I don’t know if it was a sudden idea, but I had been planning it out for the past 2 weeks. For a day trip, that’s a lot of planning! But when it is a solo ride on your bike, there are quite a few things that you need to plan. For the contingency of the bike breaking down, where you can take breaks and how often.
Turned out that the distance I was set out to accomplish was around 140 Kms, so it would be a 2.5hr ride with a stop for breakfast extra. The Bullet doesn’t really go too fast and I like to keep it at an even clip of 70 Kmph. So at 7 AM I set out, the fuel having been take care of the previous evening. The weather had been slightly on the warmer and sunnier side, with the promise of rain some evenings. But then, that’s Bangalore weather am talking about. I had no idea what to expect closer to Hassan.
After much dodging of potholes and climbing up and down the speedbreaker hills, I reached Magadi Road. A little kid was on a motorbike and that bike had gotten caught in a hole on the road. (Underage riders and holes in the roads. Welcome to Bangalore!) Another guy in his teens was helping him out of there and signalled to me for a lift. Being the kind who takes no lifts nor offers any, I moved ahead, but stopped after a few feet. “Well, what the hell”. He ran up and got on. “Where are you going to?” he asked. “I don’t know” I said. I had no idea why he was asking the question, so no reason to answer. I dropped him off at the turning to the NICE Road, paid 10 bucks as toll and was pretty soon at the Tumkur Road toll booth.
“Are you going towards Tumkur” asked the toll booth guy.
And I had another guy now sitting pillion as I went along till Nelamangala. I dropped him off at the turning towards the highway to Hassan and went along. A petrol pump was stopped at to fill the air and I was promptly on my way. It was still pretty early and the weather a bit chill. I had avoided shoes for some reason and could feel the cold biting my feet. Solur came and went, and soon the boards said Kunigal. I reached the Kunigal bypass and carried on. After hitting 70 Kms, I stopped on the side on a bridge near a village. There was a Shiva temple with a lone man sitting around. The temple had a massive Nandi instead of the usual small ones facing the Lord. I stood around for 5 minutes, stretching my arms, legs and back. A carpet seller came along below in a stocked up moped which had an audio system blurting out a Hindi number from the 90s. After 5 mins, I sped off again.
Within 20 minutes, Swati Delicacy showed up on the right. A lone building in the middle of nowhere. I stopped there for a quick breakfast and continued along. The plan was to take a left at Hirisave and head on for another 15-20 Kms to Shravanabelagola. Around Hiirisave, the nice 4 lane road with a massive median, compressed into a normal 2 lane one which now also had construction activity going on to make it 4 lane. This section onwards was still work in progress. I was glad to get off the highway. And once I turned off I realized I was in one of those roads that make you fall in love with riding.
The two-lane road was winding, there were trees on both sides, there was very negligible traffic and the road condition was prisitine. The Sun was out, the sky was blue with puffy white clouds and there was a mild chill in the air. I rode along through the roads which passed through a couple of tiny villages and was near the main entrance of the hill before I knew it.
It was 10:15 AM as I began the climb after leaving my slippers off at the room for that. There were barely 3 or 4 other pairs around. As I climbed I looked back and shot a few photos, whenever I felt out of breath. Climbing without a DLSR to lug about was much easier though. After 5 minutes, once the breath got adjusted, the climb was much easier. I got to the top, checking out the different inscriptions written there and then made it to the main temple to see the nude saint.
A North Indian family with grandparents and grandchildren was around.
One of the kids handed over a feature phone with a camera and asked “Photo lenge aap?”
“Kahaan se hai aap?” I asked the kid while handing over the phone later.
“Bhopal se” said he, with the extra drag native Hindi speakers put on the “aa” in Bhopal.
“Baahubali, O Baahubaleee” his grandfather kept singing in the background.
Another North Indian family, this time with a proper point-and-shoot camera asked for a photo. There weren’t enough pilgrims or tourists for me to worry about becoming the official photographer, thankfully.
After a while I went out and gazed out at everything around the hill. There was what looked like a road and I asked the watchman what it was. “Railway lineu” he said. On closer inspection, that’s what it was. The new line being developed from Hassan to Bangalore. I didn’t know until a few months back, that the way to get to Hassan from Bangalore was only through Mysore. This also explained the new station being developed at Hirisave. On the left there was Chennarayapatna, a town in the midst of coconut farms as long as the eye could see. I wondered where Hassan was, but he said that Hassan was much futher away. There were windmills in the distance, so we agreed that it might be after that. I searched my Kannada vocabulary to find a word for windmills and couldn’t, so used the English word with him. (Any idea?)
I climbed down and having much time went over to check out what looked like a Mantap on one side. There was a pillar on the other side of it and the whole place had no human presence. A blissful 15 minutes was spent sitting by the mantap taking in the view from there, with the wind beating straight on. I began my descent soon after, and after a drink of tender coconut water I started on the return journey.
It was slightly warmer, but when I had gotten to less than 10 Kms from there towards Hirisave, I had to brake hard and stop. A weird bird had flown across and I knew I just had to check it out. It was too far up the tree and I had no DSLR with me. So I just looked at it, with an approximate idea of what it was. I guessed that it was a Malabar hornbill. Turned out it was a Malabar grey hornbill, which is endemic to the Western Ghats. The more exotic one is the pied hornbill.
The return went along uneventful lines and I was back at Swati Delicacy for lunch. I decided to ditch the boring Tumkur Road and head back via Magadi. So the right turn after Kunigal was taken and the road was again pristine with trees on the both sides with minimal traffic. After Magadi, traffic picked up very slightly, but then this was usual territory for me. There were quite a few stone laden trucks though headed from the granite hills of that region. These can be dangerous as small rocks could get off them when they get into potholes or slopes and those can come straight at you and cause much harm, especially when you’re on a bike. Thankfully, none of that happened and I was back at home by 3 PM.
The whole ride was 282Kms, 143 to go and 139 on the return. The best thing was that the back didn’t feel too bad. But then the trauma it would have gone through over 282 Kms of mostly highway would be a tiny fraction of that over 15 Kms of Bangalore roads. Even by evening the same day there was no sign of any stress on the back. This definitely means there’ll be more bike rides!
It was strange noticing the weather only when Bangalore came into the picture. Until then it was sunny with a mild wind and cool under the trees. Come Bangalore and it was sunny, hot, dusty and noisy with very few trees!
Photos here, all shot with the iPhone 5 camera: