The heat had already picked up, but so had our zest for another long bike ride. The last big one was back in 2017. It was getting difficult to think of a destination as all directions north and south of Mumbai (atleast realistic distances) promised only one thing – rising mercury levels.
It was going to be our first big ride with our larger machines
BMW 310 GS for me
KTM Duke 250 for Kanade
Dominar 400 of DevD
Thoughts of Himachal Pradesh were quickly out of the window with its 3-day one-direction ride to reach Manali or somewhere close which entailed atleast 7 days of just riding to get to a place and back home. Central India would’ve sizzled, which left us with only 2 options. Either pack our bikes in a crate and send it somewhere or go down south. With Devendra’s bucket-list item of riding in Bandipur reserve and mine to visit the Jog falls created a perfect union of a plan falling in place.
A tentative plan was hatched
day 1 : mumbai to outskirts of Davanagere : 730km 12hrs
day 2 : towards mysuru 350km 6hrs
day 3 : mysuru palace, and roaming
day 4 : mysuru to ooty 3hrs via bandipur
day 5 : ooty roaming
day 6 : ooty to mangaluru 383km 9hrs
day 7 : mangaluru to jog falls 220km 5hrs – (back to gokarna 120km 3hrs or honnavar 68km 1.5 hrs)
day 8 : jog falls to kolhpaur – 6hrs – 362km
day 9 : backto mumbai 374km 7 hrs
day 10: ??? backup
This plan was along a similar ride that I had done 9 years back. Well – nothing wrong in history repeating, definitely not when its sight seeing.
Day 1, to Hubli
Mar 26, 2022
Davangere was the original destination, but we got caught in a massive Lonavala traffic jam (where some Chemical tanker had turned turtle). It costed us an additional 1 hr just to reach Pune.
The bigger machines under our crotch meant we were riding faster than what we had done in our earlier rides. By the time we crossed into Karnataka it was 3pm post our lunch. And as expected the AH-47 just opens up like a new engine after a few 1000s of km and a nice drink of synthetic oil.
Coming into the Belgaum area, the clouds had started to thicken cooling the weather from high 30s to sub 30. But it also meant that precipitation was about to be encountered. As we hit the wretched single lane Dharwad-Hubli section – it hit us, and hit us hard. I didn’t pay any heed to Kanade’s suggestion of waiting at a tapri for tea and seeing out the rain, so we continued into a drenched halt somewhere on the road. We lost another 1 hour for the rains and Davangere was well out of sight as it was already 7pm by the time we reached outskirts of Hubli and decided to call it a day.
It was the 8th month of 2021 and yet – No bike ride in the year !? The rains had eased, so had Sars-Cov-2, atleast around Mumbai, so …
एक ride तो बनता है
So the quest began for a route, and as usual the eyes always get stuck on the blue amongst the outer reaches of Mumbai. A straight line on a blue body came up slightly north-east of Igatpuri, The Waki dam. Looking around, the ever elusive Upper Vaitarna gave the sly. It turned out to be a fairly long 330 km. ride.
The early morning started with rains, damn ! Luckily by the time we hit roads it was dry. At the Vakola junction, across the road I saw burly guy with a big bike and a bigger top box, it had to be JK. With his newly wed lady, the Tiger 900 Rally Pro! Up ahead we met with the Kanjurkars and soon we were blasting on NH3 till… ofcourse the Bhiwandi – Kalyan morning traffic caught us.
Post Kalyan, it was faster and the stomachs too seemed to have dried up making us have the Asangaon pit stop at the food mall. There on, nearing Kasara the rains welcomed, I was having no protection unlike some and we continued to ride through the recently land-slided Kasara ghats reaching Igatpuri in hard hitting heavy rains.
Drenched completely and cold, at the Khambale junction we stopped for tea. And immediately ahead the scenery changed, rains stopped, roads, vehicles, noises dropping away for paddy greenery, lush wet earth and winding roads navigating through sleepy huts. Around, far away in the distance the hazy blue-green hills around igatpuri gave a grand-canyon-ish look with random tall columns, cones and plateaus. Of-course, the silly bike photos with hills and greens in background coursed its way through phones.
अरे कशाला जायचं अश्या जागी बईक ने ? रस्ता आहे ना ? चालवा न तिकडे !
