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A Journey of Firsts…

It all started as a germ of an idea way back in June-July 2004, when some of my friends started to plan for Leh in August. It was something I really wanted to do but then I knew that I was not ready to do Leh yet so then started thinking what else… It came to me one day that I haven’t met my relatives for sometime now so why not ride and meet them too. And so came the ride plan to Surat. Had thought of doing it in October as by then all preparations would be complete and also I went ahead and applied for leave. While all this was going on I got to know about the 60kph Kutch ride and it seemed destined for me to do, after all I was planning to ride to Gujarat. So then I reworked the dates and plan, and then reapplied for leave. Then started full scale preparations. Running in my bike, buying stuff that would be required like saddlebags and all. Work was hectic too as a new regulation was gonna be enforced and I was over seeing that. Then 3days before I was to leave Ambar had an accident and in the Ambar Rescue Mission my bike was hit by another car that skid on the same oil patch. Was worried about having it up and running on time but thanx to friends and mechanic it all happened on time. Ride plan changed to include Coorg and ride with friends for 2 days. And then finally the day came and it was 24th Dec. Had just picked up the bike, hadn’t even started packing, only my list was ready. Finally all was complete and ready at 10:30pm. My uncle then came to check and makesure all was fine. Had bath and went to sleep dreaming of the road.

The Route Taken

Sending 17

Day 1 : 25th Dec. 2004 : Saturday
Odometer: 2385
Falls & Drops: 1/1
Start & End Time: 7:10am – 9:00pm
From & To: Bangalore – Kushalnagar (Coorg)

Woke up to Shamsher’s voice and my brother’s knock on the door. Got ready, loaded up bike and left home at 6:30am. Was to meet my friends at Aromas of China. Left brother and cousin there and headed out towards Kanakpura with Subs, Bansi, Small, Abhi, Archana and Rachna. Had a fall enroute, had skid on some sand but all was fine with me and Musafir. Just after Kanakpura Abhi’s clutch cable broke and so we stopped a bit out of Kanakpura under a tree while he got it fixed.

Finally started out at 11:30am and stopped at Mysore for Lunch at Dasprakash. Then started out again but Abhi’s bullet was having problems. I wasn’t riding fast and Abhi’s bullet was in running in so it was fine. We were supposed to reach Mercara that day. Abhi’s bike was giving problems and at Hunsur we asking one mechanic who said it could be the points but we were not satisfied so searched for another mechanic. The other directed us to a bullet mechanic. When we found the place we realized he was catholic and it was Christmas. While we were checking all this, a guy came up to us on the main road and said it would be best if we left within 10 min as there were communal riots and he was concerned as there were three women in our group. We left quickly but even the next day we heard rumors of riots in Mangalore. This turned out to be just that – rumors. Before I knew what was happening it got dark and I was still riding. My first longride with all this luggage and to top it all now riding at night too. Was riding between Abhi and Bansi. Was absolutely scary, couldn’t see complete curves and that made cornering difficult, to add to that the bus drivers were absolutely mad. Almost got hit by a bus that suddenly decided to over take even though he saw 3 bikes coming from the opposite direction. Reached Kushalnagar at 9:00pm and found that the bullet mechanic had left but he came back just to fix Abhi’s bike and then she sounded like a bullet. Didn’t wanna do the ghats to Mercara at night and was shaken enough with night riding so Bansi and Rachnawent in search of a place to stay for the night. Raghu and Prathiba arrived by bus. Subs and Small also arrived after their bar hopping expedition. With everything booked in Coorg for the weekend we landed up in the Tibetan Monastery for the night posing as research students. Slept after 12:00 midnight really tired but couldn’t forget the road to the monastery in the moonlight, how it felt lying on it gazing at the night sky and dreamt of it.

Day 2 : 26th Dec. 2004 : Sunday
Odometer: 2639
Falls & Drops: 0/1
Start & End Time: 10:30am – 7:00pm
From & To: Kushalnagar (Coorg) – Mangalore

Saw the Golden Temple first thing in the morning and then had breakfast. Said our goodbyes to Subs, Small, Raghu and Prathiba as they were headed back to Bangalore. Then the rest of us took off towards Mercara, then Puttur and finally Mangalore. Stopped on the way at Rachna’s and Archana’s friends house and ate oranges. The ghats were absolute madness. It was difficult handling the bike on the curves and I guess my lack of riding experience didn’t help much. Finally the ghats ended. This was my first experience of ghats. Stopped just out of Puttur for lunch and had Coni Roti and Chicken Curry. Also got complete update from Shamsher on the Earthquake, Tsunami and Koshy.Continued riding towards Mangalore with a heavy heart. Landed up riding in the dark again and so decided to stop at Mangalore for the night. Found a hotel and just crashed.

