Optimus and The Western Ghats – First Date

Prelude

It all started with Ganesh Chaturti falling on Wednesday. This meant, if I take leaves on Monday and Tuesday, I could get 5 days off. So my friend Abi and I decided we shall visit another friend of ours at Mumbai. Initially we thought of riding to Mumbai but the thought of doing more than 2000 KM on 4 lane roads wasn’t really appealing. So we went ahead and booked the KSRTC Volvo. Come journey date, we happily hired a cab and went to Majestic only to find the entire place deserted. Not a good sign is it? Enquiring around we came to know that the bandh that had started the day before is continuing and all the buses got cancelled. So there we are. Sitting in a deserted Majestic with our Mumbai plans collapsing.

We rushed out to find if there are any private buses available. The usual ticket sellers roaming around were shouting place but Mumbai. They were less in number too. Not a good sign again. We asked every single travel agency there. Only one guy had just two tickets costing 2800 each while the normal charge is 1000. Not a good idea. Our Mumbai plans just collapsed. Not a problem. We walked around the deserted KBS. Had nice dinner at a deserted hotel. At this place, you can’t even stand usually. Now some kids were running around and playing. We thought of a plan initially.

Day 1: Bangalore – Madikeri – Mangalore

Day 2: Mangalore – Kaup – Udupi – Murudeshwar

Day 3: Murudeshwar – Goa

Day 4: Goa

Day 5: Back to Bangalore

My bike had 200 – 700 more KM for the next service. This meant, I will lose warranty if I do this trip without a service. Time was already nearly 10 PM. So a service is out of the question. Another hurdle. So we thought we will ride the bike around in Bangalore – Hosur route, make up the 200 KM, get it serviced and start on the next day to Mangalore. We thought we will skip the day around Goa with this plan. This is what we thought. What happened was slightly different. We rode the bike around for 200 KM and went to the SVC only to know that all slots were booked for the day and our bike trip plans went down the drain. Another hurdle. Not a problem. Did a quick change of plan. I called up the Suzuki Service center at Mangalore, booked a slot for the day after. So the idea is to ride to Bangalore – Madikeri – Mangalore on day 1. On day 2, get the bike serviced there quickly and then ride off as usual plan. This seemed feasible. Went to the nearest Petrol bunk and filled up 10 litres. The next day, we started off.

Day 1: Bangalore – Mysore – Bylakuppe – Madikeri – Sulya – Puttur – Mangalore

We started by around 5:30 AM and proceeded towards Mysore road. Stopped for some tea at the NICE road – Mysore road junction and we didn’t stop anywhere else. The road was very good but it gave me a feeling like this is one extended Brigade road. So much they have commericalised the road! We wanted to stop for breakfast at Mysore only. So had to skip some very nice eateries on the way. We reached Mysore by around 7:45 and took the bypass road near Columbia Asia. Somewhere in the middle, we stopped at a hotel and they had only a buffet breakfast for 120 bucks. Buffet for 120 is a bad thing to say to two guys who usually eat 2 unlimited meals. A nice one hour was spent on breakfast. Someone told me that during travel you should eat light. Well, if you consider some 10 vadas, 7 – 8 idlis and two cups of coffee each to be light then yea, we had a light breakfast! Our next stop was Bylakuppe. I have never been beyond Mysore. So this route was an absolute delight for me. Fantastic two lane tarmac with clear markings and nice big shady trees on both sides. It was awesome.

We reached Bylakuppe in a while. This is a Tibetian settlement in this part of the country. For a few minutes, we felt like we were in some Eastern country. These guys are so helpful and friendly. We accidentally went inside their hostel complex. No one stopped or asked us anything. We were free to roam about. Then we found the route to the Golden Temple which was a few blocks away down the road. It was too good a visit. I did not want to click too many pictures here. Firstly I did not understand the things in the temple and secondly I did not want to disturb them. There were three huge gold plated idols. It was a fantastic place. I marked this place for future trips. Then came out and saw a few Tibetians eating at a restaurant. This meant the place would serve authentic food. Went in and had a few momos and then we were off to Madikeri.

Next we reached Madikeri. We were kinda early for lunch here. So just had some tea, made few calls to friends and family and started off. It was a very short break at Madikeri. The roads were super fantastic till here. No hairpin bends or blind turns but lots of good turns and curves. I will come here more often for sure. A few minutes into the descent, it started pouring heavily. We had to stop a couple of times before the rain went all out. So we stopped at a shack, let the bikes take a good bath and we had lunch there. Surprisingly the owner of the place was a Keralite. So good Mallu lunch. The rains stopped. The bright and sunny day suddenly turned foggy. But the roads were good with minimal traffic so we proceeded. At some point, a snake crossed the road. I am in a jungle I thought. All throughout this period, I couldn’t take my camera out thanks to the rain. Not a problem as long as there is the Xperia Go! Thank you so much Sony!

There was this board saying “Welcome to Dakshin Kannada”. Roads from the centimeter after that board was almost non existent. I wished I had some Hero Impulse or something. It took us a good amount of time to cross this section. We had to take a lot of breaks. Our butts and back were on fire. Crossed Sampaje and Sulya. Even 30 KM on these roads seem like 300 and they take more than an hour. The last 10 KM before Puttur was back to normal roads. But we were dead tired. Had a tea and snack break at the famous KT Hotel and proceeded towards Mangalore. Good roads again meant we ripped and reached the city. Finding our hotel was a challenge. But the people were so friendly. So friendly to an extent that one guy said I will sit on your bike and direct you there. In return when I come to Bangalore you should show the city around for me. Thanks to such fantastic people, we reached our hotel. Nice place, central location and cheap tariff.

Some pics of day 1

Day 2: Mangalore – Karkala – Mangalore

We got up and got ready. Then we found the Suzuki SVC and gave them the bike. The guys there looked at us like some anti social elements the minute they heard we are coming from Bangalore and going to Goa! They said all slots got booked and we cant get the bike serviced today. Another hurdle. Not a problem. I met the manager and explained him the situation. He finally agreed but said I can get the bike delivered only by evening. There goes our Goa plan. Another hurdle. Not a problem. We gave the bike, had breakfast and went to Karkala. Mangalore food is really good I must say. Some random hotel you enter and the food is guraranteed to be good. Anyways, the roads towards Karkala were bone crushing to say the least. Along side, we stopped to click a few pics of the Nagarjuna Power Plant. It looked like a nuclear plant but it is a thermal plant. This is the first time I am seeing a power plant. A good while later we reached Karkala. Bone jarring ride it was to say the least. Here we saw the Gomateshwar statue and the Jain Basadi near it. Back to Mangalore. I could barely walk normally by this point. Legs and back were so damn tired. Time to treat ourselves. So went ahead and had the great Ideals Ice cream. It was super good. Collected the bike and went back to the room. I was almost sure of quitting the ride and returing to Bangalore in a 4 lane road by now. I was so damn tired. Every bone in the body was paining.

Some pics of day 2

Day 3: Mangalore – Udupi – Kaup – Murudeshwara – Udupi

I dont really know when I slept the previous night but I got up at 7:30. We checked out of the room and proceeded towards Udupi. The road was under construction. It started pouring again. We just proceeded in the rain and reached our hotel. Again a nice, big and clean hotel. Went to the room, bathed and we were off again. First we went to the Kaup beach and light house. I thought they let you to go on top of the light house but no. So we spent a while there and while returning, we lost our way and just proceeded in the village roads. We knew we were lost but we were not complaining. After all, how many days you get to ride on a concrete road with zero potholes and traffic, sea on one side, backwaters on the other and coconut trees giving you shade? After a good amount of exploration we entered the highway back at a village called Katapady. I marked this route back for another visit. It was sheer delightful. Cars may not go or enjoy this route but for bikes it was awesome.

I started to miss the amazing Mangalore food by now. Had a quick lunch and proceeded towards Murudeshwara. The road was again horrible. It was pot hole ridden and dusty. Wherever there is a bridge, the roads before and after it will be non existent. Strange. After a while the road became fantastic again and we reached our place. This is one of the greatest temples I have been to. The Shiva idol was huuuge! Spent a while there and decided to return. This was a mistake. We started at 6 and finished the good roads by 6:30. Next 1.5 hours was pure nightmare. It was like riding through a dust storm with a lot of lights from the opposite side. I could not see much of the road. Some 15 – 20 feet was all my visible area. Navigated through it slowly and just followed the road. Kept a tab on the odometer to know if I am on the hotel area. I couldn’t afford to look in the sides to see if I am actually there as there was so much traffic and potholes. The odometer said I had reached the hotel. So I looked around but I was in a two lane road in some residential area. Strange. I was just following the same road but I am somewhere else! Asked around to know that I had entered the Udupi city some how. Asked for directions and we reached our hotel. By now my eyes got so used to such harsh conditions that in normal lighting I could not see properly. I felt so dusty and greasy. Probably like a long haul lorry driver in an old Tata Lorry. Had a quick shower and slept off for the day thinking the next morning I ll be fine.

Some pics of day 3

Day 4: Udupi – Manipal – Karkala – Kudremukh – Kalasa – Kottigere – Mudigere – Belur – Hassan – Bangalore

We had about 400 KM to cover for the day. But we were dead tired last night. We managed to start off by 8:30 AM and in a while we reached Karlaka. The roads around this town is horrible. Then proceeded towards Kudremukh. Stopped on the highway for a few clicks and we entered the forest. The roads were awesome to a great extent. The scenery, weather and the roads made me fall in love with the Western Ghats. Here also we saw snakes crossing the roads a couple of times. We stopped for tea breaks at a couple of places and our lunch was some 5 bananas each at Hirebyle. It was unbelievable for us that the price of them was just 1 rupee each. This is what happens if you are exposed only to the city. There is something called as honey chocolates. These used to cost 2 rupees each when I was in school. I saw a packet with some 20. Asked the price. It was 20 bucks. So bought the entire packet for later use :D A few KM after this was bad roads again. Stopped at a couple of places for photo and tea breaks. The return was pretty quick. The last 250 odd KM was on the plains with awesome roads. So we took a few breaks and reached Bangalore by 6 in the evening.

This is where this guy’s bike reached 10,000 KM

Some pics from the last day

The first date with the Western Ghats made me fall in love with it again. So many different things we saw and experienced. So many different roads we went in. 6 lane? Check! 4 lane? Check! 2 lane? Check! no lane? Check! Butter smooth roads? Check! Crappy roads? Check! Arrow straight roads? Check! Curves? Check! Hairpin bends? Check! Off road? Check! Dust storm? Check! Rain? Check! Fog? Check! Thermal power plant? Check! Snakes? Check! Buddhist monastery? Check! Light house? Check! Temples? Check! Jain temples? Check! Estates? Check! Great food? Check! Fantastic trip? Check!

There is a great feeling that you get if you do something against so many odds and hurdles. I thank Optimus for being a faithful companion throughout the trip. I promise I will take you to an awesome service center for your next service. I thank all my other friends who gave me the right inputs and help for this trip. I am waiting for my next trip to the ghats.

Google Plus First Look

Thanks to Robinson I got a Google Plus invite. I did manage to invite a few of my friends using a workaround before Google decided to stop new users from signing up. After using Google Plus for a few hours since morning, I have mixed opinion about the product. Some features are great while some are not upto the mark.

Before I begin, I must highlight two of the coolest features offered by Google Plus. One is a group video chat right out of the box and the other is group sms. Although I have not used these two, I believe these two can take away a large chunk of users from Facebook.

