, not sure if I'll go there today.

 

 

 

I reached the familar arched entrance of Bylakuppe, I took a left turn into the quaint little settlement town of Bylakuppe. This is the third largest Tibetan settlement outside of Dharamshala, its beautiful with backdrop of monsoon clouds all over the place. Bylakuppe is home to the Namdroling Monastery or The Golden Temple as its more popularly known, I have been to the monastery a couple times in the past, in fact I was here even as near as two months ago, but its serenity and beauty never cease to amaze me. I decided that I will put my anchor down here for the night rather than pushing forward anywhere else. After a little asking around I found a very clean guest house right opposite to the monastery. For 280 bux a night this place was a steal. I unsaddled my bike and dumped my luggage in the room, after that my camera and me were off for an evening in silence in the monastery. The monks living in monastery quarters never look at you directly, they just continue on their own path. After depositing my shoes outside, I entered the inner sanctum of the monastery and just sat down there for a few minutes of blanking out from 'Life'! Where had I been and where was I going, was immaterial what is forever important and will always be the the inner truth that one must life by is 'Enjoy Life!, be happy for what you have & never hesitate to give more than what people expect of you!' :)

 

Inside the Golden Temple - Having a peaceful moment

 

A Wider perspective

 

 

Outside it was still drizzling, I collected my shoes and headed back to my guest house. But not before I captured the last fleeting glimpse of the monastery.

 

 

 

 

I retired back to my room, realizing that its almost 6PM and apart from the two cups of tea I had not yet had anything to eat. The regular restraunt at the guesthouse was closed so I just decided to take rest for a while and have dinner directly. Here's the view from my room :)

 

The market complex opposite to the Golden Temple

 

My room for the night and the spick and span corriodor!

 

After relaxing for a bit more time than I had initially planned for I headed out in search of some of the most authentic momo's you could get in this side of the country. But I had forgotten one thing, Bylakuppe is very small town and places would be closed. I kept riding in the night along the deserted and eerie scary main road in the quest for any open place. Went on and on for kilometers to only shut down shutters and switched off lights, resigned myself to sleeping hungry for the night. But as they say there's always light at the end of the tunnel, and this light was for me in the form of a faint little bulb glowing off a tiny momo stall that was just packing up for the night. I asked if they were open and they said yes, but they have only Momo's. I thought to myself yeah! this is exactly what I'm here for :D. Gorged on a plate of Momos, 10 of them for 30 bux a plate is steal by any any standards.

 

I paid them and thanked them profusely, for they were the ones who had filled my stomach for the first time today. The ride back to the room was again through the deserted and dark roads of Bylakuppe. The inky blackness actually held the power of unknown and thus factor that brings in fear, I will confess I am not fearless and fear of the dark is something that has gripped me since childhood. But none the less the spirit of adventure does overcome fear at times and stopped my bike and switched off the lights to plunged into an infinite darkness in which I could see or perceive anything, not even my own hands. The only thing keeping me rooted to reality were the distant lights in houses dotted in the horizon. I tried capturing this with my cell phone, but blackness is all I saw.

 

Once I reached the guesthouse and switched off my bike the quiet surrounding the place made itself apparent. I decided to call it a day and hit the sack. I had one too many hours of sleep deprivation to catch up and this is MY vacation, I decided what time I want to go and where I want to go :)

Total Travel Distance : 270 Kms

Total Travel Time : 6 Hrs

Route : Bangalore-NECE Road-Mysore Road(SH17)-Hunsur(SH88)-Bylakuppe

 

 



 

Slicing across Malnad - Day #2

 

Would you rather hear the electronic buzzing of your alarm clock, or would you rather be awoken by chants and gongs of prayer from a monastery? At about 6 in the morning today, I woke up to sounds of the monastery resonating across my room. By a stroke of good luck I found this guest house which I never knew existed until yesterday, this despite my frequenting the shopping complex below. It was a beautiful morning, a little cloudy with patches of open clear blue skies. After a quick glance outside my room's window I went back to a dreamless sleep for almost an hour, and  I finally woke up around 7.30AM. I spent the next few hours blogging about the last day's ride and thinking about where I could head next, Madikeri was definitely on the radar but I wanted to see another side of the Kodagu district. The last time I was there, I visited the the southern part and have seen in and around Madikeri enough. For the lack of a better plan or rather direction I made up my mind to head north and see how it goes from there.

I finished blogging/packing/getting ready only by about 11.30PM, I must have spent another 10 mins saddling up the bike. As I checked out of the guesthouse, the monks manning the reception were curious about my attire and wanted to where I was coming from and what was I upto :D. It was interesting to note that all three of the monks were from very different places, one was from Ladakh, while another from Himachal, and the third monk was from Nepal. Smiling faces from each of them as bid them farewell. I took another route on the way out from Bylakuppe, another route that I had not taken so far. This was faster in taking me to SH88, but it was not as scenic as the other route which passed through the various zones of the settlement and various other smaller monastic institutions. From here on it was smooth sailing as soon as I hit the highway, the road has been under constant improvement over the past year or so. It was a dry day so far and knew that there would be some amount of wet involved as well, but by what magnitude unknown to me. The maroons robe clad monks had faded away and had been replaced by the bustling town of Kushalnagar. Once past Kushalnagar the upward climb to the sleepy town of Madikeri begins, although this would usually be termed as 'ghat' but in my books its not even close. Just a few twists and turns and one ascends up to the town of Madikeri. I took a photo break just to capture the awesome roads in these 'ghats'. And another break to pull out the rain covers for both the camera bag and the tank bag.

The beautiful stretch after Kushalnagar

 

 

Rains beyond Suntikoppa

 

I was in Madikeri less than two months a and I remembered the final 3-4 kms of highway was under repair and given the current conditions of rains all that came to my mind was slush! slush! and more slush! I had committed the horrible mistaken on experimenting with an extremely wrong choice of a tyre. Even though it was brand new i.e. just about 3000 kms old it was still sliding around at the slightest mention of rain or slush and this I think is going to be an hindrance all throughout the trip. :( As I entered Madikeri I remembered that like yesterday even today I had not had anything to eat. Since I was at the very center of 'Coffee Country' I just had to stop at the first shop I saw for a cup of piping hot Coorgi filter coffee. Whilst taking a break at the 'Bean Scene' cafe in Madikeri I discussed with my friend Veda on the possibilities of where I could head for the day.

 

Time for the Wrangler True Wanderer to sip some hot coffee

 

 

The Bean Scene cafe in Madikeri

 

After the extended cup of coffee and sandwich I headed towards the most famous view point Raja's Seat inside Madikeri town. The view point earlier served as a sunset viewing point for the earlier Kodava kings. But today its just another tourist attraction, I've spent a couple of evenings here on my previous trips to Madikeri, but every time it just never ceases to amaze me with the change in texture with every season. As I parked my bike and walked through the park that leads to the view points, the rain gods felt mischievous and decided that I must face some rain. Now this is not really a good thing if you are lugging around some delicate photography equipment, nonetheless I managed to get one shot standing under a tree before the rains started hitting hard.

 

Raja's Seat view point, notice the rain drops on the lens?

 

 


 

After clicking this one solitary shot I glanced at my watch and it said 1.30PM, now unlike yesterday today definitely was one day I was going to forget eating food. And when in Coorg, how can one give their specialty Pandhi curry a miss. I headed back into town to the place that made the best Pandhi curry, 'Coorg Cuisinette'. I've been coming to this place over the past three year and yes arguably the do have the best Pandhi curry in town. They've even been featured in a few travel & living programs such as 'Highway on my Plate'. I ordered my regular fare of Pandhi Curry, Akki Otti (Rice roti) & Honey Lime soda.

 

Akki Otti and Pandhi curry


 

Their service is usually on the slow side and this meant that after tanking my stomach I was ready to leave Madikeri only around 2.30PM. I had fueled up my bike when I entered Madikeri, and now I was fueled up too. But wait my wallet dint look so fueled up, after a brief hunt for an ATM and a quick stop to ask the local cops for directions to Somwarpete I headed out of Madikeri. The plan so far was to reach Somwarpete and then take a call on where to head to. The thing about traveling on state highways in Karnataka is that you need to know how to read Kannada to figure out what milestone markers read, and I had zero knowledge of the Kannada script. But I had one trick up my sleeve, I did learn drawing as a child :D, and I had a brief idea about the distance of my destination. So I picked out some key letters from the milestone to identify it as the one I need to go to and I'm all set. Sounds like a brilliant plan right?, but it all goes down the drain if you come across milestones with similar names. :D The route from Madikeri to Somwarpete is as beautiful as any of the routes in Kodagu. You will be transported through dense forests, large coffee estates and small villages as one travels through the roads. The road conditions are fairly ok, one just needs to be wary of the oddball pothole that can spring up on you. I must remind you that I was 'still' running my bike's new bore and the speed had to kept in a constant check. There are times when one is descending down and at times you need to ascend up, this up and down track usually indicates that you are traversing across the hill side. And since these fairly medium sized hills the variation in climate as one reaches one face of the hill may be totally different from the side that they just left behind. I was constantly alternating between mildly rainy, very little rain and completely dry stretches of road. Rains make this place beautiful, but at the same time it makes it very difficult to capture this beauty in one's lens for fear of getting the camera wet!

Bridge enroute to Somwarpete

 

 

 

 

Now another thing worth noticing is the way the western ghats vary across various regions, agreed that Kerala has some of the prettiest spots to showcase the full glory of the western ghats. In Karnataka, you would see a more wilder, more untouched side of the western ghats. As tourism has not really penetrated that deep into the hidden nooks and corners of the state. And, this is exactly the reason why I find the western ghats in Karnataka to be amazingly beautiful, thanks to its more raw nature.

The massive plantation estates lining along the road


 

 

I reached Somwarpate by about 3.30PM, now since I got here much before I had expected I decided to head further up north towards Sakleshpur. So far post Madikeri, I have been traveling on road I've never before and I have never been to roads that I was heading to either. After Somwarpete, there was a remarkable change in the condition of the roads and climate. The roads became a tad worse and the rains became a little more regular feature. After Somwarpete since the rains had started I got even lesser opportunities to capture the beauty of the western ghats. :( I had to reach a town called Kodilpet. My usual style of riding means riding non-stop to my destination once the 'riding rhythm' has been set and by now my rhythm was pretty much set and the almost incessant rains meant I just kept going and going. I made a few feeble attempts at capturing what I saw along the way by the rains were just pain for photography, not for riding though.

 

Roads beyond Kodipet

 

 

 

Pretty red tiled houses always peek like this from the side of the road.


 

As I approached Sakleshpur there was further change in the scenery as well as the climate. The tall trees and dense shrubs had started to give way for a light more meadow like look. There was one section where I started ascending rapidly and immediately surrounded by clouds, I had a ear to ear smile inside my helmet and screamed a loud 'Yooohoooo' much to the dismay of a certain cow trying to cross the road. I enjoyed this part of the ride so much and got so engrossed in riding through the clouds that I forgot to capture this and just kept riding. There would places where the clouds would suddenly vanish as you start descending down a path and then once again you would be surrounded by clouds as the roads starting winding upwards. The amount of distance I had covered today was fairly small in comparison, but when you are slicing across the Malnad region nothing is a short or long distance. And after I had barely covered about 130 Kms since morning I could feel my back complaining about the roads and my new suspension. So I gave it a quick 5 minutes break and took a few more shots just outside of Sakleshpur.

 

Rains approaching across the hill side

 

 

The 'Wild' side of the Western Ghats!


