Once in a while, life gets a bit too much to handle. Somehow the mundane, routine things completely take over your life – you find less and less time to do what you love to do. It was similar situation for us – a couple of stray incidents, their consequences and life, in general, kept us too busy to be able to spend time in what we like to do best – ride. Toothless was back on the roads after an extended leave of absence, and Serenity had been relegated to the status of a regular ‘office commuter’ in the meantime. Quite literally, our hands were itching to go for a ride.
Suddenly, one fine Tuesday, I get a ping from MS, my cousin who works as an automative journo ( damn cool job, I know ) with one of the leading online automobile portals. He had made me join an online forum a few months ago, one which had discussions and events related to automobiles. As a part of their member outreach, this forum was conducting a small event, its first in Bengaluru – a drive to Avalabetta. This place has gained a reputation lately as being a less crowded, more picturesque alternative to Nandi Hills ( Bengaluru’s official weekend destination ) – and is famous for this rocky outcrop which makes for a killer photo-op! Initially, we were a bit reluctant as we thought that this event would primarily be attended by four wheelers – but then we though, why not ? Also, neither of us had been to Avalabetta yet, and this seemed to be a decent opportunity. Also, a few of the forum admins ( including MS, who crashed at my place during the weekend) were actually driving down from Delhi, just to attend this event – and here we have not been able to plan a single long distance ride, even after multiple attempts! I guess this is one of those things which get easier with time and experience.
Its always considered to be a safe option to eat light while, or before, a ride. You do not want to be nursing an upset stomach, or clenching your guts, or gulping down incessantly to prevent another bout of throwing up – while you are supposed to concentrate on the road. I learnt that the hard way, after indulging in a session of gastronomical decadence on the previous day and a rather short night with only a couple of hours of rest. With an hour to go for the ride, I suddenly found myself emptying my guts in the bathroom, doubled up with multiple stomach cramps. Being an organiser, MS had to take care of a few arrangements before the event started – so we asked him to leave early and attend to his duties. R stayed behind to give me company while I diligently continued puking my guts off into the sink. After what seemed like an eternity, some semblance of voluntary control returned – I had already exhausted almost all the contents of my stomach by that time. Common sense dictated that in such situations, it is best to abandon such ambitious plans and stay back at home – but the overwhelming desire to ride usually overrides such feeble opposition without much conscious effort. So we geared up and hit the roads, with just about sufficient time to reach the meeting point ( Hebbal ) at the designated assembly time.
The turnout was pretty good, with about 17-odd cars turning up for the event. Unfortunately, there were no other bikes – so we were the only two wheelers in the convoy. There was a short round of introductions, where I maintained a stoic silence, because it was taking a considerable amount of effort to prevent myself from puking out, yet again.
Significant observation – 17 bikes for an event usually means the organisers considering it to be an below-average attendance, while 17 cars make a really long convoy!
With the introductions over, we started towards the breakfast point – the two wheelers were asked to tail the ride captain, a grey Innova. The others came behind us, in a single file – I guess it must have looked impressive. MS was driving one of the latest cars from the Honda stable – a BR-V, which was one of the vehicles that had come down all the way from Delhi. Obviously, it is much more difficult to maintain formation for a convoy of cars, compared to a group of motorcycles, especially in these kinds of roads. Still, it was a different experience having four wheelers leading and following you. Occasionally, I saw R getting a teeny weeny bit impatient with the slow lumbering of the convoy ( which was following the designated speed limit of 80 kmph ), and accelerating hard to get feel the ‘speed force’ again. She would disappear up ahead, and then we would find her waiting a couple of kms down the road, waiting to join up with the convoy again.
The breakfast stop was at India Paratha Company – which is roughly 30 kms from Hebbal. I have heard about this place quite a few times, especially in the foodie circles, for their excellent parathas. Had been there once before, a few months ago. If anything, its popularity seems to have increased – the place was almost jam packed with long queues at the ordering table. We managed to find some place to sit, and some of the more generous ones waited in the queue to place the order for all of us. However, waiting for your food to arrive is not really boring here – because this place seems to be the hub for motorists, especially bikers from Bangalore. And you get to see a whole variety of super bikes make their way from Bangalore for a morning ride! In the space of 30 minutes, we had already seen almost the entire Kawasaki Ninja and Z range, a Yamaha R6, A couple of Ducati monsters, Harleys, Triumphs and what not. Barely a minute goes by before you hear the hum/scream/roar of yet another magnificent engine as they come to a stop in the parking lot – pretty much entertaining I would say. Also, makes you re-evaluate your goals in life – you start to feel that you need to level up. But then, something usually happens after this that reaffirms my faith in my good old Thunderbird – those super bikes usually restrict their movements to the highways. They fire up their engines, shoot off on the highway and then, around 5-10 kilometres down the line, take a U-turn and return back to Bangalore. This probably is the sceptic in me talking – but the practicality of a super bike which is limited to the smooth highways only – seems lost on me. Maybe I will get warm up to the idea once I have enough money to actually think about buying one, though…
Back to the main thread – breakfast was good ( everybody said so ). With my current predicament, I could only venture as far as a lime juice. R had an aloo paratha and said it was pretty good. There was a bit if chit chat – and then everyone was ready to continue onwards to the final destination.
The route to Avalabetta is pretty much straightforward – continue on the AH43 till you reach Peresandra junction, from where you have to let go of the luxury of the highway and turn left. The main destination is approximately 15 kms from this point. Roads are of standard width, and of decent quality. We hit a small patch of exceptionally poor roads just a few minutes after taking the first left turn – it was painful for the bikes and the cars alike, I presume – but the rough patch did not last too long. The last few kms have gradual, sloping roads – well paved and cemented with tiles on both sides. There were a couple of bends, but I don’t think they qualify as ‘hairpin’ bends – they are much more gradual and easier to navigate through. On reaching the parking spot, we were greeted by a lot of parked vehicles – indicating the growing popularity of this place as a weekend hangout. A couple of months down the line – this might suffer the same fate as Nandi Hills, unfortunately.
From the main parking spot – the road climbs a bit more (about 500 m) and there is a small guest house with an envious hilltop view. The entire cliff face is strewn with rocks and overlooks the large Chikballapur lake. You can almost tell that you are pretty far from Bangalore – given the predominance of green till the visible horizon. However, our main focus for the day, was obviously visiting that rocky outcrop – which is probably one of the most popular backdrops for Facebook profile pictures of people from Bangalore. This location, is near the small temple, which can be reached after a small, uphill trek of about 15-20 minutes from the main parking lot. There are proper steps carved onto the hill surface, and climbing up is easy. Once you reach the temple, there is a small path on the extreme right that leads right to the other side of the hill. It is here that most of the best viewpoints are located – including the one we were looking for. I have rarely had the opportunity to use the word ‘underwhelmed’ before, but no other word seems to be apt to describe our collective state of mind once we reached this ‘much-famed’ destination. Yes, there was a rocky outcrop jutting out into the open air ; yes, if you fiddled with camera angle, you could probably get a shot that would make it seem ‘worthwhile; but the overall charm of the scenery was just not there. Maybe it had to do with the 20-30 people waiting in a queue to get their photos on the ‘cliffhanger’. It was amusing to see the entire process taking place – people getting on the cliff, striking a pose while his/her accomplice clicked away madly – all this while there are some 20 people breathing down their neck, staring at them while they carried on with their photo-op shenanigans, waiting for their turn. The entire process seemed so automatic and forced – none of us were willing to actually wait for the better part of an hour just to get an opportunity to prance on the rock for a precious 30 seconds while the entire world stared.
Consensus – we would return later, someday, probably early morning on a weekday – when the place would not be infested with so many photo-holic tourists, and we could actually enjoy the scenery.
P.S – Image courtesy ZigWheels.com, the organizers for the drive. Had to borrow some pictures from them as my phone SD card conked out, unfortunately, taking most of the pictures we had clicked during this drive, with it.