“Oh shit that storm is chasing me like an angry Rhino, and I don’t have any rain gear. Why don’t I have any rain gear again?”
That was the thought on a loop in my head for most of this epic ride that started in Hyderabad, moved on to Pune, then Mumbai, back to Pune, over to Bangalore and then back to square one. The date was 21st March 2015, and I had expected this to be a rather pleasant trip, since it was supposed to be the middle of spring. But then again, when do things ever happen the way you expect them to?
There were a number of reasons for this ride. I had recently got a job, and the unemployment ride that preceded this event had to be followed by an employment one. Also, I had left behind a lot of my stuff back at Mumbai, and some of it was rather vital as stuff goes. But the most important reason for this ride was that there was no reason. It’s all just excuses, you go because you have to go.
I had no set plan, no appointments, and no route to follow, just a thought and a few cities to explore.
Let’s cancel this thing
Like every other night before a long ride begins, I couldn’t catch any sleep. Like every other night before a long ride begins, I was watching motorcycle crash videos till early morning. The alarm went off at 5.30, and it was then that I realized that I hadn’t packed anything.
Nothing unusual then.
Packing was done in 20 minutes, and it was off to shower, putting the lenses on, stuffing my face with some random food, and then putting on my gear. Which is when I realized my riding pant had no guards in it.
I had washed the pants a while back, and then totally forgot to put in the protectors. The pant was all smushed and crumpled, both on the inside and outside, which meant that putting in those guards again was going to be a pain.
After about 20 minutes of struggle, it was done. Off we go then!
6.30 in the morning, and I found myself in full riding gear, carrying 3 bags, and walking like a tarantula down 3 floors. I must’ve looked like an alien dad of 3 extremely obese babies, or that’s the look I got in my watchman’s eyes.
I was fairly new to Hyderabad, didn’t know any roads, but then again that’s the way I’ve seen the entire country. All you do is pull up Google maps, and you are all set.
The City of Nawabs must have collectively laughed at my stupidity that morning.
Sainikpuri, as the name suggests, is the abode of soldiers. They are everywhere, and so are their settlements. Wherever you have to go, you’ll need to cross some kind of defense area on your way. The only problem is that not all of them are open to public access.
I simply chose “My Location” as the starting point, and Pune as the end one, thinking Google is intelligent enough to get me out of the city. Wrong! As big and scary and omnipresent as Google might be, the roads of Hyderabad are insane enough to confuse even a gazillion dollar corporation.
Started following the route mapped by Google, and soon found myself at the entry gate of a military establishment. The gun totting guards promptly stopped me and asked what in fuck’s name I was trying to do. Told them I need to get out of the city, and all they had to say was that this isn’t the way.
Well then, what now?
It was still early morning, I didn’t really want to call anybody. Google appeared to show an alternative route, and so I took it. I suddenly found myself in the middle of a field, just to the left of middle of nowhere, looking straight at another military gate manned by armed guards. By that time I had lost my trust in Google maps, so I switched over to Sygic, which promptly lead to me a completely different, but still impenetrable military fortress.
I felt like that silver ball in the Pin Ball game. I had spent about 45 minutes bouncing off irrelevant objects, while getting nowhere in the process. I was tired, frustrated, and sweaty, and I wanted to go and sleep and try again tomorrow.
One last try.
Called up Nick, and he luckily picked up and told me to search for BHEL to find the correct route. Suddenly Google got its shit together, and I was getting somewhere.
To all the people who are paranoid of Artificial Intelligence taking over the world: LOL.
The road of bones
I have seen a lot of different kinds of roads. Good roads, bad roads, brilliant roads, dangerous roads, straight roads, curvy roads, jungle roads, city roads, and no roads, but nothing comes even close to the astoundingly bad state of assholiness the Hyderabad – Solapur road is in, and there are a number of reasons for this.
