Thursday, January 05, 2006

2005-12-28: Karwar & Goa

9 days of furlough @hp.
4 out of 9 days already used up to visit ‘Malgudi’!
5 days remaining. Got to drive during day time only because of ongoing winter…
But one thing that never came out of our minds was GOA!

We had been waiting for this for a long time and one of two incidences were not going to keep us back…

December 28th, tripped the odometer and off we were! The ARM was devoid of M – Milind, who was off to Pune with his parents.
This time, two guys on one bike. There was simply no space for nightmares in mind, just one thing, no points for guessing – GOA, what else!

Time to deviate
We got a call from Milind, suggesting us to take a deviation to Karwar instead of directly entering Goa via Londa. I liked the idea and our ‘planned’ trip went off track. But then, this was the last GOOD suggestion that we had from Milind!

The never ending saga
Once we crossed Chitradurga, there was no sign of Hubli, our next biggest stop and the deviating point. When leaving Bangalore, I saw a board mentioning “Hubli 360kms”. According to calculations, as we had already covered ~210kms, Hubli was only 150kms! But it would not be the case, as we later found out… with all the sign boards removed from the road and Hubli being no where in sight even after 170kms, frustration was starting to tell through our faces. It was never the distance, but the ignorance that we were getting annoyed at. Then, as I saw the VRL depot, I knew that we had finally made it. So much so, that when we posed at the Hubli-Dharwad Bypass hoarding, we had surely given Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay a run for their money!

Enter Karwar
I had a silent desire to ride on this part of NH-17 on the western coast every since I had been here with Neeraj. Though we couldn’t benefit from the view it would have put forward, still was very satisfactory. Once we reached Karwar, I just happened to look at the Odometer, it said 603kms. A record for me in a day, which was soon to be bettered…

Being in Goa
This was the experience we were longing for. From hills to valleys, from villages to towns and from beaches to babes! More on this in Abdulla’s excerpt.

On our way back – Initial set back
It was ages that I’d seen a Sun Rise. Doing it on the New Year’s Day was a feeling that would long be cherished! A new beginning to life. A new beginning to my odometer too, literally, because it read 001km! we had done more than 1000 kms from the time we had set out for Goa.
Thanks to Milind’s latest suggestion (for which he was made to feel sorry later on), we took the Panjim -> Ponda -> Londa -> Belgaum -> Hubli route to Bangalore. No doubt, the Ghat section in between Ponda and Londa was just too good, but all the good things regarding this route ended here. Some time after we entered Karnataka, we suddenly found ourselves within nowhere. With only huge dumpers on road (road is a misnomer here, I should rather say, relative empty spaces in between trees, occupied with dense red dust, huge boulders and broken down vehicles), we entered straight into hell! Normal road was simply no where to be seen, nor anyone on road who could confirm that we were still on ‘an excellent’ NH-4A (as mentioned by Milind)! After some 20+ kms and nearly 1 and half hours of struggle, we reached Ramnagar. Without any second thoughts, we took the shortcut to Hubli-Dharwad, a 63 kms of non-existing road which would save at least 90kms (if we would have gone via Belgaum). After some road-hunting (analogous to treasure hunting) and more than 2 hours of concentration, we found ourselves back on the Dharwad-Hubli Bypass road.

Continuing forward
After a total of around 16 hours of drive, we found ourselves in the heart of Bangalore. Drained physically, but not mentally, we decided to drop in at Brigade Road for our last bit of photo session. 10 minutes later, I was dropping off Abdulla at his place in Jayanagar. When I reached home, the odometer said 643kms. We had done a ~1650kms in the past 5 days. I was tired, but very satisfied. Its time to let the bottoms take a mini break. But the stress would be on ‘mini’, as till I have people like Abdulla around me, no trip is big enough to hold me back for long. His sheer presence, support and sense of humor had made all the difference; this otherwise lengthy trip made to look small and easy, something impossible if he wouldn’t be around.

The photos can be found here!