Kanade’s words echoed…
Just the earlier Sunday I had been to Kamshet’s Slope of Hell with 3 others. What we ended up doing there was dragging our motorbikes through the rocky steep incline and when our bikes got stuck pushed with help of each other. We managed to scale less than half of the road with our bikes, rest we ended up trekking all the way to the top. By the time we reached down, 3 bikes and 4 lads were tired. It was my 2nd trip to Slope of Hell and the first offroad encounter for others. It was then Kanade had uttered the words of wisdom.
Rewind a few more weeks back… I had got a call from BMW Sales about holding a GS Trophy specifically for 310GS owners. I wasn’t quite sure about it as I couldn’t really find a relaxing weekend for few months AND I had no experience in such competitions! I dilly-dallied till Devendra said, do its just ₹2k, or else u’ll rue the missed chance for your whole life. I managed to book a ticket just few days earlier and I woke up at 5am on 15th for the 7am reporting time at Royal Palms, Aarey Colony, Goregaon, Mumbai.
The road to the place was quite an offroad section. Event was held in an adventure park that was specifically created for offroad activities for ATVs, motocross, etc. As I reached there a lot of the 310s were already there, with the enduro-ready clan with their high ankle boots, heavily armoured body gear, high-visibility pants and shirts were enjoying the morning with tea, biscuits and samosas. I on the other hand had managed to borrow everything except for my 310 and the helmet. In a simple pair of worn out denims and a blue round-neck T-shirt I looked more like an event-helper than a participant.
I had got my dream toy, a BMW GS (the only affordable one) – G310 GS – a day before my birthday. Post that I’ve ridden it on almost all kind of roads. From the well paved cities of Mumbai (really !?) to the monsoon beaten NH17 closing to the boundaries of off-roading. More than a month has passed after my first service which was bang on 1000km. I was hoping to give a gist of how it feels owning one and having it under your thighs in roads high and low. I thought a 1200 no. would be a great homage to the Papa GS (R1200 GS), so here is my finding (a review of sorts) after a month+ and more than 1200km on the ODO with the first-service details.
Looks and Presence
One thing is for sure, whether you like it or not. This one turns heads. Come young or old, small or tall. Everyone is attracted to its bulky muscular look. Specially the adventure tourer look with a beak that is not common on the streets. For an average rider like me its worth mentioning guys in their long Jaguars and BMWs pulling up next to me and asking about the bike.
Handling and Riding
The bike is tall for my frame, I just about manage to touch my both feet on ground. I’ve found an easier way to ride in traffic conditions, till arse to the right and I manage to keep me right foot flat on the ground by giving the bike a little tilt.
The bike is extremely comfortable, I’ve got this comments from shorter and tall riders. I was initially wondering if I should get a 2″ bar riser, but now I’m comfortable with it. The suspension too is supple to take in the bad roads. I did a ride recently to Velneshwar and I felt I didn’t do justice to the bike with just 300km+ in one direction.
I generally tend to shift gear somewhere between 4k – 5k rpms which is probably the most comfortable zone of the bike. During bad roads trudging, its best to keep the bike in 2nd gear and RPMs 2k+.
On Mumbai-Pune highway, it’s very easy to touch 100kmph mark on 5th gear itself, however I kept jumping up to ensure engine stays in easy mode atleast before the first service. The mid-range torque and power is good and can help you zoom past cars riding at 100kmph. I haven’t really tested out 6000rpm+ yet
Bumper to bumper traffic
I agree to my mom’s comments when she looked at the bike for the first time.
इतकी मोठी !! (this big !)
It’s not very easy to ride in our close-combat streets of Mumbai, you have to be extremely cautious about the width. Plus with my limited reach of my legs to the ground it’s even more precarious when there are 2 auto-rickshaws trying to narrow you down. This one probably takes 1.5x width of a normal commuter bike, keep that in mind and things would be fine.
For my first day on the bike in B2B traffic, I had worn a full-face MT helmet. It was probably my worst 30 mins of riding any bike. 2 things were new to me,
bike – new ergos, no flat-footing
full face helmet – reduced ability to see mirrors (more on that later)
The very next day I shifted to my old half-face Studds helmet and I 10 times more comfortable riding the GS even in the traffic.
I’d been riding a Honda Unicorn for all my biking life before I got the GS baby. The Unicorn has a peach of an engine, smoothest of the 150cc class. The bike too was most comfortable I’ve ridden till now. I’ve done over 72,000 kms on it with a 800km+ ride in a single day. I’ve still got to figure how well GS compares for such long distance touring.
