Hinterland beautiful…

“When in Bangalore”, I heard a wise man say, “pick a direction and ride. You’ll get somewhere nice!”.

The year gone by has been hectic for me, to say the least. Work was demanding, and so were some family commitments. I also did many road trips to Pondicherry, Coonoor, Coorg, Madurai and Kodaikanal, on four wheels. The upside was that I spent a lot of time with family and enjoyed driving my 5 year old Renault Duster, to these beautiful destinations. The downside was that I could not really go for a long ride on my Himalayan. What I did do, however, was discover more of the hinterland outside Bangalore and found some neat little spots.

Ganalu Waterfalls, Mandya

The sheer beauty and accessibility of these falls (you can get quite close to the water) is an awesome experience. Still off the mainstream tourist map, this place is a hidden gem. The falls are just 100kms from South Bangalore and great for a day’s ride.

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Landscape enroute to the falls.
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The last 5 kms is through lovely scubland.
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Ganalu Falls viewed on approach.
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This quaint canal is about 5 minutes away from the falls…
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…with a spectacular little bridge to park your moto.
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Loved this spot!

While the falls were breathtaking, I found this lovely canal enroute even more enticing. It was the perfect spot to just park the bike and revel in the gentle flow of water, watch reeds waving in the wind and listen to birdsong.

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Route options from the Mysore and Kanakpura higways.

Muninagara Dam

This place is a little tricky to get to but extremely rewarding, once you have found it. Its barely 50kms from Bangalore and less than an hour away on a good day.  You can access this one off Kanakpura Road. Google Maps tends to mislead on the final approach, as there’s a couple of waterbodies close by-and we were led to believe that these were the dam. So we asked the locals and they pointed us in the right direction.

Waterbody en-route to Muningara dam
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Muningara dam- pumping station bridge

The reservoir forms one edge of the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve and on a good day, you are likely to sight wildlife. An electric fence separates the village fields and runs along the bank highline to keep predators at bay. A great spot to spend moments in idyll and admire nature at its finest. The good thing about this place is that its not accessible by car. If you aren’t on a Himalayan, you probably cant access it by bike either. 🙂 So its very heartening to see the place only frequented by village folks who have kept it clean and beautiful.

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The hills on the far side belong to the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve
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Great spot to to soak in views and observe wildlife
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The electric fence behind the bikes is a deterrent for wildlife entering the village area
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Route options to Muninagara Dam

Dandiganahalli Dam, Chikabalapura

If you own a Himalayan (or any other similar bike for that matter) and want to a ride to a place where you can generally thrash about, then this one is for you. While the Dandiganahalli Dam is a lovely destination by itself, its this dry lakebed enroute that caught our fancy. We had a ball scrambling and drifting on this lakebed, which was part slush, part grass, part gravel. Check footage here- Scramble by the lake!

The dam is best visited early morning, when the sun is just lighting up the waters and you have the whole place to yourself. There’s a fair bit of ‘beach’ area by the water where one can set up a small tent or have a picnic.

One can get to far end of the lakebed, on the bike, between these shallow bodies of water
Lakebed enroute to the dam
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Dandiganahalli Dam

 

Nandi Hills Circuit, Nandi Hills

If you live in Bangalore and are into motorcycles, its a no brainer, you would have ridden to Nandi Hills. I used to do that quite often, about 5 years ago. Lately though, with the place receiving a whole lot more attention, with a whole lot more people living in Bangalore, going up and coming down can become an annoying affair- traffic snarls are common at the start of the climb and towards the narrow entry gates. On weekends and public holidays, this place is best avoided. A few months ago, we decided to chance it and see how the hills were faring. Once we turned off the airport highway, it was evident, we had not picked a good day. On a whim we continued past the turnoff to the climb and ended up doing a 20km loop around the base of Nandi Hills. This turned out to be a very nice road indeed. So next time you are in these neck of the woods and dont want to battle the sunrise crowd, head on round the hills- you might like it more.

