The Pilot’s SMS really thrilled me at 4.00 am in the morning. “Good Morning, have something light, like a piece of bread or banana. Don’t ride on an empty stomach. Wish you a nice ride” - J. The Pilot in question is our Trivandrum Bullet Club moderator – Jay (Iron Bull 500) and the ride - our Trivandrum Bullet club Anniversary ride (Trivandrum to Goa and back in 5 days covering 2000 km.) Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?
Well, I couldn’t be more thrilled. In fact though I wanted to sleep properly, sleep came and went in 4 hours. Bags packed. Couple of Idlis for a ‘lite’ breakfast. My airbag wrapped in the plastic bike cover and tied with a bungee cord on to my silver Electra 350 cc‘s back seat.
I joined the 3 riders at Chavadimukku junction.
Jay – Royal Enfield 500 cc (our group moderator)
Anil - Royal Enfield –Machismo 350 cc
Varghese – Karizma (He’s been eyeing a second-hand 500 cc Bull in Bangalore!)
Our pal, Sojish accompanied us to Ernakulam in his car. Group rides have to be well planned and organized otherwise the ride can be chaotic and dangerous. So we put Varghese as the lead who will front-end. Jay will be the sweep (tail-end). Both these guys have extensive long distance riding experience. We would interchange the lead and the sweep so that all get less stressed out.
Day 1: We planned to cover Trivandrum to Kannur
Trivandrum – Ernakulam – Kozhikode – Mahe – Kannur [506 km]
Riding with gloves, boots, helmets, rain jackets, cramster luggage and lots of thumping power from the RE Bullets. We started off at around 5.00 am in the morning. We were going about 80-90 km/hr on the bulls with practically no traffic early morning. My airbag on the back seat also seemed to be excited. At 80-90 km/hr after Attingal it started doing bungee jumping. Jay’s constant honking brought me to a stop. The new bungee cord was in fact too lengthy. We placed my bag in Sojish’s car and proceeded.
At Kollam we stopped for tea. Varghese noticed that his Karizma seemed to have some kind of oil leak. He decided to get a checkup done at the Cochin showroom.
We reached Ernakulam at 9.30 am. Chapattis and chicken curry. Philip, Varghese’s friend, joined us on his CBZ. Varghese left to get a check up for his Karizma oil leak. All three Bulleters and Philip on his CBZ proceeded from Ernakulam towards Guruvayoor. We stopped at a petrol pump where the attendant pointed out that Jay’s 500 cc bike’s modified exhaust was disconnected from the sub frame due to a break in the welding joint. We found a welder who skillfully fixed it.
We moved from there towards Edapal and Kuttipuram, where another of our Bullet Club members based in Kozhikode - Anjath, was supposed to meet us. He was having his exams and so could not ride with us. We met him on the NH 17 with his Blitzkrieg bright blue Royal Enfield Thunderbird parked on the highway. The fat tires and the custom paint job made the bike a real eye turner. He bought us some lunch (Parotta and sambar, since other hotels were closed due to the fasting Ramzan season) though we insisted that he shouldn’t pay since he was still a student. We couldn’t find him the Thunderbird mirrors in Trivandrum as they were out of stock.
Varghese joined us from the Thrissur route. Bidding Anjath bye, we proceeded towards Kannur. The highway stretch had great roads – only chicken will not go over 100km /hr on a Bullet! We were all going in a single line formation in narrow roads and with a staggered formation in wider roads.
We maintained a second distance between the bikes in front of us. I must say we maintained good integrity and discipline during the tempting highway except for the speed. The highway cops could only have a glance at us as we passed by them in a flash! I think we were lucky that they didn’t have their speed radars with them.
One thing I must say is that even at 100 km/hr, I found that the Bullet is completely stable with excellent road grip and I felt completely safe. I was wishing I had a 5th gear to race up to 140 km/ph if possible. Thumps up!
We reached Thalassery at about 9.30 pm. Hotel Paris Presidency was more than we expected. John, on a Bullet Electra, joined us. He is Philips’ brother. After a full course dinner we strolled towards our bikes where we noticed that Jay’s 500cc bike had great thumping power that it shed the screws on the sub frame holding the exhaust pipe (the one, which was earlier, welded)! Jay and myself managed to find some metal wire in a shop near the hotel. John’s excellent tying skills helped keep the exhaust in place till the end of the trip.
We hit the bed to wake up at 4.00 am next day.
Day 2: Kannur – Mangalore – Udipi – Karwar – Panaji (Goa) [539 km]
At 5.00 am we were on the road racing away to get as much traffic free roads. Meanwhile some of our Bullet club friends from Bangalore had come to join us for this ride and were waiting for us at Udipi on their Bullets.
On the Kannur-Mangalore stretch, our pal Philip on the CBZ had a fall. He was negotiating a sharp turn on the 5th gear and unfortunately he lost control and hit the soft grass and a newly dug up trench on the roadside. I was a km ahead and John was leading on his Electra. We stopped at not seeing our pals behind us.
We soon saw Varghese who came and signaled us to come back. We went praying that nothing serious was up. Yes, the one above took care of that. Philip was perfectly ok. Only the bike had a slight bent brake pedal (loaded to crash and burn, we never learn!). One of the major things in biking is to have full control of your bike. You should be able to slow down or stop at the point you want to. Once you can get that under control, you are automatically going at the correct speed.
We stopped at Mangalore outskirts for breakfast where Jay got himself some spare screws for the exhaust pipe. Doc Philip had some medicine for my headache, thanks! You saved my day! After dosa breakfast, we proceeded to Udipi. I must say this is a great track for rallying. Its full of potholes and I suggest all shock absorber companies can test their products here.
We could hardly do a 20-km/hr speed. Sick. This road and Philips fall delayed our schedule. Our Bullet pals from Udipi called us and said they are going to chill out at some nearby beach and will be back on the NH 17 waiting for us. Those of you who want a bumpy ride please do hurry to this stretch – if the elections are around – you may find this as an extra smooth road!
We soon caught up with those guys and after a brief round of introduction. We had 13 bikes blazing away in a single line with their headlights on. JSR on Machismo led the group. He has just been back from a Bullet trip to Leh. With the noise of the Bullets and smooth riding, we could have easily carried a message of peace and national integration! There were children waving and cheering us on. This was totally unexpected. My heart thumped up with joy!
We stopped at Bhatkal for lunch. We wanted to cross the Karwar Ghat section before dark. That didn’t happen. The Ghat section had a great view of 13 bikes thumping away and moving in a single line taking the steep curves with grace and the scenery dotted by the red taillights of the bikes. After tea and samaosas at Karwar, we proceeded to enter Goa – We reached Navelim where we stopped and took count of our group.
I led the group inside Madgaon city (I grew up here J) and on to Panjim city. We kept a speed of 60 km/hr. The Bullets had no problems during the whole trip. They were asking where next?
We soon found our hotel on the Baga beach at 11.00 pm where Jay’s friends from Pune, Navendu and group were there with their bulls. After a round of introduction, we met happy-go-lucky guys like Kamlesh, Pervez (Musharaf?), Sasikanth and many other guys. There was also Vimal, our old pal, who is now in Bangalore.
We couldn’t find any food at 1.00am in the night and then entered a restaurant called Kamasutra (no naughty thoughts please! Only food and beer here). Well, the beer flowed. Kamlesh and Pervez were on a roll. Pervez started his sher–o-shayri, who soon got out of control, he soon found himself sleeping in the building opposite Kamasutra restaurant.
Well the dinner was delayed by over an hour. But when you are hungry, anything chalega! We finally got dinner at 2.45 am! After dinner we hit the bed at the Hacienda hotel in Baga.
We planned to have an exciting day ahead at the beach and return the next day morning (2 Oct). But life has its twists and turns and the next day we had to change our plans.
Day 3 – Oct 1, 2006
Early morning, Jay got news that his father was seriously ill and admitted in hospital. He was wanted back at home. He said he would ride back alone. Definitely ‘No’ was our answer. We had a great ride up to Goa with him and we were not leaving him alone. We said we would join him on the ride back. It was going to be a strenuous ride to reach Trivandrum the next day night, 1000 odd km at a continuous stretch.
But what the hell are challenges for?
And so it was decided. I would leave to Madgaon town first to see my old Goan pals. The rest of the gang would join me at Madgaon and we would go back via Karwar. I went solo to Madgaon.
Headed straight to my old friend Frankie’s bar at 1.40 pm (hey no drinks when a ride is around!) After some time, I said bye to Frankie and headed to my next pal Vinod’s place, lunch ski there. Jay called up to say they were on their way from Baga beach. After that I headed to my next pal Dylan’s place. Then I went to the old market junction and waited for our gang to turn up. All this in 90 minutes!
Vinod accompanied me to Dylan’s place and to the old market junction. We had tea as we waited. Soon Varghese’s bike arrived with parking lights flashing, with other guys in tow. Ok time to go, Vinod.
I led the group outside Madgaon town and towards Cancona and Karwar. On the way, John had a flat. Now to get a mechanic on Sunday! We were lucky. There was one at the nearby junction. So Varghese, Philip and John agreed to get John’s tyre fixed and join us later at Karwar.
So Jay, Anil and myself left for Karwar. I was leading going a 90 km/hr in spurts in the Ghat section. After sometime I noticed, Anil and Jay were missing. I waited for them a good 10 minutes and finally turned by bike to look for them. Suddenly I could see two bikes with headlights on. I was relieved - at least there were no accidents! Apparently Jays 500cc Bullet had developed some shock problems due to which he felt his back tyre wobble. When we need to speed up in an emergency situation it is a terrible thing to happen. We checked his tyre and alignment etc. All seemed fine. We decided to go ahead.
