A lonely bike trip... part I

We'd been planning treks, long drives and what not, for what seemed like ages then. We had to start somewhere. With the time constraints of our group members with all individuals being free at different times, the plans were leading nowhere. This was it... a day off on Monday was to get us five continuous days of vacation. We all had been waiting for such an opportunity. But
then again, I forgot Murphy (from the Murphy's law, who else?) while I planned out something. Sriram was busy with his CA studies, Raghav was to look at his house construction, Anya was tied up with something else. That left me stranded alone to keep to my own commitment of kick-starting something. I decided a to-and-fro native (Honnavara) trip: going via Mangalore and returning via Shimoga.

Well, I started by luring Raghav by proposing a bike trip instead of a car drive! He got tempted but my motive was unmet when he reported this back home. They didn't want him to go then. There was no point in messing with others' plans. So I thought, on behalf of all, I'd to get a do-it-myself package. The deal was clear: it couldn't have been my second wife, Maruti Suzuki
WagonR... I was just not too comfortable with her! Thats when I made a so-called brave decision to ride with my first one, Suzuki Fiero! All of this was decided on Thursday, Aug 14, 2003. Mentioning this to my landlady led me to some hitches. She refused to allow me to go and even threatened to call my parents. The fear came from the fact that the rains were crazy and the coastal highway drive is too dangerous when Karnataka rains were to go crazier with the cloud-seeding plan! Some convincing got me luck and I began backpacking my gear.

My initial plan was to start in the wee morning hours, but Sriram insisted that one shouldn't start on a long ride/drive while its still dark. There's some scientific analysis that seems to say that most accidents occur when the person starts out while its dark and gets carried into the light through hours of driving and that the body can't adjust to the changes. Well, had he known me as such a lazy fella, he wouldn't have probably spent such time explaining; I started only quarter past seven. It took quite a while to pack stuff at night and I woke up late enough not to be able to start at 0600hrs. Finally, I started with my obeisances to the Sun.

As I went over the ring road towards Mysore Road, it felt really nice, but with a slight fear of this seemingly arduous ride. Within a short while, I touched West of Chord Road. As per Sriram's instructions, I'd kept the pace well below 70kmph till I hit the outskirts of Blore. I passed by ISKCON in some time thence and took a deep left towards Peenya and passed towards Nelamangala. I'd to stop by and enquire to ensure that I don't miss the NH-48 I was looking forward to. There was quite a bulk of traffic at the start of NH-48. These trucks and buses that go a longer distance than what I call long-distance ride are really rough on the poor riders. They seemed to overlook the fact that small vehicles also belong on the tar for atleast having paid their taxes! Those juggernauts had my confidence lowered till bad negotiating between vehicles got me out onto visible empty stretch of tar. Thats when I sped up to decide on safe consistent speed. That struck out to be a good 80kmph and this is what I maintained through my journey.

The weather was comfortably pleasant needing not more than my windcheater and the surroundings appeared to be increasingly scenic as I rode away from Blore. I soon found a comforting position on the bike: resting the feet on the pillion foot rests, while my backpack was hooked on to the handles and laying on the petrol tank! There were break times when I shifted my legs over the leg-guard for a change of position. The surroundings gave a picture of true India, the beauty that it is. I didn't have to change gears from 4th to below it for a real long time, but it sure reminded me of how badly Fiero needed a 5th too!

The journey turned out to be becoming more blissful than ever and I could feel the confidence building... what this was, I can't express in words... it was a feeling I've been yearning for and always will. Somewhere down the line near Hassan, I'd my breakfast at Kamat's. I was told that this one's a nice place to feed yourself; so I did. The food didn't mean as much as the wash did. The countryside had blown quite a lot of dust on my face due to frequent lifting of the visor for fresh air breathers. I also made it a point to share this freshness with my brother, Prashant, over phone. My parents didn't know till then that I'm on this (crazy) tour. I very much managed to convince them of my safe riding, or rather had to!

