Saturday, 14 March 2015

Chennai Express

Bengaluru to Rameshwaram

Don’t worry, I am not switching gears and started to write blogs on movies. Neither am I a die-hard fan of SRK nor do I have a girlfriend who hails from Tamil Nadu. Most of my blogs have been inspired by some person or the other, be it the Leh ride or Harleyride or Bhutan ride. But here, just for a change it is not because of one person or event that I partook this ride. It was a chain of events which led to this ride.
·         The famous Pamban bridge was shown in numerous movies and it was haunting me for days
·        When I was traveling for Delhi, few of my co-passengers had mentioned about Rameshwaram
·         Many of my friends had done this ride starting from Bengaluru
·         And finally the movie, Chennai Express in which this bridge was shown.
That’s it, and I said to myself ‘no more waiting and I am doing this ride’…..and the movie was the final nail in the coffin which is why you find the title ‘Chennai Express’! And just for your information, I was nowhere near Chennai in the whole ride.

As always, I expressed my wish/desire/dream of this Rameshwaram ride with my friends and wanted to see what the headcount was. This time the headcount was fluctuating like the share markets! Sometimes it went up and then came down crashing. But I had decided if nobody turned up, I will do this ride alone. Finally with lot of postpone (three times to be precise) and additions/deletions, I had nine friends who agreed to do this ride. This figure was new to me and challenging. I had never managed such a number on a trip and was looking forward to do this. Out of nine I had two of my buddies/riders from Harley Ride, MH700 & Drugs Baba. The remaining friends were my colleagues with whom I was riding for the first time. As the date approached few of them had to cancel the bike plan and opt for car due to the pressure from parents. So finally it was decided that we have three bikes and one car.

The roll of honors are:
·         Raja Hussain (Rajjo) & Krishna Badiger (Fruit Man) ---- RE Thunderbird 500
·         Mihir (MH700) & Vibhas (Drugs Baba) ---- RE Classic 350
·         Dileepa (Mr. Preamble) & Chiranjit (DC) ---- RE Electra 350

·         Mithun (Road runner), Shivkumar, Kiran, Arun ---- Hyundai i20
The Rameshwaram Gang
I had the responsibility of planning for this ride which included: route, accommodation, expenses and food. With inputs from few of my friends, Vikram Mallesh and Google I was ready with the plan which was for three days. I was satisfied and happy with the plan except for the last day which had 650 Km of distance to be covered!!! I was confident about my backbone and bum, but was not sure about the other riders. This was one chance I had to take if we really wanted to cover all the places as per the plan.

Day 1: 06/03/2015
Kengeri - Hosur – Krishnagiri – Salem – Namakkal – Srirangam (Ranganatha Swamy temple) – Tanjavur (Brihadeshwara Temple) ------ 435 KM

The plan was to kick start from Kengeri Satellite Town at 04:00 in the morning. We over shoot this by an hour and left from Kengeri around 05:00 with a brief introduction of each other. I had laid down few simple rules this time as we were ten of us and few of them were riding for the first time on such a long trip. The rules ensured that we never hit more than 80 KMPH and also made sure that one or the other person was either back or in front. We hit the NICE road after paying the toll and all were strictly following the rules. I was shocked to see Mithun going slow for the first time in his car!!!!
Add caption

Thunderbird 500 @Hosur

Around 07:00 we reached Saravanna’s hotel on Krishnagiri road which pulled us automatically like a magnet, thanks to our early departure from Bengaluru. Everybody was damn hungry and would have killed each other for breakfast if we had continued further. The food served was delicious, especially the different types of chutney which we get with the dosa and idli. Everybody was fully satisfied with their tanks full and wanted to hit the road ASAP before the sun came out.

From there we headed to Trichy and the sun really got better of us. We badly wanted to escape the irritating and humid conditions by reaching our destination ASAP. The sun rays were so torturous and the heat so high that we could as well have put egg omelet on our fuel tanks! We could feel the heat waves that was hitting us and our skins were literally burning. Only good thing was the roads. Full credit goes to the government and the people who have maintained the roads to such wonderful levels. The people are also very helpful and honest. At one instance we got back our valuables which by mistake we had left at the temple. The guys came searching for us on bikes and gave the valuables. I was moved by their honesty. The items were worth at least rupees 10 k!
But one annoying thing which was we all had to face was the bad road mannerisms. This is something very common in many states but here it was few notches above. People rarely looked up or sideways to check for vehicles and cross the roads. At few instances I had to steer my bike from them on the highway. Also the cabs/taxis rarely honk when overtaking and pass very close by to you. One has to be extra careful and cautious.

