Saturday, June 26, 2010

O Ya Ya – My first long distance bike trip

Beginning of a journey - my first travelogue
(6th May 2010)

Aaaaaaahhhhh a groan escapes my mouth as I get up to refill my hot water bottle/pad for the nth time.

Everything hurts with every movement - my lower back, my left hand, my neck and my knees ( my knee ? ah yes thanks to the protective knee gear)

Nah don’t worry you are in the right forum and this tale is about biking, just returned from a challenging 523 km bike trip.

I go into a flashback as I try to take stock of the situation and most importantly try to analysis what the hell happened here



Inspiration for this trip came after reading log after log of other adventurous bikers who traveled the length and breadth of India on their bike , reading all those logs made me ask myself “ why not me ? “

Now why did that thought come into my mind? grrrrrrr but as thoughts are they came to stay and soon I was making plans to do a Ladhak and Sikkim trip on my bike.

The moment I realized that , I knew that I need an upgrade from my current trusty TVS Victor GL which even though is a good bike but lacked the Cubic Capacity required for long hauls and tougher terrains, that decided I started searching for a good second hand bike.

After looking at various options I narrowed down and finally decided on Unicorn, now the task involved in getting the right bike – to cut a long story short I managed to locate a decent used Unicorn in Bangalore at an affordable price.

Getting the bike from Bangalore to Trivandrum inspired me to hit 2 birds with one stone, get the bike and also do a long distance bike trip from Bangalore to Trivandrum.

So after going through the headache of getting 3-4 days leave sanctioned and getting tickets booked to Bangalore , I finally arrived in the Silicon valley at early hours of Sunday morning ( 2nd May 2010).

The day involved catching up with friends and sealing the bike deal , now came the harder task of getting the bike transferred to my name ( I was unaware of the address proof requirement ) but somehow managed to get an RTO agent who agreed to get it done for me in 2 days time since that’s all I had with me.

Was really irritated with this address proof issue, what’s the point of living in a free country if its citizen cannot buy a vehicle from a different state without having to live there? All this legal hassles made me feel that I am buying a vehicle from a different country and not from within my country.

Anyways with Wednesday coming I gave up hope of getting the bike transfer happening in my name before I left, now the point was how do I get back to Trivandrum ? Train and bus was no option due to unavailability of tickets at such short notice and the bike documents were not ready to use the bike.

Finally towards end of Tuesday I made up my mind and decided come what may, I’ll live my dream and take the bike for my first long distance ride proper documents or not – having decided that gave the bike for servicing to a local mechanic since the bike was not in use for close to 6 months.

Also ended up doing some last moment shopping at Cramster where I bought a Red pulse driving jacket and knee guard. Though interested in gloves, tank bag and saddle bag decided to buy them at a different time and not to tax my finances to much.

Boy was the Pulse jacket heavy; I was concerned how I am going to ride with such a heavy jacket on. But safety is important isn’t it even if it means getting cooked in the jacket in this tropical weather.

Suddenly out of the blue on Tuesday night got a call from the RTO agent asking me to come and collect the revised RC book , however my jubilation was short lived when I noticed that in the RC book only the photo belonged to me but the name belonged to someone else. how stupid can these govt workers be

Anyways coming back to the trip plan was to avoid the dusty and dull NH47 through Coimbatore but instead to go via Mysore - Gundlupet- Wayanad - Thrissur - Trivandrum.

Since the bike was not used for close to 6 months and the gear system was opposite to that of Victor - I had decided to take things easy by going slow and breaking the journey into 2 days with a night Halt at Wayanad

Planned route
Bangalore - Trivandrum approx distance 760Km



Living the dream - O Ya Ya

Finally the D Day arrived on 6th May, I woke up at 5 in the morning prepared for an early start, plan was to start early so as to be out of Bangalore before the morning rush starts.

Though I had just 4 hours of sleep due to an unavoidable late night, I was in high spirits. So armed with a copy of RC book (previous owners) Insurance, PUC and Tax documents I was finally ready to start.

My heavy rucksack and tripod was tied securely to the back of the vehicle .

Any nervousness of driving with a RC book copy and the fact that I was driving a heavier bike with a opposite gear system (when compared to my TVS Victor )was driven to wind, the moment I hit the self start and the Unicorn came to life.

Testing the Balance

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All set to go
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My long awaited bike trip from Bangalore to Trivandrum was on ….Hippeeee or is it Yipeeeee who cares – Bike touring community here comes the new challenger.

