Tuesday, October 31, 2006
26th October : Mysore - Bangalore
It had been a blunder for us yesterday. Partly due to the horrible roads and partly due
to the fact that we could manage to leave Mangalore by 3pm only. Anyways, the press hop had been arranged for us at the Press Club of Bangalore at 11am and it would be a 140km ride from the outskirts of Mysore to Bangalore, and then spending time looking around for the place!
Luckily we had pradeep, a Xbhp member in Mysore, who helped us get onto the Bangalore highway asap. It was a revelation to be on smooth tarmac again and while Sunny was enjoying the Fireblade to the max, Sunil and I (riding Kinetic Blazes) could only manage cruising at 90 and the occasional 100km/h! On good roads like these, i really miss the Jupiter's comfort and ability to cross the ton mark with ease and stay there forever....
Breakfast was at CCD – a really enjoyable one and talking to Venu of Bangalore was a good news too as he would be escorting us to the Press Club of Bangalore. For once, we would be on time in a city!
The location chosen by the Ipan guys was too good, a lush green little campus with squirrels and dogs living side by side in mutual harmony! And ofcourse the whole press was there, not for us, but for different purposes but then seeing us arrive on our machines did arouse a lot of interest in many people and we ended up being covered by five newspaper, a couple of websites and local tv channels!
By the time we were done at the press club of India, we went for a small photo shoot outside the vidhan sabha with the photographers and believe me, there was literally a traffic jam and even the local cops helped us by stopping the traffic! Amazing… it was time to head to the hotel that Venu had booked for us. Sabharwal guest house, in Wilson Garden it was. Nice place with underground parking for reasonable rates. Quite a few members had also come there and we decided to hang out at the ‘Roadtrip’ restaurant for lunch.
‘Roadtrip’ is based on biking theme and a good place for bikers to hang out and fill their bellies at the same time. I, in the meantime, was very tired and even right now don’t have enough strength to pen down about today’s happenings. Sorry for that…. Hope to blog better from tomorrow onwards, when we head to Nandi hills with the gang. Cio…
The line up of Mangalore riders did look good, with lots of 2strokes around too.
At the junction where the guys escorted us too, Kwokfist pulled up some good ones. By the time we left from here it was well past 3pm! The plan of making it to Bangalore seemed like a distant dream now
Within 15-20 minutes, we were riding in ‘true india’ – this pic says a lot
My machine for today was the Blaze too. It felt perfect around the numerous curves but once the rains started, the tyres didn’t feel too good. just after taking this picture, I stopped for some local snacks and had a tough time interacting with the guy at counter! None of us knew the other’s language…
Madikeri was done in dark, and we decide to call it a night at Mysore and what a terrible riding experience. Roads were pathetic to say the least except for the last few kms. We fell short of our target Bangalore and checked into the first hotel we could come across once on the outskirts of Mysore.
Monday, October 30, 2006
24th October: Goa – Mangalore
Somehow I feel that we didn’t do justice to Goa - we could only cover a part of old Goa, Diwar Island and a couple of beaches, but Goa is about so much more, isn’t it? To make it up, to an extent, Sunil left for the beach before sunrise and captured some breaktaking shots of the sun tearing outta the horizon. Sunny too joined him in and Ashish too went swimming in the morning, which meant that I was alone, sleeping away to glory in the room! The Goan Xbhp guys joined us in the resort, to see off us and ride with us till the border. We all had a lazy breakfast and drooled over the pictures taken in the morning. Feeling a bit embarrassed, I too set out on the beach with the camera, only to return with some boring shots!
Packing loads of stuff does take time, specially when the sun is blazing and your skin is burning because of riding under the sun for the last 10 days! While filling the Fireblade with Speed 97 from the pick-up truck, I saw a firang couple on two Enfields and told them about our road-trip. Seeing the Blaze and the Jupiter, they did boast about their Enfields and asked why the hell we were using ‘scooters’! At first they couldn’t believe we went up and down Leh-Ladakh on ‘scooters’ but only when I showed them the pictures did they realize the true potential of the Kinetic Blazes and then politely shut their mouths and carried on to their next destination.
