We descended down to valley back to Vizag once again in rain, and headed directly to the airport. My wife was flying back to Blr to rejoin us in the later part of the trip. The airport security was beefed up as a lot of politicians had turned up, so we parked away from all terminal, and Sridhar removed his baklava before we would be mistaken for.... When we were transferring all the wet luggage into the back-pack, the cops had a field day laughing @ us, and enquiring about our adventure.
We left back to the hotel, and in the night went looking for good Andra meals, and the due to visiting politico's all the good places had run out of food catering to them and the cops. So we settled for veg biryani, and later found chicken pieces. Guess in AP, veg == chicken.
Vizag to Bhuwaneshwar (Day 4):
The next push was to Odissa, and there were jitters as to what lay ahead. We knew the roads were good up until now, what lay ahead we could only guess. We were also aware of the hazards of riding in the night in these isolated places.
We were surprised to find people talking bits of Kannada at places beyond Srikakulam. The IT effect has indeed grown far and wide, as few of them used to work in security firms as guards. The entry to Odissa was on the wrong way, literally. The trucks had blocked the left lane for miles near the border check-post. We took clue from a bus, and took to the wrong side and got passed the blocked border.
Stopped at the BP ghar dhaba right after the border, and found some really good andra meals to our surprise. Guess we were destined to eat andra meals after all. Met few truckers who gave us good advice, and warned us of riding in the dark to puri. After a heary meal, and dumping all the water in the boots (yes the rain was still chasing us).
Sridhar had heard of a ferry which could take small cars and bikes across the chilka lake directly to puri. So we left the highway and hit the interior roads. After getting lost for sometime (no one around to help), and riding through the greenest paddy fields we finally hit the right place. The locals as helpful as ever, informed us the ferry was cancelled due to bad weather. Then came along a wooden boat ferrying 4 motorcycles, and few people. They offered to take our bikes along, and as they were heavy, they agreed to take on only 2 of our bikes. After much delibration we decided the risk was not worth it, and ride to puri. To the much disappointment of the locals, we rode back to the highway, and lost lot of time.
It was dark by the time we went back to the highway, and rode on till we thought we missed the diversion to Puri. The roads were isolated and darkness like I've never experienced before. We pulled into a fuel bunk where trucks had pulled over, and found the petrol bunk to be patrolled by guards with Double barrel rifles. They convinced us not to ride out to puri through the diversion, as it would be too risky. They adviced us to ride to Bhuwaneshwar, and stay put for the night. Couldn't argue with the man with the double barrel rifle, could we?
Sridhar got in touch with a rider from Bhuwaneshwar (Siddhanth), who agreed to meet us in the outskirts of the city. He guided us to the Ginger hotel, where the food was excellent. Siddhanth told us the parking in Puri might be a problem, so we decided to take local transport to Puri.
Puri (Day 5):
The rick guy asked 5 5 for 2 passengers, and later changed it to 7 7 to take to a bus stop where express buses come. I later realized that 7 7, was not 7 per person, but his was of explaining it was Rs 77. The roads were being expanded, so bus really helped, and we got some deserved sleep (atleast I did). Puri temple was tall, and crowded, and we took turns to visit it. Later we headed out to Konark, a place I've always wanted to visit. The sun temple was a marvel in stone work, and we thoroughly enjoyed the place. We caught one of the last buses to Bhuwaneshwar, which used to stop @ places where there were no houses. Couldn't pick out a speck of light anywhere in the line of sight. Wonder where people actually live.
Siddhanth joined us for Dinner, and we had some good punjabi food @ Punjabi Tadka, and bid fair well to siddhanth. Tomorrow lay Kolkata, and the chance to meet the riders from Kolkata.
Bhuwaneshwar - Kolkata (Day 6):
Empty roads made us much miles, though we did take off (Sridhar the longest) due to undulation on the road. We were supposed to meet the riders @ Sher -e Punjab (Kolagate) around 70km away from Kolkata. The waiter wanted to know where the other riders are, so we were sure we ended up @ the right place. We had some really good tandoori kababs (yes, veg), and waited for the riders to show up. After the introduction with the riders, we all caught up on some food and a beer each.
I had been running on a rear flat tyre for the last 100 kms, and filled in air once more to reach kolkata. The riders guided us past traffic jams, and put us @ the pearl hotel opposite Salt lake stadium. We decided to take a stroll, and found Mantri mall, and grabbed some chats, and chola batora.
The next day, Saket from the HD showroom, turned up to pick us up from the hotel. After pumping air into the flat tyre, we rode to the showroom, and left our bikes for service. Saket took us around the city of Kolkata on a whirlwind tour. He took us to some isolated places, which had some amazing views of the Howrah bridge. Later he took us to a place which served us some amazing kati rolls, and we just couldn't stop at one.
We returned to the showroom, and bikes were all fixed and washed clean. Everyone @ the showroom took awesome care of us, and I rate these guys as some of the best in India (Rivalled only by Ahemadabad). We were accompanied by a employee, whose RE was more louder than any HD we've come across. It was literally shooting flames. We were picked up by the riders from the hotel, and met up at Oval lounge with more riders. This was one wicked party, and we saw what Kolkata hospatality truly meant.
