All this Western ghat ride plan started one fine day when I just mentioned John that I was planning for a monsoon ride covering Chikmagalur, Thirthalli, Malpe and almost everything in between. Even he wished to join me but we had to workout favourable dates for the ride. Later Nishanth confirmed his prescence. So wanted to know who all were willing to join us for the ride. Most expressed their willingness to join in, but were not sure since it was festival time and also a long weekend to spend with family or not getting leave on one single day in between. So worked out few possible dates and decided that it will be a Independence day weekend or the Sep first weekend. Sep first week emerged as the winner. So now we have the the route and dates scheduled. Now raises the question of How many????? After sending invites to people whom I knew might join in, the total number till then stood to around six. Since my bike was not in a position to be taken out for a long ride, borrowed a reliable, super comfy ZMA from my friend.
Since few of my friends were in a mood to drive on the Independence day weekend, thought of doing a recce drive to Chikmagalur and around. It helped in arranging the stay and also get an idea about the road conditions. Now the next big battle, how to skip Ganesh Chaturthi Pooja at home on the first of September. Ganesha Chaturthi pooja is a minimum 1.5-2 hours affair at my place. So now had two options. One, revolt against the family and go ahead with the ride or Convince them with some sort of an arrangements so that I am not missing out on the ride. Now that I have invited many people and few people even confirming, by whatever means I had to be at the starting point on Day 1 at the scheduled time. One evening( when my parents were in a good mood) started this discussion as to how go about this. Though I knew my parents would never object for the ride was still somehow not sure how they would react for the festival presence. Their replies surprised me.” We will get up at 2.45-3 Am, we will finish the pooja by 5.30-5.45 and then go for the ride “ told my mother. I started grinning and punching the air (in my mind, like it happens in movies) by the time she had finished half of the sentence.
So for now the total number stood up to 9, including Deepak and Shivraj from Coimbatore , who would be joining us at Hassan directly. The meeting time was scheduled to 6AM and place Yeshwanthpur Shell Petrol pump.
The riders :
DAY 1 : COFFEE COUNTRY CALLING ……..
Wake up my dad and Mom at 3, get ready in a jiffy, pooja done and Reach the spot almost on time. All of them had already reached the spot. Was like surprised to see all of them on time. Was glad to see Bharath and Manas coming to see us off. Got a message from Ram saying that he will also join us directly at Hassan. So the machine start rolling out of Bangalore around 6.30.Bharath and Manas take leave mid way.
At the meeting place
Wonderful weather to start with, people with full enthu, people in cages (who wished they could do such things) taking pics and videos, was bringing in some sort of nice feeling. The first break was at Hotel Mayura, post Bellur cross, which had the fasted service in any of the hotels I have gone. Few foreigners there having breakfast, were curiously looking at us while we parked, as if we were from a different planet. Few kilometers after we start, the dark clouds gather on the NH48. Stopped midway to use the rain gear for the very first time on the ride. By the time we reached Hassan, it started pouring. Stopped at Hassan for Ram, Shiv and Deepak to join in. Once they were there, the rain ride started. By the time we reached Chikmagalur, everybody was drenched. Had lunch and stared climbing Mullayangiri. Since it was a festival, there were not many tourists around.
While waiting for Ram,Deepak and Shiv
The windspeed was so much that the helmets kept on the bikes were about to roll down the mountain. We were not able to stand properly. Also were searching if all of us were there around, all thanks to zero visibility fog. Spent some time and started riding down and stopped at Sitalayangiri for a brief photoshoot. Had plans of riding to Bababudangiri the same day, but dense for made it not worth, so settled at the resort for the day. Ordered few spicy dishes to make ourselves comfortable with the unforgiving rain and cold outside. Had some biking chit chaat and called it a day.
Day 2: RAIN FORESTS AND THE COUNTRY ROADS UNWINDING ……
Ullhas and Myself were the early raisers for the day, soon followed by Nishanth and the rest. The weather was so dull that all of us were moving around in slow motion. Realizing we might have a late start, all of got ready and left. The road from the resort to the main road, roughly around 50mtrs was not visible.
Day start line up
Few pics while coming down
At one point when we stopped for clicking few pics, it so happened few villagers wanted to have a curious look at what was happening out there. When we told them about our ride, they were relieved that nothing serious had happened. Then started riding in the dark for the next few kms. Now Arnab left his intellectual stuff take priority in arranging Nishanth’s bag when the bikes were in motion. I would like to hear it from him directly on this. After some time Deepak and Arnab were not to be seen in the rear, so waited for them in the middle of nowhere till they arrived few minutes later. Finally reached the homestay at Sampekatte after a fun filled night ride in total darkness. As soon as we reached Parvatha Home stay, the host, Mr.P.V.Bhat came forward to receive us. He expected us to come on four wheels but was surprised to see us come on two. He led us to the attic for our drenched clothes to get it dried. After freshening up, we were served with Malnad style dinner. He also told us that it had been raining from past 3 months continuously. After some briefing about the next day’s plan, we all crashed for the day.
