Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself!!
Nice saying I read somewhere!
I needed to fly, I needed to get away, I JUST needed to RIDE till I wanted and for as long as I wanted! It had been a while since I went on a long ride due to my crazy work schedule which starts in the evening and ends early morning, my family obligations, health issues etc. The list was endless and it was getting to me. I have had to cancel two trips in 2014 due to severe cervical problem which I picked up doing a desk job for the last 12 years and that also during the night hours. Yes I serve Uncle Sam as well. Hence have faced some health issues including cervical spondylosis (also known as neck arthritis), a severe case of vertigo last summer and a stiff right shoulder which pains as if someone has put a dagger inside it as soon as I start riding. I felt I am losing it. I felt weak and angry at myself for doing this to my own body.
I don’t like giving up in life and I have had to do that on 2 occasions in 2014 as my health did not allow me to move ahead with those bike trips I had planned then. Since a year I have just been liking bike posts on FB, reading about bike launches and bike events, hearing people go on awesome rides and just wearing my biking T’s on weekends.
I was doing all that except riding which is what I loved from the time I laid my hands on my Yamaha 100cc which I had in 1994 – I rode the beauty for about 5 years before I gave away in 1999. There were not many options in those years anyways and even if there were people did not spend so much money on bikes or phones like we do today. Plus I did not have any money at that time as I was studying between 1996-1999 in college.
Anyways, I felt that something called for me… I felt there is something that I needed to discover about myself. I felt there is something out there which needs closure. I did not know what that was but I had a feeling I will find out on this road trip.
So I planned a road trip from Delhi to Kanyakumari on my KTM 390. No reason for choosing this particular destination except the fact that I wanted it to be as challenging as possible…something which not many people would try to do especially as a solo mission. I felt that if I was able to complete it in full it will be a big accomplishment but more than that I wanted some answers to some questions I do not even know about. Maybe it was going to be a very spiritual or extraordinary journey for me it was time to find out.
Here is a screenshot of the pins showing the geo-tagged photos I took along the way! Looks so cool!!
I was planning to move out on 8th March 2015 on my KTM 390 which was raring to go and as always and ready to race, but I ended up leaving at 9th due to some personal reasons.
This was going to be my second attempt at this as I tried to do this ride in December 2014 end and had to turn back after 80 KMS due to heavy fog and ZERO visibility!!
Here is the picture of the KTM 390 completely ready with the hard aluminium saddle bags by Dirtsack. Brilliant product I must say! Thanks Dirstsack.
Also I searched the net and noted down all KTM workshop numbers and addresses along the way from Delhi-Kanyakumari in case I needed to visit them. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do it but I actually did and this info came very handy. I suggest everyone to follow this before leaving on a long trip.
I also prepared for the trip making sure of the following things:
Clutch Plates: It is essential to have clutch plates in good condition, before starting a long ride; otherwise you can end up with a motorcycle, which refuses to climb steep hilly roads if you are riding to such terrain. So make sure to get your clutch plates check and replace them, if they have little life left in them.
Piston Rings: If your bike has been consuming engine oil lately; it is best to get the piston-cylinder kit checked for wear and tear and replace them if necessary. Also get the valves checked as well.
Timing Chain: Another thing you need to pay close attention to is a loose/worn out timing chain, which can end up causing mechanical failure during the ride or make your motorcycle perform sub optimally.
Drive Chain & Sprockets: Check drive chain and sprockets for wear, if the chain and/or sprockets are on the last lease of life, change the entire chain-sprocket set. Else get them cleaned and lubricated (I had to do this every 500 Kms for my KTM 390 as suggested by the KTM workshop).
Suspensions: Riding on the harsh terrain of Ladakh with a bike loaded with rider and luggage can take a toll on the suspension of your motorcycle. Get the front and rear suspension checked, and if the need be, get them repaired/changed.
Swing arm bush: Get the swing arm bush checked for slackness, change if needed.
Air filter/spark plug: If your air filter and/or spark plug is over 10000kms old or approaching that figure, get them changed. Don’t throw the old ones out, keep them as spares.
Clutch & Accelerator wires: If your Clutch and Accelerator wires are over 10000kms old, get them changed and keep the old ones as spare. If they are not in need of a change then get them lubricated.
Brake shoes/pads: Get the brake pads and shoes checked for wear, if they can’t last for 5000kms, get them changed. Also get the brake fluid changed or top it up, if you had changed it recently.
Con Set: Con set is an essential part of the bike and if it’s loose or worn out, it can affect the handling of the motorcycle. At the time of service get it checked and change it if the need be.