Jay stopped for some mineral water. I too stopped. Trying to park, my leg slipped on the wet grass. Enjoyed the fall into the trench. Anil came rushing to lift my bike and stop the fuel from leaking. We had just made a full tank at Madgaon town.
All fine. We proceeded towards Karwar. Varghese and team joined us after their “flat” adventure. John and Philip were headed to Bangalore. They would split at Honavar.
We stopped some distance after Karwar before the Ghat to refill some bread omelets at 7.30 pm. We knew we had to get some sleep. It was too dangerous to try to ride continuously. In that attempt, I called my pal Vinod in Goa who owns a cyber café. He gave us a few numbers of hotels in Udipi. I promptly booked 2 rooms in Comfort Inn and asked the guy to wait till 12.00am.
We then left at a stretch to Honavar, keeping a steady 80 km/hr. We stopped at the Honavar junction at 11.00am, where the road split into 2 – Bangalore and Mangalore. John checked his Electra. It seemed to be giving excess smoke. It appeared as though the rings gave problem or must be excess oil leak from the piston.
After saying good byes we parted in two different directions, hoping to get together for another ride. Varghese led followed by Jay, Anil and me. We kept a good speed (70 km / hr) despite the wet roads and low visibility.
Day 4 or night?
At 12.00 am we stopped to refuel at a pump. Varghese had a nap right beside the petrol pump. There were a few guys at the pump who were really amazed to see us on a rainy midnight. Usually, they get to see only trucks and 4 wheelers. They topped up our tanks and admired our bikes – asking about the mileage. I said with a Bullet we don’t look at mileage! Jay felt we should take a small nap to freshen ourselves so as to reach Udipi. So with their permission we lay down on the steps of the petrol pump-billing counter. I think we took a 15-minute power nap. And soon were on our way to Udipi.
We reached a restaurant at Udipi at around 2.15 am. We had Idli, vada and tea. Anil came up with a suggestion that we should sleep for at least an hour and half before we proceed for the rest of the Journey. More importantly, the Udipi–Mangalore stretch is so bumpy, that all the food we had would be out and we would be more dead tired. Better we tackle the stretch afresh after some sleep.
To hell with finding the hotel we booked. We asked the restaurant boss for some lodge nearby. He said there was one and soon called them up. Alas! No room, even the reception was filled with families sleeping. All the guys said, “Lets move ahead”. I’m a guy with helluva persistence.
I pestered the restaurant owner about some space in his restaurant and he ultimately said okay and there was some space above this restaurant in the corridor. Great! It was dark like a dungeon, who cares we were the Biker Draculas! Jay lit it up with his small torch with weak batteries. I bought a mosquito coil from the restaurant boss. Soon we were spread out and on the way to sleep. Jay set his mobile alarm to 4.00 am – so that we could hit the road by 4.30 am.
Whether the alarm rang or not only the alarm will know. When we woke up it was 5.30 am and dawn light was slightly making its presence felt. We hurriedly packed, had tea and left for the bumpy roads towards Mangalore.
Frankly, even now, thinking of those roads makes me sick. Imagine having to pick your potholes – either a mysterious water filled pothole or a plain one with sharp rocks (which one will you pick?).
Anyway we reached Mangalore. Jay and Varghese were ahead. To make matters worse, Anil and I lost our way and ventured into Mangalore town (not a bad event - at least we could see some Manglorean girls!)
Finally we called up Jay and asked him to go ahead with Varghese, as we would be coming at a slower pace. We stopped at a restaurant on the highway for breakfast. After that we sped away towards Kannur. By 12.30pm, the heat was tiring us down. We reached Kannur at 1.00 pm. After refueling in Kannur, we had lunch on the way to Thalasseri.
From Thalasseri to Edapally seemed like a never-ending ride. Ultimately we managed to reach Edapally at 8.30 pm.
Had dinner at KR Bakes. The security told us that our pals and Jay had been there an hour ago. I had a heavy dinner (a big mistake!). Too heavy – sandwich, pizza and juice.
My eyes started blinking with sleep in the Ernakulam-Alleppey stretch. Dangerous. I stopped and took a 15-minute power nap in a closed shop, while Anil waited for me to wake up.
After 15 minutes, we got going. I chased a bus to drive sleep away and managed to reach Kollam. Had extra strong coffee opposite Kollam railway station.
In the final Kollam-Trivandrum stretch, we rode nearly continuously. When Anil was in the lead I used to trail behind – “sleep” was my brakes. And he used to stop.
We managed to reach Attingal and stopped after some distance. The return ride of over 1000 km at a near continuous ride (just a 3 hrs sleep!) was dead tiring. [Please don’t try this at home!]
Hell, I said if we have come 1,970 km, we could do 30 km more to finish the trip.
So with one wide-eyed attempt we reached Chavadimukku. We said goodbye and soon reached home. Hey when’s the next ride? Thump on!