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Old 2nd May 2014, 12:39   #1
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Default Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

An unexpected call

When I entered in the Wrangler True Wanderer 3.0, I recalled my entry 3 years ago, in True Wanderers 1.0. I had been a part of the final ten of that contest, and I had an idea how things would move on if I were selected. As per my last experience, if I were to be selected in this contest as well, then I would get a call a few days early before the announcement of the result. Someone from xBHP would first confirm availability and my sanity whether I could ride for seven days, and then only my name would go on the final list.

As the result announcement date - 12 April 2014 - approached closer, my hopes of being part of this TW3.0 diminished gradually. I could see some travelogues getting 3000-4000 votes, and would wonder, what chance do I have against such giants of social networks, who have such great network of people!

Still, the day of 12 April arrived packing a ton of anxiety. The heart has these crazy ways of believing and hoping for things that the mind knows are not possible. Despite it being Saturday, I had to attend a meeting. While I was in the meeting, my phone rang loudly, and I hurriedly pushed whatever buttons I could get hold of to silence it. Sheepishly looking around for my blunder of forgetting to put it on silent and mumbling excuses, I sneaked a peek at the mobile screen, half in wonder that who would be calling me on such afternoon. A familiar name was blinking on the screen - ‘xBHP Sunil’.

I could feel my heart drop a gear and give accelerator, such was the sudden increase in my heart beats. Could it be? But how could it be? But then what else could it be??! I gave some lame reasons excusing myself out of the meeting room, and picked up the call. Astonishingly, it was for informing me the possible selection of the top 10. However Sunil did not confirm for sure that I was selected, he said that I had a chance and could only be confirmed once they declare the list on the truewanderer.in website.

Sunil owes me a few gray hairs, because that’s what he caused in next three hours. Finally at 4, while still at meeting, my cell buzzed with ‘Congrats, it’s done!’ from my wife, and I heaved a sigh of relief. But the relief was only short lived. The ride was only 12 days away, and the constant countdown on the truewanderer website made sure that we were constantly on toes.

About the contest

The truewanderer contest is a unique platform, where two different breeds of homosapiens, one of crazy bikers, and other of corporate professionals, come together for a common goal. The interaction is often amusing, and sometimes bewildering. For example, as a motorcyclists I was prepared for touring related questions, but then myntra guys bowled me over with fashion related interviews!

This time, Wrangler has launched some new collections of denims and tees, named Sun Shield and Silver Shield. I will be wearing this collection on my ride for next seven days, and will review the performance of these collections once I finish the ride.


Now the most important part of the ride, namely the plan, is missing. Maharashtra is really hot in the months of April and May. I went through the map of Maharashtra a lot of times, but many areas get dropped out of consideration simply because of extreme heat. While I don’t seek perfect conditions all the time while riding, I definitely hope that the destination is worth the ride. So surprisingly, perhaps for the first time in my life, I am woefully unprepared when it comes to a plan of ride. I have some vague idea of directions I would like to explore, and I would be updating this blog as and when possible from those exotic locations.

I hope I can get great stories out of this ride. I have often felt that all kinds of memories fade sooner or later, but a good story remains forever, because it keeps itself alive in the minds of the readers or listeners. Some of the motorcyclists are really good at logging stuff, such as wakeup times, costs incurred, kilometers covered etc. However, I won’t be covering details on such minute level, as there are LOTS of trustworthy resources available on the interenet, starting with our very own xBHP.com, which has perfect documentation on all the topics and on many routes. Rather, I would be telling these stories as I would with my friends, over a cup of smoking hot coffee on a cold night where everyone is gathered around a campfire, and sharing his small triumphs and successes with people who care.

So here we begin…

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Old 2nd May 2014, 12:55   #2
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Once upon a time

Once upon a time in a far away land
there lived a wanderer, a mighty happy man
everywhere he'd go, he'd mingle and jingle
Everywhere he'd go, he'd march his band

When he was a tiny lad, he'd bobble everywhere
Walking for all afternoon, holding his dad's finger
And especially devoured were the trips out of town
This was a time where he enjoyed on his own

The years kept on rolling, and the lad kept on growing
Like every teen-ager, he too tried to be all-knowing
but the world kept him on leash, humbling him down
soon he found his nirvana was in exploring the lands around

He kept on yearning to explore, taking paths, trains and buses
Depended on people and friends who made tall promises
That we'd go here and we'd do that, this Sunday for sure!
Just to get busy somewhere and to forget all they said