Day 3 : 27th Dec. 2004 : Monday
Odometer: 2819
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 7:00am – 7:00pm
From & To: Mangalore – Mapusa (Goa)

Said goodbye to my friends in the morning and headed out to Goa. They were gonna be stopping overnight at Merwanthe and Gokarna and I had to get to Goa. Started out on the NH17 looking forward to the coastal stretch. About 130 kms out of Mangalore the road ran along the beach for about 3 kms. Superb is all I can say. A blue sea and white sand on one side and coconut trees on the other. Was disappointed that it was only 3 kms. About 20km after that started to feel sleepy so on the first ghat where there was a lovely curve I stopped and slept for an hour on the concrete block. Woke up refreshed and started out again. Somewhere enroute saw a road marker saying 630km to Mumbai. Was quite surprised and so at the next stop I checked my Lonely Planet and it said 540kmfrom Goa to Mumbai. Thought that that would be quite some distance to cover in a day so decided not to stop at Margao as planned and push on till Kaplan. But then got stuck in Panjim traffic and managed to reach only Mapusa before dark. Was quite tired so thought would stop for the night here and head out early in the morning. Found a couple of hotels but all quoting above Rs. 1000 for a night. Then saw a board of Youth hostel and went to enquire there. They said they were packed and didn’t have space. After a lot of pleading and cutting a sorryfigure they managed to adjust and give me a bed with a family that was also staying there. Unloaded the bike and then went to have dinner.Came back really pooped and just slept. Knew had to leave really early as had 500 odd kms to cover the next day.

Race the Sun

Day 4 : 28th Dec. 2004 : Tuesday
Odometer: 3210
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 6:30am – 10:45pm
From & To: Mapusa (Goa) – Byculla (Mumbai)

Woke up at 5:45am and was ready to leave at 6:30am. Was still dark when I started out. Left behind a quite puzzled caretaker at the Youth Hostel. I guess he couldn’t understand why someone would only stay a night in Goa and want to wake up so early there too. Rode in the cold and stopped after Sawantwadi for tea. The tea was out of this world. Super taste and warmth. The lady who ran the place realized that I needed to relieve myself and so directed me towards some shrubbery. When I got back she tried questioning me in Marathi. With my limited knowledge of the language all I caught was a word that sounded like ‘Lagna’ which I knew meant marriage so assumed she was asking if I was married. Saidno I wasn’t, to which she replied and that sounded as if she was asking if I was riding to get married. Quite surprised I said no was going to Mumbai. At this point she realized that I hadn’t understood and so with gestures asked me again, turned out she was asking if I had been successful in relieving myself. After 2 hot glasses of tea that just cost me 4 bucks I started out again. The ghats had started and I was looking forward to them ending as they brought my speed down and had a huge distance to cover. Took very few breaks through out. Must have taken about 5 in the whole day.

At one point while over taking a truck on the ghats had a close call as I misjudged the truck and jeep speed and the truck driver didn’t slow. Half way through I just knew that the only way out was in front and just about made it. Left me quite shaken and a good lesson learnt about overtaking on ghats.

Later on again on the ghats got carried away by the view as I came around a bend and next thing I knew I could feel mud below the wheel. A quick check brought me back on the road.Reached Chiplun at about 3:45pm and asked a guy walking past where I could get some water. He pointed to a house. Went there and realized it was a school. Asked for water and the kids filled up my bottles with little pots. Lovely cold water, drank some and had a wash too. My next stop was by a lake which I just couldn’t resist so took a break and some snaps. Had about 60kms more to reach Panvel when it got dark. Contemplated next course of action and figured it didn’t make sense to stay anywhere here and best course of action was to head to Panvel. So did the last ghat in the last light of the sun and continued to Panvel at a slow pace. Found a small paggio thingy after about 30kms and stuck behind it for the rest of the way. Reached Panvel at 8:30 pm. Asked a traffic policeman fordirections. His first question was ‘Ladka hai ya Ladki?’ Said Ladki to which he then wanted to know where I was coming from and when I told him Bangalore he was shocked for a couple of moments. He then gave me directions and I moved on. Stopped at the next PCO and called my uncle who gave me directions to Byculla. Kept checking with taxi guys to make sure I was on the right road. The first taxi guy said it was about 20km away. The second said about 20 min away. The third said after 3 flyovers and the fourth added 2 more to them. Finally reached Byculla at 10:30pm after covering 46kms.The NH17 was completely mind blowing and I promised myself that the next time I did it I would take at least 5 days to cover it. Each bend had a view that was a photographers dream. Had felt so bad that I couldn’t stop everywhere. Most of my family had gone for a wedding so there wasn’t anything to eat at home but bread and eggs so my cousin took pity on me and took me out to eat pizza. Was dying of hunger as had had only the two glasses of tea in the whole day. Was too occupied with getting to Mumbai to feel hungry the entire way. Ordered a 12 inch pizza but was too tired to chew more then one slice. So got the rest packed and headed back home. Family had got back and we sat catching up on my ride till Mumbai. My uncle then suggested going out for a drive and everyone was so excited I didn’t have the heart to say no. So off we went to Marine drive and then a search for something to eat or drink.Finally found a juice joint open and drank juice. Got to bed finallyat 3:00am. Just slept.

