Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bird Watcher's Paradise: Ranganathittu

Ranganathittu- a beautiful bird sanctury situated in cosy little town of Srirangapatna.


Ride to Ranganathittu was a surprise one. I saw a posting from Vasanth on BN announcing this ride. I immediately joined in. I had heard so much about this place that I could not resist it.

There were 4-5 riders planned. I knew Vasanth from the Munnar ride and had read a lot of posts by Sachin. Rest were unknown to me.

Meeting point Raj-Rajeshwari nagar Arch on Mysore Road at 6:00 AM. On reaching there, a pleasant surprise, Venkat. Venkat and Sachin were waiting for us. After waiting for sometime, Vasanth and his pillion Santosh arrived. We started off and rode coolly till Cafe Coffee day. We had some delicious tumbler idlis and kesari bath for breakfast.

The ride was very peaceful and soon we were at Srirangapatna. We have to take a right there to go to the bird sanctury. It is only 5-10 km from this point. The sanctury reminded me of the picnic spots from childhood days. But I could not see any birds other than crows and sparrows!

Then we took a ride on a boat in the lake. And yes, there we could see so many species of birds. Open bill storks, white ibis, err I don't remember other names now :) but the place was amazing though a bit stinky. Organic stink from water and bird droppings(?) and maybe some dead bodies of birds also. There were few crocodiles also in the lake but could not shoot them (I mean with my camers:D).


It was almost lunchtime, when we left the place. We went to Venkat's native place which happens to be in Srirangapatna only. That was an old mansion and his cousin treated us very well with delicious food. The curd-rice was the best I ever ate. Do consider the fact that I do not like curd rice very much. Venkat narrated some very interesting stories about Bajaj and Lambertta and Fiat Padmini of older days. How Padminis were transported to Madras and how scooters were booked in advance. It looks like we have evolved in leaps and bounds since those days. We started off early in the evening for Bangalore.

We took a break at Maddur CCD and again back to Venkat and his amazing experiences. This time all technical. I seriously get so amused at times knowing this man's knowledge. Hats off to him! This was a real long break and we headed back to bangalore. After 2 hours and 90 km, I was at my home. Content with the short beautiful and informative ride.


Here is a link to more info on Venkat's Auto Service.

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

Date:
16th June' 2007

Riders:
1. Ashish on Bajaj Avenger
2. Venkat on Kawasaki Eliminator
3. Sachin Koppikar on Bajaj Pulsar 150 DTSI
4. Vasanth on Hero Honda Karizma
5. Santosh pillion with Vasanth

Route: Bangalore - Maddur - Srirangapatna - Ranganathittu

Total Distance covered: 280 km

More pics can be seen here.


Ooty Revisited

Two wheels, roads and rains ! Ride On !!

This was my second ride to Ooty and I came to know about three more biking enthusiast in this trip. Prabhjot aka PJ, Sathish aka dude and Yogesh aka yogi.

Ooty is one destination which can be done any day any time! It has that perfect distance for a 2 day trip plus all sort of roads from magnificent 4-lane highways to smooth 2-lane state highways to jungle riding to twisty turns and hairpins.

The plan for the ride was incepted by PJ. I must say if it were not him, this ride would have lost in reluctance of the well known reluctanter "Ashu" (Wow! I also invented a new word like Shakespeare :D. Reluctanter :D) .

After Ashu dwindled away from the ride, it was only me and PJ. I was not very much "keen" to go on a ride with a person whom I have never met! But thanx to that person, PJ, I met a budding biker all full of praises for his wife :).


Finally we were able to pull in dude and guri and 4 people were game for the ride. me, PJ, dude and Guri. We were supposed to meet at the HP Petrol bunk on MG Road at 7:00 PM. Thanks to heavy rains, Guri could not make it to the rendezvous point. After waiting in vain for rains to stop, rest three of us geared and started off towards Mysore. The ride was a breeze. With constant drizzle, rather quite a downpour, low visibility but comparatively less traffic, we maintained constant 80 with myself as spot. Our first stop was at Ramanagram for dinner. Delicious Chicken for me and Sathish and plain dal chawal for newly turned veg PJ. It's really fun eating chicken in front of a person who has recently turned veg. Oh I love that look at his face!!

