Saunter Through West on Unicorn: Fantastic Travelogue to Pune by Shafeeq Rehman

Hi friends, and fellow riders, I am Shafeeq Rahman from Kerala. Here is a travelogue of my Pune trip. I am not good at writing and please forgive me for any errors. I don’t know how it will be, but I always would like to hear from you guys. Your comments are most welcome.

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Monsoon is the best time to enjoy motorcycling. Yeah, I know it’s the most dangerous too. But it’s not all about that high speed highway runs. Once the rains are here, the earth flourishes and bring out all the hidden beauty. Be it your usual point A-B business or the weekend getaway, the roads during these days will greet you with lush greenery on both the sides, which is an absolute delight for smoked lungs and overworked brains.

Planning was the most important part. I have been planning the Pune ride, right from my UG days. The execution couldn’t be done since no one could fulfill my need for a co-rider. And yes, it’s ‘time’ that finally became my companion, and gave me the chance to fulfill my dream….

Preparations:

It was on 28th May, that I reached home from my college (Now doing PG-VIT Vellore), and had exactly 5 days left to the trip. Since, I was running short of time, took my bike to service center, the same day. I asked them to do the regular service and did replace all the cables, and lamps. Unfortunately the front fork oil seal was broken and had to replace both the seal and stem, since the stem developed some scratch on it, blame the broken seal.

The next day I got my bike serviced and while riding home, I observed that the front brakes were jammed and was overheating. Took it to the local mechanic and did some investigation. Out of the two pistons on wheel cylinder, only one was working. We thought of solving the problem by replacing the rubber washers inside the cylinder, of which the spare was not available. This made me replace the entire front caliper assembly.

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Back on road riding my machine home, encountered the problem of blocked carburetor pipe. I had to pull off the pipe and blow air in to get the fuel flowing down again. This haunted me very much. The problem is I have to cover a distance of 40kms, which passes through dense forest, BANDIPUR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, in order to cross the Kerala Karnataka border. This route is known for elephant attacks and no vehicle is allowed to park inside the sanctuary while they pass through. I was lucky that my machined didn’t let me down.

DAY 0 (Home-Calicut)(10/06/2013)

My travel was scheduled on June 3rd, unfortunately, due to some family matters, just extended it for a week and decided to start on 10th, Monday. I planned for Monday and got all the papers ready by Saturday evening. While compiling the certificates at night, I came to know that the insurance has expired 6 months ago. Blame it on my memory, which means, extend the trip again by one more day. 10th June, Monday, went to the insurance office and got the certificate ready, came back home, packed everything and did a check once again.

At 3pm I started my journey to Calicut, 50kms away. I decided to halt there, at my friends place, and to spend the night there. Reached Calicut in 1.5hrs, and went to my friends place, dumped the luggage over there, and went for shopping. I had a list of materials to buy, but couldn’t work out.

While travelling through the city, I realized that I forgot to take my rain wear, which made me spend another 800 grands. I had planned to buy some energy drinks and water, but the rains made me pack up and settle under shelter. Back home, we went to hotel nearby and had the favorite dish, ‘Porotta and Beef Chilly’.

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At this point my friend asked regarding my stay in Bangalore. I had forgotten to call my friend in Bangalore and inform him regarding my journey. To my surprise, when I called him, he was at home, and not in Bangalore, which means I don’t have any place to stay in Bangalore tomorrow. Earlier I had planned to stay at Tumkur, and had some homework on that.

I called the hotel (Hotel Naveen Regency, NH4 ) and booked the room for tomorrow. All these helped to disturb my mind and couldn’t sleep properly. I went to bed at around eleven, but couldn’t sleep until 1.30am. 2.5 hours of sleep, and am up by 4.20 am.

DAY 1 (Calicut-Tumkur)(11/06/2013)

4.20 am was behind the scheduled. I rushed through the morning business did the prayers and was out with the bike at around 5.20 am. It was dark and the roads were all wet. Thanks to the Kerala Road Transport Department for the awesome work on the roads, the reflectors placed helped me to clearly locate the road edges and I settled at a steady speed of 50kmph. Rain was playing the usual tricks and was spraying fine drops.

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An hour later I was near the ghat section. As I climbed up, the day light presented me with some breath taking view. I have been on this road earlier (Wayanad Ghat Road) many times, but the view was absolutely mystical. I was on top of a cliff and was in clouds. The sky was overcast with dense clouds and I could see some white clouds that resembled huge mass of cotton bunched between small green hills.

Blame it on my mind that it couldn’t allow me to stop and shot, may be because of the rain and scheduled that I was following. In just few minutes, I climbed the hill and reached Wayanad. 6.58am and I was at a petrol station. While I brimmed the rain did play some heavy sound track, and yeah lasted for 2 to 3 minutes after I tanked. After nearly half an hour of riding I saw a small bakery (Just before the Honda Two Wheeler service station at Kalpetta), were I did some shopping. A bottle of 7UP, and two Nestle Munch.

Continued through Wayanad (Place in Kerala which receives most amount of rainfall), and I was blessed by the rain goddess. I pulled aside and put on my rain wear.

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My next stop was before the famous Bandhipur National Park, 8.12 am. I parked the bike and had the two Munch bars and drank some 7UP, yeah, clicked some pics of bike. As expected the scenery was marvelous. Lush greenery on both sides, dark patch of tarmac in center, coupled with densely overcast sky. It was mystical. Back on saddle I throttled, through the forest where the scenery became more and more interesting. I was greeted with the sights of dotted dears having their breakfast on both sides of roads. I was extra cautious as this place had the potential of wildlife crossing and the road was designed to have speed breakers every 250mtrs. I was a bit afraid regarding the bike, and was lucky that my Unicorn didn’t let me down. Out from the forest and back in civilization, Gundalpet was my next stop.

I was confused whether to stop or not. I made the decision to stop when I found a CCD on the right side of the road. Lit the blinkers and pulled aside. I went in and had some fresh veg-sandwich and hot chocolate, and didn’t forget to buy water (500ml-4 bottles). It was around 9.50am when I left there. As I head to Mysore, the weather became brighter. There was no rain, but it was still very overcast with clouds.

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From my previous road trip (Bangalore 2010) I learnt not to enter Mysore city as it is time consuming to find the road to Bangalore. This made me decides not to enter the city and take the bypass. I kept my eyes open not to miss the junction, but unfortunately I missed it!

By the time I realized, I was near to the city and decided to enter and solve the puzzle. Mysore city greeted me with road side sign boards saying zoo, place etc, but not Bangalore or Pune in it. At one junction I asked a man for directions and entered the road, Alas, I found one sign board saying Bangalore straight. I sighed but was greeted with a next junction without any boards. I don’t know who the HELL did the work of placing sign boards in Mysore city, they place all the sign boards after the junction and not before it, that is HELL stupid!

Finally when I felt I was lost, took help from Google Maps, Thanks to my Nokia C5, which guided me through the city traffic. Finally to confirm the route, I asked one Omni guy, lucky that he too was heading Bangalore, he asked me to follow him. In a few moments I was on a four lane road, with divider in between. Waved thanks to the Omni guy and throttled past, with my eyes open for stupid speed breakers…

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12.00 PM: I took a road side break, 500ml of water and a bit of 7UP, just after covering Mandya. That was a short break and I was back on saddle. I reached the outskirts of Bangalore city and headed towards Nice Road. I have heard about Nice Road a lot, but to my disappointment, they asked for toll, errr.. yeah for a motorcycle. Nice Road was so nice that I stopped for some photos.

(1.34PM): 67kms more to go and I started enjoying the nice road. Cars were running fast and I could even witness some heavy accidents. The truckers were decent as they maintained a steady pace and lane discipline. In short time the Nice Road did end and NH4 came in, which was my companion for the next 800kms.

When I entered the NH4, from Nice Road, I could see two lanes with toll booth and a lane without, I followed the no toll road, and that was a really bad decision. After a few distance I understood that I was no more riding on NH4, but on the service road, separated by a divider. Sometime later I somehow managed to get back on highway and just started cruising. Tumkur came in 1.5 hours and I was in my hotel at 3.00PM. My Day1 is over and am just relaxing in the cool cosy comfortable bed after taking a hot shower. Twists, forest, wildlife and puzzle Day1 was exciting….

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DAY2(Tumkur-Pune)(12/06/2013):

2.50 am and the alarm tone brought me up. I had kept multiple alarms and the first one itself was enough to wake me up. In just 40mins I finished whole of the regular morning business 😉 and called the reception for the bills. Unlike some other hotels, it took only 15mins for the bills to arrive (once in Chennai I spent nearly 3hrs waiting). 3.50 am and I was near the bike. Fired the engine and let it warm, meanwhile I checked my luggage and riding gear. Finished the final inspections and I was back on highway by 4.00 am.

Fuel level seemed satisfactory and I decided to fill at Chittadurga. I saw lot of fuel station in between but didn’t want to get off from highway, since it was dark and I may miss the entry and exit. Throttled at a steady pace, I followed the trucks from sides. This helped me as the trucks could provide adequate covering from the oncoming traffic beams and their beam was excellent in determining the road profiles.

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The roads were well visible but dint have marking at places, where construction was going on. This made me extra cautious as there was chance of missing corners. At some point I felt some pain at lower neck. I remembered the IBA article saying ‘Not to try a new helmet during a long ride’. I bought a new helmet for the trip, but I choose in such a way that the weight was matching the previous one.

I was a bit afraid as I had around 750kms ahead. Since it was dark I had nothing other than concentrate on road, which made a constant head position and not much turning around. With time the sun also made its way into the sky and lit the surroundings. This gave me more to look into surrounding and more of turning around, and helped to reduce the strain in neck.

