Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vapi to Kapurthala in My 2wheeler Odyssey

View Larger Map of Mumbai to Kapurthala

The rains which had blessed our departure from Mumbai continued to keep us wet and blessed right through for a few more days with breaks that were few and far between. It was like a long wet dream (pun not intended). Vapi to Kalol was no different except for the thankfully great roads in Gujarat which made a wet ride pleasant. We reached Kalol in the night and missed a turn to get to ‘Hotel Planet’ booked by HV Kumar and his team. But we were alerted by HV Kumar about our wrong turn and we rerouted to reach the Hotel like wet crows looking for shelter. Had a quick dinner and turned in to ensure a bright start next morning.

Departure from Kalol

Fortunately it was not raining when we left Kalol. Our destination for the day was Barmer in Rajasthan. A very distinctive memory of this ride was passing through ‘Unjha’ which is called ‘Spice Town’. It truly lived up to its name as we could inhale the strong aromas of different spices as we rode through the town despite our full face helmets.

We took a chai poha break in one of the ‘Milestone’ restaurants which also have clean restrooms.

Our lunch was a typical Rajasthani thali in a dhaba near Sanchore. It was delicious. Loads of ghee was poured on tawa fresh rotis. The aroma of the ghee on rotis and the vegetable curries was heavenly and made us want to sleep for a while which we could on the ‘khatias’ provided.
Then it was an uneventful ride to Barmer where we checked into ‘Hotel Kalinga Palace’. We put up 

all our wet clothes up to dry across the room, ordered room service for dinner and slept the night away.
Next morning we set out for Bikaner. We deviated slightly from the oft taken route and rode on a 

road literally less travelled. There was barely any traffic and it was, well, deserted. For miles together, there was nobody, no tea shop, no dhaba. Finally in the distance we spied a structure resembling a chai shop and promptly rode in for a cuppa to refresh ourselves. And yes even in this ‘desert’ the rains did manage to keep us wet by dropping by occasionally. As we parked our bikes we saw a young lad who was sitting out on one of the charpoys, get up and run inside. Thinking it would be to announce with joy the arrival of two customers, we walked towards the shack and waited for someone to appear so that we could place our order. Since nobody appeared, Aditya went inside to check and apparently he again saw the young lad run behind the shack. Aditya followed him to see what he was upto.

Meanwhile a jeep appeared and the driver got off and almost ran towards the shack, stopped on seeing me standing there and asked what I wanted. I told him that we were here looking for the refreshing cuppa chai and he laughed a hearty laugh. By the time he finished laughing, Aditya too had come up front. Slowly the man revealed to us what had happened. The boy, on seeing us all dressed in black, mistook us for dacoits/terrorists and ran behind to alert his uncle about us. And as soon as he received our call he had sped in to rescue his nephew from two harmless riders! Promptly the tea was prepared and served to us and they refused to take any money for us. The ‘rescuer’ said it was his contribution to our ride which he hoped to do someday in his jeep.
By the time we reached Bikaner it was dark, raining, and the streets of Bikaner were flooded. Alongside the road we saw what looked like a hotel and as we were in no mood to go further, we 

rode in and found out that it was indeed a Haveli turned into a Hotel! The room was huge and the owner promised us the famous Rajasthani ‘Lal maas’, home cooked for dinner! We had no option but to oblige and it was one of the most delicious meals since we had left home.
After a restful stay, we headed for Sri Muktsar Sahib Gurdwara in Punjab.
It was almost evening by the time we entered Punjab and the aroma of hot Samosas wafted in the air. We stopped and followed our nose to the delicious Punjabi samosas. As we were gorging, a couple 

of locals got into conversation with us and were impressed with what we were doing and declared that the samosas and the tea that followed were a treat to us from them! A wonderful entry into Punjab indeed!
We got a room in the Gurudwara premises, had dinner at the langar (blessed food) after paying our respects to the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ – the holy scriptures of the Sikhs and prayed that rains would stop following us. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My 2 wheeler Odyssey

A Prologue

Have always preferred two wheels over four, as four wheels seemed too balanced for my unbalanced thoughts. And India was just perfect for a two wheeler Odyssey, hence I ventured on my Yezdi 250Classic in 1982 with four friends on their Yezdis for a successful parikrama of India. This was followed by many other rides over the next twenty years after which life took over and had to dump the two wheeler for a four wheeler to continue travelling with the family.
And then it happened. I retired from my day job, the children grew up and got busy with their own lives, wife still had a couple of years before retirement. It did not take long before my passion for two wheel travel took over as the thirst to explore India had not been quenched and Ladakh beckoned. Royal Enfield had launched their 500cc bikes with Unit Construction Engines and Electronic Fuel Injection. I was left with no option but to go ahead and bring home the beauty to accompany on my Indian Odyssey.  So I got the ‘Desert Storm’ a 500cc Classic Royal Enfield.

