Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Road-dog, Wanderer, Nomad, Wagabond, Call me what you will.. yeah!

Hello boys and girls! I had been having something of a crisis searching for something to write about in the past week, but thankfully the end of it proved to be a pretty strong solution for all those prayers. It isn’t the fact that I have been bored sitting at home for the past week, rather was feeling the urge to get out and do something apart from sit home pumping neurons. Have to admit, it was nearly a year and a half since I felt the pinch of the winter’s sun. The blessing came in the form of, well, of course as it is in most cases, friends; yes, they’d planned a one day trip, something, the scale of which we’d be attempting after nearly three years of abstinence from one day trips due to logistics, time, money and lately, work. But this time all the pieces of the jigsaw seemed to fall into place perfectly and even though the final destination was shrouded in ambiguity till the previous evening, the overall sign was a big fat GO!
So, late the previous night, the decision was made to go to a waterfall nearly 130 km away from Mysore in the district of Kodagu. Good then, we no longer felt like gypsies! A relief! And the departure time was fixed, compensating for the slowest riser amongst us, as 6:45! Just how we would manage a feat of such sorts at such an ungodly time was still uncertain and as it turned out, it never happened, we left just when the sun was starting to take a peek at us over the buildings, that was because of a small matter called breakfast and the people who made a lunch out of it! (No offence guys, really)
We were off, at a very fancy time of 7:47 Anti Meridian. The starting ride was silky, the road was as smooth as a baby’s bottom and the cold wave which is hanging around these days meant the engines were breathing and breathing well! Among the three bikes which started, one bike was new and had done less than 2000 km so we had an agreement to put a cap on the speeds we would do, but, later as the kilometers passed, there were times when we held our bikes at just under three-digits speeds for certain stretches.
After a while (I’m really not good at remembering times) came the first of our scheduled stops at H.D Kote. The usual customary tea was ordered, and we were served the usual customary village tea. Tasty or not, it did the job of defrosting our hands, feet and brains very well so we would have a lesser chance of taking off into orbit over the odd and unexpected road-hump we encountered now and then.
On the way we thought of stopping and stretching our legs before we hit the, supposedly, very dangerous forest. Those who were not keeping their eyes on the road decided to stop at a lake which, by the look of it had more plants and plankton than water, after a quick photo session, we were about to depart and it was then that yours truly tried a Valentino Rossi and ended up doing a Colin McRae! For non-motor sport people, I’ll put it down in layman’s terms, yours truly was trying some wheel-spin stunts on his bike, and at last wanted to test the launch control of the, newly self-repaired and reinforced, clutch. But the launch was unexpected and slamming on the brakes to avoid going into the lake along with my bike caused the front wheel to lock still and the bike to collapse with me still on it! Thankfully, any major disaster and injury was avoided and we were on our way with an understanding that the next stop would be the actual falls itself, but, the road has lots of other things in store for us as you’ll soon find out.
We hit a check post at the start of the Nagarhole Forest range and consequently hit a very stubborn check post watchman who insisted that we carry along on any other route but this one as there was supposedly a danger of elephants on that stretch of road running through the forest. Any form of negotiation (both verbal and financial) was futile since he claimed that the passage of every vehicle would be recoded in a log book. He did, however suggest an alternate route, heading back for a couple of kilometers, taking a detour, connecting four villages to emerge on the conventional route taken by people to reach the falls. This road, we did find, however, we also found out that it was not asphalt! It was pure country road, as bumpy and dusty as they come, and, our luck, 20 km of it! It did all but completely destroy the bikes suspensions and shock absorbers, not to mention the riders’ and pillions’ backs, finally after an hours ride on those roads we connected to a main road and were on our way again on some smooth tarmac. Approaching the Kodagu district, the whole scenery changed, suddenly there was an abundance of green, hills, coffee estates, and perfectly picturesque tree lined roads! The sight was really something to behold. But not to be dared doing that on a