If we start measuring our life & success only through appraisal percentage & job jumps then soon we will not need any food to survive, only an adapter connected to a plug point would satisfy our hunger. A great man once said “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown” & whosoever he was, was bang on right. Withstanding the work pressure of the first quarter of the year & witnessing a non amusing Union Budget, on a Lazy gloomy Sunday afternoon while witnessing the world cup match between Pakistan & Zimbabwe over a cup of coffee, an idea which lead to this epic ride to the hills of Karnataka which provides the country with the best coffee we all always cherish. Believe it or not but sometimes itinerary & agenda, these two words should be dumped in the office bin. Just three of us, with different makes of motorcycles were all set within three days to roll out & witness the highways, hills & coastlines the country has to offer.
Lately I have tried my level best to avoid being late, but then I always turn out to be a committed lover to my king size bed & then that alarm clock, who always ditch me on important days like this. After few phone calls & sweet (really) messages from both Salil & Kunal, we finally took off for our first leg of the journey but not before waiving adieu to the city with a special cup of coffee near IIT Mumbai.
The old Pune-Mumbai highway welcomed us with nice chilly foggy sunrise & our first break saw us struggling to find a good place for the breakfast, this is after we have already crossed the Pune City. By this time we had already covered a good distance of 180 kilometres & successfully avoided the office going traffic of Pune. By the time I was done with the breakfast, I was looking forward for the delectable food in Kolhapur for the lunch but then I had no clue what was there in the breakfast, we managed to reach Kolhapur just within two & half hours, too soon for lunch. A Malvani Thali with Kokum Sharbat for lunch at Nepani followed by a 15 minutes power nap to avoid the sun, we were just 170 kilometres short to Hubli, our first overnight halt. On our way to Hubli during a photography halt we decided to halt at Dhadwad, 25 kilometres away from Hubli in order to find a budget hotel for the night stay. Finally at 6 pm, we parked our bikes in the basement of Ankita Residency Hotel & we were already informed that dinner can be ordered through room service, we barely left our beds that evening.
Day two of our journey saw a heavy, palatable & start of a new saga of breakfast consisting of Idlis & Upmas, little did we know that this is going to be our only cohort no matter where we go for the next one week. Today we were about to enter the state highways of Karnataka & finally the National Highway 4 chronicles were about to come to an end, frankly I do not have much liking for the NH4 since it’s a straight highway like an arrow & not scenic enough to be engaging or do photography.
A left turn post Harihar city, the State Highway 25 directly took us to Shimoga city, the route definitely needs a special mention. Envisage yourself riding through an unknown route bedecked with paddy fields on your right & coconuts trees on your left both delineated with a green canvas.
We stopped at a dhaba in Shimoga, where the owner seeing us in nomadic mode offered us to have our lunch under the shadow of the huge coconut trees in his outer compound. Remembering the amount of distance left to cover to reach Chikmagalur we were really execrating ourselves for the early departure from the dhaba. The sun was diverging for the day by the time we reached Chikmagalur, the city welcomed us with a huge sign board saying “ Welcome to the Coffee Land of India” & the smile inside our helmets was very obvious. We made it to our first destinations after 1100 kms & two days of continuous riding. Even before we entered the city, my eyes were already commissioned on a pursuit to search a good kebab shop on our way.
Now, one doesn’t need to be an Einstein to know the piquant non vegetarian food trend in this part of the country & as we all know that recently Maharashtra government took an initiate to save the cows from extinction by people like us & so beef kebabs was my first choice for this fiesta. A budget lodge assured us a safe parking for our bikes & suddenly we see people with lungis giving us eccentric looks in the hotel corridor, maybe in our riding gears we were matching up to the looks of extraterrestrial creatures.
We were strictly informed that post 10:30 pm getting food will be an uphill task & we didn’t wanted to take a chance. We found an Arab theme restaurant known as Eats of Arabs serving some Mughlai dishes for the night, now one small thing to note before you enter any restaurants/dhaba in any tier 2 or tier 3 cities that do not expect a lighting fast service unlike Mumbai or its local train. People here want you to go through the menu properly & then order rather than testing the culinary skills of the waiter or the chef. One particular sauce which we were served with the snacks was an exclusive one of the restaurant. That made the cook eligible for the same treatment which Shah Jahan gave to the workers who constituted the Taj Mahal for him, jokes apart but a perfect blend of egg whites with garlic, green chillies & salt made it deplete from our plates at a rate even faster than any delivery of Dale Steyn.
