imagination rolls with just a poster on your bedroom wall. a poster of a little two wheeled monster leaning on a curve. you dream over time. you get inspired and you desire to seek freedom. a sort of freedom that's only felt with mobility. freedom that'll get you out of the cage and onto the open roads. life's never the same again..
The weekend of 23rd, 24th, and 25th of March saw us visiting a bunch of fellow riders from Bajaj Pulsar User Group (BPUG) and Bike Nomads (BN). We were 29 of us, and we were in Pune to visit Bajaj Auto's Chakan plant. The plant where Bajaj makes the Pulsar. This weekend saw fellow bikers and friends converging from Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore, apart from us Pune guys.
The plant visit included a complete tour of the facility and the various manufacturing departments. This was followed by a 2 hour long Q&A session with people from R&D, and Marketing. A very important session where we hurled several questions related to bajaj and the motorcycling industry in India in general. The meet was extrememly informative and provided a great platform for us (representing customers) to interact with the manufacturer, face to face.
In the evening, we got a chance to ride the recently launched Pulsar 200 on the Chakan test track. Something all of us were eagerly waiting for. This was followed by a poolside dinner hosted by BAL. It was a very eventful evening, and something to remember for a long time indeed.
Apart from the chakan plant visit, some of us were quite eager to have tea at Lonavala at hours way past midnight. All thanks to a 24 hour tea stall at the bus-stand. Endless rounds of tea accompanied by some vada-pao saw us chatting about bikes and ride experiences. All this on three consecutive nights. Sweet!
After making several rounds of Khandala ghat, it was time to head somewhere south. The next destination on the list was Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. A place well known for breathtaking vistas and strawberries. The former would make you fall on your knees and beg for several wishes to be granted. I'll try to resist those until the monsoons set in. But the latter was making big news (even on national TV). With record growth of strawberries this season, farmers were distributing them to visitors for free. They were even inviting visitors into their farms, and letting them pluck the strawberries of their choice and feast on them.
I'm no strawberry fan, and I was lucky enough to have made it to Panchgani just before the crowds flocked in. The ride was again on a weekday. I made it to Tableland just on time for a sunset. However, a thick layer of clouds blocked the sun's view.
I was too eager to try out some low light and night photography. Being a weekday (wednesday, to be frank) Tableland was empty!. Just a few groups here and there, who were just about to depart as they day folded. All the tongas and the jeeps were making their way back, and I was the sole guy heading deep into the open flatlands.
I spent a few hours at Tableland, trying to capture some good shots every now and then. However, strong winds and dust storms forced me to retreat. I had started off directly from office and had come unprepared for such weather conditions. I had the wrong jacket and my helmet had the wrong visor. After gazing the sky for sometime, I went to Mapro to have dinner. After a round of veg sandwich and icecream, I decided to head back.
Well, as usual. I couldn't. Not so soon. It was around 9pm and the sky looked fantastic. I headed to Harrison's foley, which again had no one. The views from here were breathtaking. The stars were shining bright and the moon had an orange tint. I spent 30 more minutes lying down on my bike watching towns below with little gleaming lights, and some sparse vehicles making their way down the ghat.
The ride down the ghat at night, with very little traffic felt really good. I was soon dashing my way back home, cruising on triple digit figures through Khambatki tunnel. The weather and the winds felt just right. At around 11pm I was home. It was time to hit the sack and head to work the next day.
Riding fast on open roads with a deep orange sun hovering over the horizon is not something I wish to explain in words. It's something to be experienced. And just when you thought it had dawned, you are at a turn, with the surrounding land 300 metres below you, and you still have a few minutes of that elusive sunset that you thought you missed.
Yep, it's true, i've suffered from it, five times over in the last couple of weeks, and it doesn't seem to move away any time soon. Even a daily phenomenon like watching the sunset can bring a good and happy end to a long and tiring day. Khandala ghat is an hour away from my office back in Pune (this includes the agonizing experience of getting stuck in evening traffic). It however is worth the effort and returns many fold on those lazy days where you don't have anything concrete planned for the evening.
What's to follow is a ride down Khandala ghat to Khopoli and a return. Part NH4 and part expressway. Yup, it's also the only place where 2 wheelers are allowed on the Pune-Mumbai expressway. The roads aren't half as crowded on weekdays as they are on weekends, and that's the beauty of it. A few laps around these roads are definately bound to put a broad smile on the rider.
Top that up with an intermediate tea/coffee break at Lonavala. And, if the expressway experience was just an appetizer, the ideal way to finish it off is with a ride up and down Aamby Valley. When the thirst of riding is quenched, it’s time to ride 60 kms back home to Pune, to total the evening’s ride in excess of 250 kms. Call it the longer route home from work.
It's Summer. The days are getting hotter. I've switched to riding more during the evenings and nights. The only part I like about summers are the late sunsets. More opportunities to run out of office and watch 'em :P .. I'm reminded of the song Sunset Man, by Thermal and a Quarter.
