Disclaimer: This post has been written for Mahindra XUV 500 "Incredible Stories".
The post is really long. So I do hope you give it a read, even though this might test your patience!! :P
I've written it in the form of chapters, to make it sound more interesting and in the process of writing I became an owl (Coz I stayed up the whole night to finish it off!). So for those kind readers who would leave me a feedback, I would ever be gratified by your gesture. And here's the link just in case you'd like to vote for me.:)
So, Enjoy the READ!!
Years from now, when I can’t turn back time and the still photos of the past doesn’t narrate the scrupulous tales that lie behind each of the picture taken at some point in time; I can always go back to the old days by just turning a page. Or in this case, I can just click a link and find this post on my blog!
I’m going to narrate about a particular road trip that took place in my life on October 22, 2010. Two years ago, my school friends and I planned an extravagant, never before attempted road trip. Just planning this trip gave me the goose bumps and quite an adrenaline rush because:
a) We were about to break a few rules by lying at home and
b) We (me and the other girls that is) had never travelled out on bikes all night long and that too to a place called Mandalpatti whose road was a challenge to travel in the first place.
But the whole adventure and the risk it displayed was totally worth it. Every minute of it, every second is etched on my mind like it happened just yesterday. And in the future, if in case I lose my memory I want to keep this in the digital format so that I can re-carve it on my erased memory what exactly I had experienced in one of my college days.
Some of the things one needs to be prepared for and gear up during a long bike trip:
- Keep your scarves, cotton balls and helmet prepared coz the speed of the bike brings about crazy wind, crazy enough to give you a head ache and almost makes you go deaf.
- If you are going out on a bike in the middle of an October night, it will be damn cold, so be prepared with your jackets and gloves.
- Being a back seat rider you’ll have nothing much to do other than let a million crazy things cross your mind and also entertain the rider with crazy songs and quips (so that they won’t fall asleep, just in case!)
- Finally, the scenic beauty of Madikeri (whenever the early morning mist decides for you to get a glimpse of what it’s hiding from you that is!) will make you feel like you are sitting on a bike that is riding through the paths of a paradise called heaven.
1. The Text
It was yet another boring day in my life. I had nothing to look forward to and had pretty much resigned to listen to my boring lecturer drone about a particular topic on Software Engineering, a subject so dry that it physically makes you want to crave for a cool beverage in the middle of the class. As I was fighting hard my natural impulse to fall asleep, I was woken up from my stupor when a text message from my friend Apoo flashed across my cell phone: “We are having a meeting at adda today. Be there, 5 pm sharp. You can go back to sleep now! :P “.
Adda is what we call for our regular hang-out place. It’s near my house, at the churmuri gaadi. This is the only place where all we school friends hang-out and just chill out, relieving the old school days and gossiping and teasing each other. School friends are the best to hang out with. Especially for me since my life at my college will never be as colourful as my life outside the college and it’s only possible because I hang out with a bunch of super-cool idiots like my school friends. Our group consists of me, Apoo, Anoo, Shash, Rabbit, Sach, Shanku and Yash (all nicknames used here!). Occasionally the other 3 or 4 guys from my school hop in at the adda for a quick hi, but we eight meet up frequently, always planning for future excursions.
But the thing is, every time we plan a trip, due to many factors it fails predominantly. So after our Ooty trip about 8 months before this trip, I had pretty much lost faith in any form of plan execution when it came to a trip plan. Nonetheless when I saw Apoo’s text, the old spark started to light up my insides and I was restless for the rest of the day while I tried to figure out what possible discussion today’s meeting would unfold. I kept looking at my watch and just couldn’t wait for 5 pm to arrive.
2. The Plan
After 15 minutes of listening to the plan while we all gobbled up mango churmuri, I spoke: “So on Friday, we are going on a bike trip to Mandalpatti, that’s near Madikeri. Not only that, but we are going for an all night ride, not by car, but by bikes... BIKES!? And to top it off, we need to start our journey at 10 pm in the night. Quick question: How the hell are we supposed to leave the house at 10 pm. You do know our parents will come to know if we step out of the house at that time, don’t you?”
Apoo shook her head and giggled at my seemingly sumptuous question: “And I thought you were a writer. It’s a simple plan dumbo. Me and Suppi (her college friend) came up with this” she said proudly and continued; “We each leave our houses at 9 pm telling we are going to be staying at the other‘s house for the night for a slumber party or whatever and we’ll all meet up at adda and finally start our journey. We can have a nice hot cup of coffee at Hunsur road’s CCD (cafe coffee day) too” she beamed at us and said “So, what do you think?”