Though basically I prefer riding solo, I joined ‘Bisons Ride Hard’, a motorcycle club exclusive for
Royal Enfield Bullet riders and rode with them to learn the finer nuances of riding the Bullet.
As fate would have it, my first ride with the club happened to be the first club ride for AdityaRaj Kapoor too. The importance of this coincidence will be revealed soon.
I started targeting my goal of being astride on my bike atop the highest motorable road in the world at the Khardungla Pass on my 60th birthday. But fate had other ideas. Just three days before I was supposed to leave for my memory making ride, I could not get out of my bed due to a severe attack of sciatica. I did feel disappointed but did not give up and decided to go for it next year. Visited a couple of doctors (homoeopathic and allopathic), got medicated, practiced yoga and moved towards my rescheduled date with Khardungla pass.
About four months prior to the ride, AdityaRaj Kapoor approached me and expressed his desire to join me. I agreed as he seemed to be a nice positive thinking bloke and would be good company too. It would also relieve some tension for my wife and mother who were quite worried at the prospect of me going alone.
Within a couple of our meetings to plan for the ride, the Mumbai-Khardungla-Mumbai ride turned into an All India ride with a couple of neighbouring countries thrown in for good measure!
At the end of the entire detailed route planning with HV Kumar (the last word on Indian roads), our final route plan involved a ride of 14000kms in 70 days.  His Central Hotel Desk team would track us on GPS and book hotels for us enroute.
Dr.Alap Mehendale, also a prolific rider, who was supposed to join us but dropped out due to professional exigencies, listed and procured all medicines we would possibly need on such a ride with detailed explanation of what to use when and to call him if in doubt.
Our bike technician Vinod, would also be available on phone 24x7 in case of any bike emergencies.
Finally my family physician, Dr. Subodh Kedia, gave me the permission to go ahead after ensuring that my blood pressure and sugar was under control.
And then the day dawned. All my bags were packed and strapped on to the bike. The dream ride would begin soon.
There was a huge gathering at the Bandra Kurla Complex to bid us goodbye on our epic ride 

Photograph courtesy Kaushal Punatar

christened #Indiahai. Bisons Ride Hard members, HVK Forum members, friends and relatives had come over to see us being flagged off by the evergreen Hero Jackie Shroff.

Photograph courtesy Kaushal Punatar

At 1400hrs we were flagged off and we rode all the way to Vapi in pouring rain accompanied by Shree Vinayak Rath (founder President of Bisons Ride Hard) and Ceejay Ferns.
The epic ride had begun!
In Vapi we were hosted for the night by Aditya’s classmate, Mr.Sraw, and his charming wife, who took us out for a wonderful dinner and saw us off the next morning when it rained.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Picturesque Shimla

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Shimla also known as Simla, is the capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, located in northern India.

Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.

Enroute to Simla in the monsoons

An overview of Shimla in the rains

In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India.
The Viceregal lodge in Shimla is where the British Viceroys stayed and governed.
The India Pakistan partition and the Shimla agreement was executed in this building.

A cafe in the premises of the lodge.

Postmasters flat in the premises of the Lodge.

The Summerhill sub post office at the entrance to Shimla.

Horses on hire for a ride through town.

The Ridge in Shimla is the popular place to hang out. In the centre is the State Library and on the right is the Christ Church.

Smartly turned out Police of Shimla.

Samosa kulcha - tangy street food in Shimla.

Sliced Coconut to chew on is quite popular in Shimla.

The Municipal Corporation building of Shimla.

For details please refer to Wikipedia that has lot of information.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A taste of Himachal

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When I received an invite for a bloggers meet from Club Mahindra in one of their properties in Kandaghat, I was thrilled for two reasons. One because I would have the opportunity of exploring a new destination and secondly because I was sure of the luxury that I would revel in for a couple of days. Club Mahindra is famous for creating new destinations and for pampering all their guests.

On arrival in their Kandaghat property we were given the traditional welcome by applying the tikka and 

the welcome drink was a yummy ‘virgin apple mojito’. That was an indication that we were in the laps of beautiful Himachal Pradesh.

The rooms were spacious and afforded gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains which were 

capped by thick clouds.
In the evening we were treated to the traditional Himachali welcome with the blowing of shehnai and Dhunturu accompanied by dholaks.

The energetic and graceful folk dance ‘Naati’ performed by Club Mahindra employees from Himachal Pradesh was so wonderful that a few of us were dancing with them before we knew it! We were told they have these performances every Saturday and on special occasions or when specially requested for.
For dinner we had a Himachali thali which had cuisines from all parts of Himachal and it was 
The next morning we were shown around their herb gardens where they grow all the herbs used for 
cooking like mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme and more. They also let us indulge in some pear plucking though I would have loved to pluck apples but they were not ready to be plucked yet. Then we went and planted a few saplings at designated spots in their orchard with a promise that they would
be watered and taken care of and pictures of their growth would be mailed to us. After this nature activity off we went to Shimla which is a mere 30kms from Kandaghat but the weather was not conducive as it started raining as we reached the Upper Mall road level. We waited for the rain to subside and then we were escorted to Club Mahindra’s Mashobra resort which was less than 10kms 
away for a leisurely Italian lunch. This property is very compact as compared to the one at Kandaghat
but has all the elements that make for a luxurious holiday.
Then off we went to visit a Himachali village on our way to Shimla and visited all the popular photo op
places on the Upper Mall road and the Viceregal Lodge and returned to Kandaghat tired but feeling good.
Next morning was a trip to Chail which was a couple of hours away from Kandaghat but worth the 
visit for the drive which snaked up the mountain. Visited the Chail palace, an ancient Kali mata temple and the highest cricket ground in the world.
Soon it was time to bid goodbye to the Dev Bhoomi (God’s earth) and back to Mumbai.
ClubMahindra surely is the best place to have as a base to experience Himachal Pradesh in totality for its cuisine, activities and affordable luxury! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Zestful event in Goa