We had a quick visit of Ranganatha Swamy temple and then headed straight to Tanjavur. For the first time I crossed the speed limit and was in a hurry to reach hotel. I badly wanted a shower as my body was sweating like hell and the smell --- 100 rats could have died! It was same with others.

It was 18:00 we checked in at a hotel and the facilities offered were good. We had only one hour to get ourselves ready before the Brihadeshwara Temple closed for the day. Luckily we made it in time and were able to spend some quality time at the temple. The ambience is so calm and soothing that for a moment we forgot the whole day’s ride and also that it was Tamil Nadu state!

For the first time we guys were to separate from each other…. And the reason was our taste buds. Few wanted veg and few non-veg. As per their preferences we made two teams and both the teams came back with a heavy stomach and only thing on their mind was sleep.

Day 2: 07/03/2015
Tanjavur – Devipattan (Navagraha Temple) - ECR stretch – Rameshwaram - Dhanushkodi – Rameshwaram (Temple) – Pamban Bridge --- 267 KM

Today was a big day for most of us and especially to me. I will be finally seeing the famous Pamban Bridge which had haunted me over the past couple of months. What was funny is that the entire ride had numerous temples and even the final destination, Rameshwaram is one of the famous religious place. But for me it was all about seeing the Pamban Bridge. Not that I an atheist or non-temple visiting guy but I was more fascinated by the famous bridge. We left early in the morning around 06:00 and took the wonderful ECR stretch (East Coast Road). The early morning ride on those smooth tarmac is a blissful experience and with RE Thunderbird 500 there was no stopping.

Finally after few hours of ride we reached our DESTINATION or rather my DESTINATION – Pamban Bridge. The stretch where you see the bridge is a picturesque one with water on both the sides. As soon as you reach the bridge, you are greeted by numerous small boats on the right and on the left you find the famous railway track. We were lucky to see a train pass by as we reached the bridge. I couldn’t have asked for more!!! More? Yes, I wanted more and for the very same reason I came back again in the night to spend some time. It was one amazing experience sitting under the moon and chatting with buddies. Our laughter could as well have echoed in the neighboring country Sri Lanka, all thanks to Preamble Dileepa.

We spent close to two hours standing there and enjoying the view. There were all possible photo poses that we got clicked and it was only after sometime that we realized there was Dhanushkodi also waiting for us in the day’s plan. We quickly headed to check in to our hotel and got fresh in no time. I suggested that we skip our lunch and head straight to Dhanushkodi so that we can spend more time. The stretch from our hotel to Dhanushkodi is another treat to riders. We could see water on both our sides as we took the bikes to the last known piece of land in this ride. The feeling is awesome and my happiness knew no bounds as I kept pushing through those roads. 

From Dhanuskodi we had to take Van and when somebody asked me, Why not bike? I had no reply for some time. But as we got into the van and started our journey to the last known piece of land, all I had to do was just turn back at my friend and the answer was self-explanatory!!!

Most of my colleagues wanted to taste the waters of Indian Ocean but I preferred to enjoy the ambience. We decided to walk till the last patch of the land. The view of the ocean and the sound of the waves hitting the shores is an enriching experience. As my friends continued to walk, I just laid down there on the sand bed to enjoy the view.

It was 17:00 and we had to return back to our van. On our way back we collected few shells from the seashore. In no time we reached back to our bikes and from there we headed straight to the Rameshwaram Temple.

The temple was about to close and luckily we managed to enter in time. The temple is a gigantic structure and the carvings are breath taking. It is famous temple down south and is one of the famous four pilgrimage destinations in India. We all were very hungry and more so those who tasted the Indian Ocean waters… we had our dinner at a hotel in front of the temple which served good vegetarian food. Many of them hit the bed after coming back but I wanted to visit Pamban again. Along with me Dileepa, Chiranjit, Vibhas, Mihir and Arun also joined. We spent close to two hours and had our best time of the entire ride. It was around 00:00 in the midnight that my eyes were burning and we decided to head back to our hotels. Next day was a demanding one for all the riders.