I was dumbfounded and silently kicking myself for not thinking something this cool in the first place but we all were very impressed at the plan. So the plan was finally in execution and for real this time. The guys got busy servicing their bikes the next day, since healthy bikes were at most important for our journey and we girls got busy shopping for snacks, chocolates, scarves and other small stuffs that would come in handy for our trip the next day.
3. Almost Caught
It was 8 pm that night and I was busy packing my backpack with all the stuff I would need: flash light, scarf, gloves, jacket and even managed to smuggle some homemade snacks without my mom or granny knowing what I was up to. At 8.35 pm I came down stairs with my backpack and both my granny and mom looked at me with raised eyebrows. “Oh I forgot to tell you, I’m going to be staying at Apoo’s house tonight. Nobody is in her house so giving her company” I said easily as I’ve told these types of lies many times before but never for something as exciting as a night out bike ride. Both mommy and granny nodded in unison and told me to ride slow as it was dark outside. As I was wearing my sports shoe, my granny asked me suddenly, “Why are you wearing shoes at this time?” and another lie easily flowed through my mouth; “Ajji, naale betta hattivi, adhike”. Granny, tomorrow we will climb betta (a 1000 steps of Chamundi hills that’s in Mysore), that’s why the shoes.
No more question followed me as I happily took out my Dio from the garage and rode to the Adda. I was soon joined by Anoo, Apoo, Suppi (we were the 4 girls) and Yash. While we were waiting for the other guys to arrive, we had an unexpected encounter with Apoo’s relatives. We had totally forgotten that her uncle’s family lived nearby the Adda and they had come for a casual night-walk. Seeing them, Yash stealthily disappeared because if they saw us with a guy at this time of the night, they would obviously get very suspicious. So it was just us four girls and when they enquired Apoo what she was doing here, she said (while attempting to cover her panic) that they were all going to my place just now for a sleep-over. Her Aunt and Uncle looked at me and my get-up (I was wearing double jacket and a scarf and shoes) and at Suppi, Apoo and Anoo who were also in the same get-up as me and slyly smiled at us. “Ok you girls enjoy the “sleep-over” and don’t worry we won’t tell you mother that we met you tonight”, her Uncle winked at her. As they walked away, the four of us sighed in relief.
Yash called us just then and told us to come to the nearby petrol bunk as that’s where all the other guys were waiting.
4. The Night-Out Begins
After parking mine, Apoo’s, Suppi’s and Anoo’s vehicle somewhere safe we were finally set for the bike-ride of our lives. So totally we were a gang of 4 girls and 10 guys with 7 bikes. For me and the other girls, this was an exciting trip as we had never done this before but the guys had already visited Mandalpatti just a few months back. According to them, Mandalpatti was about 15kms from Madikeri and Madikeri was about 120kms from Mysore. So all in all, from Mysore to Mandalpatti, it would take about 4 hours at the max. Since it was a long journey, we had plans to rest at Hunsur’s 24/7 CCD, which was a 2 hr ride from Mysore.
So I and the girls chose our riders. Let me tell you one thing, going on a bike trip with childhood guy-friends is the best thing. Since we were friends for a long time, there was no any awkward feelings like “Oh, I’m sitting behind this guy kinda thing”, and the whole time I was sitting behind Rabbit, I got to know more about his recent endeavours at his college, his recent girlfriends and we both had a good time teasing each other openly. Apoo was riding with Yash and Anoo with Sach and Suppi with Shash. My first choice would have been Shash since he’s my neighbour and my best friend since we were 5 years of age but back then I had a slight quarrel with him about some silly issue and hence, as I climbed on rabbit’s bike I showed Shash my tongue like a kid which was returned by him and made the ever-realistic Anoo to shout “oh! Grow up you two!”
It was 11 pm in the night before the journey finally began with excited whooping from all of us. It was exciting to travel the empty roads of Mysore which I usually travel at rush hour. The night air was cool as it had recently rained a few hours back and it was soothing to my face. It wasn’t that cold but I knew it would get worse once we got near Madikeri. Once we were on the Mysore-Hunsur Ring road, the actual fun began. The road was flat and smooth and at times when there were no other vehicles except ours, Rabbit would give me a heart attack by speeding up the bike to a vicious 120kph making me yank his jacket and yell at him to slow down. He was having a laugh by the way, since he knew I feared over-speeding. So the next time he speeded his Karizma to 120, I decided to have a laugh myself by yanking his skull cap off his head and making it fly behind us like a feather. That made him stop speeding and by cursing me, he turned back and headed back the empty road in search for his cap!