 

Within a few kilometers my narrow road merged with a much wider road, for a few moments I felt a bit confused and disoriented wondering why do we need such a broad road but realized that I have hit NH48. After nearly 370 Kms into the trip, the first time that I was on a National highway, so far it had been the scraggy state highways which in my opinion maybe slower but offer a far more enriching travel experience. I had to re-orient myself to be able ride along with so much traffic and much higher speeds. As I glanced at my odometer I realized that I have completed the first hurdle of my running in (i.e. 500 Kms completed) and can increase speeds by a little bit, but the heavy rains in the region and slippery looking roads meant I kept my right wrist very much under control. The state highway actually dropped me a couple of kilometers before Sakleshpur, I could have taken a left and continued to Mangalore, but I wanted more of this raw adventure so I took a left and decided to cut across further north since I still had time at hand. But maybe I got more than I bargained for :D I had two options in front of me, either take the known and very good route which is about 110 kms in total or take a shorter but completely unknown route which was about 60 Kms in total. Given that it was already 5PM I decided not push my luck any further and opted for the shorter route, I thought to myself how bad could it be. :D The rains by now had picked up intensity and did not stop even for a moment. As I went passed Sakleshpur I kept looking for a board that indicated the left turn I need to take, but none of that came. I saw one broken board lying on the ground and thought this could be it. As I took the turn I saw a narrow completely broken road, just to confirm I asked an Auto-rickshaw guy if this was really the road. He said yes, and when I asked him what was the distance he replied 50 Kms. Okay I thought to myself lets see how this goes. As I started on this stretch I realized two things, once I take this route there will be no turning back and if I do get stuck anywhere there is practically no place to stop. The rains had filled the moons sized craters on this road with water and made it very difficult to judge their depth. I had to slow down to a snails pace of about 30 Kmph to avoid any of the potholes. Thoughts of turning back kept hitting my mind, and I told myself 'There are no wrong turns, just keep going'. After about 2 kilometers of torture the road finally smoothed up and breathed a huge sigh of relief. But happiness was short lived, very very short lived. As I reached a village the road forked into two and one road was pothole ridden and well the other one lesser said the better, there was no road at all. I asked a village for directions to Chikamagalur and he pointed me towards the direction where no road existed. I told my self the same thing again, 'There are no wrong turns, just keep going'. There was a bus that was moving along the trail as if it were smooth tarmac, I felt pity for the occupants who would have been treated the most unwanted massage of their lives. I could not keep pace with the bus and fell behind, the heavy rains were not helping either. Finally yet another fork arrived on the road, this time one was smooth tarmac and the other was just the same stony path from the stone age. I could see in the distance the bus pottering over the stony road. I stopped at the fork wanting ask any passing villager for correct directions, but not a soul came even the bus had disappeared in the distance. I waited and waited in the rains for a soul to pass by, I must have waited for five minutes but it seemed like an eternity that I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. My gut feeling told me that I need to head down the broken road, 'road' if you may call it that to reach Chikmagalur, so I just started the bike and gunned to throttle in an attempt to storm down this road but that wouldn't be so I would have to take a different approach.

 

A back breaking, butt sore of a road I will never forget in my life!

 

 



I decided that I must head down this path and try my level best to continue on this never ending bike and back breaking path. After maybe a kilometer of trundling along this road, I finally saw a house. I saw someone standing across the boundary and wall and asked him if this "really" was the road to Chikmagalur, he replied in affirmative. :D So I just resigned myself to continue down this broken road, my speeds were limited to anything from 10-20 Kmph. But on some stretches I could go a bit faster, I even managed to overtake the bus guy giving its occupants a jarring ride. Since it was raining pretty hard and it was evening time it was getting darker, and as I continued along this route the forest got denser and denser. Not much like those in the Kodagu district, but more in the form of extremely tall trees filled on both sides of the road. Actually it was plantations of some sort lining up both sides of the road, and to add to all this after passing the bus I did not see a single soul on this stretch, not even a village came by. I just saw some roads leading to gates of some plantation estates which looked even more eerie than the road that I was on. This drama of me fighting with the road must have continued for some 15 odd Kms after which I got a gift from god, tarmac re-appeared :). Finally the ordeal was over, I had previously stray thoughts about staying the night out in the open under a tree or asking some plantation owner if I could stay there for the night. But now since the tarmac started I had hope, and along with tarmac came civilization. I must have been doing pretty decent speeds on the road when I heard a honk from behind me, turns out one of the jeeps from the plantations wanted to overtake me. I knew better, I just moved aside and let them pass as they know this road at the back of their hands. As it passed me I saw written behind it was 'Banana Express', I tried in vain to keep up with Banana express as the left me biting their dust and water.

 

After a lot twists and turns I finally managed to reach the temple town of Belur, if it was not for the rains I could have visited the town's famous temples some of which have taken over a 100 years to complete. Within minutes I was on my way to Chikmagalur heading down the Belur-Chikmagalur state highway. A few kilometers outside of Belur the rains stopped, and the sun was shining through the clouds. It felt as if the sun was welcoming me to Chikmagalur warming up my completely wet body. I had not used any of my rain gear so far as the rains came so soon that I did not have time to put them, all my riding gear, the Wrangler True Wanderer pair of jeans and even my standard issue Army boots were soaking wet. I stopped here to soak up the sun as much as I could and take a deep breath of relief as I had almost completed one of my toughest riding days ever.

 

The sun god welcomes me to Chikmagalur, a beautiful sight for the naked eye.

 

 

First time in my life I saw a complete end to end rainbow!

 

If you notice the dark clouds on the left, that's where I came from...

 

The curious village kid, his kid sister ran away into the distance after a while

 

The end to end rainbow fast disappearing.

 

As I stopped here and brother-sister duo of kids from a village nearby came running to see from which planet I had come from, he continued speaking non-stop in very fast Kannada that was beyond my understanding, he kept making gestures at my knee guards. After a chat which either of us din't understand, me in hindi and the kid in Kannada I bid them farewell and set out towards Chikmagalur. For the first time in the journey I hit three digit speeds for a short bit, but was back to my 'safe mode' of riding as the traffic kept getting denser as I neared Chikmagalur. It took me nearly half an hour to finally find a decent place to stay. At first the hotel guy said there were no rooms, then he asked me for many days I wanted the place, I told him it was for a night. He immediately agreed to give me a room in the condition that I vacate by 11PM next morning. I promised him that I'd be out much before that. He even reduced the rate from 999/- to 500/- as I was just a single occupant. Nice room for 500 bux with a LCD TV and everything. I got out of all my gear and I set it all to dry as I relaxed my tired bones on the soft bed.

What a day it has been, the total distance covered has been pretty less, but the adventure has been much bigger so far. I wonder what Day #3 has in store for me.


Total Travel Distance : 180 Kms

Total Travel Time : 7 Hrs

Route : Bylakuppe-Madikeri-Somwarpet-Kodilpet-Sakleshpur-Arehalli-Belur-Chikmagalur

 


 

 

A ride on the Wild Side - Day #3

 

Blink!! Blink!! as I opened my eyes I see can hear a whirring at its fastest speed and I am tucked under two heavy blankets. What the hell is wrong with me, I think to myself. As my drowsy stupor fades, I see a mess strewn across the room and all of yesterday's ride trailing the 'Banana Express' comes back to mind. All what I was wearing was dripping wet when I walked in yesterday, and after getting out of bed when I check the stuff, realized that most of the stuff had "mostly" dried barring the True Wanderer jeans and my riding jacket, they were still a little wet even now after being under a fan for over 12 hours!

 

The Drying effect!!!

 

I spent the next few hours trying to catch up blogging about the previous day's ride, a very time consuming exercise. Which meant, even today I start almost as late as the previous day. The hotel where I put up did not have any restaurant of any sort, so a cup of coffee was the best they could offer. I asked them if there was any where along the route I was planning, they replied in affirmative. So I just packed up and left, on the way I did not spot a single place to eat so I thought to myself, that I'd eat once I've completed the short haul trip that I had lined up for now. As I headed out of Chikmagalur, a board read 'You are entering an oxygen rich zone, please do no pollute', if only such boards had any effect on the people of my country.

 

The plan for now was to head to the Baba Budangiri hills which form an impressive backdrop for Chikmagalur town. There are two peaks in this mountain range, Mullyangiri and Baba Budangiri, it is said that both these mountains form the shape of a crescent moon. I could not see any of this much talked about crescent stuff as the entire top of the hill was covered in clouds. I reached a forest check post where the police person was asking me if I was carring any alcohol, I replied that I don't even have water forget alcohol. He let out a small smile and let me pass through. Once past the gate I could see huge estates on both sides of the road, and what a smooth piece of tarmac that I let my right hand a little slack and let it roll up the throttle to decent speeds. Within a few kilometers the turn off for Mulliyangiri and Kemmangundi approaches, I took the one to Mulliyangiri as I had other plans for today and Kemmangundi owing to the distance would screws the said plans. The twisty roads now were a proper 'ghat' type of twisty road and Boy! it was fun. I did not click any pictures whilst climbing up as I thought I'd get more pictures on the way down. The road gets narrower and narrower and the beautiful landscape opening up in front of me just got better and better, my friend Veda had insisted that I visit this place since I had come all the way to Chikmagalur and with the scenery unfolding in front of me I had nothing but praises for insistence. Beyond a certain distance you quite literally IN the clouds, the sight of which made me chuckle once again as I said a mental thank you to him. By now I was quite literally in the clouds and visibility was down to couple of feet ahead of me. As I reached the top I could see a huge rush of people running amok, I took my bike off the road and onto some rocks perched a little higher than the road.

 

I got off my bike and as I took out the camera to start clicking pictures a few people were giving me odd stares wondering what I upto in this crazy outfit. A group of about 5-6 people were walking down the path where I'd taken up my bike and were a little curious, so one of them came asking me what lens was I using on my camera and the general series of questions such as 'where/why/what'. I explained to them the concept of Wrangler True Wanderers and how I was on a exciting 7 day ride wearing only one pair of jeans. They seemed more interested in the 'wearing one pair of jeans for 7 days' part more than anything else. So after we had spoken I got them to click a few pics of me. They wished me luck and were off. After clicking a picture or two another group of about 15 people landed up there who again gave me the 'who is this alien?' look. They all gathered around some rocks to get a group pic, and one of them walked up to me to ask if I could take a picture of them. He had a cell phone camera in hand, so I offered to take pictures from my SLR instead, with the promise that I'd mail them the picture that very night. After I clicked their picture, they all surrounded me and asked me the same who/what/where questions and after giving them all the story about True Wanderers they promised to get me the whole of Wipro's votes :D

 

Atop Mullyanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka.

 

 

 

 The gang from Wipro, Bangalore

 

The green arrow is where I was standing atop Mullyanagiri as per my GPS

 

 

Mulliyangiri is the highest peak in Karnataka at about 1930 meters above sea level. I had not gone more than a few meters beyond the parking lot and I was definitely not at the very topmost part as that would involved me leaving behind all my luggage and walking up some distance. My GPS read out 1850 meters at the point I was standing on and it was good enough for me as this was the highest any motorized two wheels could go in the state of Karnataka. The wind was starting to pick up and it was strong enough to almost blow away my Wrangler flag, so I packed up and started descending down the twisty and extremely narrow route. I took a couple of pictures on my way down as the clouds played hide and seek with me, at times on some faces of the mountain I would extremely dense clouds and sometimes on the other sides I would have completely clear skies. So far it had not rained much either, so I was getting drier by the minute. A slight drizzle would set in at times, but nothing more than that.

 Getting down Mullyanagiri

 

 

 

 

 


 

 With the phase 1 of running the bike complete I was able to push the bike's performance envelope a little bit more and have much needed fun on the twisties on my way down. I tried my best to recollect some of the names of the homestay's on the way so I could come back a later time to explore this area in greater details but no such thing happened, forgot all the names I saw and absorbed so much in a day that it was almost impossible to recollect the finer details. I made my way quickly across Chikmagalur town to the other side as I wanted to do some deep diving into lush green forests. I filled fuel on the outskirts of town, by now the sky's were overcast in an ominous shade of grey. Not that I have any issues with riding rain, I love it. On day one I was saying 'Lil Johnny wants some rain to play' so I guess this was my wishes getting answered.

 

After tanking up and tackling a minor traffic jam, yes you read that right a jam even in a small town as this. I had been down this road about two years back and I wanted to experience something like that, but this time it was going to all alone not like last time when I had 3 other bikers accompanying me. The forests officially start a considerate distance away from Chikmagalur, but even at the outskirts the green cover is almost forest like. The road surface was no longer as smooth as I had seen earlier this morning during the ascent to Mulliyangiri, but this kind of road was right up my alley, it involved being alert and avoiding any oddball pothole that the roads suddenly throws up at you, all whilst you are going a sufficiently high speeds. As I progressed ahead the forest cover got denser and lot more wilder. The estates on the outskirts of Chikmagalur had long gone and now it was just pure wilderness all around me. I had initially thought about heading up all the way up north through the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary which apparently has tigers and leopards as well. About 3 years back I had been on a safari into the 'Tiger' reserve part of Bhadra, and all I saw was deer and a few monkeys. So I was pretty sure I wouldn't be spotting any wild fauna, flora yes but definitely not fauna. The rains by now had become a soap opera, they would come and go at their own free will put a little drama into things and be gone before you know it. But this is after all the Malnad region and even the rains for a short period are enough to make you completely wet. I took a solitary break in the Bhadra reserve to catch a little breather as I had been riding nonstop for long time.

