South India Exploration ride of 2010: Day 9:
This day was supposed to be primarily about covering distances as fast as possible since this was the last day in our alloted schedule and we all had to get be in Pune, the following morning, no matter what. Most strategies adopted today were supposed to facilitate this.
As per tradition, everyone got late at their respective night halts and I was the first person to reach CCD Tumkur but even I could only make it there at 7.45AM (instead of 7AM as decided the previous night).
I had 4 missed calls from my co-riders which I missed since I was having the fastest speed run of his life on NECE road just to make it to Tumkur on time. This was the first time in my bike’s life that it breached 145kmph on speedo and managed to touch a maximum speed on 147kmph, fully crouched. This bit was especially surprising because I had never managed to breach 145 before this date riding without any luggage whatsoever but today I crossed it even though my bike was fully loaded with tankbag, saddlebag and tail-bag! Anyways, on reaching CCD, Tumkur, I made a few enquiries with the CCD staff and understood that I, in fact, have not been left behind (because I was late :p). On contacting others, nobody would take any calls. Anyways, at around 8:15AM, I saw his group approaching from a distance with alongwith 2 extra Green Goblins. Turns out, Bluevolt and n_Aditya, like gracious hosts, had come all the way to Tumkur to see us off 🙂 . We all decided to have our breakfast at Tumkur CCD and proceed further. But the chit-chat and goodbyes took a lot of time and when we were all set to leave, it was already 9:45AM. It was agreed upon that Rohit and Aditya would ride alongwith us for sometime, and then turn around and ride back to Bangalore.
The ‘Sometime’ part of the previous statement turned out to be misleading and they ended up riding with us in their 130-150 kmph range for more than an hour and a half and before we knew it, it was already 11:15 and these guys had come along for almost 230km. 🙂 At this point, all of us pulled over and exchanged the final goodbyes and handshakes and finally these guys turned around back towards Bangalore.
The rest of us, i.e., Ankit, Ashu, Amogh, Surojit and I still had a long long way to go, so it was decided that we all will ride at speeds which we are comfortable at and there was no requirement for everyone to stay together at all times. It was also decided that the person in front will pull over every 100km and wait for everyone to catch up and then we will do the vital-essential things together. For the 1st sector, the first 100km after Aditya and Rohit turned around, Mr. Ashu Ninja zoomed ahead on his Ninja so fast that the rest of us were technically incapable of catching up. Due to this adventure of his, he had to wait 40 odd minutes for everyone to catch up at the end of the predecided 100km. Bored to the core with nothing to do on the side of the road, he decided that he won’t do that again. The solitary picture he took when he was busy killing time.
We had reached the Chitradurg – Davangere stretch by this time (Around 12.30 PM) and almost everyone was running low on fuel. Post everyone’s refueling, I went ahead and kept riding at a constant 110-120odd for around an hour. Looking to not break the momentum, I made the mistake of riding 115km instead of the predecided 100km. On realizing my error, I stopped and tried to contact the rest of the gang to inform them about my position but it wasn’t possible due to low network coverage in that area. It was 1:30PM by then. I waited for the gang for around half an hour but nobody showed up. So, at 2:00 PM I decided to ride further. I reached Haveri and got the news that the rest of the gang had crossed Davangere. Knowing that everything was going alright, I continued further and reached 17km from Hubli. I was feeling extremely drowsy at this point of time due to the extremely boring nature of the Highway so I decided to take a Power nap :p right there right then. But since there were no trees in sight on the side of that road, I had to take the nap under the blazing afternoon sun. So as to not burn myself, I decided that I had to take the nap in full riding gear without even removing the helmet (whose padding acted as a pillow). At around 2:45 PM I finally got a wake-up call from the gang that they were 60km away from Hubli and had stopped for lunch. I was told to stop for lunch at Hubli and wait for the others to catch up. I continued my ride ahead at a blistering pace so as to be able to have my lunch as soon as possible since
