Been a long time since my last post. Well it has been a long time since my last long ride too. Since last Aug, been mostly doing breakfast rides and those too, sparingly. So, you can imagine, how I was itching to do a longer. There was a long weekend coming up in July, with Id being on a Monday.
I pushed my biking buddies to plan for a ride. We discussed venues within a 350Km radius of Bangalore. Options from Ooty to Masinagudi came up, including Kodaikanal and Valparai. Some of our buddies had recently been to Valparai and it looked heavenly. We zeroed in on Valparai as the destination and all but finalised the hotel we would be staying at.
Click here to see a video on Valparai by my Bullet riding buddy AJ.
Then a discussion around better halves and kids accompanying us came up. So, Valparai as a destination suddenly became too far off, being an 8 hr drive time as per Google Maps.
This meant we had to reduce the radius down to below 300 Kms and mostly very good roads. Chikmagalur and Madikere were prime contenders. Don’t remember exactly how but we figured that Chikmagalur was where we were headed. Luckily for us one of our buddies is in the travel industry and was able to rustle up quite a few options for budget resorts.
As on all such trips, there were a number of people who signed up in the beginning but as the date grew nearer there were dropouts. Finally leaving us with 11 bikes, 3 pillions and 4 people (including two kids) driving in the car.
As is the norm, we decided we needed to meet and plan the ride over a few drinks. And as is the norm we met and had the few drinks. We then had a few more and just to be sure we leave no stone unturned, we had a few more. Like all excellent plans this one was simple. Get up early on Saturday morning and ride to Chikmagalur.
Actually, just to be sure, we did publish time and meeting points on the Whatsapp group. In case anyone forgot which day or where we were riding to.
Come Saturday a.m. we were all excited and up at the crack of dawn, literally. The south Bangalore bunch was getting together at 6 a.m. at Meenakshi Mall and the north bunch at Mekhri Circle. Ofcourse everyone was on time and we began the ride promptly at 6:00. Oh well…..actually it was more like 7:30 a.m. First the driver we had hired to drive my Innova showed up half an hour late and then each one of us decided to
fuel up at different points in time……Sigh !!
Finally , after much
ado, we were off! Yay!
Kind of! At least the journey had started in earnest for some of us. The plan was to get together on Tumkur road so the north Bangalore boys could transfer their bags including precious liquid cargo in to the car.
As luck would have it the toll road had some severe confusion and the entrance was being used as an exit. This predictably caused utter chaos. There was traffic piled up for a couple of hundred meters on the toll road and off it. Both streams making for the same opening but heading in opposite directions. Utter bedlam! (was too cheesed off by it to take a photo, would have been entertaining to look at now).
It took us a good 20 minutes to realize that it was futile to try and get on to the toll road. By which time we were deeply entrenched in the traffic. Luckily two wheels can maneuver much easier and we were able to get out of there and head down the service road. Finally we all managed to meet, only 2.5 hours behinds schedule. The car of course had gone much further ahead so the north boys had to bear their load till Nelmangala.
At Nelmangala, we actually got together, finally. Bags were transferred and everyone was all set for the long ride. But of course, the driver had duly disappeared. He chose that very moment to demonstrate his independence of opinion and decided it was time for him to have breakfast. Well…..
We bikers are a resilient bunch and not deterred by such minor inconveniences as traffic bedlam and a sudden absence of drivers. We held steadfast and after a few hundred phone calls managed to convince the driver that when we were speaking of going ‘fast’ it didn’t mean were not going to eat.
So, a mere 3.5 hours after waking up, the journey to Chikmagalur actually began..
The decided breakfast destination was one of our all-time favorite breakfast ride destinations, Mayura Cafe on Bellur cross.
Having wrapped ourselves around some super yummy benne-dosa, we were ready to get down to the business of serious conversation. This is of course the lifeline of all rides. The fact that we can all get together and repeat the same old ride stories. It is needed, since there is a slender chance that one of the people at the table might not remember every nuanced detail.
Mayura always has a plethora of bikes visiting for breakfast. This time around too, there was a sizeable number. I met and briefly chatted with a group of bikers who were going around south karnataka and one of their number was planning to do it on a Navi . This of course elicited the required comments such as, he must have set off last night to reach here for breakfast etc. It is a must to make these remarks you know.
