Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weekend Beat

As a part of other events being run along with the Ucal Rolon National Road Racing Championship the track will now reverberate to the sound of the thundering Royal Enfields. The Royal Enfields are returning to the tracks on such an occasion after over a decade.
Guess who's going to burn rubber there this weekend!

The Venue: Madras Motors Sports Club, Sriperumbadur

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

God's Own Country - Wayanad, Calicut, Kochi

Day 1
Route – Bangalore > Mysore > Nanjangud > Gundalpet > Sultan Bathery > Edakal Caves
Distance – 285 kms
Moolah – 600 (Petrol) + 5 (Nuts) + 35 (lunch) + 5 (entrance ticket) + 25 (phone calls) = 670

Day 2
Route – Sultan Bathery > Soochipara > Pookote Lake > Kozhikode > Malappuram > Guruvayur > Kochi
Distance – 380 kms
Moolah – 450 (Petrol) + 100 (Lodge) + 5 (Biscuit) + 50 (ol’ couple) + 15 (Pookte entry) + 18 (Omlette) + 15 (temple) = 653

Day 3
Route – Kochi > Komarakom > Ambalapuzha > Kollam > Attingal > Trivandrum > Kovalam
Distance – 200 kms
Moolah – c/o Salil = priceless

Day 4
Route – Trivandrum > Varkala > Kaapil > Kochi
Distance – 200kms
Moolah – 60 (fruits) + 200 (dinner) = 260

Day 5
Route – Kochi > Trissur > Palakad > Salem > Mettur > Hosur > Bangalore
Distance – 550 kms
Moolah – 450 (Petrol) + 30 (Breakfast) + 500 (Petrol) = 980

Total Distance traveled – 1230
Total Expense – 2600
Average speed on return journey – 60kmph
Average money spent – 2.11 Rs/km

It was the first anniversary for the bullet and with the long weekend, it was perfect recipe for a long ride. It had been sometime since I rode solo and in more ways than one, this was a resurrection of my faith in my bullet.
Initially I thought Goa would make a good ride. But it had been raining cows and buffaloes there. Heading towards Kerala sounded like a far better option. A plan took shape with inputs from a pro Syd and a close pal Salil.

I stocked up some basic spares - Spare Spark plug, Spare Clutch & Acc cables, spare inner-tube, pieces of wire, a new visor and Cramster saddle bag borrowed from Doc Subbu. I did some googling on the places to visit, distances and printed out maps on Friday.

Day One:
Route – Bangalore > Mysore > Nanjangud > Gundalpet > Sultan Bathery > Edakal Caves
Distance – 285 kms
Moolah – 600 (Petrol) + 5 (Nuts) + 35 (lunch) + 5 (entrance ticket) + 25 (phone calls) = 670

