Wednesday 31 December 2014
Friday 26 September 2014
Thursday 18 Sep 2014
It was evening. I was back to home from my office. As usual it was time to beat the tiredness. What I usually do? After a refresh, turn on the Music on the home PC, hear some melodies. This usually goes for half an hour after which I move on to other routine.
But on Thursday evening, as I was switching on my home PC, my phone ringed. The person on the other end was Shrinidhi, my long time blogger friend. "Hey, are you free this Sunday, 21 Sep? Jaguar Land Rover is sprucing out an Offroading Experience." And, this was a music, more interesting, than what I was going to hear in my home PC!!
"Yeah!! " said me. Offroading that too on a luxury SUV!! I replied him that I would be there for sure. Then the process started with couple of calls and emails from Blogadda who are coordinating the bloggers coming for this event.
The event happened on Sunday afternoon. We needed to be there by 12.00 noon, start with the lunch and go on with the off roading event.
Shrinidhi, Ashwini and myself were to go in a cab for the event venue. We fixed 11.30 a.m. as the the ample time to catch up together at Shollinganallur junction on the ECR and continue the journey in a cab and reach "The Farm" a specialty restaurant at Semmancherry Village on the OMR in Chennai.
Sunday 21 Sep 2014
Yours truly started off from Cuddalore by 7.30 a.m. While I crossed past Pondicherry, I confirmed my coordinates to Shrinidhi.
As planned, I joined Shrinidhi and Ashwini awaiting with the Innova cab exactly at 11.30 a.m. at Shollinganallur ECR junction and we all started off to "The Farm" the venue for the Jaguar Land Rover Experience.
After a few minutes of getting introduced with the people, I was in for a surprise to meet Tinu Cherian. I have felt his online presence, more than once, be it twitter or facebook through retweets made by others. Met him for the first time. Happenings like this do get me joy which are hard to forget in life. Its a first meeting him.
We all then had some fruit juice. The previous session of off roading was going on. We were told that The Land Rovers have gone into the off roading terrain, which is nearby and should be in the middle of the session. We understood that, it would take more than half hour for the session to end. It was felt that we all can go and have a look.
So, we all went in to the big private farm land by walk...
The experience was facilitated by Cougar Motorsports, specialists in OffRoad events in India, from "Tata Motors Full Throttle" to "The Himalayan Dash". After lunch, briefing session by experts from Cougar as well as JLR started off.
Rovers. We were in for a surprise to know that the vehicle has features such as Hill Descent Control - prevents the machine from slipping / skidding due to hard braking while going downhill. Another control - Terrain Response - can change throttle response and a million other parameters based on the terrain such as sand, rock etc..,
Clear instruction were given to us. As each car was driven by us, there would be an expert driver sitting on the left seat. We should follow our instructor’s command to the letter, if we don’t, the drive experience was bound to be taken over by the expert. Ofcourse, all of us enjoyed the drive, no one was taken off.
The next trail was a mud slush. Then a mound came in. Then came a slush. The vehicle was put in different modes. All the controls were taken care of by the computers in the vehicle. Barely the skill of the driver is put into play.
Then there was a stretch which was bit longer and I got the chance to push the accelerator bit harder. It was a good experience. There was another descending mound to be taken now. This was a bit challenging one and so it took more time for the three vehicles before me to queue out.
So far so good, I was rotating the pod in the vehicle to "Drive" and moving the vehicle as needed. Whenever the vehicle wants to be stopped for a long time, I switched the pod to "Parking" and waited. So, I was in the "Parking" mode for a longer time. Since I was the last man in the convoy, a fire lit in me. Why not try "Reverse"? I asked my instructor. He nodded. I then turned the knob to "R" and drove the RangeRover for some twenty feet in the reverse. Ofcourse I was the only person in the group who roved the Evoque in the reverse. A gift for this last man in the convoy!!
We came back to the venue, filled in our feedback and started off...
The pit to test the capability of the SUVs
The marshals awaiting for the next batch to come into the terrain for the offroading.
The smoke from the vehicle bubbles out of the water.
Wednesday 17 September 2014
Driving a tractor is easy. My first ever experience of driving a 4 wheeled motor
vehicle was a tractor. It happened on a mid of a night at my grand pa's village some
fifteen years ago. There was a need to go to the rice mill to grind the paddy. It was usual that the rice mill works 24 hours and it works in full steam during the night due to power cuts in the day. A tractor with a trailer, almost full of paddy bags, needed to be transported to the mill.
Since it was a midnight, roads were empty. I was at freedom to try. The curious me made a pleading to the driver to give me a chance. It was almost 11.30 p.m. when we all started off. The passage was a mud road with bends coming up often. The tractor belonged to my uncle. The driver Rajnikant immediately offered me after moving past three bends. But I asked him to wait till all the bends pass by. Then the main road came in. I was readily offered the driver's seat. After knowing the gear shifting and the clutch, I drove it. It was so easy. That half hour driving experience did give me more confidence. Still a memorable experience in my life time. But, those days, cameras are a rarity and I never had a chance to capture the moment. The driver Rajinikant had passed away few years ago. I badly miss my four wheeler guru.
Two weeks back, I was back at grandpa's village, it was time to up my learning curve. Over a decade have passed and I have driven many of the four wheelers. Having experienced off roading with Audi cars and with recent visit to the toughest offroading event of India "The Palar Challenge", my inner voice questioned me, why not try something different with this tractor ? Its rather boredom to drive this vehicle in the usual ways !
