Cursed by the Temple, Almost stranded in the Jungle.
With each kilometer I proudly added on my odo, I started calling myself a genuine Biker. Rider. Adventurer. Explorer. It was amongst those days, where I had just entered into comfortable lifestyle after my new job. Life had gotten way easier, and a lot of distant luxuries started feeling rather like a convenience. Things were smooth, properly scheduled, minimal struggle to acquire most of the things, well there was nothing more or better I could ask for. But the thrill of the earlier days had taken a back seat. And if you catch my drift, this seemed just like the phase before life started to become monotonous, boring, less challenging and eventually demotivating.
Somewhere in this phase, searching randomly for what I was actually missing, I stumbled on a quote online, “Never trade the thrills of living, for the security of existence.” This… This, really stuck somewhere inside the depths of my grey cells. It started haunting me, forcing me wake up and to get rid of this anxiety and fill this very void of my life. I realized that this was not enough. Like, there was much more to discover. These thoughts redirected me to my motorcycle (Blavy: Avenger 220) which had not smelled the highway dust for over a month. I was beginning to doubt my self-proclaimed love for two wheels now. When you have an amazing motorcycle parked in your garage, there was no way I could allow my life be on standby. That was it.This called for action, immediate action and I started looking up for various biking trips/events in and around Bangalore. Bangalore, btw really has a very good portfolio of rider clubs and motorcycling enthusiasts. So looking up for an immediate weekend engagement was not a tough task. It was then, when I came across the 5th Gear Riders and their upcoming trip to spanning Talakadu, Shivanasamudram and surrounding places. I dropped them a message and they warmly welcomed me onboard.
The tough part of any adventure is the start. Now a trip description which mentions a round trip of over 450kms looks very appealing on paper. But for a noob like me, with the farthest touring radius of a 100km around my place, this figure was a little intimidating. I also spoke about my apprehensions and my kilometric age till then with the organizer of the event, and took suggestions on safety regarding my first 400kms on saddle. After a few sessions of consulting, I was pretty confident of my riding abilities.
The trip was planned for the first weekend of July, 2016. It used to get quite hot in peak hours, hence leaving early was the plan. Here is the detailed plan as mentioned in the formal club mailer:
Meetup near Silk Board, head towards, Kanakapura nice road junction, Bangalore, sharp at 5:30Am. In between we can have breakfast.
• Head towards Talakadu and reach their by 9 am.
• head towards Shivasamudram waterfalls/Gaganachukki waterfalls by 10 am.
• Head towards Barachuki waterfalls
• Head towards Mekedatu point.
Since, most of us had already visited Mekedatu, we decided to pass that but little did we know where this ride would take us to….
On the D-Day we were finally 4 confirmed riders. I started off from Whitefield, and two of the riders Lajith and Ajith(No, they are not twins or even blood related) joined me from Kundalahalli gate. We co-ordinated with LN(Rider and Organiser), and met him near Silk Board and as we left from the point, I can recollect it was still an hour for sunrise. The formation decided was LN(Yamaha FZS) leading, followed by me(Avenger220), Ajith(RE CL350) and Lajith(RE CL350) as sweep. We were running behind schedule by nearly half an hour. It was pitch black when we started, and it was one of those rides where we actually get to see the sun rising from our side, one of those experiences I had lost touch with.
The early morning view of Kanakpura highway was simply breath taking, a few potholes here and there, but still manageable during daytime. 20kms on the ride, and my front wheel was not giving me enough confidence around corners. Now, a cruiser bike like Avenger isn’t the best choice for cornering, but this was different, I could feel myself losing balance. I badly needed to check my front tyre pressure, something I couldn’t do because of the previous night’s rain. I had to keep an eye out for Fuel Stations with Air Pressure setup. Now the sad part of Kanakpura Highway is that not many Fuel stations have working Air pressure setups. It took me atleast 4 fuel station stops to hit jackpot with an Air pressure setup. This certainly slowed our progress and the entire team had to slow down because of me, but they were very supportive with this issue. Once we got the tyre fixed, the ride was very smooth with clean corners. Every time I leaned into a corner, I could see Ajith and Lajith, on my rear view mirrors, leaning in full coordination. I so wish I could have captured that, if only I had an Action camera back then. We maintained good speed and bikes gave no problems till Talakadu. The route had beautiful fields enveloping the entire scene green and we could not help but stop and click pictures.
We reached our first stop Talakadu temple around 8am. I had not done much research about this place, but only there I came to know this temple had a curse which is why this place is so full of sand, and this also has a close historic connection to the Mysore palace. You must’ve heard that the Mysore Kings had a curse upon them they could never raise a rightful heir for their throne. It all started from here. You can read more details here . We took a tour around the Temple, captured some picturesque moments on silicons and geared up to leave for the next spot.
We then headed to Krishna river bank,
We had an amazing breakfast there and left for Gaganchukki and Barachukki (Shivanasamudra) Waterfalls. Here, the water takes a drop twice, the left segment is called as Gaganchukki and the right as Barachukki falls. There are two views for the Gaganchukki falls, one via the dedicated watch tower and one behind “Darga Hazrath Mardane Gaib.” We took the latter.
After spending some good 20mins, our troop headed towards Barachukki falls. Here again, the viewing setup is properly laid and easily accessible to the visitors. Don’t carry expectations of taking a shower in the falls, you might just be disappointed, as its not legal.
We spent close to half an hour at the place and started heading back till it was late noon. While returning, it was the same narrow roads, giving you a taste of rural side of Karnataka. We were supposed to take the same route while exiting, when our dear friend Lajith suggested why not take the alternate route which connects to the highway instead. We were at a cross road, where on our left was the route we came, and on our right was the route which should connect to the highway. This was a typical Robert Frost situation. Now here’s a word of advice, NEVER EVER show off while taking the road less taken, even after you’ve looked it up on the google maps. The powers of the universe will come down to thrash you if you do so. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
So now we were, riding on the road less travelled, with google maps as our guardian angel, which eventually led us near a cattle grazing field, where roads have now completely vanished. Personally, I was having a hard time maneuvering a cruiser through the off road areas. Hardly 5kms inside, which took over 30mins, I did start having double thoughts (maybe even more) over this route. Just a kilometre later, and we stopped near a scenic place, where I could spot hills ahead of me. But it was not the hills shrouded in the light that made us stop. It was because the road ended here. Yup, no roads ahead, not even the less travelled ones.
But, we were not really worried. We all placed our faith in our Guardian angel, and it suggested that this off-road section connects to the highway within 3kms. Don’t believe me? See this:
Now we had a bit of a debate, whether to go back from here or to keep following google maps. While some of us were debating, others tried their hand at photography in the time bought.
We could hear some vehicles over some distance (I am not really sure if we were hallucinating or not), we decided to go ahead. This area was in fact where the Kanakpura forest starts, and we kept going inside the forest without knowing this. The roads, sorry… the path, kept getting worse. The journey kept getting more challenging.The two Royal Enfields were approaching reserve on fuel gauge. The off-road section started instilling the fear of a punctured wheel. As we started climbing, it started getting tougher and tougher..I guess, we started climbing the hill I showed in the image above. The deeper we went in the jungle, my fear of a potential flat tyre owing to the sharp stones and gravel on the way began to blow up exponentially. Though a bit late, we realised that the pointer on the Google maps has been static all this while.
Moreover, it would be practically impossible for us to push our bikes back down, in case any of us had a flat tyre. But somehow, gauging the highway wind sounds (Seen the film Moana where she checks the current?), we believed that this way might take us to the highway.
Fast forward 4kms more, we reached a small elevated slope which our bikes might just not cross. We stopped our bikes and did a quick foot survey. When we thought that we couldn’t be surprised anymore, we found a deep trench in front of us bordering the forest. And beyond this pit, was an Electric barb wire. If you’ve seen such an arrangement before, you might reckon that this is meant to keep animals away. I myself was still figuring out a way to make it across this ridge and the pit, when Lajith pointed towards something on the ground, “There”, he said, “You know what that is?” Didn’t take me much time to figure out, “That is elephant dung guys!” A quick mental math deduced that this side, means the side we are on, is the home ground of wild elephants. Beyond the pit was a village settlement, which had installed this electric barb wires to keep away these elephants.
This scene so reminded me of Jurassic park, except the dinosaurs was replaced by giant elephants with pointed ivory tusks. If my luck got anymore worse tonight, myself and my cruiser could be hanging on either of them. My heart had literally started thumping, I could feel the trembling pulse up on my cheeks. It took me a while to come back to senses and think sensibly. Ajith spotted some huts beyond the barb wires and he called out, just to check if there were any humans in our kilometric radius. Surprisingly there was, we asked him how to come over that side, but he was more interested in knowing how on earth we even got over to that side. He said, that if we keep going on the perimeter of the ridge, we should find a bridge which would connect us to the other side, and to the highway, roughly 10kms from there. The highway noises were not imaginations after all, phew… Realising that we didn’t have much of an option, we went along the boundary as he said, in search of the bridge that would lead us to the other side.
Was there a bridge to the other side?
Did we get to the other side?