Closing Odometer : 3756

Day 5 : 29th Dec. 2004 : Wednesday

Woke up early at about 8:00am as the whole house started to wake up. Haddecided to spend a day in Mumbai. Spent sometime with Mom who had come from Surat for the wedding. Visited some relatives and by evening was pooped so just went to sleep at 7:30pm.

Snaps of Sending 17…

Day 6 : 30th Dec. 2004 : Thursday
Odometer: 3772
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 9:15am – 8:30pm
From & To: Byculla (Mumbai) – Surat

Woke up at 7:30am to find that Mom and Aunt had left the last night for Surat. So quickly got ready, had a good breakfast , loaded bike and headed out to Surat after all goodbyes had been said.Took me about an hour and a half to reach the highway with my uncle and aunt escorting me till Phoenix Mills. Had passed ‘Saath Raste’ from where my uncle said you could go to any part of India depending on the road taken. Was sleepy again on reaching the highway so parked the bike again by the side of the road and took a nap. Woke up 45 mins later and headed out again. Messaged Mandeep that I was headed to Surat but didn’t get a reply. Took a break before Valsad and while I was standing there a police man came along and did one complete interrogation session. He had some hazaar questions to ask. Who’s bike? Where you going? Who is in Surat? You traveling alone? Where have you come from? He finally was satisfied and left. Passed him sometime later and waved out. Reached Valsad at about 3:30pm and thought would give Mandeep a call and check anyway.He asked me to make my way to Satnam Dhaba and he would meet me there.Sat talking to Mandeep over tea and completely lost track of time. Had learnt to tell the time by the sun over the last couple of days but this day was cloudy and so when I looked at my watch was surprised to see it was 5pm already. Mandeep suggested the Dungri road as the highway between Valsad and Surat was under construction. He came along till Dungri and then I was again on my own with dusk soon approaching. Headed on to Navsari. Kept getting lost in the little towns and had to ask directions for the next town. Finally at Sachin spotted a bus thatwas headed for Surat and just followed it. Reached Surat and asked directions to my Aunts house on Ghod-dod road. Reached home at 8:30pm to be welcomed by a much elated mother.

Closing Odometer : 4032

Day 7 : 31st Dec. 2004 : Friday
Day 8 : 1st Jan. 2005 : Saturday
Day 9 : 2nd Jan. 2005 : Sunday

Mandeep had told me that he would be meeting up with the guys coming from the south and going to Saputara and Dangs. Really wanted to go but then Mom had not seen me for a month and she was returning only a month later so decided to stay back and spend some time with her.Stayed in Surat. Slept at 10:30pm on 31st funda being if I slept more over new years would get to sleep more in the rest of the year. So if this funda works then the whole year of 2005 would be spent on holiday, riding , eating and sleeping. Oh and ate a lot while in Surat. Khaman, Undhio, Gol guppas and loads of other stuff. So spent 3 days in Surat doing absolutely nothing but eating and sleeping. What a holiday… Absolute bliss…

Snaps of Bombay and Surat

Day 10 : 3rd Jan. 2005 : Monday
Odometer: 4032
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 10:30am – 5:15pm
From & To: Surat – Ahmedabad

Thanx to my eating spree on 2nd Jan started the Loo Odyssey. This led to my starting out late on 3rd in the morning. Kept reaching the door only to head back to the other end of the house. Finally made it out of the door at 10:30pm and headed to Kamrej Chowkadi towards Ahmedabad. This ride was quite uneventful except for the guards not letting me onto the expressway which broke my heart.Anuj kept messaging asking where I had reached. Was to ride in with Sanjeev and Druv but could not catch up with them and they moved on.Finally reached Ahmedabad at 5:15pm. Met Anuj 10 km before the city and followed him to Gaurav’s Apartment. Had been wondering how I would recognize Anuj but it was so so simple. Was quite excited about meeting the rest of the guys from 60kph. Met quite a few as I walked in and it took me quite sometime to get a hang of all the names. Well I am bad with names but I never forget a face. As soon as I got in Nicky and Meeta asked me if I wanted to come shopping. I went along to buy some bandhani stuff. If any of my friends back home hear about this they would have a good laugh. Freya and this kind of shopping. Just sat and watched them chose fabrics, they all seemed same to me except for colors and patterns. I can completely understand the lost feeling men have when they accompany women shopping. Didn’t buy anything myself, didn’t understand it and after all I don’t wear these things much. Own some 3 salwars, one for weddings, one for funerals and one just in case I have to wear one to work.Headed back, had a wash and freshened up. Then went to Amols Workshop.Once back from there met Ajay. Gaurav when I met him before going to the workshop had told me I could take my bike to the Rann. Was quite apprehensive about it. I love Musafir and I had a long ride back didn’t want anything happening to her and riding in the sand for so long, well wasn’t very sure especially after my skid on the first day. So spoke to Ajay to find out about the terrain and what hethought about taking the bike. Ajay inspected Musafir and asked some questions. Then just told me it was up to me. Some help he had given. Spoke to Gaurav later and he said it was up to me, just don’t regret not taking her later. Then thought of it all and said what the heck, if she made it here what’s stopping her from doing this too. So Musafir and me would not part. Later we discussed the plan for the next couple of days. After this I spoke to Shamsher as there would be no coverage for the next couple of days, messaged mom, had dinner, a bathand headed of to sleep. Of course tried the Telephone Special Beedi recommended by Archana. Nice it was.When I was planning the route had got information for Ajay on it and at that time he had told me I would see lots of dead dogs in Gujarat and if I got lucky a dead cow too. Finally landed up seeing loads of dead dogs and I completely lost count of how many. But I also saw quite a few dead birds, a dead cat, a dead snake and a dead cow. What a day!!!

