We left our hotel at 6.45 am in the morning, around 30 mins late than what we had planned for. The delay was due to the hotel staff packing our sandwiches as breakfast before we left. Once the parcel was handed over, we quickly left. The sunlight was still dim,the air was cold and we were zooming past the houses on each side of the road. Shohrat had told me about an amazing spot a day before where he wanted to watch the sun rising. Here is the view :-
It was a lake covered with fog, the rays of rising sun piercing the fog and lighting up the trees and the water. There were species of birds that I think I must have seen for the first time in my life. Mesmerised by the view, we got on our bikes and started riding again. I hear that the road tax in Kanarataka state is the highest among the all the states in India. Trust me, it was worth it. The roads were fabulous. Even the road connecting the tiniest villages that we crossed had proper markings and absolutely no potholes. Just butter smooth roads, the type of roads that tickle the Rossi within you. We enjoyed these roads so much so that we missed an important turn and went ahead about good 30 or so kilometers.
Shohrat opened his tank bag to check the maps on his tab. There was a 16 km pathway that would take us to our destined road. We decided to take the path, the decision that I regretted for the entire day. The pathway was a proper offroad full of dust and rocks. While Shohrat’s Thunderbird was soaking the road very well, my Karizma was crawling at the snail’s speed stuck in 2nd gear. I was afraid that if I push it too hard the shiny fibre parts might just fall off. Shohrat’s Thunderbird and his riding skills were put to a test and he was thoroughly enjoying it. I still wonder how he manoeuvred the heavy Royal Enfield that was loaded up 3 bags behind and a tank bag. Shohrat being a skinny guy, it was very evident that riding a heavy bike is less to do with your muscles and more to do with your skills!
It was mid-afternoon and the sun was at its peak. It took us over and hour to complete the 16 km that included a sandwich and water break in between.Thanks to my poorly ventilated DSG jacket, I was sweating like a pig (I am a sweating machine anyway). Once we hit the good road again, I and my bike both felt alive. The relief of putting that top gear is close none. More speed meant more air hitting my jacket’s air vents cooling down my body, mind and soul.
Unlike Maharashtra, the roads of Kanataka that pass through forest areas have absolutely no dhabbas or hotels. We realized this a bit late, at around 4’clock in the afternoon. Tired and hungry we parked our bikes and sat on concrete pipes and hogged on the last pieces of sandwich that we took for breakfast coupled with dry fruits. Fueled up, we again hit the road.
By 7 pm we reached Sultan Bathery in Kerala. Sunlight does play mind games when you are traveling. As the sun goes down, your body starts giving up and then want to hog on comfort food and slid inside a cozy blanket. At least that is what I was had on my mind when I was finishing my dinner. But our destination “Wellington (Ooty) in Tamil Naidu” was still 110 km (3 and half hours) away. And to make things interesting we had to ride through Mukurthi National park which was famous for elephant attacks after dark!
I wanted to rest in Sultan Bathery itself and start early morning next day but Shohrat had a different idea. He subtly tried to convince me that if we ride along with a big vehicle, the chances of the elephants sparing us are high! Riding at night is usually a big “No” for me, but for some reason I made my mind and we left for our night adventure ride.
As soon as we reached the check point that marked the beginning of the jungle, the forest rangers asked us what they hell were we doing. We had a small chat and requested him to let us ride along a big vehicle. A big vehicle at that time around was a Maruti Omni. Taking a not of how determined we were he agreed. As we rode, the auxiliary lights of Shohrat’s ThunderBird illuminated the road and the jungle ahead of us. I was scared to death and the only thing on my mind was to keep up with the Shohrat and the Omni guy. Thoughts like “what if my bike breaks down now ?” started clouding my mind but there was nothing that I could do but “keep on riding!”. And then Shohrat sort of screams in the bluetooth intercom, “Look at your left ” !
First, I thought I saw a huge rock beside the road. As we were passing by, I saw some parts of the rock gently moving. Then I saw that the rock had a trunk ! I was still trying to make sense and suddenly I realised that we just crossed a wild elephant. I whispered in the bluetooth intercom, “Was that an elephant ?”. Shohrat replied, “Yes, It was an elephant”.
Both of us breathe a sigh of relief as we saw another check point marking the exit from the jungle. We thanked the Omni guy and our stars. It was one of the most adventurous ride of our lives. By 11.30 pm we reached Wellington, unloaded our bikes and crashed on our beds. We rode for 17 hours that day, we were physically tired but mentally satisfied. A day in our lives that was very well spent !