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Old 7th May 2009, 16:40   #1
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Default Hyderabad to Kolkata Ride (5th to 7th April)

April 4th,, 2009. I am in office. People all around me are either asking “Why?” or saying “You must be crazy.” Suggestions about how to beat the heat are pouring in thick and fast (someone suggests packing the front of my jacket with onions). The reason behind such fanfare within the stoic walls of the country’s largest construction company – I have just announced that I am riding to Kolkata the next day. Funny how people sitting in the A/C office of Hyderabad found their giant collective heart going out to me riding in the Sun while they are so obviously oblivious to the same sunny fate, perhaps worse, befalling the thousands of construction workers working in the unforgiving Andhra summer. However, at that moment such matters of workmen welfare eluded me as I was too excited to care. A friend had already, in jest, named this ride the “Cauldron Ride”… and I was hoping that Ra, the Sun God, was also smiling at the joke and not taking it too seriously.

The reaction was the same, although in a different language and with a smattering of friendly expletives when I announced, again, my decision to a group of Bengali friends who had invited me to a party that night. What was meant to be an excuse for an early exit provided fuel to the party pyre and we went on till 3:30 am. When I finally hit the bed, after some perfunctory packing, it was 4:45 am. I told myself, “Do not sleep. You won’t be able to get up. Just a wink. That’s all.” I guess I was lost in the land of dreams before I finished the sentence.

My eyes opened at 5:45 am… inexplicably, and in similar fashion, my phone had decided to switch itself off. I curse myself as I am sure my diligent riding partner, Vineet would be simmering at the delay. Give Vineet a call, rush and brush…brush and rush…and I finally put the (borrowed) Cramsters on the bike and kick her to life. I could feel last night’s Old Monk in my breath; my eyes burning from lack of sleep; one glove missing from lack of preparation and yet…excited…that the ride was on.

Day 1

At 6:15 I make it to the rendezvous. Vineet is polite enough not to blast me for being late. I realize that the only way to make up for the lost time is to start immediately and plan only when we stop next. Thus, as the rising Sun was painting the sky purple and red, we set off from HITEX…on a voyage of discovery.

Me on my Electra (350cc Single-Cylinder Cast Iron Engine, Air Cooled, 5 speed Gearbox and Disc Brake) and Vineet on his Machismo (500cc Single-Cylnder AVL Lean Burn Engine, Air Cooled, 5 speed Gearbox and Disc Brake). We went ripping and slicing through the streets of a Hyderabad city barely waking up to the day. Before no time we had reached the outskirts of the city. Oh! The joy of slipsliding through the same roads that put me into fever to think of traversing them in the daytime.

When we stopped, 169 kms and 135 minutes later, we were at Suryapet. Suryapet gets its few moments of fame in this account just by the dint of a trucker’s magnanimity. While at the outskirts of Hyderabad, we had paused once to ask a passer by the right route out of the city, just as a check on our bearings… and we were put to shame for asking such a great favour by the high nosed headjerk that we got as a reply. And here we were, being accosted by a trucker into not riding such a great distance. Instead, he offered, we should put our bikes on his truck and sleep in the truck while he takes us to our destination.

After our oil-dripping breakfast and enjoying the demi-god-semi-mad status that we had managed to earn for ourselves, we head once more for the road. As we speed towards Khammam (having decided to steer clear of Vijayawada), we are met with heavily canopied single laned roads. The Sun has already divorced the dawn embrace of the horizon and sped upwards into its office and we were thankful for the canopy providing us with shade and cool breeze. Every truck we passed, every car we overtook, I could sense (and at times see) the awe that the sight of two Enfields slipsliding around the road commanded. It was on this stretch that we learnt to trust each others’ riding. I had trepidations about launching on a mammoth journey with someone I had met only once earlier. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a rider very similar to me, and we were about to find out that riding was not the only thing we had in common. I must also mention that I couldn’t help admire his restraint in keeping to speeds I could match. The LB 500 is perfectly capable of smoking me and leaving me an hour behind on any given day. Even then, he showed amazing patience in holding speeds I could match up with. None of us ever felt the need the push the other rider or hold him back, and that is something I wish I could say for all rides. We both had our moments of fun and games with our motorcycles, but overall, we were riding in tandem all along… and after a while, we realized that hand signals became quite unnecessary for us.

After another small Thums Up break at Satupalli, we headed into Rajahmundry. Rajahmundry, to the discerning traveler, poses a threat in terms of adjectives. A city with a past dominated, and in no small parts, by poets, forts and temples alike. This quiet city on the bank of the Godavari river had once been bloodied by battle and praised by verse. Even today, people throng to Rajahmundry to get to the Kotilingala temple for H1B Visas and fertility jobs alike. On this day, it was to provide two hungry riders their lunch. As we entered Rajahmundry from Kovvur, we crossed the river Godavari. In unison, we dropped our speeds to thirtysomething as we marveled at the rail bridge a little distance away. Built in 1897, this was considered nothing less than an engineering miracle, and both of us, Civil engineers by training, had to slow down in reverence.