My flatmate and long-time friend Lohit has just quit his job in Pune and will be leaving to Bangalore soon. He wanted to see a few places around Pune, so we set off to Pawana to watch the sunset, despite the low water levels there. We were quite surprised to see a fairly large weekend crowd, however the hills and sky were looking beautiful never-the-less. Yet another taste of bad roads, and a chance to play with the camera :)
It's one of those days when you sit on a chair wondering what to do next once your work for the day is done. It's a gentle battle between doing the unthinkable v/s lazing around. In a split second there's a nice big list of possible locations which you could visit, that would bring a sense of adventure and joy. Then the mind begins the process of carefully weighing the pleasure factor of each of these locations. It's fierce competition with many close calls and ties. However, there's a winner. One that just seems perfect for that day, that evening, that moment: And there’s a sudden urge to get away from daily life and be somewhere else altogether. It was one such day, one on a sunny winter afternoon. I was done with my work by 1:30pm and I felt like spending the evening on a beach. Imagination had already started rolling. I could already sense the winds blowing, the waves hitting the shores, and the deep orange sun setting on the horizon. It just felt right, and it had to be done. It’s a situation where the mind won’t accept anything less for satisfaction, and there’s no stopping after that.
I headed to the petrol station across my office in Pune and tanked up my trusty Pulsar 180 DTSi. I was on the road by 2pm. There was very little traffic and I had no problems keeping good pace. The descent through Tamhini Ghat felt good particularly. The road had been tarred recently. Having done this route many number of times, I was off to enjoy the corners and the hairpins. As I approached Kolad, the roads seemed more inviting. Once I was on NH17, I proceeded towards Roha and took the shortest route to Kashid. A part of this short route was still under construction. A few kilometers of sand and stone after many hours of tarmac riding. Once I knew I was near, my only desire was to keep the pace up and not stop. I wanted be at the beach as early as possible. After 3 hours of non-stop riding, I was finally there.
I had reached earlier than expected. It was still sunny and the beach was stark empty except for a few people walking around at a distance. I quickly grabbed the opportunity to ride all around the beach. The shores were shallow and it was an easy ride. I was back to being a kid and I rode the shallow waters to feel the splash over me and my bike.
After some exploration of the surrounding areas, I finally pulled out my camera and decided to take some snaps. I requested an Australian visitor to take some photos of me riding along the beach. It was just about sunset, and it was time to see my imagination turn to reality. It was one of the best evenings I’ve spent on a weekday; a working weekday for that matter. At 6:45pm I decided to head back home. It was a moonless night. I took a slight deviation around Tamhini and found myself some empty space with no trees around. I just slept on the bike to watch the stars. It was pitch dark and the star studded sky blew me away. Light pollution around towns and industrial areas ruin the best views of the sky. Fortunately for me, I was away from it all, in the right place at the right time. I however could not spend a lot of time there as I wanted to get back home. By 10pm I was at Pune’s Chandni Chowk. A 380 kilometer ride, a sea sand splashed bike, reddish tyres and dirty clothes. It was time to head home, have dinner and call it one very eventful evening.
[this writeup was featured in BIKE India magazine - Volume 2 / Issue 10 / May 2007 Page 46 ]
Yes. I was desperate to do a long distance ride. With the original destination being Bangalore, I felt like doing more as I got riding on the first day. I felt like visiting the pristine hills of Ooty and feeling the winter chill. My Pulsar 180 dtsi was all serviced and ready to munch some miles.
On Day 1, I left Pune at 4:30 am. It was a cold morning. I took my first break close to Satara and watched the sunrise (it was too tempting to stop at this moment). I continued further and reached Nelamangala (30 kms outside Bangalore) just before 5pm. Not wanting to enter Bangalore, I took the outer-ring-road through Kengeri satellite town and reached the Mysore road. I continued and reached Mysore at 9pm. I stayed at one of my friend's home.
On Day 2, I got up at 7am. Got ready, thanked my friend and continued towards Bandipur. I spent very little time at Gopalswamy Betta. I took the Masinagudi route through Sigur ghats and reached Ooty by around 11pm. Rode around Doddabetta, Conoor and Pykara. I had dinner at around 7pm and slept by 8pm. I was badly in need of sleep.
On Day 3, I had to ride all the way back to Pune. Not something I had even dreamed of doing. I left at 6am and rode longer distances taking shorter breaks. I packed some fried rice near Gundulpet, and decided to eat a little at every major break I take. I also took along 5 bars of Cadbury's Perk and plenty of water. I tried taking various shortcuts in Mysore and Bangalore, and faced some trouble. I actually ended up wasting valuable time on the ring roads in hopes of avoiding the city traffic. After a long day's riding, I reached Hubli and had dinner. The sleep was really getting to me and I was bored riding on a straight stretch not having anything else to do. However, the last stretch from Kolhapur to Pune was fantastic. The skies were clear, there was no fog, visibility was fantastic, and it was cold. It felt awesome. For a change the good weather drove all my sleep away, and I made it back home by around 3am with a wide grin ear to ear.
Distances covered: 986 kms on Day 1 - Pune to Mysore 186 kms on Day 2 - Mysore - Gopalswamy Hill - Ooty and surrounding areas 1216 kms on Day 3 - Ooty to Pune - In 21 hours (around 17 hrs of actual ride time)
So much for a butt-aching trip. I reported to work like everything was normal, and slept 15 hours that evening. This is my fastest & longest ride so far .. Yippie ..