The next day we continued our saga with Upma, Idlis & throttled our bikes straight towards the coffee estates. Being situated around 20 kms away from the city, the route to the coffee estates is a true bliss for any bikers. The twisties are quite challenging & the higher you go the surprising element of the weather starts unfolding in front of you. With the help of one of the local maps we were trying to surmount Mullayyanagiri, the highest peak of Karnataka at a height of 6300 ft but then we realised that we had missed a turn & we are 10 kilometres ahead of it but then if you remember the lines of the famous writer JRR Tolkien “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” it proved right for us at that moment of time. We heard a sound, sound of waterfalls & as we followed the sound of the falls downhill we saw 4×4 jeeps waiting to take tourists down to the falls. According to the drivers it’s a very tough route & only they can manoeuvre the vehicles there.
We hoped onto one & soon we befriended the local driver who was also our harbinger to the falls which is also known as Dabdabe falls. The moment we reached the base of the fall after 20 minutes bumpy jeep ride, the F (read as fabulous) word was the instant reaction to the exquisiteness & singularity of this point. We spend some good time there imprecating ourselves for not carrying our swimming costumes with us but then again there was surprise, little did we know that instead of carrying the swimming costumes we should have carried our rain suites. The skies opened up & our happiness was short lived as we had run for shelter into the jeep to save the electronics from the precipitous rains. The way back uphill definitely needed some polished driving skills since by now the route was slushy & the jeep was going sideways due to stock road tires. The driver introduced us to a good road side dhaba & again there my avocation of beef kebabs provoked me.
Some freshly fried beef along with Egg bhurji & parantha saw us through the lunch session. Locals here along with the coffee estate owners facilitate loads of Home Stay options with good local food. In order to spend the second day in the hills we went to check out some home stay options nearby but damn again a surprise visit by the rain gods & that made completely drenched & with no extra clothes to indemnify we were at complete mercy of the nature. The temperature dropped as low as 15 degree Celsius & then we realized if we stay here post sunset our chance of going back to the town is will be precarious. We took a major risk, battling the light drizzle & bone cracking chilly cross winds we decided to roll, by the time we reached our lodge we were shivering like a Chihuahua. I never expected myself to taste the best coffee of the country in its homeland for the first time like this & under these circumstances. Every word in the dictionary will fall short to explain the moment; the coffee acted like that grace marks you get in school in order to just hop onto the next standard. That night we inhibited ourselves into our hotel room under the blankets & sipping onto some more coffee. Little did we know that we are heading towards a sleepless night too, thanks to the kindness of the hotel authorities we were left at the mercy of hundred of bedbugs along with the blankets & pillows. Somebody should ask Kunal about the night, according to him it was easy tackling his boss in office rather than this infestation, I completely agree to his point, though both don’t let us have a peaceful sleep but at least bosses do not bite you. Salil gave a damn to this epic fight going on, finally me & Kunal landed ourselves on the corridor of the hotel, joined some chairs & then tried our level best to romance Alice in our dreamland.
Next day with a bad sleepover we managed to get our room changed but Mullayyanagir was still on top of our heads. Same upma idli saga & straight to the business, the roads to Mullayyanagir is not as receptive as other valleys around but then we wanted to finish it for once & all. It took us good half an hour to reach the top & then a brief silence among us, the wind along with the view was composing the best offline live AV we ever came across. From the top we were able to see trekkers in groups trying to find their way out to the top & villagers making their way to the plantations for their daily duties. Today the Sun god was favourable to us & we thought to make up for the damages & time loss of the previous day. Today all of us are kitted up for every kind of whether & Salil being a true Piscean was ready with his swimming trunks to sojourn Dabdabe falls & this time we took a small risk to venture the trial on our bikes, here comes my Royal Enfield Classic 500’s capabilities into play, while I smoothly sailed over the rocky terrains, the other two bikes faced problems with their build limitations which included a small fall due to manoeuvring issues. Blessed with incompletely isolation due to a weekday, we enthralled ourselves for good couple of hours till lunch. The same dhaba & by this time we befriended the dhaba owner too, I guess our charm worked everywhere till now but frankly the locals are very helpful & do not look to overcharge you for anything. Today I quested one of my very old desire, a desire to cook food in a dhaba, the owner was spirited enough to allow me do that. Good gestures like this are so rare today; we can’t imagine doing this in any metropolitan cities.
