Once again, I sit in the front of the computer unsure of where to start from. It has been a while since I'm riding now and few of my travelogues have been updated in the previous posts. However, during the last three years, where in I was engaged and so engrossed with my professional responsibilities, one travelogue remains uncompleted while I did not bother to post a travelogue for few other rides including Spiti and Manali (twice).
I had traded off the Pulsar 200 NS in 2015 after completing the Spiti ride successfully. The main reason for the same was performance issues at higher altitudes despite it being a very capable machine considering the over all package at that price. Below is a pic of the same during the Spiti ride:
Somewhere in Spiti
Had my mind set on the Royal Enfield standard 500 which was duly introduced to the family back in July 2015. Here's what it looked liked a year ago:
The Steed, back then
Had plonked in a WildBoar exhaust and a wider handlebar to suit my priding preferences and I was already itching to take it for a long ride! Meanwhile one of my friends asked me to join him for a ride to Manali to which I agreed in an instant.
In the Himalayas (Manali, 2015)
Fast forward to September 2016, I had switched my job and taken up a new project which requires lot of traveling to Pune...Akurdi to be precise. This time 3 of my colleagues and I had to travel for 2 days and for some reason, we were asked to book train tickets to and fro. It was then, that the idea of riding down to Pune cropped up in my mind and to my utter surprise, convincing the bosses was a piece of cake. On this note, I extend a word of thanks to the bosses for their understanding and supportive nature. However, convincing my wife and family was a bit tricky, but they agreed since I would take the same time to reach as the train would take.
Everything was going fine as far preparations for the ride were concerned, however, the Utopian bubble broke when I realized that my bike had been making all sorts of funny noises and to my horror, they were coming straight from the engine. Post contacting the Royal Enfield Service Center which happened to be Kaytee Motors, Mahipalpur, New Delhi, I was told that I had a busted cylinder kit that needs a replacement! 10000km into the ownership and the bike needs a cylinder kit replacement? Aren't these engines made to last? Anyway, I was least bothered since the job was covered under warranty.
The bike was repaired and handed over to me. It ran like new! I mean, it had to...but still, it made me happy since I had already started dreaming about the ride, the road and exciting 6-7 days that were coming up! However, the bubble broke once again. Not even 1000 km post the engine work, the bike started spitting white smoke. I knew what the issue was. Dropped the bike once again at the workshop only to know that the head valve (excuse me for being too technical) had gone kaput and needs a replacement. And all this was just a couple of days before the ride began. That would mean, the running in would not be completed and that the bike would run in only during the ride! Bad luck!
Moving on, the bike was delivered 2 days before the ride began and I was informed that the valve has been replaced along with piston rings, no cylinder kit this time. This would mean a running in period of 150 odd km where in the bike should not be revved too high and should not cross 80 odd kmph. Easy? I thought since it would only mean a couple of hours that can be compensated by leaving early.
So the day was finally here and hence the ride begin. But before I take you through this marvelous journey, let me introduce you to the Ride and the Rider.
The Ride: Royal Enfield standard 500
The Rider: Karan Sharma
Saddlebags: Rynox Nomad 2
Helmet: Spada Off Road
Dslr: Canon Kiss X4
Action Cam: Sjcam M20
Shoes: DC casual canvas
Riding Jacket: None (just a normal wind cheater)
Rain wear: Versalis
Tank Bag: Cramster
Handlebar: Wide, Harley type
Tiger Lamps: changed to LED
Air Filter: K&N
Crash Bar: Square, powder coated, Harley type
Mirrors: Bajaj avenger, later changed to no brand round type
So the journey finally begins:
Day 1: Delhi-Udaipur
Off late, my riding style has changed, from a more aggressive, 1000km in 12 hours to shorter ride for the day in same time. Also, I've realized that the morning hours are the best to complete a good night sleep. This not only keeps me fresh through the day, but also allows me to sleep without the worry of waking up in another couple of hours post hitting the bed. The luggage was already packed, batteries were charged the previous night and the alarm was set to buzz not before 6.00 am. I've been on this route for 4-5 times now during the Glory Quest, The Goan Geyaway and the Desert Chronicles (blog remains unpublished). Hence I knew it could be covered in about 12-13 hours. So I was all set to leave by 7. The luggage was tied on the bike which was being warmed up meanwhile. Started off while I still kept the revs low (remember the replaced piston rings?). It was a beautiful Monday morning. Yes...Beautiful. Monday. Morning! Since I was not supposed to reach work and spend my day on the chair. Blissfully thumped out of the city and I was happily cruising at 80kmph on the NH8.
It was a regular affair, trucks, cars, bullock carts and more. Hence, did not bother to stop and take pictures, since there was nothing special to capture. stopped for breakfast at the popular Rao Dhaba and savored the butter dripping Aaloo Paranthas with tea. Paid the bill and was set to sign off only to realize that the bike key was not with me. Although I was carrying the spare one, still could not let one go that easily. I realize that the key was left on the table and is now with the cashier. Took the keys, thanked him and moved forward.
Old Rao Dhaba, NH8: Checkin for some mouthwatering paranthas
The weather was cool, the sun was not punishing yet, however, I knew as I enter Rajasthan and head towards Ajmer, it would get sweltering hot and frequent breaks would be required, both for me and the bike.
Stopped for a butt break, the bike had already covered 150 odd km, hence the running in period was technically over and I was happy. It had performed wonderfully well and was running smooth. The thump from the megafone was hypnotizing and the misfire from the exhaust accompanied by flames made the eyes turn...I was simply loving it.
while I was still soaking up the landscape around, I realized that I left a very important thing back home! What was that? The memory card for the Dslr...now its resting tucked nicely in the memory card slot of the laptop...urrgghh! Stupid Me. Hence, had to do with the SJcam and decided to buy another one later during the day.
Had water, chatted with a couple of locals about their heard of goats. There was no sign of stress, whatsoever. I was as refreshed as I was in the morning. I knew the ride had just started and i surely would get tired as I progress towards the destination of the day.
The LHS RVM had been troubling me since a while now since it had come lose and would get lose time and again due to vibrations on the handle bar. Stopped by to see if a spanner is available in the tool kit. Piece of junk, the first thing I said to myself. Nothing worthy of even opening the tool kit. I should have rather save the energy by not thinking of even opening the tool/fuse box. Stopped by a mechanic, borrowed the spanner and tightened the bolt. All set, I move on.
Soon I was at the Ajmer bypass cautiously looking for the right road as I did not want myself to land up in the Pink City and make my way through the maddening traffic. Will bold and visible signboards, its difficult to miss this diversion to Ajmer.
The roads had been fantastic until now and I was sure to have the same experience ahead too. Stopped for a photo break after the bypass, tried shooting a video too, however, a wrong camera angle ensured time and efforts were wasted.
Soon the city of Jaipur was bypassed and the milestones indicate the reducing distance to Mumbai.
Stopped for a couple of pictures that were only clicked to tease my friends from all spheres.
Mercury was rising and the wind blast was making it even worse. Water in the bottle tucked at the rear seat with cross ropes became undrinkable as i waded through the Jaipur bypass. Though the roads were in great shape, trucks and local traffic made me ride cautiously. Heading towards Kishangarh/Nasirabad where I was supposed to take a left for NH76/NH79, i started looking for the forgotten memory card. Checked out a few shops and after searching for half an hour, finally found one and bought a 4GB micro SD with adapter for Rs. 200. Bought another water bottle and drank almost half of it, yes, I was that thirsty.
Wanted to get away from traffic as soon and possible and be on the lonely/scenic roads. Soon the GVK expressway ended and I was riding on the NH76. Time for a break. Reverted to a couple of calls and messages to check upon the status for regular work stuff that were handed over to colleagues before leaving.
