Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bang to Bhag! Trip of lifetime

“The train won’t be able to get you to Chennai in time. Also, its raining heavily out there. Be careful…” were the words that Satish spoke out when he heard my plans of visiting Bhagalpur, my home town. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon of 27th October. According to my plan, I was scheduled to leave by the night train, Chennai Mail, for Chennai, where I needed to board Coromandel Express for Howrah at 9am. There was a disruption in rail traffic to Chennai due to a mishap near Bangarpet, about 60kms from Bangalore. As a result, the trains bound to Chennai were diverted through Salem, making the total journey time to Chennai double of normal time, nearly 10 hours.

It was raining ‘Bulls and Cows’ as I finally decided to make a move from office around 4pm. But I was prepared – equipped with a water resistant jacket, a Bermuda and Woodland’s sandals. Yes, that was my dress code for office that day! I went home, packed my bag, had an early dinner and was off in, well, not exactly a flash, but then, I tried my level best to be quick! By 7:30pm, I found myself at Kempegowda Bus Terminus, searching desperately for a ticket in any Chennai bound bus. After some great tussle and hustle, I finally managed to get an Airavat (a KSRTC Volvo bus) ticket for 10:10 departure. The bus left only by 10:45pm, but I was not bothered, as I trusted the bus to make it to Chennai latest by 6 next morning. I was not disappointed; I found myself in Chennai at 5:15. The bus was late by an hour but no one was complaining!

As I got down of the city bus (that I boarded from the interstate bus terminus to avoid the flooded streets), it was nearly 6. Glad to be in Chennai Central (railway station), I called up home, just to be informed that Babul Bhaiya (my cousin, staying in Hyderabad) or BB hereby, was also reaching Howrah on the same day as me, and that he would be taking the same train to Bhagalpur. I was more than glad, for I had not met him for more than 2 years! ‘What a time ahead of me!’ With the ‘worst’ part of my travel already over, I was really getting excited, wishing that the journey to Howrah would have been 4hours instead of the normal 1day and 4hours! What I wasn’t aware of was of course the great journey ahead of me… A journey 1 of its kind!!

As I entered the station, I saw never ending queues of Homo sapiens at all the ticket counters! It looked as if they were distributing free tickets!! Puzzled, as I moved forward towards the Ticket Status Enquiry phone booths, I noticed that none except one of the electronic displays was working. To my irritation, same was the case for the enquiry booths; I had to check the allotted berth (as I was wait-listed when I bought the ticket, but got a confirmation just before I started for Chennai). As I diverted my attention to the ‘last man standing’, the display board was flashing a list of all delayed and cancelled trains. ‘Ah! Just because of 1 train mishap, a hell lot of trains have been affected!’ But wait! I was about to get the first shock of the morning! The very first name was ‘Tamil Nadu Express’. Now I knew that this train was not Bangalore bound, but in fact was to go towards Vijayawada (with final destination as New Delhi), which was the precise route I was to go on… As I read the list further down, terror stuck – the last train number read as follows: 2842, Coromandel Express was also in the list! What a waste!! Firstly, they had not informed me in advance about the cancellation, and secondly, they could have delayed the train in worst case. Then it dawned to me – the queue at the ticket counter was not for getting tickets, but for getting full refund of the tickets already purchased!! ‘Why did they cancel the train just because Chennai was flooded? Once we move out of the city, it would have been fine again! I had a buffer of 8 hours of transit time in Howrah…’

Just as proceeding towards Tirupati started to take shape, someone informed that ‘Andaman Express’ (bound to Delhi via same route as Tamil Nadu Express) was about to leave from platform no 9. I was quick to grab the opportunity and with some luck found the train moving by 6:30! I called up BB to update him of my situation.

‘I’ll be there in Vijayawada by 2:30pm’

‘But my train, Falaknuma Express is also scheduled for a delayed start of around 2 hours, thanks to heavy rain in Visakhapatanam!’