5. The dash and the chase
What a night we had chosen that day. It was a full moon. The spherical moon shone directly above our heads. For ten continuous minutes, I had my face towards the sky as I took in the beauty of the night sky in the middle of the road. The beauty of the moon and the stars that lit the sky filled me with a sense of mystery and awe.
It had been over an hour since we left Mysore; the traffic was starting to get thick in these parts. The road was mostly taken by Lorries and buses and a few cars. There were hardly any two wheelers apart from ours. We were riding at the side, almost near the road curb and quite slowly as we were playing Antakshari and singing songs at the top of our voices. Shash and Suppi were riding just beside us and suddenly it happened. A bus came speeding up from behind us and even though we were completely at the road side, since the road was quite curvy, the bus driver lost track of the distance and the back of the bus hit Shash’s pulsar, making the back of his bike, hit our bike. Although Rabbit didn't lose his balance, Shash did. Shock engulfed me as I saw the whole thing in slow-motion.
Shash lost his balance due to the impact and both he and Suppi toppled over to the right and fell off the bike. My heart was pounding gruesomely as I jumped off the bike and rushed to their aid. Suppi was already on her feet and seemed to be in no danger but Shash was still face down on the ground. Even though he had hit his head, the helmet had protected him. My throat was constricted and I couldn’t speak a word but was shaking him with both my hands. Thank god, nothing had happened to him except a light sprain on his wrist (which he didn’t tell right then since he needed to ride the bike).
As we made sure nothing had happened to him and Suppi and then checked if the bike was okay, the other guys were already behind the bus. That bloody driver hit us and had speeded up in an attempt to escape. Five minutes later, we caught up with the bus that was forced to park at the side of the road. A van that was right behind us when this incident took place saw what happened and had chased and stopped the bus for us. A huge crowd had gathered around the bus by the time we reached. Though I hate getting involved in a brawl, I was out raged that the driver didn’t even had the courtesy to stop and apologize for his mistake. All in all the guys fought with the driver with raised voices and after checking the bike (which had some severe scratches on its side) the driver consented to pay 500 Rs as compensation. The guys weren’t happy with the small amount but we girls wanted to end this as it looked like it would get ugly and because we were there, they didn’t want anything nasty to happen and thus we resumed our journey in silence.
6. Refreshments and Alleviation
We finally reached Hunsur’s CCD around 1.30 am. We entered the deserted place. The place was brightly lit and warm. We ordered hot coffee for everyone and settled down on the soft couches and relaxed for some time. Suppi had a bad bruise on her right knee and her jeans near her knee cap was slightly bloody and worn out. She was shaking from shock and we concentrated on cheering her up by clicking her photos and as she loves giving poses she soon forgot about the incident and was back to her cheerful self.
But I saw Shash get up and go outside and sit. He looked far from happy. After a while I went outside to see if he was okay. He was feeling bad not for his bike but because of him Suppi had to endure a bruise too. I told him to forget about it since accidents happen and it wasn't his fault anyway. “Are you sure you are okay?” I asked him again. “Uh, yeah but I think my wrist might be sprained” he said, gingerly turning his wrist and wincing. “Hey, I don’t think you should ride the vehicle in your condition, let one of the guys ride it”, I said in concern. But he insisted on riding anyway. “Thank god it was just a small mishap. Imagine if the last thing I spoke to you was by showing you my tongue, you’d be cursing me from hell right now”, I said by punching him. “Hey, I was born to go to heaven, unlike you”, he guffawed.
7. Foggy path to Madikeri
By the time we left CCD, it was around 3.30 am. It would take two more hours to reach our destination: Mandalpatti. Rabbit knew the way to Mandalpatti and he was leading the whole troupe. When we reached the Ghats section to Madikeri, the surroundings had gone so misty and foggy that we could barely see the road that was ahead of us. We could only see what was there, five feet ahead from us and after that, it was obscured by a thick wall of foggy mist. Since there were many curves we had to be utmost careful. We constantly blared our bike horns while turning every bend and thankfully the other heavy vehicles that we encountered at these nasty curves were equally careful.