GS is NO match for the smoothness of the Unicorn, period. The vibrations are OK till 4000 RPM, but post that the buzz starts coming through. It feels that you’ve kept a big mobile phone that is on a vibration under you. Vibrations are not like that of an Enfield, but it’s no twin-cylinder motor buzz either.
Gearing and stalling
What has stalling got to do with gearing ? perhaps lot, perhaps not. But either case, this GS has one specific problem – Low gear stalls (typically 1st gear start). I’ve read about this on number of online forums to confirm this is the case not specific to my riding or machine. Even the service guy acknowledged it.
During the start of the bike, low commuter ones, are lazy not to raise throttle enough and let go of the clutch slowly, so do car drivers. They only tend to raise the throttle when they want to accelerate and not
“crawl” as they say. However this engine-gearbox is not greatly tuned for the “low-end crawling”. Everytime you release the clutch without going in the “accelerate” mode on the throttle, it’ll stall. I’ve found, the engine RPM as it catches up with gearbox, starts to drop and once it goes below 1200-1500, the engine kinda “knocks” and stalls. If you re-engage the clutch again (sensing the stall), the engine which is getting more fuel from the fuel pump to avoid the stall suddenly finds it easy and the engine then revs past 2000 RPM. This for a new rider on GS, experienced or not will need time to settle. There were times I used to keep targets of max 2 stalls per journey, thankfully that is over. Yet if you find stopping on an uphill, I’ve got to be extra cautious.
I’ve felt some false shifts, and these are very specific ones.
Coming down from 3 to 2
Coming up from 1 to 2 – It feels the gear hasn’t moved and u try to pull it, but its hard, only to release the clutch and see the Gear indicator is actually showing “2”, which you thought hasn’t even shifted from “1”.
These are the typical speeds at which I change the gear
45- 50 kmph
A special mention for the mirrors, after 4500 RPMs, the mirrors buzz so much that the image is all fuzzy. I remember in Unicorn it used to happen when I was all out on 5th gear going 80kmph+. But here, even at 60kmph if ur in lower gear, say 3rd, you’ll end up watching a fuzzy image.
Also, if I’m riding with a full face helmet, the helmet’s jaw hinders the visibility of the mirrors, they’re kind of low placed. Everytime you need to see in it, you have to actually duck your head down, to get to its view. A 5cm + height raise could improve hi-speed highway riding by a large margin.
The only thing that I dreaded while upsizing my 150cc bike was the engine heat. I had ruled out a Duke just for the very reason. Thankfully, the GS is a very easy on heat output. I’ve seen the radiator fan kick in only in bumper to bumper traffic, that too while waiting for long periods of one-two in the traffic, and even after that the heat is not as bad as a Duke 390. I can easily ride this one in my shorts.
Form and function
Ergonomically I’ve already stated it’s a great bike to ride. Yet there are certain things that could improve.
Mirrors – I’ve already mentioned about that in detail
Rear tire hugger – this GS doesn’t come with it. However, ENSURE you add one atleast for the rains, there is no way on earth a rider and a pillion will stay clean in rains without the tire hugger. The service guy mentioned that Apache 310’s tire hugger shall fit, however I haven’t tried it. I have till the next rains to come in.
Front tire guard – This one is of adequate length, however another 3cm extender like found in Duke 250 will ensure even lesser dust on to the radiator.
Radiator – First, I was weary of the radiator, it’s way high up, quite close to the seat height and it’ll deflect a lot of hot air. The tall placed radiator gets lesser muck than a low slung one.
Handle height – I haven’t saddled yet, however while trying to goof around on bad roads, I felt the hands are way below shoulders. Also this makes your entire body tilt forward a little, something like I do for my stoppies on my bicycle. Would’ve loved if the hands were slightly ahead while standing.
Plastic bash plate / sump guard – This one is of adequate form and thickness for normal touring needs and one of Leh routes, however if your plan is to continuously be on bad roads and offroads, it might not harm to get a firm steel one fixed.
Stands – The side stand is long enough, never I’ve felt the need to adjust my bike to adjust the stand. But how I would’ve loved to have a center stand, probably at a cost of top-rack.
Racks and stays – Top rack is B I G. Twice I’ve hurt my knee while unmounting. It could’ve been a tad smaller perhaps, but then it would’ve made the bike look another commuter one 😛
Seat – This is one soft, comfortable piece of design. The pillion too is always happy.
Lights – I haven’t got a chance to ride in dark, so can’t really comment on that front, but the jumpy / vibey headlights – I can 😀 At times it feels I’m giving a passing up-down beam to the oncomer due to the headlight’s vibration, and they tend to up their lights as well. I would’ve loved a smaller KTM like (or papa GS) LED turn indicators. The rear ones are well protected by the rack, but front ones are vulnerable.
Coming to the juicy part of the cost of maintaining a GS. I reached BMW Service, Andheri on the dot of 1000km (almost a month in). The “garage” was full with 7-8 310s and few 1200 GSs.
My bike had tipped on the stand in wet soil on Velneshwar, and the handle had tilted slightly inwards on the left. I was apprehensive that the bill is gonna sky-rocket! 🙁 The guy estimated around ₹5200. I told him about the handle, he acknowledged that its slightly bent inwards.
I got a call from him saying the handle is bent slightly on left and we can replace it to fix it which would cost around ₹3k ( not sure how much these handles really cost), I said OK. But then he called me back after sometimes saying they don’t have it in stock. So I said just adjust it in a wrench or something..
I went in the late afternoon to see he had adjusted the handle and was in better shape, only ’cause I knew there was a problem I could figure it out. He dished out the final bill which was ₹5252, as estimated.
For a ₹300 chain cleaning wasn’t VERY expensive the amount of effort we guys spent on cleaning and lubing our chains in Velneshwar. Also a ₹100 is the typical going rate for cleaning, this one is 300. Expensive ? yes.
I inquired about the handle bar, he said its fine now, he has re-adjusted the handle mounts. But, yet if required he can place an order for it if I wanted it. I decided to try it for sometime before taking that decision. I was expecting some extra labour, thankfully wasn’t listed in the bill ( the base labour itself is pretty steep )
The guy confirmed next servicing is due in a year or a whopping 10,000 kms. However he did give me a word of advice
I had waited for BMW 310 GS (the baby) for over a year. Yet, even after 18th July 2018 launch, the test ride schedule stalled, thanks to the heavy rains of mid July in Mumbai. But finally yesterday, 25th July, the moment arrived and I was at the showroom for the test drive. Me and few more colleagues eager to get into a BMW showroom rode to the Andheri showroom. I rode a colleague’s Hornet and another Duke 250 followed. We gawked and drooled at the massive vehicles.
On the first look, the bike does look big. It kind of reminded me of KTM 390 Duke 2017 edition when I saw it first in the showroom, however this still felt bigger. The front fairing around the tank is very GS-resembling, very typical of the Adventure bike segment with the trademark design of its beak. The Big BMW badge on the fairing is a pleasant decoration 🙂 The seat was wide enough and soft followed by a H U G E rear top-box rack, big enough for a kid to sit as a 2nd pillion (please don’t do that). The engine area houses the famous reverse-inclined 313cc cylinder, in the front it has a massive radiator and its mounted high. The switch gear was impressive, felt like it could stand an apocalypse. Big, chunky, strong plastic buttons. They weren’t the usual glossy ones, but rather a toned down matt-finished. ones. The windscreen / deflector seemed small very atypical of its segment, ie. I had test-ridden the Versys 650, which has a big one. The golden upside-down forks too look they could take any beating as opposed to typical commuter bikes. Tires are massive, specially my first encounter with that 19′ front.
The test vehicle was on a ride and we had to wait. Till then we roamed staring at the machines costing well over ₹20 lacs. One of the colleagues asked about that big box that came out of the R NineT Scrambler.
ह्याच्या वर काय पाय ठेवू ?
We laughed and I whispered in his ears, “it’s the boxer engine. If you continue with these silly questions, we’ll be pushed out of the showroom and my booking amount too would be returned.”
निकलो !!! कहां कहां से आ जाते है BMW लेने !
Thankfully that didn’t happen and we checked the Papa GS, 1200 GS and were amazed by its size. The tallest (5’11”) and strongest (85kg+) of our lads, DevD too looked small in front of it. Goofing around continued…
.. till luckily for the showroom owners, the test bike arrived and we headed out of the showroom.
First Hop and the ride
The bike was parked on the footpath, yes, this is INDIA! In the front buses, cars, motorbikes, cycles plied along with the divider for metro construction. Total chaos.
The test ride was the one that I had booked, Red one, officially – Racing Red. A guy handed me the keys and I put those in and hopped over.
