THE MAHABALIPURAM MONSOON RIDE
It had been over a month. That itch was getting really bad! We were to do the ride to Hampi in August, but couldn't do it. After completing The Trans-Himalayan Adventure on the 31st of July, this was to be our first Circus ride again.
The excitement was immense as the date approached- the 10th of September. We hadn't rode to Mahabalipuram before and so the excitement was even more! The day before our ride, Karnataka called for a bandh due to the Kavery issue with Tamil Nadu. We knew that Hosur road would be the first to be cut off or face problems if the rioters continued their riots till Saturday. This was the town from where we were to cross into Tamil Nadu from Bangalore. After long discussions the previous evening, and knowing that things were pretty calm around there, we decided to take Hosur road. Jayanth Kolla, one of our riders on this ride, stayed close to Hosur and had run a quick run to Hosur to gauge the scenario. Things were good, and all chaos about our meeting point for the ride was sorted.
Come 6 AM, and we gathered at Huskur Gate on Hosur Road, on the outskirts of Bangalore to meet up with all the riders and begin our much-awaited ride to Mahabalipuam, or Mahabs as a few of us had started to call it! :D
We were a total of 16, of which Jayanth and Ruhin were to meet the other 14 of us near Hosur. Everybody had gathered but there were no signs of Girish, another rider who was with us for the first time. After coordinating with him about meeting at the breakfast point near Krishnagiri, we started off! About 20 kms away we caught up with the Jayanth and Ruhin.. Another epic Circus ride had officially begun!
The weather was cool and pleasant as we started out from Hosur.. Flyover after flyover, in less than 45 minutes we were at our breakfast point- Saravana Bhavan Classic. When rides start early, one tends to get hungry real fast, and the case was no different for us. Girish joined us soon after, and the 16 of us belted some delicious south-Indian breakfast. Now that everyone was together, once we were ready to start, I gave a briefing to everyone about the ride ahead.
An important part of the briefing is our style of riding. We don't hand-hold our riders. We give them their space and time. We have a lead rider and a sweep. All riders are expected to stay between these two, and not necessarily stick to the whole group at all times.
I believe that people have different styles of riding, different speeds at which they are comfortable riding. When a ride is started out with people you haven't rode with before, it isn't fair to group them up and instruct them to stick with the others, even at the cost of not enjoying the ride at all! More often than not, in a few hours, people start to figure out who their buddy/buddies would be, depending on their style of riding. But, at the Circus, we don't force it down anyone's throat.
Of the 16 of us, we had 7 riders who were riding with us for the first time, and a few who were riding after a gap of 7 years! We had girls, boys, seasoned riders, first-timers, pillions; the bikes ranged from Royal Enfields, to KTMs, to Ninjas, Tigers and Pulsars. We were a variety in ourselves, but the one thing that was common was each rider was a gem of a person. No hang-ups, no show-off, nothing of the sort. The way people got along with each other on this ride in a matter of minutes after meeting was absolutely heart-warming!
Since we had to figure how comfortable the riders were with doing long stretches at a time, we decided to take a chai break 70 kms after breakfast. The ride was smooth, no hiccups, no mistakes. And considering the quality of the Bangalore-Chennai road, the 70 kms were covered in what felt like minutes. But the sweep was having problems. Varun & Marlene were sweeping, on his Standard 350 and due to some over-heating problems with the bike, he needed to stop every now and then in order to let it cool off a bit.
The weather had quickly changed from a pleasant cool one to extreme heat, and the sun was shining bright and there was not a single grey cloud in the sky. The monsoon ride wasn't going to be a very monsoon-y one as we had expected or hoped! Varun caught up with us a few minutes late at the first chai shop. Due to the sweltering heat, the leads Satvik and Uday started the ride ahead, so as not to have everyone waiting. Amrutha, Sai and I waited up until Varun & Marlene and Udai & Kim caught up, and then began to ride ahead.
About 70 kms ahead was to be the next chai break. This got a little slower, as the weather had started to get to everyone. The riding jackets and pants made us feel like we were cooking! The road was great though, and the gorgeous landscapes of distant hills and lush green forests kept us going! We had already started to get hungry, and decided to take a lunch break on the highway near Kanchipuram. During this final 70 km stretch, it seemed like the roads had become monotonous. No gears to change, no traffic, hardly any people, and that relentless sun! Everyone gladly stopped at the first restaurant called "White Gate". Although it looked a bit shady, everyone was too hungry to find another place.