Kutch Calling…

Day 11 : 4th Jan. 2005 : Tuesday
Odometer: 4324
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 10:30am – 5:45pm
From & To: Ahmedabad – Tikar

Woke up in the morning at about 8am. Meeta told me about how I was talking at night in my sleep and well all I said was I had warned you. Freshened up and had breakfast. Then started loading the bike. My cramster saddlebags were to go in the backup truck as I thought it would help if I had less weight to manage in the sand.All packed we moved to Amols Workshop and then moved on towards Halvad. Did some straight stretches with crosswinds and was trying to keep up with the rest so was raising to 80-90 only to feel the rear swing out. Quite scary I will tell you. So had to wait for some stretches with no crosswinds and then catch up with the rest. The tail guys must have a lot of patience.If this was not enough came across some absolutely bad roads. On one stretch it was just stones and I had to keep telling myself don’t brake, no matter what you do don’t brake. Made it to the other side with out falling but my heart didn’t stop pounding for the next 5 min.When we stopped to tank up Vinod checked the wheel alignment and toldme it was off but if Musafir had reached here there were no worries she would make it.
Finally reached Halvad but all hotels were closed for lunch so decided to move on to Tikar. We gathered quite a crowd at Tikar. Once we moved on from there some of us stopped with Amol to have tea. The chai guy served it in saucers which was quite amusing and fun to drink from. Had been a long time since I drank from a saucer. The locals gathered around as usual and were inspecting Karthik’s (Royal Beasts) bike and questioning why his handle bars were different. To this the village know it all in a superior ‘I know it all’ tone replied that this is the latest design.From here on it was all loose mud, so I was going slowly but really enjoying it.We camped just out of Tikar. First thing we did was set up tents. Once all the tents were up we moved onto setting up the kitchen only to realize we didn’t have regulators. Amol and Jay went back to Tikar to see if they could get one. We continued with dinner preparation. Once Amol came back we made tea and then started with dinner. By now the tani party as we say in the south had started.Spent some time talking to Ajay only to realize he’s not that bad a guy. Some locals came to check on us and helped find firewood. Finally stumbled back to my tent at 2am. Was sleeping out in a tent like this for the first time and woke up quite a few times when I heard sounds of people walking.

Day 12 : 5th Jan. 2005 : Wednesday
Odometer: Must have done around 20 or so km
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 11:00am – 1:30pm
From & To: Tikar – Varnu

Woke up at about 8 am again. Walked around and then decided not to brush so headed for tea. Had breakfast followed by a photo session. Then we started out into the Rann. My pace was slow as it was largely mud and unknown terrain.Took lots of snaps. Saw some absolutely awesome mirages, wild wild asses, salt fields, a monitor lizard and endless land. We found the monitor in the truck when we stopped for a break and photos. He ran off and sat in the shade on Cinderella’s rear wheel. Had quite a time photographing him (wonder if he knows he’s a celebrity) and then he just wouldn’t get off the wheel when he finally did, it was to squeeze in between the seat and the mud guard. When we asked the locals they backed off saying it was poisonous. Finally got him out of there andhe took off into the desert. Saw a herd of wild asses as they were chased by bulls (bullets). Had a great photo session. Also took a ride in the ‘chakara’. A desimade in Gujarat vehicle, a real mean machine with a capacity to take the load of 1 ton and very decorative too. We then headed towards the other end of the Rann past the salt fields.Shekhar had an accident and I really appreciate his and Vijaya’s tolerance of pain and attitude. Didn’t see them once complain. Once we had Shekhar and Vijaya comfortable in the truck we started out again only to get stuck in wet mud. Wheels jammed, clutch plates burnt. With lots of help got Musafir to the other side. Once there I parked her and headed back to help the rest. Amol asked me if I could ride a bullet as we had to move one of the bikes that was in front ofthe truck. Said yes I could if he would start it and explain the gears. Not that I couldn’t start it. Had ridden a bullet twice before but was apprehensive of the luggage weight and terrain. So Amol started it and I put it in first gear and just slowly rode it to the group at the other end. They had to hold her up as soon as I stopped. That sure was a lot of weight.Amol then said the group that was out would head out to the campsite with the truck and he asked me to come along. As usual was moving slowly and at some point lost track of the truck in front as it got dark and could not see the group at the back either. Had spoken to some locals just before leaving the group andthey had said that from here on as long as you stuck to the left track you would reach Varnu. So now that was what I did. As it got dark put on my headlights and was a bit surprised when they were quite dim but then I thought it must be the battery and that it would get better soon.

