The monsoons are here, right on cue. Not too much riding on the cards though. The rains have not been allowing me to ride to Sound checks either. A wet denim situation is not as cool as the riding pants; I can’t seem to find. That said the last time I rode in the rains was almost a year and a half ago (c. 2015) with Vir Nakai (Helmet Stories) and Kshitij Rasal on my way up to Ooty from Bangalore. This was one of those Autocar Magazine and Hero MotoCorp Wanderer things, beautifully crafted by Motorcycle Adventurer Vir.
So I get a call from Autocar informing me to block my dates for the first few days in September for the man from Helmet Stories has a plan. I for one, consider the folks from helmet stories as a pivot point for everything riding and motorcycles in my life as I rode my first ever long distance with them which was a 185 kms long breakfast run, but that’s a different story, for a different post.
Coming back to the plan – That phone call was followed by an email with Flight Tickets to Bangalore asking me to carry all essential motorcycle riding gear and something to protect me from the rain, in case the weather gods have another plan. Everything about that email sounded just perfect. Motorcycle Gear, Check. Rain Liners, Check. Enthusiasm, Check.
At the airport, while waiting for my flight to schedule and lock the aero-ramp in, a quite kid stepped up to say Hi. Introducing Kshitij Rasal, he was also called by Autocar and was on CC on that email. We exchanged pleasantries and got onto that aircraft bound to Bangalore. Little did I know I’d end up with him on a whatsapp group and have him as a really dear friend.
So, Bangalore was gloomy. Typical of Bangalore, the drive to the Hotel was as long as our flight or may be a little longer. At this point Vir asked me to collect the Hero Karizmas from the Dealership boy and take charge of the keys. If there is one thing a biker loves more than riding, than that would be the custody of more than one motorcycle. There were 3 in this case.
The next morning was #ATimeToRide with Vir and Kshitij. We caught some breakfast at the hotel, loaded the Karizmas and we were off. The plan was to exit Bangalore before the slaves step out and drag themselves to work. Also, we were riding on a week day, so the notorious Bangalore traffic was at the back of our mind. A quick stop to fuel up and we were out of the city before the zombies woke up for work. A little homework with google maps helps in such situations, else Bangalore can be a pain for liner city dwellers like us.
We clocked a whole lot on the ODO relatively quick. The Karizmas were nimble, hideous looking, but nimble and fairly quick. The Bangalore Mysore highway was a drag. 2-lane black-top with villages on both sides of the road, great tarmac though. Noon, I was dying of hunger and was hoping for Vir to stop somewhere for Lunch. Vir stopped. Not for lunch but to decide if we’d want to take the Bypass at Mysore or ride through the city? We decided to ride through the city because Mysore is supposed to be a beautiful place with some gorgeous architecture on display as you ride through, also, Vir knew of a nice place to eat from one of his rides years ago. Now I did not care much for the Architecture at this point or how gorgeous Mysore was. It was Stunning. All I cared was for food. Vir kept riding and riding and riding in what felt like riding around in circles around Mysore (I swear we made 3 left turns). FINALLY, he found the place he was looking for and we dug into some “Punjabi food?” at the side of the road somewhere in Mysore. Now this is Classic Vir. I smiled at the paradox and got eating. I could think now.
The forecast came through, except it began to drizzle a 145 kms away from the predicted location. #SlowClaps Met. Dept. Here was my cue to use the rain-liner on my Rjays and the Rain cover on the Viaterra Claw. For the next 25 kms we snaked between traffic and ran the bike off the road and rode through what was unpaved, broken tarmac.
We found some good tarmac eventually, but the rains had no chill and showed no mercy. We got slapped for another 40 kms until when we were just about to enter the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The rain stopped. The bloody sun came out. I could see myself ride out from an absolutely dense washed out road into a dry patch like nothing had happened. I am yet to figure out what sorcery went down there? Not complaining. The Tiger reserve was a sight I will NEVER forget. Not many times do You have the opportunity to ride through a National Park, let alone a Tiger Reserve. We spotted Monkeys on the road and had to stop for elephants to cross and migrate to their watering holes, because hey, we’re using their corridor here.
17 kilometres and 30 minutes later I saw Vir waiting below a sign board which said Ooty 36 kms away. BUT now we had a choice to make – Whether to take the road through this National Park into Ooty like the way any normal person would do it, or to turn into Masinagudi and ride through the 36 hairpin bends of the Kavaratty Ghats. You’d obviously made this guess, right? Right?
Right! We took that left. We blasted through Masinagudi and then into those switchbacks. Hero has split with Honda, and for them to retain the patents on a lot of their machines they had to change a few things on every bike to make it their own. I don’t know what they did to the new Karizma ZMR other than the very apparent ugly looks, the power delivery on that thing was a joke as we tried to pull ourselves up the bends, considering the Torque figures on the New version was marginally better than the previous model this one sure did not feel that way. Or maybe I was just heavier that week in September. Who am I kidding? I am always the heavy dude around. So after 40 minutes of Revving and chugging we made it to the top. It rained on us again as we were ascending. It rained throughout. September, does Ooty get cooler? The rains and the altitude now were kicking my ass; the wet Rynox Inferno Pro gloves weren’t helping my cause. Well it wasn’t their fault, they aren’t the waterproof kinds.
Kshitij and I rolled into Ooty city as we spotted Vir standing by a Chai stall. Our hotel was just a block away, but we could not help but jump off the bikes and grab a hot cup just so we regulate the temperatures of our finger before they fell off. The chai stall dudes were kind enough and allowed me to hold the boiling milk vessel as he poured my second round of Chai. Vir was having a blast watching us perish.
We checked into the Taj Savoy. I had a fireplace, a real fireplace with wood and fire and a chimney in my room. IT. DID. NOT. HELP. I had someone tell me about the chills in Ooty and how bone piercing it gets. I felt it today…
All Pictures Courtesy – Vir Nakai & Sigmund Quadros