We were already fully drenched and we rode on again in rains. I have always wanted to ride to some hill station in rains but not without a raincoat :( . Alas! we were not carrying one. After this we took only a small break for chai that too when we were only 30 km short of Mysore. Rains played hide and seek but we kept constant 80-90 kmph and soon were roaming in quite streets of Mysore searching for Kalidas Road. Our plan was to stay at one of my friends' Anshul's place. By 2:00 in the night we were dozing.

Ashu had told us the earlier day that if he completes his work at office he will catch up with us but seriously, I did not have any idea that he actually will turn up! We got a phone call in the morning that Ashu with Yogi as pillion and good ol' Guri as fellow rider were about to reach Mysore. So ex-Mysore, there were 6 of us on 5 bikes.


It was good to see sun after previous night's rains. Guri was as usual merciless on the highway with full throttle and rest of us were trotting behind him at 80-90kmph.


A breakfast at Gundlupet and a small break in Bandipur and we were soon cruising inside Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctury, Tamilnadu. By noon we were all set to scale the Nilgiris on rather infamous 32 hairpin bends road. The climb was amazing, one of the steepest, I did on my bike. By the time we reached Ooty, it started raining again.


We stopped for a chai and then searched for a shop selling raincoats! And then, after muffling my saddlebag, I realized that I was infact carrying a rain poncho all the way! Good biryani lunch at Ooty and we were soon off to Coonoor-Wellington.


Ride to Wellington and Conoor was refreshing with slight drizzle, green fields and view of the chaiyya chaiyya train. One stop for pics and we carried on to Wellington.


Now, I must point out a difference between bikers and married men. Not that married men are not bikers but still, the budget married people have for a night stay is equal to the budget for all the trips in a month for a biker! Our new rider PJ wants to stay in this Riga Residency Hotel only which had a double room for some 1.5-1.6K! After some bargaining, we settled for 1.1K. There was a vintage car on display in the hotel lobby and we used it to the fullest for our cameras ! :)


Wellington unlike Ooty is very cosy and sleepy going easy at its own snail-pace. We had our dinner at quite-a-shady-place in Coonoor. Omlettes, Egg Kerala Parottas were good and filling and soon we were in our beds. Ah! I love that chilly air when I am under a cozy blanket :).

I was not at all feeling like getting out of my blanket the next morning, but somehow I managed to. We were soon lining up in front of Riga for photo-sessions :)

Photo-sessions and we were off to Botanical Garden. Nice place for couples/kids and combination of both but strict NO! for bikers and bachelors. After wasting a sizeable amount of time there, we started our descent on the hairpin bend road.


Return journey was peaceful. Few breaks for chai/coffee. This time we rode really slow through Bandipur and enjoyed the beauty.

We stopped at Mysore for lunch. Lunch was good and soon we were cruising smoothly on SH-17 towards Bangalore.

Guri was soon out of sight on his TB. Rest of us rode together till Ramanagram and had chai/coffee at a dhaba. We bid goodbye to each other and left for our respective homes rather PJ left for his home and rest of us just for our rooms. This was my first wet ride and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Want to read different version of the story? Goto PJ's log.

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

Date:
21st Apr 2007 to 22nd Aprb 2007

Riders:
1. Ashish - Bajaj Avenger
2. Ashutosh - RE Thunderbird
3. Prabhjot - Bajaj Avenger
4. Gurinder - RE Thunderbird
5. Sathish - Bajaj Pulsar 150
6. Yogesh - Pillion

Route:
Bangalore - Ramanagaram - Maddur - Mysore - Gundlupet - Ooty - Coonoor/Wellington

Total Distance Bangalore to Bangalore: 600 KM

Night Stay:
Hotel Riga International, Wellington. Double room with extra bed for Rs 1100/-


More pics can be seen here

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trekking at Wayanad

Disclaimer: The sole reason for this trip not being a bike trip is Ashu and only Ashu. Period


We have been thinking of a bike trip to Wayanad for a long time now. So finally we decided to go for biking to Wayanad and a trekking/camping to Chemra peak. Apparently all the participants of the trek were not very keen to bike till Wayanad. They were interested only in the trek and wanted to go there in a hired four-wheeler. We came to a mutual agreement that me and Ashu will go on our respective bikes and others will go in a Qualis.

Me and Ashu were supposed to leave by 8 PM and halt at Mysore for night. I even talked to Bhatiya in Mysore for accommodation at his place. When I was all set to go, I get this sweet little doubt from Ashu that can we go in qualis as he is not very confident with the condition of his bike. @#$%@#$%. I called KP if he can arrange for place for 2 people in the vehicle. After sometime I got Roger from KP. We were all set to leave by 10 PM in qualis :( when I received one more call from Ashu. Apparently he got his bike checked by a mechanic and was ready to go on bike. I was like what the hell! It was really difficult convincing KP now. So we had to go in this cage all thanks to Ashu. I know I know Ashu must be getting mad at me by now but it's OK :D.

Finally we left Bangalore by 11 PM.

Riding (oops driving :D) in a cage has its own pros also. You can listen to loud music, chit chat, see a movie, joke around, eat and drink, etc during the journey. After sometime, we were all half-asleep. Nothing much to tell about the drive which was quite un-eventful unlike bike rides. By morning 5, we were moving througoh the foggy roads to enter Kalpetta. We decided to have a nap before proceeding to the plans so took a hotel room and dozed off. By 9 AM, we were good to go. Had breakfast usual idli/dosa/vada and drived towards Chemra peak. We had to take permission from the forest officer for trekking and camping in that area. On enquiry from the forest office, we came to know that it was fire season. i.e. vegetation has dried out and the forest was prone to jungle fires. In case of any such mishap, it would be difficult to come back safely and hence, we were denied the permission. What now ? :(

I remembered that Kartik and his friends did trekking in some route in Wayand 2 weeks back. I called him and got details of this Guide called Thomas. We called Thomas and soon we were driving towards his home. Thomas is a local farmer and stays near Meenmutty falls. He guided Kartik and the gang in the trek. By 1 PM we were all ready with our backpacks and tents for the trek! :) Our driver Hemanth was also interested and he too joined us in the trek.


We were all in high spirits. Starting was easy. We had to descent on the steep hill till the Meenmutty falls and then continue the descent till Neelambur where we would camp for the night. Everyone joking around and following Thomas. There were some really dangerous patches in till Meenmutty falls but we crossed them easily.


By the time we reached falls, we were tired but a look at the refreshing falls took it all away. We were told by Thomas that this fall is in three stages and we will see other stage on the way. We took some snaps and were back on the trail.


Now comes the tough time. The trail was really very difficult. There were steps of half your size sometimes in vertical and sometimes in horizontal direction. You miss one step and deep gorge is waiting for you! No phone signal nothing. Sometimes it was real scary with a steep descent, absolutely nothing to get a hold for feet or hands and a nice gurgling stream falling deep down on your left. One cannot afford to lose concentration! And I had this stupid heavy backpack with tent also. My idea of trek was to "walk on 2 legs" so I did not care much about the weight of the backpack but here it was "walk/crawl/jump/hang and use all fours"!


But the place was amazing. We could see deep down at the valley and were hoping to reach there before dark to setup the camp. There were not much photo sessions on the way because no one cared about photos anymore and were interested in reaching the place asap and some of useven thinking about the steep ascent we have to do next day :D. We stoppped in between at a stream to drink water and refill our bottles. We were carrying a lot of water but we almost exhausted that. After few hours (don't ask me exact number) we entered a somewhat plain area and a dense jungle. It will soon be dark and Thomas urged us to move faster as it will be very difficult to set up camp in dark near a waterhole where wild elephants come to quench their thirst! Manish started to fatigue and it was not possible to move any faster. Then Thomas told that by this pace we cannot reach our campsite and we will have to camp in the jungle itself. We got off the trail and started moving towards the sound of the gushing stream.

This off-trail trek was even more difficult on the steep slope full off damp dried leaves. There was no hold for feet and we almost slided down following Thomas. In few minutes we were at the stream. I was the first to reach there after Thomas. I kept my backpack there (Oh what a relief!) and we started exploring the options for the campsite. Thomas suggested to camp on a rock which was right in the middle of the stream. The idea did not look very much enticing to me as there was nothing to secure the tent and if someone rolls over then whole tent plus people inside will plunge into the roaring stream :).


There was a small area beside the stream full of thorny bushes, small plants, stones and pebbles. We thought of clearing that and setting up camp there. To reach here, we had to cross the stream and Thomas did a very good job of building a makeshift bridge over the stream using logs. Thomas started cutting off bushes from the campsite and me and Abhishek (Fart) took a dip in the refreshing stream. We cleaned the place as much as we could and erected the tents before it got dark. We were so very much tired and hungry!


Thomas started a fire and I heated all the MTR food. We mixed everything (rice, pulaao, daal, rajma) in one big bowl and ate it quickly. Even the MTR food tasted like a gourmet meal :). We sat down and chatted for sometime in dark listening to the flowing stream and feeling the eerie silence of the jungle. Thomas made his bed near the campfire and rest 8 of us including Hemanth got into the two tents. There were still stones on the ground but we slept like a baby even on the stone bed after a tiring day!


Morning light and chirping of birds made us get out of bed. The place was so beautiful in the morning!


Had some busicuits/Breads and packed our tents/slepping bags etc. By 8:30 AM we were ready for the ascent. In the beginning, we moved swiftly. Climbing up seemed easier than climbing down but the notion was proved not entirely right after about mid way. Thank God, Ashu barely missed a near-slip-and-valley-waits-for-you moment.

I cannot tell the amazing feeling when the road was visible! I almost ran to it :). Soon we were at Thomas' place. Our driver, Hemanth swore that he will never go for trekking after this :D. We ate breads with jam and ghee given by Thomas. HE also treated us with the best butter milk we ever had. After freshening up at his place, we bid him goodbye. We threw our bodies in the qualis and left the place.

Drive was normal. Same music, everybody just wanted to reach back home. We stopped at Mysore for food. After filling our bellies with some real good biryani, we left for Bangalore. Managed to take a nap before stopping at Maddur for tea. Before dinner time, I was at my door. This was the toughest trek I ever did but would have been even more wonderful if we would have ridden to the place :D.

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

Date:
10th Mar - 11th Mar 2007

Drive:
Bangalore - Mysore - Guldlupet - Kalpetta

Trek:
Meenmutty Falls - Neelambur

Night stay at tents near Neelambur.
Guide: Thomas. Ph No. 9947598935, 04396217290(PP), 04396218263(PP)
Guide charges: 1200/- (total 7 people)

More pics can be seen here.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ride to Goa

Finally, I am writing this long pending trip log about my longest ride till date. Bangalore to Goa.

Vegator Beach, Goa

Anjuna, Goa

"Chalo Dil Chahta Hai wale fort chalte hain!" Sounds normal right? But it's 2 AM ! Life is so normal in Goa at wee hours also. It reminds me of those good old days of KGP.

As usual it all started with a plan to go somewhere else. We planned to go to Thekkady/Periyar wildlife sanctuary on the long weekend. Take the RH(restricted holiday) of Korean new year on monday and it was a four day weekend for Samsung employees. We were all set for riding to Thekkady on friday morning.

A week before, Court gave verdict for the Cauvery dispute which resulted in a tension between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. There were some rumours (or actual incidents?) of Karnataka registered vehicles being burned in Tamilnadu and vice versa. Since we all have KA registered bikes and almost 80% of our journey was in Tamilnadu, we took a wise decision of dropping Thekkady for this weekend and decided to visit Goa instead!

Finally five of us including me, Ashu, Chatterjee, Pandey and Saswata left for Goa on thursday night. Since, we were going towards west coast, we could not resist having fishes at Hotel Fishland, Manipal! So we added 150 more kilometres to detour to Manipal and then follow NH-17 from there to Goa.

Day 0 (15th Feb 2007): Bangalore - Neelmangla - Hassan -------------------------------------------------------------------

By the time we left office, it was 7:00 PM. We met at MG road after some time. We could leave city only by 9:00 PM. Hassan is around 200 km from Bangalore. We took small breaks every 50 km or so and maintained a decent speed. We reached Hassan around 2 AM and checked into a hotel.

Day 1 (16th Feb 2007): Hassan - Belur - Chikamaglur - Sringeri - Manipal - Marwanthe - Someshwar - Murudeshwar
------------------------------------------------

We started off from Hassan at 9:00 AM. Ride till Belur was awesome on the smooooth highway. We kept going and stopped at Chikamaglur for breakfast. Usual dosa, idli, chai etc. All five of us were riding headlight to taillight till Chikamaglur. From here to Sringeri is the twisty turny road on which I was dying to ride since my last trip in a cage(read car) on this road. Here, I overtook others and stopped after around 50 km to click some snaps.

Chikamaglur-Sringeri Road

Our next stop was Agumbe. We did not stop at Sringeri. After few snaps at Agumbe, we stopped directly at Hotel Fishland, Manipal at around 3:00 PM.

Descent After Agumbe

Hotel Owner Shetty was excited to see us yet again to devour his fishes. New entrant this time to our stomachs was sword fish!

Hotel Fishland, Manipal

We bid goodbye to Shetty at moved on to NH-17. After around 50 km was the beautiful Marwanthe beach.

Marvanthe Beach, NH-17

The road goes parallel to the beach for few km here. First we thought of seeing sunset at Marwanthe and stay there itself for night but that would mean around 250 km to Goa next day. So, we rode for few tens of km to reach Someshwar where we saw the sunset over the Arabian Sea. This was the perfect sunset over the sea for the first time. There was no haze on the horizon and we could see the sun diving into the water creating ripples with its rays.

Views Of Sunset, Someshwar Beach

We zoomed our bikes then to our night halt Murudeshwar. Murudeshwar is famous for its huge statue of Lord Shiva and we reached there on MahaShivratri night. There was nothing much to do in Murudeshwar apart from visiting the statue and the temple below it.
Statue of Lord Shiva, Murudeshwar

We hit our beds soon. Only 180 km from our destination. :)

Day 2 (17th Feb 2007): (Murudeshwar - Karwar - Madgaon - Panaji) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We got ready by 9 AM and started off for Panaji. Someone said that we should stay at Gokarna and enjoy that only, no point going till Goa for such a less time! Soon this plan was dropped and some time later we were having breakfast near Karwar.
Warship Museum, Karwar

Goa border is just 10 km from there. Saswata and Ashu left while rest of us were settling bills. We told them to wait for us at "Welcome to Goa" board. We will move together from there but there was no one there. Later the reason they gave for not stopping was that there was no such board at the border !! @#$%^&#.

We carried on and soon the Ghat roads started. I accelerated and Amit and Sumit were left behind. Uske baad kuch to chaos hua, sab log idhar udhar ho gaye and everyone entered Panaji on his own without knowing where the other person was!

About to reach Panaji

Something happened that day and none of our mobiles were showing roaming enabled! So finally I was roaming in the streets of Panaji to find a Reliance Web World! Tried calling others but no one was reachable. Everyone had the same problem! All mobile operators made zero roaming rental from that day, maybe that was the reason. Finally after 2 arduous hours, I got my phone working! After 10 mins, recieved a call from local number! It was Amit. Finally all of us were together and it was already 3 PM!

We straightaway headed for Calingute beach. After a bit research, found a decent accommodation. And then run to the sea !!! We hanged around on the beach and the sea and had a fabulous dinner in one of those shacks on the beach.

Calingute Beach, Goa

Carnival, Goa

It was carnival time in Goa. There were stages with huge speakers and all for entertainment. At late night we went back to our hotels and had relaxed shower. Then Sumit( Uff I am fed up of calling him sumit, I will call him Hathee from now on. Phew! much better now :D) said we should go to Panaji city. Receptionist at the hotel told us that no point going there after midnight. Everything will be closed. Then this great idea of going to the DCH fort! came from somewhere :D. The ride was awesome till Fort Aguada. (Yeah! I know I know DCH fort is not the fort Aguada. But we came to know about this the next day :D). We tried riding with our headlights off in the pitchdark but it was impossible ! It was so dark that we could not wven make out the shape of the fort and soon returned back. Time to hit the bed !


Day 3 (18th Feb 2007): (Goa - Goa - Goa - Karwar - Honnavar :D) -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Next day we explored Goa. Obviously not completely but the best we could do in one day. And yes we visited Chapora, the DCH fort also :D. We spent the day visiting various beaches like Anjuna, Vegator, etc. I am not even remembering the names now :D. We visited Fort Aguada as well as Fort Chapora. We spent some time lazying doing nothing at one of the shacks :).

Shades of Goa

We left Panaji in the evening. Actually some of us wanted to stay one more day but Hathee and Pandey were insistent that we should leave so that we reach Bangalore on Monday and report to office on Tuesday.

Very well, we thought of taking night halt at Honnavar. We had a light dinner on the way and I went ahead to reach Honnavar and book the rooms while others were still eating and settling bills. The solo ride from Karwar to Honnavar was amazing! I kept following a volvo which was doing 60-70 kmph. But it was difficult to follw the bus so I tailed behind a car which was constatly doing 90 kmph. It was much easier that way to ride during night. By 9 PM, I guess I reached Honnavar and got really good rooms. We slept off soon for an early day ride!

Day 4 (19th Feb 2007): (Honnavar - Jog Falls - Sagar - Shimoga - Tumkur - Bangalore)
---------------

We woke up at 6 AM and soon get going after having a quick breakfast. The idea was to reach Bangalore as soon as possible and rest. Our first stop was Jog Falls. Few pics and we left. We stopped for small chai session at Sagar. After that lunch at Shimoga. From Shimoga, Bangalore is about 300 km. We stopped for chai after about 120 km. Ashu did not stop there. We rode till Tumkur after that and called Ashu. He was entering Bangalore! We also continued riding and reached home by 6.

Near Jog Falls, Karnataka

This was by far the best trip I had! 1500 km in 4 days! But I have to go to Goa again and this time for a longer duration...


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

Date:
15th Feb 2007 to 19th Feb 2007

Riders:
1. Ashish - Bajaj Avenger
2. Ashutosh - RE Thunderbird
3. Saswata - Honda Unicorn
4. Sumit - Bajaj Avenger
5. Amit - Bajaj Pulsar 150

Route:

Forward
Bangalore - Neelmangla - Hassan - Belur - Chikamagalur - Sringeri - Manipal - Marwanthe - Someshwar - Murudeshwar - Karwar - Madgaon - Panaji

Return
Panaji - Honnavar - Jog Falls - Sagar - Shimoga - Tumkur - Bangalore

Total Distance Bangalore to Bangalore: 1500 KM

Night Stay:
1st Night: Hassan. Good Double bedroom for Rs 275/-
2nd Night: Murudeshwar. OK Double bedroom at lodge for Rs 200/-
3rd Night: Calingute Beach. Good Double bedroom for Rs 350/-
4th Night: Honnavar. Very nice Double bedroom for Rs 350/-


More pics can be seen here