It usually happens that after a heavy meal in the afternoon in an air-conditioned restaurant, people want to hang in there longer, even when the AC is barely functioning! Our case was no different. After a lunch break that lasted about 2 hours, we got on the bikes and started for Mahabalipuram. It was not very far away, but what we hadn't accounted for was that we had to enter Kanchipuram, quite a crowded town and then make our way through small interior roads. This turned out to be an absolute chaos. The minute we deviated from the Chennai highway, we got split from one another. Many took the wrong road, and after about an hour of confusion, we regrouped a little outside of Kanchipuram and decided to stick together till the confusing roads end. This did us good, and by about 4 30 PM, in smaller groups we were all in Hotel Mammala Heritage.
A small town on the east-coast, known as a temple town, Mahabalipuram was once a part of the Pallava Dynasty and functioned as their port too. There are various monuments across the town and a lighthouse, all of which date back to the Pallava Dynasty. We knew we were going to explore this town more, but hey the swimming pool at the hotel was open only till 7 PM, and getting into that was our utmost priority!
After spending quite some time at the pool, we decided to start our evening of stories, beer and fun! There were slight drizzles and the temperature had gotten very pleasant after sunset. There was that familiar sea breeze hitting our face while we chilled at the rooftop cafe. After a sumptuous dinner, we came back to one of the rooms and continued with some exciting stories! While we had been with these people since morning, there was so much to them that we did not know. Each one had some beautiful stories to tell, some old, some new, but all interesting!
We called it a night deciding to leave for Bangalore after a late breakfast at the hotel. The next morning, we woke up with no hurry to rush back, had breakfast which was mind blowing at the hotel, and headed out to check out the town. It turned out to be quite the walk, considering the coastal temperatures during the day, but I had fallen in love with the place to worry too much about the heat or the walk. We checked out Arjuna's penance, the famous Krishna's butter ball, and walked up the lighthouse. This was one of the highlights of this ride- the stunning 360 degree view from atop the lighthouse. We could see the beach on one side, the different shades of green on another, the little town of Mahabalipuram on another side and the epic ECR road on another! We stayed there for a long time, appreciating the beauty around and the cool breeze at that height was a welcome change!
We headed back to the hotel, did the final bit of packing and left at noon. We knew it was going to be long ride ahead specially with the chaotic Kanchipuram town enroute. However, Udai, who had stayed for many years around the area knew another route that would help us join the Chennai-Bangalore highway at Sriperunbudur directly, thus avoiding Kanchipuram. We followed his lead through some beautiful country roads, and not much later, were at the Chennai-Bangalore highway. We took our first chai break there to ensure everyone was together. It was already 1 30 PM and we had started to get hungry. The lead, Satvik started off and found a nice place for lunch close by. Lunch was delicious, a full-fledged South-Indian meal. We belted nicely and began to ride ahead.
By now, everyone knew the others' riding style. And everyone knew we could do longer stretches today in comparison to yesterday. Ruhin and Jayanth were on fast bikes- Ninja and Tiger, and they started off the ride, with our next meet-up point decided. The next team was Pops, Chirag and Girish, all on Royal Enfields, all comfortable with each other's pace. Udai and Varun were sweeping, and Amrutha, myself, Satvik and Uday were riding together in between. 100 kms away was our next break, for chai. We did it in less than 1.5 hours, but after everyone gathered, there was no sign of Varun. His bike was still having issues, delaying his ride time.
The weather was great! There were a few grey clouds and the sun kept playing hide and seek with the clouds, making for a very pleasant ride for us! We hoped for some rain, but there was none. Yet no one complained as the weather was still great!
We decided to do another long stretch of 130 kms to Cafe Coffee Day at Shoolagiri. Since Varun was going to take time to join us, we decided to reach there and end the ride at the CCD, so as not to delay others who might want to get back home early. So a few of us from the crew decided to wait up at the CCD till as long as it would take Varun and Udai to get there, and ride ahead together with them to Bangalore.
We had reached CCD at 7 PM. We were really happy with today's ride. No problems (for most of us), no mistakes on the road, no confusion, great weather, some beautiful comradery built among people who were complete strangers less than 36 hours ago; what more can you ask for on a ride!
We split from CCD, and Amrutha, Chirag, Satvik, Sai, Uday and I decide to wait up for Varun. We were having a nice time, talking about the ride that had been and the rides we were to do in the future. At about 8 45 we got a call from Marlene saying they were about 70 kms away from CCD, and that the bike was overheating and having trouble. She asked us to start off for Bangalore, and that we would meet soon. We were unsure of what to do, but upon discussing with the others, we decided to start off, since we were not going to be of any use to them, by waiting so far away from them.
The Mahabalipuram Monsoon Ride had ended. Many new friendships and relationships were born.
Until the next ride!
In the meanwhile you could check out our ride gallery here: