This is the day 2 of BAC Bengaluru’s monsoon ride to the valley. For day 1 …
The first day of the ride was meditation due to the focus needed to manage rain and western ghats. It was about finding the confidence, bonding with the group, slipping with chrome and finding the birth of a river. Of visiting the two veneered temples, losing and finding my wallet and a dead battery. Learned few things about bike, places visited and re-living decade old memories of treks. Day two …
We make plans assuming the best, assuming all the members in a group are uniform and there is an empty bath room for everyone no matter how many pile into a room. Our night halt hotel Kanyakumari lodge gave us three rooms for the sixteen. The night before plan was for us to leave early morning 5:45 to Agumbe, then trek down to the falls and have breakfast on climb up. Working backwards I thought 5:00 am wake up will do. Gopi had yoga plans so set his Alarm for 4:30. So it was then that I woke up along with him. Others took it a little easy but were stirring. Single bath room meant the progress was slow. I dressed up and went for a jog, walk, run into the Shringeri temple town. The town was waking up to the peals of temple bells. Freshly bathed families, starched Kanchivaram saries and white dhotis were getting ready for the Darshan. Air was fragrant with Jasmines in flower sellers’ baskets, all mandir shops and into the hair do’s of women. Post the run I went for another Darshan to main temple, then to the Shiva temple adjacent that is over ten centuries old and to the adjacent river with big fish.
When I came back to the Kanyakumari hotel, Kiran was there to help (again) to get the bike started. The slope in next lane helped. By now the early trek plans changed and some of us went for breakfast. Some of the bikes needed fueling. I went with them to the petrol bunk and we spotted a battery shop next to it. He was just opening it and we popped in. A refill of distilled water and quick ten min recharge put life back into the battery and me. Weight lifted off my head. Thus started the group ride, day two. Immediate destination – second most rained place of India, Agumbe.
It was a dry morning yet I slipped on the rain gear and followed the group. Soon we entered the clouds and mist on the face cleared sleepy mood. Meandering decent, rain fed forest, convoy of bikes in the front and lone sweep at the back. I started to realize I was identifying people of the group better. We need events, characteristics and few distinctions for the mind to get a fix on people. So share a room with few dudes and that bunch you can squarely distinguish. Someone has the same bag as yours yes you relate to that person, exchange few notes and you know him/her more . Helpful Joe is easy, you are grateful and so smiles and gestures follow,
stylish expert rider, Stickered bike, rucksack on the shoulders: all of them contribute to the process of identifying. Each event, characteristic, shared experience adds another layer to the relationship and one starts to trust the other. From thinking of them as part of a group one starts to think of individuals. And from those unique individuals, common passions emerge and that gives an identity to the group. On cue the photographer whizzed past on the organisers bike and the lead stopped for a view. We were not to dismount but just halt stretch and go. Tell that to a group at a place that promises a good view with a nice clearing with a platform and see what happens. Add to the mix few vendors selling crunchy food stuff and a hint of fog. But naturally a longish photo session ensued.
The decent towards Dharmastala was steep, old cemented roads were made for people with cast iron hearts. Very sharp u bends, oncoming traffic , narrow road, sheer drops and the light drizzle. I was also thinking of us as whole, long ride yesterday, low to moderate sleep. What will cook with this mix ? Again the experience, responsible members, protocols seemed to work and we made good cautious progress. If you are riding here do watch out for the buses. They speed like they are on an empty parking lot and it is a scooty and the driver a teenager showing off to his girlfriend. As the slope eases and the towns appear it is different kind of danger. More traffic, more people, more dogs and cows on the road. Trucks make it a challenge to overtake and still keep the formation together. Many a times an odd truck would slide it and then the new lead and the sweep work it out to put it together. Each time I would see the red tail of the bike in front overtake and move left and see oncoming car or bus that forced me to duck, indicate my followers to get to safety, I would get sweaty. Over time figured out how to judge overtake and move the convoy into place. Ever watchful riders in the front of the formation made things easy.
