It could be said that the Kanakpura Road or NH 209 is perfect for a weekend bike trip. Its true, has little traffic, and snakes its way through tank bunds and small sleepy villages.The fact that in South India, the population density is much less than that in the North and people are generally quieter (this is a purely personal observation!) makes sure that you can cruise along at 55 kmph with no hurry in the world, almost as if in a reverie which wont be broken by the approach of a village. Its monsoon time here and somehow everything around us seemed to be in some sort of a quiet anticipation. Waiting for the rains, which were sure to come in the evening. The villages bore a smell of wet earth mixed with cow dung and that of wood burning in the houses and of course the crispness of the early morning air. It was just the sort of start we had expected.
Breakfast was taken at Kanakpura and we also gulped down two shots of coffee. Then we headed towards Malevalli from where the Sivasmudram Falls is about 20 kms or so. The weather had held up beautifully, the clouds still hiding the sun although it was about 9 o' clock. After Malevalli the road became really bad and we wondered how it could still be a National Highway.
Sivasamudram was in one word, breathtaking. We hadn't expected anything close to what we saw. We had probably chosen the best time to visit the falls as the monsoons had ensured that the Cauvery was almost overflowing its banks. We were a little disappointed by the large crowd that had come there and also by the garbage that had accumulated, but the sight of the spray and the mist which formed a layer over the cascade of water tumbling down, more than made up for it.
We then went to the other side or arm of the falls, clicked more pictures, laughed wildly at our self made silly jokes, did some customary Akshat bashing and left for our next destination, the 12th century AD Somenathpur Temple.
Oh! and in between we came across this beautiful, storybook like bridge. The trip was getting better by the minute.
The road to Somenathpur was bad, very bad. As I maneuvered my bike, trying to find patches of road between the potholes, I realized how comfortable I had become with it. It was almost like an extension of me. I had come to gauge its every movement, I knew exactly how much pressure on the clutch or brake was required to get the desired effect. I was totally in sync with its movement and was enjoying every moment, every turn. Coming back to the road, as if to make up for the bad state in which it was, trees lined both sides of it and the photographer in Naman possibly couldn't resist.
On reaching Somenathpur, we were astounded how such a marvelous example of South India's Temple architecture in general and Hoysala architecture in particular could be so poorly publicized. We had gone there just because we had time on our hands. It was not even a part of our itinerary. Little did we know that it would become the highlight of our trip. Well that's what we thought till the rain hit us! The most surprising thing to notice was how intact it had remained over the centuries. The pillars which looked as if to be made using lathe machines and the intricate carvings were really some sight to behold.
No other picture captures the timelessness of the place than this one taken by Naman, inside the temple, without flash, with really steady hands. By that time we had decided that we would return via the Bangalore Mysore Highway. There was rain in the air, it would be dark, and picturesque as the Kanakpura Road was, it didn't have much of civilization in between, in case we got caught up in the rain and needed help. So we headed back to Malevalli and from there to Maddur which was where we were supposed to hit the Highway.
Twilight had set in and dark clouds had gathered over the horizon, as we put on our jackets and started towards Bangalore. We clicked the last snap of the day and carefully tucked the camera inside Akshat's bag.
The first drizzle hit us somewhere between Malevalli and Maddur. I was following Naman's tail light (an exercise I would continue for another 4 hours or so), wiping drops of water from my helmet visor every few minutes. We rode along, since the there was nowhere to stop and we were enjoying it and even though at times the drizzle would become a steady rain, we were too excited to stop.
We hit the highway at around 7 o' clock and exactly as we did so, the drizzle turned into a downpour. Add to that the 4-wheelers zipping past us as if there was no tomorrow, and we were beginning to get a little scared. Better sense prevailed and even better luck. We found a restaurant within a few minutes. Oh, I forgot to add. We hadn't had lunch.
The chana masala, dal tadka, aloo gobhi ki sabji and kadhai paneer tasted heavenly. We were totally wet waist down and I knew that my not so waterproof jacket wouldn't hold on for long. I was already beginning to shiver. But amidst all this, I wanted it to happen. Yes, really. I wanted to drive in the rain, at night, on a bike, on the highway. I knew it would be some experience and in my heart of hearts, I was wishing it to happen. I think I almost willed it. Naman and I were high on adrenalin, at the prospect of driving in the rain so we chose to move on. Actually by the time we finished dinner, the rain had subsided to a drizzle again and we decided that worst of worst, we will put up at some roadside hotel for the night (although we didn't have any clothes so I wonder how we would have managed). Bangalore was a good 3 hours drive by all estimates.
It was scary, it was risky, it was funny even and it was exhilarating. And it required loads of concentration. Naman's Bullet's tail light formed my point of reference yet again and the road played true to its self without springing any surprises. The rain kept changing momentum all the time. Water seeped in through my jacket. My feet soon became numb as did my fingers which were on the brink of losing sensation after an hour or so. I had started to feel the stiffness grow in my arms and back as I sat in the same posture, riding my bike. It was a test of endurance at some level, a test of keeping the accelerator at a constant speed of around 45 kmph. I could have almost fallen asleep because of the sameness of the exercise. So I started loudly singing to myself whatever songs came to my mind and kept my eyes wide open. There were different stages to the entire journey. First it was really exciting and fun. That's when the rain had just started. Then it became a bit uncomfortable as I started getting wet. After that was a period of time when I was scared to making the entire journey, scared of skidding, scared of being hit by some speeding vehicle. But finally, after I had become used to the stiffness, pain and numbness, came the best period; one of total abandon and ecstasy. Nothing mattered anymore. It was just me on my bike and the pouring rain. It was the wildest thing I have done and we were shouting at each other at times. Shouts of joy. Just a 'Hoyeeeee' at times. I felt so alive.
We reached home at around 11, after more than 3 hours of continuous driving in the rain, totally drenched, clocking in all, 373 kms . Thankfully the camera and cellphones had survived. I turned on the geyser and took a hot shower and only after standing under it for about 5 minutes did I feel the colour come back to my fingers and toes. Just another weekend bike trip had turned out to be an experience of a lifetime and although the next morning my entire body was aching, I wouldn't complain.
By the way, we are yet to decide what Naman will do.
On second thoughts, after seeing this picture which Naman created, I might just let him go.