Unexpectedly he stumbled on a tool he long avoided
And realized what he was missing for all these years
A motorcycle under him, and wind blowing over
He could go anywhere to fulfil his heart’s desires

No more was he bounded by fake commitments of others
No more was the need to depend on anyone else
Be it summer or winters or blazing monsoons
All he needed was his motorcycle and himself

He learnt in his rides, not matter what part of the land
People just looked different, yet moral was same for all their stories.
Everyone was slave of their own selfish desires
Everyone was a prisoner of his or her own worries
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Old 2nd May 2014, 12:59   #3
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Preparing for the ride

Collecting the tees and denims from Wrangler store was a joyous process. I tried a number of tees, and had a hard time finalizing the ones that would join me on this tour. The denim selection was comparatively much fast, as the main criteria was fit.

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I was very happy to see that I needed one size less that usually required when I tried the Silver shield jeans. However, later I found that I require the normal size in the Sun shield collection. So please keep this in mind when you are buying Wrangler denims.

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I never get to have so many bags full of new clothes for my own!

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After collecting the attires from the Wrangler store, getting the stickers to paste around the bike, and managing to finally cool the nerve, I was slowly getting ready to ride. Maharashtra weather gods were no mood to show mercy though. It continued to be rising mercury for most part of the day, and the idea of getting slowly roasted was hardly enticing, if at all.

I went through the maps of Maharashtra so many times, that even my geography teacher would have been proud. The season, the places, the activities, all jumped in front of me shouting ‘Are you crazy?!’

‘Yes. That’s the point.’ I thought. One needs to be really crazy to go on a seven day tour in this climate. So be it, crazy it is. Off went the maps from the study table into the storage, and only one plan remained. ‘I’ll wing it on the way’.

Even though the full plan refused to materialize, I had a definite idea where I would begin, even before getting selected in the TW3.0 contest. It must be an exotic place, so beautiful that it should be out of this world, and one of a kind. And I knew just the right place.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 13:01   #4
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The gear

Motorcycling is my passion, and I don’t want it to turn into my biggest mistake ever. So no matter how hot it is, I will wear full biking gear. The biking gear includes Teknik Air Mesh jacket, LS2 helmet, DSG gloves, army shoes, and knee-and-shin guards.

Most importantly, I am wearing Wrangler tees and denims. There are two particular collections in my list. One is a Sun-shield collection, which helps in maintaining cool under hot sun. Another is a Silver-Shield collection, which limits the growth of bacteria over long usage. Both would come handy in this tour, as I would have to ride in blazing hot sun, and would not have time to get the clothes washed. I am looking forward for testing both the collections.

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For tools for recording the trip, I am a bit variable. My most important tool to take with me on any tour is a diary and a pen, because sometimes keyboard and mobiles just don’t make the cut, and I find that actually writing my notes connects me better with my memories and forms more wonderful stories.

However this ride is not for pleasure alone, this is a contest. And I do not want to take a knife to a gunfight. Motorcycle selection was the easiest part of the equation. I would take Vesta, that’s it. She has worked with me on the highest road of the world, she took me and my wife safely across many parts of India. So she would carry me for this trip.

As for the camera, I already have a little guy named Canon S90, which packs an impressive arsenal under its tiny chassis. But all the power in that small body still feels less sometimes, so I bought a big brother to assist the little S90, a Nikon D5200. Handling the DSLR for the first time in a showroom felt as if I was trying to ride a plane! So many damn buttons, and I couldn’t even find the ON/OFF from the plethora of them! But still, familiarizing with the system didn’t take much time, thanks to S90 and my previous cams with PSAM modes.

I am also carrying a Dell laptop for typing my thoughts, as no mobile has big enough keyboard for a person with finger-eye coordination like me.

For carrying all this stuff, I am taking a Mustang Tank bag which sticks to the huge petrol tank of Vesta with its magnetic flaps.It is a long discontinued model, but it has worked beautifully so far. I have it for about 8 or 10 years, and it continues to be in service. Also, I have a custom made saddle bag, which is to be put on the back seat as if one would put a saddle on a horse. The bags hang on two sides of the pillion seat, connected by a cloth. I have got this made for my Leh Ladakh trip, and it carried stuff of two persons for 20 days effortlessly. A backsack is helping me carry all the costly stuff and the tidbits that can’t find their place in the saddle or the tank bag.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 13:05   #5
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Day 1 – Wandering to natural wonder

The day began early, and I am sure even Vesta was surprised to being woke up so early.