So THAT was the problem of all these cancellations… I wondered.

‘If you get a train for Howrah in quick time, don’t wait for me in Vijayawada, as I may reach there only around 1 o’clock at night!’, continued BB.

‘As you say…’ I murmured.

‘Once you are about to reach Vijayawada, give me a ring.’


---More to come!

Monday, October 17, 2005

2005-10-08: The 'Puncture' trip

“Veer tum bade chalo, dheer tum badhe chalo
Samne pahaad ho, ya singh ki dahaad ho…”

This classic was the poem for the three musketeers. These three were – Abdulla, Rishi and Milind or ARM! This was the first ever bike trip for A, while the first night drive for M. As for R, it was his first solo riding trip. Yes, these guys were going on their individual bikes, no one wanted to miss out a kilometer by being a pillion for this time!

Destination – Marvanthe, to be traversed in two steps, Bangalore to Mysore and then Mysore to Marvanthe (via Hunsur, Kushalnagar, Madikeri & Manglore). To come back to Bangalore via Mangalore, Sakleshpur, Hassan & Nelmangala (NH-48). Return expected to Bangalore - around 2am on Monday.

Saturday, 3pm – For a change, NOTHING started well. My faith in the INSAT pictures shown in ‘The Hindu’ was completely shattered! Instead of a pin point stop, the entire sky went wickedly dark! Not more than 3 kms of the imposing 1000+ kms, all the sky wanted to come down on us; suddenly, we found ourselves in Bagalkot, amidst knee deep water which didn’t look to recede back. With very heavy rain and me drenched, it got only worse when I lost A & M. they were moving ahead of me; it was decided that if we get separated, we’ll all stop over after 20kms. 2kms before the newly coming up ‘Wonder Land’, I stopped. When I called them up, all I could make out was that they were behind me, and both were thankfully together. Just as I messaged them updating my location, there came a bus and my cell took a quick shower, or rather swim! Wanted to call them from a land line, so went ahead till Wonder Land deviation. To my dismay, my cell had already taken a toll by this time and my phone book was not readable. All seemed vague… till I saw a black Fiero with a familiar face under the helmet; It was A. soon M also came by and we were together again. Only one tragedy had stuck them, M had lost his headlight! After an uneventful journey, we finally reached the Mysore Palace at around 8pm.

What a view it was! Last year, when I and Mukesh had come to capture the lighting, we were ahead by one day; the lighting had started only the next day onwards. Asking a nearby shop-owner, we came to know that the Palace will be lit till 10:30pm that night. This meant that we had ample time to shoot it from around as well as from atop Chamundi Hills (about 10-12 kms from palace). Then came the mistake of the trip – we went ahead on a shopping spree, 3 identical pair of socks were purchased and were made to exchange places with our wet ones. 8:55pm, just as I took aim of the Palace, the lights went off!

“How come the lights went off, some technical problem?”
“No sir, they are switched on only till 9pm, today they have put it down 5 minutes early…”
“But we were told that it stays on till 10:30pm!”
“That’s not correct, its there only till 9”

It was all over for us, at least, for my camera! Another inspiration of returning to Mysore Dassera next year… We went in the Palace premises at a time when everyone inside seemed to go in the opposite direction – OUT. Good for us, the photos were much neater than they would have otherwise.

11:30pm. After a full meal and a trial at M’s headlight (in vain, as even though we had purchased the bulb, we didn’t have equipment to fit it on the new pulsar assembly L). We started off towards Kushalnagar, (hoping that we would find a mechanic shop open, but again didn’t succeed till next day morning). Reaching Hunsur was a pain. The last time I had traversed this road about 2 years back (with Shiv), it was really good, I had done 70kms in flat 55 minutes. And… this WAS the SAME road, untouched by the PWD. It was very difficult to find it first, and when we actually found the ‘remains’, it was difficult to traverse. Fog further marred our speed. We did a mere 20kms/hr average for the 2 hours on road after Mysore. Better this to come! I suddenly realized that the road had become narrow. “Oh God! It has gone so bad that it has got shrunk too!” The most foolish thought to get into a moderately experienced biker! I could not recognize the road. Then, a bus over took us, written on its hind side was “Kannur”, a place in Kerela, south of Madikeri. Just as I really started getting suspicious, wonder happened. We were asked to stop at a check-post.