The ride through the villages and towns had another angle. Everyone loves to be free and even the sight of someone having fun brings a smile. So imagine you are going along in your routines and a you hear sixteen engines. You look up and see the bikes head lights on, riders with concentration maintaining a pattern but manifesting freedom. Joy of riding apparent. You wave and get waved back. You know there are smiles under those full face helmets, the eyes under the visors shine. Such was the rush hour ride for us cutting through the towns. Specially lively were the school children. They just stop, watch, beam and wave. Slick oiled hair, bags on the shoulders, clean faces and pearly white teeth. Then there are the senior school girls. A little more constrained but no less joyful. The groups bunch together, point to us and wonder. Their eyes tell that they so like this, may be want to be doing it. Hope this sparks an ambition in them to get independent , own a bike and ride to feel the freedom. And that is how with a shared happiness we turned left to stop right in front of the gate of Namu Manjunatha of Dharmastala.
We all waited and the organizer worked his magic for a rapid darshan. Looks like there is always a priority queue that opens up under influences. The team moved into the queue. When the men went top less for the tradition and the “For The Trip Custom Designed White T-Shirts” came off, they were wrapped around torso and carried on shoulders in various fashions. It has the bike, word Avenger and the temples printed. Imaging the placement of these motifs and a creative, naughty rear crowd. Imagine the jokes that can follow! The darshan was cool, prasad was bought and we finally managed THE temple lunch. Rows upon efficient rows of people fed with basic, nutritious and tasty food. Bit mild. The cooking was in Kitchens that look futuristic and industrial. Chrome, steel, electricity, steam feeding the thousands. Final clearing was by boys who grab the remains and sprint across, wonder if future there will be robots that will do it ?
These was some RnR for us outside the temple as we came out and the “bike gaurds”, ones who stayed back to watch the loaded bikes went in for lunch. Time for a photo-op. Plans were made, changed re made and it was a ride to Gomuteshwar statue. We went posed on bikes stole a glance at the statue and started off for Kukke Subramania. It was not part of revised plan but that is how these things go. Little confusion earlier and the group split a bit. While we had gone to the statue a small set went ahead for Kukke. We later caught up with them and moved on. The ride was now on roads with little more traffic. Out pace made the set of “headlights on” motor cycles overtake few trucks, vans and cars. I realized vehicles in front and opposite were making way. I wonder how we would have appeared in the rear views or through the wind screens of these vehicles. Snake of 14 segments , black , red, blue, headlights on at high beam. Syncrhronous, disciplined, rapid, fluid. We humans in general like order and relish group activities. I think some where the team touched a primal ancestral memory for the drivers of these vehicles. So the trucks, cars on the road did not want the formation to break. Giving way and helping the octane fueled dance of the highway. Responding to an undefined rear view reverence.
As I was lost in this thought when the destination arrived. Kukke Subramania is the temple of child of Shiva and Parvathy. Warrier who rules the south. We neatly parked our steels in two rows and went in it. Visited the temple, wondered at the faith it commands and
the ingenuity of the builders. We came out and Sagar was looking at herding us, into some line to get pictures, we were gearing up and a crowd gathered and surrounded the men ( a lady) and their magnificent machines. Curious, admiring. Some thought we were on a rally, maybe we were. Others thought it is shoot. Tentatively the rare brave one asked few questions. Few others were buying their freedom in our groups’ carefree chatter. A fully clad rider in the bike gear must look like a knight. How apt, to be in front of the temple of the warrior leader of gods. We all felt like stars in the attention center. I was ready to give an autograph but the crowd was too shy. So after a group photo we left the place leaving behind the sound of accelerating engines.
Bronze or Gold
Dusk, twilight and night followed and over took the group. For the second day we were riding night ride under the moon. This time the leading bikes’ indicators blinkingly showed the turns, making it little easier for the rest. The night stay was to be at the planters club off sakelshpur. As we reached the gate I noticed the photo boy little muddy. He fell and hurt his hand. One needs to be careful and alert and have a little bit of luck. Sometimes it is not just you but others need to be cautious too. Rest of the night went into settling down, food and long round of drinks. The group split with few going off to another place to crash. For us who remained it was a night of talking, knowing and for me it ended with looking at 2 very robust riders gyrating to the tunes of the baby doll song. It is little infectious and the strain of Duniya( World) being bronze and the dancer being golden can stick into the head if allowed to.
So that was day 2. Eventful as the first, insightful, long but comfortable. Temples were welcoming, people were warm and curious, the team was out of the world, roads inviting as ever the Beast was beaming, muddy and ready for day 3.