Kolkata - Allahabad (Day 7):
We were joined by few Kolkata riders for around 100km towards Varanasi. After breakfast at BP ghar dhaba, we left the Kolkata riders, and proceeded to Varanasi. chhattisgarh to our surprise had the best roads, with cemented and banked curves. We passed through long convoys of sumo's/jeep's/buses on the way to some political rally. The traffic was stopped to distribute food among the vehicles. Once the roads opened up, we were having so much fun, that we hesitated to stop, but the hunger finally caught up.
We stopped @ haryana dhaba, and while waiting for our food to arrive, a lorry full of army personel stopped to have a look @ the bikes. We later found out that they were local police on patrol, and not army. The food again was hot and decent, and we started riding again towards varanasi. Entered Bihar, and the smog was already setting in. We stopped @ a toll close to Varanasi, and met the engineer in charge who seconded our doubt of Varanasi being crowded. He adviced us not to stop @ any road side hotels, and to stop only inside the city. Few locals told us we had just crossed the problem area, and they would be able to catch up on these bikes.
We decided to ride to Allahabad, and found later the roads to be blockaded some km's after Varanasi. This apparently was due to some country fair being held in a village. We being on bikes were let through to the wrong side, as no vehicles were plying on both sides. The country fair was the thing of movies. Loud speakers blarring out live music, people walking in the night to attend the fair.. We finally reached Allahabad around 10pm, which again proved to be a problem. Trucks were only allowed to enter Allahabad after 10, and the roads were jammed. Followed cops on the wrong side (may be up there it is the right side), and got to the hotel (Ravisha international).
They were kind enough to let us place the order as it was closing time, and had some really authentic UP food and went to sleep.
Allahabad - Delhi (Day - 8):
We rode till kanpur which has a flyover across the city. We stopped for fuel and asked around for some good dhaba, and were recommended one just up the road. I tell you, this place had some of the best parata's and curries you could get. We stuffed ourselves so bad, we had to laze around for sometime before we could even move. After reaching agra, we decided to take the Delhi-Agra yamuna express way. We fuelled up before the entrance, as we were told no fuel bunks around. This was flat cemented 3-4 lane express way, but with a speed limit of 100Km. You can just lock the throttle and snooze, and you will cruise to Delhi.
Was glad to get off the express way, and finally reached my friends place in Delhi.
Delhi (Day - 9):
We went to the HD India office, and were given a tour of the facilities, and we hit a local brewery for lunch. Sridhar had his bike inspected by John for some wiring issues. Vijay then took us around old Delhi on our bikes, and later dropped us @ HD showroom. That's when we realized the service shop was located on the other side of the city, and I had to get the rear tyre replaced. A rider helped us find the way, and we reached the service center past closing time. But they went out of their way and got the replacement done. Was looking forward to the next day as it had something special in store.
Delhi - Pushkar (Day 10):
My wife flew into Delhi in the morning, and joined us @ our friends place. After break fast we started for Pushkar, and decided to hit the HD factory @ Bawal. We split up @ the first toll, due to bad bottle necks. But after re-grouping made it to the factory. Though it was closed, and after the security guys called their seniors, and allowed us into the compund. While we were busy clicking away snaps, we were served coffee. We left Jaipur behind, and rode to Puskar. It was dark when we left the highway, and the road was twisted to say the least.
Pushkar - Chittorgarh (Day 11):
The resort was really outstanding, with a resturant serving authentic Rajastani cuisine. After a good nights sleep, we packed up and left for Pushkar town. We were allowed to park on the street next to a vendors shop, and I kept watch while the rest went on a visit to the temple and the lake. I was thoroughly entertained, when some local kid try to sell off our bikes to some foreigners.
We headed out to Chittorgarh, which happens to be the largest fort in India. We met some goat herder's, and they offered us wild berries, and we graciously accepted. They were happy to pose for snaps, and shook hands with us. We rode in to the fort around 3pm, and stopped for some snaps. A local guys offered us to take us around for nominal fees, and we accepted. We followed his bike, and he put in a word with all the parking attendants, and our bikes were definitely looked after.
The fort is quiet simply breath taking, and only after reaching here did I realize that this is the fort shown in most travel shows. Boy, was I glad I turned up here without even being aware of what was in store. The sculptures and the towers are really work of art and science. Coupled to that the various water reservoiurs around the fort, which keep the town supplied for was surreal. We watched the sun set from the main entrance, and did some shopping. Ended up picking Maharani saree's, to be shipped home. Supposedly the queen wore if for her wedding, and it was made up of fibres from custard apple tree.
While shopping, we over-heard someone owning a HD too in the town below, and we got curious. We found out that he happened to be owner of a hotel too. We got the contacts, and rode down to the town to find Pratap Palace. We were not disappointed. A old Haveli converted to a hotel, with enough antiques and collectable cars and even a original RE from england. We had to wait as the rooms were booked out. The beers were really helping, when we were shown to the rooms, with a view of the fort. Do not miss the Baigan ka bharta there.