Engine oil/filter: If the engine oil is over 500kms old, get it changed. Also change the oil filter. In case your bike uses an oil strainer, get it cleaned.
Electrical and battery: Get all the electrical wiring checked, check all bulbs to see if they are functioning properly. Also clean the headlight seal beam and brake light to ensure better visibility. Also make sure your bike’s battery is performing well, this is especially important if your motorcycle does not have kick start.
Fasten all nuts and bolts: Get all the nuts and bolts fastened properly, in case any is missing, get it installed.
Carburetor Tuning: Keep the Carburetor tuning as close to stock as possible. Running it rich will cause problem in high altitude areas and running it lean would lead to overheating in plains.
General check: Give everything a once over, ensure that everything is working properly and all the fluids are topped up, i.e. battery water, engine oil etc. Ensure all fuel lines are intact and there is no leakage anywhere.
Tyres: Check both tyres for wear and signs of cuts and cracks. If either of them is nearing the end of their life, get them changed. If you need to change tyres, get dual purpose tyres, since they perform well on and off road.
Wheel alignment: In case your motorcycle has spoke wheels, get them checked, and if the need be, get them aligned before your ride.
This was all the preparation I did for the bike. I did not take my HTC RE Action CAM accessory and GPS which I did miss a lot on the trip. Both these things would have made the trip much easier and fun. I also learned by experience that it is best to keep an extra visor and small tube of Fevicol or tape in case you need to fix or tape something. The rubber outline of my helmet came off and kept hitting my shoulder every once in a while.
9th March 2015
So I started off on 9th morning around 8:26 AM – The odometer reading was at 2614 when I started. It was sunny but cold. Even at this time – so I could imagine what would have happened to me if I had not returned mid way in December 2014.
First pictures of the trip!
As I mentioned earlier the morning was sunny but the wind blast was quite chilly! I was doing 120-130 KMPH easily on the Gurgaon-Jaipur Highway as the traffic was light at it was fun as the highway is in very good shape.
Some pictures below of the Jaipur-Gurgaon Highway & my lovely bike KTM 390 all decked up for the long road ahead.
I took 1-2 bio breaks or 2-3 minutes each till Jaipur which was 290 KMS away from Gurgaon. I reached Jaipur easily by 11:30 AM.
Everything was fine till jaipur and I was heading towards Ajmer Road to head to Udaipur which was 677 KMS from my place. Hence I had to continue riding for 9-10 hours more. Traffic had started kicking in and so did the sun’s heat.
I continued to ask the route from passerby’s and realised that I should have come equipped with a GPS as I was losing a lot of time trying to stop and ask people or slow down to read sign boards etc.
Then a minor accident happened when I was riding towards the Ajmer road in order to pick up the trail that leads me to Udaipur. I was at 50-60 Kmph and my eyes were on the road and for a second or two on the signboard that I was trying to read. That second or two got me in trouble a bit and I banged right into a car that suddenly stopped as the traffic cop jumped right in front of it to stop it for checking. I was thrown off a bit on the tank of my bike and had hurt myself. The bike fell off and so did I from it. A couple of men came to pick me up and check if I was alright and did mutter something about it being the cop’s fault. For a few seconds my body was in pain so I was not paying much attention. The cops started screaming at me and blaming me. By then I was a bit better and gave it off to the cops who were trying to blame me for their stupidity. They were 4-5 of them and were trying to corner me but the people around and the car driver also took my side and together we made them take a step back and realise that we were in no mood to listen to their bullshit. One of the constables then started to talk nicely to me and offered me help and started inquiring about if I was hurt or not.
I then told him that I was fine and would be leaving and started to mount my bike. I took a few moments to breathe and then started the bike to leave. As soon as i tried to put the bike in gear I realised that the gear lever had broken and was hanging next to the stand. I showed the bike to the cops and asked them if there was a workshop nearby. I did not get into blaming them for it as we all know what our Indian police is capable of doing to a common man if needed.
As usual they were of no help and I put the bike in 2nd gear with my hand and then rode it to a few hundred metres in a service lane to a place where I saw some shade. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was shining like crazy and it was getting too hot for me as I was in my riding jacket which as you all know is quite heavy. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do next. As I mentioned earlier I had the KTM workshop numbers & addresses saved in my phone. I got in touch with the nearest one and understood the way to get there which was again through the busy streets of Jaipur. I had to head to Tonk Road to the Ram Bagh Service Station. It was near Ajmeri gate where I had to reach and look for the intersection which had a large hoarding of PC Jewellers and a petrol pump right after it. The KTM workshop (PL Motors) was right next to the petrol pump.