“Where are you going at the middle of night?”
“Then what are you doing on this way?”

Gosh!! We were indeed lost!

“Ok, no harm done, you can take the next right, and continue for 5kms. You’ll hit the Mysore-Kushalnagar road.”
“Thanks a lot sir!!”

For the first time in my night travel history, I had got lost without suspecting it much!
Finally, we were back on track, and reached Kushalnagar at 4am. Just as we crossed Nisargadhama, A stopped suddenly, “Check my rear tyre!” “Confirmed, lets go back to Kushalnagar…” For the first time in A’s bike history, any of its tyres had got punctured. With not a single repair shop open, we decided to call it a err… day!

10am. We were at a repair shop. When we came out, A had a new tube for his rear tyre, and M had a new headlight. After some time, we were gazing at the amazing statues of Lord Buddha and his disciples at Namdyoling Tibetan Monastery. A quick brunch after that and we were off towards Harangi Dam. Though a bit late as we had come after the monsoons got over, the dam was still a splendid sight!

3:30pm and we were off to Kuke Subramanya. Yes. Our plans had been modified by the morning break in Kushalnagar. Instead of continuing towards Marvanthe, we headed for Kuke, an important Hindu religious shrine on the foothills of Bisle Ghat. On the way, we passed through some very scenic and unique spots. E.g. the overhead canal bridge -- carrying water from Harangi Dam towards Mysore. After negotiating some very bad roads (which had become an intrinsic part of our trip), we reached the Bisle Ghat entrance. Its closed after 6pm for the entire night due to animal movement. We were lucky! We marginally made it, at 6:15pm.

That was one of the most enjoyable stretches of the entire trip. Light drizzle and those amazing, spectacular clouds!! Oh, it still gives me those shivers… The Ghat constituted of some wicked hairpin bends, and very thin roads. So thin that at few places, the over grown grass on either side of road were cris-crossing each other. As those 28kms of Ghat came to an end, we reached a junction which said, “Kuke, 4kms” towards right.

8:15pm. After taking our dinner, we went to the temple and had a darshan. Strangely enough, we didn’t get the prasadam; “Counter has been closed for the day!”

9.00pm. All three were ready to start the last leg of our trip. All this while, we were traveling away from Bangalore. It was time that we headed back. But again, not so easily… “Hey, you have a flat tyre!” Victim – A again!! Not once in 1 and half years, and twice in a day! It was his rear tyre again. 2 hours of ordeal in finding a repair shop and getting things back, and we finally were on our way back journey.

Those 20kms of non-existent road till Gudili didn’t bother us much, as we knew that once on NH-48, we would sail through. Gudili came and Gudili went. All we got was a glimpse of good road. As soon as we entered the all famous Shiradi Ghats, it was a familiar picture. Once again, NO ROADS!! And no road it was till the next 40kms, i.e. till we reached Sakleshpur. Once there, it was the NH-48 we had heard of – smooth as silk. Fog yet again saw to it that we didn’t go beyond 60kmph. Result – an amazing mileage by my bike. Rarely has it given me more than 50kmpl on highways!

If you think the story’s over, then you are fooled J. 5am, and it was my time to get a feel of ‘puncture’ fever. “Not in nearly 3 years, and now today at this point of time. Exchanging bikes with M (owing to his feather-light built), we continued till we found a 24-hour repair shop. Some drama it was, to persuade the guy to wake up and attend to our cause!! 1 more hour down the drain and we were back on road. Only this time, THERE WAS NO PUNCTURE!! The tube was still intact. It was indeed, just a fever…

Just as we entered Bangalore, finally at 9:15am (instead of 4am), A’s bike refused to start after he had put it off (I was on call). 5 minutes (after a small wire came to our rescue to by-pass the ignition switch) and we finally headed towards our homes. That was the last piece in the big cake of adventure called our ‘Puncture’ trip!! A and I managed to resume office the same day while M took a much deserved FTO.