It was well past noon when we finally left the resort. The roads weren’t too good initially but soon opened up into lovely long curves and even with Venkatesh sitting behind me on the Blaze, I didn’t slow down and went on to teach the accompanying Honda Deos a thing or two (those being ridden by Xbhpians half my weight!) Things slowed down when we hit the Goa-Karnatake border and the officials were in no mood to let us and the back-up vehicle to go lest we showed them all the documents and then explained the purpose of the ride! It was almost 3pm by the time we made a move from their and the Goa guys returned back. It had been a pleasure to have them around and the GIR team owes them a lot for all their help and support in the last two days.
I had been to Mangalore through this route twice before and had sweet memories of the roads and scenery. The roads over the time have deteriorated but the scenery remains the same. Roads after Karwar, climb onto a hill, from where you can see the sea shore and one can easily loose concentration on stretches like these! And then the narrow roads, with little traffic, passing through lush green fields and the pine trees. Riding on roads like these, on two-wheels does make a lot of sense and with the sun hiding away and the temperature coming down, we all rode together to cover as much distance as possible before dark and reach Udipi, where members would be riding with us to Manipal and then to Mangalore. The joy of riding on good roads was short lived, as, first it became dark and then, the horrible (an under-statement) roads to Udipi. Damm! We just couldn’t believe this was a national highway. Manipal and Mangalore members had warned us about these and average speeds fell to as low as 15km/h. It wasn’t tough only for the Fireblade, but for all the machines to negotiate crater like pot-holes, which never seemed to end at all. If such roads persist on each day of the GIR, by the time we are back in Delhi, all of us would have well-built arms and shoulders! Five minutes of riding on these roads is equivalent to an hour on good roads. And then those inter-city buses, which race with each other continuously, kicking up dust and stones and literally blinding other traffic on the road.
We managed to reach the Udipi junction quite late but soon members were there, escorting us to the sweet little city of Manipal. It seemed to me as a smaller version of Pune, with majority of people being students there, what with tens of educational institutions around. The GIR team was taken to Food Court for dinner and it was great interacting with members whom we had only known online. We were to take the long way round to Mangalore as the normal highway was more or less equivalent to a war-hit zone! CJ rode with us, and at Karakal, the Mangalore gang was patiently waiting for us for hours! It was almost mid-night and these chaps had arranged food and accommodation for us already and had been calling up again and again to know our whereabouts. Knowing that you do have such dedicated and caring members all over the country leaves you emotional. We had never met them, or spoken to them, and here they were, to escort us to Mangalore in the middle of the night. Biking brotherhood at its best.
We rode through quite a dark and isolated area but the road were perfect to keep good speeds. Once on the outskirts of Mangalore, one of the riders went out of fuel. At this point, I was ahead of everyone and didn’t notice that the group had stopped. When no one came for a while, I started to worry if I took some wrong road. Imagine, being all alone in the middle of a small forest like area, with monsoon insects all over, their sounds making you shiver and the silence killing you slowly. With no street light or moon’s light (lot of clouds), I couldn’t even see my other hand without using the Blaze’s lights. I had no choice but to ride on and only when I saw the pick-up waiting for all of us did some life come back into me. Soon, the group joined in and in the next 15 minutes, we were in the city with Meghan (kwokfist) pulling standing wheelies on his RX! Reaching the hotel was quite fast as the roads were all deserted and crashing into the bed was next as the whole day and night had been very tiring for us. Meghan and CJ decided to stay with us for the night, while I started refreshing the good old memories I had of this little town of Mangalore. We rode almost 425kms today from Goa and had it been not for the Manipal and Mangalore gang, we wudnt have reached here so easily and safely. Tomorrow we head to Bangalore, another major biking hub but we have been told that the roads are in a real mess! Will the bikes make it through the 400km ride tomorrow?
The biggest threat to tourist arent terrorists but people like these. They will keep following and irritating you all the time.
Pic taken while overtaking Sunny, on the Blaze, at around 60km/h. This particular road was the bypass to NH4A and took us directly to Old Goa
The biggest threat to our Fireblade arent the bad roads or fuel but people!
Feasted to rice and fish curry
Forgot the place's name. Its in Old Goa
Had a tough time taking this pic but it was worth it
Awesome artistic work!
In Diwar island, with the local children. We took a ferry to reach this island, which is deviod of any commercialisation or tourist.