Taking few short photography breaks and stopped for Lunch at a roadside Dhaba. I wanted to keep the ride as simple as possible, eat what the locals eat, drink what the locals drink. I usually avoid having lunch during rides to keep the tummy light. However, since the breakfast was light and early, I started feeling the hunger, nothing uncontrollable, though.
Few breaks before the lunch stop:
The heat was on, it was already about 3:00 pm and I wanted to drink something cool and refreshing. Hence, as the norm has been since the past couple of rides, started looking for a theka to gulp down a cool beer. Spotted one and asked for the coolest beer whichever was available, Carlsberg it was! Had a chat with a couple of locals who were enjoying their drinks right outside the theka. One beer was enough to keep me going until a lunch stop.
Stopped by a dhaba and savored a scrumptious dal fry and roti with chaach. The hospitality and the warmth made me think about "Atithi Devo Bhava". It was a small affair of around R. 120 including tip. Bought a water bottle and I moved on.
As I moved on, there were a couple of diversions on the way. However, since there were handful of vehicles on the highway, keeping speeds of around 80kmph was not a big task. So, I was riding normally on the left lane while the diversion had just been cleared, tried finding my way though two trucks driving completely parallel to each other, leaving sufficient space for me to weave through. As I accelerated, A White Scorpio driving right on the RHS immediately turned left and hit my crash guard like crazy and the bike started wobbling which might have led to a fall or maybe worse, a fatal accident. Anyhow, I was able to control the motion and came to a stop. Put the bike on stand and I was shivering and shaking! The Scorpio stopped too, we apologized to each other, no damage done to either vehicle and we move on!
This left me with all sorts of deep thoughts about how uncertain has the life become and how we continue to live in an uncertain world! While I still was in my thoughts, came across a bicycle run over by a truck and a person lying on the roadside unconscious! Lot of people were already around, hence did not want to stop and unnecessarily be a part of the crowd!
The landscape around had these mysterious lakes which were in hundreds when coupled together. I was unsure of what I was seeing as I have never witnessed such a landscape in this part of the world. Out of curiosity, I stopped and clicked some pictures. The landscape resembled and vast lake that would stretch to the horizon and no one could tell how deep it was. Migratory birds all around. Whatever it was, it was just a treat to the eyes, especially on a land so barren. It was only later in the day, that I was told about those lakes and got to know that its simply stagnant water because of high rainfall this season! Simply amazing!
By this time, the sun was already setting and soon it would be dark. I was inching close to Udaipur and the weather was becoming cooler. Soon it was dark. Dawn and Dusk, there comes a period when you headlamp is insufficient to illuminate the road ahead and the natural light is too low to see anything. The best thing to be done in this case is to stop, wait for a while and then continue, this way, it would be completely dark and you would have a better view of the road. I did the same.
Since the temperatures dropped, I took my wind cheater off, which had been flapping like a superman's stole as the zipper had come off...on the Manali ride last year! However, I forgot that I was on a highway in Rajasthan and a lot of insects come your way through, only to die. Stopped and donned the jacket once again and rode non stop to Udaipur.
Since, this was not the first time I was coming to this city, I knew the way to Hotel Nayee Haveli, Pichola Ghat. However, the place has received a makeover as compared to 2013. I asked my way out and reached the hotel by 8ish. Met Rahil, and he immediately recognized me. Was given a different room this time as the "usual" one was booked.
It was almost 9 after I unmounted the luggage, took a bath and changed. My neck had been the worst hit during today's ride as there was noting to cover and flying dust and bugs came hitting like 100 needles. Hence, ventured into the market looking for a safa (desert scarf), but the shops were closed and I was in no mood to hunt for one.
I could see that the season has been dull for Udaipur since there were no people annd most of the hotels and restaurants remained empty. Had a small chat with Rahil over dinner which included tandoori chicken and a couple of beers post which I was insisted to try out the Chicken Masala which Rahil made himself and it was scrumptious! A bit of over eating and I wanted to settle the meal with a walk, went on to the ghat for a small stroll, made a couple of calls and came back to the room while Udaipur was still in its full glory!