1. I was famished.
2. I needed a proper nap.
In this haste, I committed another mistake. Just before I entered Hubli, I saw 3 restaurants stacked together but since I was going along at quite a clip, I did not stop immediately and assumed that I will find more restaurants further and so lowered my riding speed as I kept looking for decent places to eat. As luck would have it, I didn’t find any more restaurants till the time I reached the exit for Dharwad! Instead of going 17km ahead and stop for lunch, I had swiftly done 32km instead. So, instead of being 60km ahead, I was now 75 km ahead by the time I stopped for lunch. Anyways, assuming my that buddies would also have hurried through their lunch since they were so far behind, I ordered a chicken fried rice so I can finish it as fast as possible and as soon as I finished my lunch, I decided to call up my friends to check on their progress.
In the meantime….
The others had stopped for lunch 60 km before Hubli when I was about 17 km from Hubli. The time I called them up after finishing my lunch, Ankit told me that their lunch was yet to be served. I was shocked to hear this since I was already almost 90 odd km ahead and was also done with my lunch. I panicked a bit since it was getting exceedingly difficult to wait any longer and I was looking at atleast a wait of 1.5 hours. It was 3:40PM right now and there was no hope of moving ahead any time before 5PM, I didn’t know what to do there. So I called up the guys again and explicitly expressed my displeasure about this. Thats when Ankit gave me the idea of going inside Dharwad town to get everyone the yummy Dharwad Pedas.
The place where I was waiting was exactly on the NH4 exit for Dharwad, about 8 km from Dharwad bus stand. I decided to ride down to Dharwad and got some of those Yummy pedas for everyone. This ride was uneventful and it took me hardly 20 minutes to be back to where I was, waiting on the side of the road. With nothing else to do when waiting for the guys to come, I started clicking pictures of random things ruing the fact that it will get dark very soon and then all 3 guys with 35w headlamps (Surojit, Ankit and Amogh) will struggle massively.
At around 5:00 PM, I called up the guys again only to be told that they have to ride slowly since its raining very heavily!! But it was all bright and sunny where I was!! I could do nothing but wait for these guys to arrive so I sat down on the grass beside the road and tried to relax a bit.
Finally at around 5:15 PM, I could actually see the rain catching up with me, coming towards me from the south, pouring rain clouds were traveling in my direction and soon enough an intermittent drizzle started where I was standing. I held ground but couldn’t hold on much longer as the rain started to intensify. I went near the bike and took the raincoat out. Wore the top and looked behind to finally, thankfully, see the DRL of the Green Ninja in the distance. I was done wearing my rainpant almost as soon as the Ninja reached me. It was almost 5:20 by now. Even before I asked anything, Ashu told me that the problems with Ankit’s FZ had resurfaced and he was barely able to ride the bike in the 90s with the bike returning less FE than even the Ninja 250R! One by one, the rest of the pack joined us and so, just to freshen them up, I handed them 2 cans of Cloud 9 so that they may be able to continue riding as soon as possible.
With the light diminishing, we moved forward but there was a lot of rain now so the progress remained slow and cautious but steady. We all filled up soon after we reached Nippani and crossed into MH. By the time we reached Kolhapur, it was already 8 PM and we were all very cold and wet so we decided to stop for dinner right there. The rain had been along with us all this while. We stopped at a McDonald’s on NH4 in Kolhapur and had our final dinner of the ride together. When we were done with dinner, the rain had eased up slightly so we decided to make a run for it. But soon enough, the rain worsened again. Coupled with the darkness and the 35w stock headlamps, half the team was having a hard time making any sort of progress in the heavy rain. It took us around 2 hours to reach from Kolhapur to Karad with riding speeds keeping between 25-30kmph. En route it was decided that we will split the group with Surojit following the Ninja and I would be leading Ankit and Amogh.
Though Suro could ride at a respectable 50kmph behind Ashutosh, Ankit and Amogh were even struggling to maintain 35kmph. I was getting more and more tired by the minute with boredom and sleep deprivation was taking its toll. We stuck together for quite a while when we saw Ashu and Suro pulled over on the side of the road. Turns out due to all the water and rain, there was something wrong with Ashu’s Ninja which was suffering massive power-loss. We somehow made it to Satara by 11 PM and halted at a Dhaba for some warmth and tea. As soon as we stopped, the rain picked up even more and its intensity was similar to that of cloudburst. Within minutes, we could see that the bikes had started to drown in the collecting water. We bailed the dhaba as soon as we realized that the rain won’t be easing up and was causing more damage than help. We contemplated on staying the night at Satara and then continuing the following morning but the weather was so bad and the fact that Pune was just a further 100 odd km away, I felt that we had a better chance of surviving the storm if we just kept riding.
Anyways, as soon as we left the dhaba in Satara, I inadvertently picked up pace and realized that I could see better, the faster I went. Since the rain was so hard that more speed would mean more water which would mean that water on the visor would wash away faster! I stopped for the guys to catch up and told them this. In the meantime, my spare chain lube bottle in my tankbag had leaked and the right pocket was all oily. By mistake, I happened to wipe my visor with my glove with was semi-smeared in oil and voiala!! No more stagnant water droplets on the visor!! It was an accidental masterstroke. I did a trial high speed run and realized the drawback of this setup. Even though I could easily see things around myself even when going along at 120+kmph in that rain, as soon as there was oncoming traffic on the opposite lane, the light would make me totally blind. This was a bad drawback so I refrained from telling everyone what I had done and kept continuing in an effort to work around this problem. I crouched and the problem was solved to the extent of 90% aided by the plants planted between the divider by NHAI! God bless NHAI for that!!
Before I knew it, I was crossing Shirwal (turn for Mahabaleshwar road) going along at a speed of over 130 in cloudburst rain. Drowsiness had caught up with me once again and I was having a hard time doing any kind of riding. I decided that it would be now or never and kept on proceeding towards Pune. At the back of my mind, I knew that the others had each other in case they needed any help. After a few short wash-my-face stops, I saw katraj tunnel in the distance. As I came closer to the Tunnel, the rain started to ease up. About 1.5km from the tunnel, I was greeted by dry tarmac. For the first time in the last 400 km, there was no rain. I couldn’t believe my eyes and picked up the pace again rapidly progressing towards Pune. It was earlier planned that our xBHP friends who had come to see us off from Pune will welcome us on our return at Moto Cafe if we made it there by 12 midnight. But by the time I crossed Katraj tunnel, it was already almost 12:30AM. Still, I went over to The Moto Cafe, only to find it closed. I could make it there only by 12:40, so I guess nobody waited that long.
I turned around and went home, off-loaded the luggage, changed myself into dry clothes, went to the loo (had to poo poo for like 250km) and then called up Ashutosh to be told that those guys have also *just* made it to Pune. Though I was feeling very bad about going ahead without the group, there was very little I could do to help those guys go any faster and I myself was feeling very drowsy and was worried about my own safety had the ride been extended any longer. It took me all of 18 hours to ride from my Friend’s place in Bangalore to my place in Pune and the 3100 km journey from the previous 9 days had taken a toll on my body. The risk I took worked out for me well enough but I am not sure everyone would have been willing to live with that extremely risky drawback.
Anyways, we all did meet up a few days later to celebrate our successful and majorly uneventful ride across South India, a ride which showed us facets of India we had never before seen or known about. This particular ride is extremely close to my heart since this is the very first time I was venturing anywhere south of Goa and had practically no idea what to expect ahead. Whatever I experienced in the southern states was nothing like what I remembered being taught about in Geography textbooks back in school. My experiences in the Southern states of India were incomparable with anywhere else I have been till now. Thats why, even after over 2 years after the ride, I still remember almost all the details to be able to write such an extensive log now. But the biggest thing this ride gave me was 4 friends for a lifetime whom I can trust so much that I can practically bet my life on them.
Thank you (in alphabetical order) Amogh, Ankit, Ashutosh and Surojit for being such wonderful co-riders and friends. I hope we can do another journey like this sometime later in life, just to relive the old memories, the good old times.