Sunil relaxes on the tree, while I experiment with the Canon 350D at Diwar Island
Cruising around on the Fireblade. Most probably the first SBK on this island
Our resort on the Colva beach. Awesome place it was
Aint I happy?
Friday, October 27, 2006
The Kambhatki ghats, approx 65kms from Pune, offer pure cornering pleasure to bikers. its a one way ghat, so the chances of oncoming traffic are very less. What a shame, i was riding a moto-scoot, that too without rear brakes, and hence cudnt make full use of the inviting curves
There is a pole indicating a telephone around, but there wasnt one!
I tried experimenting by removin the front windshield of the Jupiter but in effect it became worse and kms later, i had it back on!
Ashish didnt like the fact that i drank too much.... Red Bull!
Somewhere before Belgaum comes this awesome view. Thats me with the Fireblade and the Jupiter.
Hi, thats Bunny Punia reporting from the GIR!
I have started experimentin a lot with takin pics while riding. this one came out real nice @ 80km/h
The place where we had lunch in Belgaum and Vinayak Jee in the meantime sorted out the Jupiter and Blaze (minor probs)
Sunil to Sunny : I just cant keep up with Bunny on the Jupiter. What shall i do?
Minutes later, my Jupiter died..
It was almost gettin dark and we still had to take out all the luggage, the Blaze and then put in the Jupiter and all the luggage!!
23rd October : Pune – Panaji via Belgaum, app 500kms23rd October : Pune – Panaji via Belgaum, app 500kms
Break free. Please. Break free from your air-conditioned cars, from world class Volvo buses, from airplanes and trains. Pick up a two-wheeler, be it any, from an automatic scooter to a full blown tourer and set out to discover India. Today was the best day for me here on the Leg 2 of the GIR in terms of India’s beauty and to actually see and feel this beauty, you need to be on a two-wheeler, away from the bounds of four walls of a four-wheeler. From the long sweeping straights to the awesome Kambhatki ghats, the back roads of Panaji to the tight curves of the Amboli ghats, the roads were inviting and so was the scenery surrounding these roads. Highways down south are definitely more interesting than above north and the more I tried to take my eyes off the road, the more I urged to stop and just soak in the beauty around. What a pity, Amboli ghats and back roads of Panaji were done in the dark.
I really wanted to stick to the plan of leaving Pune by seven, but we got delayed by around an hour. Nevertheless, we made sure we made up for it by riding for long durations without a stop and kept our cruising speeds at around the ton mark, except for the Fireblade which was doing double of that! Katraj ghats were in a mess as usual but the roads thereafter were quite nice and I don’t need to pen down words for the Kambhatki ghats – heaven for cornering antics.
The small tank capacity of the Blaze showed its presence again when Sunil went out of gas and I had to backtrack 10 kms to push him till the next pump! My Jupiter in the meantime returned 32.1 kmpl, which included staying on the wrong side of the ton mark for most of the times – blame it on the awesome roads! But we did take a lotta stops too – blame it on the magic of India’s landscape!
Our plan was to take the NH4a from Belgaum to Panaji as we were negotiating Belgaum’s city traffic, the throttle cable of my bike suddenly snapped! Fortunately, a member of our club was riding around when he saw us and volunteered to show us to the nearest restaurant (for lunch) and we called up the back-up vehicle guys to proceed there as they would fix the bike in the time we would be munching on food. We also came to know that the NH4a would be a bad choice due to bad roads and so we took the Amboli ghat route but as had stopped a lot of times, plus Sunil running out of fuel, plus spending over an hour at each meal stop meant that by the time we left Belgaum, the sun had started to go down! The road we took wasn’t too wide, with fields on both the sides and very little traffic but there were numerous bad patches and we just couldnt get into a good rhythm of covering up miles. Seeing the sun go down behind the fields and hills, with lovely songs playing on the Ipod, was an experience that really makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated and a lot more. Moments like these really last for a long while and depending on the song that’s playing, you end up missing your family, your love, your friends, your home, your machine and stuff.