So, tried my bit to place the vehicle on a slant gradient. Since its a farm land, there were no other vehicles, it was easier to try the gimmick.
A goose bumpy moment though of having made the tractor climb the small mound.
Also succeeded to get a video recorded during the experience.
Sunday 10 August 2014
"Bullet 500 from Royal Enfield" - Ever since this Bullet500 bike was launched by Royal Enfield, I was eager to grab it, push it to extremes and know its characteristics.
Though this new model was yet to be launched in this part of our country during the August of 2013, yours truly got a chance to grab this bull as part of Experiential Preview Program.
About the bike :
This Bullet500 retains the British era military look. The tiger eye lamps add the familiarity of its traditional elder brothers.
A second look would reveal it to be little bigger in its build. Firing its engines, I felt the the thump is less louder, than in its elder cast iron brothers.
Ofcourse, yours truly is a bulletteer who
For old cast iron bulleteers, though the looks of this Bullet500 is similar, their first bump would be that this bike has gear shifts on right side. There is no neutral shifter. Being a bike with five gears, a neutral shifter, if its provided in this Bullet500; as was there in cast irons; would do more good in case of sudden stops in urban traffic.
11 August 2013
In the evening I got the bike from the Royal Enfield’s Adyar showroom.
The odo read 370 ! That’s a cue for me, the bike is virgin new. I should not push it to extremes for the next 2000 kms.
I had already planned to join the bikers gang of Chennai Trekking Club on a group ride themed “Independence Day Ride”. This ride spans for four days with two night riding over 3 states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. A pre-bike-tour meeting with the folks organizing this bike tour was there at Besant Nagar beach.
So, after getting the bike from Adyar show room, my first pit stop was Elliots Beach in Beasant Nagar.
The first feel: the push is too energetic; the bike too stable; felt engine vibrations on the hand bar; the disc brake on the front was crisp and too effective. The 3 kms ride to Elliots beach was too good.
Bumped with the riding folks and discussed about the itinerary and the things to be taken care for the ride. Group riding as well as night riding has so far not been my experience. I was little anxious. After an half hour meeting, we dispersed off by 5.30 p.m. Next sojourn of nearly 190 kms for me is to my home in Cuddalore.
Since it is going to be a night ride to Cuddalore, I planned to avoid the ECR and take the GST road via Tindivanam. During the previous bike ride on Thunderbir500 I was particular to ride in the OMR and get into GST road via the Pallavaram flyover. But it was a bitter experience; after leaving Adyar Royal Enfield showroom, myself got confused of umpteen diversions and finally ended up at Gemini flyover. So, this time I was for sure not to repeat that mistake.
One of the biker folk Balaji in this meet was from Tambaram and he pulled in to guide me till Pallavaram. Haa! that was a cool thingy! No confusions for me, just follow him. After a few kms of metro traffic, roads were very thin of traffic. After bidding adieu to Balaji, I rode few more kms and reached GST road.
A night time ride on a NH Road; it was a warm up exercise for me; as I need to ride full night on the first leg of the bike tour which starts on the night of 14th August.
The feel of Bullet500 was really superb. Its too smooth till 70kmph. Since the bike has done only 320kms on its odo, I decided not to push it beyond 80kmph.
My personal protective equipments that I was having on me so far were a helmet, pair of shoes and a denim trouser. After reaching Chengelpet, as the sun went down, the visibility was very poor. The NH road too was busy. I did not want to give chance for somebody bumping on me from my behind.
To overcome the danger of poor visibility, from Chengelpet onwards, I put on my reflective apron above my jerkin. Then wore the knee guards and arm guard. It was bit cumbersome, but I did not want to take chances.
Half hour into the journey, as I was nearing Tindivanam, as the odo was crossing past 471 kms, the fuel got over. At Tindivanam I filled 2 Lts of petrol and was heading to Pondicherry.
I was expecting the petrol to be over before I reach Pondicherry. But to my surprise that never happened. The bike clocked 86 kms and after I crossed well past Pondicherry, the fuel in the mains got over and I switched to reserve. The odo was now showing 558.
It has run 87 kms on 2 Lts of petrol. So the mileage is an impressive 43.5 kmpl. Being a bike with 500CC, a mileage of this number was bit of wonder to me. I then filled 3 Lts of fuel.
12 August 2013
Its Monday morning, I was ready to go to office, so after pulling the bike out of my home, sat on it to kick start it. Though I was dreaming to fly off, the engine never fired off !!
Called up Mr.Bala, of Royal Enfield, Adyar to know about the reason behind the problem. As he was on the phone, I once again tried starting the bike. The bike misfired once again. As Bala heard the noise over the phone, he found out the root cause. I was bit stumped with the way he zeroed in on the root cause of the problem and guided me to solve it. The clamp on the tube leading from the carburetor to the engine was loose, this needed to be tightened. As I was running out of time to go to office; I could not do it. With lot of sweat bursting out of me, I removed all the protective equipments (helmet, knee guards) off and wanted to get some wind for a respite.
Then, decided to park the bike back into my home. Pulled out my own Standard350 Bullet. It was a little hectic moment, to pull out that bike; push this bike into my home and then start off to office after all those delay. So much was the delay that, I opted the helmet and knee guards left behind; and started off in my Standard350 Bullet.
This was the first time in the last 5 years, I had ridden to office without wearing the helmet ! Back on reaching office, everyone is keen on seeing me reaching there with the new Bullet500. But they all were given a missing moment. I promised them of bringing the new chik the next day.
In the evening, once I was back to home, I got my mechanic to my home and fixed the issue. As the engine roared back, so was my goose bumps. It was a moment of great relief ! I called back Bala to tell about this. He advised me that, the engine should not be given quick revs in the future.
For the whole day, I was having a disturbed mind, given the fact that, there would be a long journey in the next two days and the conking drew me anxious on how would I handle if the same problem repeated again mid way during the bike tour. Luckily it never repeated during my long tour with the CTC Bikers Gang.
13 August 2013
It was a ride to office.
14 August 2013
In the morning, I started off the 1,700 kms tour of 4 states, over the next 4 days named “Independence Ride”. Tamil Nadu, Pondy, Kerala and Karnataka are the states / UTs that I need to cover.
Arranged the contents of my back pack and took a photograph. Should be a reckoner in future trips.
A fully loaded pack for the tour on my back. a sleeping mat and a small blue bag tied on either sides of the bike, I started off the tour. First pit stop was to office in the morning.
The bike first touched Pondicherry (Union Territory), I attended my office. After finishing my office on 14th evening, I continued the tour. Another 3 states is in the offing. Since I am going to travel to Krishnagiri all alone through the midnight, I filled the fuel tank to its brim, with 11.44 Lts of petrol costing Rs.800. Two days back I had filled 3 Lts of fuel, but since the fuel did not get over, there were no chances for me to cross check the 43.5kmpl figure.
I needed to go past Krishnagiri via Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai and Chengam (about 270 kms) to join with the riders group. They are coming from Chennai via Ranipet and Vellore. It was raining all the way and riding in such a circumstance was a tad tough.
The trail covered on this 1,700 kms tour was going to be ghat sections, NH, SH, mud roads; under the sun, rain; day and night riding, this night riding was quite an experience. The route was anew to me. I thought I would grow tired once I am reaching Tiruvannamalai in this rain. But, the bike was too comfortable to ride and rain was not that a dampener.
Though there were pot holes, diversions and plenty of bumps, the seat and the shox tell that how they were engineered to make riding this Bullet500 a smooth and comfortable experience.
The road past Tiruvannamalai was so bad, added to this, was the construction works going on at several stretches. The visibility was already poor since its mid night, added to this challenge was the rain. Since the bike performed well, that pushed my mind to brave the dire situation with an extra pint.
Atlas it was well past 2.00 a.m. I reached Krishnagiri and parked the bike at the Toll plaza and kept waiting for the bikers gang to arrive.
After a small break we started the ride and reached a petrol bunk on the Krishnagiri – Hosur road and took rest on a verandah.
15 August 2013
The Independence Day, it was 6.30 a.m. the whole group was awake. There was a toilet in the petrol bunk and was helpful for us to finish our morning routines. The ride started off and on the outskirts of the NH road we had our breakfast.
The first peg of the 300 km ride was to cross past Thenkanikotta and get into the ghat section leading to Hogenakkal. We were entering into forest area and we came across a police station wherein all of us were signaled to stopped for verification. All the guys turned on their side indicators and turned to a side of the road. The police officials were in for a big surprise to see such a group of bikers following road discipline. That too, it was a rural road with not so big traffic!!
The police personnel gave us chocolates and bid adieu after their Independence Day Wishes of-course in a more respectful voice. Realized that they got impressed with the discipline of the group of 12 bikers. I suppose it was a rare sight for them. Learnt that the discipline we adhere to, would get us back a powerful respect from others.
We were then cruising on the ghat roads leading to Hogenakkal.
Balajee’s bike went off the path into the road side getting a small hit onto the rocky wall on the side of the road. He was lucky that he did not get injured. His bike Yamaha FZ got damaged.
The bike can’t be ridden further. The engine oil cabinet need to be fixed anew. It was a forest area and there is no probability of a mechanic available within a distance of next 50 kms. Plan B came into the play. Balaji was asked to go as a pillion in another bike. His bike was ridden by Vankatesh ofcourse without starting its engines. Dinesh was riding his bike from behind and pushed Balaji’s bike with his foot. All of us reached Hogenakkal.
Though there was a major problem, the power of a group make all of us forget. The whole group kept moving on. After enjoying the river and a having fresh bath, all of us enjoyed eating hot snacks and left this place.
It was then an uphill ride and the towing process never stopped. Actually I was trying to video shoot the towing process. But could not catch them. Every time I stop at a place and get ready, these folks would have sped past. I assumed that they would be moving at about 30 kmph as they were "ON TWO". But they were moving at more than 60 kmph. Finally I went very fast, crossed a good distance, stopped the bike and managed to shoot this video.
Then we reached Pennagaram. This was the nearest place wherein we could witness some two wheeler mechanics. After searching many mechanics and Yamaha service showrooms, we realized that the bike can’t be repaired immediately. It would take another day for the spare part to arrive. Then Plan C came into play. It was decided to courier the bike to Chennai.
Since it is a small town, no facility was there to send the bike directly to Chennai. A cargo carrier was hired and Balaji’s bike was sent to nearby city and then couriered to Chennai.
Two folks went with it.
