Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BN there, Dandeli that!

2nd October 2008 0350hrs
I got down the building and reached my bike. It was standing there in its usual calm composure. I was prepared for a long ride that I decided to join all of a sudden. Required stuff was packed in my backpack and cramster tankbag. I was little nervous but cool early morning air was soothing me a bit.

2nd October 2008 0355hrs
I tied the backpack as pillion and rested "turtle" on the tank and unmounted bike. It was a sense of Deja vu. I was good to go.A quick flick of accelarator and gentle push to ignite the engine, the Pulsar woke up with its typical startup noise. I still remember the first time I saw n heard a pulsar starting up and it still feels exciting!

2nd October 2008 0401hrs
The blood had rushed up the engine and the beast was ready to go. I noted the Odo and reset the tripmeter. Odo read 21183 and tripmeter 000.0.Couldnt wait any longer and I started my journey...
It was dark and the road was empty. Thanks to that and newly made Thane Belapur stretch, I was zipping past the milestones.
First throttle down was after 45 mins at Panvel toll plaza on old NH4. This was pretty quick. usually it takes atleast an hour. Now began the curvy ride till Khopoli. They have done a pretty good job to revamp old Mumbai-Pune highway. The road it divided and two lanes a side. I could keep constant 90+ and lean at the corners without much hassles. I had recently upgraded my headlamp using Avenger coil and bulb. It was keeping the road well lit.

I slowed down a little as I reached Bhor ghat. Crossing Bhor ghat is pure fun. Entire atomosphere was filled with engine roar and it was amazing to climb it in pitch dark morning :)
First tea break was at the "Tapari" on the Khandala ghat. The guy there was sleepy and not interested to serve tea. Perhaps he didnt want to leave the counter or stretch his hand. I was reluctant to get off as the bags made it little tricky to do so. One group had stopped there to have tea and one of the guy was kind enough to extend arm and pass on the cup!
As I reached Lonavala station, the road near it was still perfect. Its more than 2 years since I am riding there and its immaculate. Perhaps its made by a non-corrupt constructor! And seems he was not given any contract thereafter :) :)
After passing Kamshet, I realised that I was riding on reserve for a while. Suddenly there was a panic moment because all pumps looked fast asleep. I had betted on the Lonavala HP pump but it was shut. I quickly started looking for pump. For few pumps, I had to take long U in vain. Blood temperature started rushing through body with each passing meter. And luckily I found one. Tank was half full and I again started chasing the fellows.
This ride was arranged by a group called Bikenomads. I joined their newsgroup a while ago and kept sniffing the threads till today. It was a sudden decision to join the ride because the weekend at work turned out to be free. This was my first long (200km+) ride and that too with a professional group. 8 people were expected to start from Pune at 6am. Two mumbikers had already joined them a day ago. more were expected to start from Banglore and Hyderabad and converge at the destination - Dandeli - 650kms away from Mumbai!
Old highway ended quickly and I took right to reach Wakad. All of a sudden, I hit a foggy patch and everything was white around :) it was great...though little scary because visibility was ultra low. I just hoped that it doesnt rain. The foggy patch got over in few meters and I reached the Meeting point for Pune folks. I was late by an hour, though they were not supposed to wait for me. I kept on riding and looking for the bunch across the road...
Somewhere after Satara, I thought of giving up and taking a bite. I stopped at a small shack. The guys were ultra lazy and outright irritating. Misal paav was good though. I had to leave without tea as the couterboys started fighting over who will bring the cup for me!
Oh yes, incidently, I saw a big crab near the place...must have missed the road from a river nearby.
Just after I left this place...I saw a biker and big BN sticker grabbed the attention. It was the group I was looking for...I waived down to him to stop. He though I am asking directions and I asked him..."Hey, are you going to Dandeli! Lets go, I am coming too". First that guy did not understand whats happening :) He was Seon. He recognised me after I told my name and I was soon riding with the Group!!!
It was good feeling to be a part of the flock and we soon hit Maharashtra border. Highway after border gets real wide an smoother. All so far, I was wishing to ride Mumbai Pune Expressway and now no more feel like doing that :) This is way ahead that small patch.
Once again it happened that I was riding on reserve. In the excitement of meeting them, I forgot to tank up again :-s and finally, all the fuel drained. This time I was left behind too....Somewhere I had read that you can use Choke and then start again to utilise last half a litre of fuel in Pulsar. I tried that and it worked...and luckily, I spotted a bunk within just few meters :) and was back on track.
We ripped real hard after this and I could hold constant 115+ on Speedo. The high speed made me miss the Belgaum exit and I speeded past everyone somehow. Vibhu called up and told me to come back. This highway has left exits only and I felt like losing exists on US interstates :)
It took me a while to catch up the guys again and had to roam around on the Belgaum roads till then. Everyone was standing near a hotel and as they spot me, all shouted together :) I was glad to be found again :)