With a heavy heart next day we preceded towards our 2nd leg of the trip, The West Coastline of India. While doing some research on Google maps we discovered a route which looked quite interesting, 3 wild life sanctuaries & over 10 plus valleys to reach our destination. The SH 27 takes you through the beautiful endless patches of impenetrable thickets & freshly laid tarmac adds icing to the cake. Bhadra, Someshwara & Mookambika wildlife sanctuaries was quite mesmerising for us, especially the density of these forest & bare minimum human population was little intimidating for us. Before we were about touchdown the NH17 which leads to the coastline, we were crossing a small village & there we spotted a small board mentioning about home cooked food available for lunch, trust me the wheels of our bikes turned on their own. Next we know is that we were monopolizing the rice plate like we are descendents of Khumbhkarna. I won’t mention the amount which we paid for the unlimited food & hospitality but it’s the same amount which you pay for the one pizza in a good restaurant.
NH17 greeted us with heavy trucks traffic & being a single lane highway its little treacherous to ride on this road. We headed towards Murudeshwara, a small town on the coast of the Arabian Sea famous for its 123 feet Shiva statue. The beach graciously flaunts its clean beaches & white sand with its picture perfect stay sunset. The Shiva temple is definitely a must visit, the exquisite architectural masterpiece, the surrounding atmosphere with the symphony of the waves perfectly calm you down from your daily struggles of life. However the management of the temple is little disappointing, few rules & regulations of the temple was not acceptable to me. Nevertheless, they were too small to spoil the mollified encompassment of Murudeshwar. According to locals, the history of the temple goes to the time of Ramayana but with little interest about mythology & god wars I preferred to concentrate on the Surmai on my plate.
Faces were becoming little gloomy since we three knew that we are going to enter the last phase of the trip, thanks to our friends on Facebook who were continuously suggesting us to visit Gokarna & Om Beach. On Google it looked quite scenic but since we had visited Goa for umpteen times now we were not too excited about Gokarna & especially when we knew that this is going to be our last sojourn before we head back to the impasse. A lazy cruise from Murudeshwar of 80 kilometres & on our way I gave a lift to a backpacker from Netherlands who suggested us to stay in this place called Namaste Cafe. We were welcomed by a huge iron gate, had to walk downhill for the reception but the minute we entered the property it was the same feeling which we used to get in our schools knowing about the arrival of the new uniform, books & shoes. All the gloominess just vanished & Salil just dropped his riding gears & next he was found doing what he was best at, dip in the sea. We finally decided to stay at the Namaste Cafe’s cottages. The best part of the property is its location, right across the Om beach & availability of different kinds of rooms as per budget. GoKarna also boasts 3 more different beaches known as Paradise beach, Kudle beach & the Nirvana Beach. The restaurant of the Namaste cafe offers you great food with loads of options & the hospitality is really great to see in such a small place. We started on our onwards journey to Mumbai with loads of memories, a big smile & light hearted moments. The farewell to the journey was the food at Kolhapur & the strawberry cream at Mahabaleshwar, we couldn’t afford to give it a miss.
This time, these 9 days taught me few things probably no website or social media channel would have enlightened me this way. First, it’s ok to miss few things & places in your itinerary you had pre-planned. It’s better to enjoy one thing at a time rather than hoping to several places & ending up tiring yourself. Second, road trips are not like your office meetings, on one hand you definitely need to be disciplined but that doesn’t mean that your schedule can’t be revised. Third, your emails & Facebook friends can wait for your revert. Keep yourself offline for some time, it helps. Last but not the least, everything that you have planned is not going to be perfect, be ready for the worst. Life is never easy we all know but adventure is super exciting. Imagine yourself on the beach lying down on the yoga mat & suddenly you feel there is a crab trying to venture in your shorts…. Till then start keep your wandering shoes on.
The Bike: Royal Enfield Classic 500.
Mileage: 30 kmpl
Service cost: INR 1500
Kilometres covered: 2400