All these took up some three hours. Meanwhile, we the tired bikers found a closed shop with a verandah which had ample space to take rest. Everybody were quick to grab their space and in a few minutes all were asleep. After the van was ready, we were disturbed of our sleep. A few minutes of sleep was a big reliever, felt refreshed of the tiredness. We then headed to Mettur.
We had tiffin at a hotel and then we started off to Satyamangalam. Before reaching Satyamangalam, the fuel went off and I switched to reserve.
The odo read 1,109
The previous odo when I switched to reserve was 558 and
I had filled 2.86 Lts + 11.44 = 14.3 Lts of petrol
The distance travelled was 551 kms
The mileage I got during this is 551kms / 14.3 Lts = 38.53 Kmpl
This too is an impressive mileage. The terrain was mixed with SH, NH, pot holes, mud roads, ghat sections – Inviting sudden throttling and sudden braking and speeds nearing 100 kmph
End of the day, it was too long we were riding on our bikes. Many folks grew tired. We stopped in the mid way to beat tiredness and replenish our energy by drinking enough water. We reached Satyamangalm in the night and stayed at Kaushik’s (one of the bikers) friend’s place.
It was a blue metal quarry and the place of stay was a big thatched hutment which had plenty of space for all of us to sleep and for all our bikes to be parked. There was a water pump which was gushing out water in full throttle; we took a good bath; it did soothened off the body pain; after dinner of idlis and parottas we went in for sleep.
16 August 2013
After group photo ops at the farm house, we started off. We had our breakfast midway and went into a forest road with steep ghat section roads.
We reached the heights of the Ooty; the sun was bright; the climate was too cool; clouds moving very near to us made in for an awesome experience. We were all in need of some respite!
There was a sudden change in the climate and it was raining.
We then went into a big tea estate. The narrow road was wet, the rain was giving us too shivering cool moments, the withered leaves on the road made our ride too slippery. It was a good learning experience. Many of the riders fine tuned their biking skills of not applying the brakes and clutch; only use engine brake.
The dry leaves on the rainy wet roads made the tyres skid a little. As the temperature was too cool, it was really a challenge to mend our riding in such a challenging scenario. We all got trained with riding in the first and second gears without pressing the brakes. Should we press our brakes, we would be skidding off into the sides of the road. Since there was rain and fog freezing us all the way, I did take my camera out. So, this part of the wild riding experience was captured only in my memory and I could not post it as a photograph here.
After a good time with going around in the places that were free of any population, we came back out into the areas which had little population. We were gifted with another surprise. Kamal, approached a local person and all of us were treated with hot tea. Since we were shivering due to cold and rain, that too on the mountains with our wet apparel freezing us, a hot chai did really made for a wonderful relief. The experience of sipping a hot tea would never ever be forgotten in life.
Being all the time riding the bikes, and many of the roads being very less populated, this day too, we were unable to find time as well a good hotel to have lunch.
After that, we all reached Ooty in the evening. Went to a hotel to have tiffin to quench our crying stomach. I saw it a chance to do a quick rush to the Govt. run ‘Nilgiri Super Market’. I know very well that this is the right place to buy good quality tea at the right price. 4 months back I had come here on tour with wife and kids, so know a little about this shop.
I zipped past in the crowded road and reached the "Nilgiri Govt. Super Market", quickly purchased 3 Kilos of tea and few packs of home made chocos and went back to join with the guys who were munching the evening food. I also had a quick gulp of two dosas. We were all ready for a thrilling ride on the most risky road of southern part of India. This too is gonna a night ride. Ooty to Masinagudi.
We needed to cross past the tough ghat road to reach Masinagudi. The thrill of this leg of journey is that, riders and drivers have a tall tale to tell to others whenever they have crossed past this steep curvaceous road. Elephant sighting is a rarest chance of luck. Riders need to be sharp enough to control their machines else have a good chance to take toll on your bones as well as your machines. Few had paid their life. The curves are so dangerous and a skip of the sight of an hazard on the road would get us skidding off this ghat road.
It was a wonderful experience riding the #Bullet500 in this steep down hill road. But then two things pestered in me. One: my camera has been kept packed inside a plastic cover and then kept in my trouser pocket. Hard chance of getting it out and make a click. Two: My back pack is lossening and is a concern, I could not concentrate on the road ahead.
By then, luckily, we came across the forest check post on this road. I then put the bike on its main stand and finish off these two things. All the folks got furious as I was delaying due to tying the ropes around my back pack. But, it was a vital thing and I should finish off. So after a couple off minutes, after I was ready, all of us started off.
We were eager to see any elephants, but we were unlucky. After some distance, we turned to left to go to Bokkapuram. We were supposed to meet a person who need to lead us to a place for the night stay.
We came across a temple and a vast area of open space. It was too dark and street lights were on at a distance inside the village. Two of the guys were busy calling the contact person to know the whereabouts for us to proceed to..
As this was going on, two other folks started another conversation. Hey, have you heard that wail of a woman?? The other one then nodded and wanted to move forward into the dark to check if there was some lady needing help in this situation. They were sure that the wail was from a woman. Now, others put off these men and cajoles them not to go ahead. The place is anew and its dark everywhere. Frantic search calls for the contact person to help us locate the place of stay continued...
