Monday, January 28, 2008

Run-Way Run

Guess what, in a couple of months time, when the Bangalore International Airport gets operational, there would be a few RFLers who can boast of having been atop the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) tower and having spread our hands and attempted to take off from the run way!
Thanks to Marcel, the COO of BIAL, a HASHer and a strong runner himself, we got the clearance to run at the Airport.

As always, I bulleted down to Devanahalli, which is like 30kms from Hebbal. But on that winter morning, the fog was thick, reducing visibility to a few feet and soaking the leather jacket. There was no traffic around to do my famous tail-light principle and I had to keep the speed real low. The saving grace was the markers on the road which were the only indication that the road was curving or otherwise. Boy, I loved the short, 0-visibility ride.
Also meant I got some exclusive pics of the ATC with the sunrise in the backdrop. Check out the colors on this one!
The run started at 7am or so. With Mumbai marathon just round the corner, no one was planning very long ones. I had myself planned to do a short 10km run. Marcel gave the clearance to taxi slowly onto the run-way. The fog and sun battled on the runway as we ran up and down, 8kms back to the Helipad. The Nandi Hills offers a fantastic backdrop to the terminal.
We then climbed up 13 floors to the top of cuckoo’s nest – the Air Traffic Controller tower. From up there, it was as if the entire airport was spread out in front of us on a 360º map.
Marcel Hungerbuhler, the COO himself, took around the terminal pointing to the departure and arrival gates, the aero bridges, the baggage carousels, the retail spaces – most of them well on target to meet the 31st March deadline. I was particularly impressed with the jalousie-like roof of the terminal. The terminal will handle 9million fliers, up from the 4.5 million which was estimated when the project kicked-off. The overruns seem to have been handled well by BIAL. We were also privy to the future plans including a second airstrip and another terminal taking the traffic up to 30million by 2010. That would mean a good million look-a-like, chiki-eyed, Chinese airhostess clones... woopsa!

At the end of the run, I was presented with the plaque which said, “This plaque is presented to the individual who ran for the longest duration at the First Bangalore Ultra Marathon.” I had surely hoped for a better audience while I received this one ;)
Monica rode back with me making sure my Bullet had enough G-force to remain grounded!
Coming up Mumbai Marathon and another runway run…
Photos at:

Much better technicalities on Suresh Blog
Anita Boras reports here - her take on completion.
From the Press, featured on Bangalore Mirror, here

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stalking Shimoga

How close you are to someone is not a function of distance…
…and if you really think there is distance, put a bullet right through it!

In a spur of a moment decision, I decided to do just that. I will refrain from revealing what transcribed on the Friday evening that snowballed into taking the decision – we can think it as an Euphoria from a good morning run, even better interview and a sooper prank.

So, on 22nd morning I fuelled up, paid a quick visit to MTech, more to ease my guilt of not servicing my bullet for 5000kms now. At 1pm, I was off, on the highway headed towards Tumkur and Tiptur towards Shimoga.

Riding Alone?
Technically, yes, I had more than one person’s share of emotions, thoughts and enthu to make up for it. Riding alone comes with a lot of positives – you are your own boss, one less pair of sore buttocks to worry about and hey, you can fantasize about the n-no. of possibilities of filling the pillion seat (the grapes are sour, eh).

The ride

Day 1 – Bridging Gaps, real and virtual

Reached Shimoga in about 5hours after negotiating some 300kms of road, to the nearest (only!) internet café. Pillion rider or not, I still had to make some plans for the following 2 days. I stayed over at Shyla aunty’s place at Shimoga and her tenant helped me finalize a tight plan for the next 3 days covering a lot including Yana.

Day 2 – Of a stubborn Goddess and Kaptivating Kodachadri
I finished my 12km jog in the morning, yes, Mumbai marathon is just around the corner. The plan was to cover Kollur and Kodachadri and head back to Shimoga for the night. I only managed to reach Kollur only by noon. Long Qs for darshan and lunch ensured that I was way off my plan. It’s only about 30kms from Kollur to Kodachadri.

"Good things come slow - especially in distance running." Bill Dellinger

Even as I navigated thru the worst stretch of road to Kodachadri, I had a premonition of what was in store. The last 3kms is the killer. The steep uphill dirt/rocky track was uneven, slippery and very tricky to ride. Most people trek or take jeeps that ferry people to the Inspection Bunglow and Bhatta’s place on top. No second thoughts, if I endured an Ultra last week, it was the turn of my bullet now. I reached the top at 430ish. The view of the hills was so enchanting, I simply had to change my plans for the night. The IB was already full of trekkers. I parked my stuff with a group of trekkers, changed into my running shoes and headed off to the top to catch the sunset, doing my spread-thy-wings on the edge of a cliff!