2005-12-24: Malgudi Days

“Ta na na tana na na na
Ta na na tana na na na …”

This is what was on my lips when we started for Agumbe on the morning of 24th December. Shiv had come down from Hyderabad just for this trip.
“I’m planning a break for the upcoming Bhagamandala@CoorgChristmas Hols and flying down to Bangalore, but see to it that I don’t spend the entire time in Bangalore!”, were his words minutes after he got his flight tickets confirmed. I was more than happy to oblige my partner in my first ever Bike Trip (to Coorg).

Shiv had arrived on 23rd afternoon, as per his schedule. The only thing that was to be finalized was WHERE. After spending something like 5 minutes discussing the destination, Agumbe was finalized. For those who don’t know, this was the place where Shankar Nag’s famous “Malgudi Days” was shot.

The start
We started in morning, instead of the general night time, owing to the already set winter. The drive till Chickmangalur was pretty smooth and uneventful. There were some stops for taking food and of course the photographs in Sun Flower fields. It was only after Chickmangalur that we found the roads depleted. Once we entered those fantastic coffee estates, everything was good but for the road. The Bhadra River presented a spectacular view, easily enviable by the Kerela lagoons. We were starting to get worried whether we would be able to reach Agumbe to see it world famous Sun Set.

The Breath Taking Moment
As we reached Agumbe, it was already six o’clock. We thought that we had lost it; missing it by whisker. But destiny had something else in store for us. The road was fully enveloped by tall trees on either side of road with sun lost some where behind them. Then suddenly or rather miraculously, the trees got separated opening up the sky right in front of us, with the road virtually coming to an abrupt end and a giant Red Ball coming down on us. What a moment! All the 455kms done from Bangalore till now were more than justified… The two us just carried on, speechless. The Sun Set Point/Platform was around the corner, but we had already seen what we had come for. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life till now…

Night Halt
Once the sun had set, we started the climb down, negotiating those steep 13 hair-pin curves and some 10 odd kilometers before we found ourselves in Hebri. Some tedious negotiations with the Hotel guy and dumping our bag in the room, we were off for a much deserved dinner to a near by garden restaurant. What followed was one of the best dinners I have had.

Bad Beginning
We were on the road by 7am the next day. Destination – the Sitanadi River Camp (4kms from Hebri), for White Water Rafting. But we didn’t get a welcome there. We were informed that the water level in the river had fallen down enough to make rafting impossible; the Varahi Dam upstream being responsible. Now, what to do next? Thankfully, while we were trying to chalk out the itinerary for the rest of the day, we saw this house nearby. There was this very hospitable couple, Mrs. & Mr. Reddy, who gave us a warm welcome and helped us out with a plan for the rest of the day, not to forget the big bottle of water offered!

Something Fishy
We were on our way to Shringeri, up the Agumbe Ghats, around 40kms away. Once we reached there, it was a whole new experience. The place was cleaner than expected. Without wasting much time, we went in search of the famous ‘Fish Bank’. There’s this place on the banks of River Tunga, where devotees offer prasadam to the fish in water. One will be amazed to see the density and size of fishes that are there. Just unbelievable! There were just too many of them! The scene just went way beyond the hype that accompanies it. We spent more than 2 hrs here before proceeding towards our next and final stop over before returning back to Bangalore.

Good ways are back again
Once out of Shringeri, we were greeted by good road once again. We were on NH-13 and on our way to Dharmasthala, another pilgrimage of very high importance in South India. On our way, we went through the picturesque Kudremukh National Park. The evergreen forests (as we were told) were just mind blowing. We say the last of NH-13 once we came down a Ghat section on the national highway.

In Dharmasthala
We were not lucky enough to get the Darshan at temple here. The temple doors were closed till 5 o’clock and that would have been just too late for us to start back for Bangalore. Thanks to Ananth, we knew that there were other things here which would be of our interest. The Car Museum and the statue of Lord Bahubali atop a small hill were simply worth seeing.

Coming back
The journey was pretty smooth once again, thanks some major repair work taken up on Shiradi Ghats (which were literally unmotorable during my last stint, Puncture Trip). We had left a deficit of 7kms to complete 900kms when we got back home in Bangalore. This was a ‘pilot’ trip to the oncoming ‘biggie’, but never the less very exciting, and by far the biggest round trip I had done on my bike!

The photos can be found here!