I like to remember my silent prayer when I heard rattling noise from the engine over my Sony Network Walkman, about 90mins into the ride, before Maddur. Fearing the worst, I stopped to check. Perched on my toes, squatting alongside the bullet, throttle on one hand, I blissfully ignored the stares from the cars I had passed not a long time ago. I open throttle to locate the source of the noise. Bingo!! The KBC style “Aap ka jawab… bilkul sahi hai” applause-applause effect. What follows next is easy, you just need to open your set of tools, find the 12inch spanner and pair of pliers and tighten the nut. You are now the hero, the greased fingers adding to the effect. I guess, I even returned some of the stares of the cagers (aka cars) then. The heroic moment couldn’t have been more evanescent though. Barely seconds later, the rattle returned. In the first bend-over look, I saw one and in the next, another - there were two loose bolts, nuts missing. If things had stayed this way, it would have been one nutty ride. At Maddur, I stopped at the only mechanic shop that was open that early. For one bolt the match was easy, the other one needed treatment on a table vise with some oil to help the screwing job.
I bypassed Mysore straight to Nanjangud. Stopped over at a cousin, Veena’s place for breakfast of red dosas with honey. Just outside Nanjangud, the rains caught up. As I pulled over into an abandoned hotel to change to rain gear, an all smiling family in a car were vehemently waving out at me.
The route to Gundlupet brought back vivid memories of the ride to Masanagudi. To reach Wayanad, you need to take a left just after Gundalpet. The road is sooper, with perfect picture postcard scenery all along. The cool breeze, the mild drizzle, the endless fields of Marigold and Maize and the Nilgiri hills in the background, with the clouds crowing the peak, just soak in I say. No amount of photography skills can frame such serene beauty (not a bad excuse for some sloppy fotos, eh). Met a bullet couple – Deepang and wifey on their way to Wayanad.
I saw some elephants in the Bandipur forest range and some buffaloes as I entered Wayanad. And then there was this bullet headed in the opposite direction, wasn’t going nowhere really. Two mallus were trying to get it started, kicking frantically. I put on the mechanic manja hat, parked my bullet and said “battery” (that, it was the name of the place where I was going had nothing to do with it, btw) and they checked for loose connection, found a solder had come off, kept it in place and it started.
I reached Sultan Bathery (pronounced bàthérry) at 2 in the afternoon. Pradeep’s bro, Pramod and Eldo run an internet café- CopyCat, in the center of the town. I dropped in there, shed off the extra layers of clothing (it takes a while really) and off load the saddle bag. I must have looked extra-terrestrial in the first sighting, reinforced by the fact that I didn’t speak no Malayalam (you never know if I typed that backwards, ha ha).
Jitesh helped me with making plans for the rest of the day. First, lunch and a nearby Hotel Prince - biryani, salad and water flavored with Pathimukam bark, which gives a red tinge to the water. Legend is that five buckets (big ones) of this can get you drunk.
Edakkal Caves:
This is about 15kms from Sultan Bathery, the ride takes you through narrow, winding roads. A forest department jeep takes you to the foot of the Ambukuthi hill. The Kannada phillum, “Edakkal Gudada mele”, was shot here. It is a long trek uphill, a rope climb sometimes, stone steps or an iron ladder otherwise. The view from the top is what you have do this climb for. I raced down from the place with hopes of also riding to Soochipara falls that evening. But with all the clouds and rain, I was advised against it.
I got back to CopyCat and settled down in a room in Prince Lodge. I joined Eldo, Jitesh and Rajin in their Saturday night pardy – Napoleon Whiskey (bottoms-up with soda) followed by Poori and ‘kattan chai’ (black tea) at a TattuKada (some tattukada stories here). The quote for the day would have to be “ade poitilla, ade eeni varugeyam illa”, “it has not gone, it will not come”, Rajin’s description of his love story. I got some tips on how-to-grow-hair by one Dhoni style server at the tattukada. Ask Appututtan Ungle, they say, so simble no. Sleep happened only at 1:30am.

Day Two:
Route – Sultan Bathery > Soochipara > Pookote Lake > Kozhikode > Malappuram > Guruvayur > Kochi
Distance – 380 kms
Moolah – 450 (Petrol) + 100 (Lodge) + 5 (Biscuit) + 50 (ol’ couple) + 15 (Pookte entry) + 18 (Omlette) + 15 (temple) = 653
Pack up and checked out by 6 in the morning. I had to visit Soochipara falls and Pookote lake before I leave Wayanad. Asking for directions in Kerala is something of an art. You have use all your organs (hands, fingers, eyebrows, small intestine to make those noises that is supposed to pass off as Malayalam) for the exercise. And when I found this one local who replied in Kannada, I got him to make my entire travel plan – ride to Soochipara, then Kalpetta and Pookote lake.