We tried making up but my Jupiter again gave up on me when suddenly the engine died in the middle of a longish corner! The bike wouldn’t crank and we decided not to spend too much time on it, and instead got the Blaze down from the pick-up and put the mini-ship, Jupiter, up. It good a good half an hour to take out all the luggage and put it back and the place where we had stopped gave a uncanny feeling. Anyways as we carried on, within the first few kilometers, I understood it all. The almighty had done all this to save me! The roads were becoming full of pot-holes and the ghats started too, which meant that if I had been on the Jupiter, which still had no rear brakes, and whose front fairing would be falling apart anytime, there were quite high chances of me kissing mother earth, the hard way! The Blaze, in comparison to the Jupiter, felt too flickable and I was totally enjoying riding her, plus the fact that suspension too felt better! There was no traffic, no street lights and I was taking the curves full-toos scooter style – enthusiasts will understand what I mean. Even managed to out-run the Fireblade on the tight turns! But it wasn’t long before I realized there was no one behind me and as I stopped, the creepyness of the place started haunting me! The place was full of noise of insects, a tinge of fog and cold, and nothing else. Best place for bandits to strike haan.
Anyways moving ahead, we were getting very late wrt to our original plans and when a road diversion came for Panaji, I opted for the one which was around 20kms shorter but in bad shape. In the end I was glad I did it (along with Sunil and the pick-up). The road went through what you can call as the real India. Not a single vehicle came our way in the whole 15-20kms, no street lights, tinge of cold and fog, lot of steep climbs and broken bridges over small streams, isolate mud huts along the road and deep vegetation. Yes, the road was bad, but how I wished I had done it in day time to capture the images and share with you all.
Goa Xbhpians helped us a lot in taking us to Aneesh’s place for the night and rode almost 70kms to Margao along with us! As it was late, there wasn’t too much traffic and we reached his house quite fast. Aneesh’ mom had cooked delicious food for us and we didn’t even bathe (blame it on the hunger) and directly went for the food! I did have a bath, but after dinner and its 1 am right now, my eyes are almost closed, dead tired, but the memories of the day’s ride remain – those roads, those hills, those curves… incredible India for sure! I am in Goa - the all year party place. Tomorrow is going to be great…
Happy Diwali, the GIR way!
21 & 22nd : Pune
Cover up on sleep, wash clothes and cover up on blogging. That was the plan for today and we did adhere to it by getting up late. And I did adhere to the plan of washing clothes too. And then the last thing – cover up on blogging… well well. We are four riders and have just two laptops and so you can understand the reason behind us running behind schedule to update our sites and blogs. We are staying at the same house I used to live in when I was working with BIKE INDIA and CAR INDIA magazines. My house mates, Amit and Muntaser are off to Jaipur and Mumbai respectively and so the whole house is to us! Time to unwind then…
Sunny and Sunil wanted to buy little stuff and Ashish was down with a sore throat. And putting up in the house meant the whole atmosphere was a lazy one. Nevertheless I wanted to buy a laptop for the past many days and today I knew I would do it. Off I went searching for Sunny and Sunil on MG Road and managed to find them at Baristas. Ok, time for some good breakfast haan. Superbikes are really ‘people magnets’ and once again it was evident on the busy MG Road. Sunny is an expert at computers and it was a sight to see when he counter questioned the sales guy and left him speech-less. Whao…
The deal finally boiled down to a HCL and an Acer, both of similar configurations and similarly priced too. The HCL one was a real small compact, and weighed 1.9 kilos while the Acer had a big 15.4 inch TFT Lcd, best for viewing high resolution pics and watching videos. Went in for the Acer, and upgraded to 512MB Ram, plus a complimentary optical mouse and a card reader and for 45 grands, the deal seemed worth it. A Diwali gift for myself!
The rest of the evening was spent celebrating Diwali in the area we were staying and we made an outline of India with candles and put our helmets on the four corners, with the Fireblade staring at the north tip of India. The laptop and speakers had some good music flowing, while I distributed sweets among the small crowd that had gathered. It was lovely to get wishes from people we had never met or known before and explaining our motive of the ride made them ask questions in disbelief! Delhi to Pune on ‘scooters’ and a superbike! Did miss my family a lot but then this is one of the many sacrifices of being on the GIR. My original reliance phone was switched off as I wanted to be cut off from the world but switching it on made me realize how much I had missed. Smses didn’t stop pouring in, from Diwali wishes, to GIR wishes to being concern for my whereabouts (cell being off). Back inside the house, music was on full blast, computers and cams were working overtime. Work did take a back step but it was ok considering that fact that we hadn’t rested for days now.
