December 24th 2009 – January 10th 2010, thats the number of states I went through during my East Coast Ride. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Orissa, WestBengal, Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu. As the kms in the speedometer increase and as I cross one village to another and into cities and again into villages, crossing the state borders, people’s excitement changes. The behavior changes, some help you in any way possible, some try to con you, some just are happy to shake hands with you, some wave at you, some treat you with tea/coffee. The road pattern also changes, from neat tarred roads to pot hole filled roads to roads where there is no iota of tar to cemented roads to only rocks.
Stretches of roads where truck drivers respect you, honk & wave & give a smile. Other stretches where truck drivers throw you out of the road. Speeding cars slow down to have a look at me & bike, some of them even take a snap or two of me from inside their cars. At some other parts, some stop me to take a photo with me.
On the first day after a ride through good roads and muddy roads I reach Bijapur. It was getting late and decided to halt for the night. I was supposed to have gone till Sholapur but thanks to the roads. A distance of 550kms. Infact I went into Hosapete town and later turned around to get back into the main.
A small lodge near the bus stand was a real nightmare. They charged me Rs.100/- but gave a bug free bed. I was unable to sleep the night and later shifted to the floor using my riding jacket as mat and put my legs on top of chair. It was not comfortable by any means. In this ride I met a guy about 60years of age walking all the way to Tirupathi from Pune. Everyday he walks about 40kms and takes rest for the night in a temple or whoever gives him space. He had a diary full of contacts of people he had met and who offered him food & bed.
Next day morning I wake up very early and start off. Not that I had slept much. I was feeling sleepy but once I kick started the motorbike all sleep was beyond me. Now it was only me and the roads. At the checkpost of Karnataka-Maharastra the truck drivers who saw me stood in attention and saluted saying loudly “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. The main highway gets boring so I get onto state highway roads and thru the villages. The roads are pretty good and empty with people sitting at tea shops and discussing or working in the fields. When crossing one village late in the evening there was herd of cattle walking all over the road getting back home after grazing. They had surrounded me and I just stood for them without honking nor moving forward. Later at another village in the darkness at a tea shop one guy wanted me to come with him to his place. Of course he wanted to knock me down and rob me when there were none around. I push him off and quite dark I drop the plan of reaching Nagpur and stay put in Wardah. Rs.150/- for the night, its a comfortable stay. There was a restaurant with the lodge and food was not an issue. A distance of about 680kms.
Early next day am again back on the road. When near Nagpur I decide that I will take round around town on my motorbike and keep thumping inside the city till I decide to get back into highway and towards Raipur. After Nagpur starts the pain in another about 50kms. There is expansion of National Highway into 6lane so everywhere there is a diversion to be take almost at every 500mts. Its so tiring and boring. And also an entry into the next state, Chattisgarh. Post lunch there is a group of media men who chase me on their motorbike. They stop me and take an interview. I oblige them, just that my hindi was far behind in terms of required vocabulary. I managed somehow. Few kms before Raipur at a junction when stopping for a signal a driver of an delivery auto gets down comes to me extends hand for a shake and says he cycled all over India sometime in 1998. A distance of about 400kms and a hotel room rent of Rs.150/-. Raipur is a congested city and many vehicles on the road. But got good restaurants for dinner.
Day 4, am not staying in Raipur. After much struggle I manage to wake up the guy to open the gate and un-chain my motorbike. Just 2kms from the hotel I see that my bike is wobbling with a puncture and rear tyre needs to be fixed. Luckily the shop is just on the other side of the road. Slowly I ride outside his shop, it aint easy to push. Now, it was still early enough and the guy was sleeping hard. I thought I should allow him to sleep but other guys in the area banged on his door, made him get up to fix my bike. It was just about 6:30am. All done I get back to riding. Bad roads and now my luggage carrier is breaking off. Orrisa is the state I get into. At Sambalpur I decide to go to Rourkela maybe its easier to reach Gangtok. On the way the two cars from Ford stop me. They are testing their vehicle with a drive all over India. They take pictures with me. My luggage carrier is now almost crashing off. I reduce the speed all the more especially at every speed breaker. Finally I reach Rourkela and my luggage carrier is hanging down. Lucky for me again, the welding repair works shop is next door to the hotel. Rs.200/- for a night stay. 460kms in all. I walk around the main area of the town and get into a big restaurant over there. In the meantime I also start a conversation with the welding works guys Harpeet Singh & Co. They agree to fix the bike first thing in the morning.
The day dawns and I see the news on TV that at Shiliguri the roads are being blocked demanding for seperate statehood. I decide that its not the best time to go through. Change the plan slightly and decide to head towards Kolkata. All iz well. I wait & wait for the welding shop to open up. Finally by 8:30am they start working on my motorbike. While they are fixing the luggage carrier we again start talking on the normal topics, why travel, why alone, what about safety. Later another guy by name Mishra joins us. All nice guys. No charges for fixing the carrier, infact Harpeet Singh got offended. When the job gets over and we finish talking its about 11:30am. They advise me not to travel after 6:00pm due to naxalites. I reduce my travel distance now and reach Barakot. A distance of about 120kms. A relaxed ride. The lodge here was expensive charging about Rs.250/-. I eat at road side shops and I had reached here well before 4:00pm. I did not look for hotels. The roadside shops gave everything you wanted.