Reverence, however, soon made way for hunger as we entered the city and started asking around for restaurants. We held our bearing towards NH-5 but were keeping our eyes peeled for food when Vineet spotted “Hotel Saraswathi. A/c and Non-A/c. Veg and Non-Veg”. (I have always wondered why they write Veg & Non-Veg. Are there any restaurants that refuse to serve Veg food?) As we parked our bikes in the shade of a building and went in, we were informed that the A/c section was closed as business was low. As Vineet tried his Hindi persuasion, I started reasoning with him in Telugu. Now at this point, it is important that you fully understand my knowledge of Telugu. I speak it really well. So well, that in fact, no one apart from me quite understands what I am saying. I guess just to prevent any further molestation of his beloved mother tongue, the manager asked one of the waiters to put on the A/c for us. Now came the more important part of ordering the food. After washing up, when we sat down and asked for the menu card we were handed elaborate literature with a binary question volleyed at us.

‘Meals? Biriyani?” The menu card was purely to satisfy one’s academic curiosity.

Vineet being the urban man, was tilting towards the less-spicy-sounding meals when I, with my villager-wisdom asked “Meals…Guntur Meals?” to which I got the enormously ambiguous affirmative nod. Now this Guntur meal is a work of art. The meal consists of rice and quite a few curries, of varying consistency and fluidity. What, however, remains common across the plethora of curries is that they are all related very closely to chillies, in some form or the other. Everytime I had been subjected to the torture of the Guntur meal, I have had this vision of feeding this to the dead to bring them screaming back to life. So I summarily discarded the meal suggestion and ordered biriyani, and Thums Up (no they are not paying me to write this). While we discussed how we might have to answer to nature’s beck and call after spicy biriyani and while Vineet allayed my mother’s fears of me riding alone and inventing another rider just to keep her out of worrying, lunch was served. Biriyani turned out to be steamed rice with a few pieces of chicken thrown in. While this might have caused enormous chagrin in Hyderabad or Kolkata or any city, we could not have asked for any better. We set ourselves to the task of lining our stomachs as the A/c lured us to align ourselves with the horizontal.

At 4pm, when the Sun seemed to be a little less unforgiving, perhaps in its post lunch siesta hour, we hit the roads again. Within minutes we reached a junction which seemed, at that moment, a figment of rice-induced hallucination. We were standing in a small by-lane of Rajahmundry and looking out into six lanes of tarmac, complete with a wide divider right in between. NH-5 had reached us finally. We topped our tanks and I added, for the first time on the ride, 2T oil into my fuel, as I had a premonition that keeping slow was now going to prove more difficult than ripping fast.

As we hit the National Highway Number Five, I sent up a silent thanks to the engineers who must have endured quite a lot to make this happen, and another one to the tight fisted National Highways Authority of india, for adopting the BOOT model. Toll payments were providing us the luxury or being limited only by the capacity of our bikes and nothing else. I opened my throttle and asked Vineet to do the same. As aforepredicted, he was soon lost in the horizon while my cast iron stretched itself past 100, past 110, kissing the 120 mark and then settling for 100 again. As I caught up with Vineet, I could feel that NH-5 was perhaps the runway we needed. I started contemplating Ironbutt. For the uninitiated, Ironbutt is a riding feat in which 1000 miles, i.e. 1600-something kilometers are finished in a span on 24 hours. This would mean riding through the night. At a smoke and chai break, I related my plans to Vineet, who as expected was game for it. We decided to ride on until we can and then if we feel like stopping, we will.
As we got closer to Vishakhapatnam (a.k.a Vizag a.k.a Waltair) we were looking into the hills and mounds that Geography books call the Eastern Ghats and locals call Simhachalam. Green mossy mountains, looking like the aged guards of some fantastic fairy tale, towering over you till you feel that the road is going to crash into the mountain. The beauty of travelling on a motorcycle is that you are the absolute decider of your speed. You can slow down to enjoy nature, to capture a few frames of its ethereal beauty in your head. Even with a camera worth sixandsomething lacs, can you match the megapixels of the human brain?

We were fast approaching Vizag when the Sun decided that the drone of two thumping engines was getting too much for him to bear, and decided to dive into the red corner beyond the mossy mountains.

At 6:30 pm, we entered Gajuwaka, on the outskirts of Vizag and decided to stop for non-existent tea. Our ride was 674 kms old and we had done this in about 12 hours. No small feat, with no small pain of the inner thighs.

