Home Bound

Himachal to Kerala : Day 8

Another 650 kilometres and we will be home. I was so excited to finally reach home. The long ride from Himachal to Kerala is coming to an end. The puppies will be seeing their new home tonight. Good food is waiting for me at home and it’s Christmas. I haven’t celebrated Christmas at home for almost 7 years. Since my University days, it’s usually the holidays when I plan for trips and visit places.

The route map of our last day, from Google Map timeline

I woke up early in the morning, the puppies did their duty waking me up. We kept them inside the toilet. As soon as they heard me wake up and walking around getting things ready, they started making too much noise. We had some milk from last night and few biscuits. I let them out and fed them. I knew now that as soon as their belly is full they will start pooping. So, I took them out once they finished it. I placed them under a coconut tree outside Arfat’s apartment. I was playing with the puppies in the dark waiting for Athul to wake up.

Soon Athul was up and ready. We packed our bags and strapped it on the bike. It was 7:30 am, Arfat attended a late night wedding last night, so he didn’t come to see us off. I locked the door, kept the key where he showed me and texted him before we left. It was a foggy morning, and soon we reached the highways, and cruised towards Hubli.

Our breakfast Idli and Chai from a roadside tea shop

We stopped on the way to have some food after around an hour or so. It was a small road side restaurant. We had some Idli and sambar along with a hot tea. We saw few TVS heavy duty 70cc two stroke mopeds outside. We were just curious and went near it. These mopeds are made to last and gives a 70km/l mileage. Almost double the mileage as we get on this RE Himalayan 411cc bike.

It happened again on the very last day of our ride. We skipped the Hubli city and continued on the highway and within few kilometres the fuel was on reserve. We couldn’t find a fuel station nearby. It was just straight long highway and sugar cane fields on both sides. Few more kilometres and the engine choked and died. We were in the middle of the road, under burning hot sun without even a shade to stand under.

With the puppies while Athul went to get the fuel

Now without any fuel stations or atleast another human being in our vicinity, we decided to try stop some vehicle, and ask for help. Athul took the initiative to bring the fuel, and I started waving hands at the vehicles passing by. Luckily, after sometime an uncle in a scooter stopped. Athul went with him to the fuel station and I sat under the bike with the puppies. He came back on another guy’s bike who came to the station and was passing by. We were lucky this time too. We didn’t waste much time, but then waiting under the hot sun, on the road was exhausting for me. It was super hot without even a tree nearby.

Musafirkhana & Honda monument

We reached Davanagere after 260kms around noon. Finally, we are deviating from NH 48 which started form Delhi 6 days ago, passing through Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Hubli, Davanagere and go straight to Chennai, via Banglore. Now that we are riding to Iritty in Kannur district of Kerala, we have to take the deviation, get into State highway and ride through Hassan, Ramanathapuram, and Gonikoppal.

This monument was on our way near to Davanagere, we spent few minutes inside

The sudden change form 4 lane National Highway to a small 2 lane state highway was drastic. We could no longer cruise in high-speeds, just around 60kms/hour maximum speed, with occasional twists and turns on road. Without the lane divider, the vehicles on the opposite are mostly coming towards us, in our lane. At many instances, I imagined, if I would have had some super powers to check the lane cutters.