Two hours later I reached the outer of Chittadurga. Cruising through the highway, I kept my eyes open for fuel stations. I could see many of them on the other side of divider, and was difficult to reach. I continued to ride, and finally reached the last flyover of the city, where I decided to exit and enter the city in search. As soon as I came down, I saw one man and asked for directions, while he explained I noticed that the engine was not running.

I removed the carb pipe and blow into fuel tank, which made no difference. When I tried to crank, found that the valves were open and didn’t get compression. This made me perform a jump start, and I thank an auto driver who helped me and later guided to the fuel station. 6.30 am and the fuel station was deserted, not even the crew. I headed to the office and pulled the window, disturbed their morning sleep, but of no use.

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Fired the machine and back on highway, I kept my eyes open for fuel station. In a short while, I saw a fuel station on the right, which was a great relief. I brimmed and got back on highway. All this drama had taken a toll on my scheduled and I decided to do a non-stop run till Hubli. At this point I made a decision to tank whenever below the half tank mark.

Later at night I had only few chapattis and after 11 hours my stomach started boiling. The ambient temperature was also low which means I had to attend the call of nature. 70kms later I stopped for a short break. I had some biscuits, which my friend gave and drank 500ml of water.

I was 130kms away from Hubli, and did a non-stop run. By the time I reached outer of Hubli, the fuel gauge showed somewhere near half tank and I decided to tank up. Also the sky started to become denser and it drizzled. By the time I finished fueling the rain also stopped. I started riding and had to slow down since the road was wet. This situation lasted for just a few kilometers and things were bright when I reached the Hubli bypass.

From various articles I read, there was a warning regarding this road as it is dual lane without a divider in between. I gave extra attention but since the traffic was light, I had no problem in tackling the long trucks. In a short while I did exit Hubli and was back on 4 lane NH4 heading Belgaum, 103kms away.

After an hour ride I took a road side break, had some biscuits and water. Kolhapur was 143kms away from that point and I did stick to the non-stop strategy. I settled at steady pace and was enjoying the surrounds. In a short while, rain came into picture and had to slow down. This became a frequent exercise and continued till Belgaum. Also there were heavy cross winds. I was able to experience all the theory that I heard in my Aerodynamics classes, was able to experience the wake region as well as the turbulent air stream which shielded against the winds.

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One has to take extra care while overtaking long vehicles. Once you enter the turbulent air stream (vortex region), you will be shielded against the cross winds. This helps you accelerate better. By the time you run parallel to the vehicle, and slightly closer, you will have absolutely zero air velocity in your opposite direction which means you can build up speed easily. But the drama comes when you exit this region or when you complete the overtaking process. The cross winds moving at high velocity will push you all the way out and you will have to lean a bit in the opposite direction of wind velocity in order to move in straight line. This became a difficult task and I did tuck in behind the visor, and better the aerodynamics.

By around 1PM I reached the outskirts of Kolhapur. The traffic became denser, and I started feeling hungry. I thought of stopping, but I wanted to escape the crowd and relax at some quiet point. I kept this in mind and plunged forward through the traffic. In a short while I passed the city and was looking for a break point. I stopped after 27mins, 1.27PM, without being able to spot a place of my interest, and busy traffic running at high speed just 10 feet away from me.

That was a quick break, and had some biscuits and drank half bottle of water. I was just 217kms away from Pune and decided to follow one stop strategy. The next stop was planned at Satara and I continued. In contradiction to my plans, I had to stop two or three times to deal with the carburetor pipe issue. The rain continued to spray in fine drops and I was greeted with fine spray from road, which demanded constant cleaning of the helmet shield. All these made me slow down, and I didn’t bother doing so since I had plenty of time in hand. I passed Satara and continued towards Pune while the planned stop was made later when there was just 50kms to Pune. It was around 3.30PM when I made this stop.

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In just an hour I reached the outer of Pune, and took the Mumbai-Pune highway. I planned to go to Chandini Chowk and then head to Kothrud to my flat. In the highway I entered the tunnel. This is the first time I am riding through tunnel, and the moment I entered the tunnel it became too strange to drive. It was too difficult to focus since the surroundings went dark, all of a sudden. I quickly folded the mirrors down and followed a slow moving car, which brought me safe out of the tunnel.

I played the entire drama once again at the next tunnel too. I tried to follow the highway, but later some time I found myself at the service road and the highway going above me. I saw a junction ahead and stopped for asking directions. To my surprise the cops at the junction called me and they helped me in finding the route, but at a cost of Rs 200. Yeah, hungry cops of Pune! I the entered the city and started asking directions. Later, as usual, I took my phone and asked Google for directions. Thanks to technology, which showed me the path, and I reached my place safe and relaxed (5.00PM).

The entire trip was exciting, even if it is not my longest, but my longest solo. Thanks to rain goddess who helped me reach my place without fatigue. The rain really helped to keep the things calm and beautiful. I also learned a lot about long distance riding, also applied all the knowledge I acquired during the planning period. In every aspect this is the most beautiful ride that I have ever done.

– Travelogue By Shafeeq Rehman

 

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