After a few minutes, a jeep (you could see in the pic above at right end in the middle) crossed past us into the dark and its engine sound too quietened as it went away. At this moment another man (localite) shouted from a distance and beamed a torch light towards us. This is a second cue that should have alerted us. But, all of us were new to this situation. Everybody were particular to get guidance from the contact person to lead us to the place of stay. Not to say of the back pain bothering us due to the all day riding with very little rest.
After a few more minutes, an high pitched explosion goes off near the place from where a man was shouting and beamed a torch light towards us. Now, we got the third cue. Elephant is around. This is not a temple elephant. But a wild ELEPHANT !!.
All of our folks had then got curious and were expecting to be gifted of a thrill moment.
After a few minutes, there was a sound and we could all recognize that the elephant itself is giving the call. Final cue for us. It was a short and sharp trumpet. At this moment, we all could feel the chill shooting out of our stomach and coming to our head. A first time experience. So far, all of us were either standing or sitting on the bikes. Now it’s the hour of saving ourselves of our life. Any adventure by the elephant on us would prove to be a bad experience. Life matters! A little scramble would mean death.
Everyone of us decided that the temple nearby is a safer place to escape in case the elephant comes in for an attack. So, all the folks quickly shifted their bikes nearer to the parapet wall of the temple, switched off their machines and did a quick run to get into safer precincts inside the temple.
Now, one of our folks gave another call to the contact person and tells of the impending danger and they work out on a final decision. Now we needed to leave this Bokkapuram temple and reach Masinagudi town which is some 5 kms away.
Each of the guys are having fear of the elephant coming near to us, although we have so far not seen the animal. The wild trumpet which was just made for just a second had left shiver in everybody’s mind. Though 10 minutes had gone, the fear factor remained gushing our blood in full pressure. So far, the elephant had not turned out into our side. We were sure, its present inside the wild.
We needed to just leave that place without any untoward incident. ESCAPE!!
So, instruction were given to all to rush near to their bikes, get seated in their bikes and not start the engines. Engine roars may invite the animal upon us. We were all strangers to this place and its too dark. So the same adhoc protocol was followed. Once everybody were in positions, all the bikers switched on their engines and moved out fleeing off from the place in unison.
I could recognize the bikers are now in strict compliance in following the biker ahead. So far I could recall the folks riding like police guards marching past during any Independence Day Parade in a town . Now, it seems to be the Air Force personnel doing sortie at the capital on their flying machines with utmost perfection.
Just the shrill trumpet from the wild ELEPHANT and the location being a lonely forest have given us enough stomach chill and fear in each one of us. This fear has given a sense of perfectness, every biker was perfect in following the bike ahead of him.
All of us reached Masinagudi which was little inhabited by people around. We got into the accommodation. It was a small room with four cots and there was a camp fire arranged at a place far from this accommodation. I was too tired with all the day riding and pushed my back pack into an available place inside the room and just fell into a deep slumber.
I felt of somebody pushing me off my slumber. It was Venkat asking me whether I am coming for the camp fire. I came out of bed in surprise to find that everybody other than Venkat have left. I gave him a nod and quickly we the last batch of four people left in a jeep to the place of camp fire.
After reaching the camp fire, we had time introducing ourselves. Ofcourse time went past and many people were missed of getting introduced. At around 1.00 a.m. all of us came back in the jeep to our place of accommodation. Since the place was too small, many folks went out and put the tarp to get into sleep in the open.
17 August 2013
We had the trip to Mudumalai, Gudalur, then on a ghat section inside Kerala, then back to Mudumalai, followed by Bandipur and reached Sulthan Pathery in Kerala through Gundlupet in Karnataka. Ofcourse this is a ride through three states.
So far I had been tying the back pack with a rope which often got loosened, the back pack comes to a side disturbing the balance of the bike. This needed me to stop, park the bike and re-tie the back pack. This actually was a delaying factor to me and affected the whole group. Now, JothiVel pointed out that fact. Antony gave his extra bunchie rope for tying my pack.
Just after this was tied with the bigger and elastic bunchie rope, I got relieved of fighting with the back pack. It was a more comfortable ride for me from then on. The problem got fixed. Took note that whenever I ride, I should never use ropes for tying my bag, should only use an elastic bunchie rope. These are available at local shops at Rs.25 each.
The day saw our ride into Mudhumalai forest.
Then Kamal and JothiVel went to know the price of the tiffin in that hotel. The cost seems to be too high, synonymous with any tourist spot. When we were on a family tour four months back, it was a bad experience eating here, food was not tasty but it was too costly. A set of Idli costs above Rs.20. So, we were all told to just move off on our bikes. There was a petrol bunk nearby and we got in to fill fuel for our bikes.
I happened to see the fellow riders filling too much of fuel to their bikes. I used to fill just 5 or 6 Lts and not more than that. The reason is that this Bullet500 runs 40 kms for each litre of petrol. Another reason, if the tank is full to the brim, it would increase the weight on the bike, its not comfortable on the ghat roads, especially while cornering on sharp turns. Having optimum amount of petrol, and not having heavy bags on our own back would make the ride more comfortable. That’s what I was keen at. Also petrol bunks are aplenty on this day's route.
We then reached a small hotel past Gudalur. An elderly man was taking care of this small hotel. Two more persons then crept in to serve such a big gang in their small shop. Really they had hard time because we kept the bearers in the hotel run on toes. We ordered too many broths for them to serve us. Alas after nearly one hour, the break fast thingy came to an end with a hot chai for us to relish. We started off our journey and this leg of journey was a ghat section down-the-hill into the Kerala state. Too many bends on the ghats along with a cool cloudy climate kept the ride very interesting. My learning curve got tuned up.