Day 3: FERRY RIDE AND RIDE TO INDIA’S HIGHEST RAINFALL
From the place where we stayed
We couldn’t get a proper sleep last night as it was raining like as if the world would drown underwater. After drinking Kashaya( Herbal drink with spices) the day kick started. The plan for the day was to catch a ferry at Sampekatte, sail to the other end of Linganamakki back waters on the Sagar side. We had planned to catch the 8.30 ferry, but by the time we started it was already 9.15, so had no option other than to catch the 9.30 ferry. We were drenched in the first 100 mts of the day’s ride. By now the rains had made us very adamant. Not even bothering about the rains, we moved ahead. By the time we reached the pickup point, we saw few two wheelers, a jeep and a bus waiting to be picked. At a distance saw the ferry coming. At the first sight thought we had missed this one as well, but on enquiry came to know that the ferry itself was late for the day. Till then few of us had picked up a conversation with the localites. Even though the ferry ride lasted for only 20 min or so, it was total fun.
On disembarking the ferry, stopped to click few pics. The initial few kilometers, we had to pass through some rough patches, but once it was done, there opened Natures own race track , all of us were taking the twisties at 90+ speeds, such was the quality of tarmac. Took a long refueling break at Sagar and headed towards the world Famous Jog falls. After a few clicks on the “JOG” bridge we headed towards the falls.
This was few minutes earlier, behind us is the falls
For the lucky ones who caught the glimpse
When we went ahead we were very disappointed with what we saw, thick fog had engulfed everywhere and had completely covered the falls, the falls played hide and seek in interval of few seconds. Shiv was more than excited to see JOG FALLS as it was his first visit here. Saw only one of the four falls and was hyper happy. Then when I told him that there were four of them he was shocked. We waited for few minutes for the fog to clear, but that didn’t happen. By the time we were about to leave Nishanth, Prashanth and myself went ahead to get a last glimpse of the falls if possible. We were extremely lucky this time, had full view of the falls for some micro seconds, till the fog engulfed again. Had a wholesome lunch at Kargal. When enquired about the condition of the roads post Kargal, the localites told us its very dangerous this season. So took the Honnavar route, which was supposed to be a better route. Within a few kilometers we realized that all that the localites uttered were not exactly true.
Enroute Honnavar throught the forests
One of the unknown falls midway
Break at Honnavar
Alongside Marvanthe Beach
This route was full of potholes with streams running wherever they can, except for some 25-30kms from Honnavar. The last few kilometers ha wonderful piece of tarmac, especially the last two curves. What a sight it was to see all the bikes cornering to the best of its abilities. When we had stopped at Bhatkal for fuel and tea break, met an old school friend of mine, who was travelling with his family. Both of us were surprised to see each other especially such a far distance away from home.
Now the traffic had increased exponentially on the ever dangerous NH17, with vehicles coming all around you. You would be fooled by the quality of tarmac for some distance, only to realize that a four foot wide pothole awaits you with open mouth. Took a break on Marvanthe beach, I wanted to reach this place during day so that we can spend some time on the beach without having to go far from the highway. We were there just about dark , when the skies were bright blue with silver lining. Single lane highway, riding in the dark, unexpected potholes, blinding headlights of oncoming vehicles were already a trouble, added to this Ganesh visarjan procession in almost every single town we passed through was also on way at most places. Not to mention the insane driving practises by almost all of them using the road. I wonder which school of driving teaches this kind of driving. All this definitely took a toll on the body and the vehicle. Around Saligrama, one of the problems eased out a bit, the roads were getting better as there was road widening project was in progress, with traffic allowed on only one side of the neatly asphalted road. After few enquiries on the location of hotel, finally reached the place around 8.30. Snehashish and Abhishek had already reached the hotel. After telling everybody to be careful with their belongings and bike keys, I myself made a blunder. When we were about to take the lift, since there were too much luggage, I left my helmet just beside the lift and checked into the hotel. The time I realized it was a different story. Checked into the respective rooms and took a shower, oh my god it was so refreshing. With our stomachs craving for a proper meal we head down to the restraunt. With bellies full we were wishing to hit the beds asap. But then came DIRTY (read Arnab) and Ram to our room, we started talking about everything under the sun till 2AM. This would have continued if we not starting the next morn by 6.30 as scheduled.