Day 3: 08/03/2015
Rameshwaram – Madurai – Salem – Krishnagiri – Hosur - Kengeri --- 635 KM

Few of my friends wanted to visit Rameshwaram temple and complete the 22 theertham bath. I was very tired to wake up and do the same. I and few others continued to sleep. I finally woke up at 09:00 and by then Mihir had also come with laddoos (prasadam).  I said to myself, what a way to start off the day. Since I have made a habit of collecting something as a memory from my ride, I headed to the local market to do some shopping. I got a pen stand made of shell with Rameshwaram engraved on it and also few items for home. From there I went to the house of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the missile man who is an inspiration to millions of young Indians. There are numerous of his achievements on display and what caught my attention was the number of doctorates. I stood there and took a count of it. The final number was a cool 40!!!!! People including me die to get just one PhD in our life and here is a man who has 40 to his name. Wish I could borrow one from him! I took a key chain which had the engraving of this great personality and thought this will be the best one to sit with my new bike.

As I complete this blog and ride, I have my partner for the rest of my life: my love, my dream and my ride – Thunderbird 350 cc. So from next ride, it will be me and MY bike!
We left Rameshwaram around 12:00 in the afternoon and finally bid adieu to Pamban Bridge. From there it was a non-stop ride to Bengaluru and one of the most challenging rides. The heat was at its peak and the temperature refused to die down.  By now I had lost few more shades of my skin color. I guess that is the price you pay for these kind of rides. We reached Bengaluru next day early morning 04:00 and the entire stretch I was on bike. I had to mentally and physically push to ensure that there was no problem to other riders. Along with me, Mihir, Vibhas & Dileepa were equally strained but we refused to stop till we reached Bengaluru.  

[NOTE: we took regular intervals and made sure none of was sleepy!!!]

Thanks to my all friends who were so adjusting and ensured that we stick to the plan. Kudos to all the riders and also Mithun for driving his car non-stop.

After this ride, there is a sense of pride and achievement. Though the hangover (sleep deprivation) was there for few days, it was totally worth it. Looking back, I have Leh (North), Darjeeling & Bhutan (East) and Dhanushkodi (South) under my belt. And what next? It is obvious and imperative on me that I touch the Kutch… ops, west.

Pros & Cons of this ride:
Pros – wonderful roads; good food; people are helpful & honest
Cons: Sultry weather; sunburns; 

Don't forget to check out for fulfilling your dream ride. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


How It All Started

It all started 3 months back when two of us, me and Saquib were chatting over our late night coffee destination about going somewhere far from Bangalore. And, this time the plan was to push our bikes to a 10 days plan and explore a state, if possible. Probable destinations that came to our mind were Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Argument started over coffee and we felt Rajasthan would be too far for us to ride from Bangalore and Maharashtra looks best during monsoon  and hence we were left with Gujarat. This was something which each one of us wanted to do, especially visit the Rann of Kutch and I very well knew that this time we are going there for sure as the planning started in full swing. Although it was initially me and Saquib who kicked off with the planning and research, we decided to pull in some close pals of ours who might be interested for this long road trip. Sunil, Tapabrata, Ashish and Eshwari (who would be joining us from Gandhinagar) showed immense interest in our plan and we were more than happy with the group which formed now. We decided to start for the trip on 31st January, 2014 (Saturday) and come back to Bangalore by 11th February, 2014 (Wednesday).
The days crossed by and our excitement meter was becoming unstable day by day. We were meeting at times, just to check if everything was on track, ran through the route map again and again so that everyone knows the route very well. Unfortunately, Sunil could only be starting by the second half of Saturday and hence he targeted to join us directly at Gandhinagar.
Few days before the ride started and we hit a major setback: Saquib had a situation in his office and his could not get the leaves approved. This came as a big blow to get us because he was the person who was the mastermind behind this mega plan and all of us wanted him to be part of our group.

And The Journey Begins..

Day 1 started with me, Tapabrata and Ashish riding from Bangalore and our target was to halt at Pune. We decided to start around 4 am in the morning to avoid all the early morning traffic. Once you are on the road, you hardly get to know what time it is, and it always surprises you. This stretch being arrow straight road, you tend to fall asleep, especially when your tummy is full. With couple of breaks including breakfast, lunch, tea and most importantly, photo breaks, when we reached outskirts of Pune, around 8 pm in the evening and we started looking for lodges along the highway. After few searches, we ended up at a decent enough lodge with an adjoining restaurant where we decided to bunk for the night.