Reached the end where the shrubs started again. Had dreamt of riding in the Rann alone and I got to do that. There is no feeling like it. Nothing can make you feel so small and insignificant. Surprisingly didn’t feel scared just felt a great sense of awe and respect for the land and the Rann. Once in the shrubs area reached a fork again and wasn’t sure which to take so stopped and only then realized that my headlight was dim coz I had just pushed it half way up so put them on fully and waited for someone to come. Saw a headlight in the Rann and a few minutes later Amol came back from the other side. He told me how toget to the campsite and headed back towards the group in the Rann. (When he came back he said that after he gave me directions and went on he felt someone was following him. Was quite an eerie feeling, first see a head light, then Amol feels someone was following him, hmmm…) I almost missed the temple in the dark but if felt nice to reach the campsite. We started to unload the truck so that it would be easier for the truck to leave to take Shekar and Vijaya to a doctor and also to start dinner preparations. I found some hard boiled eggs and sat down to peel them.

Around an hour or so later the second batch came out and Meeta tookover dinner preparations.Amol went back for the third lot with help, water and biscuits. Gaurav and Nikhil went in the opposite direction to find a way to the highway. The rest of us started to gather firewood and we set up two bikes to flash the headlights as beacons for Gaurav and Nikhil. I had quite an animated conversation with the truck driver and his helper while assisting with the fire. Gaurav came back and accompanied the truck with Shekhar and Vijaya to Gandhidham. The last lots of guys came out from the Rann at 1:30am. Had left behind 4 bikes in the Rann to be brought back in the morning. We had dinner and slept finally at 3am.

Day 13 : 6th Jan. 2005 : Thursday
Odometer: 4551
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 1:30pm – 7:30pm
From & To: Varnu – Gandhidham

We woke up quite early and after breakfast one group headed back into the Rann while the other went to Varnu. Also had to absolutely attend to natures call. Had tried to resist until now but couldn’t anymore so off I went on my adventure. For the first time in the open with tissue paper. Now that’s a first.Spent the morning packing up and once that was done waiting for all to return.We finally set out at 1:30pm towards Gandhidham. Was going slow as there were cross winds and Musafir was swinging. Histu and Gaurav had a lot of patience through all of this. Started making good time once we hit the NH8A as there were straight roads and no crosswinds.Finally reached Desert Palace at Gandhidham at 7:30pm and was very impressed.Washed up and gathered to view Gaurav’s Documentary called Landscapes of Solitude – A biography of a Biker Changpa. Was very moved by the little I saw and can’t wait to see the complete version.Took a paparazzi walk around the resort with inputs from Ajay. I was completely floored. (Ajay don’t you dare forget your offer). After all the talking, thanking and goodbyes finally hit the sack at 2am.

Snaps of Kutch Calling…

Day 14 : 7th Jan. 2005 : Friday
Odometer: 4715
Falls & Drops: 0/1
Start & End Time: 12:00pm – 2:30am
From & To: Gandhidham – Ahmedabad

We, that is Ajay, GR and I woke up at 4am and headed out to KalaDungar at 5am. The plan was an impromptu one made last minute at night to watch the sunrise from KalaDungar.So off we went via Bhuj to Khavda and the KalaDungar. Enroute for the first time saw a cow fall off the road. Ajay had slowed down when he saw a herd of cows, all slowly walked past but the last one just fell off the road as it was at a higher level into the ditch below and then calmly just got up and walked away. We sat watching it all in the light of the headlight.We got to KalaDungar just as the sky was lightning up. Soon we were happily shooting away at the sun as it rose.Walked around and saw India Bridge and the Great Rann of Kutch. Saw the mound where the priest from the temple sets out food (vegetarian at that) and then calls out ‘ Lon, Lon ‘ which means jackal and as he calls out to the beat of a spoon and plate jackals emerge from the surrounding hills to have lunch. Didn’t get to see this ritual that happens at 1pm so now have an excuse to go back, of course along with going all the way to India Bridge.On the way back saw the huts at Khavda called ‘Bungas’, in such a way that the interior remains cool in the day and warm at night. Once passed Khavda we touched 170km/hr on an absolutely straight stretchbetween Khavda and Bhuj. Absolutely unbelievable 100kms through theRann. Such a straight road.Had desired to see the Great Rann and KalaDungar and that I did too.350kms in 4 hours. Good stuff.Got back and quickly got ready to head out to Ahmedabad. Now I justcouldn’t wait to reach Mumbai.At the gate of the resort dropped bike as was put off balance by Meherwho was trying to squeeze through. Decided to take the Dhangandra –Viramgam highway instead of the Limdi highway.Once we started off the roads were good for sometime and we covered quite some distance but then we hit the bad stretch. Almost 50km of highway under construction between Dhangandra and Viramgam. Loads of deviations. Absolute madness of mud and stones. Some of the worst roads I’ve seen. And to top it all a huge chunk of it in the dark. Ajay following or leading me within sight. And then it got cold and then colder. Had to stop to warm my fingers as they could refuse to obey commands from my mind. As soon as I would get off the bike knees would buckle. Absolute psychosis. Reached Ajay’s apartment in Ahmedabad at 2:30am after linking up with Prashanth and Sanjeev at the Sarkhej circle.