Chittorgarh - Udaipur (Day - 12):
Ride to Udaipur was again stupendous. Curved pristine roads, and Sridhar was definitely having a blast riding solo. Reached Udaipur for breakfast, and based on recommendation by my friend (Delhi), we hit Ras leela. Unfortunately the few tests over-looking the lake were booked, so we settled for a breakfast in the garden. We then found a hotel near by called Lake Pichola, and booked in. Again, a old Haveli turned into a hotel, loaded with antiques. The view from the balcony overlooked the lake and the city palace. The owner was friendly, and we rested easy when we heard RE and other groups stay there quite often.
After a rest, we decided to walk the inner roads to the palace, and ended up consuming innumerable masala goli soda. The Palace is huge, and it took a toll on me. I felt a sudden dip in energy levels, and almost collapsed. So a good long break in the shades, followed by lots of energy drinks got me through .
We went to the garden hotel, which had a collection of antique cars, and served some mean thali. We were late for both, so we settled for a-la-carte and had some good cognac. Later me and my wife went back to the city palace for the light and sound show. Sridhar decided to skip the show, and head back. Did some shopping again inside the Palace where my wife kept asking me for time. Me being myself kept telling her "Why do you need to know the time, relax".
Just before the show, I realized my cell phone was missing. Then began a frantic search @ the gift shop, the palace yard. We sat through the light and sound show, and as good as it was, we were thinking about the cell. After giving a complaint in the palace security office, we returned to the hotel, and informed the reception of the same. From the room, we kept calling the cell, and almost gave up. My wife took the cell and gave one last attempt, and someone did pick up. It was the auto rickshaw driver. He promised to deliver it to the hotel in due time.
We were waiting for him downstairs, and he turned up with the cell. Apparently it was stuck between the seats, and he hadn't heard it ring earlier as he was ferrying customers. He heard the ring when he had stopped @ the stand. All he asked was the auto fare to the hotel, as he couldnt get any fare. We tipped him some cash, and he was not ready to accept it. After some persuation from us saying it was a diwali gift, he relented and accepted it.
I tell you, the number of missed calls on the cell, from the hotel, from the palace security.. it just was over-whelming. We gave each one of them a call informing them of the rick guy returning us, and thanked them. Finally relieved we headed to hotel roof top, which was draped in white curtains, and with a open view to the lake and palace. We had some real good food, me wild beans curry, and wife lal-mas (red goat meat). Relieved we went to bed, and reflected on an amazing Rajastan. We would be leaving it behind in the morning.
Udaipur - Ahemdabad - Little rann of kutch (Day 13):
The roads near the border of Rajastan/Gujarat were not the smoothest. We had breakfast @ Punjabi Dhaba few miles past the border. Reached a sultry hot Ahemdabad close to noon, and went straight to the showroom. It was closed as it was Diwali. They let us rest inside the showroom, as it was searing hot outside. Indrajeet later joined us, and the staff started trickling in for the Diwali puja.
We met a fellow rider, who along with Indrajeet offered their help in planning our next leg of journey. We had some spare days, and Rann of kutch was too tempting. They called ahead to the resorts, and booked us in for Little rann (Rann riders), and Kutch safari @ Bhuj. We then called a cab, and put my wife back on the flight to bangalore, and we started to Little Rann.
We realized Gujarat has better roads, than the GQ stretch. We reached late night at the resort, and grabbed quick dinner.
Little Rann safari - Bhuj (Day 14):
We followed the Thar to the little Rann of kutch, and saw lot of peacocks, and birds on the way. @ the Little Rann, we ran our bike across the desert, while we were surprise as to how stable the bikes were, and how dry and hard the sand was. We encountered few wild asses, and headed back truly impressed. This was appetizers for the white sands of kutch. We were now re-energized for the push to Bhuj.
Back @ the hotel, we grabbed breakfast, and played with all the dogs (Lambs, st burnards)..and left for Bhuj. I highly recommend this place, for anyone visiting Gujarat.
Tomorrow was a 80km ride to White sands of Dorodoro and Kaladunga montain.
Bhuj - Doro Doro - Kaladunga - Bhuj (Day 15):
After riding in a bit more for better snaps, we started for kaladunga. Heard foxes come around 12:30 to eat the prasad, so we hurried. The road to Kaladunda is unmarked, and we blindly followed some tourist vehicles in the hope they were headed there. The cops had stopped cars from going up, as there were no space, but after some persuasion, waved us through. We parked the bikes in front of the temple and ran to the observation deck.
Bhuj - Mumbai (Day 16):
This was one long tiring stretch, and the only bright spot, we spotted a lot of flamingos on drying lakes, and saw in-numerable salt fields. We avoided the route we took to Bhuj, and opted for the longer route. The roads turned out to be good, and we stopped at a hotel Mahakali for lunch. I was running a leak from the gear shifter, so it was time to top it up. After that we rode past so many industrial areas, that the progress was slow. And I was getting tired.
Mumbai - Kolhapur (Day 17):