- This is a major highway, apparently, so you have traffic all the times, especially super heavy trucks
- The “highway” is basically a tiny double-lane road, with no divider, where two trucks have trouble crossing side by side
- The entire stretch is riddled with craters that can shame the Moon. From Hyderabad towards Solapur, the potholes become smaller in size but bigger in numbers
- Drivers from the great states of AP and TS are THE most retarded ones you’ll ever come across in your existence
And so began my journey for survival, against the death traps of fellow road users, with the occasional sighting of a mangled mess of a car or a truck lying on the side. All you can do is take a deep breath and carry on.
About an hour into the ride I started feeling hungry. Stopped by a dhaba, only to get drowned in questions and photo requests. While I was trying my best to enjoy some Idli in peace, the owner of the place just couldn’t stop telling me stories from his driving days, about how he rode taxis and trucks to the deepest corners of the country. He even whipped out his driving license to prove that he wasn’t a phony, and I totally couldn’t care.
After stocking up on energy, water and stories, I was back on the road. The way I generally try to break up my ride is this:
Ride about one and a half hours, eat, ride about one and a half hours, fill fuel, and repeat.
The only problem with this approach is that I am very bad at following it.
I have big problems with doing the right thing, especially when I know that’s the right thing to do.
Which meant that after stretching my fuel till the last drop and then frantically looking for a petrol pump, I stopped again at the nearest possible restaurant I could find. In any case, it was a rather hot day, and I just wanted the fucking ride to be over with.
But of course, you need to take photos.
There were no mountains or stuff in the area that I was riding through, but there were some very interesting rock formations and small hills. I took a left and rammed straight into one of those. Took a few shots before the sweating became too unbearable, and then was back on the road again.
I will not bore you with stories of how many times I was killed by oncoming traffic, or was pushed off the road by a crazy lunatic, or followed like shadow by a wannabe racer, that’s something I’m certain you already have experienced.
But long story short, I couldn’t wait for this torture to end. I’ve done this road before, and it was exactly the same. It’s surprising to me that no improvements whatsoever have been made to a road that’s supposed to be a major artery in the circulatory system that are our roads, over the course of a year.
For anyone planning to go to Pune from Hyderabad, I’d much rather recommend taking a small detour via Bangalore.
And it was with these thoughts that I finally made it to the right turn that takes you towards Pune and away from the horrendously disfigured patch of nothingness that I had just been forced on.
To Pune or not to Pune
As I started approaching Pune, I could see something that was both good and bad. Black clouds obscured the blazing sun, but I wasn’t really keen on getting wet. It was there that my hide-and-seek game with the clouds started, which continued on for the rest of the trip.
I could see this giant column of thundering clouds on my left, and based on my direction of travel I knew that they would cross me at some point. The only option I saw was to outrun them, to reach beyond their reach.
And so started the game that I was destined to lose from the start. How can you ever expect to defeat nature? Even though at times my bike made me feel slightly more powerful than what I really am, reality dropped in from time to time to keep the record straight.
I was dry and happy just before Pune city limits, so I decided to take a stop and get something in ma belly. It was about 5 in the evening, and it looked like the Sun was going to burn out soon. After munching on some Pavs along with some Cold Coffee, I mounted the bike again in search of a place for the night.
And then it rained.
I was in two minds. It was very hot, so the rain made things slightly better. However, I was carrying a large assortment of electronic items for some inexplicable reason, and little drops of H2O was something I was really afraid of.
Luckily the rain subsided in a few minutes, and so the hunt restarted. While sipping on that Cold Coffee before, I had put up a post on Facebook asking Pune people for a couch to stay the night. The response I got was rather overwhelming, so I just locked my phone and continued riding.
And then stopped a few kilometers later because, let’s be honest, I needed a place to stay.
My initial plan was to ride till Mumbai, but then it was getting late and I absolutely hate riding at night. I knew a few people in Pune, but all the nice dudes who offered me places for the night were purely Facebook friends. I basically did an Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe and decided to stay with Amrit Mishra.