We decided to press on for some more distance till we hit Srikakulam. Srikakulam is a temple town, notorious for the “Naxalites” there. (It is funny how all of India has ascribed the name of an immensely enlightened socio-political movement to suit every fraction, every political goon-gang who carried firearms.) It is one of those cities where if your bike misfired, people would run for cover and shops will pull down their collapsible shutters. In such a city, where the virtues and the vice, the peril and the priest co-habited, we lodged ourselves into the best hotel in the town. At 800 rupees a night, running hot water, a working A/c (which did not require coaxing to be put on) and separate beds, it was a bargain. With the beds in clean sight, we could feel the shadow of fatigue creeping into our muscles, and after a quick dinner, and my smoke while I gazed at a clear starlit suburban sky, we fell asleep. I went first and Vineet followed. So there were times, you see, when the 350cc won over the LB 500.

Day 2

I was on the open highway. Riding a Harley. A BMW M6 Convertible passed me by. The door opened. Two slender, shapely, smooth legs stepped out. High heels. The fluttering of the bottom of a dress. The feet move towards me. The road begins to shake. The whole world is shaking. Vineet is waking me up.

In half an hour, as Srikakulam is still deep in slumber, Vineet and I are packing our bikes. Vineet had taken travelling light to a whole new level altogether, with just a polythene cover held to the pillion seat with bungee cords. As we start packing, the hook at the end of the bungee cord that Vineet was fixing escapes his grip and the recoil catches him on the left eyebrow. In the low light, it becomes difficult to assess the damage and it is only after a few minutes that Vineet discovers the deep gash that has by now started bleeding. Vineet gets it washed and cleaned and allowing it some pressure and time to coagulate, we finally hit the road at 5:30 am.

I was holding slow as I wanted Vineet to get used to the irritation on his brow before ripping, but Vineet had other plans. Very prudently, he wanted to run down as many kilometers as possible before the Sun started smiting down upon us. We were at the top of our spirits as only the night before we have been updated that the road that lay ahead promised an even better ride than what we had on Day 1. We were looking forward to the runway that our minds had been painting ever since that update came through from Kolkata.

All our aspirations of Autobahn’s Indian edition came crashing down at Ichchapuram, which is where Andhra Pradesh ends and Orissa starts. I was doing about 100 when I felt my front tyre leave the ground and then my rear, and after a few seconds of flying, landed amidst what looked like compacted rubble. This was Orissa’s NH-5. An apology to a road. To a civil engineer, this was either a road that was being constructed, or a road whose deconstruction and degeneration has brought this. In this way, I guess roads are a lot like people. Just like human beings degenerate into kids in their later years. Every road also has a karma. Its like when you ride on a road, whatever the climate, traffic or surface condition, something inexplicable about that road either lifts your spirit or drowns them. And this stretch that began at Ichchapuram was perhaps the most depressing stretch I have ever seen. I could only look back at all our glorious planning of the previous night and allow myself to smile at the hopeless optimism. “Breakfast at Bhubaneshwar, Lunch at Kharagpur and Evening Tea at Russel Street after freshening up at our homes”. I was wondering if the roads kept up being this way, would we need to drop a night at Bhubaneshwar.

We started again from Ichchapuram at 8:00 am and started moving towards Ganjam, barely 50-odd kilometers away. We took an hour and half to reach Ganjam. This was perhaps the slowest we were going and the road was beginning to bug me to no end. Inside the helmet, I tried singing to deviate my thoughts, then tried abusing the road out loud to rid myself of the swelling frustration, and then, when I realized that I must use principles of Management and tide over bad times as quickly as possible. Transferring my weight to my feet, I raised my butt off the seat and opened up the throttle.

While in AP, the road was asking for more and we were limited only by the technology of our bikes, here the bike was looking to dance while the road was demurring. With a small twist of the throttle, the happy machine lurched forward, abandoning the cautious 40s and moving into the adventurous 80s. Flying from the edge of one pothole to the next, I just checked behind once to see what Vineet was up to…and I saw my co-rider following suit. Little did I know that Mother nature had been giving him missed calls for a while now, and every jerk was only adding to his woe.