After about an hour and a half we had reached Madikeri. The middle of the circle was brightly lit and so we got down to stretch our legs. Riding on the plain ring road was easy but riding through a curvy mountain was really tough. All our legs were paining from the extra balance and pressure that we had to maintain while sitting on the vehicle.
It was 5 am and it was still pretty much dark out there. Rabbit informed us that Mandalpatti was about 20kms from here and the road would be a horror show to ride upon. So we resumed our journey and braced ourselves for some rough terrain ahead.
8. Wrong turn
I had no idea where we were headed. I had only heard about Mandalpatti but I had never seen what it would be like. As the bike bumped up and down the uneven, muddy road I just hoped over and over that the place better be worth all of this. And I was right.
It was pitch black and we had entered the rough uninhabited areas of Western Ghats. The path weaved through thickly segregated trees which dispersed the fog and we would have had a better vision except it was pitch dark. At some points the road was so horrible that the pillion riders had to get off the bike. It was really hard to balance. And at some points the bike’s headlight wouldn’t suffice to see further and luckily I had brought with me a flash light which came to its full use that day.
We reached the first deviation and we took the right fork as the left fork had a sign post that pointed to Abbi falls, which is a beauty of its own. After 15 more minutes of our journey on the rough terrain, we reached the second fork. This was trickier to figure out which path we should take as there were no signs. Rabbit thought for a while and said “I think it’s the right one”. The other guys had their doubts with his decision but nonetheless consented and after half an hour of riding aimlessly we figured out that we had taken the wrong turn.
Getting back to the fork was quite a challenge. We had taken a lot of turns in between. By this time it was light again and we were surrounded by beautiful green trees as we reached a road that was actually in the middle of a valley. It’s good that we lost our way else we wouldn’t have seen such a sight. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures at that moment because I had safely kept my camera in my backpack due to the rough ride I was enduring.
We then passed a river which we had heard while circling aimlessly through the lost track and so now we knew that we were on the right path.
9. Tea Stall Saga
Finally after taking the left fork this time, we made our way to Mandalpatti hills. 10kms to it, we arrived at a tea stall. By then it had started raining heavily and we were all drenched. A nice hot tea was a welcome down our throats. Everyone ransacked my bag for snacks and for the next hour we talked and laughed happily while we waited for the rain to simmer down.
A couple of men in gumboots arrived at the tea stall. While they sipped tea and smoked beedi, I observed them with interest. I had seen a movie with similar settings where, during a rainy day a man in gumboots who would be a Naxalite would arrive at the teastall and kidnap some guy. My over active imagination got me all excited and I relied this to Apoo about who I thought those two men could be. Apoo got a little scared and started telling everyone that they should get going. Rabbit had heard what I was saying and he came to me and whispered to me “Neha, I think they might be really Naxalites and you should interview them and write something about them” he told me with utmost seriousness making me go, “Really? Even if they are, I don’t think they will reveal their identity to me...” I said taking his words seriously. “They will speak to you. Just have a go. I’ll be with the others near the bike to give them some privacy to speak with you and we’ll be waiting for your return”, saying so he went off.
I had eaten his words and I approached the men with caution. Getting my authoritative voice on I spoke with them and luckily they knew Kannada and this was the conversation that took place; “Hello, you are from here? Is this you native place?” They nodded in agreement and told me that their whole family was from here. Since I had already assumed they were Naxalites, I didn’t ask them what they did for a living but said, “Do you like your job?” and for that they said they were very happy with what they were doing. Since childhood it’s the only occupation they knew. I was shocked to hear that even children were trained for such a job in these parts. “But don’t you know what you are doing will bring harm to others?” I was bold enough to ask them. The two men exchanged quizzical looks and replied “We are actually helping others. It’s very hard to get hot water in these areas, so we cut the wood and sell them...” ”Wait a minute. You are wood cutters?” I asked in surprise. “Why yes, what did you think?” one of the men asked.
I was about to open my mouth when Rabbit came to me by saying “Hey, we are getting late let’s go!” and so I left them in a confused state of mind. “They say they are wood-cutters. I told you they wouldn’t reveal their identities” I told Rabbit in dejection. Rabbit started to laugh uncontrollably, “Of course they are wood-cutters. I saw their truck. I was loaded with wood. I just filled your head with a possibility to have some fun” he said with an evil glint in his eye. “And you are still thinking they might be Naxalites under cover, aren’t you?” he pulled my leg even further.