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It was time for her royal bath. She would ride with for next seven days in yet unknown areas, and before she started the journey, I thought she deserved a royal scrubbing. (‘And so would you, too’, quipped wife, but I like to think that the comment was out of love and not towards my general disregard for such petty matters).

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Now that Vesta stood gleaming bright after the bath and polishing session, I started to put on the armor on her. The custom made saddle bag carriers made to protect her side panels from scars from the bags, the mount for the Wrangler flag, the extra cables, all made their way one by one on Vesta, taking a liter of my sweat (and some took parts of my blood too, those damn tight nuts!).

Then came the time to put on all the stickers of the sponsors on my helmet and my ride. Removing a sticker, especially a complex one such as cursive Wrangler, can be quiet tricky. It led to many situations that could have led to divorce had one of the quarreling parties (generally me) not taken a calmer stand. Finally the stickers too found their respective places in the world, and I was ready to move out.

I started my ride in the Pune’s dry heat. I must have looked quite a mascot with all the gear and stickers and tiny Wrangler flag behind the bike, because I surely made many heads turned, including those of the traffic police.

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Trying to look as nonchalant as possible, I zigzagged through the maze called city roads, and parked Vesta in front of the Wrangler showroom, bang opposite Sambhaji Park, on JM road, one of the most prominent roads in Pune.

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We were enthusiastically welcomed by the store persons, and glasses of sugarcane were thrust in our hands.

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We were give a free reign to pose around the store and click ourselves. The store packs most collection of Wrangler, and it is worth a visit if you are planning to buy denims or tees.

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Finally, it was time to take off, and the persons from the Wrangler stores as well as neighboring shops gathered around in curiosity.

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I am sure other contestants too would agree with me, that this is perhaps the best time of the trip. Here you are, with your motorcycle throbbing under you at 1300rpm, and you feel the your own gloves grabbing your hands wishing you good luck, your own jacket and denim hugging you to give you moral support, and your helmet showing only those things worth seeing. You see people in front of you, with their eyes full of curiosity, and care too if it is a friend or a loved one. It is this moment that you realize you have become a wanderer.

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Old 2nd May 2014, 13:07   #6
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My halt tonight would be at a small village called Chincholi Morachi - Peacock’s place of tamarind trees – about 75 kilometers from Pune. Both parts of the name are equally interesting. First name indicates tamarind trees, and there are LOTS of tamarind trees in this village. But what’s so special about a tamarind fruit, except it’s yummy and mouth watering and devoured by pregnant women as if their lives depended on it? Not much, I agree, but that’s when the second part of the name comes in. It is literally village of the peacocks – and peahens (feminists please note my gender neutral comments). There are around 2000 peacocks in this village, living happily along with the villagers for a long time. Everyday, both the villagers and the peacocks go around their business without bothering one another. Only recently, the villagers are realizing the tourism aspect of this wonderful phenomenon, and few home-stays are popping up. I was heading towards one such home-stay for the night.
The route to the Chincholi Morachi goes through Pune Nagar highway, which is ‘modernized’. By modernized, I mean that it is stripped of anything worthy of giving shadow, except tall hoardings of 1BHK and 2BHK dream houses banners. It was already very hot, promptly overexposing and burning any photograph I attempted to take on the highway. My Timex watch was showing a temperature of 40 degrees! As I kept on moving forward, I wondered how far away these banners of housing projects would follow enticing the buyers from Pune. Soon, my turn towards Chincholi Morachi had come but the banners continued on the highway till my eyes can see. If this continues, a few years from now Wanderer contestant from Pune will have to travel all night for reaching a place ‘out of city’, I thought.

From Shikrapur, I took a left for heading towards the village, and the scene turned partly urban-rural type to fully village scene in a matter of kilometers. Soon I was out of the manmade jungle of flats and plots and dubious schemes advertising proudly on both the sides of the road. The view changed completely, and I smiled under my helmet to see green fields popping in view from both sides. Fields where men and women invested their sweat and their lives to see them bloom, and not depend on fooling anyone for making a living.

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I stopped at a lush green field of coriander. Coriander is an important part of the Indian meals, and I have always seen it being quoted at the lowest price in vegetable market. Looking at the big field with people working intrigued me, and I parked Vesta next to the field.

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A whole family along with couple of workers was working in the field. Seeing the size of coriander rolls collected at one side, I could see they were working on it for a long time. Here I was, cribbing about the Sun and the heat, and here they were, working under the very same Sun at the very same temperature, happy that they were working for the betterment of their family.

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There were a bunch of kids following me around all over the field with curiosity, so a parting shot with them.

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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:13   #7
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The roads were good, and I should have been making good speeds, but the calm green views at both the sides were so inviting, that it was hard to ignore them.

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I saw one pomegranate field. Generally I don’t like this fruit, as peeling one takes an eternity and if one looks at me after a pomegranate peeling and eating session, I often resemble someone who has killed with his bare hands, judging by my red hands and clothes. Heck I think it is like an unending homework that never finishes.

But the field of pomegranates is a different matter altogether, so I went it and clicked around.

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The entrance to the field was beautiful.

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Soon I was heartily welcomed in Chincholi Morachi by a sign board that heartily welcomed all its readers.

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I noticed there were a number of home-stay options. Some looked very professional and inviting, while some looked way too rough. Mine was out of the village, right in a field, so I passed all the home-stays in the village, bumping in every speedbreaker that every home-stay has installed around its gate.

The home-stay I was staying had some dirt road to cover. Just when I entered this dirt road, two suicidal kamikaze chameleons, one after another jumped in front of Vesta, and almost made me fall due to sudden braking and turning in the sand to avoid hurting them. Afterwards, I decided I would not to be so kind henceforth and would let them meet their destiny on their dangerous game. Perhaps they too sensed it, because I did not see them later. Or perhaps someone did arrange their meeting with destiny.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:15   #8
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When I entered the home-stay compound, I was greeted by two peacocks grazing carelessly some distance away.

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I guess it was their evening brunch time, and they didn’t care two hoots about who was looking. Amazed for a second, I stood looking at them, but quickly remembered I was not here for them today, today the guest of honor is someone different. So I took leave, and checked in my room.

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I quickly moved out of the hotel, making my way to the attraction of today, Nighoj. Nighoj is a small village near Chincholi Morachi, famous for its geographical wonder, the potholes. I know some people would say that their city too has potholes, what’s so special in Nighoj potholes?!

The potholes at the river side of Nighoj are not formed due to incompetents in the road department, but they are a result of a very curious natural phenomenon. When a river flows wildly, it brings ahead the small stones under it. Whenever these stones face an uneven ground and can’t pass this obstacle, they begin spinning around due to constant pressure from the flowing water. This continuous spinning slowly digs holes in the rocks, and the stones keep on getting trapped in the wider holes. Continuing this action for a long time, we get to see interesting sights such as Nighoj, where the potholes are unbelievably big.
Nighoj houses the largest potholes in Asia, some are as big as a whole person, while some just look horribly deep even to see in.

It was this place – Nighoj – that I was running towards, and I was already running against time.

The road quality so far away from the main highway was surprisingly good, and I was able to manage a 70-80KMPH speed very comfortably. I never speed in residential areas, but on open roads, it is an invitation.
Rolling down fast towards Nighoj, I entered a bridge at speed, and was mesmerized by the beauty at both the sides of the bridge. I stopped despite the hurry to move on, such was the calm beauty of the place. Sun was setting at one side of the bridge, and it looked stunning in the reflection in the mirror-like calm water underneath.

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Maharashtra – land of 4 suns!

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After a quick photo-session, I moved ahead to Nighoj, cautiously asking my way around. There are lots of turns and twists in the village roads, and one unknown turn would land you far away from your original destination. Later I realized that I was not needed to be so cautious, as it happened to be a day of the fair of the Gods on the banks of the potholes, and whole surrounding populace was heading towards Nighoj.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:19   #9
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Due to this fair, I had a lot of company from people from various parts of the neighborhoods. While I reduced my photography possibilities, it enlightened me to see and meet and greet so many new people at one place.

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Ranjankhalge, the place of potholes, by itself is very beautiful and very scary at times. Some of the potholes were better called stand alone hills, with deep crevices. After a good amount of walking and searching, I managed to get some good photos to introduce Nighoj to many new readers who might not know of it.

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Testing out my Wrangler Sun-Shiled collection

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A shaky footbridge connects two temples that are on the two sides of the river.

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The river flows with such strength that it brings not just the stones but also bigger objects with it.

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The old temple at one side has an idol for a Goddess of many faces. I could not find a back story, but my guess is that the Goddess represents the potholes of the site. Such was amazing faith of the believers that the pots were not sights of the devil, but rather a sign of a Goddess.

