Day 1 (22 Feb ’17):
Starting the arduous journey at 1245hrs on 22nd of February for Goa which was around 610kms from our planned route (although later on we went on a different one totalling it to ~700kms) from Yeshwantpur. Taking a deep breath and glancing to the skies we hoped for the journey to be a memorable one. We had two MTBs at our disposal- Hero UT and Cosmic TRIUM.
On Tumkur road we stopped for our lunch. And at 1815hrs, we stopped at a tollgate nearby Hirehalli station (it was this same station from where when we started for the Narsimhabetta trek and then were routed back to the station following a “no permission” issued by the villagers and police of the same village to climb that hill). We had some of our first pictures from the Canon 500D that time. The same camera provided me with the first ever feel of a DSLR and its lens.
Reaching Tumkur (70kms), at 1915hrs, we had the tastiest dinner of our lives following a rigorous workout of our legs and our sweat glands. And also the most difficult part for Ashis in this trip had also started rising which was his knee pain and believe me, looking at his expressions when he suffered from it at every pedalling he did I went on to give it a rating of 8/10 pain which he was going through. After the dinner, we bought some Moov ointment for Ashis’s knee and then searched for a place to camp on Google maps and found a perfect spot nearby a lake which was 9kms away from our current position.
We advanced through the village with nothing but our phone flash lights where we didn’t have street lights just to find out that the lake was prohibited or so. While cycling for the location of the lake, we had seen a temple passing by so we went there. At this temple and under the big Peepal tree we set out tent for our first night. We started taking some pictures and then some village people also arrived enquiring about the tents and our journey. It was our first meeting with the locals on the trip. Not exactly as a cosy bed but the T4 tent provided us with a floor to keep us from ground, a polyester cover to protect us from the external environment, 200X200cms of floor area and a zipped net to protect us from the mosquitoes while being able to keep the inlet open for fresh air and a cool breeze.
Day 2 (23 Feb ’17):
A wonderful morning was greeted to us by some wonderful people of the same village early in the morning investigating our tent with child-like curiosity. One of them even invited us to his home for a fresh-up and some breakfast. The campsite was so beautiful that we feared not getting the same comfort the following days. Then to Idli-Vada for a wonderful breakfast with the Idli being soft like sponge and absorbing that much needed Sambhar once dip inside.
We planned to go to Shivamogga(207kms from Tumakuru). Ashis’s pain started again. I thought it was mostly because of the load on his cycle’s carrier that was a trouble and also it was this load due to which he was suffering more pain struggling to pedal the cycle even inches forward. It was this instant when I decided to exchange our cycles. As there was no carrier on my cycle (Cosmic) so his heavy (15kgs) bag could only be fixed and tied up to the carrier on his cycle (HERO). The bikes exchanged their riders with Ashis now feeling less strained. But as we had shifted my 2ltrs water bottle to his bag (Ranjan-HERO), my bag (Ashis-Cosmic) was now weighing 3kgs and Ashis’s bag was now weighing 17kgs. After exchanging each other’s bag and bikes, we set again in the hot sun to cover most distance possible.
We had our first puncture (rear wheel of HERO UT) at 1415hrs. At the puncture spot, there was a settlement. We kept our luggage there and asked for a repair shop. So we went 500mtrs back to an old man who had all the puncture fixing tools despite not having a visible cycle repair shop. After fixing the tyre and collecting our luggage, continued with the ride.
Then came a forest not having the lush green environment (as the vegetation was all dried up). Advancing through it, our ride was a speedy and a beautiful one.
And when we were in the midst of our enjoyment, there came our second puncture on the same bike (the same wheel of HERO UT) when we had just started to walk passing by the entrance of a Coconut cum Betel nut garden.
We had explored the area for a while and found this place to be a suitable one as it had both shade and water.But it was still the puncture that gave us the headache so I started at 1615hrs walking the cycle through the evening sun to the nearest cycle repair shop which was 2kms away at the town. Got the puncture fixed by an auto driver from Gangamma circle itself (place where I was residing at Bangalore). Then came back to the campsite where Ashis was waiting with everything packed up. We tied up, fixed the luggage and readied ourselves for our evening session.