Day 4 : RIP LS2, THE LAST GHAT ENCOUNTER and THE STRUGGLE TO GET TO BELUR
Somewhere past Ujire
Alarm started ringing on my phone and soon was I at everybody’s door knocking to wake them up. By the time everybody were ready, Prashanth and myself were ready to saddle up , only to realize that I was not finding my helmet. Searched almost every probable place in the hotel, with the helmet nowhere to be found. There was no way that I could ride 400+kms without a lid. So with a cool head started thinking of various probabilities of arranging one for the return journey. First came to my mind was the fellow XBHPian next door, Mr.Meghan (kowkfist) at Mangalore. Called him to ask if there was anyway that he could arrange a lid for me. He told he had one but was in a hurry to leave to Bangalore the same morning. Realizing that I would not be able to reach Mangalore and get it right away, told him to carry on with his plans. Then came to my mind was a relative of mine who stayed close by, with no positive results from him as well , I had to leave the place in search of a place where I could buy a new one. While the rest set out for Malpe beach. John and Ullhas left for Bangalore, as they had to be back by evening. Prashanth and myself set out in search a golden lid for the moment. We found a Yamaha Showroom right next to the hotel which displayed few helmets, ah such a relief it was …….on enquiry we found out that these were equivalent to the low quality helmets we find by the road side, but the price they quoted was a shocker , Rs.1950/- ONLY. We could get 10 of them for the same price in Bangalore. We thought we will check out some place in Udupi or manipal and if we don’t find any we had to buy helmet which we saw at the Yammy showroom. We roamed the streets of the temple town of Udupi with none of the shops where there was a possibility of finding the helmet was open on the Sunday morning. Then came to my mind a friend who studied in Manipal. Tried calling him, a lady with a very sweet voice replied “the number you are trying to call is switched off….” My frustration levels started increasing thinking why does all the bad things happen at the same time. Not losing hope we set out for his room in one corner of Manipal. We could find only his room mate, who told that my friend was in Bangalore itself. Tried all other possibilities on finding a lid and were left with no other option but to buy the so called Yammy helmet. Just as we were about to leave, my eyes lit up on a board which read “MANIPAL AUTO MOBILE STORE” with a dirt helmet displayed on it. But the shop was closed. Enquired at the next shop whether the store would open on a Sunday. He nodded sideways, again a negative indication. I was somehow determined to find a lid, so called him up (number courtesy: His display board) only to find a voice of a person who had just woken up. I told him my problem and requested him to come down to open the shop. He obliged asked for 30minutes for him to get ready and come down. So much relived I was at the moment. By the same time the guys who had left for Malpe beach also reached the same spot where Prashanth and myself were waiting for the shopkeeper to come down. Few minutes later , the shop open up and see only around 9-10 helmets in stock , picked up studs Chrome (unnecessary investment) for Rs.650/-. It didn’t have the best of fitting, but wasn’t given a chance to complain. After a quick breakfast, we leave for Bangalore via Karkala and Ujire . Roads again on this stretch had given up at few places. But once passed Karkala the roads were getting better and better. Stopped for a butt break somewhere post Ujire for Funta, tea and cream buns. Received a message from Snehashish to carry on with our ride as they were coming slower with clicking pics. Climbing Charmadi ghats was real fun, with waterfalls by the road and amazing landscapes on the other side. This joy or riding was till we reached Mudigere. Few kilometers past that we had solid proof of the government’s apathy towards this region. The roads looked like it was asphalted for the last time when India gained independence. Riding through this stretch in summer and during rains is a different ball game. Reached Belur around 4.30 for a late lunch at Hotel Majestic, which did not live upto its name. with ours as well as our bikes tummies filled to some extent we left Belur. Now all the tiredness of bad roads were neglected seeing this stretch of tarmac. We knew it would be a high speed run from now on. Reached Hassan in 18min flat and headed towards NH48 for Bangalore. Now begins the game of road rash, few cars(altos in particular) were deliberately overtaking us and braking in front of us in spite of we giving way for them to overtake us. Sensing this as a potential danger, decided to teach the bad guys a good lesson. Over took at speeds that I would not recommend any amateur to do so. Were doing speeds close to 130’s during that time. I really respect these cabbies( not all of them though) ,they know the rules of the game on the highways. It’s the private vehicles that pose a problem on such high ways ( especially hatchbacks). Finally found decent enough Safari driver who was doing decent speeds and also indicating properly while taking a curve and signaling while slowing down, Used his halogedn headlamps which lit up the road as if it was diwali. We regrouped again at Channarayapatna for some tea and butt break as we knew that the comfortable and safe four lanes would start any time soon. Once the four lanes started, it was like playing videogame. Again my stupidity raised heads, didn’t know what I was thinking and took the deviation which goes through the town of Kunigal which delayed the time by 10-15 min. The initial plan of going through Magadi was shelved and we decided to take Nelamangala instead. Bid goodbye to all my fellow riders at Nelamangala and reached home by 10.15-10.30.
Highlights of the ride:
Ultra fast service at Mayura
Zero visibility atop Mullayangiri
Night ride to Sampekatte.
Sampekatte home stay.
Ferry to sagar
Wonderful twisties (wherever they were)
View of Jog falls for some micro seconds
The corners before honnavar.
Scary NH 17 (name changed now though)
Loosing a lid and the quest to find a new one.
I would like to thanks few people who were very helpful in making this ride happen the way it did :
All of them who accompanied me for the ride
Praful, Akhil, Tejas and PSR for their valuable inputs in whatever form.
Darshan for lending valuable steed which performed flawlessly.
Gautham for the camera
Bharath for the protectors and crampbuster.
And all the humble people along the route who were walking talking GPS.
Pic courtesy: John,Nishanth,Prashanth,Arnab,Shivraj and Deepak