His face was a mask of agony and anticipation of relief when we pulled into a wayside petrol pump at Ganjam. We parked our bikes into whatever shade the place had to offer and Vineet rushed towards liberation. As I waited at the pump, I looked around. Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are two states with a lot of geographic similarity. Both are coastal states. Both have a rich river delta each. Both have their share of arid areas. Both also have more than their share of political unrests and factions. Even then, Orissa was so far behind Andhra. Its not just the road. The people exude an easy going confidence in Andhra which comes from the lack of tensions and apprehensions regarding sustenance. In Orissa, people were squabbling, irritated and worried. And whoever they elect, I don’t see a single government managing to straighten out the furrows on Orissa’s brow. It also strikes me now, that at Ganjam, I was pretty close to the Chhattisgarh border. The Raigarh and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh have earned it a terrible reputation, and even then, Chhattisgarh is planning to capitalize on the natural resources in that very area. I foresee Chhattisgarh becoming one of the most fantastic success stories in no time at all. Every state is after all a business house, requiring efficient management. I fail to see how theology and political (in the political party sense…not political as in policy making process) motivation play a bigger role than objective management in such a process.

Vineet soon emerged from behind the bushes, beaming from ear to ear. We again hit the road at 10:30. Someone had turned up the heat and road did not look like any respite from the bumpy ride was anywhere nearby. We had been going for half an hour when I started sensing a slight tremor on my rear tyre. A vintage of many a punctures and bike-pushings, I have developed the habit of slowing down when I am approaching a puncture shop. If I have a puncture, I will start feeling the tremor and I wont have to be stranded in the wilderness. We pulled into the puncture shop and I prayed that let it be a small hole. But looks like God was not quite happy with us that day. Turned out there was a pretty big nail that had seeked asylum in my tyre, and my tyre, the quintessential Indian, could not say no. The nail went in, and ripped my tube along its seam, rendering it completely useless.

After asking around, we found out that the nearest place to get a 19 inch tube (The Enfield makes its exclusivity felt everytime you start looking for a spare) was about 10 kms behind us. Us being the wonderful riders we are, were carrying spark plugs, clutch and accelerator cables, fuses, bulbs…and no tubes. Ask us why, and we’ll come up with a million excuses. Fact remains, we were plain stupid.

As Vineet left to get the tube, I started roaming around the small shack of a puncture shop. I discovered this small pond behind the shop and there was what seemed to be a temple, submerged in the pond. As we were to go further into Orissa, we were to see more of these submerged temples. I was in absolute envy of the God in that temple (actually more of a temple-let. Its not a full blown temple, and yet a place of spiritual significance. Something you find across religions. The Islamic Darga and the Buddhist Shorten) who was dipped in this prime size Jacuzzi, while we lesser mortals were sweating it out on land. Vineet returned with the tube when I was contemplating taking off my clothes and taking a dip into the pond. The tube replaced, we were on the road again…this time acutely aware that we were looking ahead into bad roads, terrible heat, and we had lost time we needed to make up for. Just before mounting our bikes, we sent up a prayer:

“God, please give us good roads, good weather…and while you are at it, a convertible with gorgeous babes waving at us.”

Vineet was running reserve when we left the shop and soon I hit reserve too. We had similar mileages throughout the trip…with the 350cc mileage falling because of high speeds and heat while the 500 showing its customary mileage at its customary speeds. Thankfully Vineet did not have to go back all the way to Berhampur for the tube, otherwise the fuel situation would have been one more to deal with. After filling our tanks, we decided to brave the heat as the “good road” prayer was almost answered. The road was single lane with regular staggered diversions, but thankfully the tarmac was flat enough for us to hold speeds. Soon we came to a place where the road started climbing up the mountains. This was the section where the road crosses the Eastern ghats from its inland side to the coastal strip. While the roads were good, we cut back on our speeds again as the sight of the Lake Chilka in between the hills, resplendent on the horizon was breathtaking. As we got off the hills, we came to a railway crossing. Now, however hot it is, as long as you are riding, the wind takes care to keep you cool. After all, we are air cooled engines ourselves! But when you stop at a railway crossing, without any sign of an approaching train, the Sun starts beating down on you, and I could feel the sweat running down my spine. In a while the train crossed the place and we were back to riding. We reached Balughat at 11:00 am and decided to halt for tender coconuts. While we were at it, we spotted a novel sight behind the Daab-wallah’s shop.