bike, cause to make sure you don’t stop looking at the roads and start looking at the scenery (or some Kodava girl?) they’d made the roads narrow enough for just one car, and to make matters even more challenging, there was a good five inches deep step from the road to the dirt on the side of it. Welcome to Gonikoppa the board said in Kannada. It’s not hard to make out that you’re in Kodagu, it’s a very special district, nothing they follow, in terms of culture, resembles rest of Karnataka, but the reach of Kodava people is anything but limited! They’ve held or are holding many great posts and especially excel in sports or in the Army and are, sometimes, frighteningly brave and adventurous. Enough knowledge about them for now, moving on, we were not quite there yet, a left at Gonikoppa took us to Ponnampet, from there on, it was another 10km of dust covered, rock littered, twisty, blind and dangerous roads through the forest to reach the foot of a hill! For people who’re interested in what I call “technical riding”, it was a dream, you’d never fall asleep on those roads, it was very, well, technical, twists, blind curves, ditches, rocks, tricky braking, hairpins and rocks and rocks and more rocks! Phew, by this time nobody had the energy to attack the roads (almost nobody, and I was not supposed to tell I liked those roads, or I’d risk being slaughtered and had for lunch, cause everybody was that hungry too). Anyway, the last two hairpins were successfully tackled and we landed at the foot of a hill which covered our entire field of view, it was the hill which houses the very beautiful Irpu falls and is the source of the river Lakshmanteertha. A short trek through a man-made pathway took us up the hill to the falls and boy wasn’t it a sight for sore eyes! Falling majestically over 51 meters into a pool just over a meter deep, it welcomed you with a hug of cool water-spray with every splash which echoed in the hills. But the water masked a very important thing for which we were not prepared. It was time for us to strip off most of our clothes and head to the water, one foot in the water sent chills down our spines and jolted us back to reality with the sound of our teeth rattling cause of the cold. The water was freezing, ok, defrosted, but only just! It was so cold! And me being the thinnest of the group (read it as person with the least blubber) obviously felt the cold right to the core of my bones, so I took my own sweet time getting in. It was then that I found out what 51 meters did to the water, it was slamming down on my head, so much so that I couldn’t lift it up or stay directly under the falls even for a minute. It didn’t take long for me lose sensation in my hands and feet from the cold. I jumped out, well, not really, because I couldn’t move my hands and legs faster than an century old tortoise, I crawled out, content with the feeling that another waterfall was under the belt, another trip successful, worthy and another trip survived, both by the bike and by me without glitches or gremlins, that is the most important thing you can take away from these trips and comes second only to the pleasure of the scenery, the fact that you still have the drive to do such crazy things, ride for nearly 300 km a day, ride through the dust covered, rock littered road in sweltering temperatures, as though you’ve been possessed, to stop and find out for your own shock that you’d been concentrating so hard thru those roads that you had gone into a trance-like state. To feel the adrenaline pumping, sometime so hard that you can feel your heart beat in your head! Somebody (make that six of us) would be sleeping with a grin from ear to ear tonight.
With the main part taken care of, it was time to head back, which looked like a breeze considering that we’d be taking an easy, smooth road, and as usual with all our trips, the objective was to clear the forest before nightfall and with the customary stop for tea once before and once after the forest. Riding on roads dodging friendly elephants into the full moon rising in-between the trees is every rider’s utopia! Makes you come away from it with higher ambitions for future trips. This was one weekend worth waiting a year for!


  1. Wonderful! But now i feel like a sucker to have missed it.

    You forgot to post links to pics ;)

  2. hey awesome vinay.....i felt the chill in my spine just by reading it ;-)..well etched really....still yet to look into the pics :-)

  3. awesome boss; i saw the pics and they were amazing, most them speak for itself but your description is really a sight for sore eyes and a sore brain dulled by the lack of creativity in most people...reading such a colourful article makes my heart and brain soar to unknown places!!!!

  4. Read thru the post...too good man...felt happy when I saw your pic, yes you have put on a bit of weight...keep it up....keep blogging...:-)