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Journey Begins - Day 1 - Dec 30, 2004
The moment of truth had arrived. I loaded my cramsters, tent and sleeping bag on Titli and stepped back. What was I up to? Was this excitement or a panic attack of 15 days of life on the road? There was also a lingering feeling of deja vu... As if something inside me had been waiting for this moment. I.. had become... comfortably numb... Titli's first thump broke the moment. Brought me back to reality and I left home, met Sanju at Delmia office. We were seen off by our friend Venky and were rolling towards Kutch.

We were soon freezing to death! The chill made me real jittery since I didn't want to be sick enroute to Kutch. We stopped just outside Nelmangala to have a cup of tea and ended up having nice idlis. Food always comforts me. The sun came up shortly thereafter, warming the cockles of our hearts. Chitradurga was the next stop for tea and motography of Titli and Dhanno with windmills as the backdrop. Everything was peaceful, but soon Sanju started complaining that Dhanno was misfiring at high speeds. We stopped and after a while of tinkering about and pretending to check the engine (as if we knew anything about it), I just decided to ride Dhanno to check if it was Sanju who was Mrs Doubtfire or was Dhanno really backfiring. I'm sorry to report that it was former. I demanded a return of Titli and we headed towards Davangere with me playing a cat and mouse game with a woman driving a Scorpio till we stopped for lunch after the city at a Punjabi Dhaba. There, we were greeted by Aliens! Alright, they were tonsured Maharashtrian men who were on their way back to Pune after a pilgrimage to Tirupati. But they reminded of the Aliens movie series. With just one difference that these ones talked. In fact they overtook us somewhere near Tumkur (they said). The Aliens turned out to be knowledgeable they suggested that we take the road from Kolhapur to Pune. It was very good and we could easily ride in the nights. Great, Sanju and I decided instantly to ride up to Pune and halt there instead of the planned halt at Kolhapur. Soon we reached Hubli (had to pay the price of listening to a cop and rode through Hubli and Dharwad City instead of taking the bypass road)

It was getting dark as we reached Belgaum. I had to ride with the visor up to see properly which did awful things to my E.N.T. system. Fever was catching up even as my nose was running like an open tap, but the road was mind blowing. And I thanked god for small mercies. A dinner stop was scheduled and we took it at Nipani. Food and masala chai gave me relief from cold, and the owner of the Dhaba provided background entertainment. Thrilled as he was see our machines, he pronounced us "Mad" on hearing we were headed for Kutch.

My E.N.T. screws began loosening up again so we started from there and were on the rotten road to Kolhapur. At Kolhapur, 200 kms from Pune, mind and body gave up and refused to go an inch further. The Pune plan which was adopted from the Aliens was dropped and we decided to stick with our desi plan to halt overnight at Kolhapur. Once in the hotel (after bargaining), Sanju was in a spiritual mood and all I wanted to do was my mind and body repair. And so we went our separate ways - he to the spirits and me to the sack.

Day 2 - Dec 31, 2004
Up at 5.30 AM, I was dying for a hot shower which I couldn't take the night before. A couple of calls put the Reception on red alert and resulted in hot water at the tap. Sleepy Sanju in tow, I hit the road at 6.30 AM. A breakfast of Poha with tea cheered us both and a motography stop to capture the rising sun just outside the Kolhapur city brought smiles. I was feeling better and was cruising steadily on the road which was full of diversions and sometimes very narrow. I kept Sanju's headlight in my rear view mirror so all was well. and then suddenly Sanju disappeared from my view. I had been overtaking some trucks and buses and I thought he must be playing hide n seek behind one of them, the goonk that he is! Would have called but remembered that his cell was not enabled for roaming. I couldn't park and wait for him on the side either since there was a median with oncoming traffic on the right. so I continued further. I wasn't really worried but I wanted my buddy back with me riding so at the first opportunity took a U turn to hunt him down. 4 kms down and no sign of him. Hmm... Now did I ever tell you I'm not much of an excitable guy (so what if all anna's in Bollywood are Shettys... heheh) but I was mentally pushing up my sleeves to give him one dressing down when I saw him. But then I saw him and what he was doing brought a smile to my face. The fella was perched on a service road busy capturing the misty morning. No no... we did not have a fight. I was so happy to see him and on his part he explained that he did honk many times before stopping. I did not hear - must be my E.N.T. problems ;-) But anyways, the pics taken at that spot are the highlights of our Photo albums! So here's Cheers to patience and naughty friends.