 

Inside the Bhadra reserve

 

The intensity of the beauty of this region cannot be captured in words that I write, neither can I capture it behind a lens, it is something that one needs to experience it for themselves. As I got deeper and deeper into the forest the number of vehicles on the road thinned down and beyond a certain point even the villages stopped appearing, all together indicating that arrival of forest. And it was just around this time that the skies open the flood gates to let the water come down on an already wet planet earth. The rains, the beautiful lush green forest and spectacularly curvy roads had made me forget everything and I just had the time of my life riding without a stop, I missed a lot of great photography opportunities, but the pure joy of riding in this very setting just kept me going and going. As I reached a small town called Balehonnur somewhere in the middle of Bhadra on reaching this town there were two roads, one which went up north to where I intended to head to, another headed south but to a 'fun' place called Kalasa. More on Kalasa later, now I remember seeing the map to find and very small road on the map connecting these place and it seemed more like a village back road on the map. What the heck? I don't have anything loose :D

 One Wild Ride!

 

 

 

As I took a left on this route the first impression was pretty bad as it was immediately visible that the road is pretty bad and I did not want to go through such a sorry state of road for another 35 odd kilometers. But I persisted with my 'no wrong turns' funda and ambled down this road. Within a few hundred meters the road improved, and this would actually be an understatement. I was way better than the Aldur-Balehonnur stretch that I was doing, only difference being that the road was very narrow. The route started with the Bhadra river flowing right next to it and so far things were looking up. The setting was perfect for another round of crazy non-stop riding, this continued all the way till I reached the middle of this route to a village called Magundi. It had been a long time and I took a break at a small tea stall for a much needed chai break.

 

My first and only snack for the day!

 

 

 All he had was parle-G biscuits, I realized now that in my enjoyment of riding I had completely forgotten about breakfast and lunch so far, and this cup of tea and biscuits was the first thing I was eating after my morning coffee. Call me crazy, call me stupid or call me passionate, but once the riding rhythm is set food and drink become immaterial and the ride takes precedence over everything. Whilst I was having my cuppa, a curious auto driver siting a little distance away decides that curiosity does not kill the cat and he started mumbling something in Kannada, to my surprise when I told him that I dint understand what he said, he replied back in hindi. He was interested to know about my riding gear and why did travel so far. After a brief concentration with this auto guy I packed up and headed to leave. By now the rains had started to pick up intensity and slowly but steadily the non-stop mode was about to get triggered I stopped here as the sounds of the forest seemed to even overcome the drone of my bike's engine. I killed the engine just to hear the sounds of the forest here, but somehow the sound died out with my engine's sound. As I started my bike the rains came with a fresh vigor and hit so hard that I actually thought I was going to get washed away.

Some of the deepest forest roads I've seen

 

 Sounds of the forest inside the Bhadra Reserve

 

I cannot capture the beauty and essence of the Malnad region! Its just too intense...

 

At the start of this stretch of road from Balehonnur, the Bhadra river had made its first appearance, but the it had vanished away. Now it was slowly making its presence felt as I could see it little bit of it as I rode on. Finally after some amount of riding an opening appeared showing as of the river as possible. Finally I came up a bridge that went over the river Bhadra just before touching Kalasa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The western ghats all along this region maintains its standard of green 'foresty' type of environs, but the characteristics of this lush green cover change with as I progressed from Chikmagalur to Balehonnur and then had another change as I changed track and dived south into what I thought was a lesser used track via Magundi, and now as I approached Kalasa the kind of green further changed a little bit in character. The forest roads wherein the trees covered almost the whole part of the road, sometimes even forming a canopy of sorts had now given way to smaller trees that covered only a part of the view of the sky.

 

Kalasa, is a small temple town surrounded by the Bhadra river on three sides and a hill in the backdrop. I had passed through this town some time in early 2009, during one of my previous 'LoneWolfRides'. This town leads to one of Karnataka's most beautiful stretches of road right through the Kudremukh national reserve which is one of the few biodiversity hotspots in this region. Surrounded by controversy amidst this beautiful stretch is the Kudremukh Iron ore company which faced the ire of many environmentalists in relation of their plant being a threat to the flora and fauna of this region, which finally lead to shutting down of their mining activities in the region. The road running right through the heart of this national reserve is one of the most amazing pieces of tarmac I had seen, with super smooth roads and mind blowing scenery on both sides of the road there is not much more a bike could really ask for. I stopped for a couple of pictures just before the Kudremukh national park started.

 

Lush fields before Kudremukh

 

Tea estates are an odd sight in this region!

 

 



 My plan was to take a route inside Kudremukh that I had never taken before, one that heads up north. Now there's a catch as you are taken through this exhilarating ride deep inside the Kudremukh national park. One gets a time stamped ticket at one entry point and has exactly 1.5 hours to cover approximately 40 Kms through one of the most scenic stretches of road around here, this is downright cruel as it does not give enough time to capture the beauty of this place. I received my pass with 4.45PM as the time stamp, I was prepared to pay the fine if I exceeded the time limit to cross onto the other side. Once inside Kudremukh you will see many lesser used roads leading deep into the safari trails of the forest, they seemed tempting to take but I knew better than to go poking around an already troubled region.

The paths leading deep into Kudremukh National Park

 

 


 

 

The Tunga and Bhadra rivers flow around this National park and it will be apparent as you pass through many bridges ranging from big to small on this stretch of road, also since the altitude in this forest varies from as low as 100 mtrs, to as high as 1830 mtrs the road twists through a series of ups and downs making for an awesome ride. The rains had so far been limited to occasional patches of light showers, infact I even got a little bit of sunshine on my way inside the forest.

Can you see the rolling hills of Kudremukh in the background!

 

 

 


 From my previous jaunt down this stretch I remember having some butter smooth tarmac, but it has all changed now. The roads are no longer what they used to be, there a couple of patches of broken tarmac which unsettle the bike as you approach it at higher than required speed. There are roads inside Kudremukh that diverge into the various living quarters of the KIOCL (Kudremukh Iron Ore Company) and offices inside the park. Given the setting of a dark cloudy sky and these buildings in various states of disrepair almost looking abandoned, gave this place an ominous look which looked like a perfect setting for a Hollywood horror flick. Through these roads you can sometimes get a glimpse of an even more creepy iron ore plant far off in the distance. And sometimes you see one of the previous used rails/pipes (I am not sure!) to transport probably iron to and from the plant.

 

Eerie carriageways running inside the forest

I passed over a small bridge that gave me complete view of the mining plant to one side and an amazing view on other end. Beyond this section there comes a small dam built by KIOCL on the Bhadra river, it is said that it was built to dump the red slurry from the mines which in turn creates havoc with nature. Photography is prevented on top of the dam, as I was shooed away last time by a guard over the entrance of the dam. I did not dare try any antics this time either, I just got a shot of the dam and was off.

 

 

 

 

Lakya Dam

 

At this point it started to pour heavily, I hastily pulled the rain cover onto the camera bag a rode on. And this was when I was just thanking the weather gods for not giving my heavy rain so I can photograph this stretch in piece. I felt that if there really is a weather god, he was at times playing pranks with me and at times being genuinely good. There was on specific stretch where I wanted to take a picture as the last time I passed through it, I wished to my self I had a camera with a wider lens, partly this time my wish had come true, but whatever the scenery was to be seen was held captive behind the clouds as the rolled across the mountains covering them completely. Nevertheless, I tried my best to get as much of it as possible. But as soon as I as had gone about a kilometer or so ahead I found that it is just not possible to not stop to get pictures and I stopped to get some picture of a small waterfall falling behind a bridge.

 

Praise the Lord! For we have been gifted with this beautiful nature (For those wondering where my right glove is, I can't click my camera's button with a dripping wet glove :D)

 

This is my most favorite stretch inside the forest

 

 


 

 


By now it had quite literally started pouring and I decided to just enjoy the ride, whilst a small rumble in my stomach reminded me that my body needs more just ParleG for food to survive in the day. I thought that I'd stop to grab a bite once I complete Kudremukh, but in my hurry to get across the to the other side and the general enjoyment of the riding in the rains on one the most awesome stretches of road I missed taking the turn at the route through which I had not been before. There was another spot where I just had to stop despite the rains.

 

Might not be apparent from the pictures, but it was pouring at this moment.

 

 

For the times when its raining like it was raining here, I use my trusty yet expendable 5 year old point & shoot cam as the SLR was to expensive a piece of equipment to be donated to the rains. As I continued down this road the rains intensified as now I was on the sea facing side of the mountain, the coastline was still a good 60-70 Kms away but it was enough to make his patch of road extremely rainy. I had decided not to stop anywhere till the exit, but could not resist stopping to get pics of the rain that I was riding through.

 

Rainforest =Rains (Lots) + Forest (Lots) :D

 

 

The problem with the LS2 helmet that I was using was that rain would trickle in on the inside surface of the helmet as well, now this makes things worse in the already low visibility of the rains. I was just glad that I was doing this when there was still enough day light on the road. As I approached the exit gate of Kudremukh, I slowed down and indicated to the guards if they would like to see the time stamp, but given the heavy rains they just let me go ahead, happy at not stopping I gunned the throttle and kept going ahead. Now some patches of road would be dry but as I reached the town of Karkala, the rain got so so intense that it made it impossible to see anything on the road. The drop were large enough to make loud racket inside my helmet. Ever since I got out of Kudremukh gate I had a nagging feeling that I was on the route that I did not intend to take. On reaching outskirts of Karkala when I asked where the route to Sringeri was, he pointed me in the direction from where I'd come from. I was dumbfounded, how can this be! I had not seen a single sign board with Sringeri written on it so far. At this point I had two options, either proceed towards Udupi or Mangalore which was pretty close from here or re-trace my steps back towards Sringeri. Not wanting to face coastal rain and not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to ride through a stretch of road that I'd never been through I just turned around and for the time being ditched my 'there are no wrong turns' funda. The want to cover an unknown stretch was far greater, but the odds were stacked up against me as it was nearly 6.15PM when I had exit Kudremukh and with daylight fast fading this was a going to prove to be a costly bargain if things went awry. I raced back towards Kudremukh in the blinding rain, this time I took probably half the time to reach the entry check post. Here I was given yet another time stamp, I asked the guard for directions to Sringeri. He said I have to go 12 Kms into the forest and then I will reach a junction where I need to take a left. Junction? What junction, I never saw a junction on my way down. What the heck! I just shifted gears and plowed through the rain climbing up Kudremukh has always been fun, but with daylight fast fading and rain and mist playing havoc I was just cooking up a recipe for the next blockbuster horror flick. The mentioned 12 Kms came and went by, nothing came no turns. For a moment I thought it may a hidden route which may have been obscured by the foliage around.

 

After about 15 Kms finally I reached a junction which indeed said that Sringeri was left and was just 35 Kms away. I had missed this turn in my hurry whilst passing through just an hour earlier, and as I turned to the road that went down on NH13 apparently was far far worse than the Kudremukh stretch. It was a narrow road, pockmarked with patches of road missing in between. I did not take a single break here as I was trying not to become an evening snack for a wild animal, though I knew something like that rarely happened around these parts but the possibility still existed :D. The terrible roads coupled with heavy downpour and to add to the drama the fading light made it a ride that I can never forget. I encountered a few vehicles on and off, but it was far lesser in number than the 'other' stretch of Kudremukh. After nearly about 1 hour of riding through these stretch of road I reached the exit check post, I breathed a sigh of relief. The guards were not as forgiving as the ones on the other side, they wanted to see the time slip. I knew that my jacket's "waterproof" pocket would have completely destroyed it beyond recognition in the kind of rains that I had ridden through. So as I gingerly took out the little piece of dripping wet paper he looked up to me and said angrily, "500 Rs fine!!!". I told him that it was raining and all that, he did not relent. As I went to take out my wallet I first drained my riding gloves of water by clenching my fists, what came out must have been atleast a mug full of water, the guard found that funny and I guess his heart melted at the sight of poor me dripping wet. He said "no fine!" go ahead. Phew! that was close, through the broken down stretch I was riding like a madman and this had taken a toll on my back. I took it easy through these last few kilometers, as it is with the dusk set in and it being almost dark by now there was not much more speed I could carry. About 10 Kms before the Sringeri the roads finally smoothed up and for once it felt like a National highway. I took a small break to just 5 Kms outside of Sringeri as the rains had eased up a little and I wanted a break badly.

Outside Sringeri, it was 7.30PM and I scared a villager :D

 

As I took the above shot, I forgot where I had kept the lens cover and started searching for it like mad. In the rainy conditions like which I was riding through, the lens cover is absolutely necessary. In a few aborted attempts at finding I started click pictures with the flash ON so I could located the cover, and that what resulted in a shot like the below shot.