I skipped a heartbeat as I hopped over. The bike was parked on a slight incline. And after hopping my legs barely reached the ground (I’m 5’7″), and with my inertia, the bike too moved sideways on the right and I thought I was gonna drop it! Luckily, the bike wasn’t a 200kg behemoth but no humming-bird either. Somehow I manged to strangle the drop. First lesson…
DON’T EXPECT TO RIDE A Hornet or Unicorn!
DevD too was taking a test ride with G 310 R, the showroom guy took the Duke 250 to ride along with us or rather to keep a watchful eye. The clutch was light enough, didn’t really expect it to be as soft as the Japanese commuters. I pushed the Start switch and nothing happened, I checked the key, its position was fine, tried again… Nothing.. I was about to call the showroom guy before मेरी इज़्जत was saved. I gave a look at the starter switch and observed the Ignition kill switch, which was in OFF state, duh! Again, it’s not a commuter Honda bike with no kill switch. 3rd time… and bbrrummm…..
I revved the engine and it was happy to cross over 6K RPM with one twist of the wrist, the sound was stronger from the engine compartment, from the riding position I could barely listen to the exhaust note. I was probably expecting a bassy note like 4-cylinder, but…
इतने पैसे में इतना ही मिलेगा !
Kandya, another colleague sat as a pillion behind me, DevD on the 310 R for his test ride. I shifted to the first gear released the clutch and… brrrpppp.. ! Stalled ! Again… stalled ! Me and Kandya gave out a big laugh, he asked…
डबे टाकून झालं का !! ? (done shitting !?)
OK… this is not a bike that’ll move with just the clutch release, it’ll need some throttle input, Low RPM (~1500) almost negligible torque perhaps ?
I got the knack of getting the 310 in motion and just few meters and I had to stop it again, thanks to the traffic. The showroom fellow was ahead, I screamed asked him how does BMW compare to the Duke? He put the bike on the side-stand, switched off the engine, pulled the key and walked to me and started blabbering… (THUG LIFE ! 😎)
I was in KTM first, I prefer the handle of the BMW, I love Duke 390, it has better power compared to the 250 (duh!)…
I kept worrying about the traffic, what if it moved, but that didn’t happen for the next few mins, and every passing minute made me realize again, its not a commuter. Remember the high-mounted radiator I spoke about, the heat was blasting. After a minute in the traffic, Kandya my pillion said, he thought only he got the hot draft. The heat was probably on par with a KTM Duke. I had test ridden Versys 650, which I felt was much better at heat management. But then I rode it only in the showroom complex, not in the real life with buses and cars around to bounce off the heat.
We took a U-turn and the bike just zipped passed the rickshaws, the cars and the Activas. The gear box seemed OK. The vibrations weren’t huge, but probably along the lines of Duke 390. Definitely not the smoothie like my Honda Unicorn. The roar of the engine, though subtle, did make some clearing for us on the road. The traffic caught up with us and an uncle got speaking with the 310R rider about its price, probably ubiquitous कितना देती है. I couldn’t see the USD Forks work, but my bum did feel that the forks with the cushy seat did a wonderful job at the office. The yank of the throttle wasn’t panic creating as it’s in a Duke 390, much easier over here.
The ride finished off with almost 15mins on the road but 5min+ staying put in the traffic. The U-turn was light enough didn’t feel any weight of the bike, yes, it did feel big though. Cautiously, I treaded on the footpath to park the bike (sorry!) and almost hopped to get off it. I’ll probably get better at Kung-fu kicks with mounting and unmounting on this one. I sat on the 310R which was definitely lower and probably easier to maneuver. DevD who test rode it mentioned that when he took turns on it, the bike stayed tilted unlike the Duke which kinda resisted to stay down but wanted to sit upright, perhaps a lower GC was working its physics on the R.
On my way back, the Hornet’s wide handle and stance felt puny, but the easier on the legs heat was a welcome relief. The 310GS is definitely a bike to take on long open country roads or without. It has a character and swagger that would have eyeballs transfixed.