In a pond with another one of those God-in-a-jacuzzi temples, the community bath was taking place. While God could not arrange for babes in a convertible, he managed the sight of almost 20 odd women taking bath at the pond. Now for urban folks, these women might not be the hottest choices, but for the loacalites, they are the prima donnas. My suspicion of this fact was soon proven when we spotted some local guys engaged in a game of cards. The dealer dealing out the hands was the only one whose eyes stayed on the cards. During the game, one guy kept looking at the pond so often that the guy next to him had a clear view of his hand. But this wasn’t damaging his chances at the game, because his neighbor was equally interested in the pond and it’s multi-coloured contents. The murky water had exploded into pink, red, orange and yellow in one of its corners, and naturally eyes were glued to the spot. Our man, Vineet, was perhaps fancying his chances to score with the locals, and so he went up to the game and asked them what they were playing. He was immensely disappointed when he was told that it was not twenty-nine…something every engineering student grows fond of in the hostels across the country. In fact I have a suspicion that even if it had been twenty nine, we would not have been particularly invited as the people playing had seated themselves rather strategically, so as to remain in full and unhindered view from the pond. I was looking at the scene when it occurred to me that I was maybe staring at a multitude of love stories, a few stories of infidelity perhaps, and every story will, for at least those involved directly, be of tantamount importance. To a casual onlooker like me, they are nothing apart from a passing thought. Also, the sight of communal bathing was something the advocates of the American fad of communes should look at. While the civilized West tries to de-stress its system by staying in communes where perhaps such mass bathing would be appreciated, the developing East is doing its best to take our communes and turn them into attached-bathroom towns. Civilization, as most things in life, is a cyclic phenomenon.

Recharged by the sights and tender coconuts of Balughat, we pressed on. Another railway crossing and we finally came to a four laned stretch. The Sun was beating down on us now. Having left Balughat at 11:30, we were now experiencing the hottest part of the day, and we did not even have a shrub around to provide us shade. Whenever I was taking the lead I had to keep checking my rear view to make sure Vineet’s wound was not causing him too much trouble. It was already stopping him from wearing his shades, and I could see the strain his eyes were being subjected to. After braving the heat for an hour and half, we saw a small dhaba by the side of the road, with a thatch erected in front of it…almost like a covered porch. We pulled into the shade to realize that the dhaba was closed due to the heat, and the small boy who was sleeping inside did not even stir at the sound of two bullets coming in. But then again, you need talent to sleep in such heat in the first place. We waited there for half an hour, while we chatted about things (and we both agreed we wont tell anyone what “things” we chatted about). We were just 50 kms outside Bhubaneshwar and we had already planned to meet my school-friend Arko in Bhubaneshwar so that we don’t waste time having to look around for food and stuff. After a few tele-updates, we agreed to meet Arko at the hotel Mayfair Lagoon. Now, when Arko had asked us to meet him there, we had assumed he meant us to eat there. Arko, on the other hand, had meant us to meet him outside the hotel and proceed elsewhere. We reached there before him and in customary bullet style, decided to storm the palace. As we rode in, guards came running, their arms flailing, asking us to halt. Two wheelers are not allowed inside. I don’t know why, time and again, I have to remind people that the Bullet isn’t just another two wheeler. It’s a bullet. So regardless of what they said, we went in, parked next to the entrance, and asked to see the manager. At this point in time, a Scorpio appeared at the gate, and someone inside the car asked the guard what was wrong. When he found out about us, equations changed. We were welcomed by this person (whom we assumed to be the manager, and later turned out to be the Executive Director, Mr. S. K. Parida) and led to a parking. We could leave our luggage and helmets on the bike itself. In the meantime, Arko, who was waving at us frantically from outside the hotel, decided to join us inside. As we walked into their Chinese restaurant, baffled stares invited us. In a posh restaurant, little do you expect to see two dusty guys, smelling like the highway wind and half baked in the Sun, to walk in and occupy the table next to yours. I snidely remarked to Vineet, “We have successfully devalued some property.” Our washing up in the toilet was nothing short of a ritual. Both of us were sharing one wash basin and using the liquid soad to scrub our faces and the hands all the way upto our elbows. Vineet managed to finish off their tissue stock single handedly. Someone else tried coming into the washroom, but at the sight of two guys bathing at the washbasin, he abandoned the idea, entrusting his fate to his sphincter muscles. We decided to eat light, ...... Arko, probably out of the sheer embarrassment of the “at Mayfair” goof-up, offered to pay for our lunch. We, in the truest spirit of biking, were more than happy to oblige.

Lunch was over by 3:30 pm but we were in no mood to face the Sun before 4:30. So we were left with the difficult task of enjoying the air conditioning of the Hotel for another hour without any plausible cause for staying. So we decided to be courteous and gentlemanly, and went to the reception and asked for the gentleman who had let us in. We wanted to thank him (an hour of expressing gratitude does seem like a tough task now that I think of it) for his help. We were informed that he was out of office. Determined not to give up, we asked for a piece of paper to leave him a thank you note. While the paper and pen arrived, and I started waxing eloquent on it, our man Vineet had struck up a conversation with the lovely lady at the desk. Mrs. Debjani Chatterjee, on listening to our plan of riding from Hyderabad to Kolkata remarked “That is Waaeeild!!” – a statement that would remain etched in my memory for a very long time. Also, it was rewarding to see apparent strangers thus interested in our crazy biker ways.
It was 4:30 pm when we finally bid adieu to the Mayfair Lagoon and hit the road again. Bolstered by Mrs. Chatterjee’s (she was extremely beautiful) attention, Vineet hit the road and ripped of in a direction exactly opposite to Kolkata. Was a while before he turned around and came to where I was waiting for him.