Morning ride, hot tea, Indian Paratha Company
Nandi Hills circuit
Lovely back road to ride around the hill

 

Scramble by the lake!

A short scramble on a lake bed enroute to Dandinagahalli Dam.

This is how we used to roll…

On Nice Road, did a dry run with the bikes ahead of our ride to Coorg. Testing the Go Pro Hero 3. Circa2013. Soundtrack: Asleep at the Wheel/ The Cinematics

Bonnie days in home country

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Where do we go from here ‘cos all of the roads ahead are great!

Last year, I drove on a very scenic route between my hometowns of Ranchi and Jamshedpur. I marvelled at newly laid roads and natural beauty en-route -see blog post motorcyling country

I vowed to return and explore the region on a motorcycle. This Diwali break, I teamed up with my cousin and uncle, both proud owners of the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin, and went off on a fantastic spree through beautiful heartland. My uncle, who owns a veritable stable of motorcycles and cars, had a spare bike at hand- one lovingly maintained, 6 year old, Honda CBR 250R. I happily agreed to use this ride, though I had my eyes set on the Twins. 🙂 We planned to head for Patratu Valley, supposed to be a motorcyclist’s dream, with the best set of twisties this side of the country. Our circuit for the day covered about 150kms- beyond the Valley, there were some nice reservoirs and forests to be explored.

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Patratu Valley, Drone Shot (Source Tripadvsior.in)
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Great loop of  about 150 kms through woodlands, Sal forests and reservoirs
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Our choice of rides, some slower options parked in the back. 🙂

We set off at about 7:30am from my uncle’s place, with the day dawning bright and sunny. Heading out of the city we encountered light traffic and were near the start of the valley in less than an hour. The first few kilometres into the valley are all about wide sweeping curves with very gentle gradient.

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A short stop to regroup, before we begin our descent into the valley
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First sight of the hills, always lifts my heart. 🙂
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The approach into the valley, is all about wide sweeping curves on well laid roads.
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Sunlit morning, two roaring British twins, winding roads and no traffic. Motorcyling Nirvana? You bet!

At the start of the famous twisties, we stopped for a breather to take in panoramic views of woodlands and Patratu Reservoir. With this becoming the new hotspot in the state, the area gets its fair share of tourists. Luckily most of them were still waking up at this hour, and we found the generally crowded spot devoid of shutter-mongers. We did however, find a romancing couple, cat-walking on the highway, posing for cameras of a professional crew. Apparently this latest trend in pre-wedding shoots, is big business in the state.

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One incredible road, leading all the way down the mountain!
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Panoramic views of the reservoir from the top

Later, we made a slow descent, stopping now and then to take in incredible vistas, that unfolded, with each bend of the road.

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Spot the motos!
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Stopping to take in the view, along the descent.
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Gabion walls retain hillsides as we begin the steeper part of the descent. The roads are an engineering marvel.
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Conquered the loops-now a photo session. First the men…
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…then the machines.
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Hills and rivers are plentiful in ‘Jharkand’ , which loosely translated means ‘land of forests’

We had a long, leisurely breakfast at a roadside dhaba, near Patratu town. Egg bhurji, Plain rotis and aloo bhujia. A welcome change from the traditional fare of idli vada/ dosa down South. After breakfast, my cousin very generously traded his Street Twin for the CBR. I am seriously impressed with the motorcycle- but will go into detailed review in another post. We skipped the dam visit, as there was some construction activity near the entrance and a pile of tourist buses. From here the roads to and beyond Ramgarh, were a combination of two and four lanes with very good surface.

Ramgarh town is an urban horror. Riding in straight and fast from these immaculate roads, we were soon in a quagmire of honking buses, bullock carts, bicycle rickshaws, wayward pedestrians, stray cattle and everything else a busy small town in India can throw at you. The roads in town are nothing to write home about it either. The upside though, was piloting the Street Twin through this mess. The bike is so easy to ride and handle, its hard to believe its a 900cc parallel twin. Of all the larger bikes I have ridden, this felt the friendliest and most accessible. The Royal Enfield Interceptor, may hold a lot of promise on the question of accessibility, but I will ride it to believe it. Until then I’m sold on the Bonnie. 🙂

Few miles after Ramgarh, near a settlement called Gola, we stopped for a cuppa at a dhaba aspiring to be a resort. Over tea we decided to check out Getalsud Dam and Reservoir nearby. Now the dam is an okay visit at best. However the road leading to the reservoir is a gem. Cutting straight through a large swathe of Sal trees, this road is spectacular- check out the photos.

