Monday, February 05, 2007

Gokarna Ride

A cool breeze was blowing. I could hear birds chirping and water splashing. I could not figure out what is happening and pulled my blanket a little more. It was so comfy. I opened my eyes a little. The ceiling was too low. Glanced at my watch, it was 6:30 AM. How the hell I got up so early without alarm. One more splash of water nearby. Suddenly I came back to senses to realize I am sleeping in a tent, the tent which we pitched last night on Om Beach.

"Let's go to Waynad and do camping! Long weekend in January". I proposed a plan to Ashu. Within few days I came to know that many people are interested. Wonderful! :)

Come January and we found that there is no holiday on 15th Jan in most of the companies. That leaves us two again. Hmmmm interesting. The plan was to camp near a lake in Waynad. "Suna hai jungle mein bhediye (Wolves) bhi hain. kewal do logon ka lake ke paas camp karna safe nahin hoga". I pondered on Ashu's thoughts for some time and we decided that we chould change our camping destination because only two of us are going.

Ashu wanted to go to Kodaikanal but I was adamant on camping. I could not wait any longer to use my tent! We decided upon Pondicherry. Next day we changed plans and were sure that we'll be leaving for Kemmangundi/Baba Budayangiri next morning. Some trekking and then camping. Suddenly in the afternoon, a very old plan to visit Gokarna struck in our minds. By evening, we were ready with the route plan. I asked Himanshu and Saswata if they want to join. Both declined. So we were all set for morning to leave to Gokarna. In the night, Saswata called me up to inform that he is also in.

Day 1:
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Plan was to meet at MG-Brigade Road crossing at 5 AM. Ashu woke up at 5 ! We got delayed and three bikes, my Bajaj Avenger, Ashu's RE Thunderbird and Saswata's Honda Unicorn left Bangalore at around 6:30 AM.


Route was pretty simple. Follow NH-4 till Tumkur. Take NH-206 from there till Honnavar and then NH-17 till Gokarna cross. Gokarna is just 11 km from there.

Traffic was less in early hours and soon we were cruising comfortably at 80 kmph on NH-4. After sunrise, suddenly it became very cold. Tumkur is around 80 km from Bangalore and we were there before 8. We did not stop there and continued on NH-206. Saswata's bike hit reserve few km before Tumkur but he did not fillup. "Mujhko check karna hai ki reserve mein kitna petrol hota hai. teen litre to hoga hi". Soon his bike sputtered and stopped with no petrol bunk in a 10 km radius. We stopped there and had some tea. Ashu poured a cup of petrol from his bike into the Unicorn and we made up to the next petrol bunk. Had our breakfast there and returned back to the road.

After that we kept on riding till Shimoga passing Gubbi, Tiptur, Kadur and Tarikere. Tiptur is somewhat a big town in between. The roads were very good except a small bad stretch where road repairing was going on. There is a city called Bhadravati also enroute which you can bypass by taking a left turn just before entering. We stopped near a lake on the way to click some snaps.


We reached Shimoga by 12:30 PM. It was hot. We removed our sweaters which saved us in the morning from freezing cold. We decided that we shall take lunch in Sagar. Another 80 km from Shimoga. The Shimoga-Sagar route is also a MUST-DO for every biker. Quite, serene, no traffic, jungle on both the sides and slopes/curves at some places. What else can one ask for? We stopped once in between for leak and having some biscuits and water. We were in Sagar by 2:30.


We had lunch - 5 paper masala dosas :) and headed to Jog Falls at around 3 PM. Jog Falls is just 25-30 km from Sagar and as usual roads are beautiful. Jog Falls are the highest falls in India. Falling from a height of 253m, the river sharavati splits into 4 falls. Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Rani falls. It takes around 3 hours to go down the fall and come back again to the road. So we dropped that plan. Clicked few snaps and left for Honnavar. Honnavar is around 50 km from there. By 5:15 PM, we were in Honnavar.


If we look at the map, we moved in north-west direction from Bangalore and hit the Arabian sea and then move along the coast to Gokarna. The place where we hit the sea is Honnavar. From here, we have to take right turn into NH-17. We refuelled our bikes here and raced towards Gokarna which is around 50 odd km from here. We did not want to miss the sunset over the Arabian Sea.

Map Courtsey mapsofindia.com

Soon we reached the Gokarna Cross on NH-17. Took a left there and again just before entering Gokarna city, took a left to Om Beach. Witnessed the most beautiful sunset I ever saw from a viewpoint 1-2 km before Om Beach.


We entered the beach after dark. Asked a policeman about the camping. He warned us to keep an eye on the luggage against theft. The beach was full of foreigners. We pitched our tent near a small shack and chilled around. Had some nice KingFish Sizzler for dinner and dozed off in the tent. Nice :)


Day 2:
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We woke up with the first ray of light. We had already dropped the plan of riding on day 2. Removed the tent and rented a hut on the beach. We had to leave early next day so we thought of renting a hut because folding a tent in dark is not very easy. Also we need some place to get fresh and all.


By 8 AM, we were ready for a trek to Paradise beach. We left our luggage in the hut and left. After climbing the hill, we could clearly see the "Omkar" shape of the beach which gave it the name - Om Beach.
We trekked through beautiful landscapes and reached Half-Moon beach. Had breakfast there and jumped into the water. That was as good as a private beach. No one else was there. We enjoyed there for some time and then left for paradise.


One thing about the beaches in Gokarna is that you can forget everything in life and just chill. It is so serene and quite that you will forget everything. Reason might be that it is not yet that famous. We could hardly see any Indian on those beaches.

Paradise beach, as the name suggests was paradise :). We had a lazy lunch (delicious fish and biryani :) ) and a nap there. We again trekked back to Om Beach though there was an option of boating till Om Beach.


We picked our bikes and moved to see Gokarna city and Gokarna Beach. We returned soon to the same sunset point to capture it in our cameras. I guess we did that pretty decently :).


After dark we lied down on the beach with clear sky full of stars and waves caressing our feet. Now that's what I call a holiday :).


Day 3:
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Stupid Alarm! 5:00 AM. I hit snooze and back to sleep.

5:10 AM: Again the same irritating sound. What the hell! I woke up. Ashu also started knocking the door. We were ready to leave at 6' O clock. It was still dark and we started moving towards our bikes. We were all sweating and huffing and puffing by the time we reached our bikes. We had a lot of luggage (tents, sleeping bags, etc) and the place where bikes are parked was real far. ANyways we were on the road by 6:45 AM.

Saswata filled up at a petrol bunk at Gokarna Cross. Our first stop was at Honnavar for breakfast. After breakfast, we did not stop before Sagar.
We planned to reach bangalore before dark so we get enough time to rest. Hence, we rode non stop till Shimoga where we had a chai break. After that we planned to reach Tumkur by 3-3:30 PM to have lunch. Our plan was to go non stop till Tumkur that was around 200 KM from Shimoga.
On the way, Saswata's bike encountered a problem of rear wheel wobbling. This slowed down us considerably. We were not moving as fast as we planned because his bike was becoming unstable. We could not find any Honda service center on the way so kept going. We reached Tumkur at 4' O clock. Not bad :). Had nice chicken biryani for lunch. Tumkur-Bangalore was breeze on a 4-lane NH-4.

Traffic was bad after Neelmangla. Everone was staring at us and at the huge load of luggage tied to the bike.

After negotiating with the traffic, I parked my bike at my home at around 6:15 PM.

I will always remember this trip. It was planned just the day before and was one of the most memorable trips. And for the first time, the roads were so good right from the start point to the finish!

Summary:
------------

Date:
13th Jan 2007 to 15th Jan 2007

Riders:
1. Ashish - Bajaj Avenger
2. Ashutosh - RE Thunderbird
3. Saswata - Honda Unicorn

Route:
Bangalore - Neelmangla - Tumkur - Gubbi - Tiptur - Kadur - Tarikere - Shimoga - Sagar - Jog Falls - Honnavar - Kumta - Gokarna

Here, Bangalore to Tumkur is NH-4, Tumkur to Honnavar is NH-206 and Honnavar to Kumta is NH-17. Gokarna is 11 KM off route from NH-17

Distance from Bangalore to Gokarna: 501 KM

Night Stay:
1st Night: Camping at Om Beach
2nd Night: Hut at Om Beach for Rs 100/- per hut. One hut can accomodate 3 people. The hut has bare minimum facilities with makeshift toilets and bathrooms.

Places to visit enroute: Jog Falls

More pics can be seen here



Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ride to Munnar

Ride to Munnar !! At last mission accomplished !!! :D

Quick Facts first:

Date:

23rd Dec 2006 to 25th Dec 2006

Riders:

Ashish - Bajaj Avenger
Ashutosh - RE Thunderbird
Kamlesh - RE Thunderbird
Gurinder - RE Thunderbird
Kartik - RE Thunderbird
Manas - Bajaj Avenger
Arnab - Bajaj Pulsar 150
Vasanth - HH Karizma
Parwez - HH Karizma
Shivank (with pillion his brother) - Bajaj Pulsar 150
Saswata - Honda Unicorn
Himanshu (with pillion Mukesh) - TVS Apache


Route taken:

Bangalore - Hosur - Rayalkottai - Palakkodu - Pennagaram - Perumbalai - Mechcheri - Mettur - Bhavani - Perundarai - Vijaymangalam - Tiruppur - Palladam - Udamalpettai - Chinnar forest - Mariyoor - Munnar

Total around 450 KM.

Stay: Deluxe Dorm at Las Palmas Resort, Devikulum Road, Munnar

The beauty of this small place in Kerala called Munnar cannot be described in words! This being the longest and the last ride for the year was very special to me.


Plan was pretty simple. Start early morning on 23rd. Reach Munnar by evening. Roam around in Munnar on 24th and return back on 25th. Also, we planned to take unconventional route by going through shortcuts avoiding badly shaped National Highways.

This time it was a large group. 15 people including 2 pillions. Three of them were from Hyderabad and were on a long trip of South India.

Apart from 3-4 people, rest of us met at the designated spot,Hosur Road at 5:00 AM. We had planned for covering maximum distance in the early hours but fate had something else for us in store.

We had to take a right turn to Rayalkottai just before Hosur. The turn was very easy to miss. So we waited there for everyone to reach. Some of fellow riders crossed us zooming full speed towards Hosur. Finally I, Ashu and Kamlesh stayed at the turn and told rest all to proceed promising that we will catch up with them soon. After some time Arnab arrived and we thought of leaving too. We had already wasted more than 2 hours and were still practically in the sub-urbs of Bangalore.
Kamlesh asked for direction after a while and we found that "obviously we have to follow the straight road" actually is not the best way to reach Rayalkottai ! One autowala told us to take a U-turn and then take two right turns to reach a nice highway. Unlike the first group, we followed this path and were soon cruising at 80-90 kmph. We were some 15 km before Rayalkottai when Kamlesh recieved a phone call. One of the riders, Manas met an accident on the other "bad" road. He lost control over a speedbreaker and fell down. Dislocation of collar bone! Kamlesh, Vasanth and Shashi opted out from the ride and carried Manas back to Bangalore. Rest of us planned to meet up at Pennagaram.
We waited for around an hour at Pennagram till other group coming through the bad road reached. We had a breakfast there at around 11 AM. So now we were 7 bikes plus one more bike few tens of km ahead us.

We quickly sped to reach Bhavani, a decently populated town to have our lunch. There was a small section of ghat road also in between near Perumbalai and Mechcheri. We also crossed Mettur which has a cool dam. We were having veg fried rice and Gobhi Manchurian at around 2 PM.

Near Mettur Dam

Next big stop in between was Tiruppur. We never imagined that Tiruppur could be so big!!! It took us around an hour to cross this city full of Bangalore-like traffic and one ways! We did not stop here instead took a break in Palladam where few of us filled petrol.

Our next stretch of Palladam to Udamalpettai was too good. "Makkhan Road" :) as we call it. No traffic and both sides lots of wind mills. This area is generally very windy with wind speed reachig 60kmph easily ! but luckily or unluckily, it was quite quiet that day. We covered this section too quickly.


Now we had to cross the most awaited Chinnar forest. It was already twilight and we were sure that we have to pass the forest and do the climbing on hill roads in night and everyone was game for it! :) We met Shivank's bike also waiting before the jungle.

We were expecting a lot of interference from wildlife during night. But again fortunately or unfortunately, we spotted only few rabbits and mongeese.We entered Munnar at around 11:30 PM after crossing Chinnar and Mariyoor. Our stomachs were rumbling and grumbling so but obviously first thing was search for a decent (not a very high priority though) place to eat. And surprisingly there were too many places open at that hour for a hill station. After filling our tummies, we asked directions for our hotel, oh by the way we booked the hotel in advance from Bangalore :). We came to know that we have to ride yet another 10 km on those winding roads to reach the hotel. We ripped that distance quickly and checked in and dozed off. Oh, did I tell you that Gurinder broke his clutch cable on the way? Well we'll see that tomorrow. Right now zzzzzZZZZ !!!

We woke up leisurely at around 7-8 AM to find some people already left for sunrise. Our first job was to get Gurinder's bike fixed. We found a repair shop(? or was it just a roadside stall) which handles bullets. That repairman made sure that we do not leave from that place before lunchtime! It took more than 4 hours to him to change a clutch cable. Gurinder had to get his footrest also welded. He broke it last night few km before Munnar when his bike skidded on wet road.

After a nice Rajasthani Thali, we left for Medupatty and Top Station. Now, we saw the real beauty of Munnar. Majestic lush green tea estates everywhere. We missed these views last day because we entered Munnar after dark. The ride to Top Station which is around 35 km from Munnar was awesome. We clicked a lot of photos with Tea Estates in background. Stopped at Medupatty Dam to admire the beauty and again clicking some snaps.

At Medupatty Dam

As we neared Top Station, fog started building. By the time we reached Top Station, we could not see more than 10 feet ahead. Top Station basically has a good view point which we could not see due to dense fog.

Fog Closing In

At Top Station

Riding in Fog

The return from Top Station was a breeze. We stopped on the way to buy some roasted cashews and home made chocolates.
Return from Top Station

It was dark by the time we reached Munnar. We had our dinner and since it was Christmas Eve, we visited nearby Church also. My first visit to a church. It feels good :)


Again, a rip of 10 km to our hotel. We met Parwez and Vasanth there. They left Bangalore late after getting Manas treated and made it to Munnar on 24th. Had some chitchat and zzzzzZZZZZ.


Merry Christmas! It's 25th of december. I remembered I was in Madikeri last year on this day. That was my first 500+ km bike trip. We got ready and checked out of hotel by 8:00 AM. Arnab, Vasanth, Parvez, Shivank and his brother moved ahead for their Kerala Trip. Me, Ashu, Gurinder, Kartik, Saswata and Himanshu(with pillion Mukesh) took the road to Bangalore.


The return route was same. Although we admired and appreciated it in daylight. We had our lunch (kerala parotta) at Udmalpettai and dinner(chicken rice) at some "thela" near Pennagram. I reached home at around 9:00 PM. My longest ride till that day! But I still regret the reading on my Odometer. 994.7 KM. I missed the 1000 mark by mere 5.3 KM.

No worries. There is always a next time :)

You can see more pics here and here.