When I set off back on the bike, I thought I was maintaining good pace. I knew well that I'd to improve it because the average speed is going to decline rapidly once I get to the Sakleshpur ghats (the biggest in Karnataka). The weather kept me company till there. Just when I saw the ghats rise in front of me, I pulled over to put up the monsoon wear. The rainywear trouser (?) belonged to Sandip and was way too short for me, but I'm much thankful for having borrowed it. It'd begun to drizzle and my avatar was funny for passersby. I wasn't too much in a mood to even let that bother me. Fiero's roadgrip has scared me many a times; still, this ride had let Fiero prove itself. Thus, the test began.

The curves and V-pin bends, all had me sure that no speed is low speed for such zones. Twice, I landed on the opposite lane after the turns! Although the upstream traffic seemed too slow to cause any harm, one can't assume so about all of the vehicles and be sure that other vehicles are the only ones that cause damages. One could lead off the road, into a tree or stuff like that. I was more careful following these thoughts. Its like telling yourself to apply brakes, not to the vehicle alone, but to your life too. Maybe, its going faster than you can handle. Its worth taking a pitstop in life once in a while and seeing whether you have led yourself well enough? The speed may have enthused you so much as to not let you think if the direction is right!

Anyway, so here I was riding safer than ever. Okay, the speed was higher still, but safer... somehow I think I know well enough that lower speed doesn't necessarily mean more safety. Enjoying the ride, I reached the viewpoint of Sakleshpur ghat. There was this hoarding that read the huge rainfall mms that this region receives. My memory fails me here. Maybe, if I'm able to dig this info out of somewhere, I'll update it over. There was an elephant's picture on one board that meant something I forget now. Forgive the old man, will ya all? The view was beautiful and I felt like spending a lot of time there. I must've spent over an hour there trying to click some photographs, before I started downhill.

So far, the tar was laid enough smoothly. The ghats showed otherwise at one stretch on my downward trail. These potholes made it miserable while the rain didn't make it easier to brake on a downward journey. It was much steep to allow indecent braking on a plain road, even on a sunny day, without having to meet unpleasant incidents. As I made past some of these unavoidable pockets, I saw small water streams on my right making their way beneath the bridge I was on and forming a good waterfall on the left. This, I stopped by to click. The weather and my skills, both, made photos turn up bad. There on, the road just seemed to drop into Mangalore. The sun showed up as I picked speed on the road fast losing its curvature and straightening up into a plain highway. Soon, the jackets weren't helping me keep my comfort and I pulled over by Surathkal to pack them back. There, I'd made it a point to make my geographical location felt to Raghav. He studied at KREC, Surathkal and was pleased to have a chat with someone who's just in front of its gates!

Since I'd planned to have Udupi Krishna's darshan, I sped by on this dangerous NH-17 that I'd gotten onto. Most people have no traffic sense whatsoever, or lose whatever they have, once they reach this infamous national highway. I say this from my childhood memories of accidents told of on these roads. My native village stands off this NH-17. I found this road to be less exciting than the earlier ones I'd taken, the stink of the coastal fish adding to it. I wanted to get as close to Udupi as fast as possible. So I did. The arch on the highway seemed to invite everyone to pay a visit. I wanted to gather my blessings and in I went, riding between crowded lanes not really guiding me anywhere as I reached close enough to know that I was in the vicinity of devasthana but not knowing where it was. Parking the bike and walking seemed to be an only option when I met a deadend. Finding the mandir, I felt blessed already. It has a small entrance that might go unnoticable save the shops around that people bought offerings from. This is one temple where the presiding deity, Krishna, faces away from the door.

The story has it that a Shudra was forced to pray from outside the temple and Krishna turned around to give darshan to him alone! That shows how all are equal in God's perspective. Since then, everyone was forced to go around the pradakshina to have a peek at the Lord from a small window. Finishing my darshan, I went over to other mandirs in and around the campus. There's a go-shala where I could see cows wandering about, feeling at home and making me feel so too. There were these beautiful kids dancing on stage, perhaps belonging to some school run by the sansthan or so. Just outside the temple there was a guy with his elephant blessing people who give it something. I also tried it out. Smartly, the elephant took the coin with its trunk, gave it to its master and then put the trunk on my head to gesture a bless.

On the way back to the highway, I lost my way and quite some precious time. My hunger found its fill just when I reached NH-17. It was 1800 hrs by then and high time I'd lunch too. I'd a quick snack and was on my way while it was darkening. Sriram had asked me to witness the beauty of the sunset at Kundapura, but I was beginning to get panicky not knowing how far
I was from my target and after having driven much distance from Udupi.

