Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winding Up - 1

I sold my bike today. The milometer read 16486 Kms. It was 2 years 6 months 16 days old. In many ways, of all things I have owned, it was the one thing which meant the most. I remember having literally pleaded to my father to let me have it. Trying to put sense into him that in B'lore, a car wasnt the best option (he said he will lend me the money to buy the car). He was convinced that I too would have the same number of accidents that he had had when he rode his Jawa. I only had a couple. And they were anything but serious. But the one when an Avenger hit me while I was coming back from Purple Haze, in supreme confidence of my maneuvering abilities at 50 kmph, really hurt - because I lost the watch my father had given me. The very next day though, Dada hit a ton at Chinnaswamy and all was good.

2 trips to Nandi Hills, one to Chunchi Falls, the famous Sivasamudram adventure, Srirangapatna and the 2 longer ones to Chikmagalur and Coorg - I did my share of weekend road trips. With Naman as my constant companion in all of them. Of my near three years of stay in Bangalore, a majority of the memories of unbridled joy go back to one of these journeys.

In my day to day life, it gave me a sense of independance. It meant that I could rush off to my friends' place whenever I felt like - just to have coffee and talk about stuff which had been bothering me. Hitting 100 kmph on the Inner Ring Road while coming back home at 1 in the night had its own rush.

It's time to wind up from B'lore. And letting go isnt all that easy. It was a bike today. Soon, there will be bigger, more meaningful things. 

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Coorg Bike Trip: Day 2

The best part about Saturday, our second day of the trip, was that we didnt have any fixed spots to visit. The '52 Weekend Getaways from Bangalore' travel guide said that the road from Kushalnagar (4 Kms from Bylakuppe) to Siddhapur and then to Madikeri was very picterusque and ideal for a bike ride. So that was our plan. Ride around the coffee estates and reach Madikeri before sunset.

For the second consecutive day, we didnt get to eat idly/vada and sambhar. The eatery in Kushalnagar had only Set Dosa for breakfast. The coffee though, had already started to taste distinctly different. 

Our first stop on the way was Dubare where you can cross the Cauvery and get to see elephants being bathed from close quarters. It turned out to be another one of the tourist places with a long queue for the boat. A 10 minute halt and we decided to move on. 

The ride to Siddhapur and then onwards to Gonikoppal more than lived up to the description in the book. Hardly any outside traffic, bright weather but not at all hot, and the road which snaked through small villages and coffee plantations lined with huge trees - it was just as we had wanted it to be. A little after Siddhapur, we took a diversion to see one Augusteshwara Temple in Guyya. The almost non existent, narrow road suggested that it was in no way a place people visited. 3 kms and 10 minutes later, we reached a temple on the banks of the Cauvery. Serene, quiet - apart from the chirping of birds and the distant drone of a cement mixer and very much isolated; and the surprises thrown in by diversions was continuing. We spent almost an hour there, sitting on the rocks near the river, observing red ant like insects in the temple and mostly trying to assimilate the calmness of the place. Like the Sakya monastery but in a much different setting, this place again made my mind wander to the life we lead in cities and how we hardly ever sit idle, doing nothing, thinking about nothing. I know I dont want to (I wont be able to) lead such a life, but once in a while it makes sense to cut oneself from the everyday drill and go to such a place. To use the cliche, it really soothes the nerves.

On the way back, a screw got stuck into Naman's bike and punctured the front tyre. I went to Siddhapur and fortunately found Rajiv who came along with me, pumped air into Naman's bike and somehow managed to take it to his shop. He asked me how we were liking Kodagu and I said, 'bahut khoobsoorat'.

The road from Siddhapur to Madikeri goes through the hills. It had rained a little in the afternoon. The road had become so hot during the day that the rain water was fast evaporating leading to a very misty appearance. Add to it the dense jungle on one side of the road and a drop on another and the ride had become even more exciting. There's a certain charm, a sense of discovery, when you are on the road. Because no matter how much you have read or heard about something, it invariably has the ability to surprise and at times astound you. Kodagu and its beautiful roads were doing just that to me. And I was loving every moment of it. 

Finally, we reached Madikeri at around 4 o' clock and started looking for a hotel.  As it turned out, everything had already been taken up by half of Bangalore which had come there to spend the long weekend. We tried calling the Sakya monsatery guest house but the number was out of order. Bylakuppe was around 50 Kms from Madikeri. Left without any other option, we decided to head there anyway. The Madikeri - Kushalnagar stretch was really bad. Till Suntikoppa, which was 10 Kms or so from Madikeri, it was still comfortable. We made a brief halt there to have coffee. But after that the ride was bad and back breaking. Bylakuppe, however, didnt let us down. We got the last available room. Apparently, people had discovered it and were coming back from Madikeri to find a place there!