2nd October 2008 ~1500hrs
We parked at Ramdev hotel in Belgaum and hijacked one table exclusively for our bags and gear. Food was good and we had a light lunch. We now had to take smaller NH4A towards Khanapur. We were riding through the city now and everyone was watching 11 riders riding together with all the luggage and gear. It was fun to watch them amazed as we rode.
Road was small but not bad. We reached Khanapur with a small halt taken due to wee bit of drizzles...It didnt continue for long and we reached Londa via Khanapur. We came at Panji- Londa diversion and took a tea break.
After this, the road a piece of cake. Amazing tar and exciting curves. It was sheer thrill to ride the stretch by just leaning. I dont remember a moment where I could ride straight up. It was crazy. Maybe it was made by the Lonavala guy :)
We somehow missed the entrance to our destination and overshot it by few kilometers. But the camp guy came over and we were soon at the spot - Dandeli Jungle camp. Tripmeter read 571kms!!!!!!!!
Riders from Banglore had reached before us and we were welcomed by them. Hyderabad fellows were awaited. We had received a SMS from them while they were approx 200kms away from the place.

We refreshed ourselves and met over the camp fire. Almost everyone was tired but we had a small session. I was formally introduced to the group then. Dinner followed that and everyone jumped on the plates. The food was served warm and chicken curry was great! Vegens had less options though and most were pissed off ;)
I hit bed soon after that. Hyderabad riders were delayed because of bad roads and they were brought it to the reort by some of us somewhere near midnight.

3rd October 2008
Had quiet a good sleep amidst bugs walking all over the body. Somnath and I woke up quiet early and then we decided to take a small walk till main road. A dirt road connected resort to the main road and it made a good walkway.
After returning, we had a small session of macro photos and breakfast.

That day we went to see Syntheri Rocks. This is a big granite rock next to the Dandeli river. One the way, Somnath was stung by small hairy caterpiller which was thankfully more itchy than toxic. He was quiet fine once Doctor Harshad applied soap lotion :)

In the evening we drove to Dandeli city for a Crocodile Trek. The guide claimed that there are usually 30-40 crocs to be seen. but we just saw half a crock (just saw legs).
Campfire that night vitnessed a good amount of discussion about Bikenomads and their further plans. Once food was redied, everyone dispersed :) We were burning more than usual callories during day. The resort fellow must be worried about our food intake...Glad that he didnt charge us extra for food though it was included in the costs ;)
Just before the campfire, few of us took the bikes out for a small ride. We rode up to the city and came back. While returning, it became darker and all we could see in the RVM was a chain of lights moving in unison! Watching that was so amazing, no one stopped to shoot it :)

4th October 2008
Jungle safari was scheduled to start at 4am in the morning. Considering the experience with crock trek and early morning departure, I chose to stay in bed. Which turned out to be a good decision. The safari was just the ride in the woods and not much of wildlife could be spotted by those who went.
Another group was ready for white water rafting. Their scheduled departure was delayed because the rafting water levels were planned to rise in the noon.
Remaining people were planning to ride up till Karwar (or Goa if Harshad's efforts had turned into success). Change of timing for Rafters changed this plan. We spent noon watching some funny videos on Harshad's laptop.

In the evening, some, including me, went to the city and tanked up. Vibhu and Harshad went out to hunt a place for our bike shoot. Both groups departed from resort at same time and incidently both returned too at once :)
It was dark yet rafters had not returned. So the campfire was lit and audience started small session with Rafting group was late so we couldnt do our bike shoot. We then decided to shoot in front of resort. The group photo was success because of Harshad's camera, Vinay's tripod, Amod's batteries and my flash...and everyone's enthusiasm for it :)

5th October 2008 0400hrs
We got up early as decided and started to pack for the return journey. Lights went out and we had to pack the stuff using mobile light. As soon as finished packing, lights came!!!

5th October 2008 0530hrs
We started to ride back finally. The road was dark and leaning on the curves were more exciting. It was very foggy again and wet by drizzles. Took us almost 2.5 hours to reach Belgaum. Hyderabad folks spilt of here.
We again stacked up at Ramdev and fueled ourselves. Soon we were on the highway and ripping. We chose to stay at 100 for this stretch. Hormuzd, somnath and I zipped ahead and kept together till the rest of the ride.