We reached a stream in the Kerala state.
Though the water was just a knee deep, the stream is too fast. We needed to grab the rocks beneath to stay at the same place. At the end I had little bruises on my knees!
After bathing, we moved on to a chai shop nearby and had tasty tea. The next part of the ride is to reach back to Mudumalai. So, it’s the same ghat section and the ride was up-the-hill. Having got up with group riding experience, I got used up with the way others are riding on the sharp bends, cornering the bike has got little easier for me. It gave me more confidence to push the bike at the corners in more acute angles. Little by little I discovered on how to better take on the curves on the ghat roads.
The mantra is that, rather than concentrating more on turning your bike, you need to give more weight on the foot rest in the side that you want to turn. If the push is not enough, ease the foot (take it an inch higher off the foot rest) on the other side a little. The bike turns easily at the corners. If that pushing the foot rest on the turning side and easing the foot rest on the other side is not enough, try this. Turn your knee on the side of your cornering farther away from the petrol tank. This will make your bike to slant further easily and you find the turn to be much more easier. I learnt something new.
As we reached Mudumalai, regrouping was done and instructions specific for this reserve forest road was briefed to us. We should not stop anywhere mid way and so we were given time to pee. So, few of us parked the bike and emptied our bladders and came in.
We started off to Bandipur Reserve Forest. There were too many speed breakers on this road. Alas these are needed to slow the vehicles which may otherwise hit any wild animals crossing the road. Of course wild animals have the right of way on this road.
After an hour of riding, we came across the Karnataka state and arrived into Bandipur. Now, Kaushik, who is sweeping the group came to the front and stopped Kamal who was leading the group. After a discussion, it was decided that we go to this Bandipur forest. So, we all turned back and went into the forest office.
Now Kamal came back after having enquired at the forest office. The next safari starts at 5.00 p.m. and the clock has crossed past 4.10. p.m. All time riding and interesting ghat roads, made me forget the time which has sped away. It was somewhat hard to realize that afternoon has already crossed. The climate is awesome with little drizzles, ofcourse that made us forget the time.
My camera has already drained of its battery, with a forest safari in the offing, I got too anxious. But there is a 45 minutes gap for me to be prepared. Now I searched for electric points to charge my battery. After a little search, the lady manning the forest office offered help and let me use the electric point. I got a bit of solace as the camera's battery got charged.
After some, 40 minutes, the forest dept. vans arrived at the office to offload the visitors of the previous batch. Now its time for us to depart into the forest. We hopped on into the vehicle.
After a few minutes of traversing on the tar road, the van went into mud road inside the forest. It was somewhat interesting to see green everywhere with deers, bison, monkeys, peacock, peahen, owls in their pristine environment.
The safari on the van in Bandipur (Karnataka) forest costs Rs.300 per head. Few months back, I had been to Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu) and the safari on Tamil Nadu Forest costs Rs.130. The safari in Tamil Nadu was not that interesting because the van driver was not that keen in giving in to the interests of visitors inside his van. He joins in following the previous vans and the safari itself was very short. Two or Three vans going like a convoy inside the Mudumalai forest drove the few animals away. Animals usually run away because of the noise of too many vehicles coming like a convoy.
But, here in Karnataka, the safari on van costs more than double and at the same time, the van goes alone. This way, we had good opportunity to enjoy the wild. In this Karnataka area, the van driver stopped many a times at the insistence of the occupants. He started off only when the people gave him the signal to go. It was worth the Rs.300.
We came back by 6.00 p.m. and we switched back to our riding mode.
The next place was Gundlupet, wherein we had our dinner. We need to reach Sulthan Bathery in Kerala. The check post in Kerala closes down at around 9.00 p.m. Once we finished our dinner, and while we were getting ready to start off, one local person approached for a talk.
From him, we came to know that, the ride ahead would be on roads with lot of speed breakers and we should be quick to leave so that we cross past the check post before it closes. Now every one is little bit nervous of reaching our night’s destination in time.
We finally succeeded in going into Kerala. Then it was really a long ride and bit difficult in the night. We finally crossed past Sulthan Bathery and reached Kalpetta. We were so tired because, the day’s ride was through drizzle, rain, slippery ghat roads and hair pin bends. In addition to this was the umpteen number of speed breakers on the forest roads of Mudumalai, Bandipur and also while coming inside to Kerala.
18 Aug 2013
Banasurasagar dam is the largest natural dam in Asia.
Now as the roads were smooth, I pushed it gradually to above 100 kmph. Once the bike was crossing above 100, engine vibrations were felt more. The force of the wind was too high which resulted in the the mirror turning out to the wind. I needed to slow down to set the mirror to its right position. This vibrations in the Bullet500 bike beyond 100 kmph, the mirror turning down due to wind is not a comfortable thingy either.
We reached Mysore at 4.00 p.m and had our lunch.
At about 5.00 p.m. we started off. We need to reach Banglore and then Krishnagiri and then I need to reach home to Cuddalore. There was a heavy traffic in Mysore. The roads inside the city were broad with many heritage buildings coming by our way. But could not relish seeing them because of the need to watch the heavy traffic ahead of me. Though it’s a NH road, heavy traffic made me puzzled if its really a NH road. Adding to the headache of heavy traffic was too many a number of speed breakers on this road. To rub more salt to the injury, was the presence of traffic signals. It was a bad experience. If you gonna crossing past this part in your ride, please plan it for a off-peak hour or during mid of the night.
After three hours of riding, on this congested road, we finally reached the Banglore Nice road bypass. This part of the road has a toll plaza. The beautiful thing is that this bypass cuts journey time drastically, we need not go into the city. The horrible thing is, they collect a toll fee of Rs.36 for two wheelers. If bikers are so intelligent to hood wink the collection agent at this toll, they too are smarter enough to trap the hood winker at the next toll. The personnel at the next toll plaza cross checks the payment of toll fees and then bikers are allowed to go!
After crossing past the next two toll plazas, I bid adieu to the team of riders. Now it was about 9.00 p.m. and I gonna be on solo ride for the next 250 kms. I reached Krishnagiri at about 10.00 p.m. I got a time after so long to sit and take little rest till the dosa at the hotel got ready to quench my hungry stomach. At this hour, I took my mobile to realize that I have missed a couple of calls from my better half.
I called her back to tell that I am in Krishnagiri. She quips me to take care of the harder ride ahead through the mid of the night and hints of the *hot* climate at home from my caring dad who is worried because of my adventures, that too this long.
The time was 10.15 p.m. and 250 kms need to be ridden to reach my home town Cuddalore. Though this stretch is inundated with so much of diversions, I had confidence to pursue on this stretch because of familiarity of the first night ride of the tour.
With tiredness already building in me and sleepiness driving me into dizziness, its little risky business I am getting in, to ride for the next 5+ hours. I could have taken rest and ride the next day, but, I was more particular to report to office the next day morning. It’s a Monday morning.
There were very few people on the road at this time and few buses or cars came in. After riding few kilometers I can’t concentrate the road because of tiredness and boredom. So, the quick decision to overcome such a scenario is to stop the bike and go for a pee. But, its too dark everywhere and stopping the bike needs to be done at the right place. After riding further, I found a street light illuminating a little part on the road. Stopped the bike, got down and pissed to get a relax time for my aching muscles. Then, quenched little of water and started off from there. Now, my sleepiness went off and I could concentrate. Confidence came in. Long stretches on this road were very smooth and I was pushing it to 70 kmph and then the sight of the work in progress boards came in, requiring me to hard push the brakes. I found this a little difficult thing.
Following another vehicle should be an easier option. This is called piloting. I need to await for any vehicle to over take me and then I needed to follow that vehicle. In this process, the need to keep an eye for the road stoppages can be in a bit relaxed mode. The vehicle ahead shall apply the brakes and I need to just follow suit of my pilot.
A government bus was visible in my rear view mirror, so I slowed down a bit for the bus to overtake me. Now I changed to piloting mode. I was following that bus and I needed to just apply brakes whenever tail lights of that bus illuminate. Being in this mode made me a bit relaxed. But to my surprise, the government bus driver is so ruthless in riding on those bad stretches. The bus went jumping up and down as it was being driven at 60 kmph above those bad stretches. It was a surprise for me on how the passengers inside this bus would be withstanding so much of pain due to these wild jolts.
For me, the problem was, I can’t follow the bus in faster pace on bad stretches. It was a bit of headache. Moreover once the bus crossed past the loose soils on the bad stretches, a whole storm of dust engulfed the space. It was difficult to travel due to poor visibility in the midst of dust storm. After following the bus for some 20 kms I decided not to follow it further.
From the piloting mode I switched back to solo. The bad stretches of road that too at night time is a pathetic experience, but that is a memorable one for my life time, once I complete this mission successfully.
Then came a thought within me if petrol bunk at this hour would be available in case I needed. What if the petrol in my tank goes dry? This got me bit anxious. Luckily when I crossed past Chengam, there were two petrol bunks open on either side of the road. I topped up the fuel to brim the tank. Having seen me in a different attire – helmet; safety apron with reflectors; knee and arm guards; a dirty bike; with sleeping mat tied around back pack - the petrol bunk operator started conversation with me about the bike and how far I am riding et al.
I was still worried about, on when I would reach Thiruvannamalai. When I asked him the distance, he is in for a blank. Then I asked him for drinking water and filled my water bottle and started off from there.
I reached Thiruvannamalai, now the perplex for me is to how to know the road which would take me to Thirukovilur (my next sojourn). There were hardly anybody on the roads and only a few lorries could be seen going on the roads. Then came a sight for me which gave me a little unwind; few load men were there awaiting to send parcels in lorries. I stopped by them to know the route. The Thiruvannamalai town is bit hard to understand the way the roads lead in/out of the town. After a bit of repeated talking with the guy, I understood a little and managed to turn to the correct road and head on.
Now a gurkha was sitting on the side of the road and I stopped by, to ensure I am turning into the right lanes. Rest assured, then I took final right turn I needed to make.
Here two policemen were on beat and signaled me to stop by. Having experience in getting with these people while I was doing the mid night ride on day one, wherein police personnel kept on repeated questions, till I took of my helmet. Now, I readily went to the extreme side of the road, stopped the engines, parked the bike; got down and made it a point to remove my helmet first.
The police man asked me where I work. I replied that I work at MRF tyres. Then he asked from where I was coming. I replied that I am coming from Mysore and thru Banglore. He is little perplexed and surprised. He then asked how I am doing this long. Then I told him of the real journey of starting from Kerala and coming through Karnataka and now I am into Tamil Nadu and going to Cuddalore - my home town.