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I also noticed an interesting phenomenon. Whenever someone would make a donation, an announcer would speak in a loudspeaker announcing to the vicinity the name of the donor and the amount donated. Sometimes (actually a lot of times), I have observed that the higher donations are given priority over smaller donations, those donors are treated better etc. However in this temple, I noticed that the announcement were equally enthusiastic for all range of donations, so I listened an announcement of a donation of Rs. 1001 followed by equally toned announcement for Rs. 11 as well. Felt happy to know that Bhagwan ke ghar sab saman!

The fair was closing down, and the sellers were packing their goods. There was a great hustle at the sight, now that the night was falling and everyone wishing to head home in his or her warm bed.

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I too made way to Vesta, standing serenely in the parking lot, and proceeded to my stay for the day.

I expected miss my road on my way back, because roads have a tendency to change their appearance once the lights have gone off. But luckily I made my way back without any error, neither was I threatened by any suicidal manic chameleon on the dirt road. My HID too was working very well, so it was a great pleasure riding ahead in the white light illumination by the HID. Had a homely dinner at night, and crashed into bed for tomorrow’s early wake up call.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:23   #10
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This Travelogue is being written as a part of Wrangler True Wanderer 3.0 contest. I have toured in Maharashtra for 1600kms in seven days, in search of great stories.

If you like what you have read so far, please vote for me on http://truewanderers.in/travelogues/finalist/10.html

I have hardly any social networking connections such as facebook or twitter, so I am relying on actual readers' votes. You can vote from your facebook or your mobile. Your vote will be very valuable for me.

Even if you choose not to vote for any reason, do share your valuable opinion here. I will be updating the next parts of the travelogue here on team-bhp as well.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:36   #11
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Day 2 - Little bits of craziness

The door banged loudly very early in the morning, waking me sharply from my deep slumber. I looked at the watch; it was bloody 6’o clock. Damn, what kind of a vacation needs me at 6’O clock?! Groggy in my sleep, I stumbled towards the door, found the lock half blindly, and opened the door.

‘What?’ I barked.

‘Peacocks have come.’ The home-stay owner at the door replied.

‘What?’ I repeated my questions, partly to the owner, partly to myself. My half awake mind couldn’t put these three words together in any context, but suddenly a background voice put everything in place.


I threw on my pajamas, grabbed my camera bag and ran outside. The peacocks were coolly grazing near the house. Yesterday there were only two males, today they were joined by many females as well.

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I sometimes get confused in identifying males and females in a lot of animals – except in humans, of course – and in case of birds, it is nigh impossible. I still wonder how they can tell the cock from the hen in a chicken store. Maybe they ask the bird. But in case of a peacock, it is damn simple – feathers, baby! The one with beautiful feathers coming out of their behinds is a male, and the non-beautiful feathers one is a female.

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Notably, and I think on purpose, many peacocks and peahens in the grazing lot had their backs towards us, as if they were mooning the photographers. ‘Damn moody squeaky toy!’ I grumbled and moved with my camera to find a better group of peacocks not so averse to clicking.

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I wandered in the fields around that house, and tried to take a snap of a few peacocks. But this is one sneaky bird with heightened 6th sense. So they were cool when I was watching, but the moment that I even thought of clicking a picture, they’d fly away. For a bird of such size and in case of males, such impressive derriere, they fly surprisingly well with good control and grace. Unlike chicken that just run around hopelessly, this bird will not bother running around much. If he finds you coming too close for comfort, he will simply spread its wings and fly away, leaving you bewildered playing around the control knob of your camera, trying to find a mode to click the flying peacock. By the time you find it, the peacock is already back in its group out of sight, mostly giving high-fives and laughing their bums off on fooling yet another human with a camera.

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I felt like a dog today morning, and chased a lot of peacocks with a grin on my face. The field was fertile, and the owners were making full use of the land. In one part, they had planted mango trees which were carrying raw mangoes. The sight of ripe mangoes at such a low lever must be quite exhilarating.

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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:39   #12
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

After a round or two of homely breakfast, I was ready to move out. The home stay owner gifted me two feathers of peacock, shed some time ago.

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On my way, I saw a poultry farm, and halted there. Many broiler chicken were there, awaiting their day of ending up in some meal. Went in to click their photo, only to have my nostril hairs burnt. The strong stench of the hens was horrible! And the care taker was roaming around without any visible sign of distress due to the stink. Guess he had lost the smelling sense a long time ago.

One non shaky photo I could manage with one hand, while other gripped my nose:

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Today I was visiting a very interesting place near Pune, and would decide where to head later once I reach there. It was quite surprising if not bit shameful to think that I still didn’t know where I would head for next seven days, but now I was liking this plan. The beauty in randomness was worth experiencing.

The place I had in mind is called ‘Bhuleshwar temple’. It is an ancient temple situated on a hilltop, and it is made with rocks with exquisite carved work all over the temple. It was built around 800 years ago. While such sights are very common in Southern parts of India, in Maharashtra it is something of a rarity. But Bhuleshwar temple is famous not only for its carving, but for a supernatural phenomenon. Here the God actually accepts whatever sweet you offer Him. Yes, not just in figurative sense, but literally. If one offers a pack of say 5 Pedhas, the priest keeps the Pedhas inside a small groove in front of the Lingam – the place of Shiva – and covers it with the golden mask of the God for a short while. After the cover is removed, one finds that one or two Pedhas are missing! And there is no opening underneath the mask that covers the niche, nor are there rats or any such rodents that quickly finish one or two whole Pedhas while patiently keeping others perfectly intact in such a short while. It is an interesting place, and it deserves a wider audience, and what better place of a wide varied audience than this stage of TW3.0?

While my plans were grand, my execution proved to be awfully poor. As per the map, I decided 3-4 halts that I would ask people around, to move forward. I must have made some mistake somewhere, because when my calculations showed the destination should be 5 kilometers away, people around were giving me looks as if I was asking direction for the moon!

‘Bhuleshwar?! It is faaaar away.’

What? How can it be? I remembered that the mobile I am carrying had a GPS too, and switched it on. To my surprise, I found that I was off the course for not just 5 or 10 kilometers, but almost 50 kilometers! ‘Damn it!’ I shouted at my stupid self under the helmet. I guess the heavy sun must have cooked my tiny brain inside the black helmet; otherwise my internal compass had never led me so far away from destination ever. Today it acted the opposite of Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass; it led me exactly away from the place I wanted to go the most.

So now what to do? I had a choice: Take the easy way of skipping Bhuleshwar temple, or take the high way. I pondered on the question for a moment, ascertained to myself ‘Ain’t nothing to it but to do it’ and braced myself for next 50 kilometers. The next path was so wavy and bouncy, that perhaps the motocross races with their jumping bikes should have their natural habitat here. The road itself was arrow straight, but the surface was made by different people who didn’t agree one bit on another’s opinion of flatness, and thus have varying degrees of levels in the same road. I call Vesta a horse sometimes, due to her impressive standing stance, tall seating and ability to run long distance without any hiccup. Today, on this road, she showed me how exactly it feels to ride on a horse, by promptly see-sawing me to and fro on this wavy road. For around 20 kilometers, me, Vesta and the luggage was tossing ahead from one level in the road to another trying to maintain speed to make up for time. I was carrying two bottles of water in my saddle bag. One of them got so frustrated by this road, I think, that at one fine point, it jumped out of my bag and disappeared out of sight! Guess it finally had it with this stupid world after all. I hope it is in better place now. Hope it was not inspired by the kamikaze chameleons.

So here I was, with half a heart and a half empty – no, half full - bottle of water bobbling ahead towards Pune – Saswad road, which like a carrot in front of a donkey, felt as if moving ahead as I inched closer. Luckily the laws of physics caught up with me, and I was on my way properly for the temple, with 1 hour gone in the whole fiasco.

Some sights along the wrong way:

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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:46   #13
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

Once you are on the right road to the temple, that is you take the way in from Yawat, you see the temple from far away, and wonder how many kilometers are yet to be ridden for reaching to the top. But all your guesses would be wrong, as the road turns dangerously upwards the hill, giving you ‘heart into mouth’ condition for rest of the journey.

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I parked Vesta at the scampering shadows of a colourful bougainvillea tree, and made my way to the small flight of stairs.

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The temple is made up of black stone, and as with any black stone, it was H-O-T due to the Sun. I removed my shoes and tip toed my way inside, hushing and hissing due to the heated floor. However once inside the temple, you climb one storey up through the stoney path, and it is surprisingly much cooler. I forgot to take a reading, but I guess it was at least 4-5 degrees cooler if not more than outside.