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This road was pure discovery…
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…and everyone wanted a piece of the action, for their Instagram and WhatsApp feeds…

 

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…including yours truly. 🙂

 

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Photo opportunities weren’t scarce on a road like this, on the move…

 

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…or standing still.

 

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Heading out of the sal forest, towards the reservoir.

 

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At Getalsud Reservoir

 

 

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A moment of calm in the Sal forest. All we needed was a tent, a fire and some beers. 🙂

Towards late noon- after a brief wander into the sal forest, we started for home. Lunch was a longer affair, complicated by the need to chase, capture, dress, cook and serve a free roaming country chicken (Or so the dhaba staff claimed). We called it a day at my uncle’s moto stable, piping hot tea in our hands, exchanging motorcycle tales, and making plans for the next ride.

 

 

Roaring Forties!

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At Bannerghatta Nature Reserve

I had not done much riding since my last trip to Horseley Hills. In fact, for most of June through to August, 2018, I hardly used the bike. So come September, on the day I welcomed the roaring forties, I planned to gift myself a short breakfast ride. My cousin decided to join me on his Himalayan.

We chose Kanakpura Road without debate, especially because it offers one beautiful back road after another, all the way until Mysore. The route map promised a fun circuit- rounding off to just under 100kms.

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Turnoff at Harohalli to head into Bannerghatta Forest Reserve.
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A recent review by an American motorcyclist, compared the Himalayan to a tractor, after its ability to take on any sort of terrain, at its slow steady pace. 🙂

The ride was uneventful until the turnoff from NICE Corridor. Here we found a group of riders astride Royal Enfield Himalayans and Bullets. Decided to stick with them till our usual breakfast haunt at Harohalli. The day favoured us with cool weather- with hints of sunshine behind departing clouds. It felt good to be on the bike, after my three month hiatus. The riders were a civil lot, maintaining speed and line, and I soon relaxed into the pace of the ride.

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Und vada, und masala dosa, washed down with filter kaapi- essentials of a breakfast ride.

After breakfast, we bid farewell to the pack and head towards Jigani through a back road that circles Bannerghatta National Park. Enroute, the country opens up with plenty of enticing dirt trails to wander off into. We spend a good part of the morning in this area, exploring a couple of trails. Not much luck sighting wildlife in the nature reserve, but enough spots to chill and revel in the scenery.

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Dirt trail leading off to quaint little villages, lovely fields all round
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Sadarahalli stone posts with barbed wire demarcate farmlands through most of Southern Karnataka
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Happy trails.
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Only so much of natural to beauty to take in, not too far from home. 
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This field was meant for a drifting’ aka Captain America style 🙂

Around mid day, the promise of a birthday lunch and meeting up with family lured us back home. But it was a great start to my 40th, is what I say. 🙂

All the gear, all the time.

On a ride out to Melukote, I experienced a first. They say that nothing ever quite prepares you for what you may encounter, when you ride a motorcycle in India. Well, I’m as Indian as the Indian next door, so I was inclined to believe, what ever Incredible India throws at me, I should be able to acknowledge, accept (as the Indian way of life) and move on. This one was a first though. It happened in a matter of seconds- I am passing some fields on my right and  out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of white- something whizzes past my visor, a fleeting glimpse of feathers, a faint scratch on my visor, a faraway shriek and its gone. I gather my senses and what’s left of my wits and manage to stop. I had missed being bird-hit. From a heron, by the looks of it…and by a whisker. Beat that. In all my years of riding motorcycles, I had not imagined a scenario like this. I mean pilots get bird hit man, not motorcyclists!

