Motorcycle Travelogue: Thoughts off the Road (Ride to Chikkamagaluru)

“The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.”
~Robert M. Pirsig

The Bikes

85 kmph… 90… 95… 100… The wind feels stronger at these speeds. There is a hum of the air beating past you. The terrain flows smoothly out of view. The throttle is planted and the engine is running in full power. Along the stretch that extends a few kilometers in length, you can see bikers at a distance. An occasional car zips by doing a comfortable 150. You smile… you have been inside that box before…

The day had started before dawn. The preparations had started days ago. 8 riders, 2 days, 600 Kms. Narrowing down on the place itself took its time… The permutations of Road, Weather, Stay etc were all weighed in and the place, Chikkamagaluru was finalized.

Like most well planned things, something unexpected has to go wrong and it did. A fuel issue on one of the bikes delayed the start by an hour. Then a missed turn split me and another rider from the lead pack. 20 Kms down the road we realized our mistake and turned back… We hadn’t completed even 5% of our journey and we had lost a couple of hours. But thats the beauty of a Biker’s Road Trip… No time is truly lost or gained as long as you are on the road…

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One with the Road

On the road, Time always slows down a notch or two. The cascading landscapes, the flowing winds, the thoughts flowing past the mind… in the silence inside the helmet… Everything adds to the illusion. In many ways its a lot like meditating, being perfectly in the present. You feel everything, tiny vibrations to hum of the engine. Even the slightest acceleration or deceleration doesn’t go unnoticed.

Then you stop for a break. Its been a couple of hours on the road and time for some breakfast… The conversations are different on a bike trip… Its hard to ignore the experience you are going through, you smile and acknowledge each other. The silence has somehow become precious.

There are jokes about missing the turn, some jibes about riding style and thoughts about the road ahead. Few minutes later we are back on the road… All stops along the way will be similar, short and specific… Returning to the silence of the helmet.

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Short Stop along the way

The second half of the journey was through narrower and curvier roads… Much more fun… The Highways are great to make time but lack seriously in character. Riding through beautiful country roads has a certain elegant charm to it, that and the unmistakable snug feeling of being close to nature.

Curves lead to more curves and the occasional village. The changing scenery and the beautiful tree cover does well to take our minds of the raising temperatures. On the bike running at a decent speed heat doesn’t get time to really hit the rider. The flowing air does really well to cool everything.

Our final stretch to the home stay goes through the city of Chikkamagaluru. Driving on crowded roads feels different after a few hours of open roads. Its not that you feel restricted but rather that you don’t get bothered by other things on the road. In a sense you are wiser for your recent experience.

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Devigiri Homestay

Our stay at Chikkamagaluru was at Devigiri Homestay. A quaint and peaceful place nestled inside of a beautiful pepper estate. The lack of a mobile signal only added to the serenity of the place.

Before lunch we got in a few short games of cricket and dug into some delicious lunch. Just as we were done with lunch, the heavens opened up. The downpour seemed like a lovely relaxing addition to our day.

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Freezing the Rain Drops

An hour or so later the rain gave way to warm sunlight and clear skies. Perfect timing for an evening ride exploring the Baba Budangiri range.

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On the Road less traveled

Picking a random road, we headed into what seemed like a private estate. All the while hoping that the owner didn’t have a ‘shoot first ask questions later‘ philosophy.

The further we headed, the steeper and less maintained the road got. Soon there was no proper road and it was too steep to climb with a pillion behind. To add to the fun, one of the bikes lost its leg peg in a slip. A quick plastic surgery by our in house expert and our evening adventure continued without much worry.

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Hues of Sunset

The drive back greeted us with a colourful display of light by the setting sun. The pictures don’t do justice to how beautiful the evening was but its moments like these that leave you truly awe-inspired.

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Play of Colors

Dinner and lovely bonfire wrapped up what was quite an amazing day.

The second day started with the prepping of the bikes for the ride ahead. It seemed like a perfect time to take a group pic.

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On top of Mullayyanagiri

The agenda of the day was to ride to the top of the tallest mountain in Karnataka, Mullayyanagiri. The ride to the peak was one of my favorite stretches of the trip. The narrow mountain roads, the breathtaking view and the lovely company was one of the highlights of the trip.

At the top, a short climb on foot took us to the peak. The day was perfect and the weather added to the serenity of the place. A short rejuvenating break later we were all geared up for ride back home.

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View from the top of Mullayyanagiri

The ride back was more about savoring the essence of the trip. This time around, being back inside the helmet with your thoughts felt more peaceful. They say that fulfillment is one of greatest feelings a human can feel, a major part of the ride back had a deep sense of it.

The hours rolled a little faster as we headed back to the starting point of our trip. Just as the feel of home started sinking in, the clouds got darker and there were spots on the visor. The occasional drop increased in frequency and we could see a downpour in the distance.

One of the things I love about being in open spaces is how easy its to spot rain at a distance. The signs of rain on the horizon always fills me with a sort of elation thats quite unexplainable. This time around though, I was concerned. Firstly, that it might be dangerous with the reduced visibility and the increased relative speed with the cars on the road and secondly, about if my baggage(camera in particular) was properly protected for the rain.

The rain hit us pretty hard. We stopped on the side of the road and deliberated if it was better to stop, seek shelter and continue after the shower passed. The general consensus was that we were already as wet as we could be and moving on might help us get to drier climate sooner. In hindsight, that was a great call. Five minutes later we were out of the rain. Ten minutes later we were almost dry.

The final stretch of the trip was when the gang split up. Each one headed to their part of the city, back home. We stopped for one last clustering… Smiling faces shook hands and exchanged hugs, an acknowledgement for the support and respect for the journey completed.

As each one of us peeled off the highway, there was this melancholic feeling. Maybe it was the heart’s way of recognizing the end of a journey. But along with it was this silent celebration of what the last two days had meant and an ebbing desire, for the next time.

The Riders

The Riding Gang: (From Left) Sunit, Satish, Abhinav, Pradeep, Suhas, Hemanth, Satish, Chandrahasa. (Photo: Sunit Balan)