Now here comes the next twist, incidentally there was a bridge but not the one we could cross easily. To explain the appearance of the same, imagine a narrow filled pathway, not more than 8 feet wide and barricaded. There was however a half feet of path beyond the barricade and a deep pit just next to it. That half a feet was our only ray of silver lining. Well, at that moment it seemed like it. But riding Bullets through such a narrow unguarded exit, where a slight miss would end up dropping the bike to the adjacent pit, was a risk most of us were not ready to take. Probably FZ would have made it, my Avenger too probably, but the sentimental attachment to the bike was holding me back from trying. We had a bit of debate and discussion over whether to cross it or head back. It was 2 against 2, hence the debate never came to an actual conclusion.
But we did come up with a few critical questions, if it was really worth crossing that bridge? How far is the highway really from the bridge? And in between all this hustle, we were dehydrating under the scorching sun. And that was visible on each one’s faces. Amidst all the dehydration, we started looking for water and spotted a small forest camp just 200 metres from the bridge and our circle of debate. It looked abandoned for over months at least, and occupied by monkeys. Luckily there was a hand pump which was giving out full colloidal water. You could tell it from the whitish suspension in the water that it was undrinkable. But that moment we did drink it, LN came up with a bizarre logic justifying the white in the water and convinced us that it was drinkable. And so we did.
Meanwhile, I spotted a map of the Kanakpura map. I saved it on my phone thinking, it might help us on exit.
But how good was that map, if we couldn’t locate ourselves in the map? The forest camp was also surrounded by a protective elevated boundary around it, and had 2 cots. Ajith had gone all Man vs Wild now and had even started devising contingency plans like staying the night at the Camp. But that was something I was not really willing to buy. Inbetween all this, we continued exploring the camp. Lajith and Ajith went across the bridge on foot to find out the possibilities beyond it. They took good 20mins to explore and by the time they came back, it was clear it wasn’t really worth crossing it.
Now crossing was no longer an option, and not all of us were ready to spend the night at the abandoned camp. This left us with no choice but head back the same way we came. But now, with additional challenge of losing light, as we estimated it was just an hour and a half before it goes dark. Also, we had to pick up our trail on the same route, and getting lost in the jungle is not actually very rare. As we started off from the camp, we had planned a travel back time of 45 mins plus an additional reserve 20 mins for figuring out the way in case of cross roads, sorry, paths. While moving amidst all the wildering trees, we had become more cautious about moving trees and bushes. If at all, a giant elephant emerged from those moving trees and all our feared moments would turn real. We had already reached an agreement that if at all such a situation occurred, we should all just drop our bikes and run, run for our lives. And then secretly prayed that such a condition never shows up.
If you’ve done off roading earlier, you’d agree that descending on an off road slope is tougher than climbing. And if you are doing it on a cruiser, where most of the weight is on the rear, makes it even worse. A little hard braking while descending would’ve lead to my front wheel locking up and me losing all my balance, hence I had put on all caution while riding. My palms had started aching due to tight grip I had made on my handlebar. Those 45mins of trailing back seemed like forever. My survival instincts kicked in and all my senses suddenly tripled its efficiency as I could make very quick judgements on the track. So we didn’t have a hard time getting on the trail back. As we kept progressing, we were very convinced we were on the same track, except a little confusion in the middle, which we figured out pretty quick.
The moment we came out of the jungle and finally touched the highway, I had an amazing feeling of content inside me.Themoment when all anxiety vanished, it was like I was born again. With the feeling of contentment, achievement mingling with blood and a subsiding adrenaline; I realized I have been missing it really hard. . Once we were on the highway, home was close to 180kms away, but that was okay. Like we just survived out a jungle where a single elephant would have taken all 4 of us down, and nobody would’ve known. On the way back home, on Kanakapura road, which still doesn’t have street lights, had the most irritating of potholes, and hence riding at night with a visor full of scratches is definitely not a good idea. And yeah, how can I ignore the people using high beams amidst all this, 100% highway blinding guaranteed. I somehow managed to ride with an open visor, fighting through the dust and light seeking insects.
We had dinner on the way. Finally I reached home around midnight with a red eye, soiled face, sore muscles, aching palms, numb bums and a slight headache due to the constant riding against high beams, and not to forget a genuine distrust on Google Maps. The moment I dropped in my place, I just did a quick wash and crashed onto my bed within minutes. As I lied down and tried to recollect the moments from our ride, clocked close to 480 kms, my highest till then and going all over those adventurous trail through the forest in fast forward, I found within myself a feeling of inner content and accomplishment. This trip changed me. I was no longer a show-off rider on the highways with all the gears on. I learnt more and achieved a kind of maturity in terms of riding, anticipating situations and making quick survival decisions. I also developed a special attachment with my motorcycle after this trip for sticking with me through hard times, giving me an amazing experience that’ll last a lifetime. This trip boosted my confidence and my love for biking. This trip to the cursed temple marked the foundation of many other trips, which will be coming up in the later entries.
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