Monday, February 19, 2007

300kms of nothingness

Route: Bangalore > Hassan > Sakleshpur > Gundya > Dharmastala > Bantwal > Mangalore
Distance: 397kms
Thanks to Aero India, the Karnataka Cauvery Bandh was postponed to 12th Feb, Monday, adding the much needed one extra day to my itinerary. I decided to take a detour to Dharmastala en route to Mangalore, where I had to attend the Brahmopadesham of my first cousin’s son, Shreyas.
This was the second trip post-surgery, first solo. Apprehensions were at all time high. I left Bangalore at 6:30 on Saturday. I was so famished on the first leg till Bellur cross, about 110kms from Bangalore, the first bite of the plain dosa was savored by all my taste buds. Apply the law on diminishing returns on a full stomach, and the second dosa will certainly not taste as good (esp. after a couple of idlys).
From there on, I did a continuous 180kms or so till I nearly reached Dharmastala in about 2.5 hours. You have to take a right turn on the Shirdi ghat, 12 kms from Gundya pass. There is only one general queue which leads to the ticket counter at the entrance. A cool 150 bucks for a normal archana or 330 bucks for another archana. I wonder if these profitable temples maintain some kind of finance books. There is nothing on the net on this. Anybody, Anything?
I had this terrible headache all the time, and wanted to desperately catch a quick forty winks. The place was swarming with people, it was not quite appropriate and with Mangalore some 70 odd kms away, I thought I would do it at home.
As I was cruising along, there was this sudden festivity around a bend before Beltangadi. I learnt that this was KavaluKote village and a Kambala was on. I had my first encounter with the Kambala Buffaloes on my KP trip. The race was on in full spirit. Clad in leather jacket and gloves, ankle boots and a camera in tow, I got some questioning stares from the crowd. The headache vanished after that brief break and I reached Mangalore at 4 in the evening, to a nap and recharge.

Sunday was the day of the Brahmopadesham while the bullet remained parked at home.

ayyayoo anyaya ayyayoo anyaya
Monday, 12th Feb, was the day of Karnataka’s answer to the Cauvery tribunal verdict. Mangalore I would leave early and being far from the Cauvery basin, was not prone to any protests. I was anxious about crossing Sakleshpur, Hassan and Chanraypatna – all belligerent towns infamous for their mob mentality.
I was only able to leave Hebbar’s by 8am after a good breakfast of Ukma prepared by my loving cousin sister. I left traffic as I reached the BC road, from there on, there was NO traffic on the roads. The ghats belonged to me on that day, I would have passed less than 10 cars/trucks in the entire 300kms.
First stop was at Sakleshpur, which was oddly calm. As I approached Hassan blissfully enjoying the empty roads, I encountered my first road block. At Byrasandra forest check post, a group of about 30 villagers, had the road blocked from all sides. I silently parked in the side waiting for the initial protest to die down. There are sympathizers in any mob and one such suggested I wait for a few minutes and then push my bullet some distance and then ride off. And so it happened.
There were no incidents anywhere else. Road blocks, tire burning, protesters gathering shouting slogans would dot the empty roads, but no stoppages. Hassan, Yediyur, Kunigal, Nelamangala passed without incident. And with 30kms to home, while I was looking at a good 5.5 hours Bangalore-Mangalore record, I encountered the second road block - the highway is blocked with stones, twigs, burning tires. The protesters are typically youth and children, led by one or two local thugs. These leaders are usually drunk and have more than one mandate to fulfill. It is shocking and unfortunate to see kids take up canes impersonating the others, bullying people on roads.
I was made to park and join a group of other unlucky souls, then the ‘leader’ of the group puts a couple of questions and then gets to you shout slogans. And while the bad-mouthing of tamilians continues, we push our bikes across the barricade and ride away.
This charade continues a couple of more times, sometimes the barricades within 500m of the other.
As I neared the city (Jalahalli cross), the crowd grew larger and more belligerent, I took a deviation into one of the villages, rode on near non-motorable kucha roads and hit Jalahalli cross.
Despite the splendid ride, the premonition of namma Bengalooru turning into a social inferno, left a bitter after taste.