We rolled again... Next stop was at a highway dhaba for a masala tea and some serious gaali galoch. Both of us cursed those Aliens who were praising the roads till Pune. Man! It would have been a nightmarish experience to night ride on these roads as they had suggested. They must have shaved their brains along with their hair! We thanked our lucky stars for our decision to stay back at Kolhapur. Soon enough, Sanju took a tinkle stop at a phone booth at one of the villages before Satara. While Sanju was busy chatting on the Phone, a crowd was congregating around me, Titli and Dhanno. Short of hugging the two beauties out of sight I decided to show them off. And did the next best thing and started chatting up the villagers. Initially hesitant to talk even though they were very curious, they opened up later. The initial hesitancy was owing to both of us wearing fatigues and them assuming we were army guys going back to join duty at Kutch. Interesting job that would be, I thought, and quickly added a footnote to it "let me first visit it as a tourist and do the agnipariksha @60kph"!

Roads from Satara looked promising and soon we were riding on one sided traffic. An enchanting little black temple drew us to it as we entered the 4-lane road. We captured the diety in the lens and rolled into the tunnel - the tunnel was cold and the helmet visor made it look very dark. For a moment I thought I'd get lost in it. To add to my confusion, Sanju chose that time to pick up speed, merrily overtaking... the goonk. I just trudged along like ALI ( alice) in wonderland till we were out of the tunnel and stopped for motography and captured the mountains and roads.

All that dampness had my mercury climbing again. Food, Food... I needed my comfort food so we stopped for lunch. After a staple meal of Dal and rice, I took some medicine, relaxed for a bit and then we soon started towards the ghats. I was sweating profusely, thanks to the medicine. Some moron had told us to enter the Pune city and we, like equal (or double) morons had followed what he said! From then on it was a wild goose chase with us desperately searching a route to get out of the city and hit the Nasik road. We crossed Somar to Sanivar pet inside Pune city. It was a circus, guys, just too awful! All this city riding surely took a toll on me. I was sweating and nauseated but just ploughed on. Thankfully we reached the highway and decided to stop for tea and rest at a Punjabi Dhaba and bless them Punjabi's for their charpoys which had me spread eagled on them. The sweating had brought down the temperature, I was feeling lighter and more zippy, so decided to zap an old college friend at Sinnar whom I hadn't seen in 8 years. I called him to say I would be crossing Sinnar on my way to reach Nasik (30 kms before Nasik) and would love to catch up with him. He told me to get down from the bus and give him a call. I kept quiet for a second and then said, "Actually I am riding". He didn't react for a moment; then he said - "OK, from Pune?". I said, "Ah... actually from Bangalore". There were some moments of silence before he freaked out... Flabbergasted, he blurted - "Dude, are you crazy?". "Is that a question or a statement", I asked. "If it's a question, the answer is 'Yes' and if it's a statement, I'd say, 'good observation dude, you stayed bright in the 8 years away from me'".

I told him to wait for my call when I was closer to him to which he meekly agreed to. Who'd not agree to a crazy guy riding from Bangalore to Kutch!

The ride from there on was pretty smooth and some stretches were scenic with little Ghat riding thrown in. We stopped just 30 kms before Sinnar for tea just opposite an Engineering college and could see the dudes from the college ogling at our Titli and Dhanno. It was getting darker and we could see Dhabas on the way lighted up for New Years eve celebrations. By the time we reached Sinnar it was around 9 PM and we stopped to inquire at what looked like a "very posh" and "happening" hotel if the people flocking into it was any barometer.

Alas! we could not get a room there and we had to go to the other hotel near by. Sanju immediately went to stalk the corridors and I called my still shocked friend over to see how crazed I'd become! He calmed down after seeing me as he realised that I hadn't become a hippie yet and even insisted that we shift to his house. I somehow managed to convince him against it (no... the reason is not that Sanju snores and kicks in his sleep!). We ate and drank. Sanju joined in after the end of what was his 100-calls quota at the Booth, I guess. It looked like the restaurant was the watering hole for the people of Sinnar when they wanted to Party.

Party... yep... interesting thought. We finished dinner, bid my friend goodbye and promised to drop in at his house in the morning. Went to the room and to the loo. Came out to see that there was no point entertaining thoughts of partying or such as I found Sanju baba sprawled on the bed and switched off from the world. Guess I had no option but to sleep as well. And sleep wouldn't come easy given the loud siren in the room (sanju's snoring) and the noise of celebrations on the street outside. Ah... a quick glance at my watch had me staring at the wall. "Why are you wasting time thinking of partying, dude? 2005 arrived while you were brushing your teeth!"

Hell guys! Bringing in 2005 with dental hygiene! That's a FIRST in my life. So much for cruising @60kph...

I guess it was the New year's first day :-) (but if you think I was watching a calendar and should be more sure. hmm... I wasn't) (read on)

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