After a hurried photo session & a goodbye to my friend, I started off towards Nice Road at 6.10 am from Deverachickenhalli ( Bannerghatta )

Luckily despite the late start , the roads were still empty and managed to reach Nice road in good time.

Due to a misunderstanding was under the impression that the Nice road would lead me all the way to Mysore, so was a bit surprised when the Toll guard told me that the road goes upto Kengeri only and from there I have to get back on the Bangalore – Mysore state highway.

Paid the Rs 16 toll , readjusted & retied the bag ( strange no matter how well you tie your bag at home you always have to do a readjustment after your have gone some way ) had a cup of tea ( for which the tea vendor waited patienetly while I readjusted my bag) and was on my way again enjoying the awesome road and the great stable feeling that Unicorn gave.

Nice road

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Despite good roads didn’t feel like exceeding 60 km/hr speed mainly due to the good weather / good road and the fact that the bike was still new to me (was uncertain how much it can take) – didn’t want to mess with the system too early into the trip.

Was going to regret this going slow decision later on

Soon I was on Bang-Mysore highway and cruising towards Mysore
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As stated above I was hardly going above 55km/hr, since the plan was to enjoy the ride and take accommodation where ever I managed to reach by 6 pm preferably Wayanad. And then proceed towards Trivandrum the next day (definitely no night driving)

Was happy to reach the outskirts of Mysore by 10.43 am , took a deviation towards Nanjangad around 6 km short of hitting the Mysore town.

Stopped at a wayside stall for breakfeast but apart from Lays (chips) and coconut water they didn’t have anything else that fancied me. So I dug into that eyeing the nearby banana bunch but firmly refusing to have it – last thing I wanted was getting natures call due to the banana properties.

Distance driven : 143 KM

After a 20 min break I was back on road this time cruising towards Nanjangad on NH 212

While riding towards Nanjangad , started thinking how easy it was to find this devation, last time I was travelling from Bangalore to Thrissur in our Alto (driven by professional driver) we missed this deviation and ended up crisscrossing Coorg ( which to be honest was a good mistake considering the scenic ride)

Speaking of Coorg , even the drive towards Nanjangad was not that bad , good roads and less traffic meant I was able to really relax . Still dint increase my speed as the target was Wayanad.

Onway to Nanjangad passed by a beautiful golf course and a small lake filled with some of the biggest ducks I have ever seen

Golf Course

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Time for another photoshoot

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Beautiful road towards Nanjangad - the lake with ducks towards the right

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Reached Nanjangad by 12 noon And after a small halt for Coconut water and photo session continued towards Gundlupet

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At Nanjangad I was surprised to see a train ( few boggies) seemingly parked permanently on a unused bridge.

Had to ask for direction at few palaces but had no major problem heading towards Gundlupet, though the road condition started to deteriorate

Reached Gundlupet by around 13:00 , where I had a basic lunch of Bun Omlette and coke.

My humble lunch at gundlupet
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After another short halt of around 20-30 mins I was back on road – this time towards Sultan Bathery – the entry into Kerala.

I was a bit apprehensive as I rode, since I knew check posts would be showing up pretty soon, and with no original RC book was getting a bit nervous on what to do and say if I am stopped

The awesome roads however ensured that I was soon engrossed in the beautiful and comfortable drive

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Soon I was riding through beautiful landscape of Bandipur forest, the sunny weather suddenly turned shady thanks to the tall trees making the drive more enjoyable; and believe it or not managed to get some decent sightseeing of Deer and cows.

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The roads were great but there were too many unexpected speed breakers to do any speeding not that I wanted to anyways. (Another opportunity lost)

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What I really missed was stopping to take photos of the animals and landscape – but there was a highway patrol van which annoyingly seemed close by all the time, and thanks to the bike document issues I didn’t want to unnecessarily draw attention by stopping in restricted zone, as you can see still managed to sneak in few captures

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Before I knew it I was at my first check point and even before I realized I was through – luckily they didn’t ask me for any documents, the same thing happened at another check post , where even though they flagged down a car which was right behind me , they let me go without even a question.

I was really thanking my stars when I came to a third and this time proper police check post, this gate was closed and despite my presence didn’t open. “Lucks run out mate “I told myself and sat there waiting for a cop to come and ask for documents. While waiting I suddenly noticed a cop motioning me to go through a side path next to the gate – yipeeeeeeeeee lucks back -- didn’t wait for anything else and before I knew it I had put a few kilometers between me and the check post haha ( propabaly that must have been one time when I touched 80kmph )

By now I was riding in Kerala and soon came to Sultan Bathery – I had been told that Sultan Bathery was a hill station so I was surprised to reach there without climbing any ghat section.