With a nice brekker and even nicer conversation we were now ready to move on. We took out the trusty old smart phone and decided a common rendezvous point. We zeroed in on a spot where the road looked like it was developing a severe case of the twisties and was going nuts. We knew that if some of us were not to be helplessly lost, to wander about the highway for all time to come or till the tank runs out, we needed to meet before the turns. With a point of meeting established, we all set out.
Back on the road and towards Chikmagalur.
Might be time to point out that our little gang, loftily called, the Ministry of Torque, hosts bikes and riders of varying abilities. There are some who ride fast, some who ride very fast and others like me who ride at a measured stately pace (also called slow). So whenever we go on a long ride like this, in under a minutes we are strung out across the better part of a kilometer. Therefore, it is very important for us to establish common meeting points along the route.
Of course, being seasoned bikers that we are, we never meet at the designated points. However luckily, in this instance, we did manage meet at ‘a’ point and did not lose any of us.
Any regrouping quickly degenerates in to a chai-sutta stop. But then we are out for the ride so the occasional stop and break is always nice. The non-smokers took the opportunity to sample some local ‘nariyal paani’ and the whole thing was now threatening to become a full-fledged picnic.
Just about then we remembered that there was lunch waiting for us at the resort. Hey, didn’t I mention, this group loves its food. The waiting lunch was enough to get us motivated and back in to the saddle. Post Hassan, the route to Chikmagalur becomes a small 2 lane road with no divider. It is very picturesque, though it was spring / summer time it was still quite green and great fun to ride through. I took a couple of opportunities to ride ahead of the group and stop to take pictures of the riders going past. Got a couple of nice pics and plenty of pics with random vehicles blocking the shot 😐
In due course, we overshot the resort. The road is so nice that the lead riders did not bother to look left or right, just kept riding. However, someone spotted that we had overshot, so we backed up and in to the resort. The parking at the resort was a bit tricky, it was down a steep ravine (almost) and the route was unpaved. It was challenging to get ourselves down to the parking but we managed it sans mishap. The customary arrival photo done we were all set to remove the boots and hit lunch.
The resort owner was kind enough to send one his boys to fetch us some chilled beer. Best thing about a long ride in hot weather is how good the cold beer tastes afterwards.
Good food and great tasting beer was what we needed to get us in to a happy mood. one of the guys had carried a Bluetooth speaker along, we put on some toe tapping numbers and off we went dancing the blues away. It was super fun to have everyone stand and dance to the music. Nothing like some beer and dancing to iron out the cricks of a long ride.
Shortly thereafter we were ready to hit the sack. another great thing of long rides is the afternoon / evening nap. It is almost a ritual to snooze off, unless you do a very long ride reaching only in the evening, in which case a good massage helps too.
The evening was a repeat of the afternoon ritual of alcohol and music. This time though we had the good old story telling too. Any long ride is incomplete without the reminisces of other long rides. The stories of breakdowns and near saves are also de rigueur at the evening campfire. There was an actual campfire, the resort had put together for the guests, there were a few others besides us over there. It was a fantastic evening for all of us sitting around snacking, drinking and chatting.
Next morning we all woke up , just about. Post Breakfast there was consensus that we should go and explore the town. On the net, we found what looked like a nice coffee shop. Plenty of coffee estates in the area, so one assumed it should be easy to find a good coffee shop. As it turns out all the coffee shops in the Chikmagalur main-market sell coffee – the beans & powder, not the brew! 🙁 Anyone going to Chikmagalur please take note and don’t get misguided by the names in Google maps.
We did eventually find a nice small place on the first floor that served decent filter Coffee and had nice pakodas to boot. We belted a few of them. Something about good coffee – it makes you want to kick off and ride. The same happened to us and we all took off wanting to explore the surrounding areas.
The hill roads were marvelous, all of us riding in a staggered formation taking the curves in synch, was super fun. We rode like that for about 30 kms before turning around.
Lunch & some more snooze later it was almost the end of the trip. We had a slightly sedate evening since we had to ride back to Bangalore the next Morning.
The ride back was a straight and Simple affair. Before leaving, we had to have the usual photo-shoot.
On the way back we stopped at the CCD on Hassan road to take a break from the heat. A couple of cold coffees and cooling of heels later we were ready to get back home.
In the words of good old Willy (The Solitary Reaper), long afterwards the memory of the ride still lingered in our hearts.
“The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”