 

Lens cap hunting :D

 

 

Fearing the worst that I had lost the cover, I removed all the rain protection on my tank bag and rummaged around for my torch finally and after that finally managed to locate the lens cover. I forgot to mention that amidst all the flashing I was doing there was a villager who was rolling down the slopes with his moped's engine and lights off and talking loudly on the cellphone. At the exact moment that he neared me I flashed once to locate the lens, the bright flash of light from the other side of the road had scared him and he let out a loud yelp of fear. :D

 

With camera bags packed I headed towards Sringeri to rest for the night as it was already 7.30PM. I just stopped at the first hotel that I came across. With all my riding gear I look like like an alien sight as it is, but now I was dripping wet alien, every step that I took would form a puddle of water in the hotel. At first I took their basic room which was about 8ftx8ft, this was okay with by all means but amount of dripping wet stuff I had meant that I would have no place to dry them so I upgraded to a bigger room. The combination of heavy rains and back breaking roads had taken a toll on me so I after I had set everything to dry I slurped away to some chicken curry rice and at this point my Point & shoot started showing up some funny issues with the colors. I presumed it must have gone kaput with all the rains that I am giving it.

My tiny P&S camera acting funny with colours!

 

 

Total Travel Distance : 260 Kms

Total Travel Time : 9 Hrs

Route : Chikmagalur-Mulliyangiri-Chikmagalur-Balehonnur-Magundi-Kudremukh-Karkala-Kudremukh-Sringeri

Map : Click!

 


 

 

I shouldn't be alive! - Day #4

 

Whenever I would toss and turn at night mildly awoken from my slumber I could hear the rain beating down in roofs of the houses around the hotel, the same scene was being played even when I finally woke up in the morning. As much as I love riding in the rain, but after 2 days of showering in the rains, I felt the need for a little drier days. I hope the guys at Wrangler don't expect these jeans to be weathered out, as I am washing them daily in the bucket loads of rains here in the Malnad region. They are daily dripping wet and hung to dry, speaking of which today, most of my stuff *hasn't* dried. So that means I ride with wet jeans, a wet jacket and slightly wet shoes. The shoes dry up more as I stuff them with newspaper every night, a trick I learnt during my trip to Ladakh.

The view from my hotel room, as rain momentarily stopped.

 

The not so dry jeans and breakfast for the day

 

I usually am not a temple person, don't mistake me for an atheist, I'm more of an agnostic. But that does not stop me from marveling at the various architectural mysteries surrounding these temples. Being in a temple town of Sringeri I specifically wanted to visit the Vidyashankara temple for its twelve pillars depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac, also the fishes along the banks of the river Tunga are something not to be missed. The sheer density of the fishes seen along the banks is very unique. But, sadly for the heavy rains and still wet jeans I could see neither of these places. I will definitely be back here post the monsoons to cover what I missed now.

It was not that I was not prepared for rains, but I was really not aware of the intensity with which rain hits these parts. I was after just 26 Kms away from the Cherrapunji of the South, Agumbe. Being in such proximity to the second most rainiest place in India meant that it would not be spared! In the morning when I went down for a general health check of my bike, one of the hotel guys got talking in whatever broken English he could manage. He asked me since I am in 'software' why don't I go abroad. I answered in a short sentence, "I love my India"! His eyes lit up, and he got on to telling how he would advise all his friends who are abroad to come back to 'Mother India'. He even went on to mention some friends that he has in Russia (don't ask me how!) who always talk about Mother India.

 

As I saddled up my bike in preparation to leave, the whole hotel staff i.e. 4 people :D had come to see me off. I guess they thought I wouldn't go considering how hard it was raining. For a change today I decided to use some rain gear, and used only my rain coats jacket. The True Wanderer jeans would have to rough it out even today. Once saddled up I shook hands with everyone one and bid them farewell, its a pity I couldn't get pictures of the smiling faces of the people who had probably the most expensive hotel on this trip so far, despite it being the smallest place on the trip so far. As I started out today I could feel the rain hitting hard from all directions and within a minute everything that could get wet, got wet! What a way to start the day I thought to myself. Today I would be continuing my journey through NH13, which like a vein runs through Karnataka and bought me to Sringeri from the heart of Western Ghats/Karnataka – Kudremukh! Going through Kudremukh had pumped me up (pun intended) and I was looking forward to my journey ahead and with that enthusiasm I was heading into the rain to see what lie beyond this piece of tarmac! Surprisingly as I got a away from Sringeri and consequently, Agumbe the rains lightened and finally vanished. Seems like as though it was raining, No! pouring cats and dogs in a 30 Kms radius around Agumbe :D


'Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa' might not ring a bell, but this is Jnanpith awardee and widely revered as Rashtrakavi is more popularly remembered as 'Kuvempu'. This fact was mentioned as the home where he grew up was in a village called Kuppali, just a few kilometers ahead of Koppa. His ancestral home has now been turned into a museum for the public to see and a monument has been erected in his honor at the Kavishaila. I sat down here for a while, in the rain. The atmosphere was peaceful beyond anything I've imagined, as I sat there in the rain with a blank mind it helped me concentrate and come to terms with a lot of thoughts running around in circles in my head.

 

At the entrance to the Kavishaila

 

The Monument erected in the poet's honor (Yes as is apparent, it started to rain)

 

 


 

As I walked out of the Kavishaila, I saw a small trail that lead down to the ancestral home. My friend Veda, who'd told me about this place said that its a short 2 minute walk down to the house. Trusting my friend's judgement of time, speed & distance I walked down the path leaving behind most of my luggage on the bike and just carrying the essentials like my cameras and wallet and most importantly bike keys. Yes! everything else was more or less expendable :D

Path leading down to his ancestral home

The ancestral home

 

 

 

 

Stone Henge anyone?

 

I was back on NH13 heading up further North towards Tirthahalli, which is again as close as Sringeri to Agumbe and the increasing intensity of the rains as I got closer and closer to Tirthahalli showed that. When in Malnad, you are IN Malnad. The beauty of this region lies in its amalgamation of the greenery, the hills, the narrow twisty roads and most importantly the climate. I was just loving the twisty, winding roads which sometimes would go up, and sometimes down. From the point of view of this blog there is not much I can write about this as I have said this before and will say it now again, the beauty and intensity of the Malnad just cannot be captured in a lens or put down into words, it just has to be experienced. What I was experiencing for the past few days getting drenched to the core, was something that I can just summarize and put it in one word... 'Fun'! Yes, it was absolute, unadulterated FUN!

 

By this time I had forgotten what a 'normal' life is, I had forgotten all about the deadlines, pressures of my job! I forgotten completely what my life was like in the city. For now it was just me, my red devil and open road. And not to be forgotten the rains as well. I had been transformed completely into what I can only call as 'Wanderer'. As I approached Tirthahalli, I met with absolute chaos due to a traffic jam on the narrow roads of a small town, I was looking for a turn to get off the highway onto a more suitable state highway away from this madness, about 2 years back I had taken a route that lead me straight to Tirthahalli and had trouble finding that route now. Asked around the locals for a bit of guidance and finally I was back on track. In India, I think the best GPS is the 'Boss GPS' :D. Its works simply by asking 'Boss, where is _______?' This can be used in language and is uniformly understood by everyone. About two years back when I had taken this highway on yet another LoneWolfRide, I had a completely back breaking experience due to the sorry state of roads. Now two years down the line, I was a bit a older, riding the same bike but this time with a stiffer suspension, which all in all are a sure fire recipe for disaster. I was skeptical if I could even do this, or would I have to actually take it really slow probably spend the night on the road somewhere. This is a small state highway that takes you from Tirthahalli to Nagara, Nittur and finally lands you on Kollur. My direction was somewhere in the middle of all this onto a place where no such road existed, call me out of my mind or whatever but yes I had plans of making the back breaker of road into something even worse. My plan was to scale Kodachadri, which is regarded as amongst one of the tougher off-road climbs around. I had done it twice earlier, once completely solo, and for me both the times it was a piece of cake. But that was two years back and both times the monsoons had not been lashing so hard.


As I took the the turn towards Nagara, I immediately recognized my old foe the back breaker of a road. It had not changed one bit, I braced myself and readied myself for the onslaught of the brutality. But to my utter surprise the road became as smooth as a baby's bum after about 4-5 Kms of the initial madness. I yelled a loud Hurrah! But such joys are only short lived, within about 10 odd kilometers the road vanished again and I was yet again face to face with the pockmarked road from hell. But apart from the utterly horrible road surface, the road actually takes you through a dense forest and you usually don't encounter anyone along the route. I remember the first time I actually had taken this route, it was in peak summers and taking a break on this route proved to be scary as there was no one in sight for kilometers on end and the thick undergrowth on both sides of the road made the fear of the unknown come to the fore.

Looks can be deceiving, its not as smooth as it looks

Within this road there were some Y forks and direction changes which had me slightly disoriented as this was the first time I was doing it in this direction. I decided to stick my funda of 'No Wrong Turns' and just kept going relying on gut instinct. As I was ploughing through this road and had great expectations for what was coming up, a thought came across my mind. This is not something just related to bikers, but can be applicable in Life as well, "There are people who do small things and make it look big, and then there are people who do big things and make it look small". Something to ponder over, might not be too out of context in this contest too ;) I will not get into the nitty gritty details of how and why I had this thought, lets just leave it at that for now. After being on this road for almost 20+ kilometers with the sneaky feeling that I was not heading towards Kodachadri, I came across a very familiar S-bend something that is till now etched in my memory from my previous trips on this route. I took a break here as it was relatively more open space and hence felt a little more safer as well.

Taking a break after the all too familiar S-bend

As I started my bike I noticed three things, one was that the speedometer just reset itself and the entire display unit lit up, the second was the bike was idling weirdly and lastly the bike refused to start in gear. I looked at the speedo cable and saw that it was being tugged from the outside so I assumed that maybe the connector was loose so I tried locating the source connecter to see if any wires had been pulled out or the connector was out of place. But everything looked perfect, I had no way of examining the idling issue so for now I just started riding. Although one really does not need to see the speed, even more so in these narrow forest roads. But when something is malfunctioning it does feel as though a part of you is not working right. This had a direct effect on my riding style, I was no longer riding the way I rode just because every time I glanced at the speedo it read out '0'. And to top it all the idling issue was turning out to be a major issue when I wanted to slow down, as the bike wouldn't slow down as much as I wanted it too. Problems aside it was still being a fun ride! :)

 

The final few kilometers towards Kodachadri is beautiful, with the asphalt done up with proper white lines and perfectly tarred for a large part of the distance. There's a small dam that one must pass over before reaching the final base camp for the climb to Kodachadri.

Come get me Rain Gods!

The other side of the dam

Rains Ahoy!

 

As I hit the end of the road I decided to take a pit stop before I start the arduous climb up Kodachadri. This place is actually a trekker's paradise with multiple routes to reach to the top, Situated in the middle of the Mookambika national park and home to many endangered species. I was actually heading to Kodachadri via the 'jeep route'. For people who do not wish to trek the complete distance, there is broken down route suitable only for four wheel drive jeeps that takes people most of the way up. The jeeps are driven by the expert local drivers, and so far I have never seen anyone doing it in any other vehicle. Except bikes of course, but its only recommended for the adventurously inclined. So far in my past two climbs up to Kodachadri I've not had any issues, infact so far I've found it to be largely overrated as a 'tough' climb. But today was a different day. I sat down in one of the small tea stalls at the base of the climb, sipping on some chai and my now staple diet of Parle G biscuits, listening to the owner who knew only Kannada and I could barely understand him. When he asked what was I doing here, I pointed down to the trail and told him Kodachadri, his next question looking back to the road from where I came was how many people were there with me, when I replied that I was the only one. His eyes widened and started saying something very rapidly in Kannada and all I could make out was that he was trying his level best to convince me to not do this, the only word that I could really understand and something he used more than a few times was 'circus'. I really had no clue as to what was the connection to the circus and Kodachadri, after spending amount of time refreshing I geared up to leave whilst the owner of the tea shop still trying his level best to dissuade me from going up. A Jeep just came fresh from the top and the tea stall owner told the jeep driver in hindi about the 'circus'. The jeep driver explained to me that its really slippery up there even jeeps are having a tough time climbing up to the top. I told him that I've done this before and know what I am getting into, he asked me how long back did I do this to which I replied that it was two years back. He said things are different now, its a lot more tougher! I calmly explained to him that I am not doing this for any heroics, I will turn back from where I feel I cannot climb any more. Dejected he relayed the back the same to the tea stall owner.

