“So macha, the next big thing we are planning is an overnight ride where we will have a get together of three chapters; Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune in Dandeli.”
“Are you serious?”
“Wow! Let’s do it!”
I don’t exactly remember when JP bhai and I had this conversation but it was a couple of months ago at the end of one of our rides and we had stopped for tea before parting. Like all things amazing, it started with a simple idea and ended up being one hell of a long distance overnighter.
A year ago if anyone had said that we at Road Thrill Bangalore would be spreading to five other cities, I would have asked him what he was high on. And if he had some of it left for me. And yet here we are a year later, with a strong presence in Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Delhi and with our newest chapter, RT Coimbatore. With momentum going strong across all our chapters, it was only a matter of time before we absolutely had to do a three-state meet-up!
Dandeli in North Karnataka, which is almost equidistant from Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad, was zeroed in as the point of the meet up. With its dense forests and serene environment, it would be the perfect place to bond with riders from our other chapters. Once the dates were decided, there were some passionate discussions before we named the event Road Thrill: Crossroads. Registrations opened for the event and the slots were filled up pretty quickly. I was just as excited as everyone else, ticking off the days to go one by one on my mental calendar.
This was going to be an important ride for Road Thrill, not only in terms of the grand scale of it all, but also because of the number of riders from Bangalore and the distance; it was a fairly large group and getting all the logistics in place was a challenge. That’s when our admins came to the rescue and organised a breakfast meet where the responsibilities and backup were assigned and arranged.
With one day to go, as expected we were all really excited and none of us was in the mood to work beyond noon. I took the whole day off and switched off my number too!
It was decided that we would be flagging off at 4am sharp so as to reach Dandeli in the afternoon itself. Assembly was at 3:30am and we reached on time. After the briefing, three cars and eleven bikes set out at 4:15am sharp with Sandy leading the way. We were all pumped up and making good speeds. Our first pit stop was only after daylight had settled in and we needed some tea. A quick break later, we headed out again, and stopped before Davangere for breakfast. I must say, the dosa there was the best I have had in a long time.
Over breakfast we learnt that our dear Tudu bhai had woken up late but was en route and would join us directly at Dandeli. The Pune team was covering good ground as well. Surprise, surprise! Chetan bhai who was at Dharwad enjoying a weekend with family said he would join us at Haveri and drive all the way to Dandeli with us too. This was already turning out to be one amazing ride!
Once you near Chitradurga, you are greeted with windmills and the breathtaking beauty of clouds rolling down hills, often shrouding the wind turbine blades completely. We stopped for a quick photo session on the way and rode up to Davangere where we bid Sandy bhai goodbye and from then on it was our RT Pathfinder Gokool bhai who would lead us all the way to Dandeli.
After Haveri, we took a diversion through Kalghatgi and through villages, open fields and forests to reach Dandeli. To get to our place of stay, we had to ride a few hundred metres through a mud trail. We had made good time and our stomachs were rumbling just as loud as our engines, we settled down to a much needed lunch. Our Pune team was nearby and we went out to escort them in, after which some of us under the leadership of Arun Hilson bhai, went exploring to see if we could have a shot at river rafting at Dandeli.
A few kilometres from Dandeli is the Kali river. The light was rapidly fading and so we were informed we wouldn’t be allowed for rafting, but Arun bhai always to the rescue convinced the adventure staff to let us go kayaking.
It was getting dark and we drove back to the resort and settled around the bonfire with tea and started sharing our stories. Solomon bhai brought out his guitar and soon we were humming along. Good food, conversation and laughter, open skies and great friends. What else could we possibly want?
We woke up the next morning with renewed energy, and after breakfast it was time to bid the Pune team goodbye. After an hour-long photo session, the Pune riders left, shortly after which we from the Bangalore chapter geared up from Dandeli and headed out too.
We were hoping to make good time and reach Bangalore before midnight but then life had other plans. Barely had we hit the main NH4 when Gaurav bhai’s car got hit by an overloaded cab. No one was injured, but the car did sustain a big dent at the rear bumper. There was an argument with the cab driver that escalated quickly and that is when our Big Brother Achuth Raj stepped in and took charge of the situation. It was windy, it was raining and yet all twenty two of us stopped by the side of the highway and tried to clear the situation with Highway Patrol assistance.
Here I would like to pause and thank Achuth Raj Sir, Arun Hilson and each and every single one who was with us that day, for the tremendous support shown, in the middle of nowhere even in the rain. A special word of thanks to Chetan bhai and his father for helping us out so much at Dharwad.
Four hours later and with evening already upon us, we rode out again in the driving rain. A lot of us were tired and hungry and as soon as it was dark we stopped at the nearest place for some hot food and tea. It was already past 8pm and we still had three hundred kilometres to go.
After dinner, the group picked up the pace with Paritosh bhai leading the group safely on his Xenon and the other two cars sweeping and taking care of the group. Special kudos to Gokool bhai for keeping the group together while leading in the rain with such poor visibility. Eventually the fatigue set in and we started taking tea breaks after every toll plaza. I was struggling to stay awake and that is when I handed over my keys to Vijayant bhai and stretched out in the open back of the Xenon for a nap.
This is where I would like to thank our backup riders, Vijayant bhai, JP bhai, Arun bhai and Solomon. They made sure that whenever anyone felt tired, they could take a short nap in one of the cars while someone else would ride their bikes. Vijayant bhai seemed quite happy to ride, even after I was fresh and alert again, he asked if he could ride my bike some more!
We crossed Nelamangala toll after 3am and all we wanted to do was get home and crash into bed. RK sir’s motorcycle had a puncture just before Sira and we kept pumping air into it and riding hard. Eventually the tube gave way just before the flyover and there was no support around. We weren’t able to fix the puncture ourselves, even roadside assistance proved unhelpful. Finally we pushed the bike and parked it at a petrol pump, we would come back for it later in the morning. It was 6am when Gokool, Kartik, RK Sir and I made it home and updated everyone else on WhatsApp.
Way to go, Road Thrill!
Special thanks to Arpan da, Gaurav bhai and Paritosh bhai for the four-wheeler support and Arun bhai for all the hard work of coordinating such a grand event at Dandeli. Photos courtesy JP, Arun Hilson, Shivani and Paritosh, Deepika and Vijayant, RK Sir, Ramesh Sir, Gokool bhai, the entire Road Thrill community and myself.
Bangalore to Chikmagalur and Mullayanagiri Roadtrip