Before this trip, I’ve almost always traveled without much help from Google Maps. I do take a look at it before the start, and then maybe a few times while I’ve stopped for some food, but generally I’ve mostly relied on road signs and intuition and asking other people for directions. Deep inside Pune’s asshole though, I didn’t want to take any chances, so mounted my phone up and followed its instructions to Xlimitz.
I was just randomly bugging the store people, asking them for prices of different items, what’s selling more, and why. Got to speak with Shilpa, and the conversation went as follows:
Me: Hey, I’m Akhil
Shilpa: Hi, I’m Shilpa, have a seat
Me: This is a nice little office!
Shilpa: Yeah, we are coming up with new one pretty close to the highway soon
Me: Cool! What do you do around here?
Shilpa: I’m one of the Managing Directors.
Thankfully, the awkward silence was broken by a call from some unknown number, and it was Anis Shaikh from the riding group called Rubber Smokin Angels (RSA). We’ve been friends on Facebook since quite a while, and now it was finally time to meet up.
And what a meet up it was. Spoke with Varad, Bhuwan and a bunch of other interesting folks at the German Bakery, where my biggest concern was my riding luggage, which was still strapped onto the bike parked outside, getting nicked. There was one question that kept bugging me throughout that session.
Do all Pune people smoke like chimneys?
About an hour later, which was spent mostly with me listening and others speaking, the plans were changed. Anis insisted I stay with him for the night, and I glad I did.
Or maybe not.
I’m scared of flying, mostly because flying is like the most extreme kind of pillion riding, where you sit behind the pilot, who takes you for a ride at 800 kmph. I’ve been through some pretty rough flights till date, double-tap landings, sudden altitude loss, turbulence, I’ve seen it all. But nothing could’ve prepared me for what was to come next.
Riding pillion on Anis’s Duke 390.
My bike’s chain was completely fucked, the oil seal was leaking, and the whole thing just felt like it’ll be torn apart any second, so there was no choice. I’ve never enjoyed pillion rides, and the Duke is a nightmare as far as passenger comfort goes, but what scared me the most about the upcoming trip was the guy between the handlebars.
Not only do all Pune people smoke like chimneys, they are also one of the most insane on the road. When I say insane I don’t mean they go retard like Hyderabadis do, by insane I mean they become the most anal people you’ve ever met in your life, correcting everyone’s little faults, forcing them to obey the rules, with a lot of eye fucking and hand gestures.
From my writing style, it might sound like I like confrontations, and it might even be true in the virtual world. In the real world though, I always try my best to stay out of trouble, especially on our roads that are nothing more than a giant network of legal death machines made and maintained by the government.
Anis and his riding style are completely opposite of that.
After about half an hour of near-death riding, we finally arrived at Bottle Rock pub, where some Symbiosis kids were having some sort of a party and all hell was breaking loose. What was supposed to be pleasant conversation between ourselves turned into shouting matches. I, like before, didn’t speak much.
Amrit came over to say hi because he thought we wouldn’t be able to meet up afterwards, and we went outside away from the drama to get talking. Unknown to either one of us, we were going to meet again, and pretty soon.
After some food, it was time to get moving, and I tried my best to convince Anis to let me ride the bike, which he flatly refused. After a short jump, we ended up at the DC showroom, where the Wrap Me Up people were working on a BMW. Interesting stuff.
Another ball-crushing ride later, we were back at Anis’s place.
It’s always interesting to meet creative people, and try and understand their world. Anis showed me his photography work, especially one done with a Russian lady. His photography and post-processing skills are mental, and it all seems to be fueled with nothing more than cigarette smoke, fast food, and beer.
I was completely broken, inside and out, so asked him to setup a bed for me. Like most creative people, 1 in the night was his peak of productivity, so I left him to it and tried to get some night night. After a brief skirmish with mosquitoes, I finally got some shut eye, till the next day began at 6.
Tell me again why riding is fun?