 

As I started and reached the part where the road ends and the 'off-road' trail begins with a steep descent I could actually see what they meant and how tough it was. For a brief fleeting moment I even contemplated giving up and turning back. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going with this thought in mind I released the brakes and let eased myself onto the path. It was a little tough but still doable as soon as I got down I was again in slush that was soft oozy mud, with the kind of front tyre I had, it was immediately apparent that is not going to be an easy task as these just don't grip well enough in these situations. As I moved deeper into the forest the roads kept changing from very slushy to very very slushy. There was a particularly steep ascent I could feel both front and rear tyre giving up and sliding the bike down. The clayey nature of the soil was the sole reason for the slipperiness, and this was evident when my bike stalled and shut down as it came to a halt. This was the second moment when I felt I should not be doing this, but it was just too early to call quits. I started the bike, looked for alternative tracks and just slowly and steadily made my way up the incline. The smaller victories lead to the larger outcome is what I told myself, but there was one foolishness that I had committed. I could have actually left my saddle bags at the tea stall owner and done this climb. The lighter weight would have made it a lot easier to climb up and also would have stopped the rear tyre from sinking into the mud. I decided that I'll click pictures on the way down so that I can enjoy the scenery whilst I'm going up as I am more comfortable going up than coming down. As I inched forward there were parts where the climb would be relatively easy, but at times it would be worse than where I had gotten stuck earlier. A couple of times, the engine again stalled at places where it was just not possible to get enough grip. I thought to myself, that maybe the jeep guy was right. It did feel tougher this time, but I thanked god for not raining as in if it rained things could just go from bad to worse. After struggling and finally when I almost reached the top I could see what the jeep guy was talking about, the final kilometer or was complete knee deep slush. There is a fine line between being brave and being stupid, this was where I drew the line. I did not want to be stuck in this kind of slush as I was dead sure that I'd get stuck, and stuck really badly if I pushed forward into this. Took a U-turn and turned back to head down, the moment I did this it started raining as if to ascertain the decision I had just made.. With in the next few minutes the rains had transformed the trail into a path for the water streams to be formed and rush down the mountain path. It is difficult to go down as it is, the heavy rains just turned up the notch of 'toughness' to another level. With the rains lashing out hard, my plans of taking pictures went down the drain. I did manage to take few from the P&S just so you can get a feel of the path. During the descent, there was a particularly tough hairpin bend that took me a lot of calculations to climb up, going down meant a lot of work with gravity in play. I did the biggest mistake here of letting gravity do the work of getting my down rather me doing a controlled maneuver. The moment I let go of the brakes the bike picked up a little speed more than needed to negotiate the hairpin, now the trick is let the rear wheel lock a little so it slides into the turn and you have effectively turned the bike. But something was different this time, the rear wheel did lock but it never turned, it just kept going straight, right towards the cliff and into the forest. I tried using the front brake but even the front wheel was locking up and refusing to provide any traction. I quickly let the clutch go and wheels got power again, that's both good and bad. Bad because now the edge was coming a lot quicker, and good because now there was traction in the rear wheel again. In the nick of time the rear tyre caught some gravel and stopped skidding and the bike came to halt inches away from the precipice. I thought to myself phew! I shouldn't be alive!. All this happened in a matter of 3-4 seconds, after the bike came to an halt I thanked my lucky stars and continued heading down than delving into this more deeply. The lesser you think about this the lesser your judgement will be clouded.

 

Wait! That's the easy part!

 

 

Bike wash anyone?

 

 

 

Slush! Slush! Everywhere... Where do I slip?

 

One of the more doable stretches!

As go back to the base the tea stall guy came to me and asked how was it, I told him that I could not do the final 2-3 Kms of the climb, he was just glad that I was back in one piece. The entire episode of climbing up and down had taken little over an hour, now that the plan of staying at the top had to shelved I decided to push further up North. I headed to the village of Sampekatte from where I could reach the Linganmakki reservoir, since I had no functioning speedo meter the distances being shown in the milestones were of no use as I had no idea about the distances I was covering. In fact now the speedometer developed a mind of it own as it showed random speeds, it actually showed me that I was descending down Kodachadri at 105 Kmph :P

 

As I reached Linganmakki I could see that it was much drier than how I had seen it in August'09. Actually my GPS put me right in middle of the reservoir even though I was standing on solid ground.

The idea was to actually go across the reservoir to the other side to Sagar using the ferry. As I reached there I could see a solitary car standing there waiting for the ferry to come, so I just parked besides it. I noticed that inside were a couple of men dressed in orange, they seemed to be religious men traveling somewhere. I asked them if they had any idea when the ferry would be coming, they replied in negative whilst giving me the standard 'alien' look. More so because I was dripping wet as I had faced yet another spell of rains on my way after Kodachadri, but thankfully here there were no rains.

 

They asked me where was I coming from and I told them about my ride and what was it all about and where all I had been, these materialistic actions in life I guess had no significance to them. I spoke to them asking about where they were going and where they had come from and general chit-chat to while away time as we waited for the ferry to come from the other side. They offered me generous amounts of 'muruku' to eat to pass away time, sometimes these small actions make us warm inside and to realise that there are lot of good people around and it needs such a ride to encounter them. I, now, realised why my dear friend Veda goes on praising this “Malnad” region and the people of Malnad. Eating something solid and other than the parle G biscuits was a welcome change.

 

Waiting for the ferry along with the devotees

The ferry on the other side

If only my bike could swim

Post Kodachadri carnage

 

After waiting nearly 40 minutes the ferry finally came in this time a small crowd had gathered as about 3 more vehicles came wanting to cross across the reservoir. And a slight drizzle had set in by now, looks like rain was following me around where ever I went, I was becoming the harbinger of rain. :)

The ferry guy shy to pose for the camera :D

 

From here I was to touch the town of Sagar, but first time for overdose of more bad roads. Followed by some really awesome road leading all the way up to the town of Sagar.

Yes my date with pockmarked roads never ends! :D

I remember being passed by Santro who was in a hurry to reach somewhere and thus driving rashly, a few kilometers ahead I see a huge crowd gathered and on coming closer I saw that Mr. Santro actually hit a calf trying to cross the road. Serves him right to face the ire of villagers now. As soon as I touched NH206, the change from a State highway to a National highway was very easily visible, the NH was actually a lot more worse than the SH. Yea! weird, but true! Sagar and beyond looked a little drier in comparison to the places I was coming from. I was actually looking out for a date with Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket i.e. Jog Falls. But as I reached Jog I was disappointed to see the area completely covered in clouds and hardly any water so I just stopped atop the bridge that leads to Jog falls to click a few customary pictures and decided to proceed ahead.

 

Clouds flowing over the bridge leading to Jog Falls

 

Completely dry means that there is no waterfall in Jog as such at this point of time

 

 

 

No water in Jog, unable to climb Kodachadri. What to do next? Head further up North. I decided to go all the way up to Sirsi. It was already a few minutes of 6PM by now, so I had to rush rush rush along the way but I had my doubts if the road will be any good, but turns out the SH again is much better than NH. With no speedometer to bring me back to reality, I just kept going non-stop on the stretch between Jog-Sirsi, I took one photo break just to share with you guys about the roads between Jog and Sirsi and the joy experienced riding through it.

 

 

Except for a few light showers along the route, there wasn't much of rain for a change and it seemed to me that I am finally getting away from the rain. I know on Day #1 I had asked for a lot rain, but after spending 3 days getting drenched to the core and always arriving at an hotel dripping wet, I had enough of these rains and was actually singing to myself, "Give me some sunshine, give me no rain".

 

Sirsi is a relatively big town, but finding a hotel to stay took some amount of running around, but I finally found a decent hotel, where up front they said that they don't serve food so I will have to fend for myself after a day spent getting wet in the rain surviving on just ParleG and the muruku I got. The breakfast of the morning had long been digested and utilized whilst climbing up and down Kuvempu's home. The room was musty smelling but would for the night. I emptied out all the contents of bags to dry everything as much as possible. Today has been a long ride and one of the toughest so far. At night, the only dinner I could find was at a small Kamat hotel, which I ate heartily. It was time for me to blog and get some well-deserved shut-eye.

 

 

Total Travel Distance : 230 Kms

Total Travel Time : 8 Hrs

Route : Sringeri-Kuppali-Tirthahalli-Kodachadri-Sampekatte-Across Linganmakki-Sagar-Jog Falls-Sirsi

Map : Click!

 


 

 

Fish curry quest through uncharted routes - Day #5

 

The last 4 days were spent getting different degree's of wet, it was something that I had wanted and asked for as I started the ride as I love riding in the rain. But after 4 days being dripping wet every day, even I had more than my share of rain and wanted a little more dry days ahead. And for a change as I got up for the day I could see that things were looking up in that very direction today, for the first time I did not wake up to see my jeans still wet. :D

My bike had thrown up some weird issues with the speedo meter behaving with a mind of its own yesterday. Like when I was gingerly descending down Kodachadri, it showed me some 105 Kmph and another time there was a long straight down hill section where I must have been on the other side of the tonne mark it showed just some 30 Kmph. Though this was something that did not serve much of a functional purpose, it still marred by ability to know how much distance I had covered and at the same time it was a little too distracting to see the speedo throwing up some really weird numbers all the time. The previous night after a extended discussion with Mr. Venkat Shyam of AutoService, he diagnosed that it could probably be water in the connectors as the bike was parked in the rain whole night. I also had a doubt on another portion of my speedo cable which had severed a couple months back in a freak mishap in Ooty. The severed cable was rejoined, and had not shown any issues since!

 

The connector for the Speedo

 

The severed portion of the speedo cable which was rejoined

 

After riding for 4 days in the wet, my leather riding gloves had bitten into my hand with very small minor cuts and bruises. This made working to fix this issue a very painful affair. I could not pry open the connector, but was carrying a can of WD40 which, amongst its 2000 listed uses, is actually used as Water Displacement spray. I sprayed the WD40 all over the connector and removed the tapes on the severed part of the cable and sprayed there as well. As I left it to dry, I put the tapes back on the severed portion of the cable and prayed that it worked. I fired up the bike and took it in circles in the hotel yard, so far so good all seemed to work like normal.

 

The state of my bike after 4 days of riding in incessant rain

 

After two days of non-stop rains and not that great food, I wanted a dry ride as much as possible and some good food. So I looked up the maps to find the nearest good food spot. :D

 

My Diary to keep notes, something I never got around doing! :p


And from the looks of I was again heading to some unknown routes, but what was to come up ahead was far beyond my imagination. The plan was the head due west in search of the Yana village where there are two huge,  solid black crystalline rock formations. Legend has it that these two rock formations were blackened in a dance of a god gifted demon king who burned himself to death. But the formation of these rocks is still a mystery and its not very clear as to how they came to be. It is known these are in nature basically stalactites and stalagmites, but how and why they came up here, is still a mystery indeed.

 

As I got out of Siri I could see a Y fork in the road, one lead to Kumta/Gokarana and the other lead to Yana. The board said 37 Kms to Yana, that meant I'd have to travel 37 Kms inwards and then travel back 37 Kms back to get back to this high, I figured it was well worth as I had an relatively early start today. As I got off the National Highway and onto a road that's not even a state highway on the maps, the first thing I noticed was that the roads were way better than the NH. But this was a relatively narrower road, with villages coming and going initially which after a little while vanished as I plunged deeper into the forest. After I passed the 26 Kms mark from the Y fork I did not see a single soul as I went deeper and deeper into the forest. At times my mind would tell me to head back as I had no idea about the safety in such a place. I've heard stories about some of forests in the hills of these western ghats where 'plants' which are 'illegal' in nature are being grown and unassuming trekkers sometimes walk into these 'farms', who are held captive and then finally killed after being made to work at these farms. These farms are usually growing stuff required for Narcotics.