Summary (Score out of 5)
Looks – 5
Heat Management – 3
Road manners – 5
Aspirational value – 5.5 🙂
Build Quality – 4
Cost – 3.5 (would’ve loved if 310GS was ₹3L Ex-showroom)
One of the many songs that I kept humming inside my balaclava. Wondering what its chords could be, as they turned out to be F# Major, B Major, E Major. Or crooning to the base guitar in the song “Dil Se Re”… The song reminds me of the storm that we faced riding to Kankavali –
A road winding through the woods, the white borders defining a strong ardent character. As we raced ahead, the storm clouds hovered in, turning the bright sky into a obnoxious dark gray shadow. The trees rustled and the leaves fell apart, straight down the road we could see the rain closing in turning the clear sight into a hazy might. Lightning struck places a many followed by the thunder cutting through the forest. We decided not to ride our luck and rather wait it out…
Another one of my Unicorn’s 1000km+ bike rides. This one was originally spanning through Dudhsagar waterfalls, but as always rains played spoil-sport and had to resort to Maharashtra’s tallest waterfall – Thoseghar.
~ 40 hours on the saddle
~ 1700 km
~ 45 litres of fuel / petrol
Hash tag – #reachedhomewithoutbruises – ? ? ? Thanks to Kandya
On a sleepy Sunday, I and Manas decided to go enjoy a bike ride in receding rains of Mumbai. The destination was close-by – Vajreshwari, near Virar.
The idea was to enjoy hot water springs in Vajreshwari. The Tansa river passes through the hamlet. However after observing the hot-water springs area, we decided its better to enjoy on a secluded bridge on Tansa close by.
Well … I’ve aged. Now in my 7th year of running. I’ve been having problems with my health, my carburettor isn’t functioning that great. I’ve had a few surgeries on it, float pins changed, cleansing, rinsing, you name it. My shockers too have taken the brunt of all the bad roads of Mumbai and cross terrain riding that I’ve seen myself and Rutu through. Other parts feel rusty, like literally. But … I have the burning desire to carry on and he is happy with me… still.
This one was no different story, Mumbai – Mt. Abu – Bhuj and back, another 2200 kms+ of cross-country.
It was December and just like last year where we roamed around the lagoons in Kerala, this time Rutu had the arid India in mind – Rajasthan’s Mt. Abu and Bhuj, Gujarat. Here route.
The mantis, R-15, greets me early morning around 6.00am. She is all shining, showing off her best with her duo, Manas. While I’m still the same, standing tall and strong, no-frills girl. This trip as well, I’ll be hosting the Saddle bags full with road-rascals’ luggage, Mantis’ spares, etc. Rutu comes with the heavy saddles and were off by 6.15am. Rutu is quite protected with Manas’ jacket, over-dressed according to his usual simplistic style of shorts and flip-flops.
We meet the Bullying Bison just ahead of Dahisar check-post, Bison with her equally amassed rider, JK. Next stop was for a breakfast somewhere on the outskirts of Gujarat, we lay parked like always in a tri-headed formation under a green shed, The touring sisters as we are called. While we bitched about our guys, probably they lechered of others, the usual suspects being Multistrada, CBRs, KTMs and the other voluptuous Rs like 1000R and 1000RR, R1 and so on…
The road till now had been smooth, Mumbai-Ahmedabad’s NH-8 is a well known friend for us tourers. NH-8, keeping to himself, not having a strong character that plays upon us. However the air started getting from little polluted to being strongly particulated by the time we reached Navsari, Surat. The worst when we reached the outskirts of Ankaleshwar, Bharuch. Stretchs of NH-8’s skins too had developed a rash of trash and pieces of cloth! Ya you read it right, pieces of cloth. While our masters never cared to navigate through it, I still felt uneasy touching it. Probably it was too much for the guys as well as they halted for lunch somewhere between Bharuch and Vadodara (Baroda).
Rutu and others were very happy of the Punjabi Thali, a system that the guys weren’t really accustomed to. It had a jeera rice, dal tadka, paneer subji, rotis and buttermilk. Which according to them was easy to pick from the normal useless clutter of a menu card. There on, the NH-8 had a smoother dermis.
The outskirts of Vadodara was a pain, wading through a populous sea of fellow cousins, other automates, cars, trucks. My species wasn’t allowed on the Vadodara-Ahemedabad expressway and we had to go along the trusted NH-8 which was all under repairs, getting its base set, skin relayered, it took us almost 2 hrs to reach Ahemdabad. We were still 144km away from Palanpur our destined stop for the night and it was already 5pm. Our guys decided to take the Sardar Patel ring road and head towards Mehsana where they could find shelter for us and them alike. As we moved through the dark but still assisted by a equally friendly colleague of NH-8, passing through endless number of tolls, our guys perhaps decided enough of the dark darting when they finally stopped at a hotel in Kalol.