Soochipara Falls: (Soochi = needle, para = rock)
The ride to the falls was divine. The road curves through endless hills draped with a velvet carpet of multi shades of green estates, a belligerent sliver rivulet and clouds which lowered themselves to add to the beauty. A 20km ride in the tea estates took me to the end of the road. I parked at the only house on top and trusted the old couple with my saddle bag. I had to once again put my acting skills to test to figure out the directions. You have to walk a kilometer or so down stone steps into thick forest. The light drizzle, thick undergrowth and the ever-increasing roar of the falls can give anyone goose bumps. You don’t know what to expect, how far you have to go, and have no one to ask - the feeling can be quite enervating. In Soochipara, the suspense is well preserved, an emotional roller-coaster - from a feeling of anxiety to one of pure joy. One could sit there looking at the water mass and forget the world. And why I enjoyed it most, was because I was, with myself.
Pookote Lake:
Any place, even if only dotted with a few people would fail to impress after Soochipara falls. Pookote lake is a picnic spot, with boating, children’s park, horse ride, the works. I liked it for the Bread omelette and the morning jog around the lake. I also liked the two girls who were alone, tried to strike a conversation. But just after the ‘hi’ I realized, I doing bad on time and couldn’t afford such luxuries (we can take the true version offline; can’t we?).
The ride down from Kalpetta to Kozhikode is also very scenic, offering a great view of the ghats. Foot-lever scrapping stunts were impossible, the bad roads more than made up for the great view.
IIM Kozhikode:
I reached Kozhikode at noon, over shot the IIMK campus by 7kms, before spotting the not so prominent entrance to the campus. The trick to enter the campus is to not stop and ask for permission. I was so confident of this; I even gave an unsuspecting security guard a lift to the top. IIMK is on top of two hills – one houses the faculty quarters and the other the hostels and the acad blocks. With little help from Gaurav Banerjee, I located a group of Bangaloreans chilling out at the cafeteria – Suma, Sheeba, Simon and Bala. The energy and vibrancy of the campus life with discussions of projects, placements, B-schools contests, I vicariously re-lived it all in those two hours on campus. Simon was kind enough to show me around campus and more importantly, to offer me lunch at the mess. Picturesque campus with a panoramic view of the hills and coconut grooves and tiled roof Kerala style architecture, makes it one of the best campuses I have seen.
Guruvayur temple:
When I left IIMK, I neither expected the bad roads nor the weather to turn so hostile. To add to it, there were local buses with some unruly driving on those potholed roads. Soon after I left Kozhikode, the skies opened. Boredom / mental fatigue peaked during this stretch and I simply wanted to get done with all of this. I reached Guruvayur amidst incessant rain at 4:30, parked at the temple grounds, dropped off the bags at the cloak room and changed into panche (mundu) and towel. I took a dip at the temple pond, Rudratheertha, before I joined the single long queue to enter the temple. The temple was not spectacular, and one minute in the sanctum was hardly enough to evoke any religious fervor. The temple and the deity are very powerful. You can read all about Guruvayur here.
Back on the highway at 6:30, I covered good ground in the twilight. Tail light strategy was deployed yet again to counter those fackers with high beams. For some distance I followed a taxi, and then a KL07 7773 Qualis. I am getting to enjoy this kind of night riding, using taxis to my advantage. The rain and the darkness were not too much of a deterrent and I reached Cochin by 8:30. Salil, my close friend from MCE days, came to direct me to his house, off the Cochin-Trivandrum highway. I received a warm welcome with sweets, halwa and tea at his mansion.
After story-telling, photographs and dinner I hit the bed at 11:30pm.

Day three:
Route – Kochi > Komarakom > Ambalapuzha > Kollam > Attingal > Trivandrum > Kovalam
Distance – 200 kms
Moolah – c/o Salil = priceless
Salil, Arsheen, his MIL, a cousin and I left in Salil’s car for Trivandrum at 8:30, although we had made ambitious plans of leaving at 6. It is so different traveling in a car; I read this bit in ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ and can’t agree more. You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.
The rain continued to torment us and I welcomed being caged for the drive. Arsheen was Salil’s speed monitor. We stopped to check out a beach close to Ambalapuzha where a river meets the sea, filled ourselves up with masala dosas at one government run Aaram restaurant. We did a lot of visiting relatives in Trivandrum. First at Kollam, Arsheen’s sister’s place, then Attingal - checked out Salil’s dad’s furniture store and the new house being constructed. Arsheen, Salil and I then visited my Atte’s house in Karamana. I missed the street and almost ended up visiting the wrong folks.
At 5ish, we left to Kovalam beach. Most of the beach had been eaten up, and there was work underway to prepare the beach for the oncoming tourist season. There were no nude, sunbathing firangs, it was independence eve, after all. Salil went berserk with the camera and unleashed all his photography skills. We left Kovalam just after sunset. It was night when we reached Aatingal, and we decided to stay over for the night and return to Cochin the next morning.