 

The final ten kilometeres was deathly desolate and I would not be lying if I told that I was mildly scared. The roads diverged into two, I could see that Yana was at the left and took it, after that it was 3 kilometers through the densest forest and a road so steep that I wondered how I will manage the incline with all the luggage on board. With thoughts of bandits and what not criss-crossing across my mind I knew not what I should prepare myself for. But all such grandiose thoughts were put to rest by something as simple as a small little gate that stood between me and Yana. The had enclosed a rough broken path that lead right into the heart of the forest, either I could let this gate prove to be an hinderance to my wandering spirit, or I could just pass throught with or without my bike. Better sense prevailed, rather than just going back the last 37 odd Kms, I made a tough choice between leaving my bike and or riding it across. I could see monkeys jumping about in the tall tree above and this added to my dilemma, I chose instead to just take my camera, wallet and keys to the bike leaving rest of the stuff behind in hands of fate. It was choice I had to take as there was no way I could walk with all my luggage on me, the only really valuable item that I left behind apart from my bike was my laptop. As I walked down the path a realization struck, that some choices that we make might not seem right or wrong at the onset, but with the passage of time clarity strikes the clouds of the mind and I could clearly see that had I taken my bike down this path I would have had to endure some off roading tougher than yesterday's Kodachadri. While treading the path, I began to get used to the eerie silence around me, with just the occasional chirp of bird, I decided to capture this moment and to share with you guy and started shooting myself walking down the path and spoke whatever came into my mind. You can see what I went through in that.

 

Please excuse/mute what I am blabbering about! :D

As I approached the Yana rock I was blown away the sheer size and majestic beauty of the rock formation, it was something unlike I had ever seen before and any of the pictures I had seen of this place just did not justify this. The abandonded looking houses on the inside which looked like they had been ransacked by I don't know what were really adding to creepiness of this place, how would you feel when you are astounded by beauty and at the same time scared? Here are a few pictures to show you more of the Yana rock.

 

After spending sometime clicking pictures and absorbing in the beauty of the place, I had felt it was enough of being scared and time to head to see if my bike and luggage was still there or it had been ravaged by the hordes of monkeys I saw jumping across on tops of the trees. It was a hard walking back up as the incline was steep and wearing the army boots did the least they could to help the cause, not having had breakfast didn't help either. After panting my way up to place where my bike was parked, I could see from the distance it looked untouched. So far so good  I told myself.

 

The walk back up, doesn't look so steep in the pictures

 

The bike looks safe from here

The gate beyond which my bike didn't go

 

I checked my bike for anything missing or even any sort of luggage being taken away, but looks like the Red Devil had the monkey petrified of its mean and imposing looks so they stayed away whilst I was gone. With my humble 5 year old P&S camera I've tried shoot a video of the last 2 Kms of the climb through the deep forest till it joins so called main road. Please ignore the speedo meter reading, after I started from Yana the problem of the speedometer showed its ugly side again. And yes that's me breathing hard inside the helmet, I still panting from the climb back up from Yana.

 

Video of the climb back up

It had been almost over an hour and not a single soul to be seen so far, I am not sure if it was the rains that kept people away or was there any other more sinister reason for the desolation. As I reached the road from which I had turned into Yana, it was almost 34 Kms back to the main road that lead to Kumta, but as I saw to my left a board there proclaimed that Gokarna was 35 Kms from there. On the Map from the route that I came, Yana was "uncharted" and as per Google Maps there was no road that said that I could go to Gokarna from here.

 

I thought to myself, its 34 Kms to the Sirsi-Kumta road and from there another 80+ Kms to Gokarna, so it was 120 Kms Vs 35 Kms. I told myself How bad can it be man. Nothing had prepared me for what was in store for me ahead as took the left turn towards the said route, the first thing that happened was that tarmac vanished and was replaced by this...


This I can manage despite the stupid front tyre that I was running and went ahead, so far not a single thought of turning back came to my mind it was after all 120 Vs 35. So far 35 was winning by leaps and bounds. As I took the next few turn I could see that this was not a road used, 'road' if you may call it that. There were just rocks that looked like this was road used in the 10th century for bullock carts, and so far the forest canopy was so dense that I could not really see where I was heading to, but from the way the "road" was twisting and turning I knew that I was descending down a mountain side. A few turns later even this said rocky path vanished and gave way to slush and rocks, it looked they were planning to build a road here.  But after a kilometer of slowly nudging down this slushly path I had enough and had to take a break to regain some of my spent energy. I checked if I had any cellphone reception so I could check on the maps or call someone and find if this was really where I should be heading. But since I had entered Yana, I had no network even the famed BSNL was not working here.

 

The "road" might look doable, but have a look at my front & rear tyres!

I knew not where I was heading to!

 

My shoes and knee guards were browned up to my shins in wet mud. Not that I had any issues with this, but if I had to do this for the next 35 Kms I would probably spend the rest of the day just covering this, and that would be a win for 120 :D. I could say I was actually enjoying this stretch as my mind was occupied and I had no stray thoughts of bandits or any such thing flying across my head. I didn't have a precise idea of how much distance I had covered, but still after what seemed like about 2-3 Kms on stretch I had to take another break as the incline what I saw in front me was probably the steepest and slushiest of them all. I met my savior for the day here, a villager who was walking around the slopes came walking to me to understand what the hell was I upto. He knew a few words of English surprisingly and no Hindi at all. From whatever he said I could understand that the "road" was much better after the next 2 Kms or so. He said the board on top was wrong and Gokarna was actually 40 Kms from there, now that was one very particular villager about numbers I have come across. I thanked him and continued my slipping sliding journey down this trail.

 

Now how would you like your road? Broken/Slushy/Rocky/Slippery...

 

As told by the villager the road did appear in sometime but not completely, from then on it alternated between broken road to the rocky path I had seen earlier and sometimes even slush appearing out of no where. The jungle canopy finally broke open and I could actually see that I was indeed on the mountain side descending down.

 

 

The rain filled clouds meant that it would rain as gazed towards them and no sooner as I had this thought, it started raining, no pouring actually. Spent the next few minutes trying to pull out the rain covers for the camera bag and my tank bag, and no sooner than I had done this the rain stopped. It was almost as if the rain gods were playing pranks with me. Here on the roads, if mean tarmac by road did exist, but they were not much better than the broken roads as I had seen earlier, it was actually more back breaking as the tarmac being there meant I was able to carry more speed and hence lesser time for stopping for potholes and such. The forest gradually was thinning down into just bamboo's lining the road side. I finally reached what looked like a forest check post, there people sitting at check post looked wide-eyed as though Katrina Kaif herself had walked right out of the jungle. It seemed as though I had joined a proper road now, the condition wasn't any better but still very much tolerable. Sunshine was a pleasant experience, I was bearing upon me after a very long time after my very brief encounter with sunshine on entering Chikmagalur, this was the very first time I could actually feel the warmth of sun. So much so that it started raining again, but this time it was not on the outside but rather on inside of my gear.

 

 

Saline air wafted through my nostril and I could just smell it that the sea was near. This sent down a rumble in my stomach making me dream about some nice piping hot fish curry and what other lip smacking foods the coastal side has to offer. As I was climbing up to a turn and I reach the top, the vista that opened up in front of me was incredible, I had reached. I could see civilization and the sea in the distance. My GPS put me on the green spot shown in the below image.

 

Beyond the salt pans I could see the sea in the distance and with sunlight bearing upon me it was just an incredible moment as I stood there drying my sweat, taking the sight and sounds along with the fresh air from the sea. I had just been through a road that is unmapped, uncharted and the experience was nothing short of exhilarating. I took a slightly longish break here before I made a dash towards Gokarna, a place I had never been to so far.

 

A wanderer never knows where his roads might lead him through and to...

 

Shoes and bike washed and cleaned after the spell of rains in the hills

 

After some time spent here I pressed forward, this time not to the unknown but to the unvisited. I had passed the board that said “Gokarna Left”, which I had seen couple of times in the past during my trips to Goa/Bombay but I had never had the time to take that turn. But today was a different day, I did not have to take a turn, instead my road lead me straight into Gokarna. The main part of the town starts about 4-5 Kms from the main highway i.e. NH17 but the road takes you through some small villages which are in complete contrast to the ones that I had seen in the previous few days, India's rich cultural heritage is so diverse that even a distance of less than hundred kilometers shows colours and shades of life that are so dis separate from each other. I entered the small temple town of Gokarna, which though is know as a religious hub but the recent influx of tourism has changed the very nature of this place and turned it from being a place of religious worship to what is now dubbed as the 'Goa' of Karnataka. The streets of Gokarna lined with street side shops look as Time stood still here. It looks like something from a hundred years back, of course the hints of modernism do lie here with sign boards showing directions to 'bars' and such places. Still as I was lost in the streets of Gokarna I asked for direction to OM beach, turns out I was in the absolutely wrong direction. I had to head back to the entry of the town.

 

Om beach is actually a beach shaped in the form of the auspicious ?  Om symbol. The route involves climbing up a hill and crossing over to the other side. The Om and Kudle beaches are on the southern side of Gokarna and are a little difficult to reach as the final path involves waking down a stony staircase in the rocks. Enroute as the road crosses over to the other side, the sea is visible in its full glory and MY GOD!!! what a view it was. I cannot begin to describe it words as to how dumbstruck I was looking at the beautiful panorama opening up in front of me. I was more than simple dumbstruck, it was more like blown away....

 

I wish I was superman to dive into the sea right from here

 

Gokarna town and rains falling in the distance

 

As I stood there a couple of youngsters came to halt in front of me, one them started speaking in Tamil looking at my bike's TN registration when I said I don't know Tamil, they started in Kannada I replied I don't know that either. Hindi or English would do, so they switched to Hindi and asked me if I work in the film industry and was looking for shooting my next movie. I laughed hard and then I explained to them all about my Wranglers True Wanderers journey, they seemed really excited to hear all about my journey and wished me luck for the journey ahead. They told me that they were on their trip from Mysore to Goa and they were looking for fun and adventure just like I was, I wished them good luck and continued my journey down towards Om beach. At Om beach, from the vantage point, the Om was not clearly distinguishable but I could identify the basic shape. The landscape was painting in itself with nature as its artist!

 

Om Beach

 

Nature's artistic Genius!

 

I did not walk down to the beach as I did not want to leave my valuables up there, with people around you can never be sure. So I just took a few pictures from and started my quest for Kudle beach. There were hardly any people visible and whomsoever I could find would point me in the general direction of a hill which leads to Kudle beach, after going up and down the hill a couple of time I finally found a completely narrow road that's hidden by the bushes, I thought this could be the way and took this again was just a rocky path along the hill side and lead into nothingness. I reached a clearing with no road ahead and small gate to protect a small piece of property. I saw one lonely watchman at the gate, I went up him and asked him for directions to Kudle beach, and he pointed me into the direction of the bushes, I saw no path there. I asked him again KUDLE BEACH, he again did the same gesture towards the bushes. I was confused and totally at a loss, he finally came out and took me into the bushes, here I could finally see a broken path of steps carved into the rock leading down. There was no way a bike could go down, I just had to walk down. I asked the watchman how long will it take to reach Kudle beach from this path he said its a 2 minute walk down. I asked if my luggage will be safe if I leave it there, he just nodded his head. He probably saw the disappointment in my eyes and offered to guard the luggage while I went down only on one condition that I come back in five minutes, I without any hesitation or doubt agreed and ran down the steps. Kudle beach is small beach surrounded by hills on both sides, and it is in relative seclusion and hence not many people visit this beach. This time of the year being off season all beach shacks were closed and dreams of fish curry by the sea side were crumpled, that also the short time gap given by the watchman meant I could just spend a few minutes at the beach.

 

Kudle Beach

 

 

 

I got up and started the arduous climb back up, the second time I did uphill trek today. Only difference was that this was tougher as it was stairs and the climate was much hotter and more importantly I had not yet eaten anything yet since morning. By the time I got back up with in the ten minute time span set by the watchman I was gasping for breath and just had to sit down as sweat covered the whole of my body. The watchman looked at me smiled and said if need needed water in between my gasps all I could manage was a feeble nod. After sitting down for about 5 minutes finally some energy gained I got up started my bike to go to the gate where my angel of a watchman was standing with a bottle of water waiting for me. I straightway emptied the 1 litre of water in the bottle, and gave the watchman a hug for saving my life. I din't know if I should pay him money or that might hurt his sentiments. I was lost in this confusion as the watch man walked away inside the property and waved a goodbye to me. There are still good people around is a thought that struck hard at this point of time.

 

I started my journey back towards Gokarna, took final parting shot of the awesome view of the sea and a sea of green visible as far as the eye could see.


As I got out of Gokarna I had another round of mild showers which lasted a few seconds before they passed away. I reached the main highway i.e. NH17 and was greeted by super smooth tarmac. NH17 is amongst my most favorite highways in the country and I just love the way it goes through hills and twists and turns at times offering a view of the sea running alongside. I just realized two things, once I hit NH17. The first was that I had by now approximately covered 1000 Kms of the running in period and could go all out with the bike, the second that this is amongst my favorite highways in India. I was just having a gala time tearing across the road and after a long time I was a butter smooth stretch of tarmac and a road that I knew all too well. I will not mention the exact speeds I was able to keep up, but it was on the higher side. The fun of NH17 is just unbeatable, since its narrow and with loads of traffic coupled with the fact that it lined with ups and downs of the hills is something that makes it a little dangerous as well, adding to the fun factor of this stretch of road.