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I made my way by the Huge stone carved Nandi – the vehicle of Shiva - and bowed my way in the main hall – the Gabhara. I offered my prashad to the Shiva pindi, and tried to sneak a photograph. The priest shot a dirty look at me and my camera, so I had to keep it away for main part. But the phenomenon of the God accepting the offering is worth experiencing, and can’t be expressed fully by photos or videos.

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After the darshan, I moved around in the temple, being amazed by such beautiful work of art. Every portion of the temple, right from the bottom to all the way up to the high arch, is carved with great details. Sadly, all the idols were partly destroyed, and many of the surrounding small temples on the walkway around the main temple – the pradakshina path – were empty. But whatever remains is still so beautiful, that one wonders what it must have been to see this place in its glorious grandeur.

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The carvings are extremely intricate, depicting dancers and tigers and elephants. There is even a carving of God Ganesha in a woman's form, called Lambodari or Ganeshyani.

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A little meditation in the temple, after all motorcycling is a kind of meditation for the wanderer!

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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:52   #14
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

I came out of the temple, donned my shoes and looked at my surrounding. Being situated on top of a hill, the temple and the campus offers excellent views all around. It is the season of the Gulmohar; many of them were sporting excellent colours, and were looking soothingly calm against the bright backdrop of 12 noon Sun.

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I started wondering, where to ride next? I needed to decide for tonight’s stay. Which direction to head? I had been travelling about 250-300 kilometers now, and yet I was only 50 kilometers away from Pune! I was running around in a periphery of the city, and I needed to put some distance between us fast. So for sure I was riding away from here. But where? It was so damn hot here, and this area would surely become hotter. I am not a heat seeking animal, I am a cold loving creature. I am not averse to heat, but getting burned is not my cup of tea. All I needed was some water body, some place at height, some lake…

A lake! That’s it! I remembered reading about Koyana Lake, and Koyana Nagar which is built around the damn on Koyana river. There were some beautiful places to stay over there, and I would love to chill my bones off in the cool temperature and calming sight of the lake. So tonight, my stay would be at Koyana lake.

I had choice of routes, and I chose the fastest one, from Pune Satara highway. Consulted the GPS and it showed that the highway was only 50 kilometers from me, and once on the highway, I would not have to care for bumpy internal roads and would make up good time.

So I headed towards the highway. The road passes through Ketkavle, a place that has earned another name in past few years - ‘Prati-Balaji’. It houses a temple that copies the original Balaji temple from Tirupati, hence the name. Many tourists who cannot make their way to Balaji choose to visit Ketkavale temple instead.

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(Sorry for the out of focus photo, I guess my camera skills need a lot of brushing up!)

A lot of pilgrims were making their way to the temple, so I didn’t venture inside, I prayed and clicked from outside and moved on the highway.

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Once I was on highway, Vesta started chatting with the wind. Soon we were at 90-100KMPH, and we were munching kilometers as fast as possible. The big guys of the road, buses and trucks, were not idling on the sides either. They too took part in the race and dominated their way throughout. In one such tricky overtake, I smelled some burning rubber, but that smell disappeared once I overtook a sluggish truck on an up-climb. I wondered whether it was just a smell from his tires, or whether my smelling sense was not yet recovered by the strong hen coop stench this morning. Yet I kept a mental note to stop wherever there is some shadow on the highway to park Vesta.

As luck would have it, there was no shadow anywhere for next 20 kilometers. Once I passed a toll booth, I stopped on a side of the road with little shade from a tree, to check the reason for smell. I need not look hard, the smoke marked its way clearly. The right side of my saddlebag was evidently touching the exhaust, and smoke was rising fast from the top of that bag.

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A tempo too braked hard ahead, and its driver and his assistant came running to me.

‘What happened?!’

‘Oh, it’s probably nothing’. I replied, ‘I think the bag touched the exhaust and the rubber at its bottom is melted off, that’s why the smoke.’

The driver engaged in a conversation of the whereabouts with me. While we were waiting for the smoke to subside and the exhaust to cool down, suddenly the assistant cried out loud.


And ran hurriedly to his tempo. Startled, I looked at his tempo to see which part caught fire, but in an instant I realized he was shouting about me. The smoke rose at an astonishing rate, and I could see small flames dancing around in the saddlebag!

‘Bloody hell! I am not experienced with accidental fires.’ I thought in panic. The only accidental fire that I had caused was when in a kitchen I heated oil in a pan for too long, and the whole pan caught fire. But once the oil burned up, the fire subsided that time. What to do now?!

