Text & Photos: Candida Louis
I had found yet another reason for me to wander out onto the highways, away from the life in the city, its hustle bustle and this time, the reason was the iconic IMRG (Indian Motorcycle Riders Group) ride to Mahabaleshwar (special thanks to Mr. Anil Shankar). It was just the kind of break I had been looking for. And my excitement reached its zenith because I was going to be riding the Indian Scout, the bike that is in itself drool worthy.
With a motive of finally getting the motorcycle up for a real long ride of approximately 2,000 kms to and fro and even though Saji and Prashanth had just ridden 550 kms from Cochin to Bangalore they still helped to get the bike checked for the next day’s ride. That just speaks of the honor code of the biking brotherhood.
I stared at myself in the mirror. The water I splashed on my face left a trail of refreshing sensation. I was slowly getting aware of all my senses and limbs. I had fallen asleep before midnight and had woken up an hour before the meeting time. Eager to ride the Indian Scout, I opened the bedroom door and walked past the hall when I realized that summer had arrived and how hot it was inside. I made a course correction towards the balcony and went out. The cold fresh air of dawn was a relief. The dark sky had still not faded to lose its color. I stood there for a while, eyes closed, breathing in deep breaths. My rebooting was complete.
I stepped back in and freshened up. I put on my jeans and knee guards, laced up my boots, wore my armored jacket and my gloves and with my clothes and essentials already loaded up in the saddle bags the previous night I descended to the basement. I pulled out my phone to check the whatsapp group if everyone had left their homes towards the start location. I approached the beast that awaited me in the basement. It lay still. Unlocking it, I switched its engine on and it sprang to life. I pulled the throttle and its roar echoed in the silence of the early hours. Letting it warm up, I cleaned up the bike. I climbed aboard and shifted its gear from neutral to set it in motion. Coming out of the apartment and onto the road outside, I felt a breeze of fresh air greeting me. The road was decorated with the flowers and leaves falling from the trees that stood on the sidewalk. I knew I was set for the long ride towards Mahabaleshwar. I knew just the road to take to meet the other riders on the Tumkur road. The Nice road has always been my point of exit out of the city to avoid the traffic. Once on the Nice road, I could see the grey band of asphalt in front of me stretching till the horizon. I shifted gears and sped up.
There is something liberating about being in motion. No wonder man has an obsession with speed and has already defeated sound. At first, everything I could see zoomed past me, but as I pulled on the throttle, all of it started blurring into colors and the only thing clearly visible was the grey directly in front of me. Whilst this ride on the Indian beast, I felt it; the feeling that some people crave for – the rush of adrenaline, the sudden release of energy. I felt it; the realization of being powerful. My heart beat quickened. I could feel its thumps as if banging on my chest to pounce out. The surge of blood in my body was overwhelming. I was more alive and more aware than I ever was before. I had traveled at higher speed than this. I had many thrilling moments and had several adventure rides in amusement parks to give me that rush of adrenaline. But yet, this was different. I realized why. It felt so much better because I controlled it. I was in charge. I could, with one twist of my wrist, slow down my momentum or soar it to levels way beyond. A familiar sign passed me by. Tumkur Road Exit Ahead. I straightened my twisted wrist to gradually see everything around coming back into existence from the blurry blend of hues and once on the main road I saw the another Indian rider parked and waiting. I stopped just ahead of him and opened my visor to get some air and then introduced myself. While we waited there for the rest of the riders, the horizon on the other side of the road was losing color diluting into a blue tinge. It was beautiful! The sky was blue up above and orange at the side.
Soon enough the other riders passed by us and both of us quickly joined them. I was awe struck riding behind 10 of these big beautifully crafted machines with oodles of Chrome and their incredible names definitely match their profile like The Roadmaster, Dark Horse Chieftain, Chieftain and the Scout. It not only left me awestruck but also all the people around us that were magically in a trance not knowing what these machines were called. They could not take their eyes of them.
We road in sync to our first breakfast halt that was Kamat Upachaar.
Like always I ordered my favorite Pudi ghee roast dosa and some coffee, while the others had their share of breakfast too. It was time for the briefing and getting to know the fellow riders, quick ice breaker before we got back up on the saddle.
Padded and buckled up tight, keying it on and turning the throttle, the 11 riders were all set to hit the highways, with their 1200cc and 1800cc machines thumping as they were all lined up together in a single strand, a hand waving to proceed and we were on the road again one behind the other, all at once onto the Linking road, what a tingle of goosebumps I felt. A sight to wait and watch for when passersby in their cars gave way to the passing caravan of Indian Motorcycle Riders.