Snaps of KalaDungar

Day 15 : 8th Jan. 2005 : Saturday
Odometer: 5004
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 11:30am – 10:00pm
From & To: Ahmedabad – Surat

I was in dire need of sleep and so was everyone else so we finally left Ahmedabad at 11:30am. We stopped to refuel at Nadiad and while everyone was topping up we had chai in a shop opposite the Reliance petrol pump. The lady at the chai shop was making rotis on the chula and they looked very tempting so asked her if I could have one of those too. She gave me one and I ate it just like that. Reminded me on Mom’s rotis and how I ate them hot from the tava. Then Prashanth ate one too. Now she had made three and had one left so gave me that too. Was telling her how much I was enjoying them while eating. When she took payment all she took money for was the chai, refused to take money for the rotis. Made good time in the beginning and reached Bharuch. Here we lost sometime having lunch but it was a good thing as GR joined us again. He hadstopped at Anand to get his brakes fixed.Just after this Ajay had his accident and I had this vague feeling and refused to go beyond Surat. So Surat was our next stop. Meher moved on towards Panvel. The part of the highway between Bharuch and Surat that we did in the dark was the scariest bit of my entire ride.Called my aunt and then landed there for the night. Ajay was in quite a lot of pain and I knew it. But then the thick headed guy would not listen so I let him be.

Day 16 : 9th Jan. 2005 : Sunday
Odometer: 5385
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 6:00am – 5:00pm
From & To: Surat – Panvel (Mumbai)

We left early the next day via the Dungri route I had come by. GR and Manju headed towards Chikhli just before Valsad as they planned to head back to Hyderabad via Dangs – Aurangabad. At Valsad we stopped at Satnam Dhaba and met Sheshu there. We decided to regroup again just before we reached Mumbai.We started out again. Ajay was having a lot of difficulty riding but was being very stubborn about it. A little later we met Prashant and rode on. Ajay would speed up and stop and wait for me after every 30 odd km. That was how we made it to Mumbai.Once we reached the suburbs it was plainly visible that Ajay couldn’t ride. He would not use the clutch and the ride from here on required the clutch. My phone was out of currency and he refused to let me use his phone. So we kept riding making very little progress. Finally had my way and called for help. Mandeep and Shamsher came to Panvel and picked us up.Seeing Shamsher was one of the happiest moments of my life. Had been away so long and had started to think that I would never reach Panvel. Once we got to Raigad Resort headed to the doc with Ajay and got his hand looked at.The rest of the evening was quite eventful. From the joy of having Shamsher around to the documentary on Varun and Raja. Culminating with Ajay leaving due to some gunks even though he was in no state to ride.Went to sleep completely tired but content to be back with Shamsher.

When you gotta go, you gotta go…

Day 17 : 10th Jan. 2005 : Monday
Odometer: 5593
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 12:00pm – 4:30pm
From & To: Panvel (Mumbai) – Pune

Woke up really late and finally had a bath. Hadn’t had one since the 4th. Then set out for Pune at 12:00 noon. These ghats were some of the worst I had seen. Steep and terrible road. Did it on second gear. Absolutely crazy. The express highway was nice. Had lunch in Khandala.Reached Pune around 4pm and headed to the railway station in search of Ajay as he had called and told me he would be there. Didn’t find him there and was a worried as to his whereabouts especially now that his number also wasn’t going through.Moved on ahead and found a lodge to sleep.

Day 18 : 11th Jan. 2005 : Tuesday
Odometer: 5707
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 10:00am – 8:30pm
From & To: Pune – Sholapur

Was a bit warm at night and when we woke up Shamsher was just telling me that he had been thinking of opening the windows at night. When I pulled the curtains apart I found this huge bee hive there. Sent the shivers down my spine when I thought what could have happened with open windows.We soon started out for Sholapur. Was completely tired. Fatigue had finally caught up or maybe it was just that I now had someone to rely on and was going soft. Either ways had really started to feel the kilometers. Couldn’t go on after sometime so Shamsher found a place by a canal and I just went to sleep. Woke after about an hour and a half and headed out again.