The PL Motors staff met me and looked into the bike. Luckily, I was informed that the rest of the bike was in normal condition and only the gear lever was broken which they can replace in 5 minutes. I asked them to go ahead and do that and also apply lubricant and clean the chain while they were at it. It cost me at least an hour to reach the workshop but when I did the guys at the workshop gave me excellent service. They fixed the bike in a total of 30 minutes including cleaning and lubricating the chain.
My bike was ready in 30 minutes and during that time I informed my wife that I am well and was getting the bike fixed as it needed a normal repair. Did not want her to panic by telling that I banged the bike in the first 300 km itself and still plan to do 3000-3100 kms more. We all know what happens when you try and reason with a woman especially the wife!! ;)
Some pictures at the workshop:
Finally I was all set to head back to the trip again. I left as soon as the bike was repaired.
I started off from Jaipur around 4 PM IST, found the road to Ajmer and headed straight to Udaipur. Confidence was a little down after the accident, back and shoulder had started to pay really bad and as per my calculations, there was no way I was going to reach Udaipur. Also after the accident there were doubts in my mind about going ahead….I felt maybe God was trying to stop me from doing this trip…maybe I am bound to get hurt on this trip hence I am getting signs not to do this. With all this shit going on in my mind and with severe back and shoulder ache I still kept heading to Udaipur.
Tried to ride as quickly as possible to Udaipur but had to rest around 7 PM IST as my back was hurting due to 550 km of riding and all the chaos on the first day.
I reached Bhilwara which is 150 Kms before Udaipur around 7 PM IST and decided to go into this town and look for a hotel coz the pain was killing me. It took me another hour and a half to get in and find a nice hotel and settle in. It was the first day and the start had been quite rough so I decided to spend the night in a 3-star hotel by the name of La Abode.
The room and the food were equally nice and after a hot shower and some food in my tummy I called up my wife and told her about the pain I was going through and that there was no way I can go on in such severe pain. She agreed obviously and told me to spend a day in Udaipur since I was almost there and see the city and relax a bit and then come back the next day. So that I have some kind of enjoyment after coming so far. Yes, 527 km seemed very far to me at that time considering what I had been through and the pain that I was facing every minute in my back and shoulder due to the neck arthritis and stiff shoulder muscle.
Anyways, I agreed to do that, hung up and then tried to sleep. But the thought of giving up did not let me sleep till 3 AM in the morning even after 12-15 hours of riding. I got up and decided to man up and do this! No one ever said this was going to be easy and no one asked me to do this….then how could I think of giving up? I don’t like losing and hate giving up. I got up and took a shower and got ready and left the hotel at 4 AM to head straight to Ahmedabad. I thought I will go easy on myself and will just try to reach Ahmedabad which was around 425 KMS away from where I was.
10th March 2015
So the ride began again the next morning!! I did not know how far I would go or would be able to go but I was happy to be on the bike and to have not given up!! :)))))
The road from Bhilwara to Udaipur was superb and after Udaipur it was even better!!
I was riding through alluring landscape seen in the pictures above and the road was just perfect to ride the KTM 390 the way it should be and I was back to normal and had moved the accident behind me and was doing 130-140 KMPH on that heavenly route. And when I get in that mode my stance changes and I lower my head down not only to avoid the wind blast at such high speeds but because I love it as it gives me a feeling of flying. Sometimes I pull my feet us as well and get into a superman kind of a position on the full seat which may look funny but to me it is the closest that I can feel to flying!! And this is the best part about riding a motorcycle. At times, you feel so connected to it that it becomes a part of you and the rider moves along with the bike as if they are one.
I love the way I forget about the whole world while I am riding a motorcycle. It just gets me in a different zone altogether. Although, I have made a lot of life changing decisions while I rode my bike on long trips but this one was far more different and satisfying than what I had experienced in the past on bike rides. Also, this time it was going to be one of the longest ride I have ever done in my life so far.
I experienced getting in to a completely different mode or zone where the only view for 12-15 hours a day became what I saw through the visor and all through these hours for the next 8 days the only thoughts that were in the mind was changing gears, working the throttle, the overtaking, the curves of the road…..everything I mean everything related to the motorcycle and the ride was the only thought that I had in my mind for so many days and even after being in pain I enjoyed every moment of it. Every night I spent in a hotel was like a long wait for the next morning so I could get back on the bike and start moving again. For the next eight days my life only revolved around my bike and riding….what more can a biker ask for!? Actually, he/she can ask for a never ending bike ride but anyways you get the point!
