Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Romancing the Road - A weekend fling thing

It was friday and I was wondering what to do over the long weekend that was just around the corner. 15th August is India's Independence day. How will I celebrate my independence. Aamir Khan's 'Mangal Pandey - The Rising' was released. "Maybe I can catch that". Maybe I'll also catch this play called 'Weeds' at Alliance Francaise. And maybe I'll start on this book which was recommended by a friend. So I send out a mail to get some junta for the play.

Then Manish sends me a mail saying that they plan to go biking to Coorg, a place which is noted for its scenic beauty. I had been to Coorg about a year and a half back with some Cisco friends. We had been to the Tibetan settlement which has some temples. We had visited Harangi dam, Cauvery Nisargadhama. We also went to Tadevendamol, the highest peak in the region which is best for trekking. It was 3 hours uphill and a little less downhill. We also had to trek thru this area with a thick cover of trees. It was raining and leeches were falling on us :-)

Pictures of the place start to flash in front of me. My first reaction is 'Yessss I'm game'.... But its about 260+ kms one way. That will take about 7+ hours on bike, including the stops on the way. And its raining quite a bit too!!!! It will definately be raining in Coorg. "Why can't we go by some other transport". What I actually mean't was, "I'm a bit afraid to go that far on a bike. It will be a bit dangerous on the highway!!!!!". But Manish said that the bike ride would be nice. I then told him that I would think about it. Basically was a little bit freaked out with the idea of doing such a long distance on bike :-) And it could rain too. Wait I already said that. Yikes I'm looping.... Yikes... Wait I already said that!!!!! And if my mother calls I'll say that I have gone out with friends to have food. err... yeah 260+ kms out of the city to have food :-) Didn't want to lie you see. And didn't want to tell the truth either cause then she would find some way to convince me to drop the idea. If I told my dad he would probably want to join me. At his end he was planning a fishing trip and then a crab hunting expedition the next day.

The Appetiser on Saturday evening
The play "Weeds" is a love story set in the aftermath of 9/11. It tells the story of Rafiq from Bangladesh and Teerta from Calcutta, who fall in love in their youth but part ways due to various obstacles. They meet again through an exchange of letters after 9/11. It was a play that looks at the human side of violence, basically the story behind the violence. It had nothing to do with 9/11. Ppl sometimes grow like weeds if they are not taken care of when they are young. I enjoyed the play and it did get some bonus points for being a love story :-)

I finally met Manish on Saturday night at around 9:30pm, still undecided. 'Knock knock'. I mean I really wanted to go but..... He opens the door and my mouth starts to blabber, "So who all are coming. Whats the plan. When are WE off". Change of weather you see. Went home, packed in 20 mins and came back to Gopa's place to sleep at about 12 or so. There would be 3 of us who would be going for the trip. Manish, my ex roomie, Ligeo George, ex Cisco friend and me. We decided to take 3 bikes as it would be safer than taking a pillion rider. Ligeo has a bullet and has been on the road for some long bike expeditions, sometimes alone. I have a Pulsar and Manish has a Fiero.

Sunday: Day 1.
We slept by 2 ish. The alarm woke us up at 5:30. We had planned to meet by 6am in front of Cisco. I check that I have packed everything. And not to forget the open mind and adventurous spirit. Deja vu :-) We are off by about 6:20 types. First we make a trip to the petrol bunk. Check the air pressure etc. I reset my kms counter.

0 kms:
The weather is cloudy. It could rain a bit later. But nothing could dampen our spirits :-) You see I had already made up my mind that I would enjoy myself and that the trip would be nice. And once you have done that, what could possibly go wrong. duh!!!

20 kms:
We are near the outskirts of the city. The roads in Bangalore are not the type people would drool over. After sometime we would hit the Mysore highway. The last time I went on it, I remember it was in need of some plastic surgery.

30kms - 50kms: The crush
The mysore highway starts. We hit some smooth stretches. There are not many vehicles on the road. The road is nice and the path is alluring. There is appropriate banking on the curves. Now I know why they were saying that we should go on bikes. Its just me and the open road ahead. And not to forget the wind and the sounds. The air was flowing through the gap between the visor and it sounded as if it was whistling at the road. I tried to whistle too but realised that I can't.

We make a stop for breakfast at about 7:30 types at Hotel Kamat. As soon as I got off the bike my butt began to ache. So did my shoulders and back. Met some ex Cisco friends there. Manju, Abhishek, his brother and a friend. They were on their way to Mysore for the weekend. The place is crawling with people on their way out of the city, most of them driving safely in cars. A bit after 8 we were on our way again. By that time there was this huge crowd outside waiting to get in.

60kms - 130kms: The wooing begins
The roads are as inviting as before and we just zoom off into the horizon, periodically checking up on each other that everything is fine. Every now and then one of us would take the lead to keep the pace. At various points along the road one side was shut for construction, so you had traffic in both directions on the same side. We had to be extra careful along these stretches. But when traffic was going in one direction we were relaxed and trying hard to romance the road. When there were no vehicles in sight, its just you, the bike and the open road ahead. The almost constant roar of the engine starts to get louder and louder. You feel the wind violently brush again you trying to push you back when in reality you are cutting through it. It enters thru the gaps in you sleeves and gives you this tingling sensation. You can feel the lower part of your pants flutter in unison, massaging your calves. You start to maneuver your body in search of that perfect relaxed position. Hands stretched out. Your upper body pushed back by the wind as if your body has given into it. Resting on your bag which is pressed down behind on the seat. You are constantly looking at the road and it smiles back at you. The feeling is so so ..... Well the feeling is so so... DON'T FALL ASLEEP ON THE HIGHWAY!!!

130 Kms: Stop for directions
I pass familiar territory, where I had spent 2 days about 2 weeks back. We stop to ask for directions to Coorg. We were to drive along the road to Ranganathittu, a bird santuary. 2 weeks back we had gone on foot and the stretch took us about 30+ mins. This time around it took us just 3 ish minutes and it just didn't feel the same.

160kms: The budding photographer or madness.
The past few kilometers were just lovely. It was lush green on either side. Ligeo commented that it would get even better. I have been to Coorg once before but only now was I appreciating the journey. We stopped near a field to eat. I had some apples and Manish had some chikki. I went around exploring and capturing things like the field. I also wanted to get a real close shot of the road. So there I was flat on the road clicking snaps. Ligeo was keeping watch to warn me of any vehicles coming in my direction from behind.

200 kms: Stop for chai.
When we removed our helmets I realised that I was tanned. The journey so far was cloudy but I manage to get a tan real fast. I decided to romp around while the other two drank some tea. There were these kids who were following me wherever I went, wanting to be included in the scenery that I wanted to capture.

200 kms - 230 kms:
The road ahead was not that smooth. Infact it was badly scared. However falling in love is not about finding the perfect thing, its about learning to see an imperfect thing perfectly. Read that in the Readers Digest eons ago :-) Anyways the scenery was lovely and the memories from before managed to allay our newly felt emotions. At one point there was this beautiful stretch with a thick cover of trees on either side. It appeared as if we were driving thru a tunnel and the road never seemed to end. Caught that moment in 0s and 1s as well.

The Tibetian Golden Temple:
We paid a visit to the Tibetan settlement. The place is awesome. You see green fields all around and then in the middle of them you see these golden structures popping out. Its about a 4-5 kms drive to the main temple. All along the road you have tall grass. When you reach the temple you see a lot of monks dressed in maroon and yellowish robes. There are a lot of children among them. Inside the temples there are huge golden statues of buddha. They have these huge drums and trumpets which is used during their prayer sessions. The sounds resonate within you and evoke a brief feeling of complacency. We then drove around within the settlement itself. It had a very cute little water body which gelled very well with the surroundings. There was a monastery close by which not many outsiders visit. Inside they had these huge cylindrical cloth hangings. The entrance to the monastery overlooked a wide field. There was another golden building nearby which was not being used presently. Some children were playing cricket in front of it. We had lunch at some place within the settlement itself.

Destination Madikeri:
We were off again and this time the roads wiggled and curved on the hills. The temperature dropped and mist was in the air. We were on our way to Madikeri, 1525 m above sea level, the district headquarters of Coorg. The place has a lot to offer. Misty hills, lush forest, acres and acres of tea and coffee plantation and breathtaking views. I looked at my distance indicator. It was about 280kms and the time was about 4:30pm. The mist gave an illusion as if it was later in the day. There was a slight drizzle on the way. That didn't dampen my spirit. As I said I had packed an open mind and an adventurous spirit :-) The first thing on our mind was where do we freshen up and sleep for the night. A lot of ppl would have booked the hotels way in advance. Wherever we went the hotels were completely booked. Not surprised. We went up some slopes and down some slopes and finally landed up back where some auto guy had told us that some people give houses on rent. The road was very narrow and the gradient was steep. There was a nice house with a garden. It overlooked a valley. We spoke to the lady incharge and got the ground floor dirt cheap. She was very very nice and we ended up giving her more than the negotiated amount the next day. She was anything but business minded.

We freshened up and headed out for dinner. At night we spent some time chatting in the veranda. The air was misty and you could hear a lot of crickets in the background. It was pretty cold. We were in Coorg and when in Coorg do as Coorgies do. It didn't feel that cold anymore :-) I took out some shots of the wheels of the bike. And then I flashed the camera a few inches from their faces, just for kicks. We then planned for the next day. Wake up at 6. Leave the house by 7 latest. Yeah Yeah.

Day 2:
6am... We were enveloped in mist as we opened our eyes in the morning. It was raining outside. zzzzzz....... 8am.. we wake up and are ready to leave by 9ish. Our first destination was Abbey falls. It was drizzling off and on. Again the road to Abbey falls was breathtaking. Mist was still in the air. After Abbey falls we were off to Raja's seat. It overlooks a valley. However all we saw was mist. I managed to capture some nice shots of misty trees. We then decided to let our bikes take us wherever they wanted. We drove around the city and sneaked into some narrow, less travelled paths. The path took us to this place near a hill. It gave us a panoramic view of Coorg below. We climbed the hill a bit and sat there, each one in our own world.

12:30pm: The journey back
We decided to head back home. Another 260+ kms lay ahead of us.

320-420kms: The rain
It drizzled and rained and poured. And drizzled and poured and rained. And then it poured and rained and drizzled. And it stung too. Driving on a wet road is dangerous. You have to be extra alert. Manish and Ligeo began to crib about the rain. It had been hounding us for the past couple of hours. That coupled with the not so perfect road. I however didn't feel that way. As I said before I had packed an open mind and an adventurous spirit .... err and a raincoat. Oh yeah... did I mention before that I was the only one who had a raincoat :-) Ahem, umm... I had my raincoat to protect me from head to toe. My shoes got wet. My feet felt cold and some water did manage to seep in thru the zips. The other two got totally drenched. We stopped at the same place for tea and some biscuits. The rain seemed to be following us. The chaiwalla told us that it started raining just a few mintues before we arrived. We were off again. Manish told me that when he shivered, he had to remove his leg off the gear as it violently shook. When Ligeo yawned his whole body shook. On the way the rain drops pierced into my knuckles. It felt like I was getting a free acupuncture session. I could feel some cold droplets seep thru openings in the raincoat and touch my skin. The rain felt nice however the other two were cribbing all along the way. They decided to change clothes at the side of the road. The full monty. Ok well.. a half monty.

420 kms: Lunch Time and story time
It was about 3pm and we had just covered 100kms. It still seemed that the rain clouds were following us. We decided to break for lunch. Ligeo then told us about a biking expedition, where he had skid with his pillion seater. He had gone biking with a friend. It was raining and he suddenly had to break at 70kms/hr. They both lost balance and got bruised. They went to a hospital to get cleaned up. Ligeo is a Mallu but he doesn't look like one. I don't know what Mallus should look like. Anyways there were these three mallu nurses who were cribbing about their boss in front of both of them. They assumed that these two guys don't know the language. Then they started passing comments about the guys. One of them even said something about Ligeo's lips and stuff.... Finally on his way out Ligeo told them something in Malayalee. Two of the nurses freaked out and ran away, totally embarassed. The other one blushed.

420-560kms: Deja vu
Finally the rain stopped and the sun peeped out through the clouds. The road ahead was as inviting as the previous day. However this time there was a little more traffic. But our bikes seemed to remember the emotions from the previous day and they definately had a mind of their own.

560kms - 580kms:
We were nearing Bangalore and our speed dropped to about 50kms/hr then 40 then 30 at times.... we crawled into the city but missed the lashing of the rain by a few minutes. We reached Manish's place a little after six.

Parting words:
We were reminiscing about the trip and finally it was time to leave. I mentioned that the bikes didn't give any trouble. Then Ligeo smiled and said, "Yeah and we didn't have any casualties". Casualties..... Thats a pretty strong word. It was on his mind too. He is a veteran when it comes to biking but it was at the back of his mind all along. Hmmmm... And I thought I was the only one who was thinking in that direction. I'm sure Manish had thought about it too. But at the beginning of the trip both of them appeared as if thoughts like these were never on their mind. Well so did I :-) Come to think of it I tried hard to romance the road. A bit too hard at times. There were others too who were trying real hard to gain its attention. But no matter how hard you try, it just takes you for a ride :-) And if anything happens it would forget about you in a jiffy. It was a weekend fling thing. Maybe the sparks will fly some other time. Till then.

About this particluar trip what else can I say. The destination was nice but sometimes if you just open your eyes the journey is even better.


emanish said...

..packed an open mind and an adventurous spirit... :)
yeah, that was quiet some ride, was a lot taxing on body too; but it was fun.

Srini said...


Can we rent bikes at Coorg for self drive like the one's at ooty. If so... Address


Alistair D'souza said...

@ srini
i'm not sure if you can get bikes on rent there. we had gone on bikes from bangalore. but you should be able to get bikes on hire there