On another beautiful ride we witnessed a cable operated overhead trolley passing above the highway we were on. It belonged to a cement company nearby.
While we were taking pictures stopping at places and enjoying the ride with some halts in it for pauses. In the pain that Ashis was suffering through, there came our third puncture (of the same wheel of the same bike) at 1830hrs when it was just about time for the darkness to take over after the sunset about half an hour earlier.
By the way the beauty of the punctures was that they occurred precisely after every 25kms. The next repair shop was 8kms away at Tiptur. The village people helped us to transfer the luggage from HERO to Cosmic so that the tyre does not get damaged due to the load. We walked through the pitch dark forest not even being able to see the road markings properly. We could have switched our mobile flashes on but preferred the present way to be more favourable for a different experience of walking in totally quiet and a pitch black night with no moon on a highway with hardly any vehicles that too with a puncture. We made gestures for the passing by tempos to stop so that we could transport the cycle on it to Tiptur but no tempo stopped.
At another makeshift puncture shop we fixed the tyre for temporary use. Then I went on the Cosmic packing myself up with that 17kgs bag of Ashis plus my own 3kgs bag.
We rode to the town with temporarily Ashis riding the HERO. We had to change the rear tube of the cycle also changing the neck for pressure filling from bike neck to cycle neck so it meant that we would no longer be able to re-pressurize its rear tyre from a bike pressure point such as of a petrol pump. This night we had a costly dinner and went forth to find a temple for our night camp getting one in the village of Mudehalli. But the authoritative figure of that temple didn’t allow us to camp there even after asking for permission. The “excuse” given by him was of the fear of theft which was a joke on that night when two cyclists were asking permission to sleep (thieves don’t ask for permissions!). We then got out of the village in search of another place to sleep. The bars there already had men flooding in and out of them which made us a little frightened as they were not in normal behavioural conditions.
Riding along the highway, now Ashis’s left first and right now started to pain. Giving up and screaming in pain, he stopped and subsequently so did I. It was a halt in total solitude with almost zero vehicular pass-by. The place was very ugly and uninhabitable to halt in the dark night. The place was pitch dark and highly unpredictable. But as Ashis was suffering that unbearable pain, he insisted on setting the night camp there itself. As we were just starting to unpack, two men passing by said about a temple 2kms ahead upon following an inquiry made by us. I pumped some much needed spirit into Ashis and readied us to endure the next 2kms. There was a small village like settlement. We set up that night’s camp beside a road roller parked at a spot adjacent to the highway owing to the knowledge that the temple would not permit us in and if that happened, we might be questioned by the police or the village people and believing that condition to be one of the least wanted right now, we chose the roller to be our home for the night. The roller was parked near to a shop that was run by a middle aged couple from night 11 to morning 7 for the truck drivers to stop by and to have tea and snacks. Any how we put our tent and slept off hoping our next day to be of pain and puncture free.
Day 3 (24th Feb ’17):
Woke up, packed up and wrote my diary entries of the previous day. There was a lot of life in the village there. But isn’t it the way our villages are in India? We did our morning chores in a field covered by shrubs adjacent to the highway. Washed and shampooed ourselves at an overhead tank nearby the highway. Then we had a “Milind Soman Marathon photo shoot” an hour before we started again after having Veg. Pulao. Eventually we stopped numerous times for photo shoots and to give Ashis’s ailing knee a break from the struggle. Today’s ride was less painful than the previous ones because our bums were now less sensitive and hence less painful. On the way we saw a father and his daughter selling grapes in the most interesting way we had ever seen till now. The girl waved the grapes by her hands so that a potential passer-by may stop and buy some.
In afternoon, we were at a small place where Anna-Sambhar was being served. There was this kid aged between 12-13yrs named Yeshwanth who was trying to persuade his mother for a gear cycle after seeing ours. We offered him a ride but he refused saying that he’ll ride his own one day.