Day Four:
Route – Trivandrum > Varkala > Kaapil > Kochi
Distance – 200kms
Moolah – 60 (fruits) + 200 (dinner) = 260
Arsheen, Salil and I started to Cochin at 6:30 in the morning. We stopped over at Kaapil beach near Varkala. The backwaters on one side of the road and the sea on the other side makes a spectacular view. There isn’t too much of a beach here really. We were quite famished when we reached home at Cochin at 12:30 or so. We hit the bed immediately for a pre-lunch nap.
There were two things that hit me when I entered Kerala. One was the rain and the other was the beautiful model in one of the billboards of Seemati Silks. These billboards were all along the highway to Cochin. I wanted to see more of Seemati. Salil and I left in the evening, first visited one of my aunt’s place in Ernakulam, then went to see Fort Kochi. We visited the Santa Cruz Church, the Dutch Cemetery, and Fort Kochi.

We picked up Vinod Sankar, my colleague in sales (IBM’s got a 4 member strong office in Kochi, Vinod has to actually pull down the office shutter when he leaves). A drive down MG Road was a feast for the eyes, with all those billboards from the Seemati, Alukas and Jayalakshmis. Read more about them in this Hindu article here. I liked the Seemati model particularly, there was so much left to imagination in that one! “Shhradda ver thirikuga”, “Concentrate on the side that matters” read the caption. After dinner at a nearby mall, we headed home. Sleep came easily at around 11pm.

Day Five:
Route – Kochi > Trissur > Palakad > Salem > Mettur > Hosur > Bangalore
Distance – 550 kms
Moolah – 450 (Petrol) + 30 (Breakfast) + 500 (Petrol) = 980
I woke up at 530, packed up and took leave of Salil and Arsheen by 6:15. The plan was simple, finish the 550km ride to Bangalore asap. The first destination was 190 kms to Coimbatore. There is a stark contrast between Kerala and Tamil Nadu - Kerala is densely populated, in my whole ride/drive in Kerala there was not a patch of highway that was barren. The moment you enter TN, the landscape changes dramatically, as if someone told people that TN was not to be densely populated or something. And the moment I entered TN, it stopped raining completely. I stopped 20kms before coimbatore, at a Reliance A1 plaza for breakfast - Poori and Vada.
I left there at 0950, hoping to reach Salem, 200kms away by lunch time. The roads were good, mostly toll roads and reached Salem in 3hours time. I was not very hungry, decided to stop for fuel and cool off the engine for sometime. I made a lot of friends at one BP petrol bunk – Murugan traders. While the proprietor shared his pulsar stories, one of the worker boys described me as a ‘veera’. I spent the next 30mins with these people.
When I left Salem, the plan was to stop at the A1 plaza before Hosur for lunch. But I lost my way, and instead of going on the NH47 to Krishnagiri and Hosur, ended up taking a SH via Mettur. Even after so many highway rides, I still manage to lose my way. Anyways it wasn’t bad at all, road was good, and interesting with curves and dotted with villages. It however, bypassed the A1 plaza and I had to bypass my lunch. It was about 4 in the evening at Hosur and I was eager to get home before the e-city traffic hits Hosur road.
I reached home at 4:45, after making the 550kms stretch after 10.5hours, averaging nearly 60kmph on road. The rest of the evening was spent in resting my over worked butt.
The earth continued to move slowly in its diurnal course…

Fotos are available here -

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chunchi Falls

Date: 06 August 2006
Where: Chunchi Falls
Distance: 230 odd kms
Route: Bangalore-Kankapura-Chunchi falls
For all those of you who wanted a change, may I present my pillion rider and a guest riter Swetha. This is what she had to say...