 

NH17 - One of my most Fav highways in the country


The port town of Karwar was bout 50 Kms from Gokarna, I am pretty sure I would reach Karwar in some 40 odd minutes once I started from the exit of Gokarna. The route also runs alongside the Indian Navy's prestigious Project Seabird which is aimed at expanding the Navy's capabilities to a Blue Water Navy.I did not click any picture of whatever was visible of the establishment from areas where the high boundary walls fail to hide what's behind them, as its a matter of our country's national security and as a general practice I avoid taking pictures of any military installations.

I was soon in the pretty port town of Karwar and after a little searching around found a decent place to shack up for the night. The first thing I did was order two masala dosa's and bottle of maaza for the body to quickly recuperate from the tremendous amounts of strain of today's treks. The style of the masala dosa was visibly different here, they stuffed the chutney on the inside of the dosa, this the first time I saw something like this.


 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and trying to catch up on blogging and since I was in a relatively bigger town I had to hunt for a belt. I had realized around day 2 that I had done a mistake and picked up a bigger size of jeans, which had been wanting to slip off the very moment I got off the bike. Not a good thing to happen in the middle of a jungle or even a port town. I was not carrying any belt myself, so in the evening after a short nap I went out belt shopping. I finally located a shop and picked up a mean looking belt for 200 bux :D

 I was also looking out for a hotel called Amrut somewhere in the main bazaar area, this place came with very high recommendations from my mom who's an avid foodie and had this piece of information from her foodie network. I finally located this place very near to the belt shop. And boy oh boy this place was good. Its a little on the expensive side for small town such as Karwar, but I could see from their bulletin board that it was visited by a couple of bollywood personalities and even featured in a few travel magazines. The food was no doubt good, sadly I was just carrying my phone and thus the low quality pictures but this would probably be the best meal in the entire trip so far.

 

My spread of Fish curry rice and a masala fry fish!!!

 

This is the real Finger Lickin Good stuff right there

 

 


After this heavenly Konkani delight for the taste buds, I went back to the hotel to slipped into the deepest and most peaceful state of slumber on the trip so far!!!

Total Travel Distance : 150 Kms

Total Travel Time : 5 Hrs

Route : Sirsi-Yana Rock-Uncharted Terrain-Gokarna-Karwar

Map : Click!

 

 


 

Ride! Ride! Ride on the 'plain' Plains - Day #6

 

 

I’m on vacation! I thought to myself as I woke up from my state of slumber, the watch showed that it was nudging well past 9 AM. Once I was fully awake, I sat in the bed reliving the memories of the past five days. I created a mental checklist :-

Rainforests – Check!

Highest Peaks – Check!

Unknown Roads – Check!

Off Roading – Check!

Great Food – Check!

Amazing Roads – Check!

Sea Beaches – Check!

 

Something was missing, I thought to myself something very important that could be done on a bike trip was missing on the above checklist. It did not come to me; I tried ‘googling’ for answers, but nothing really came out. I then looked up my Karnataka map book to see what was it that I was really missing, turning through the pages I came across a series of pages on some things that I had not seen nor had I even thought about. I slammed the book shut, called my friend Veda for his expert opinion and I could visualize his head nodding in approval of what I had seen. I had to move swiftly, as I had little time at hand. Today by virtue of everything being dry I was ready to move within a few minutes of the above eureka moment. The reason for my haste was that I was excited about these new places, and I was really excited at seeing some things I had never seen before. And, today was a day I was going to cover a lot many kilometers as well.

 Karwar Port in the distance


 

As I got out of Karwar town I could see that, ‘I’, the harbinger of rains, had brought showers even upon this pretty port town of Uttara Kannada; it looked as though it had rained for few hours earlier on in the morning but for now, as I packed to leave, the sun had decided to shine on me for one last time as I left this coastal region and moved on into another section of this state altogether. The geography of Karwar is such that it has the mountains from the Anshi National Park in the background and the sea of on side. Given that it’s the season for monsoon’s the clouds actually cover the peaks of the mountains. You can actually get sneak glimpses of this beautiful landscape as you get into or get out of Karwar. It was impossible to get to vantage point to actually capture this awesome display of nature’s canvas; one would actually need a helicopter to get that high in order to capture some of this beauty. I stopped somewhere on the outskirts to see if I could capture some of the mountains.

 The clouds kissing the hill tops outside Karwar

 

The last place name in there makes me want to pack my bags at any given hour!!!

 


 

As I stopped here to take pictures there was a old man sitting across the road looking at me with curious eyes, after I had finished clicking the pictures and packed my camera he came across the road and started to speak in a language that I had no clue off. I just nodded my head and told him I didn’t understand. He said, ‘Kannada’ I nodded, and then he said, ‘Konkani’ and I nodded left to right again. So basically we were in a state of complete communication breakdown, so I just smiled and shook his hand as I prepared to leave. The leather gloves must have been a different texture for his hand as he tried feeling my gloves to see what they were really.

 

I was heading down NH17 back along the route that I had come through the day before, just like before I was enjoying myself to the core with the winding and slightly broken pieces of tarmac where putting some cars to shame is child’s play :D. About  30 Kms down the road on the outskirts of the town of Ankola there’s a road the turns left and takes you right along the outer rim of the Anshi National park and finally across the western ghats onto the ‘other’ side. It’s about a 120 Kms ride from here on that takes you through forest road with long straights and sweeping corners with a minor ghat section as well. I had a long haul planned for today so this had to be adrenaline ride and I did not not take a break after my last one after starting from the outskirts of Karwar till I was on the ‘other’ side, barring a small five minute break to admire the scenery in the ghats. I had passed a truck a few curves earlier and the driver had given an hand signal to let me know when was it a good time to overtake, for his goodwill gesture I gave him a thumb up! as I overtook the truck. Whilst I was taking a break at the below corner, the same truck had caught up and the driver instantly recognized me and waved, so I waved back at him. On my way down I recognized the same truck and waved when I overtook him again, he let out two bursts of his truck's horn as acknowledgement. Such camaraderie is much needed on our highways.

 

The forest cover hides the misty mountains

 

 

NH63 is really beautiful through Anshi National Park

 

Yes, it was raining here as is apparent from the rain drops

 

Trying to get a better view

 

There were slight showers at times in the ghats but nothing really that warranted pulling out of the rain proofing. Considering that I had a really late start from Karwar at about 12.30PM my destination though reachable, I was not particularly keen on riding in the rains post sundown. But since I was crossing onto to the other side of the Western Ghats I really did not know what kind of weather awaited me. Two hours later I was taking my first break after riding non-stop.. Since I had about 4 hours of daylight left I had to take a call between opting for a ‘safer’ destination or making a run for the originally planned destination. I decided to make a run for it, and every minute counted. I jumped onto the saddle. The forest had vanished and given way to light trees and fields as I reached the outskirts of Hubli city, the trees and fields started to vanish to give way people and buildings, urbanized chaos at its best! And I, after being lost in small towns and forests for the past 5 days, found this jungle of people, vehicles and buildings mildly irritating. So much so that I was actually feeling extremely disoriented in this concrete jungle spread out in front of me. I was even lost inside town for a while, and the light showers just starting out weren’t helping either. After using the ‘boss’ GPS a few times I was on the right track heading straight up north all along NH218.

 

The urbanization of Hubli ends within a few kilometers as you head out of the city and it gives way to large sprawling fields under cultivation. I was now in Karnataka’s hinterland, covered with black soil on both sides and it was very large and flat to as far as the eye could see. The black soil, it seems, is what gives the name to this state. Karnataka is derived from Karu nadu,  which means land of black soil. I was in territory which symbolizes the state and lends a hand in the name of the state. The flatness I encountered seemed very weird now, after having spent the last 5 days twisting and turning through narrow forest roads through some really tricky mountain sections.. Even the rains in the plains seemed really weird at first, unlike its counterpart in the Western Ghats the rains here were much light but much more widespread. In the Western Ghats, after a few kilometers you could be on another face of the mountain and it might not be raining there, but here in the plains I could see completely till the horizon and the rains were just flowing across as though someone would water their garden.

 

Though straight highways meant I could ride at a faster pace, but the rains made it next to impossible; the rains were light yet dense to such an extent that they affected visibility and on top of that, the ‘funny’ front tyre that I had just refused to give confidence inspiring grip on the tarmac. Hence the progress was slow and steady, there was no need for breaks as there was not really any shelter from rains as this was after all the plains and there was nothing apart from fields and fields till the naked eye could see, so I just kept going and going. The rains did relent for a while, and I took a much needed butt break for I had been on the road and in the saddle for nearly as long as the last 2 hours.

 The 'plain' Plain, flat for as far as the eye can see

Farms, Farmers, Farming Equipment - A common sight in these parts

 

 

Dirty! Dirtier!! Dirtiest!!!


 

After the much needed break, I realized it would be next to impossible to reach the destination I had in mind for the day unless I rode post sundown, something I am usually comfortable with but not what I’d want to try my hand with the rains and fatigue of being on the roads for nearly 6 days now. Alternative plans were and for today I had to just compromise with a large town en-route, tomorrow I shall make up for today’s loss. Far in the distance I could see a bump in the terrain, there was a solitary hill standing tall in the distance almost out of place in this monotonous terrain. As I got closer I noticed that it had windmills atop it, a pretty sight but seemed really out of place in the plains and I wondered how that hill even came to be geographically speaking.

 

The weird hill with Windmills on top!


 

The roads might be as straight as the eye can see, but there were loads of unmarked speed breakers along the stretch of the road greatly affecting the average speed. As I neared the town of Bagalkot, I saw yet another aberration in the horizon it seems like a small series of hills were running perpendicular to the road and road went right into one of them. As I got closer I could that this was actually just a single file of hills running in almost straight line and straight road finally got some of its monotony out of it by the means of small twists and turns, but this was over in the blink of an eye and I was on the other side of these hills. I decided to shack up for the night at Bagalkot, a town I knew very little about. The entry to the town is really weird, one needs to get off the NH and head 10 Kms inwards on one of the most bumpy stretches of road I’d seen so far even after that as I got into Bagalkot it seemed really confusing to me as I could see some parts of the city were old and some were new and it was all spread out far and wide. I asked around for hotels, and it turns out that three of them were all booked; finally I found place in the fourth hotel that I checked. This was probably the most unfriendly town and hotel on the trip so far and also the smallest room in the trip so far, it was a mere 8ft x 8ft of a room with barely enough space for a bed. I was not really tired, but as uninteresting as the plains are I was more tired in my head for the drone like riding of the day and not really seeing anything. I was beginning to think that maybe I should have never left the Western Ghats behind, maybe that’s where I belong as I drifted into a slumber broken constantly through the night by the bright neon light of the hotel’s board hining directly into my room. This just pretty summed up the latter half of the day I had, I was looking forward to the final day of ride and the places I had to cover. I was looking forward to that.

 

Total Travel Distance : 300 Kms

Total Travel Time : 5 Hrs

Route : Karwar-Yellapur-Hubli-Bagalkot

Map : Click!

 


 

 

Blown across the windy plains to the Mystical Lost City - Day #7

 

 

 

What does one do when they have had disturbed night’s sleep? Usually people catch up with their sleep early in the morning; some go ahead and have a bad day at work. What did I do? Grabbed my gear and helmet and I was off and out of Bagalkot’s heavily planned roads.

 Sunrise from my hotel room


 

I hurtled down a bumpy village route in a southward direction to a small little town called ‘Badami’. About 37 Kms from Bagalkot is this small town of Badami which was the capital of the early Chalukya Empire around 6th-8th centuries. Legend has it that the two demons Vatapi and IIvala were killing beggars by tricking them, before sage Agastya helped in getting rid of them. The two hills in Badami are said to be Vatapi and IIvala, and there’s a lake in between them called Agastya’s tank, which has a group of temples facing the two hills. The bumpy ride between Bagalkot and Badami was quick, by now bad roads had stopped bothering me and this was the first time in the trip I was actually travelling without my luggage, all I had on me was my camera bag.