I reached an overbridge besides which was a small temple with an idol of Shiva majestically sitting over it. This, I'd to take a picture of. It didn't seem like a convenient location to park with vehicles ripping by. I managed to click one or two shots when the drizzle that had just begun warned to be a pour soon. I decided to pick up more speed and try to arrive before 2000hrs atleast. This was not to happen. The road seemed never-ending since I could no longer enjoy the surroundings, not being able to see them in the approaching night. It wasn't until the clouds above dropped huge drops of water that I felt I should've driven faster before the rain. The rain drops drilled their way into the layers of jacket that I'd worn some time back. Within no time was I feeling as if I was being swept away in river, with little control, if at all. The heavy coastal highway rains, with no lights whatsoever, intimidating passing by 4-, 6-, 8-, etc-wheelers, seemed to threaten the safety of my riding I was harping on. The world around me seemed to vanish into the night as I knew not -- through my glasses, visor and waterfall-like rains -- where the road was. At one point, I started doubting whether there was a road below the wheels! I was wiping the visor & specs every now and then with my hands and hanky, atleast enough to be sure that I could see through the glasses if a pull-over place is around. Sometime then, my prayer was answered and I saw a petrol bunk that I somehow got to, over unseen puddles filled in kind of ponds that were formed beside the road. It felt as if my bike jumped off some height off the highway but still it was a relief to be able to be seeing something.

What a view it was, mighty scary rain it seemed, as I stood underneath one of the structures. Even there, I was being lashed by the rains almost from all directions in a few minutes. Enquiring at the gas station on how far I was from my target gave no comfort. To top it, I was worried of the rulers of the highway --truck-drivers-- getting drunk and driving beside me. I knew I had not more than an hour before these enemies of the fellow-riders step on the pedal. I felt the burden of having to decide between the devil and the deep blue sea!

From nowhere, I was given a solution to ride by following some visible vehicle, keeping only safe-distance between us. I refueled just to be sure I don't push my baby along on a rainy night. This trick worked wonders, except for a couple of wrong judgements. One of them was to follow an over-speeding car while the other was to follow a truck that pulled over too soon. Over a period, I was back on my confidence of driving in the rains. It slowly turned into a blissfully pleasant ride. I, who always found riding in the rain unsafe, felt being accompanied by some great level of reassuring faith. The bike itself seemed a friend... the rains telling us a wild story... meaning no harm though. I found myself listening to the music of the tapping waters, with no hurry of reaching anywhere. I was around Bhatkal when the rains turned their volume low. I knew I was around 60kmph all this while and that went up a little with pinching rains hurting the skin lesser. Since then, the downpour switched back and forth into a drizzle. About that time, I approached some hills on my sides that appeared to have been cut off to make these roads. These were visible as the lights of moving vehicles flashed on them. I knew I was nearing Honnavara. But it took me a longer ride than I thought it would be before I saw Honnavara. I'd crossed Sharavati bridge that had made me wonder if I was riding over the waters as a ship sails.

From Honnavara, it was a known road that I'd travelled earlier on vans, buses and as a pillion rider on motorbikes & bicycles. I knew this stretch of the journey would make me nostalgic. In these thoughts, I took a deviation off the NH-17 into my village lane, Karki. I looked up my watch that ticked 2130hrs. My aunt and standees around were shocked to hear my mode of transport. I took a pleasing cold bath pulling out loads out of the fresh well waters. I called up Bombay to mention my safe-reaching and to assure them of no back-breaks, thanks to the grand machine that Fiero proved it is.

The tasty dinner was followed by a blissful sleep that took me back on the ride into the night... the night that I'd slept as well as stayed awake!

(Fri, Aug 15, 2003: 0715 BSK- Iskcon- Nelamangala- [NH-48] Kunigal- 1500 Channarayapatna- Hassan- Sakleshpur- (Shiradi)- (Uppinangadi)- Mangalore- [NH-17] Surathkal- Udupi (Udupi Krishna Mandir) 1800- Kundapura- Bhatkal- Honnavara- 2130 Karki)
Post a Comment