And doing such a long ride was a huge learning as well as I noticed that I was not too comfortable on curves in the beginning but in a couple of days I was over speeding on curves and places where I saw danger signs and diversion boards. It was not at all deliberate as throughout the ride I did not realise what I was doing but later when I thought about it I remembered those feelings and let me tell you guys that those moments were out of this world!
Well I am going to get my ass kicked when my wife or parents read this blog but I need to put in all the thoughts that I had in here so I can keep these memories with me forever and feel the excitement going through this even after years to come.
So I was riding through this beautiful landscape and was heading towards Chittorgarh. Very soon I crossed Udaipur especially because I left early morning from Bhilwara. My plan was to reach Ahmedabad by evening and stay there but I was ecstatic to not have given up and to have experienced such beautiful roads and landscapes that I planned to keep going on and try and reach Vadodara now.
So I felt great when I reached “The Gateway to Gujarat”
As I entered Gujarat I came across a fellow rider who stopped by to shake hands with me and check out the KTM 390. He told me to take a left 125Kms before so I can avoid going into Ahmedabad and head straight to Vadodara using a different route as the expressway from Ahmedabad-Vadodara did not allow 2 wheelers on it. He mentioned the Harley group took this route a week before for IBW and had to come back all over. I did check with a few more people before believing him blindly and then decided to follow the route he had suggested. Anyways he seemed like a nice guy. I hope he reads this blog when it gets published and comments on it so I can thank him again for his suggestion that did prove correct.
The route was a good one as throughout Gujarat the highways are superb. I reached near Vadodara and decided to push harder and try and get as close to Mumbai as possible. I was loving the ride so I did not want to stop and with this new confidence in place I kept going till I reached a place called Karjan in Gujarat. Mumbai was 400 KMS away from Karjan. By then my back and shoulder had given up on me and were begging me to stop and rest. After all I had been riding non-stop from 4 AM in the morning till 7 PM in the evening. I saw many hotels along the highway but did not feel safe in stopping in any of them until I saw another one but with a Domino’s and Subway outlet next to it. Hence I decided to stay there. It was by the name of Hotel Honest. No i did not stop because of the name. ;)
Considering the condition of the hotel I expected no honesty there but had no other better options around.
Here are some pics of the Hotel and Room and my bike parked outside it:
As you can see the room was very basic but I had no trouble staying in there and it was a safe place as the next day I found my bike completely in the condition I had left it. The stay was pleasant and I celebrated with Jack. I always had Jack (Jack Daniel’s) for company every where I stopped to stay the night alone!
11th March 2015
I took off the in the morning at 4 AM IST.
The highway from Karajan to Mumbai was like a breeze and I was riding hard. Took one single break in those 400 Kms and stopped for Chai and Samosa and reached Mumbai by 10 AM.
When I reached Mumbai I was so engrossed in riding that I missed the road to Nasik-Pune highway which I had to take in order to head for Goa. I stopped by to ask a few taxi drivers about the other route via Panvel. They told me to head towards Navi Mumbai which will take me to Panvel.
I stopped for a minute to take off the heavy riding jacket that I had on since early morning and stopped again once I was near Panvel to have a hearty meal since I had not had anything since morning and this heat was draining my energy and dampening my spirits. After the meal I headed towards Panvel and once I reached Panvel I saw KTM’s showroom. I figured I should stop and get the chain lubricated and cleaned if they had someone who could do this task there.
I was welcomed there by Mahesh who manages that showroom and he took me to the KTM workshop nearby. They checked and cleaned the chain and did not charge me a single rupee. I was not surprised as KTM provides great service wherever you go in India. The staff was very courteous and friendly.
Mahesh guided me to head towards Pune from here and then take the following route:
Pune – Satara – Kolhapur – Belgaon – Goa
I have no idea what the confusion was but there was some kind of a misunderstanding as he asked me to go to Goa via Pune vs Goa via Ratnagiri where I was headed.
Anyways I decided to take his suggestion so it’s on me for taking that route which was not that great and very congested. He was only trying to help me and I am 100% sure he suggested me the Pune route due to some misunderstanding. But I enjoyed riding through Lonavala and reached Pune quite late in the evening. And since it had started raining I decided to go inside the Pune city and find a good hotel. It took me 1.5 hours to wade through Pune traffic and find a hotel.