Day 6, I leave not very early in the morning. These guys are pretty lazy & the chillness makes them even more. I cant start from these places before 7:30am. The stretch is so very beautiful especially through Simlipal National Park. Hard to find animals but its lush green. At Baharagora you enter the state of West Bengal. It was not best of sights entering the state. There were burnt buses & trucks on the sides. Whatever the reasons, whatever they are fighting for burning property and killing people is not the means. Gandhiji achieved everything through peace and non-violence. 80kms before Kolkata when having lunch two guys join me. Now they are crooks. They laugh with me, try to cajol me to come with them to their house. To make chicken out of me. When it was getting too much a signal to other guys and everyone stood around blocking the paths. They drove away the two guys out of the place. If I had gone with them I would not have been writing these stories, someone else would be in memory of me.
Enter Kolkata, I think of going to Youth Hostel but there are no free space. Enquiring for directions I get up & down the Vidyasagar Sethu bridge thrice. Luckily they did not stop me and start questioning. I had riden about 520kms on this day. Next few days in Kolkata was a stay in Queens Mansion @ Park Street in family friend place. He was kind enough to allow me to stay there and also give me food in morning & night. I went around town not much just a visit to India Museum & Victoria Memorial and the life in Kolkata. And of course New Year night over there. Read my earlier posts on life in Kolkata, here & here.
Few days in Kolkata & I was on my way to Puri. No incidents. Few guys in the car wanted to take photo with me and I obliged. They also told me about Puri & what to do. 580kms. A comfortable stay for Rs.250/-. I did not mind. I was relaxed by now. Anyway I was not going towards Himalayas so it was fine to not hurry. Any restaurant I went in I tipped them Rs.10/- & they were very happy. 570kms was the distance to Puri. Next day I wanted to go to Konark. My bike was giving some trouble by stopping after every few kms. The petrol was blocking, so I cleaned up a little and went off. Having the tool kit did help once. At Konark I was almost cynosure of all eyes. One guy from a family walked towards me, extended his hand for a shake, introduced himself. Apparently he saw me when I was crossing his car showroom in Raipur. Wow. The marine drive from Puri to Konark was not actually a marine drive. I was disappointed a little. But I get to ride close to the seas. Very high tides water could be on the roads. Konark (Sun temple) is a piece of architecture.
The beach in Puri was an eyesore with so many water bottles & plastic cover lying by the shore. And there are lot of pushcarts serving bhelpuri, all kinds of chaats, fish fry, and what not. Visit to the temple was one kind of experience. Maybe I might never go in again. Read my post here.
A brief visit to Chilka lake, and I was there around noon. It was damn hot that it did not make sense to venture into the sea on a boat ride. Spotting dolphins wouldnt be easy. Lazied around, eating & drinking water.
All set, I embarked on my southward ride towards Machilipatnam. Its quite a distance and shouldnt hurry up. What with roads not there at many places due to expansion work & some stretches due to road construction work. Finally I entered Andhra Pradesh state. The roads were real good. But it was all empty. Later I learnt it was state bandh for Unified Andhra Pradesh, not to split into Telangana & Andhra. I reached Vishakapatnam by 6:00pm and got a lodge for Rs.200/- close to bus stand. Which meant no problem for finding food. Since bandh is only till 6:00pm, shops opened up and I could get my dinner without hassles. 480kms I stopped.
400kms was waiting for me to be riden before reaching Machilipatnam from Vishakapatnam. Now I was riding into the heart of Telangana. Nothing happened. Early in the morning, I made a visit to Royal Enfield showroom to clean the carburettor and add distilled water to battery. All done & ok. Enroute there was another guy who was passing by on his motorbike. He stopped and came and offered. I accepted & we rode together till Vijayawada. Real nice guy. By 8:00pm I was in Machilipatnam. The lodge guy was little funny, he charged Rs.100/- for the room and parking of the bike was to be in central parking area & not in the lodge.
The cops were nice. They talked with me for more than 30mins before going on their duty. They were appreciative of my courage to travel all alone through most troubled areas across the states. Nothing happened. Later next day I also chatted with Marine cops who were real nice guys. In Machilipatnam try food in push carts, like dosa. Real tasty. I also bought Kalamkari bedsheets.
A day later, it was time to reach my home 530kms away, Chennai. Went into the villages away from highway and finally later after doing many kms here not to loose on time got back to highway. Cool ride, minimal stops and there I was into the state of TamilNadu and into Chennai. Just sitting and eating for few days. Not much impact on the body. Lost weight was almost regained but the body shape had come down eating in all kinds of places and at improper schedules.
Chennai to Bangalore, the route am so familiar with. 370kms never seemed a big thing. The flag remained on my motorbike till I reached my house in Bangalore.
For all photos of the trip, click here.