I fumed in anger at getting tricked like this, “That was not a joke Rabbit. I was about to ask them directly you know and I would have been in so much trouble for that you moron.” By that time the others had heard what had transpired back there and were having a good laugh. “Relax yar, I knew what you were about to say and that’s why I rescued you from further fooling yourself. This one is for pulling my hat off back there!” he winked at me. “Oh, I’ll get you back for this Rabbit”, I growled at him while he continued to laugh at my naivety.
10. Destination Mandalpatti
We had resumed our journey and it was just a half hour ride from the tea stall to the greenish mountain ranges of Mandalpatti. I was still fuming at him but at a particular turn, we were introduced to this beautiful, misty landscape and I completely forgot about the incident back at the tea stall.
Mandalpatti: If there is a true heaven on earth, it’s this. This place was recently discovered to the larger audience of Karnataka ever since a shot in the Kannada Movie Gaalipata was released. Since then, there has been an increase in the number of tourists who are brave enough to ride to this place by facing its rough terrain. I just cannot describe its beauty in words. The lush green grass either side of the road that snakes its way through these mountain tops looked mesmerizing to my eyes.
Unfortunately I couldn’t see the farther mountains as they were obscured by the thick mist. But still, the misty effect made it look closer to heaven. When we reached the top there was a lonely car parked atop the mountain. Other than us, there were no inhabitants. The bikes could go only to some extent and had to be parked since the road ahead was filled with huge chunks of rocks and from there we had to walk for a few minutes. We reached a cottage where the security was stationed. We asked them a few questions about the surroundings and they said, except for the old Mantap atop that hill, there was nothing much here except the nature in her most natural self.
We reached the Mantap. It had started to drizzle continuously and we were all drenched to extremities. Nonetheless we were so happy to be finally at this place. It was windy, misty and raining and greenery all around us; what more could we have wished for? We started singing and dancing on the mantap top and our hands were as cold as ice cubes.
11. The return
It was about 12.30 pm by the time we reached our bikes. With a heavy heart, we bid adieu to this beautiful place. I wished I had more eyes to capture that moment. I wanted to take in the entire 360 degree view at once. By the time we crossed that famous path that was shown in the movie Gaalipata, another shooting crew had arrived and I learnt that the hero standing under the umbrella, whom we passed by waving hi to him was the guy from the Telugu movie happy days. So this place was getting more and more popular by the day.
The mud path that was quite dry when we arrived a few hours ago was now drenched to the core. The path was so slippery that two of the bikes slipped through the loose wet mud and the riders fell off. Luckily for me, Rabbit was an excellent rider and we crossed the path without enduring any mishap. Finally bid goodbye to Madikeri and her scenic beauty and we started our journey back to Mysore.
Before Hunsur, we stopped for a quick lunch at a restaurant in a small town. And for the next 1 hour, heavy rain (heavier than the one we witnessed at Mandalpatti) followed us all the way to Hunsur. The rain was tormenting us like pin pricks. But we didn’t stop as we were already drenched to the core. After Hunsur the rain started to ebb off.
By the time we reached Mysore, it was 5.30 in the evening and the wild wind had blow-dried our clothes to such an extent that we couldn’t find any traces of wet marks on our clothes. We were extremely tired and weather beaten and so without further ado, we bid good-bye to one another, promising to catch up at the adda the next day and made our way back to our homes.
When I entered my home, granny was as usual watching TV and seeing me she asked “Betta hathdya?” Did you climb the betta? (The lie I had told her earlier if you remember!).
And smiling wryly I said “Yes, I did and it was the best climb ever!”
P.S: That was two years ago. Last year, again I gave a visit to Mandalpatti with my college friends (This time, we went by a rented vehicle and so I didn't have to lie this time!). The day was hot and totally a different experience. Now if you want to travel to Mandalpatti, there is no way you can go there by bikes or cars. Heavy vehicles like Safari, Tata Sumo or Tavera Chevrolet can go till the Tea Stall. The once small tea stall has now expanded to accommodate more customers. Business is booming at Mandalpatti. Due to recent landslides, the road from the tea stall to the Mandalpatti mountain ranges looks treacherous. Hence they have provided jeeps for rent. It costs 600 Rs per jeep (or may be the price has gone even higher now!) and the diver will drop you off near the Mantap and you can tell him the time you want him to come pick you up and he will be back for you at that time without fail!