I found Hotel Kapila which is a 3 Star property and had great food and accommodation. They also had a bike accessory store right in front of it from where I ended up buying a small thigh wallet with came in handy a lot and most importantly saved me from having a huge loss along the way. I will explain in detail later when we get to that part.
12th March 2015
So after resting the night I headed out the next morning to Goa. I decided to move out very early in the morning as I did not want to face that Pune city traffic again and waste more hours.
The highway was clean and free of traffic till 8 PM. The road from Pune to Sitara was smooth. Although the story changed from Satara to Kolhapur as the highway was under construction in most of the places and was filled with diversions all around.
Also while riding from Pune to Satara early morning before sun rise I got into a very weird situation. There came a point where I had to take a left but the road sign to Satara was in such a way that instead of taking the small and narrow flyover I went under it which led to a very small road into a village right next to the flyover and the village road kept getting narrower and narrower and in about a minute or two I had realised that I was on the wrong path and decided to turn back but the road was very narrow and I could not do it. However, I saw an opening ahead next to a few huts under a “banyan” tree. I rode a few metres ahead around the tree and back only to realise that the mud road was actually red which I thought was badarpur. I still do not know what the red dust was. I stopped as I realised that it was a huge banyan tree around 5 houses with had lock and a red cloth on their main doors around this tree. The walls of all those 5 houses were also painted red with “something”. The red paste was going up till the tree as well.
Suddenly the place felt quite eerie…for a minute I was about to get down and take a picture of the place but somehow I felt decided not to do that and just get out of there ASAP. Luckily I did and nothing crazier happened. But it was definitely a moment to remember.
After that I saw a beautiful sun rise and then stopped over after Satara to have some tea and bread pakora.
So by early noon I was near Goa and was 150 KMS away from Panjim. Considering the earlier route fiasco’s I decided to ask people around for a shorter route to Panjim. They did guide me towards a shorter route which could save me 40 KMS but it ended up being through the jungle with narrow roads full of curves where it was impossible to go fast. Also if I would have taken the straight route to Panjim I would have reached Calangute and Baga beach first before reaching Panjim. Since I took the other route I reached somewhere in the middle of Panjim and Calangute. I then had to go back towards the beaches away from Panjim. So it did waste around 40 KMS at least.
Calangute is a small town with a permanent population of approximately 16,000 in North Goa, in the state of Goa, India. It is famous for its beach, the largest in north Goa, visited by thousands of domestic and international tourists alike and I wanted to be one of them.
I think all this moving around in circles plus the heat got me quite frustrated and I was dying to reach Goa. As soon as I hit Calangute beach area I took the first hotel I laid my eyes on. It is run by two very enthusiastic brothers who were Delhites and welcomed me with open arms and offered me great discount and service. They were quite happy to see that I rode all the way from Delhi till Goa and that I planned to go further. So by 4 PM I was settled in and had almost half a day to enjoy Goa and the beach. I headed there and went straight to a shack and ordered a chilled Beer.
Some pictures of my time spent in Goa:
Had a gala time in Goa on the beach and around. It’s a fun place anytime of the year! I had beer in the evening and some fries with it. Then I spent some time roaming around in the market where I discovered amazing lassi and milk cake from Punjab Sind brand. This was the 4th day of the ride so the back and shoulder were in pretty bad shape as I have been testing their limits since 4 days. I saw a Thai Foot Massage parlour right next to the hotel I was staying in and went in to ask them to give me a back massage as well so i get some relief. They agreed to give me 45 minutes foot massage and only 15 minutes back massage. I agreed! Something was better than nothing.
The masseur started the foot massage which was not that great but the 15 minutes she spent on massaging my back was well worth the trip to the parlour. The 15 minute Thai back massage made me feel very fresh and then I headed back to my room to get fresh and then pack for the next morning. Around 9 PM I was ready to have dinner so I headed over to Baga beach and had a couple of JD’s and grilled chicken with fries and vegetables. The beach and all the shacks were almost 60-70% occupied. As I said earlier Goa is a fun place to be in any time of the year. I had taken an auto from my hotel on Calangute to Baga Beach. I decided to walk the 1.5 KMS from Baga to Calangute after dinner to digest the food a bit. It was a nice walk on the beach but a little longer than what I had expected. Anyways, I slept late around 11 PM. I planned to leave around 7 PM but got late as I headed down the market again to have some local vada pao. I had it and then was ready to roll towards Kerala via Karnataka.
13th March 2015
Here are some pictures that I took along the way and my route from Goa to Kannur, Kerala:
The dosa along the way to Kannur was brilliant and so was the one I had in Udipi Cafe when I reached Udipi.