Dec 15, 2013
We had already seen JK come down for his smoke, tea so that he could get his bowels moving smoothly. All of them came with the heavy luggage around 8 and we were rolling towards Mehsana when we cut through કર્ક વૃત or “Tropic of Cancer”. Guys had a breakfast in a town called “Unjha” where smells and sights of Jeera or Cumin was all around as Rutu put it.
Palanpur and then Mt. Abu followed. Roads as expected and heard were fabulous in Gujarat. Unlike the Ooty road that I was expecting with series of Hair-pin bends, this one had a single narrow lane climbing all the way up to the town. After finding a parking place and a room for themselves, guys headed for lunch in the town and were discussing typical food-menu while returning back from a restaurant. They headed back into a Gujarati restaurant where there was no one but our guys. It seems they had a rajasthani thali and my guy had Daal baati. They then dessert-ed on Churma.
Me and Bison relaxed while guys roamed Nakki lake. While we checked out an occasional R-15, a roaming CBR-250.. I guess our guys did something similar. The evening was cold when we returned back.
Dec 16, 2013
I guess everybody had slept more than they wanted to. ’cause it wasn’t till 8.30am when Manas came to check his Mantis. We were unsure of the day’s proceedings and we waited while they had a breakfast in the golden sunlight in the almost frosted-dew-drenched garden. When the guys came back to us, it was 10.30pm and it was with their entire luggage, it seems they had planned to go ahead instead of spending time in a typical honeymooner-infested city.
The road to Bhuj had Palanpur, Deesa, Radhanpur, Bachau. Palanpur onwards the road is what I would say too huge, too straight, too nice. It felt like an ant was crawling on a tarred road. Thats the perspective one could get about a 150cc on this road to Bhuj from Palanpur. All that we saw were trucks, long trailers and a few cars if we were lucky. Guys stopped just ahead of Radhanpur to have lunch. It was a small, local road-side dhaba ( a gujarati version of it ). It was 3.30pm when guys were back from food and I heard Bhuj was still 250km away !! But all were bent down and raced along till Bachau about 70km away from Bhuj where we took a road off from the NH/SH. I had lost the track of the road. The sun was setting behind Bachau, and I had to ensure I was bright enough to plough through the dark. Bhuj came by 7.50pm. Where the guys found a posh hotel, Grand 3D which had a huge parking space just for us. I assume it was lavish for them as well. Guys dined at the restaurant next to the parking lot.
Dec 17, 2013
I had heard many talks about the White Rann of Kutch, typically about the big-ass Bullets’ ride on the white sand (Thats what I thought initially – white sand). We were cruising up north towards Dhordo which was about 20km away from Hodka, the junction for getting to White Rann of Kutch or Kala Dungar (literally – Black Hill). The plan was set to get to Kala Dungar first (East of Hodka) spend time there, have lunch, then move down back to Hodka and west towards Dhodro for the White desert.
Kala Dungar was a small mount about 500m above the ground. While we were parked on the edge of the hill over looking the Great lake of Kutch which extended beyond the horizon. The blue of the water easily mixing through the hazy gray. Guys spent more than an hour on the hill enjoying the scenery. All of them more accustomed to watch a sea with lush green forests of Konkan and the Western Ghats, but this was different, a huge lake right between a desert!
On our way down, Rutu decided to stop by the “Torna resort” which seemed like cottages for staying. When we reached there, a huge pathani fellow with Orange colored hair welcomed us in. Another fellow asked them to wait as the lunch was being prepared. After more than 2 hours or so when the guys were back, they were discussing all the they had found about this place, proximity to Pakistan, the inflow-outflow of people, herds. More than 5000 cattle roaming owner-less in the Pakistan side and Indian’s greed to get some of the cattle for themselves and their mystic stories of crossing the border and sometimes getting trapped in the other country, stories similar for people on both sides of the border.
We finally descended Kala Dungar not before 3pm, and head towards Dhodro. When we finally reached, Guys were perplexed to find out that they didn’t have a ‘BSF-pass’ that was required to visit the White Rann. It was to be obtained at Hodka chowk. Rutu asked the BSF guard if they could let them through, so came their boss, a guy in Green civilian T-shirt and a camouflage pants and military boots. I heard their conversation…
– Sir, let us go through, we kept asking all the while for pass and we were asked to go ahead.
– OK, you dont’ have a pass, you have not paid
₹100, which was to be used for Kutchi people’s development. What will you do for the country if I allow you to go ?
– Sir, we pay tax!
