The initial plan was to wake up by 1200 midnight, get ready in a couple of hours and start out by 0200 hours. However, even after trying earnestly, neither of us could manage to fall asleep on time – it was almost 2230 hours by the time we finally slept. Mostly because he was frantically finishing off some office work – to compensate for the unscheduled leave that he was going to take the next day.
And as usual, I was unable to sleep when someone else in the room is awake – until I am too tired to care.
We missed all the alarms ( obviously ) and by the time R woke up, it was already well past 0100 hours! The procrastinator that he is, it was at this unearthly hour that he went off to get the IBR club flag that he wanted to hoist behind on his bike! He returned after 30 minutes and then we started out preparation phase for the trip. Bags were half packed already, we stuffed some more essentials like towels, red bull, sandals and toothbrushes – at the end it was filled to almost full capacity! Also packed sufficient amounts of precious cargo – because one does not simply go to Goa without it!
Our hostels accepted only passports as proof of identity – so we had a small 15 minutes session of searching through piles of important and not-so-important documents, trying to find them. Finally found mine enclosed carefully in a nondescript brown envelope – and that was the end of our packing phase.
Had a nice, relaxing shower, and verified all the important stuff to carry – documents, extra keys, headphones and power bank!
Stuffing ourselves into riding gear is always a time consuming activity – armored riding jackets, knee protectors, tough leather riding boots and protective riding gloves. After almost doubling our weight, we managed to make our way down. Soon, the saddle bag was fixed on the rear seat and the rider had taken his position. As usual, we had a small argument about the necessity of bringing the DSLR along – it posed an additional baggage ( the saddle bag could not accommodate it ). After bickering for a couple of minutes, we finally decided to carry it with us.
With the clock showing 30 minutes past 0500 hours, we finally started.
3.5 hours later than our original plan – not bad!
Initial part of the journey was pretty much uneventful, except for the fact that the rear suspensions seemed to be screwed up somehow.
Even the smallest of uneven patches would make it move up and down like anything. We were taking the Nelamangala route. With our delayed waking up and the hasty packing session, we did not have the chance to have a proper breakfast. Somehow I was craving a plate of warm, soft idlis – and we were on the lookout for any suitable breakfast points. Because it was pretty early in the morning, none of the roadside ‘Dabas’ had started business yet.
Unable to find any breakfast points, we stopped at a small lay-bye around 150km from Bangalore, and feasted on bananas and red bull. Both of us tried our hands at the DSLR, trying to click a masterpiece with a fully loaded serenity, the smooth empty roads behind and the sun peeking through the clouds!
We started after a 20 min break, zipping through the relatively empty highway. It was pretty cold. by Karnataka’s standards, and a few kilometers later we could feel the chill in the wind seeping through the clothes. We could get a feel of RiderMania – there were multiple Enfield groups on the road, all thumping towards the general direction of Goa.
About 6 to 7 km from Chitradurga, we stopped at Hotel Mysore Cafe, were I finally got to satisfy my idli-vada craving. The food tasted delicious – the special rasam which they added with the usual sambar was awesome, and the coconut chatni was beyond the world! And obviously, we could not miss a cup of warm, satisfying filter coffee which spread a blissful sensation of warm contentment as it flowed inside…
After a relaxing 45 minutes, we were ready to get back on the road. Once again, the road was smooth, easy and sparsely occupied. I took over as the rider while R awkwardly managed to climb on the pillion seat ( there was a damn flagpole fixed just behind the rear backrest, which made climbing onto the pillion seat a pain in the ass ). The ride till Dharwad was once again, uneventful. Few moments of excitement were afforded whenever we encountered any other Enfield riders – we revved up and crossed them. We were doing 95-100 consistently on an Enfield which was fully loaded with luggage and a pillion ( something that would come back to bite us in the back, later ).
Post Dharwad-Hubli, the road narrowed down to a single lane with traffic in both directions. It was a little bit dangerous with a fair bit of unnecessarily rash and irresponsible driving by trucks and smaller four wheelers alike. R took over till we reached MK Hubli. According to Google maps, we had to get off the highway and take a left turn towards Goa. We did get off the highway, but R refused to believe that the small, tattered, narrow road which Google indicated was indeed the correct path. Fortunately, we met a small group of people who were riding towards the same destination – we introduced ourselves and followed them as they knew the exact route. Not surprisingly, they took the same narrow, broken road which we had ignored a little while earlier…
The state highway from MK Hubli towards Goa had a completely different character, compared to the straight and wide, smooth NH that we were riding on so far. Narrow, broken in patches, twisting and turning through the countryside, intersecting numerous tiny villages, passing through dense, silent patches of forests and climbing up and down the Ghats – it was a different kind of a riding experience. We had been riding continuously since the breakfast stop at Chitradurga, and R was concerned about over exerting the engine. We stopped for lunch at Jamboti at a somewhat decent restaurant and helped ourselves to a chicken meal, while Serenity got an opportunity to cool off for an hour. We still had around 50-odd kilometers of Ghat roads ahead of us, and according to Google’s estimate, we would be at our hostel within the next 3 hours.
Goa – the name itself brings with it a feeling of excitement! And yet, as you cross the state borders and enter Goa, you can almost feel the calm, peaceful and laid back atmosphere here. After Bangalore’s extra wide, but still congested roads, Goa’s small, twisting roads seemed to be quaint and idyllic, almost. Most of the peripheral areas lack the frenzy that you can see in the more-touristy areas. The roads are more or less empty, traffic consists mostly of rented-out 2 wheelers driven around by tourists. We were putting up at a hostel close to the RiderMania venue at Vagator – but finding the route was not difficult at all. The RiderMania atmosphere seemed to have taken hold everywhere – even without asking anybody, we were almost instantly directed towards the general direction of Vagator. It was as if the entire place had geared up to receive Enfield enthusiasts and riders from all over India!!
As we slowly neared Vagator, the ‘RiderMania’ effect was slowly getting more pronounced. Enfields with all kind of exhaust notes were making their presence felt – some thumped, some rumbled, some let out rhythmic beats, and some of them kept misfiring with gunshot-like sounds. We came across multiple groups, all dressed in their own unique style to make their presence felt – some sported turbans of the same color, some groups carried customized flags to tell them apart! Some groups rode in rigid formations, forcing people to turn their heads and notice them ( most probably because it was not possible to ignore that much sound ! )- it was a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle!!
Now it was time for us to check in to our hostel. The Jungle, by the HostelCrowd – as the name suggests, it has a ‘jungle’ theme. The hostel dorms are surrounded by a small, jungle-type growth. neither of us had been to any hostel before this, so it was an entirely new experience for us.
We submitted our passports, checked in and were shown our way to the Panther dorm, which had 3 double bunk beds. I was pretty excited, because I had always wanted to sleep on a bunk.
Almost all of the others in the hostel were foreigners and backpackers. The place is clean, has excellent WiFi, offers a lot of place to just chill around – hanging hammock seats and cushions laid out on the floor where you can just sit and laze around. There was a mini book collection, and a small kitchen which anyone could use.
The main attraction, was of course the refrigerator filled with munchies ( biscuits, chips, juices and the kind ). Though a tad overpriced, it was a stoner’s paradise! By the time we checked in, daylight was coming to an end – and a lot of the hostel occupants were out on the porch, reading/talking/relaxing. We stuffed our things in the dorm, freshened up and finally, headed towards the RM arena!