Photos are now at myphotoalbum.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

2005-10-01: Biking in Pondicherry

My phone rang late at night; 0413-XXXXXXX was the number flashing on my cell. "Somewhere in Tamil Nadu, must be a wrong number..." As I pressed the green button on my cell and put the cell near my ears, a very familiar voice was on the other side. "Hey!! I'm here in Pondy, and you are coming here to visit me, and coming this weekend!!" It was Arnab. One trip together to Patna Rifle Shooting Competition with our parents had brought us together... that was more than 21 years back; we were still in nursery at that time!

It was already 10:30PM, and being a Friday night, it was impossible to get a bus ticket that late. Gloomy skies had already truncated any plans of riding down those ~300kms to Pondy on Bike :(. To add to it, few of my friends were coming down from Hyderabad to see me next morning... I had already given them commitment and could not turn it down now - they would have already be half way to Bangalore by now.

"I would try to start tomorrow some time, shall confirm the time before I leave." "Fine, BUT, you ARE coming!" "Ok baba, done!" It was more than two years that we had met last (in Kolhapur). That was the end of Friday.

Saturday morning, and I was done with the Hyderabad commitment by 12:15PM. By the time I reached back home, it was already 2:05PM, thanks to the EPIC, COLOSSAL etc etc traffic jam situation all over the city... Just managed to get the second last seat in a 3PM PSTC Volvo. After stuffing my bag with minimum clothes, my Camera (how can I leave it behind!!) and the Nike Cap that I had bought for Arnab while I was at Roseville. My roomie Amit volunteered to drop me to the Bus Stand. Thanks to his skillful driving, we meandered through a dead stop traffic and reached the bus JIT (yes, Just In Time!) at 3PM.

21:08PM and I was standing in front of JIPMER. After some 5 minutes, Arnab came in on his security guard's bicycle! Once we finished our dinner, it was shopping time!! With a total of 4kms of length covered within the next 50 minutes on foot and then 1.5 kms on his 'bike', we were grinning ear to ear! We had our scalp with us. One more thing to be said here... Arnab, though thinner than me, is still very fit; its not easy to tow a 90+ kgs guy on an Atlas Goldline!
As our 'gup' session finally took a break at 3AM, it was time to get some well deserved rest for what lied ahead on the next day for us.

11:45AM. After having a moderate breakfast and hunting around for my return ticket to Bangalore for a good hour, we were about to start for the Pondy Beach. We also had with us Dhur Jyoti, the roomie of Arnab at his guest house. It was time to burn some fat with us mounting these three rickety but functional 'definition' bikes - Atlas Goldline with 'Semi rickshaw tyres for extra life' at a modest rental of INR2.00 per hour. No deposits, but Arnab had to surrender his Company ID Card for that.

12:15PM. We were trying to beat the heat of a hot Pondy Sun at the beach, if you can call it a beach... mostly studded with huge boulders with a pinch of sand right in the middle of the shoreline stretch. To our ill luck, the Aurobindo Ashram nearby was closed for afternoon cleaning up. After gulping down a Choco-vanilla ice-cream cone each, we were off towards Auroville Beach, about 7kms on the Chennai bound Eastern Express Road. By the time we reached the Beach junction, we learnt that the Auroville 'city' was another 8kms from there.
All of us knew that even if we somehow managed to reach the city on our bikes, we would definitely not be able to make it back to Pondy bike rental shop... After all, riding a bike after a gap of nearly six years, and that too for such a humbling distance was no joke for us!

We had our lunch in a hut Restaurant near by Auroville Beach. The restaurant owner was kind enough to assure us that we could leave our bikes locked there, and that we will be safe there.