We went into the adjacent village where Yeshwant studies in a government run small village school. We searched for a place to camp as it was noon and got one near a temple under the shed of a big peepal tree on a volleyball ground that the village had maintained. But soon after we had to pack ourselves up owing to the exhibition centre that our campsite had become for the village children. We had to abandon the place and move to the Shiva temple on a hill 3kms away. There Ashis stayed while I went up to witness trucks passing thorough kaccha roads of distant villages and livestock grazing upon grassland. There also were children in the temple premises up on the hill owing to Shivaratri celebrations. Coming back from the hill to the base, we went to the amphitheatre at the base camp and charged our phones and the camera cells there. Amma there and some nice people over there offered us some food comprising mostly of grams plus an awesome laddu too. It was a festive Shivaratri season here. We chatted and at the evening planned to camp there itself.
Then again we had to change our campsite owing to yet another exhibition for only this time it was being done by the adults of the village who had come for the Jaagran. But everyone was really good indeed and cared for us enquiring about our well being. In the night, I learnt some things about the camera and then dozed off.
Day 4 (25th Feb ’17):
Woke up and packed up to take some of the most amazing shots of the tour at a dried up lake adjacent to Anche-Chomanahalli’s Hemagiri. Everyday we used to thank the Karnataka Government for providing the villages with these functional water tanks. And we used to wash our heads, faces and limbs here whenever and wherever we got one plus refilled our water bottles. Then again to Yeshwant’s place for breakfast. Damn it was hot.
We suddenly came across a pond in which because of the torturous heat we decided to get into. After a playful time, there came the buffalo squad and we had to get out. I tried some bird photography too. Then back to the highway then a stop for lunch. This afternoon we camped at a place where villagers use to beat the rice husk to take the rice out of the bran. We slept for an hour and then started riding again. But this time we decided to wind up soon as we had entered a place named Amruthanagar which almost came under forest reserve area. Viewing the diving sun amidst the hills and the standing water in the fields was breathtaking. Some simple things create such beautiful sights when combined together and this was a live example.
There were these nightmare humps here on the road (one with 15 continuous small humps to discourage fast driving as it was a forest reserve area) and the biggest part was these humps had a very high frequency of occurrence. The main headache was to start again with a new kinetic being developed for the velocity of our bikes as we had to brake and lose all the previously gained kinetic at the hump area for no good. We continually cursed them and found out new alternative to avoid those humps which was to go besides them. We also saw wild horses on our way and met a forest police constable who advised about a place for camp and food near a Shani temple 3-4kms far away. We reached that place and setup our tent. We had a wonderful dinner of Anna-Sambhar and drumsticks. The night was hot and sticky inside the tent.
Day 5 (26th Feb ’17):
We woke up from a hot and sticky tent tending to be so because of the precipitation of our breaths.
A case happened at this place we spent our night at.
We were having our breakfast idli-chutney at 0700hrs provided to us by the family who had set a mobile kitchen on their TATA Ace vending tea and all kinds of highway foods like egg rice and noodles. There was this particular person mockingly named “Hitler” by us. He was acting very strange and in an arrogant manner from the start of the morning itself (by the way the morning itself being a very sticky one owing to the dense fog then). Hitler apparently was thrashing the plastic chairs and tables while placing them and was uttering some words out of frustration. We didn’t know why he was doing this. We were enjoying our idli and suddenly the owner went to Hitler and had him have a tyrannous slap throwing his specs off his face which broke both his specs and arrogance. The owner then came back to work offering us chutney. Ashis said that Hitler was infuriated for him being awaken apparently “too early” despite of the matter being exactly opposite of that. Hitler then washed his face, took two servings of tea and then got back to work after owner made him realise the effect of his thrashing on the owner’s 37K rupees property of the plastic chairs and tables. That was the reason there was a similar thrash on his face.
A dense fog had covered the place and had wetted our shirts and our eyelashes collected droplets of water. Then via a city named Bhadravati, we planned to go to Sagara. Going through the jungles, we got some beautiful pictures and a lot of exhaustion. had fish curry and fish fry with rice and onions on banana leaves in our lunch.