 

The ride to reach Badami takes you through small farming villages and the world had already started for them whilst I was still yawning inside my helmet. The town of Badami is small, but it has a railway station and decent sized hotels from what I could see as I entered the town. There’s a narrow path that leads you up to the Badami caves, and it’s easy to miss as I learnt it the hard way by going a kilometer or so ahead more than needed.

 

Badami has a lot different temples and caves, visiting all would require more than half day’s worth of exploration. So I just visited the first portion that I reached to, i.e. the four cave temples carved into the red sandstone rock. The early morning sun was casting a magical red glow on the already red sandstone structures that had been carved into this ravine. Let the pictures do the talking for now…

 

 The caves of Badami

Cave Temple #1 - The Oldest cave temple

Monkeys Galore!

 

 

 

Path into the unknown

 

Agastya Tank visible in the background

The caves on the other side of Agastya Tank

 

Bhuthnatha Temples

An old villager has his morning beedi atop one of the hills

Colours of Nature

 

 

Wandering Thoughts engulf my mind!

 

 

Good bye to Badami!


 

I spent nearly an hour at the cave temples before I saw my watch and realized that there were other places that I needed to cover today and thus I bid adieu to the beautiful caves of Badami and made my way again back bouncing on the bumpy village road ride till Bagalkot. But not before a train would prove as a barrier to my progress.

 

 

My intention yesterday was actually to make a run for it all the way till Bijapur to see one of the largest dome structures in the world, but rains and my hyperactive ‘sanity’ kept me from take unnecessary risk and had to satiate myself with not seeing the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, but like a wise man once told me, “Leave something for next time” I followed the same wise words and had stayed over in Bagalkot which actually gave me the opportunity to see Badami.

Tiny Hotel room


 

The ride back to Bagalkot was what can be termed as fast & furious I was back in town covering the 37 Kms distance in about 45 mins, but only to get lost in the many criss-cross roads of the newer part of town which was built after the submergence of the older part town due to the construction of the Almatti dam. After reaching my tiny room a quick breakfast and packing an hour later I was all set to leave Bagalkot. I dint need asking around of the road that I needed to catch as my morning jaunt to Badami had shown me enough about the basic directions in Bagalkot. After tanking up, I headed out on the Raichur highway after the initial ‘Bagalkot Bad’ roads, the roads smoothened out. It was yet again on road went like a vein right through the vast open farmlands. Today the sun was a welcome change with no signs of rains anywhere visible on the horizon it was going to be completely dry day at last I thought to myself. But it was windy, very windy in fact! But luckily for me it was all tail wind i.e. the wind was blowing from my back so there was no resistance to the running of the bike. So much so that I actually dint realize what speeds I was doing when going through some of the straights, at one I glanced at the speedo (which for an unknown reason was working today) was just about nudging speeds much more than I should be doing. The roads were good and there weren’t many villages along the route so it was pretty easy to consistently maintain fairly high speeds. And yes after long I was doing good speeds on the bike as initially it was afflicted by the running in predicament and post that there weren’t any roads as such to ride fast. I noticed a funny whining noise coming from somewhere from the engine and I was skeptical about it being a major problem, but any such unwanted noise warrants a check so I took a break in order to find out the cause of the problem. Turns out the that the spring under the clutch cable that joins the crank case had come loose, there were no issues with the functioning of the clutch so far I assumed this was a fairly minor problem and I just pushed forward.

The dwellers of this land!

More smiles per hour ;)

See the old man sitting under the tree?

He crossed the road just to see me, he spoke and understoond nothing. To whatever I said, he'd just simply nod negatively.Goodbye wave was all that he understood

 

This awesome piece of tarmac ended as soon as I touched Hunagund where I joined NH13. I was back again on the Solapur-Mangalore highway otherwise known as NH13. What I had seen of this highway in the Malnad region was something straight out of a picture diary for any biker, but this section; Well this section was probably the most irritating and pathetic section of road on this entire trip so far. It seems that not only do the people and culture change across region even the national highway does . The highway was filled with heavy truck traffic, an overdose of potholes which could not be avoided, odd ball speed breakers in the middle of now where, road widening work in progress and to top it all I had to endure very cross winds. The cross winds were affecting not only moving in a straight line, but even overtaking was becoming really dangerous as sometime a gust of wind would just blow me a wee bit closer than required to a truck. I will yet again blame the cross wind fiasco to the stupid front tyre and I had to endure this all the way till the next 100+ Kms to Hospet. In between I took a short break as enduring the bad roads and cross winds was really getting to me and it was just not being fun any more. I had to take a break to calm my nerves and add a little more patience in my patience bank!

NH13 - Butt break

 

 

 

 

More on the lovely roads of NH13

After I took this pic, I was stopped and hauled over a cop sitting in the white bolero in the distance as he thought I was someone from NHAI taking pictures of the progress of work.


 

I reached Hospet by about 2.30 PM and found a hotel easily, I must say this has to be the best hotel I’ve stayed in so far. And it is definitely not very expensive, at 750 bux a night Hotel Malligi was a steal. I had a quick lunch and after a short power nap I was back on the road and this time was devoid of any luggage except my camera bag.

 

I was heading to ancient city of Hampi, a city from a forgotten past; the ruins of this city are a ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. The ancient city of Hampi in its prime was the capital of the famed Vijayanagara Empire during the 14th century, which ruled almost all of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh., it was also of strategic importance as it had the Tungabhadra river on one side and rocky hills on other three sides which made its defenses very strong.. The city in ruins now once boasted of riches which were known far beyond the shores of India, it is said diamonds and gold were sold in street side shops. The city was completely brought down to ruins by marauding Moghul invaders and what is left today is just the ruins which archaeologists have painstakingly tried to excavate and restore in order for the world to see the grandeur of things that once were.

 

The city lost in time also has many temples which even today are active places of worship. I reached Hampi by about 4 in the afternoon and I probably had about two and a half hours of daylight before the beautiful ruins would be covered in inky darkness. It is said that one needs at least 4 days to see what all Hampi has to offer, I had 2.5 hours and decided to make the best use of these few minutes I had at my disposal. As I entered the city the first place I headed to was the Virupaksha temple. I will mention this again as I have mentioned earlier, temples and mythology is really not my cup of tea. But I do enjoy visiting places of great historical significance and the art work that goes into making these places. So while I might not touch on topics which related to their religious significance I will definitely try and show you what one can expect from a visit to these places.

 

Feeding the elephant bananas, they have been trained such that if you give money they will bless you

 

Pillars inside the Virupaksha Temple complex

 

 

A passageway leading to where?

The sun's rays actually form this inverted image of the Virupaksha temple gopura whilst passing through a small hole. This area is in complete darkness hence the low quality image.

Lost in Contemplation

 

 

Devotees inside the temple complex

 

The 9 tiered gateway

 


 

There were a lot places to see and explore but I just went about seeing whatever I could see, after Virupaksha temple complex I headed out to the opposite end where the Hampi bazaar and a Monolithic Nandi Bull was houses, some steps behind lead to the Mathanga Hills. There were very few tourists and I was strolling around in these rock bound remains for what seemed like an eternity, I was lost in the Lost City. I was actually looking for the Vittala temple which houses a massive stone chariot by my wanderings inside the ruins lead me to other places from along the banks of the Tungabhadra to the Courtesan’s street to in the ruins of the Achyuta Raya’s temple to even the Narsimha temple, but I just could not locate the Vitthala temple with its stone chariot and musical pillars.

 Hampi bazaar, or what remains of it

The pillared supports were very impressive

Monolithic Nandi Bull

Steps leading to Mathanga Hill

 

Sitting atop the steps to Mathanga Hill, Virupaksha temple in the background

Tungabhadra flowing on the banks of Hampi

Fishing folk at work

 

These buffaloes came snorting in and I perched atop this place to get a safe distance away

 

The remains of the courtesan's street

A tank inside the courtesan's street

 

 

Walking towards Achuyta Raya's temple

 

 

 

Doors leading to more doors

Where is the Vittala Temple?

Lost in the LOST CITY, searching for the Vittala Temple

 

 

Tired of walking around, lost in this beautiful paradise of what once was, I turned around headed back to where my bike was parked.. The heat and long walk had made my throat completely parched, so I walked into the shop close to where my bike was parked and I sat down to drink a chilled soft drink to nurse my tired body back to life. I spoke to shop owner who knew only broken English (this is what the influx of foreign tourists does!) I asked him about the whereabouts of the temple that I was searching for and he pointed out in the direction of where I came from and said its about 1.5 Kms inside, I must have done about 1 Km in that direction and was in no mood to walk back the distance. So asked him for directions to Lotus Mahal and other such places about which I had heard a lot, whilst he tried his best to give me the directions nothing really made sense as it was clear that no matter how he tried it would be difficult for him to really give accurate directions in a language in which he is not comfortable with. Then came my savior from the heavens, ‘Appi’. He was the shopkeeper’s friend who volunteered to take me to these places himself. He was a travel guide that was apparent and this was his business but what he did was really heart warming. He sat down with me on my bike and said that the gates close to most places by 6PM, but we’ll still give it a shot just incase the gates were open. On reaching there it was confirmed that the gates had been closed and the guards were adamant on not letting us in, but Appi persisted he cooked up stories of how I had travelled far and wide and was going put these pictures in a magazine and what not. He probably said this as during the 5 minute ride from the shop to Lotus mahal enclosure I gave him a gist of the True Wanderers ride and where all I had been he was impressed that I had done all this all alone and covered so many different places. So he made it his personal mission that I got to see the Lotus Mahal, and after a little of gentle coaxing the guards relented and I was finally let in.

 Lotus Mahal

 

 

 

 


 

After the Lotus Mahal he said I must visit one more place where there is a stepped tank made out black granite, with daylight fast fading I barely managed to get some pictures of these restored remains of the glorious past. The last building I saw was the queen’s bath.

 Stepped tank made out of black granite

 

The Queens bath

Appi - My savior!!!


 

I profusely thanked Appi probably about a million times, I handed him hundred bux despite him not asking for it. If it were not for him I would probably have gone back from my lost quest for the Vittala Temple. I dropped him off at the small village of Kamalapur as that’s where he wanted to get off. Just outside of the village is the Kamalapur Lake, I stopped here to take a final shot for the Wrangler True Wanderers Ride!!!

 

 

On the 12 Kms journey back to the hotel in Hospet I was greeted by small showers, these were Good Bye showers from Hampi. I headed back to the hotel and caught up with some blogging and had some great good for a change. Today maybe the last day for the Wrangler True Wanderer ride, but my ride does not end here for I will keep wandering this earth till every bone and muscle in my body refuses to move....

 

Total Travel Distance : 230 Kms

Total Travel Time : 6 Hrs

Route : Bagalkot-Badami-Bagalkot-Hunagund-Hospet-Hampi-Hospet

Map : Click!

 

 


 

 

Epilogue - The end that 'Never' comes

 

I had been on the road for the past 7 days with my journey taking me though a wide variety of landscapes. I had been through some of the densest forests, to the highest peaks, through the hardest rain imaginable, to one of the toughest off-road climbs, to even places where roads did not not exist on maps, to some of the most beautiful beaches, to the some of the most culturally rich places ... All this in one state of Karnataka!


 I am an outsider to this state, I don't speak the language, I am not aware of sneak nuances of the culture of the state, yet I was offered the BEST times of my life. The crux of the matter is that if I saw all this just ONE state and I still have not seen everything it has to offer, just imagine what the other 27 more states in our country have to offer.

As a parting message, I just want to say, "How much of our dear India have you really seen and know? How much of an Indian are you?"...Something to ponder about!

 

From the very start, this ride was NEVER about winning the ST7 for me, this ride for me was about Living Life and Wandering the Unknown. Skeptical as I was about carrying just one pair of jeans, it turns out that it helped me reduce my luggage and need for any laundry, the jeans are comfortable to the point that even 3 days after the 2000 Kms ride, I am still wearing the jeans! Also this journey did not take me through a path of self realization, neither was this journey about the quest for questions that I needed answers for in life. Rather, this journey has been something to break away from the mundane yet much needed bondage of the 'Normal' life. I never did anything that I usually would not have done, this is exactly how my other LoneWolfRides have been too! I have given you a 'no artificial agents' added view of my journey on the road, and I can tell you it was not an easy ride. If you don't ride in the Rain, you don't Ride!!!. Anyone can sit on a bike and twirl the throttle and take the 'known' butter smooth highways, what makes you different taking the Path Less Travelled in the words of the great Robert Frost.


This is what the life of a LoneWolfRider is all about...

 

The Wrangler True Wanderers Ride came to an end on day 7 of my journey, but my Wanderings will never stop... the ride never stops once you are a Biker for Life!!!!