A week back I got an invitefrom Blogadda to spend a Zestful weekend in Goa. It was an offer I could not refuse as it involved test driving the two new offerings in the Tata Motors stable – Zest Petrol with a 1.2T Revotron engine with a 5 speed manual gear shift and the Zest diesel with a Quadrajet 1.3 engine which is an Automatic gear shift car. And all this while I would be pampered in five star comforts of Hotel Zuri in Varca, Goa.

We were flown to Goa by Blogadda on Jet Airways and on arrival in Goa we were met by a Blogherder from Tata Motors who herded all us bloggers into an airconditioned coach which got us to the Hotel Zuri where we were welcomed with the traditional tikka and processed through to our rooms very professionally by the Hotel and the Blogadda staff.

Once we checked in, we refreshed ourselves and went for lunch where we started the process of meeting up with all the bloggers who were in touch virtually but had never met up for a number of years. It was sure a great pleasure.

The Zest was very much in evidence as before we could say Blogadda or TataMotors it was time for a Blogadda meet up in the conference room for a general familiarisation of what we are in for.
Then we had an hour to be on our own when we went with our new ‘real’ friends and old ‘virtual’ friends for a walk on the huge property of the Hotel Zuri and then onto the beach but could not possibly wait to capture the sunset as we had to be back for a Zesty session with the Marketing, Design and Engineering Heads responsible for the creation of the two wonderful products.
Back in the conference room we had a wonderful time interacting with the Tata Motorheads! They did not shy from answering any questions that came their way showing their confidence of their products. The icing on the cake was a brief talk about the cars by none other than Narain Karthikeyan!

This zested up our appetite and soon we were fine dining on some Goan delicacies and other cuisines laid out for us.
Back to our rooms and beds with the thought of getting up early next morning for the nice long test drives in the machines we had heard so much about.

So off we went after a sumptuous breakfast for a drive in the Petrol and Diesel versions around a green Goa where the narrow streets were bordered by greenery and more greenery and quaint little chapels and churches.

On our return from the drive we were eager to share our experiences with the world at large so made use of the time before lunch to blog this just for you!!

For my review about the cars please click on http://instantwords.blogspot.in/2014/07/tata-zest-review.html


Thursday, June 26, 2014

End of summer ride!

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The time was here to end the summer with a nice long ride in the mountains or rather the hilly terrain of Maharashtra.
So had a chat with my Doctor rider mate to decide the where and how to go for it. It was imperative that he was free at the same time as me and also to check whether his Royal Enfield was riding fit to accompany my Royal Enfield in the hot sunny long ride.
The first destination that came up was the obvious one – Mahabaleshwar followed by Panchgani and Bhandardara. These were immediately shot down for we were not looking for destinations but for an all-day ride through the back roads. We were not interested in riding on highways or expressways. We wanted to go for a ride in the back of the beyond! Riding on the highways and expressways was sleep inducing and boring. It was more like going from point A to point B and back again without the scenic wonders that one would encounter on the back roads. After a bit of brainstorming session we arrived at a decision. To ride the twists and turns on the road between Igatpuri and Manor.  We had done this ride individually in the monsoons when it is heavenly but never together and in the peak of summer! 

So that was it and we decide to end our summer riding season with this twists and turns ride and heat up the curves on this sector!

Here are a few pictures of our ride and oh yes, half way through the ride we did have a break to fill our growling tummies.

It has always been our practice to carry some sandwiches or wraps to ensure we don’t stay hungry. This is because we love to eat sitting under the shade of some tree out in the open rather than sitting and eating in some claustrophobic hot and humid dhaba or restaurant. And we also love to eat when we want to and not when we come across an eating place. This helps us concentrate on our enjoyment of the ride rather than looking for a place to eat. In addition we are assured of a hygienic meal in the middle of nowhere!!
This time my riding mate told me he had heard of a new food delivery app called FoodPanda which had tie-ups with some of our favourite eating places in Mumbai and would home deliver our orders for free too! So he had ordered some delicious wraps, which we gobbled up sitting under a huge gracious banyan tree seated atop a hill with a cool breeze blowing to keep us cool!

This ride too was as wonderful and now looking forward to a monsoon ride in the hills!