– That’s OK, but pledge, keep you hand on your heart and say, you’ll help a person of India.
– Sir, we swear we’ll help.
We heard guys later say, that initially they felt he was just joking, but he was damn serious. Then I overheard Rutu speaking with JK and Manas
– When I asked him “Sir mera Driving ID, I’ve given, but I don’t know your name. If I return late in the evening in the dark, where shall I get my ID from ?
– To which he replied “जिस भरोसेसे हम आपको जाने देरहें है, उसी भरोसे से आपको मिलजाएगा !”
Rutu admitted he didn’t have guts to argue further…
The White Rann, as we had initially thought, it was made up of white sand, But we were wrong. It was the white salt that had crystallized over the wet salty mud flats, that created an illusion of a white sand desert from the distance. As the sun went down behind the salt pans, the moon still waited, when it finally came up so did the glowing crystalline salt. It was yellow at first, but then turned into blue. The beauty increasing by the minute. Around 7.30pm the guys came back and we headed out of the Rann Utsav area, and halted just on the outskirts for tea. After 15mins, we were back on the road cutting through the slightly chilly desert. In the day what was my first ride through a desert, yellow-brown arid flats. The vegetation only a little bushy shrubs, throny trees and some weed, An endless flat area where one could get lost with no guidance of any landmarks, like hills, big trees, water, just arid flat land. Now the scene was dark, today was a full moon, shining bright, but it was still not enough and I was limited to 60 kmph. Only when there were bold road lines, would I be upped to 70kmph. If a reflector lined road was in sight, I was stretched to 90kmph in the dark. We came back at the hotel around 9.30pm where the next day was more of local sight seeing and relaxation, easy on us bikes.
Dec 18, 2013
The next day, we headed first towards the Swami Narayan temple, new temple built after the quake. Post the 99 crore worth institution we headed towards the Rajendra Park, which is in the middle of Harmirsar Lake. A beautiful park in the centre of the city. It had a very calm appeal to itself, we though I didn’t sight any couples enjoying the lonely, yet very peaceful and safe place, I’m sure it was one of the places where people from Bhuj came by to enjoy family time or cuddling time with their lovers. Next stop was the palace museum after which we headed for lunch, Next up – to the back of our hotel, the Bhujio fort. Rutu was eager to reach the top of the fort, JK didn’t even try. Manas trailed behind but finally manged to reach the top. I’m sure they had a good view of the city there. The day had been easy on us bikes, not a lot of revving just idling through the city. The day after was gonna be again on the road. Off to Mumbai via Ahmedabad, Vadodara.
Dec 19, 2013
We left early morning around 5.45am first towards Bachau, then connecting NH 8A, leading us straight to Ahmedabad outskirts. The road not that great till Ahmedabad, I had hoped the regal layout as had it been towards Bachau from Palanpur, but wasn’t that grand. Guys had a lunch after we moved along Ahmedabad outskirts via Sardar Ring road towards Vadodara. We passed Vadodara early by around 4.30pm we had covered 430km+ in less than 12 hours and were more than half way to Mumbai, guys wanted to rest. They decided initaly decided to head towards Bharuch, but then relented to JK’s antics and stopped at Karjan at a motel near TBEA factory.
Dec 20, 2013
Heading on the road around 6.30 am in winter in Gujarat around Bharuch is dreaded nightmare for a Asthmatic patient. Its cold, the heavy air settling over Narmada and its tributaries. Adding to it the pollution of all the industries near by. A place somewhere on the outskirts of Navsari was selected for breakfast around 9.00am. There on we fired all cylinders till we had crossed the Maharashtra border and the Beer Bars greeted the travellers just along the highways, still riding .. the Mantis came from behind, Manas indicating Rutu to stop. He said he was feeling very very drowsy. So we came to a halt in the jungles before Manor. Where were side-standed and guys had a nap of 30mins. Virar, Vasai wasn’t then far away. Wished the Bison a goodbye around 1230pm and then reached home by 1.30pm. A journey through the arid Gujarat and borders of Rajasthan had come to an end almost 2200km in the running.
Well…. I confess the title got you here. But there is no page-3 gossip on the wire here.
It was the night ride in the full moon all the way to Amby valley. The glittering markers on the road, the sparkling arrows and the glowing green boards in the cool foggy night. As if the full moon had played its round of magic.
Manas and JK the regular partners in sin. We left Mumbai around 2100 and were back by early dawn around 0515 creeping back into the bed for some sleep.