We spent that afternoon on a government school veranda. The school had well-furnished toilets and that brought a smile on our face. We could actually use a well-furnished toilet after so many days.
Then cycling our way through the dry forest amongst the hills, we reached Sagara at around 2000hrs. We had food and then came the time for the search for a suitable campsite.
Now came the struggle.
First we went to a Mutt only waiting for the woman to refuse us a place inside to sleep. Then we had another refusal from the police station with the police giving an absurd statement that “if something happened to us, they would be responsible” forgetting the fact that the post they currently hold is to handle the responsibility of security of people. Then we went to a temple on our way to the City police station after the refusal from the Rural police station. Even the temple in-charge did not allow sleeping there but provided us with a phone number which later proved to be not working. Then on our way to police station, we didn’t get anything. It was 2215hrs and we planned to still continue with cycling to search a sleeping place for us until we get some place somewhere. After a couple of refusals and some queries made, we got a PU College whose guard was locking the gates. We requested him and even showed our ID Proofs. After some talks, he allowed us on his risk till morning 0530hrs.
We were glad to have a place for the night and rested on the tent cloth itself without putting it into the frame and not to mention the swarm of mosquitoes that we had welcomed for a feast upon us.
Day 6 (27th Feb ’17):
The day was a splendid start. And after the daily chores, we rode into the Western Ghats for the first time.
It was damn exhausting. The problem was that even though we could not actually see the steep, but while riding, we always felt that our tyre was punctured because of the tremendous pull we were facing due to gravity.
The most fabulous thing with the Ghats section is that the jungles always are lively with echoing sounds of animals, birds and insects. Cycling through the Ghats, the smell of trees and dried up leaves filled the soul with a heightened sense of adventure. We literally felt it when we said “adventure is in the air”.
On the way are two dams built on Sharavathi river.
One was a very old Mahatma Gandhi Hydroelectric Works which was a simple dam just now with no electricity generating capacity.
And the other was Linganamakki Dam which generates electricity and is a bigger dam than the former.
The afternoon was damn difficult for us both. Starting with the mistake of taking the diversion from the main road to Linganamakki dam which is made on Sharavathi river and located 6kms from Jog falls.
It was a very steep slope ranging somewhere between 15-30degrees. The dam was where the movie Linga was shot. We went down to the base only to know that the dam wasn’t allowed for us. We had to make that energy draining climb of the same steep slope back to the road.
But in between we had cooled ourselves outside the temple premises at the dam employees quarters campus and rested for a while under the peepal tree.
I guess we had to walk more and could cycle less because of our exhaustion and Ashis’s knee pain in the Ghat’s climb. The contour of the hills made us walk the ups and roll our wheels at the downs.
Then came the entrance for the Sharavathi wildlife reserve and it was the time when the toughest part of our trip had started. The toughest part of the trip i.e. The Ghats section and in the harshest part of the day i.e. the afternoon had challenged every muscle and every nerve of our bodies to push the limits. Every gear in our body, may it be physical or mental were slowly being pushed to their limits and were mercilessly not allowed to stop. The challenge was unforgiving.
First the roads were good but after some kilometres even they weren’t good and were very rugged for the cycle speed limited to only 7-8kmph.
meanwhile as we noticed, the architecture of temples and homes had changed and now it had become two storeyed. This was a clear indication of our presence in Uttara-Kanada (North-Karnataka). We also met a creative family along the roads whom I liked for many reasons owing to the observations that I made in their living environment.
We walked, rode and anyhow pulled ourselves to the place we wanted to go which was Bheemeshwara.
It was a dirty and a steep slope downwards towards the temple. Now this day, I met some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. Reaching the place, we went to talk to the “Bhattra-mane” (The Brahmin’s house) which is the home of Brahmin people from a particular class of the societies in Karnataka which specialises in cooking at religious places.
We talked to the head for our dinner and breakfast. He said dinner was already being served at the assembly hall on the eve of Shivaratri festival which was being continued till date. All the people warm heartedly greeted us. The Bhattra (Brahmin) showed us the toilets and bathroom and readily agreed to our plea of putting a tent on his place.