Running shoes, an extra pair of socks, sunscreen, goggles were the contents of my tank bag. My leather jacket was the only protection against the howling breeze. Luck surely favors the brave, I met a long lost friend Sharath and his cousins who were carrying extra sheets.

Mythology has it that, goddess Mookambika killed Mookasura in tearing fury here. The goddess was so fierce that Shankaracharya meditated at Kodachadri, invoked and pacified the goddess. Though the goddess now-a-days are less furious, winning them over is no less penance. (ask me how I know!)

Day 3 – One moves the soul, the other stops the heart!

Day 3 was when it all rose in a crescendo. It started at 5AM on top of the gusty Kodachadri. I trekked up alone in the twilight to catch the first rays of the sun. A group of trekkers who had camped overnight were stirring at a distance. I perched on the edge of a cliff to watch the spectacle. The night was cold and cloudless; I identified the moon, the North star, the Ursa Major and minor, while I thought of a lot other celestial bodies. (tooo much no!). The sun took it time coming up. But thanks to the 360° panorama, I was witness to the battle of light and darkness. No words can explain it – the intensity and spread of the orange and blue takes over from the shades of black. What bliss, but it took its time, alright!

After breakfast at Bhatta’s place and bone-breaking ride we headed towards Singandoor. It was Sharath who suggested I visit Singandoor temple and ride to Sagar. We bathed in waist-deep rivulet, something I hadn’t done in a long time now.
The deity at Singandoor, Chowdeshwari is believed to be very powerful by the locals, I passed in my own chota ‘list’ at the temple.

The Launch

The Sharawati backwaters separate Singandoor from Sagar, but everyone makes way for a Bullet. The Dept of Ports runs a Launch to ferry people, bikes, cars, vans and buses across the river. It was yet another first time for me, the 20min ride was fantastic – the ride only costing 1Re per head and 5Rs for the Bullet! Those denominations don’t seem to exist in Bangalore no more.

At Sagar, I was reunited with the net, I had important mails to reply to. I made a quick pit stop at a Bullet Mechanic for some chain tightening. The ‘pro’ quickly rattled off a series of repairs that were due and remarked how I had managed to ride all the Bangalore on this one. That is the beauty that my bullet is! Its almost a compliment when someone says that, like someone said I was looking fresh after having run 6hrs on the Ultra day!

Next quick visit was to Honnemaralu (Honnu = pearl, maralu = sand) near Sagar. Honnemaralu is a camping site, a nature camp, located on the banks of Sharawati backwaters. I went on a short row-boat ride, while the boatman Ganesh explained the purpose and concept of the NGO that runs the place. It offers boating, camping, swimming and trekking facilities, perfect for a 3days holiday. I promised myself I would be back there sometime soon.

Promise or no promise, I was surely back at the internet café at Sagar soon enough. All the praying seemed to have worked, I was almost riding-in-the-air on my way back to Shimoga, that’s how you ride when you are on cloud 9!

The day had begun with the sunrise-treat to the eyes, the day ended with a treat to the ears – if it was the soul that was touched in the morning; it was the turn of the heart in the evening! What a day, I say!

Day 4 – Curtains!

As I rode back, singing along the song Anisutide from Mungaru malé, one thing was certain, what I had seen, experienced and left behind was a lot of unfinished business. Shimoga will have to be stalked yet again, albeit better planned and less hurriedly…

Ride Plan
Day1: Bangalore/1300 – Tumkur – Tiptur – Arsikere – Tarikere – Bhadravati – Shimoga/1800 (300kms)
Day2: Shimoga/0900 – Ayanur – Hosanagara – Nagara – Kollur/1215 (120km)
Kollur/1430 – Nagodi - Nittur - Kodachadri/1630 (40kms)
Day3: Kodachadri/0830 – Sigandur/1200 (70kms) - - - Sagar/1600(30kms) – Tagupa (50kms) – Honnemaralu/1700 (8kms) – Sagar - Shimoga

What I missed:
Sagar – Varadapeeta Moola(1km) – Keladi (8km) – Ikkeri (4kms) – Jog (40kms) – SahasraLinga/Marikamba temple – Siddapura – Sirsi/Sonde (50kms) – Yana (40kms)

Selected fotos at here/c1441307.html