I must say that I was astounded and hit on face (so to speak) by the sudden increase in traffic and chaos associated with Kerala traffic and since the weather was nothing great, I decided to continue on towards kalpetta.

I guess I reached Sultan Bathery by 4 pm ( or was that kalpetta not sure)

Distance Covered: 270 KM

Place where I stopped for Tea
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Stopped for tea little way after kalpetta and decided on my next course of action.

As mentioned my earlier plan was to do a night halt at Wayanad and if I decided for it then Kalpetta was the place. Pondered for sometime on what to do
a) should I spend the night in Kalpetta as planned and then continue towards Trivandrum next day or
b) Should I continue on and try to reach Thrissur (my parents house) by 10-11pm.

Since driving the Unicorn was such a great experience and considering that I was hardly tired I made the fatal decision to head for Thrissur .

From this point onwards I started making mistakes

a) I should have stuck to my original plan because I was riding too slowly for a 500 + km trip

b) Despite having a map I didn’t bother to check it for accurate distance, I assumed Distance between Kalpetta to Calicut was hardly 50km and from Calicut to my home in Thrissur another 100 km – Boy was I wrong

The actual distance from Kalpetta to my home was close to 240 KM big difference to my perceived distance of 150KM (I was thinking of my last trip in car which was being driven by a professional who hardly drives below 100km/hr)

Once the decision was made took the plunge, plan was to reach Calicut by 6.30 pm however the route from Kalpetta to Calicut was so scenic that I had to stop and bring out my camera every few kilometer.

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I wasted more time at the Wayanad downhill which was too scenic to resist a 30 min stopover; Wayanad downhill is a 12km steep ghat section with a misty view.

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View point/picnic point at the start of descent - guess its also called as Wayanad Churam
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The tea stall owner didn’t have any milk so had my first black tea of the trip – tasted smashing in the location.

Couldn’t resist from doing some self photography and halted few times during the descent to take photos wasting some more time

Self photosession next to the tea stall
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Was tempted to go neutral and save some petrol but Anup ji's and other BCMTians warning of proper descent made me stick to the gear- though I was riding in 4th gear most of the time thanks to awesome roads.

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The paved section reminded me of Zoji La ( Ladhak)
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It was a sense of accomplishment when I finally came down the section , though there was nothing really challenging or great about it and I was coming downhill not going uphill still It was my first real ghat section on a bike and loved it.

By the time I reached Calicut Medical College bypass it was half past 7 in the night and dark.

Distance Covered: 354 KM

Called my mom asking her to prepare food for me since I would be coming home after all tonight , advised her to expect me b y 11pm ( yeah right ….still thinking its just 100km to my home – awake up dude its close to 180 KM)

Got into NH 17 after few minutes of driving through pitchblack bypass road and immediately trouble started.

First of all the road was bad – true there were some decent stretches but on the whole road was not good, add to it the incoming traffic was heavy and vehicles hardly bothered to dim their lights and to slow me further I realized that after servicing the bikes headlight was pointing towards the left and not straight talk about luck

However still managed to go on at a steady speed (still didn’t speed up on good stretches due to my mistaken belief in distance)

By around 10.15 pm I had only managed to reach Kottakal hardly 50 KM , its then that I suddenly realized that more than 100km is still left .

Kottakal junction
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After a quick bite of dosa I pushed on, this time with an aim of really pushing it , but by now I had left things too late and with bad roads, heavy incoming traffic with high beam on, improper bike head light, confusion on the route- Really can thing get worse ?

Maybe it can my virtually no sleep the previous night suddenly caught up with me, and I suddenly started feeling drowsy

Knew I was screwed but maybe gods were looking for some entertainment

Because to add to all of the above problems my butt started to pain due to sitting on the seat for such a long duration, it got so bad that every few kilometer I had to stop and get up from the bike seat to bring relief to my bottom.

Now this process it self was painful because every time I stopped it required another minute to get up from the seat, since every time I got up the rushing blood to the bottom made it more painful
Few times I contemplated on stopping for the night , but my pride kept me going – I was not going to stop - not when I had done bulk of my journey and the finish is so close.

So fighting sleep / paining bottom and all the above problems I carried on taking kilometer by kilometer and finally reached home at 3.30 am

I had covered a distance of close to 553 KM and I had been riding for nearly 24 hours at a stretch ( close to 20 hours to be precise )– quite an adventurous ride !!!!

Got my new bike's RC book corrected finally :) - took bike from Thrissur to Trivandrum via Kumarakom 296km

Continued at ........................

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