After negotiating with the auto rickshaw for INR 70 for dropping us to the city, we reached our destination around 3:30PM. To our disappointment, the main attraction of Auroville, the MaatriMandir - the temple for all, above all religions preaching humanity and nothing else was not accessible. The entry closes at 12:45PM on Sundays (and not at 4:30PM, like on other days of week). We went around the Information Center, and then took a mini tour of various means of them producing renewable energy. The video shown at the IC about the upcoming of Auroville was also very captivating! After grabbing Soda Lime at the cafeteria there, we started back towards the Beach.

Its one of the best beaches that I've seen in India, with pretty 'surfable' waves coming in every now and then. There were a couple of guys trying to put the waves to the exact use! Just one glitch here, not all of the beach was accessible to us, there seemed to be a restricted area right in the middle on the beach length. I was really disappointed for not able to traverse the entire length of the beach, from one end to the other. More so because we knew that it was already too late to get an entry in the Aurobindo Ashram back in Pondy (it closes at 6:15PM) as it was already 5:30PM. By the time we came back to the restaurant and started back after a cup of tea, it was nearly 6 o'clock. And this was not the end of it... Dhur's front 'Semi rickshaw tyres for extra life' gave in. Later in the puncture repair shop, it was revealed that the culprit was not one but two repairs, overlapping on each other. So in went the third layer of vulcanized rubber and we were back on track after a delay of 20 minutes. We came back to the Pondy Beach and spent some time there. The entire stretch was very well lit, with some special work around the statue of MG; wondering whether it’s always like that or because of that day being his birthday. The atmosphere was very well like a fair there.

Clicking through the place, we were finally back at the bike shop. A supreme figure of INR 48 was levied on us as the rental for our 3 bikes... After a moderate dinner, we were back at Arnab's guesthouse. Sanity returned as I took bath; the Pondy weather had taken its toll on me... being in Bangalore for six years has indeed made my body not as tough as it used to be earlier... 10:27PM, and the bus was on time at JIPMER. Morning 4:37 AM, and I was taking the morning walk from the Silk Board Jn to my house in Koramangala in Bangalore... It came and went past very quickly, but the Pondy experience was worth every bit of it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


You may visit flickr to view few of my shared photos.

2005-09-17: Trip to TungaBhadra Dam & Hampi

Here I am, with the first ever blog!! And with an account of my last trip, during the just gone weekend!! As been the case with me, there seemed no way for my trip to Hampi getting materialized. As you might be knowing, Hampi was the capital city of Vijaynagar Empire, and flourished during Krishna Dev Raya (associated with the legendary Tenali Ram). For more details, you may visit

I was down and out with last minute backing out of my so called 'would be pillions' (one of the things I have to face while you are not there in Bangalore). So much so, that when I got a 'no' from the 'last man standing' in my office, I made up my mind that I would go on this 350+ kms trip all alone. Raghu (my mentor @hp) had put ehough onus on to me to visit Hampi, and especially Tungabahadra Dam. He is from Hospet, the nearby town and I could take his words for granted anyday! Coming back, I knew that a lone ride might turn out to be boring, but I had faith in my bike and my camera equipment to give me support and company... Friday 5:30pm, and in came Anil (one of my office colleagues) with a casual and pleasant 'haan, theek hai, chalte hain'!! So it was now to be decided whether we departed on the same night or try something new -- leave next day early morning at 4am. In the end, it was yet another piece of joy waiting for me as we took off at 11:45pm, exactly the same time that I and Mukesh had left for Jog and Honnemardu; incedently, this was again at moonlit night with stars shining bright and we were to go in the very same direction from Bangalore (till Tumkur). The only thing I was hoping not to be the same were those TWO+ HOURS OF RAIN that we had encountered during journey to Jog! And this time, recalling Hanuman Ji helped, as it stayed that way, moonlit with stars with clear skies thought the journey! Boy, how I love driving at night :)