On passing Kolhapur, we came to know that Abhishek met with accident. It was scary but we decided to keep moving as we had covered much distance than rest. My bums had started getting numb by now. But back was well supported by the sack. We kept moving and taking breaks to ease of blood in the bottoms and reached Pune by 1.30pm

5th October 2008 1330hrs
We had some snacks at Varje and Somnath left us here. Hormuzd and I started for Mumbai. While Hormuzd was refueling, I noted that my speedo cable had gone kaput after 440kms of ride :( :(
I kept following Hormuzd now. As we reached Neeta point in Lonavala, a stupid Zen Estillo coming in opposite direction turned left all of a sudden and stopped in the middle of the road. We had to brake hard to avoid collision. We confronted the bald uncle and sheepishly smiled to say "Sorry, I am new to this area!"
We again reached Lonavala and I couldnt control riding hard on the Lonavala road. I zipped past Hormuzd only to stop on the Amrutanjan Bridge. He couldnt understand what suddenly took me :) But after that we again kept with each other till Kalamboli. We departed near RAIT and I soon reached Three hand junction in Thane.

5th October 2008 1630hrs
While I was waiting at the signal, there was little smoke and smell under the seat. I looked down and aparently, one plastic bag was stuck to the silencer pipe and smoking up. But also the engine was covered with oil. I decided not to go home but went to my mechanic who usually packs up early on Sunday.So first I went to the studio and submitted the films to be developed. Was very eager to see the prints.Chiku the mechanic checked the bike and thankfully it was just loose air pump that caused little oil to leak. It was fixed in jiffy and oil was changed.

5th October 2008 1715hrs
I finally reached home and back to the grind :) We had covered the distance in less than 12 hours as opposed to 14 while going. It was almost a 1300kms journey to Dandeli n back!!!
All in all, it was a great trip. Had lots of fun and covered lots of distance. Only thing that irritated were the countless number of people who would use their hands to signal that I am riding with the lights on. People would just go crazy to do that, kids, elders all did that while they walked up on road, travelled in rikshaw and what not.. :) :) :) Hope they do the same to people without road-sense. Riding in
the group was a difference experience, especially on the Khanapur-Dandeli road during day as well as early in the morning. Looking forward to more such trips....

Trip Summary
Route: Thane-Pune-Satara-Kolhapur-Belgaum-Khanapur-Londa-Ramnagar-Dandeli and back
Distance: 670kms one way
Time to cover: 12 hours (average)
Bike: Bajaj Pulsar 180cc, Fear the black edition
Riders: 3 from Mumbai, 8 from Pune, 2 from Banglore, 3 from Hyderabad
Group: Bikenomads (http://www.bikenomads.com/)
Road condition: Smooth and divided tarway till pune. Expressway till Kolhapur. Extra wide and smoother concrete till belgaum. Undivided two laned tarway till Khanapur. A great curvy whitish tarway till Londa. bumpy tar till Dandeli.
Petrol pumps: Lots of bunks along the route till Belgaum. Most of them are shut at night tough. After Belgaum, very less pumps till Dandeli. In dandeli city, there are few pumps
Service: Kolhapur - Belgaum - Dandeli stretch is much away from city hence mechanics might not be available at regular intervals.
Food options: Plenty of food options along the route, except Belgaum-Dandeli stretch
Prefferred time:October-February
Stay: Dandeli offers small cottages and tree houses to stay. We booked online through http://www.dandeli.com
Food: Great if you are non-vegen

Links to Pictures
http://www.flickr.com/photos/globe_treader/sets/72157607790817371 - Me
http://flickr.com/photos/harshadsharma/sets/72157607819253820 - Harshad
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vibhurishi/sets/72157607799304733 - Vibhu
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vinaydeep/sets/72157607832560161 - Vinay
https://www.photoshop.com/user/cyanvj - Seon
http://picasaweb.google.co.in/kalingaputra/DandeliAnnualRide - Kalingaputra
http://www.flickr.com/photos/70183471@N00/sets/72157607783891513 - Jayram
http://picasaweb.google.com/amod.gokhale/BNAnnualTrip - Amod
http://www.bikenomads.com/?p=142 - Post on BN website
http://maps.mapmyindia.com/?from=thane&to=dandeli&via=&type=best&q=dir - Route directions