We rode on, crossing Cuttack in an hour’s time. Traffic wasn’t being very helpful, and was irritating both of us. Vineet signaled me that we needed water. While I stopped to buy water, he rode on ahead to a shop and guzzled Thums Up while I caught up with him. When we moved from this place darkness was falling about us, and we decided to press ahead. Vineet, always the prudent one, decided to lead and run as much as we can before it gets really dark. 110 kms were gobbled up in just 70 minutes. At one point of time I thought I was getting a sound from my rear tyre, so I wanted a stop, but Vineet pushed on, and even I thought “what the hell”. When we stopped, I realized the sound was a loose nut in my number plate. The place where we stopped had a small music store. It was playing truckers’ music in Hindi, Bengali, Oriya, Telugu and even Bhojpuri. It was amazing how considerate a shop was to the regional requirements from across the country on a national highway. Teaches you that when you orient your business towards social good, you end up with a healthier bottom-line too.

We washed our helmet visors and headlamps to increase visibility and started again. The roads deteriorated once more and traffic became thicker. We tried tailing some vehicles but the best we could do was an ambassador, which eventually got scared of the two headlamps in the rear view and after leading us for about 10 kms, decided to let us pass, and pulled off the road. The harangue of the ride finally got to us (we had more or less decided to ride on and on until we desperately needed to stop) and we stopped at a chai ka dukaan in Balasore (aka Baleshwar) at 8:30pm. While we were having our tea, we were accosted by a guy called Sanjib who had apparently met Arijit when the Eastern Bulls had passed by this place during their ride to Rider Mania. We got our bearings straightened, and checked the route once. We had the option of a shorter route across Dnaton into Kharagpur, but that was reportedly dangerous at night. The other route was NH-60. Longer, but safe. It was, in most parts, an elevated expressway corridor with exits shooting off for various places. We started from Balasore at 8:45 and NH-60 was such a welcome relief. Good flat tarmac, divided, and with glowing road signs marking every curve. The bikes soon let us know of their relief too. Both of us found out that our bikes refused to go below 80, and the slightest twist of the wrist sent the Speedo needle past 100. When we next stopped, it was to re-fuel. We had done 131 kms in 75 minutes. The place where we were filling up, we were informed that the police in that area has issued orders to fuel stations to not allow bikes to fill up after 9 pm. I fail to realize why two wheelers are nationally attributed to miscreants. Most of them use cars as that is safer, and quicker to get away on a highway. Anyways, we filled up and found out that we were to be received at Uluberia by some of the Eastern Bulls. The tired mind interpreted Uluberia as Kolaghat and so we took it nice and easy up to Kolaghat, which is when I realized my goof-up, and then we ripped into Uluberia. As we approached Uluberia, we could make out some people jumping up and down on the divider and frantically waving reflector jackets for us to stop. Vinay, Faisal, Sourav and Ali had come to receive us. As we assembled at the dhaba and food was ordered, jokes got bandied about and some parts of the ride had a little flavouring and garnishing done for greater taste and effect. My body had realized that it is close to home, and the butt pain had started pushing me to go home. After a leisurely dinner (again paid for by the others. Coming to think of it, on Day 2, our food was practically sponsored) we left for Kolkata. Faisal led, and I tailed while the others floated in between. We almost had the complete array of Enfields. Faisal was on Ali’s point ignited 350cc Standard. I was on my Electra, CDI 350cc. Sourav on his Thunderbird Twinspark UCE and Vineet on his LB 500.

As we rode into Second Hoogly Bridge, I could see the lights of the city beckoning me. As we regrouped, people changed bikes and we left for our respective homes. I don’t know about the others, but I was riding the wind till I reached Salt Lake and my place.

Back in 2003, without informing me, my father and grand father had sold off my father’s Enfield . And I had promised him that day that someday, I shall again put an Enfield into that garage. When I was pushing the bike into the garage, I knew I had lived up to my word. Statistics would tell you that we rode 1592 kms and the total moving time was 23 hours and 25 minutes. But none of that can do justice to the exhilaration I was feeling.

Despite bad weather and bad roads, despite every person’s advice to the contrary, despite a co-rider I hardly knew before the ride, we had done it. The Cauldron ride lay behind us. Most of us, human beings, go through life as an activity. It has a routine, a specific calculation. Some of us, go through all this routine, and yet, set aside a passion. This passion drives us to do crazy things. This passion fortifies us against adversities. This passion makes us alive. Biking is my passion. I am a biker.