I believe that the moral of “Atithi devo bhava” or may it be the value of “Always give” cannot be given of a better example than the Bhattra himself. Accustomed to close observations, I genuinely believed that the Bhattra was a good willed and a true hearted man. He was one of his kind which is rare nowadays. Witnessing and being a part of his hospitality, the memories of last night flashed from the city of Sagara.
Taking us to the assembly hall, they talked to us, fed us with anna-sambhar, some majjige (curd) and some sweet payasam (like sewaiyaan). Amongst them was a forest police officer and a retired army personnel. We were stoned looking at the warm affections and a genuine hospitality from a person from police. Then a thought crossed our minds contemplating that what if he is trying to wash of his paapa (sins) by doing some punya (good deed) today. But keeping this thought aside, I admired his hospitality.
The place (Bheemeshwara) had a function where people donated part of their produce out of their own will (e.g. local rice farmers donated some rice). People also donated money and the money from the Hundi was also used to organise the bhandara (holy feast). Ashis made some enquiries to the forest police officer to which he entertained politely. The Bhattra had also offered his home for us to stay at night. I mean it from my core when I say that this was the ideal good place and the ideal good people we read about in our books in our school time. I found it hard to believe that I actually was witnessing such a happy, developmental and cooperative environment. A well understood and enriched lifestyle was being followed by the people residing there. I am really impressed by how these people talked and behaved with each other. The essence there of “be happy and make happy” is an inspiration for the mankind. I contemplated the belief that if such people were in abundance, we would be amazed to look at the face of a totally different earth.
Day 7 (28th Feb ’17):
The forest police officer woke us up. We freshened ourselves up and then progressed to Shiva temple near the waterfall up on the hill side.
We took our camera with us as the temple was very old and its angles deserved to be captured in it.
It was indeed very old temple with the people saying that it dated back to 5000BC when Bheema (the Pandava warrior) had established the Shivalinga.
I found it hard to believe so concentrated on my photography. As there was a meagre amount of water flowing through the waterfall, we asked the reason for this from the priest. He said that as of now there are less pilgrims in the vicinity so water is less but when the pilgrims increase, the water level rises. He also challenged us that if right now we brought more pilgrims, right now the water level will increase.
The temple was made totally from precisely cut stone blocks (even the roof) and there were so many waterfalls in the vicinity. This made us think about the complexity behind the building of the temple as the stones are prone to slip against each other in the presence of water but the temple stood perfectly intact from last centuries. The North Western Karnataka region has a specific temple architecture and the Bheemeshwara temple was made of the same architecture.
Then back to the base camp, we ate the delicious breakfast served by the temple committee.
The sweetness of Kesaribath and avalakki although sweet enough themselves could not outweigh the sweetness that the temple people endorsed upon us with their sweet behaviour.
Then packing our luggage and loading them on bike, we started off to our next destination which was Murudeshwara.
The steep climb on the soil in the absence of tar made me remove my slippers for extra hold on the contour of the ground and hence to pull the cycle uphill with a firm hold on the dusty ground.
We passed through the Ghats via Bhatkal to Murudeshwara.
And on the way, being a photo-freak I couldn’t stop myself from lying down on the hot surface
for a picture from an angle that I needed the most.
Reaching Murudeshwara beach, we witnessed the most beautiful sunset of our lives with the red sun diving into the Arabian Sea.
First thing to do was remove my shirt and have a blasting run along the shore. Because this is what I have always loved even at my home back in Odisha. No shoes, no restrictions and no clothes. Full wind and Full body. It is one of the most amazing feelings on earth
And speaking of our evening, it was a georgeous one.
Then we met a guy whom Ashis knew. He provided us with a room in his hotel to freshen ourselves up and then after the dinner, we went back to the beach.
Putting camp a place in the shore 50mtrs away from the sea, we strolled for a while enjoying the sea side breeze. While sleeping in the tent that night, I did strike off an act from my checklist of “to dos”.
Day 8 (1st March ’17):
It was an everlasting memory to witness the sea roaring at us while we woke up in our tent and then whilst packing our tent and luggage. We also met a Canadian. Well he said that he liked the beach and was glad to enjoy the Indian Cuisine there.