One of the best things that I like about this is the ability to add friends as circles. Just drag-drop them to new circles and drag-drop out of circles to remove them. Though this is same as lists in FB, I feel this is better implemented. Not because of the cool UI but because right from the first friend you add, you put that person in a circle. In FB, initially when you start you generally don’t classify your friends like that. When the number of friends becomes too much to manage easily, you try to classify them. This would be irritating.

Continue reading

The Other Side of 2G Spectrum Scam

I am pretty sure 2G spectrum scam is well known to you if you are in India. If not I can safely assume that you were stuck up in a mission to Mars or something for the past year without ever communicating back home. The amount of money involved in this scam is quite baffling and so unrealistic. But reality should be faced someday and we have to accept these quoted numbers. In this post I shall try to form a rough estimate of the size of this scam.

The sources for all the numbers stated here are CAG, CBI, Finance Ministry of India, World Bank, Reserve Bank of India and the Census of India. So the reliability of them is of no question. If discrepencies occur, I kindly ask you to verify the numbers from these sources and inform me so that I can update the post. It should be noted that there are cases filed against the people involved and the bribes allegedly received by them is still unproven. Continue reading

I-M-P-E-R-F-E-C-T

Imagine this.

Bob got a new job. He is paid a very good salary. Much higher than his friends and relatives. Flexible timings at office. Free cab to his house and office with flexible timings as well. Work that is like play. Great free food, snacks and beverages at office on all days. Perfect, is it not? But if I were Bob, I would be very happy and very bored in no time.

Don’t believe me? Here is another example.

When you finish college, you usually get a few months off before you join a job or go for higher education. This gap can be anything between two months and six months or even more. At the starting of this time, you will have a perfect life compared to your college. You will be very happy. But as time progresses, you will start feeling bored. You will want to go to a job or higher education. Because when people are happy for too long, they tend to get bored. Continue reading

Lepakshi Trip

Long week end thanks to Good Friday. This means I got a nice chance to escape the routine and go for a long ride. Started planning things and decided to drive to Ooty on Friday and return on Sunday. The plan was set, hotel booked and six riders confirmed till Ooty and one guy till Mysore. This being my first long ride, I was bit of an insomniac the previous night. The D-Day arrived and we all started by morning four thirty from Madivala. It was raining heavily and the visibility was horrible. We entered the NICE ring road and proceeded at a decent speed. The only thing visible for me was the tail light of the rider before me. I followed it cautiously and just when I was entering the Mysore road, the bike suddenly shut down as I sailed over a speed breaker. Tried starting it and it gave up after a few minutes. The process repeated a few times before which I decided to drop the ride and return home bidding good-bye to the other five. Continue reading

My first bike trip: Krishnagiri dam

Yes! Finally I managed to go on my first bike trip. After searching through countless message boards and mailing lists, I decided that a 100 km one way trip would be easy to do for the first trip. I wanted to go to some place which is not easily accessible by normal bus routes and timings. Found the ideal spot. Krishnagiri dam. 100 km exact from where I stay. Then the search for the biking partner began. Posted in message boards, mailing lists, asked around in friends circle and in office. None of them seem to be liking the idea of a bike trip. Finally one of my friends Anil, said that he would love to come with me. Did the initial preparations and we fixed the date of the journey as Saturday, Mar 12, 2011. Continue reading

Talk by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy

First things first. I finally managed to find a free hosting with FTP and SQL and a DNS and domain name provider. They are xtreemhost.com and cz.cc. Then there is WordPress which can be installed in five minutes. All signing up done, configured, migrated the old blog and installed a new minimalist theme. I wanted to have my own hosted blog for a long time because I wanted to explore more on SEO and managing a blog which hopefully I can do now.

Moving on, yesterday at my office, I got lucky enough to attend a talk given by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy, the chief founder of Infosys. He can be called as the JRD Tata of our times. A man with extra-ordinary vision and mission. He is well known for his simplicity and exceptional oratorical skills. It is said that speaking to a wise person for an hour is equivalent to reading a hundred books. At the end of 90 minutes, I felt like I had read a thousand books! Here is a short version of the 90 minute spectacle. Continue reading