Passed two trucks carrying the blades of windmills. Was stunned by their size, they seemed so small usually. Stopped just after sunset to drink sugarcane juice and bought grapes too. The juice was fresh from the field just beyond and simply lovely.Stopped 30km before Sholapur thinking of just staying the night there as I was having a tough time riding at night but didn’t like any place to stay. All the lodges and hotels seemed too seedy. Decided to push on till Sholapur and find a place there.Reached Sholapur completely drained. All I could do was sleep and that was what I did.

Day 19 : 12th Jan. 2005 : Wednesday
Odometer: 5940
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 10:30am – 7pm
From & To: Sholapur – Hospet

Started out well rested from Sholapur. Still it was quite something to get to Hospet.At the first stop in the morning found lots of eagle feathers and this lovely small blue green feather. The next stop was for lunch at Bijapur. But before we got there experienced this truck I will call Tau Ji as that was written on the back. It was a 30 foot car carrier that was doing about 65kph but wanted to overtake all other trucks. So this Haryana (HR38) number plate driver had derived his own unique style to do it. He would over take from the right and as he would come in line with the truck his little chela would lean completely out of the window and frantically wave out at the driver to slow down. Am sure the chela was very concerned for his own life. The driver got shown the ‘danda’ quite a few times by on coming trucks. Wonder what was the hurry.

Saw a mongoose cross the road – it was my one and only wildlife sighting through the ride.After lunch saw another HR38 and immediately slowed down as didn’t want to be anywhere near Tau Ji until I realized this was a different truck with a sane driver.Stopped as the sun was setting to watch the cattle peacefully cross the road and accidentally found a little water harvesting dam. Wish I had taken a snap of it in the sunset, can still see it when I close my eyes. It was a lovely sight with rock formations in the background, the shadows of the setting sun on the water and all shades of brown.Had a near miss that evening while riding in the dark. Was leading and didn’t see this truck that had stopped in front with no tail lights or reflectors. Shamsher did see it and thought I would stop when I didn’t he honked. Was doing about 60 and just braked when he honked with no thought to why I should stop. Stopped just a foot away from the truck. Was shaking for a good 20 min.Finally reached Malligi Hotel after navigating through some awful city traffic and asking a lot of people for directions. The last auto guy very enthusiastically in broken English with a completely Kanada touch asked us if we want to see Hampi, “You see Hampi, Hampi you know?”, to which we just smiled and said we know and its ok, thanks and left. Later I was wishing I had said something to him in Kanada just to see his expression. Cheap thrills in life.Had a nice dinner and went off to bed.

Day 20 : 13th Jan. 2005 : Thursday
Odometer: 6242
Falls & Drops: 0/0
Start & End Time: 10:30am – 8:30pm
From & To: Hospet – Bangalore

Started out a bit early for Bangalore. Now all I wanted was to reach home. Home was a nice thought after 20 days on the road.Was quite a long way. Took the wrong route out of Hospet so did someextra km, saw a hill covered by oh so straight fire lines (Shamsher and I had an entire conversation on how they managed to burn so straight) and also saw the Tungabhadra reservoir. We had just passed over a railway track where there was a huge traffic jam caused by a trucks front wheel getting stuck in mud over the track. I still remember my words when I saw the reservoir suddenly appear around a bend, I was like “Samundar ithar kaise aa gaya?”. Shamsher had had a good laugh. Passed though some reserve forests and saw loads of sunflowers. Most of which had dried. This route till Kudligi had loads of harvests spread out on the roads and an immense number of speed breakers. I even saw a new sign by the road which had two men sitting with a hut in a triangular formation. The hut being at the tip on top.Stopped under a tamarind tree and Shamsher ate lots of tamarind. Wonder why he was feeling like eating so much khatta stuff.

Passed an entire range of hills with windmills on them just before Chitradurg. Was a pretty sight. From Chitradurg on the highway was under construction but good.. Had thought of buying water as soon as we got out of the hotel but hadn’t and at the last stop had finished even the electral solution we had made the day before. Now as it was getting hotter water became top priority and so bought water at Reddy’s Dhaba which didn’t seem ok to eat lunch at so moved on in search of a place to eat. Stopped for lunch at an authentic sardar dhaba where a guy tried to sell us a digital Pentex camera for Rs.2000. The camera completely looked like a five year olds toy.

Our next stop was for coconut water by the side of the road where two dogs were so engrossed in their courtship that they almost got run over. Shamsher had to chase them off just so he would not see them being run over. They must have being wondering who this kabab mein kadi was.
Then met this orange bus too, who was weaving in and out of traffic like a maniac. And at one point suddenly decided that he will stop over taking and all vehicles were wondering what was wrong.
Finally hit the Toll way after Tumkur. That stretch I had done before on the way toMadhugiri with the ultimate pillion Pallavi. My friend and travel partner. From here on it already felt like I was home.As soon as we reached Bangalore headed to Mom’s house to meet Granny and pick up my phone. Had thought of surprising my roomie in the morning when she came home so hadn’t told her was reaching that day. But was completely surprised myself when I called her on my Granny’s insistence only to realize that she had just changed the lock that day and not left a key. So now had to go all the way to office to pick up a key.Finally reached home. Oh it felt so nice but only until the next ride.

Snaps of Home Coming…

Closing Odometer : 6572

Total distance : 4187

This was a trip of a life time. I do know there will never be another like it, the rest may surpass it or may not even come close but this trip was my first and will always be cherished. Had been thinking from the day I left what I would name it and was playing with a title ‘Trip of Firsts’ as there were so many firsts. First long solo ride, first group ride, first fall, first with so much luggage, first night ride, first time on ghats, first time 546km in a day, first time seeing such super roads as the NH17, first time seeing such pathetic roads as on the way from Gandhidham to Ahmedabad, first time sleeping in a tent and a sleeping bag, first time riding alone in the Rann, first time using a natural toilet and paper, first time having quite a sore butt, first time suffering return to ground reality shock, oh the list can go on… but then somewhere along my ride all this became a learning experience. And so the name changed to a ‘Journey of Firsts’. There is so much I have learnt from this ride. So much I have brought back.

It’s an affair of a lifetime. My favorite threesome, Freya, Musafir and the Road. What an affair… from smooth courting to horrendous upheavals. Feeling those curves, those peek-a-boos, amazing views now seen now hidden. A surprise around each bend. Just going on wherever the road leads. Not mine to ask, just follow. A tango of three with moves made by all. This is one love story. She has me hooked. I am in love and I love the feeling.

And how can I forget the highlight of this trip. Before I set out from Bangalore my mech did final testing of the bike before handing her over and corrected the fork. Once he signed her off I was completely confident of her being fine. Then my brother tested her and noticed some swaying at speeds but thought it normal for a light bike. My friends noticed something amiss on the first day but didn’t say anything as I was on a long ride. I had a tough time navigating curves and was wondering why but finally put it down to weight and luggage. In Ahmedabad Vinod told me the front and back wheel alignment was off, which was most likely to be due to the swing arm or fork. Since he said it wouldn’t hamper riding too much I just continued. Was a struggle to handle the bike at speeds of 80-90 with crosswinds. Thought would get it fixed at Pune but once I got there thought it best to let my mech do whatever was required. So brought her back home and gave her for servicing. Told mech Babu about the swinging and he took her for a test ride. He was shocked at how she managed 4000 odd km in this state. Anyway he called me 2 days later and says he just doesn’t know how I did this ride coz the difference between both the wheels is about 5-6 inches. It’s not the swingarm or fork but the frame itself. It had happened in the accident before I left. Need to replace the frame as it can’t be fixed. Am so proud of Musafir. Love u baby.

But this whole journey is not complete with out thanking the peoplewho made it possible. So here goes…

– First of all Musafir for just being her and being there.
– My family for all their support and belief that I could do this. Thanx a ton guys. My Mom for all her love, support and belief. Mom you made me believe. My brother for all his bike testing and tips. Love you Dude.
– Shamsher you’re the best. Couldn’t have done it without you. I love you is all I can say.
– My friends for all their support and help. Bansi and Abhi – learnt a lot from you the first two days. Bansi thanx for all the plotting and planning. Subs – thanx for just being there. Small – thanx for all those tips especially the sand one it got me across the Rann.
– Pallavi – you were there from the start and love you for that. Rupal for being so different and setting me free.
– Mamatha – thanx for believing and trusting.
– All at 60kph for all the support. Gaurav for the pushing to take Musafir. Histu, Jay and all the guys who tailed me, salute your patience. Anuj for patiently waiting outside Ahmedabad. Mandeep for the Dungri route, had loads of fun there. Amol (notice no ji) was great meeting you, can’t wait to have chai again. Praveen – thanx for being there and saying I understand. Prem was great meeting you. Dips, Nikhil, Aman, Shekhar, Saurabh, Vinod, Nicky and all. There were so many names and faces but all are friends now. Thanx to each one, you’ve enriched my life.
– Ajay – it’s amazing how you can spend a lifetime trying to get to know someone and in three days feel you’ve known someone for a lifetime. Thanx for all (you know what all).
– GR, Meher, Manju and Seshu it was great to meet all of you. Hope to ride with you again soon. Have learnt a lot from you.
– Nikhil – Thanx for waiting by Musafir for me.
– Special mention for Ambar – Thanx for the tent bugger.
– My Mech for getting my bike up and running in such a short while and doing such an awesome job.
– Samarth for all the help.
– And to all those people I have absentmindedly forgotten to include. Please forgive me and a very special thank you to all of you. Couldn’t have done it without you.

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