hi folks!!puttin' down an experience on paper is definitely not easy(especially for me!!) Since i have been given a chance to do so...I'll try my best.
where do i start?!! ummmmm....ok, let's begin with it's name,"chunchi". I have no idea why it is called so (Manoj, it is chunchi for sure not chinchu or anythin' else!!)but it sounds chinese.
We started to this place on the rock-steady Thunderbird at 11.00AM, though the scheduled time was 10.30AM (thanks to me). I was told that this place comes after Kanakpura and the ride to Kanakpura was slow (thanks to the B'lore traffic). Once we got there we asked for directions to the "chunchi falls" and learnt that it is about 20Km from kanakpura. Well, the ride from Kanakpura to chunchi was the best coz' u r away from the city and u own BOTH the bike and the road and one can speed to the max. This i can say coz' i was tryin' to hold myself together or stop myself from flyin' away!!wut i like about the highways is, even though u r not sure of the route, with a lil' (or lots) of help from the localites u can definitely reach ur destination (even if you have a pathetic road sense).
We finally reached the chunchi falls at about 1.00 PM. Initially we weren't sure if we were at the right place, but when we spotted a lady who took care of the tourists' vehicles, we weren't doubtful anymore. You have to walk a little while to actually get to the falls and this for me was fun, coz' it was like a mini-trek. You'll also find a couple of old people, but if u r generous ($$) to them they'll certainly guide you.
What we saw at first was a small stream flowing down the rocks and was a lil' disappointed (and i was wondering how can one call this "falls"?!!).But, thanks to our curiosity and a sweet grandpa who told us to go a lot further. He was like "inna mundee hogi" well, people , even if the rocks are not very slippery ,u cud slip and fall!!(guyz with gals wait for such golden opportunities!!) so better be careful!!
After the short trek wut we saw was amazing!! I am out of words (thanks to my vocabulary) to describe it. There are huge rocks all around u , with water flowing down (Manoj says it's the Arkavathi river which ultimately joins Sangam). I am sure we were lookin' like tiny insects on these huge rocks!!
Wut i missed the most at this point was the camera. Another thing that was on our side, was the was pleasant and though it was 2.00 in the afternoon, we didn't feel the heat at all. I was for once really silent coz' i was awed by the beautiful scenery in front of me (until then i was talkin' non-stop). We were forced to leave the beautiful place behind as i had to get back home.
Hey people!! CHUNCHI is a pretty much hidden place and not many know about it. But it is definitely a place worth visitin' coz' you are away from the city buzz in a short time and I can say that it is a treasure for the artists and nature lovers. It definitely has taught me to appreciate and care for nature.
Well, Manoj u asked me for a "short" write-up but as u can see it isn't, actually i was so excited about the entire trip that i just couldn' miss out on anythin'.I certainly can't conclude without thanking CHUNCHI, THUNDERBIRD (Bullet with feelings) and the man responsible for all this, Mr. Manoj K Bhat, thanks a ton!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Run # 419

Sunday, 30th July 2006

Hares: Flame thrower, push mush, shrinking prick, illishit relationship
With the marathon happening next month, I needed a hash dose to provide the impetus to the preparation. This Hash run was conveniently on Bellary Road close home. My bullet had also got back from Nandan’s and I was raring to test ride. Good chance to test my legs and the bullet, I thought.

The run location was at Greek Agora, a eco-farm off Chikkajalla police station on Bellary road. The weather in Bangalore is only getting better by the day. There were only about 15 of us for the run.
As I was running I had these random thoughts on why I run at all. There was a steady uphill on the tarmac road. I was running with another veteran hasher, (yes, I forgot the name, so what!!!) we were silent listening only to the tip toe tip toe rhythm our shoes made in sync as they hit the tarmac. Prisil in his Chautauqua, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance talks about three kinds of quietness – the physical, the mental and the value quietness.
The inner peace of mind occurs at three levels of understanding. The physical quietness is the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried alive for many days. Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved. But value quietness, in which one had no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desire that seems to be the hardest.
I would think of mental quietness to be addictive in a way. It must be that which gets us spending those Sunday afternoons in the blazing sun, rather than the warmth of our homes. Tip-toe-tip-toe we reached the starting point. It must have been about 7-8kms run, we had run for close to an hour. There were a couple of walkers who were lo(a)st-in, causing a delay in starting off beering.
The Hash circle, albeit a small one this time, had enough entertainment. Hares were iced, there was a virgin too. New-shoes deserved some rough treatment. There were 2 firangs with new shoes, as they were iced, they were made to drink beer off their left shoe with the hash song in the background.
“Here's to new shoes, they're so blue
They are Hashers through and through
They are hashers so they say
Tried to go to heaven but they went the other way
Drink it down down down down ... (until beer is finished or tipped on head)”
On the closing on the circle, hard-on took us through the “Sweet Chariot” song.
Swing low, sweet char-i-o-ot,
Cumin' four two carry me home...
Swing low, sweet char-i-o-ot,
Cumin' four two carry me home.
I looked over Jordon,
And what did I see-ee,
Cumin' four two carry me home...
A band of An-gels,
Cumin' after me-ee,
Cumin' four two carry me home...
A pleasant ride back and I was home before the sun went down.

For all the uninitiated, if you made it this far without figuring out a word of what I was saying, I have put together a few links that may help you.

Hash History -
Hash Songs -

Fotos on