The next part of the story is a bit twisted. Twisted in a sense that w
e got all our assumptions regarding our travel time wrong! It was planned (Have I ever PLANNED my trips ever???) that this journey of ~350kms would take about 8 to 9 hours, considering that we would be moving slow through the night. Once in Hospet (our base town for Hampi and TungaBhadra Dam(TBD)), we'll visit TBD first, and then visit this Daroji (um.. I think that was the name) Bear Sanctuary. This would have finished day 1 for us. Next day till 1pm we would go around Hampi and then leave for Bangalore after lunch. But it was the end of any of these plans once we reached Chitradurga (~211kms from Bangalore). The problem was very simple -- after crossing the Reliance Office in Peenya, Bangalore (22kms from home) at 12:40, we hoped to reach Chitradurga by 4:30 - 5am and consequently Hospet not before 9am. If you are guessing why our plans 'failed', then heres the little fact -- we had covered those 189kms to Chitradurga in exactly 2hrs 30 minutes. This also included 2 breaks, 1 for grabbing a cup of tea and the other for Masala Dosa! Yes, a hot and delicious masala dosa at 2 o'clock at night!! So effectively 189kms in about 2hrs and 10 minutes. The best thing was that we didn’t even take '1%' risk. The credit goes to the amazing NH-4 which apart from few places where its still 2 lanes, is 4 lane through out with some 6 lanes in village areas. It has been fenced on either side so that stray cattle stays away from road!! The other helping factor was of course the time.. it was night time with all the local 'uneducated' traffic off road. The actual traffic consisted of the hundreds of trucks with few busses, sumos and a single bike - my beloved Pulsar 150!! And this journey has put more ink on the stamp that I give to the truck drivers, taking an average, "they are the BEST BEHAVED people on highway, especially at night, moving in single lanes and aware of the fact that God has given them a thing known as DIPPER on their vehicle!!".

We were there in Chitradurga at least 1hr 30min ahead of schedule.. this meant that we were at Tungabhadra Dam by 7:30... and what a sight it was when we reached there... what lied beyond those 'not so hi' walls was a definition 'sagar' the dam is full with all its 33 gates open. A little 'gift' to the security guards ensured that we were able to take our bike on the Dam and then later to the Guest House atop a small hill overlooking the dam. And guess what, there was a Hanuman temple at a little distance from this guest house. After some huffing and puffing could take a Darshan and did a 'dandwat' :) It was time to thank him for his support for our trip...

Once out of the temple and through with a few photos, we went down to a small garden adjacent to the dam. After taking some well deserved rest, we set of for Hampi, with a break in Hospet for uneventful lunch.. Once in Hampi, we went around like crazy. 'Not a single stone was left unturned' :D This was the first time that I showed any interest in anything beyond 'water', esp. in architecture... Visiting the bear sanctuary was completely ruled out as the entry timing was 3pm to 6pm. As the sun went down and a full moon rose to glory, we came out from the TB river that caressed the city. After all, I wasn’t THAT far from water, was I!! Hampi at night was a different sight all together. Combined with the moon light, there were these arrays of sodium and mercury vapor lamps that lit the structures, esp. the Vitthala Temple!! Truly artistic!! Majestic!!

Yes, there was one thing utterly disappointing and ridiculous!! One is NOT ALLOWED TO USE A TRIPOD FOR CAMERA in Hampi, even though use of camera itself is allowed. You have to get a written permission from their office to use it. As we didn’t have that permit, all those night shots went to the dogs :(( as the saying goes, 'for your EYES only'... As we started back for Hospet, nothing else was left to been seen... after an uneventful night, we started back for Bangalore around 9am. For a change, we didn’t reach home before 7:15pm, thanks to our numerous stops on the way back. Sometimes to just gaze at the landscapes, sometimes to get into those Sun Flower fields and put the camera into use.

This was a 771kms round trip and one that would stay in mind for some time!
Have the photos on the web at: