Archive for February 2010
Ever stopped a while and looked at your life from a third person’s perspective? Have you ever felt that you could had done things differently? If not, congratulations! Either you’ve had a perfect life or you’re perfectly disillusioned.
Recently I had the chance to be in the company of my thoughts for hours on end. Motorcycle tours do that to you. And I realized that all the while, I was reading up on how to manage and spend time… while in reality, time, in it’s consistent and smooth ways had been spending me. Whether I try to manage time or not, clock keeps ticking. Though I set alarms and reminders to alert me, time continues to flow out of my life like a small hole in a tank eventually empties it.
What then, can I do to make sure my life isn’t a waste. Perhaps it is easiest to go with the flow, and just decide where you would like time to spend you at any given moment.Note that this is not a refined concept, just a record of my initial thoughts. Feel free to add your observations and critique.
— Mark Twain
Ahmednagar – Chennai Motorcycle Ride
Travel, a necessary evil for some and life itself for a few; it calls on you when you least expect it. A phone call on Thursday, 4th February 2010 confirmed a meeting in Chennai on Monday, 8th Feb. I’m not much of a air-traveler, the journey ends too quickly for you to even begin enjoying it. Thought about getting a railway reservation – just to follow “normal people” protocol. Threw up hands and declared trains were not an option when I noticed 11 people in line for a confirmed ticked on that train before me ;-)
I had been waiting for a chance to say this to myself, “You’re going to Chennai on a motorcycle. Pack up!”. I had never been to Southern India before, so the excitement was more than just for riding hundreds of kilometers, it also had the anticipation of riding into a land still new to me! Calculated the distance, set the route to include cities where I have friends or relatives to make the night halt more comfortable. Finally came up with a rough estimate of 1,300km one-way. Calculated how much fuel I was expected to burn: 33 liters, again one-way. Sanity check: is it cost-effective? am I fit enough to ride that distance? are the roads good enough? am I confident I’m not going to doze off in the meeting after riding that far? am I feeling lucky?
Decided on taking two halts before reaching Chennai. I would be leaving Ahmednagar, and take first halt at Kolhapur at a friend’s place. Next at Bangalore, at a relative’s place. This day I realized how nice it is to have loved ones spread out all over the country! Spent my time getting bike’s tank full, researching maps, writing down important information on paper – to save time if at all phone battery died. Have been using ‘if’ instead of ‘when’ for phone battery since I attached a makeshift mobile charger on the bike. A very useful attachment for rides that last days, especially if you intend to use GPS for navigation or connect to Internet etc.
Day 1: Woke up early morning, realized I had forgotten an important step, packing bags! Being a perennial traveler, I have two sets of toothbrush, paste, shampoo, towel etc… just slipped it into the bag first. Then picked out whatever else I might need. Looked at the sky outside, remembered what time of year it was and slipped in my dSLR camera, spare lens and netbook without any rain protection. Threw in a large plastic bag, just for the sake of it. Cleaned out the helmet visor, hugged the bike, said goodbyes to friends and family and I was off!
Once the wheels of my trusted Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twinspark start rolling, they don’t stop too frequently. Took my first break to drink some water after about an hour of riding, in a minute or two I was back on the highway. Too bad I forgot to quench my thirst just before leaving home. The road from Ahmednagar to Pune is (now) a beautiful 4 lane highway with only few bottlenecks. Could sustain a good 80kmph till Pune traffic hit me. Decided to have my breakfast in Pune, spotted a fellow selling coconut water, emptied one and one more till my tank was also showing ‘full’! Rode out into light traffic on NH4, a beautiful, seemingly endless road.
Spotted three foreigners leisurely cruising on a Thunderbird and some scooter, waved to them as I zipped past at 90kmph. There’s something about spotting another tourer and just saying “Hi!” without knowing any personal details. Just a smile, a gesture… and you’re on your way again. The nice feeling lasts for quite some time. Later when I had stopped for another sip of water just a little ahead, they rolled by, all smiles and waving back :-)
Reached Kolhapur just as the sun was setting. Met up with my buddy, was meeting him first time since his marriage so there was a lot to talk about! Decided to ride out again, within an hour of reaching – to a city about 50km away to meet another friend and get some work done in another city, further 20km added to route and then back 50km. The night ride was fun! Met my friend at Miraj and later had the most awesome Chicken Malvani curry at Ichalkaranji before heading back to Kolhapur for a well-deserved sleep!
Day 2: Even though I slept sometime around midnight, excitement woke me up before the alarm went off at 5:30. Had a cup of chai and rolled out into the darkness. I had underestimated the cold, despite a warm inner and a jacket on top, gloves, balaclava and helmet, thick jeans and woolen socks and tough shoes, I was shivering. Made a hasty note-to-self: Your country is BIG. Weather changes with geography.
Stopped at Belgaum to take some photos, did not even bother unmounting. Kept riding till I reached a toll gate and spotted the first open chai shop that was outside city. Had two cups of hot tea and a pack of biscuits for breakfast, called up family to let them know of my position. Confirmed that Google Latitude was updating my location and they were able to track me. Breathed a sigh of relief from the cold as the sun had risen up enough by now. Started the engine, checked rear view mirrors and with some quick gear shifts, completely merged into the traffic flowing at steady 80kmph on NH4.
Kept riding till afternoon with few breaks. This is where the mental barrier of time and distances hit me. I had been riding for what felt like the whole day, nearly 300km had been covered. I sure felt I could use some rest, and realized I was smack in the middle of the route and had to repeat the whole ordeal I had just completed all over again – another 300km, six or more hours to ride! The realization was slightly intimidating because the road had gone from makkhan (butter) smooth to bad to worse as I approached Davangere. Heavy road construction work is in progress creating numerous diversions, leaving many kilometers of road in potholes.
Anyhow, that intimidation soon died out after my lunch: 2x coconut water and the malai (soft fleshy stuff inside). I was refreshed and ready to take on whatever the road had to offer for the rest of the day. Journey past this point was thankfully plain and uneventful, slightly boring even – straight roads don’t give much opportunity for fun. Reached outskirts of Bangalore around sunset time. Turned on Ovi Maps voice navigation, set destination to Hebbal and started following instructions to turn left or right at intersections. Spotted the landmark Big Bazar, called up my uncle who lead me to his residence nearby. When I took off the jacket, a butterfly came fluttering out and flew about in the house! I have no idea where I picked ‘er up, but I guess I can claim that no matter who you are, you’re safe with me ;-) After resting my backside on an overly soft couch for an hour or so, went riding in the city with cousin to have a look around and dozed off a little past midnight.
Day 3: Sunday morning. Lazy morning. Woke up at 10am! Packed and started off to Chennai by noon. I had severely underestimated the distance and time it would take to reach Chennai. Moreover, I made a decision to follow the nearest path that my GPS navigation system told me. Bad idea. NH4 between Bangalore and Chennai is mostly horrible. Somehow managed to reach Chennai by 8:30 or 9 pm. Was supposed to meet a friend, but his phone’s battery died before I could figure out where he was or vice versa.
Realized another problem (which I could had rectified given enough motivation or energy, but alas!): iPhone and Nokia Ovi Maps use different notations for GPS coordinates, he sent me his coordinates from iPhone via SMS, I punched them into my phone to be thrown off my seat: it showed him 10 kilometers out in the Bay of Bengal!Our last communication was simply: I’m on this road, near the Church. Waited a while, then moved on, to realize there were at least half a dozen Churches in that locality! Laughed at myself, felt sorry for the friend who could still be looking for me, but I was tired and needed rest. Had dinner at a restaurant and started looking for a hotel. Found a decent-looking place, dumped my stuff and went to sleep within some time.
Day 4: Attended the meeting at Tiruvottiur and decided to take a route bypassing Chennai city. Ended up wasting an hour when a glitch in GPS navigation took me for a ride in the opposite direction and looped back to where I took the wrong turn. I had followed its instructions despite my sense of direction and intuition screaming “FAIL!”. I’ll remember to double check next time and get a handlebar mount for the mobile to see the display instead of keep mobile in pocket and trust only audio. Used Google Maps and managed to get back on NH4. I was riding hard in the daylight, expecting the bad patches of NH4 to pounce at me any time. I kept riding, pushing myself to cover just another 30km before stopping for a break. Surprisingly the road continued to be awesome. When I noticed that I could not recall seeing the sights nor any of the village names passing by, I grew a bit uneasy. Stopped by the side, fired up the GPS again and checked – following the large signboards, I had unknowingly switched to Hosur road instead of NH4! This time, the goof-up was a good thing. The road is a magnificent multi-lane highway, well maintained and feels good to ride on. All the while I had been worrying if I could make it back to Bangalore before 8pm for a meetup with buddies I know over the Internet. Suddenly the time factor felt less intimidating.
Day 5: Started off to Kolhapur after a light breakfast. And having breakfast means I started late. Rode hard, remembered the 300km mental block and planned on covering more before I hit that wall. Somehow, it never came. Though the Davangere roadblocks and diversions came in plenty!
Took a few stops, mostly for either sugarcane juice or coconut water and comfortably reached Kolhapur at around 6:30pm, just as the sun retreated to its garage. Had a nice dinner with a friend – enjoyed the famous pandhra / tambda rassa — red and white gravies, before retiring for the night. Day 6: Had planned to meet my friend in Miraj once again, since on day 2 we got hardly a few minutes to chat. Started from Kolhapur at 11am, reached Miraj in an hour, enjoyed a nice Biryani for lunch (after 6 days of skipping lunch entirely). Enjoyed talking, actually just listening to her voice. Had started growing accustomed to hearing Thunderbird’s loud purr all day! Realized how human voice in first person sounds so much better than on phone. Left towards Pune by 1:30, reached by 5:30. Had noticed on the way that my headlight (which uses HID lamp) had blown. Enough reason to dump my bag at brother’s residence and decide to stop over till morning! Met up with more buddies in Pune, enjoyed a simple dinner at Diamond Queen in camp area. Stayed awake well past midnight chatting with brother.
Day 7: I have no idea when I woke up, all I remember is waking up and trying to figure out which city I was in. After a whole week of having breakfast in one city and dinner in another, I felt totally disoriented early in morning. I vividly remember having flashbacks of different places I rested and then comparing what my eyes saw with them. The zing of toothpaste brought me back to senses soon enough. Left Pune after light brunch and reached Ahmednagar in two hours just in time for lunch. Mom was waiting eagerly, so were my two cats. Hugged them all, felt so good to be back! Hugged my bike, in my mind thanked everyone for all the good wishes that helped make my ride uneventful and smooth.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
P.S. I did a full 3100km ride, thanks to detours due to GPS fault and to meet friends ;-)
- All photographs made with Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Edition phone.