I quickly put away my camera, and remembered I had refilled my quota of drinking water in last village. I threw the water both from the outside of the fire as well as poured in the bag. The little fire was put out before it could do any substantial damage.

The assistant who shouted and ran away came back with a bottle of water. It was half the size of the one I was holding, and was partly filled. The driver looked at the bottle and his face turned very ashamed. Trying to act cool, he took the half filled small bottle and offered it to me.

‘Do you want water to drink?’

‘No, thanks!’ Perplexed by the whole fire incident, I parked Vesta in a small shop, and with shaky hands, removed the bag slowly, accounting for any damage. The bottom of the bag that was touching the exhaust was burnt completely, leaving a nice see-through hole.

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Luckily, the wrangler clothes were in tank bag, so main part of the clothes was saved. When I finally opened the burnt clothes, I found that mainly my Jockeys and VIPs were the victims of the unfortunate event.

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‘Atleast they got burnt while not in use.’ I tried to look at the positive side of the things, got my things and wits together, and prepared to move ahead to Satara. I borrowed some bags and cardboard boxes from the helpful stall owner, and did some jugaad to make the bag working again. I made sure that the load was less in the right side saddle bag, and the exhaust was no more touching any part it should not touch.

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Last edited by moralfibre : 3rd May 2014 at 11:24. Reason: As requested
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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:56   #15
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

Once on the highway, I regained my composure, and resumed high speed riding, albeit with a heightened sense of smell. Fortunately the exhaust kept its respectful distance from the saddle bag, and there was no fire incidence that day.

I halted at Satara, at one of the big hotels by the highway famous for their Non-Veg Thali.

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After a scrumptious lunch, with heavy tummy and drowsy eyes, I continued on the highway. It was so hot by now, I could feel the heat radiating from the highway surface, from the hot engine running hard at 90KMPH, and from the Sun glaring down at high steam. I could feel what a fish must be feeling in a pressure cooker! Cutting through the hot air encompassing us, Vesta rode through hurriedly to get away from this inferno.

I took a right at Umbraj to head to Koyananagar. The moment I turned to the Umbraj – Patan road, I could feel sudden change in the atmosphere. Here the road was nicely paved with huge green trees, and so the road surface was not blazing hot like the highway. The trees have protected the area from the harsh sunlight for all day, hence the ride on this small road felt infinitely better than the high speed ride on the highway.

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The road the Koyana nagar passes through many familiar sites. There is a famous religious circuit in this area called ‘Eleven Maruti’, where one visits the eleven temples of the Hanuman God which were set by Samartha Ramdas Swami in 1600s. A number of those Marutis passed me on the way, and I honked and bowed at every one of them.
The road quality was now very good for internal roads. While it was not as butter smooth as the highway, for internal roads it was much more than acceptable. Fast speeds were possible, but it felt so relieving to ride at slow speeds in such cool breezy atmosphere, that speeding was out of the equation.

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I reached Koyana nagar at around 6.30PM. There are a number of hotels to stay in Koyana nagar, however some are placed very much away from the main dam. I passed them on way, continuing my stride to the top of the mountain for the best view of the dam. Even though I knew that the water view won’t be as breath-taking as it would be in monsoons, still after going through so much heat for all day, my eyes were thirsty for a calming sight.

Actually Koyana nagar is a huge area, and when one wants to visit Koyana nagar on tour, he or she means to visit the village Humbarle. Once you take on the climbing road winding upwards from the ST stand, you pass a number of good hotels. I chose the last one situated at the top. After the regular questionnaire of who, what, where, I was allocated a room with an excellent view of the water front. I confirmed whether the lights would be available all the time, and got a very affirmative answer. The reason behind this conviction was revealed on the next day.

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My room had a nice balcony overlooking the Koyana Dam. Even though the water had receded, still the sight of such huge water body surrounded by green trees on all sides gave me happy feeling inside. After getting cooked in the burning highway heat, I truly appreciated what green trees and blue water could do to a thirsty soul.

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After dinner, when I sat in the balcony looking at the lake somewhere in the distance, I recollected the events of today and kept on smiling. It was all craziness, to run around peacocks, to offer sweets to God and actually have them accepted, to ride so hard that the bag would catch fire, to decide the destination for the night as and when the time arises. But this was just what I needed, little bits of craziness, to preserve my sanity in this mad world.
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