22nd - Half of our bikes were still with the Kinetic guys and so today (22nd) was another day we could catch up on work. Ashish (on a Kinetic Aquilla – one of the workshop guy’s bike) and Sunil (Blaze) went sightseeing to Singhad fort and while Ashish didn’t seem to keen on exploring it, Sunil had a great time gelling-in in the natural beauty. I, in the meantime, was in the house updating and generally getting in touch with the rest of the world! Tomorrow would be a long ride to Goa via Belgaum. The bikes have been serviced and I will get to explore the limits of the Blaze, my bike from now on as the Jupiter still doesn’t have the rear brakes working plus the engine isn’t cranking up. Good in a way, I will be riding the Blaze tension free.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Ashish and Sunil were helped by the Mumbai Xbhpians, as Sunny and me had to rush to Pune
20th October : Mumbai – Pune
What a day it had been yesterday! And we did know today would be no different. We had to be in Pune by 12:30pm for a press meet at the Castrol Bike Zone in Viman-nagar and so I thought we would be gone from Mumbai by 8am but that wouldn’t be the case. It was 10am by the time we got going and then it happened. First, the traffic and then the Comet’s gear shifter broke (being ridden by Ashish). Things weren’t going our way and riding the Jupiter in traffic with just the front brake was too much an effort. Finally Sunny and I decided to go ahead while Sunil would wait with Ashish to fix up the Comet. It was 11am when I hit the old Mumbai-Pune highway. I say ‘I’ as Sunny was somewhere behind in the traffic, trying hard to push the Fireblade out of the mess! We had less than 90 minutes to cover and Viman-Nagar was the other end of town, which meant a total of approximately 150 kms! I knew we would never make it, and tried talking to the PR guys to try shifting the press meet by an hour but it didn’t happen. Things didn’t stop here – the Jupiter’s front fairing starting giving away and the nuts came off before I could hit Lonavala. I had to ride for like ten minutes, holding the front fairing with one hand, before I could get hold of a mechanic who fixed the thing. Here is where Sunny passed me on the Fireblade. Pune was still around 60kms away, VIman-Nagar another 15kms and it was already 12 noon! I never pushed this baby this much or put my life on the line but this time I had to do it. Sunny took a different route, while I went in towards Katraj and went thru the outskirts and finally made it to the Castrol Bike Zone ten minutes after Sunny, at 1:30Pm, an hour late, but the press guys were just too co-operative and understanding and were patiently waiting for us! I did feel ashamed for making them wait for so long but the guys didn’t even give the slightest hint that they had been waiting and all! Sunny took the charge while I chatted for a while with couple of guys from an automobile magazine. The guys at Castrol Bike Zone owner had made sure they didn’t take much bikes today for servicing so that the whole place was to us and more so, after the press left, all the people working at the Bike Zone came out and we had a small photo-shoot with the bikes in the foreground and the Bike Zone in the background. Our bikes got a good wash and in the meantime we had a talk with the owner of the Zone and an official from Castrol. Our pick-up vehicle joined in too and the news came from Ashish and Sunil that they were on their way and would be reaching soon.
Our place of stay in Pune would be the same house where I used to stay when I was working with BIKE INDIA and CAR INDIA magazines. My other two house-mates were off to their cities for Diwali and hence we had the whole place to us. Memories of my stint in Pune came running back as I reached the house but in life one has to move on and so did I. Our bikes needed a service and so did we. We all were tired, although the ride had not been too much. We were in no mood to go out but then Rohit from RSA invited us for a mid-night ride, where 3 bike clubs were coming for a small ride and Diwali wishes. How could be resist that? We blogged for a while in the house and then left at 15 mins to midnight for Marzorin, MG road, the meeting point. There were 30 odd bikers there, including a Honda 929, and a couple of old muscle bikes. Not to attract too much attention and cops, we decided to leave for a good photo-shoot location and lemme tell you, they don’t call Pune the biking capital of India for no reason. The way we rode, in a formation, and patiently, the way a couple of guys stunting, and the way everyone behaved did certainly show that yes, Pune is THE biking city of India. No doubt about that. Bhuvan, as usual, left everyone stunned with his wheelies and after spending a good time with everyone, we called it a day as we didn’t have any more strength left in any one of us to stay there any longer. Home was still a good 20 minutes ride away and once there, we all crashed back. Yet again, I am ending todays blog with half closed eyes. Too long and tiring a day. Tomorrow we spend a lazy day here, trying to update blogs and websites. Time to say goodbye and catch up on sleep. Between, I finally buy my laptop tomorrow! Cio…
After sleepin for hardly four hours, I had to get up as we had to leave for an early morning shoot in Mumbai. Shows on my face, doesnt it. Shot outside Gateway of India sometime after the sun came out.