It was a typical morning, with the chill in the air and the surrounding hills and fields covered in mist. I should have stopped to take a picture, but I was enjoying the ride so much that I didn’t feel like stopping.
But we did finally stop for tender coconut water after which we rode continous for 150kms for a pee break at Apoorva Resorts. A photo session followed by some lime juice and we were off again.
Rode for another 150kms till Gabbur cross where we were greeted by the 99Cannons Motorcycle Club from Hubli. They were kind enough to get us some refreshments.
They suggested that we ride 30kms ahead and stop at Ghar Dhaba for Lunch. We were all exhausted and dehydrated as we got there, so we had a glass of buttermilk and then rotis and paneer, dal.
We were told that out next stop was the Mariott Hotel after Belgaum. Once we got there because of the amazing services offered by their friendly staff, what was supposed to be a coffee break turned into an overnight stay.
After a good night’s rest at the hotel, early morning swims for a fresh start and a scrumptious buffet breakfast. We were all set to ride from Belgaum to Mahabaleshwar from the Fairfield by Marriott and there was something special about today, I couldn’t control my excitement as I was getting to ride the Dark Horse Chieftain (Courtesy Saji) for the next 300kms. A quick petrol stop and off we went. I had a grin on my face the whole journey, listening to some country numbers on the very loud speakers of the bike. All the people in their cars catching up so that they can get a shot of the bike and maybe me This bike definitely gets all eyes on you. Also, it’s not only about the looks but the power of this beast that gets you all pumped. It’s like riding a black stallion all mighty and beastly.
We took a short butt break and after the left turn, starts the climb up the Ambinadi ghats for 40 kms to Mahabaleshwar. We took nearly an hour and half to cross that 40km, because of the breathtaking views at every hairpin bend with superb roads.
The cold breeze found a way past the gaps in my helmet and grazed past my nose and cheek. Being a regular sufferer of the polluted city air I had not breathed in air as pure as this. I inhaled as much as my lungs could hold and felt the cold oxygen channeling further in my veins and cleansing me from within. I felt the contents of the air healing me. I found its evidence in the goosebumps that covered my skin. Without raising my head, I lifted the visor that restricted the flow. I let the blast of freshness drench me with a sensation of peace and tranquility. There were many sounds I could register. As I focused, I could hear a song. The low hum of the scenes of nature passing by was the base. The trees walking past played the rhythm. There were several solo performances involving the chirping birds, the whistling winds. There were other sounds I could not decipher. A chatter, a hum, brays and barks, coos and moos, a cackle, a croak, a bellow and a squeak. I could not make it out but amidst all of this lay a symphony. How else could it be so soothing to the soul? And with the company of this melancholy we made it to Mahabaleshwar.
The Indian Motorcycle Team not only thought about the riders but also the children of Mahabaleshwar and organised a ride for us to a school over there. Where we met the children, interacted with them and distributed gifts It felt good not just riding for ourselves but for a good cause.
All along the way back from the school to the resort, I saw basket’s full of strawberries for sale at the side of the roads. Such temptation!
After a short rest break, I walked up to the concert area where all the riders had gathered. We spent the night listening to the bands play some good music and dancing, ate and drank to our heart’s content in such a friendly and joyous atmosphere.
You know you are in Mahabaleshwar when you have strawberries for breakfast
Quick breakfast buffet and then we all gathered for a group photo
Then all of us set out on a ride to the Savitri viewpoint. The Indians all lined together rode on the narrow roads surrounded by forest and canopy of trees.
An energetic start to the evening by these talented girls on the drums/dhol, followed by bands playing these latest numbers to the prize distribution.
Wonderful three days spent with all the fun-loving and friendly Indians. But like they say all good things come to an end.. Until next time!
I woke up at 5:00 am as we had an early start to the day and since we had to cover almost 900 kms back to Bangalore. After a while when I was all packed and ready to meet the other riders for breakfast, I couldn’t find my riding boots and then I realised they were out on the balcony. While I sat there tying my laces, my eyes suddenly caught something magical. The rising sun with its orange and gold hue above a distant lake in sight. I could sit there for hours but I had to rush
Fuel, chai, lunch, coffee and after a couple of pee stops, we were back in Bangalore by 9:00 pm. Riding the Scout for 2,000 kms I know now that “Sunsets are red, Baguette is just bread, this little Indian Pony, It’s a thoroughbred”.