Target for Day 2 was to reach Gandhinagar as we had already booked a hotel and the group was supposed to rendezvous at the hotel. So, as planned, we got ready as soon as possible and got out on the highway by 4:45 am. It was chilly as usual and I was shivering with cold, but on the other hand, the roads were completely new for me as this was an unknown territory for me, so feeling cold was at the back of my mind and watching out on the road was always my priority. We crossed beautiful places like Lonavala, Khandala and with the rising sun at the back of a train of hills, the scenery looked beautiful which made us stop at multiple places for pictures. It was an eventful day, starting with 3 of us entering the Mumbai-Pune Expressway by mistake and ended up paying up fine to the cops, to having lip smacking vada pavs for breakfast to sudden increase in the traffic, especially of the tucks and trollers which kept on testing our patience all throughout the highway in Gujarat to getting stuck at the infamous Golden Bridge in Bharuch for 2 hours and last but not the least, falling prey on big potholes on SH 3 near Ahmedabad and losing my taillight. By the time we reached Gandhinagar, it was 10:30 pm and dead tired. Eshwari was waiting for us at the hotel and when enquired about whereabouts of Sunil, we came to know even he had issues with his bike near Mumbai and he could not proceed further as well. That was a moderate blow to our itinerary, but more importantly, we needed some rest.

 Rise and Shine Day 3. We got the rest what we wanted, and I found a mechanic to fix my bike's taillight. So, after having breakfast from the hotel, we headed towards Sabarmati Ashram and Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad, after which we headed towards Radhanpur. The initial plan of visiting Patan was dropped because of the delay of Sunil's arrival and instead, we decided to approach our next destination, the Little Rann of Kutch. Blissful tarmac all throughout, this is what we expected and heard about Gujarat and everyone of us were happy to ride on them. The more we approached Radhanpur, we noticed a change in the landscapes. We were no more surrounded by lush green fields, rather now we were able to see barren lands welcoming us from time to time, a notable decrease in vegetation. We crossed Radhanpur and headed towards Santalpur where we decided to bunk for the night. Constant touch with Sunil made us aware of him approaching Radhanpur for the night, so he can catch up with us the next day.

It was ought to be an exciting day, Day 4 it was. With the help of google location, Sunil met up with us at the guest house we stayed overnight and after sumptuous gujarati breakfast, all 5 of us headed towards Little Rann of Kutch. We approached a village after taking diversion from the NH and the moment we entered the village, there was chaos and obvious interest about us, where we coming from and all those stuff. It was like the entire village has come to greet us. Some older folks asked us where do we intend to go to which I asked about the little rann, they guided us to the right direction. We were already off the tarmac and the path was full with sand and we slowly made our way to the rann. And within few metres, we entered the little rann of kutch. A vast, barren land, with no trees, no water, hot and you could see the horizon all around you. It was an amazing feeling the moment I stepped into the rann. People started parking the bikes and start photo shoot, while I took some time to let the feeling settle down and finally pulled out my camera. Spending a good 1 hour at the little rann of kutch, we headed our way back to the guest house, it was time to check out and head towards Great Rann of Kutch!  When we crossed the village of Lodrani, the Sun was getting ready to start its plunge towards the horizon and I started doubting whether we would be able to make it to Dholavira on time. Less I knew that I would encounter something magical  on the way that would make us drop the plan of going to Dholavira and would make our day special. We got the first view of white rann few kms after we crossed Lodrani. So beautiful, magical feeling it was with cold rays from Sun over the horizon that we were spellbound with it and ended up stopping. No words can express that feeling and I was already having goose bumps seeing the beauty of nature. It took me quite some time to settle down, and believe that I am here, finally. We were so "awwed" by this place that we decided to stay there till the sun set.  Mesmerized by the beauty of nature, we slowly started off from the place. We decided to drop the plan of visiting Dholavira because it was already dark and instead we headed towards Samkhiyali where we bunked for the night.