A friend recounts an even more bizarre story- he is on his daily commute, he is approaching a turn he goes through every day. As he leans into the corner, on this sparsely  trafficked road, he sees a sheet of paper flying in a gust of wind, and its about to land in front of him. It’s a little late to alter his line of approach, and in a snapshot he thinks, its only a piece of paper. What happens next, I guess, should unfold in slow motion. The front wheel misses the paper by a margin, the paper touches ground, the rear wheel, slides over the sheet, which is now also sliding across the road surface- some strange science enables loss of traction, and the ride and the rider are sprawled in a heap. And I thought the worst damage a piece of paper could do was cut your finger!

It’s instances like these- the ones more out of the ordinary, that make me value riding gear. Over the years I have tried to develop the habit of using ‘all the gear all the time’. If I don’t have my helmet, gloves, boots and riding jacket on, I feel strangely inadequate- like I’ve stepped out of my house  in a suit without wearing socks. A little touring experience and more than 12 years of commuting on two wheels has taught me one thing- 9 times out of 10, you have already hit the brakes, before you fall. You have either wholly avoided the obstacle, or have managed to stop while also hitting the obstacle. In both cases, a fall is mostly inevitable. It is at this moment, as you let go of your beloved machine, and brace yourself for impact, that riding gear stands up and takes the hit for you. My riding buddies are witness to some of my dead stop falls- as I am to theirs. In almost all cases, I have gotten up, brushed the dust off my armoured riding jacket and walked away. In one instance, not so long ago, I hurt my knee…and realised that was the last exposed part of my self that needed protection. Knee guards were bought the very next day.

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A lid, gauntlets and body armour- essential for the iron horse.

Its also heartening to see that the world over, motorcycle safety and good riding practice gets promoted by manufacturers, governments and media in a big way nowadays. Many motorcycle clubs in India also encourage safe riding and refuse to admit  new members who do not have proper gear. Quality riding gear is now more affordable than ever, and readily available through motorcycle stores in almost every corner of a city like Bangalore. I have also become a fan of Shubhrata Marmar, a motorcycle journalist and editor at Overdrive, whose insights into everyday motorcycling are a tremendous inspiration. It is good, honest advice, and although he hasn’t told me how to tackle a wayward heron yet, I’m sure its only a few issues away.

There are plenty of online sources from which to order gear- however, I would always suggest go to a store and try gear on before buying. Some folks, like the ones at Biking Spirit, are extremely knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to selecting gloves, jackets or helmets for yourself. Here’s some links to some good stores in the city-

http://bikingspirit.in

https://www.facebook.com/letsgearup.in/

https://www.facebook.com/Motoarmour/

https://www.facebook.com/BigThrottle/

http://www.nh4motorheads.com/store/

http://www.cramster.in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost in the hinterland

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The Himalayan on its home turf, July 2016

I had been raring to take the newbie (Himalayan) out of the city and last weekend presented that opportunity. Three of us ‘weekend enthu cutlets‘ from the workplace decided to do our usual Sunday breakfast run. As the engine is still running in, I was keen to choose a slow, scenic route. A Facebook post by one of the bikers about a route to Jawalagiri Reserve Forest on the outskirts of Bangalore, had caught my attention- the road promised to be a divine little sojourn through a beautiful forest. WhatsApp invites were sent out, but as is often the case, everyone dropped out at the last minute, and we ended up like we always do- three messieurs always ready to ride.

An early morning start, and we were cruising down Hosur road by 5:30 am, for a quick run till the outskirts of Hosur. We turned off on the ring road circling Hosur- and at that point Google Mausi tells us it would be an hour till Jawalagiri village. Now if you want to ever do this circuit, be advised, the first one hour or so from Bangalore can get extremely boring- all we had was a four  lane ring road, which dissolved into a two lane blacktop with bits of uneven tarmac. This is a fairly urbanised stretch with lots of factories on either side of the road. Some 30 minutes on this road and I was really beginning to not enjoy the scenery- here’s a biscuit factory, oh there’s a cement factory, there’s one that makes spare parts- in short, too many factories…and it was boring. We seemed to be cruising through the heartland of small scale manufacturing. And it was plain BORING! This wasn’t great, I told myself- not the best route for a breakfast ride!