Sunday would be our tick-off-places-to-see in Madikeri day. And we would take the Kushalnagar-Siddhapur-Madikeri route again instead of the direct one. And again, when your body is a little tired and you are so content at heart, sleep does come real easy.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Coorg Bike Trip: Day 1

We had somehow missed our favourite roadside joint where we used to have breakfast whenever we hit the Bangalore - Mysore road. And the famous Kamat eateries had busloads of people waiting. So after 2 hours of riding we were really hungry and thought that the "Yummy Breakfast -Available all day long" consisting of Idly, Dosa, Aloo Parathe etc at CCD, might not be too bad an option. We decided to give it a try at the Maddur CCD.

The 10 or so 1 inch sized white discs and the yellow liquid over it which they passed for Idly - Sambhar was without doubt the worst, most distasteful thing I have seen and eaten. The dosa was only a little better. And priced at around 80 bucks, it was a bad start to the trip. Naman was furious that how could anybody sell such stuff. It was a pity that in all the frustration (and hysterical laughter), we forgot to take pictures of it.

We took the diversion somewhere before Mysore and were soon on SH 88 which would take us to Madikeri. Almost immediately, things started to get better. Gulmohar tress lined the road and I dare say that I can't remember seeing RED like that in a long long time.

At around noon, we reached Bylakuppe, the Tibetan settlement. But for a couple of signboards, it's easy to miss it. A few hundred meters into the settlement, and the landscape was already changing. Prayer flags, vast farmlands on either side of the small road, ornately built gates, Lamas and Tibetan people on the road - it was tough to believe that we were in Karnataka.

Bylakuppe was a gem of a discovery. It grew on us as we roamed around the place. Even though the first stop at the Namdroling Monastery reminded us of a typical tourist spot with roadside vendors and hordes of familes clicking pictures, we soon realized that people didnot have the time, energy or the inclination to visit the lesser known monasteries which were more secluded and not a part of tourist guide books and hence in my book more worthy of a visit.

The half a dozen monasteries that we visited in the afternoon really made our day. From the 'prasad' of cheese balls, wafers, guava juice that we received at one monastery to the sight of lamas chanting with gongs and drums playing in the background; from the Tibetan school kids who posed for my friend to the late afternoon squall which was preceeded by the darkening of skies - Bylakuppe was way beyond what we had expected. A diversion, meant as just a stopover on our way to Madikeri had turned out to be a revelation.

The late afternoon shower had made the place all the more charming. We were having chowmein with chop sticks when the rain came. And it ended almost at the same time we finished our lunch. Talk of coincidence.

By 5 o'clock in the evening, we were so much in awe of the place that we shelved our intial plan to reach Madikeri (another 40 kms). By a stroke of very good luck, we found out that the Sakya Monastery guest house had rooms available for the night. The thought of spending the night at that quiet village as opposed to some touristy place with a hotel in the market place was at once a huge relief and a pleasing feeling. We dumped our bags in the room and went in for another ride before the sun set. As if to remind us that there was much more to Bylakuppe than we had seen, we witnessed lamas debating amongst themselves in the Sera Je monastery. Groups of 2 were continously arguing along with frequent clapping of their hand as if to emphasize their points of view. Of course we didn't understand a word of what they were saying but it was a very unique sight nevertheless and something both of us are unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Soon it was night and after having tasted the steamed momos at the Fast Food center, we came back to our room. At around 9 o'clock, we went to the Sakya monastery. A cool, steady breeze was blowing. The few solar powered lights outside the monastery along with the the flickering lamps which could be seen through the huge windows lent a sense of eeriness to the place. The fluttering prayer flags which in turn would make the lights dance only enhanced the effect. It was a very peaceful and calming feeling. And of course there were thoughts on the way we lead our lives - continously assaulting our senses with internet, TV, music and what not but this is not the place for those.

I came back to the room very content. There was hardly any tiredness because of the 280 Kms that we had travelled. I guess when you are so happy, the body yields to it too. By 10 we were asleep.

Day 1 of the trip had been unlike what we had thought. And in a very pleasant way. Day 2 would see us at the real Kodagu (Coorg), amidst the coffee estates and the rolling hills.