We started our Day 5 riding to Bhuj, our base for the next 2 days. It took little time for us to look for a decent accommodation and once we got freshened up, we headed for Kalo Dungar after lunch. We already had the permits prepared on our way though, which was a simple procedure. Kalo Dungar is the highest peak in the entire Kutch region and you get a spectacular view of the white rann from the top. We parked our bikes at one side and started walking towards the view point. Strong wind was gushing on our faces all along. The moment I saw the view of the rann, i seemed to me at the first moment if I am actually dreaming, or is it real! Ashish walked up to me at that very moment and said: "Can you believe we came this far?". I could not answer, it was the same feeling even I was having and what I wanted at that point of time was to simply enjoy the view. We continued from Kalo Dungar towards India Bridge in some moment's time. Road has been excellent all throughout the leg of the day and not even a single pothole was to be seen anywhere. We approached India Bridge around 4 pm, took some shots except the bridge (Photography of the India Bridge is prohibited by law), where Sunil went over to the jawans for some chat and in few moments, we made our way back, this time towards the White Rann. We did not want to try Dhordo which was already populated due to Rann Utsav and instead headed towards Jamkundaliya, where there was a BSF check post at the entry of the rann. A Bengali and a Kannada jawan stopped us from entering this restricted area and after few conversations and request, they did let us in the rann. The moment we left the check post, the tarmac vanished and red soiled road started. After few meters even that disappeared and we ended up in a dusty and sandy road. We held our breaths and in no time, we entered the white rann! We could indeed see lot of slush on both sides of the truck-tracks and although, it de motivated us a bit, because we expected a plain surface, but after few meters, all the slush disappeared and we were surrounding by white rann. Anywhere you see, we would see only the horizon with some hills at a distance. This is what we wished for! Everyone started yelling with joy, and roared their bikes on the plain surface of rann! Eshwari, who was on the thunderbird, was so excited that she pushed the accelerator hard and kept the throttle going, and we sped past few Kms. Amazing experience I must say, maybe this is the same experience which people gather at the Salt flats, Bonneville! Eventually she came to a halt trembling with sheer excitement! It was the moment where you feel that you riding all the way to Gujarat from Bangalore is success, all the tiredness vanishes the moment you are here. This was one of my best days yet, less would I be able to forget about the experience.  We returned back to Bhuj for the night.

Day 6 started off as a gloomy day, with Eshwari returning back to Bangalore. We had our bikes serviced at Bhuj and headed towards our next set of destinations, the Lakhpat and Narayan Sarovar. When we approached Lakhpat we could see desert all around us, on both sides of the road and a fort, standing tall in the middle of it. A road made of sand went through the fort with lot of diversions and I took one of them and started going towards one of the walls of the fort. I could see few faces peeping from few houses, eager to ask me about my whereabouts, but I ignored them and continued. After exploring some other lanes in the fort, I headed back to the fort entrance, continuing towards Narayan Sarovar. I must say that the place looked superbly beautiful and I experienced one of the best sunsets of my life here. There was a temple right at the edge of the sea (Koteshwar temple) and it was being maintained by the army. There was a checkpost right at the end of the pier and civilians are normally not allowed to go beyond that point. So, we parked our bikes at the very spot from where we could see the sunset. After good 2 hours spent at that very place, it was time for us to finally leave towards Bhuj.


Destinations to be covered for Day 7 was Mandvi, before we head towards the another crown of Gujarat, The Gir. Main attractions of the day were the Wind Farm beach, dotted with windmills along the beach and the ship building yard. Both places were worth visiting and it was a delight for us to be there, after which we headed towards Morbi to shelter for the night.

Day 8 seemed excited as he headed towards Junagadh, the gateway to Gir. We were welcomed by family of our friend who had made arrangements for our stay for the night in Gir at The Wilds Villa resort. The resort did not have any fencing and when inquired, we came to know that the day before, two lions had come over to that very place. Take that! And we were excited. The setup was splendid though with bonfire setup around 3 "charpai" where we lied down the moment we completed our dinner.

We were all excited to start the Day 9 early with the Gir Safari. However, due to lot of crowd at the ticket counter, we could not manage tickets for the early morning 6:30am one, but got the tickets for the 9:00am safari.  As the Gypsy cruised through the jungle trail, we sighted deers, peacocks, langurs and a solitary Asiatic lion. It was not what we expected, but the guide told us that it need sheer amount of luck to sight lions in Gir and most of the safaris go back without even sighting a lion, to which we felt better. We left Gir and headed towards Vadodara, and honestly speaking each none of us were excited anymore, we did not want to leave this exciting and vibrant state and 10 days in this state was simply not sufficient, we felt that we needed at least 10 more days to explore more.

Day 10 and we headed towards Pune where we were supposed to take shelter for the night. It was a boring ride all through to Bangalore on Day 11 when we finally reached home, exhausted and with a feeling  "We did It".