Then we freshened ourselves at the Sulabh Sauchalay complex for the start for the day. This trip was a hardcore one as it needed hardcore fast cycling skills and lots of stamina. It was Highway 66, a wide and a frequently used road and comprising of not many ups and downs (which was a relief for us). So we speeded the subsequent hours only halting at a dhaba. It was again a similar Rs.50/- unlimited system. One of the guys at the dhaba informed us about a park nearby which was maintained by government. We went there and as Ashis rested, I tried to learn the camera.
Then we cycled continuously to another dhaba stopping there at night. After having food there the time was 2015hrs. It was very dark with no moon light from above. So we used the lights from the headlights of the vehicles to cover our distance on the highway. The plan was to stay in the middle of the highway and when a vehicle came from the back or forth, give way to it and memorize the road turns and contours and if it was too dark to ride, we walked the distance but we specifically didn’t want to use our phones. Then came a place where a toll booth was being constructed. We put up our camp on the cement slabs, rested our gears, locked our cycles to the tent frame and slept the night off.
Day 9 (2nd Martch ’17):
Marking the entry into the last day of our “Navratri”, we started from the resting point planning to complete around 90kms till 1300hrs because there was a train to Bangalore from Margao station and we had planned to board it.
We crossed Karwar Port and Karwar Naval Base on the way.
At 1115hrs still on NH66 (NH17), we reached the Karnataka-Goa border where there was a gate reading “THANK YOU – VISIT AGAIN” (Karwar border).
And then after 2-3kms or so, there came a board reading “WELCOME TO GOA” and another board read “KARNATAKA STATE BORDER END”. This was the happiest part of our journey for we had successfully completed the expedition.
We took some photographs there and then entered into Goa. The first thing that I was surprised to notice was that petrol was so cheap (cheaper by almost Rs.15 than the rest of India) and was even more surprised to find out that it was even cheaper than diesel with petrol being at Rs.60pl and diesel being at Rs.61pl.
But as we cycled, at 1300hrs, we were just having our lunch at the place of a happy Bihari with another 30kms of Ghats section (named Karmal Ghats) to be covered ahead to reach the station form where the departure of that train was scheduled at 1530hrs. So we dropped the plan to board the train and enjoyed our meals.
While having our meals in a bar cum restaurant, there was a sweet and sour drink offered to be enjoyed after the meal. This was something that I was enjoying for the first time. It had some king of blue-black berries mashed into water with some coriander leaves and chilli.
After waking up from a hot and sweaty sleep in a temple, we started for Margao through the Ghats.
We reached the station at around 2000hrs and did enquiry about packing our cycles and sending them by train with us to Bangalore the next day.
As the gear system was sensitive, the railway authorities themselves advised us to take the cycles by bus as they knew about the rash handling of the goods in railways. Then we had a wonderful dinner following search of a beach to camp tonight. As there are several beaches around Margao, we selected Colva beach for our night camp for today.
Went there and again 50mtrs from the sea, we set our tent against two yellow recreational boats already kept near the life guard observational tower there.
Day 10 (3rd March ‘17):
Morning we freshened up and had breakfast. As we had time till 1730hrs till evening, we planned to go and rest at Benaulim beach as it was beautiful. We did not have enough time to go to Panjim as I had to quickly return to Bangalore.
This afternoon I walked the coastline and enjoyed the Maroon5 songs in my playlist.
Then we and our cycles boarded the bus for Bangalore.
The next day morning we woke up in Bangalore.
And what did we learn?
We got to know how tasty food actually was and how sweet water really was. And I feel sorry for not being able to find a word to explain that feeling.
The smell of the woods throughout the forests and the chirps of the birds, it actually feels closer to life than being safe at my apartment.
That nature’s breeze on my face and when it dries away that sweat drop off my nose feels like my mother blowing to my face to calm me whenever I became anxious in my childhood.
The value of company and the value of a human face,
The value of shadows and the value of light,
When life gives you something, don’t fight but hold on tight.