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The route- the first stretch till Thally, is well, boring. July 2016

And where was breakfast?? It was getting on to 7am, and I was hungry. We seemed to have left even the semi decent joints behind in Hosur. We reached Thally, a nondescript village with two cross-roads that seemed to signal the end of factories. We weren’t keen to stop here- and a passerby told us you could get a cup of tea further ahead. Now, part of the reason we had chosen this route was that we were under the impression that this same route leads to Hoggenakkal falls-a popular waterfall at a distance of 150 odd km from Bangalore. This route wasn’t the regular route to Hogennakkal however, and none of us knew how exactly one connects to the falls from Thally or Jawalagiri. The FB post photos seemed a bit hazy now- and we continued with some trepidation.

I was in the lead, and in the last stretch up to Thally, I had been riding fast, mainly because I wanted to not have to look at those dreadful factories around. I continued in the same manner past Thally, not expecting much. A few miles out of Thally, and the road changed. I was past a beautiful spot before I could see it- there was a lake, I noticed Deepak slowing down, but I was too focussed on the bend up ahead. I come around the bend and there’s a forest! Really? Where did those factories go? So from here on till Jawalagiri village, the road becomes more bearable. We stop at a village tea stall- and a lil birdie alights on OP’s bike. It’s a sparrow. Now, I haven’t seen many sparrows in the city- all you see are those nasty pigeons- with their nasty shite all over the place.

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A sparrow! Don’t see them in the city much. July 2016

Further on, the road brightens up. We enter Jawalagiri forest. And inspite of a cloudy morning, the sight lifts us up. We stop for photos- I take the Himalayan into a field as the country opens up- more photos. This is turning out like one of our regular rides- not too bad, I think.

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The forest road, finally. July 2016
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Out on the fields, July 2016
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The Himalayan off-road-photo op. July 2016

We are now headed towards Anchetty- from where, we are told, we can connect towards Hogennakkal. The road narrows down, and we pass through another village. We seem to be in rolling country now- and we are climbing-I see hills in the distance. Past the village, the road turns, and suddenly we come upon a gorgeous vista.

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Hills in the distance, July 2016
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A view we did not expect on this road, July 2016
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Vistas the Himalayan loves. July 2016

We are now in beautiful hinterland and we are not sure if we are headed in the right direction. It doesn’t matter- we are three mates, lost on a Sunday ride. Photo opportunities in this lovely, dale-ish country abound and we don’t miss them. This is what Sunday mornings should be about, I tell myself, take your moto, take your mates and get lost in the process of discovering the lie of the land. I have forgotten all about breakfast.

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Hillocks, rolling fields and a moto you love. Bliss.
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These roads are meant for motorcycling through. July 2016

I can see that the others are loving this too. We are in the heart of motorcycling country. There’s nary a cart on the road-and at this hour in the morning, there’s not many souls about. There are three motorcycles traversing through gorgeous landscape. Perfect.

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Motorcycles, and an open road. Sunday morning recipe.

On almost every ride, you often come across what one would call ‘the spot’. It’s that definitive place you discover, one that captures the ride’s memory for days to come. On this ride, ‘the spot’ was a hidden gem. And it was somewhere midway between Jawalagiri and Anchetty. Go figure.

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The Spot, July 2016
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Moto mates at the spot.
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Yonder blue mountain calling, July 2016

We finished the ride at Anchetty- had delicious dosa for breakfast and piping hot tea brewed in a copper vessel, before calling it a day. A minor fall on the way and a bent handlebar on my newbie, was the only lowdown on what was a brilliant ride and route. I was glad Shadowfax finally went in for a gallop, and what lovely woodlands it was able to roam!

Photos– OP San

Riders– Deepak- TBird 350, OP-C5, Yours Truly-Himalayan