Last edited by khan_sultan : 9th May 2009 at 10:36. Reason: Space between paragraphs help in readability, moved to the right section. Thanks
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Old 7th May 2009, 18:01   #2
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@JustRoyal, This is one fine piece of writing i am seeing after a long time. Superb description albeit a bit long ( just finished reading day 1) and will complete the remaining shortly.

Truly a commendable adventure. The maximum distance that i did on a bike was 600kms in a day but for several times the same distance ( Hyd-Pune) and on a puny sized Shogun and that was when i was in college. I look forward to loads of pictures which will truly add the best color to your write-up and adventure bike trip.

btw, was your riding partner Vineet Singh by any chance? If yes, convey my regards and congratulations to him as well.

Cheers
Avinash

Last edited by mobike008 : 7th May 2009 at 18:03.
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Old 7th May 2009, 18:10   #3
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Nice travelogue! Post some pictures too otherwise half of the people in this forum will be disappointed. And maybe some food pictures as well for mobike008!
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Old 7th May 2009, 18:46   #4
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Superb! Absolutely mindblowing! Has to be one of the best travellogues I have read. You're a travel buff, a true biker, and an awesome writer. I was a biker once, one fond of long rides, and this travelogue of yours - oh, never mind!

Do you stay in Salt Lake dude? I stay there too. Would like to meet up whenever you're in Kolkata next.

Just reproducing some quotes of yours which had me speechless/in splits!

Quote:
Originally Posted by justROYal View Post
Rajahmundry, to the discerning traveler, poses a threat in terms of adjectives. A city with a past dominated, and in no small parts, by poets, forts and temples alike. This quiet city on the bank of the Godavari river had once been bloodied by battle and praised by verse. Even today, people throng to Rajahmundry to get to the Kotilingala temple for H1B Visas and fertility jobs alike. On this day, it was to provide two hungry riders their lunch.

Now at this point, it is important that you fully understand my knowledge of Telugu. I speak it really well. So well, that in fact, no one apart from me quite understands what I am saying. I guess just to prevent any further molestation of his beloved mother tongue, the manager asked one of the waiters to put on the A/c for us. Now came the more important part of ordering the food. After washing up, when we sat down and asked for the menu card we were handed elaborate literature with a binary question volleyed at us.

‘Meals? Biriyani?” The menu card was purely to satisfy one’s academic curiosity.

Now this Guntur meal is a work of art. The meal consists of rice and quite a few curries, of varying consistency and fluidity. What, however, remains common across the plethora of curries is that they are all related very closely to chillies, in some form or the other. Everytime I had been subjected to the torture of the Guntur meal, I have had this vision of feeding this to the dead to bring them screaming back to life.

As we got closer to Vishakhapatnam (a.k.a Vizag a.k.a Waltair) we were looking into the hills and mounds that Geography books call the Eastern Ghats and locals call Simhachalam. Green mossy mountains, looking like the aged guards of some fantastic fairy tale, towering over you till you feel that the road is going to crash into the mountain. The beauty of travelling on a motorcycle is that you are the absolute decider of your speed. You can slow down to enjoy nature, to capture a few frames of its ethereal beauty in your head. Even with a camera worth sixandsomething lacs, can you match the megapixels of the human brain?

(It is funny how all of India has ascribed the name of an immensely enlightened socio-political movement to suit every fraction, every political goon-gang who carried firearms.) It is one of those cities where if your bike misfired, people would run for cover and shops will pull down their collapsible shutters.

I went first and Vineet followed. So there were times, you see, when the 350cc won over the LB 500.

In this way, I guess roads are a lot like people. Just like human beings degenerate into kids in their later years. Every road also has a karma. Its like when you ride on a road, whatever the climate, traffic or surface condition, something inexplicable about that road either lifts your spirit or drowns them.

Turned out there was a pretty big nail that had seeked asylum in my tyre, and my tyre, the quintessential Indian, could not say no.

“God, please give us good roads, good weather…and while you are at it, a convertible with gorgeous babes waving at us.”

After all, we are air cooled engines ourselves!

I was looking at the scene when it occurred to me that I was maybe staring at a multitude of love stories, a few stories of infidelity perhaps, and every story will, for at least those involved directly, be of tantamount importance. To a casual onlooker like me, they are nothing apart from a passing thought. Also, the sight of communal bathing was something the advocates of the American fad of communes should look at. While the civilized West tries to de-stress its system by staying in communes where perhaps such mass bathing would be appreciated, the developing East is doing its best to take our communes and turn them into attached-bathroom towns. Civilization, as most things in life, is a cyclic phenomenon.

Someone else tried coming into the washroom, but at the sight of two guys bathing at the washbasin, he abandoned the idea, entrusting his fate to his sphincter muscles.

Bolstered by Mrs. Chatterjee’s (she was extremely beautiful) attention, Vineet hit the road and ripped of in a direction exactly opposite to Kolkata. Was a while before he turned around and came to where I was waiting for him.

Teaches you that when you orient your business towards social good, you end up with a healthier bottom-line too.

As we assembled at the dhaba and food was ordered, jokes got bandied about and some parts of the ride had a little flavouring and garnishing done for greater taste and effect.

Despite bad weather and bad roads, despite every person’s advice to the contrary, despite a co-rider I hardly knew before the ride, we had done it. The Cauldron ride lay behind us. Most of us, human beings, go through life as an activity. It has a routine, a specific calculation. Some of us, go through all this routine, and yet, set aside a passion. This passion drives us to do crazy things. This passion fortifies us against adversities. This passion makes us alive. Biking is my passion. I am a biker.
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Old 7th May 2009, 19:22   #5
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Wonderful writeup. I have reached till Tyre puncture, will complete the rest later.
Didnt you know that NH5 is not complete from Ichchapuram to Sunakhala? I mean didnt you plan taking those things into account. me and wife still discuss those bad stretches after Ichchapuram during our Blr-Kol drive.

Post some pics as well.

Query: Was this Srikakulam hotel on the Bypass itself?

Abhi

Last edited by akroy : 7th May 2009 at 19:25.
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Old 7th May 2009, 20:02   #6
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fantastic and humorous narration.

Bad stretches in Orissa is pretty well known in TBHP though.

Reminded me of Bangalore - Kolkata (Saltlake) stretch done in a car not so long ago.
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Old 7th May 2009, 21:01   #7
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Nice loooooonnnggg write up. Really appereciate your patience to write such a long travelogue. But have some mercy on us (readers) as everybody will not be able to read this. IMO, better is break up into day wise and post. Also, do post some pics (if you have taken).
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Old 7th May 2009, 23:03   #8
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So you finally learnt how to start a bike.


Just kidding.
Compared to your earlier B'lore -> Kolkatta solo, this must be a piece of cake for you.
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Old 7th May 2009, 23:48   #9
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Do u have any pictures of this ride? If so do post it. It'll e nice to see those.
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Old 8th May 2009, 00:03   #10
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Amazing travelogue. Just finished reading the entire post. Do post some pictures if you have any.
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Old 8th May 2009, 12:43   #11
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superb travelogue do you have any pics of the ride?

Indrajit Sen of EBulls is also a member @ senindra - fyi.
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Old 8th May 2009, 19:17   #12
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Beautiful narration and a fantastic travelogue.

I really appreciate your spirit and stamina to take on the April heat on a bike. I did the same trip on 27-28th March (Hyd - Salt Lake) in my car, and reached back Hyd on 13th April. So have got a fair idea of the kind of heat you people endured during your journey.

A few queries:

1. Where did you stay in Srikakulam? We stayed at Hotel Nagavali and found it to be a fairly decent one for a night halt.

2. How difficult was it to navigate through the town in Rajamundry? I followed NH-9 straight to Vijaywada intentionally and touched NH-5 from there, as I didn't want to loose out the GQ drive on those couple of hundred kms between Vijaywada and Rajamundry. Incidentally, the traffic density on NH-9 decreased dramatically after Suryapet, probably because majority of the Vizag traffic was diverting towards Khammam. And I noticed the same thing on my return trip also.

3. The place that you have mentioned as Balughat is actually Balugaon or Balugan.

4. And finally FYI and to add to your happiness, you have saved yourself a total amount of Rs. 1240 as up and down toll charges by travelling on your bike.

5. Where are the pics?

Max.
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Old 8th May 2009, 21:36   #13
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This is one travelogue I read with bated breath, from start to finish. The language used is superb, and the way it has been written is exhilerating!
Though devoid of pictures, the suspense does not end till the very end.

Congrats justRoyal! I've always envied a Bullet and it was my childhood dream to own one.

9tmax is right--the place near Chilika lake is Balugaon, which is approximately 70 kms from Berhampur, and 100 from Bhubaneswar.
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Old 8th May 2009, 22:22   #14
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Default Wow!

Humorous, tongue-in-cheek, philosophical, entertaining, lucid, intrepid, and above all, waaeeild!! What a ride... and what a beautiful narration of it! Kudos to both of you for the ride, and double that to you, JR, for the fantastic prose. Both of you are hereby awarded the DIBA (Desi Iron Butt Association) gold medal!

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Old 9th May 2009, 12:22   #15
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Dude, where are the pictures? Do post 'em up quickly

OT: 9Tmax, where you been all this while? Did you do the Hyd-Kol trip in your Omni? Do join for some of our Hyd drive meets.
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