He is in for surprise and then asked for the papers. When I try opening the bag, he then asked, what are the things inside this bag which is too big. I tell him that it’s a four day tour and camping that too through reserve forest roads. I told him about the sleeping mat and reply him that the bag contains all the dirty clothes and undies. He is more than convinced and told that he is assured of me and does not need to see the papers.
He then tells me of having visited one of the MRF factories situated in Chennai and recalls his sweet memories of having had a nice food there. The conversion turned into a relaxed mode and I found it more interesting. He then asked about the bike and got a surprise answer from me that this model is a “yet to be launched model in this part of our country” and I told him that I am a hobby bike web journalist and funda. After hearing the word "Journalist" he gave more respect. I should have used this word at the first instance. Meanwhile my sleepiness went off.
Then a lorry turned to that road and the police man got really busy to check it. He bid adieu to me and signaled me to take the straight road to Thirukovilur. Getting into a talk for a few minutes was really nice thing for me to beat the sleep and tiredness.
The road now was super smooth and it was a comfortable ride. Sometimes speed breakers were encountered. I enjoyed the ride on this part of my trail. I made it a point not to ride at higher speeds because I was not in full conscience because of sleep and tiredness.
As far as a thumb rule of riding, “ go at 80% of our limits to be safer”. As it is a bit challenging mid night time, I furthered lowered the rule to 60%. As I was slower, I wam bit relaxed. At 70 kmph I realized that the engine is super smooth. There was little boredom setting in and decided to sing songs on my own. It was actually helpful. As I sang aloud, my sleepiness went off.
After crossing past Sevalai, I came across a closed rail crossing with a few vehicles stopping by. Found this an opportunity to relax. Parked the bike and got to take out the water bottle to quench a little and relax a bit. The train was super fast and it crossed before I could get relaxed fully. So, I need to get into the bike as the gate opened. There were no other stoppages and I reached home.
It was 3.35 a.m. and I clicked the photo of the bike’s odo. My wife opened the door and afterwards I switched off the idling bike and removed the bag and other things off from it. It was really hard to bend down and concentrate to untie the knots. After a few minutes I made ready for pushing the bike into my house and call it a day.
My guardian Angel was always with me helping me in dire times to get me into the road in the safer fold. Alas the ride was completed without any hiccups. Grand ma was there inside the house and off her sleep to ensure that I am safer back to home. I was quick to change into another set of clothes and get into sleep. After a sleep of just two and half hours I got off and took a nice bath and went off to office. Yes, It’s a Monday and I did not want to take leave to beat my tiredness.
19 Aug 2013
The day at office was bit difficult for me to manage as I was tired. I managed however and came back a little earlier to home for taking a long nap in my bed. After a sound sleep, I was well relaxed of muscle pain. The bike was super good and I enjoyed riding it this long tour of 1712 kms over the four days and two nights without any hiccups or body pain.
The following few days were trips to the office. All those long journeys over the past few days got me to realize the awesome performance of the machine. The bike’s excellent mileage stood close to 40kmpl.
So, the next in thing for me was to experience the top speed of this bike. I got to go through rural / village roads to reach my office through a 25 kms not so busy stretch. There comes a stretch which has nearly half kilometer of smooth, straight road which has good visibility. So, whenever I find this stretch free, I push the bike to the maximum speed possible for me. For the first time I reached 120kmph in this stretch on one of the occasions. The experience was a super thrill and I need to be conscious of the faster speed. It was just a 3 seconds experience after which the road ends. I need to close the throttle and apply the brake and push it down to 70kmph to take on the left curve which ends this free stretch. Ofcourse this Bullet500 has disc brakes only in the front wheel. The back wheel has a drum brake. It was bit harder to bring down its speed quickly. Bikes of this power, should have been equipped with disc brakes in both the wheels for a safer experience.
All these days the bike was on the road, there was little thought given by me to clean it. As a result it was so much filled with mud and dirt. As the bike appeared more masculine when it was full of dirt, so was the second thought for cleaning it. Not to tell of the fact that I never got free time to do so.
It turned out to be super shining!
30 Aug 2013
This was the date when my career’s first boss’s Mr.Bharathi’s daughter’s wedding was taking place at Chennai. So, I had comfortably planned the same date to deposit the bike back at Royal Enfield Adyar. The wedding reception is nearer to the RE showroom.
My colleague Mr.Tyrus who is also a bulletteer joined with me for the last sojourn.We two left our office post lunch and were on the scenic East Coast Road enroute to Chennai.
The evening sunlight was so bright and the sea was beautiful in her charming blue colour. The plan was to deposit the bike at 6.00 p.m. and be there at wedding hall by 7.00 p.m. While crossing past Uthandi, it was 4.30 p.m. We had reached the outskirts of Chennai earlier than planned. An hour break was an ample time to enjoy the beach with some good photo op of the bike. So, we turned into one of the small roads on the right leading to the beach.
Thanks a lot to Mr. Praveen Prakash Sathaye who was the brain behind this initiative - "experiential preview", to present a new bike to this blogger for such a preview.
Thank you Mr.Bala. Thank you Mr.Kamal Pandey. Thanks folks for the courteous followup and providing the support needed for me in doing this Bullet500 review.
More clicks of the ride are here on my FaceBook album.