With John, at his place, over looking the sea. Left to right - John, Me, Noor, Ashish, Sunil
19th October : Mumbai
Not all human-beings are born superstars. And not all superstars are human-beings. When human-beings get fame, get popular, they tend to start living in a world of their own, dying for media publicity, acting pricey and forgetting the real world, from where they originally came. But there are always exceptions. What Sachin is to cricket fans in India, John Abraham is to Indian bikers. It was planned that we would be heading to John’s place in Bandra but suddenly from nowhere, while we were waiting at the CCD and Barista outlets, John appeared and before we knew, we could hear screams around and the whole media swarming like bees around him. He does have presence and the way he interacts with people is too good. He headed straight for us and the warmth with which he met all of us was too good, so good, I don’t have words right now. I, personally, am a big fan of him and seeing him in real life today, just upped my respect for this superstar, who is down to earth and humble. And a real biker too! Media surrounded us, cameras clicking non-stop, reporters asking a million questions but John made sure we four were always in the picture, around him, and he didn’t mind if we kept our arms around him. Was he for real? I wanted to pinch myself!
Before starting with the interviews, he interacted with us to get details about the ride and in every interview; he made sure we weren’t left behind. I mean, John is John but the way he talked to the media showed why he is probably the most loved Indian film-star amongst the youth after Shahrukh. And biking does matter to him big time, and it was evident when a reporter went onto ask a cricket related question and how John shup him! Kudos…
After we were done with the interviews, he invited us all to his place. I may be pushing this too much, but being at his place, away from the fans and media meant too much. And I was lucky enough to sit next to him with the laptop on, showing him some vids and pics related to the GIR. His place was on the 8th floor, overlooking the sea with a fabulous surround system and a real big plasma, on which he showed us some clips from the “Glory of dust” , an English flick, based on which a movie will be coming next year starring John and Abhishek Bachan. We were with him for close to half hour but before leaving I wanted a favour from him, which I really doubted if he would do. I passed on my phone to him, on which my fiancée was holding on the other side and asked if he could just say hi to her. John ended up talking to her for a minute! I am telling you, if you want to meet a real humble down to earth personality, John it is! No doubt. Till date I had seen him in reel life, but today I saw him in real life. We spoke to him about so many things, from bikes to biking and its scene in India and nothing else.
Earlier in the day, we had a presentation at Castrol’s head office, where again it was pleasant to see so many people actually taking interest in what we were doing and also came down to see the bikes and click photographs with us. And it was a very sweet gesture by them to wish us Diwali with sweets. But we had to hurry up so as to catch up with John. Riding was as usual a shitty experience in Mumbai’s traffic and on top of that
After we left his house, we headed back to Barista as the press was still waiting for us patiently for our interviews and once we were done with them, we all, the four of us, the two officials from Castrol, two representatives from Ipan, sat together and discussed out the day’s happenings. One thing I wish to add is that these two representatives really went outta the way to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible, specially Archana. There are tens of instances where she did too much like when I was sweating in the heat and she got me an ice tea, or her constant calls and smses to keep us updated on the plans ahead. She, Archana Thomas, seemed like a god sent angel in the middle of so many unknown faces. Ofcourse knowing her from my days at Next Gen (BIKE INDIA and CAR INDIA) did help but then I never expected her to deliver so much. If you are reading this Archana, then thanks a lot!
After Barista, we were too tired to do anything and left back to the hotel. As it is, we had a lot of catching up to do with the blogs and website updates and the rest of the evening and night was spent doing the same. Today had been an awesome day for us and tomorrow we leave for the biking capital of India – Pune.