It was Christmas day and most of the shops were closed and the towns were empty. Had our lunch from a roadside restaurant. We were planning to reach home by 9pm. It was 6:30pm when we crossed Arakalagud, sun was already down. We jumped over a hump and suddenly it was all dark. We didn’t realise what was happening. I yelled at Athul to hit the brake. Somehow he managed to stop the bike and we were already outside the road. I jumped out to hold the bike in position and analyse what happened. Slowly Athul got down and we pulled the bike back on the road and stood wondering. The headlight is gone. We don’t have any backup bulb with us. I had a LED bulb from the bicycle Audric gave me somewhere inside my bag. We pulled everything out from the bag and took the torch. It can give almost 2 hours in a single charge. It was already late and we wanted to reach home as soon as we can. So we decided not to return to the town we already passed, but to go further to reach Ramanathapuram, 15kms ahead. We tried to fix the torch to the bike’s handle, but couldn’t. So, I decided to hold it in my hand, with both the indicators blinking as hazard lights, I hold the torch in my hand above the helmet. I couldn’t hold the torch for more than 10 minutes in that raised position, so I changed hands with the bag with puppies on the other hand, we travelled 15kms took almost 2 hours to reach. We found a garage and the mechanic checked the bulb, he too confirmed that the bulb fused and had to be replaced. But he dont sell bulbs, he is a repair guy. He suggested to ride fast another 1kms to reach a shop which sells bulbs, and we had to hurry because it was already 8:30pm and shops were about to close.

Somewhere on the road in the evening an hour before our headlight was fused

We rushed to the shop but it was already closed. Some people outside told us about another shop few metres ahead across the street. We could see the shopkeeper trying to close the shutter. I yelled crossed the road and ran towards the shop. Athul came behind on the bike. He had the bulb, but it costs 90 rupees. We only had 70 rupees with us. We described our situation to the shopkeeper, he told us that the nearest ATM is atleast 10kms away. We can’t risk to go another 10kms to get the money and come back as he is already about to close the shop. And then the shopkeeper came up with another low quality bulb which costs only 60 rupees. He told us that the bulb will give less light, but will definitely work. We took it and were left with just 10 rupees. Now we had to change the bulb. There was a garage nearby, all the mechanics were young and were curious to see us and the puppies. We told them the whole story and they were ready to help. They fixed the bulb and didn’t take the payment. Wished us luck and even suggested to stay somewhere that night and reach home the next day, if we were tired.

The road through Brahmagiri Reserve forest, Kerala-Karnataka border

It’s these wonderful moments I experienced with strangers on road that always inspires me to travel more and take risks all the time. Like the ‘Chacha’ we had a tea in Himachal who gave us free beedis, Boris friend of Dennis who let us stay in his apartment, Jay’s neighbour, the Aunty who brought milk for our puppies before we left Nadiad, all the Dhaba owners who didn’t complain about letting the puppies out in their compound and was curious to know about them, the guy who gave us fuel when we were stuck right after Pune, the Uncles who gave Athul lifts to buy petrol when we were stuck again on road and many more who contributed to our ride, but describing them will take a life long story.

We left the place around 9:15pm, the headlight was a bit low but it was manageable. In that narrow road, we were not able to ride beyond 60kms/hour, so the light was enough. We reached Periyapattana, the fuel was low, but we could manage to reach home with it, I did a rough calculation with respect to the mileage we were getting. But with all what happened, we didn’t want to take any risks. We checked few ATMs only to find it empty as it’s Christmas. We went to 2 fuel stations, and the card payment system was not working. We were lucky to find a third one where we could pay via card. But then we are left with only 10 rupees in our hand, we haven’t had anything since the evening and the puppies will also be hungry. We filled petrol for 500 rupees and asked the operator if he could take 1000 rupees payment via card and give us back 500 rupees. The guy agreed and we got 500 rupees cash. Now we had enough money and fuel to reach home. It was already 10pm. We had informed our parents in the morning that we be back home by 9pm as it was our last day of ride and everyone was expecting us. Soon we passed Gonikoppal, and skipped the dinner. We were riding through the reserve forest area famous for its elephant corossing points. It’s quite common to find elephants standing on the road at night blocking the vehicles. It was the least we been expecting for that night.

The road through Brahmagiri Reserve forest, Kerala-Karnataka border

Luckily we passed the forest without any troubles. Stopped by a small tea shop, had tea and light snacks, gave the puppies some biscuits. Around 11:30pm we reached home. The long 3200kms from Hamirpur to Iritty was successfully completed in 8 days without much difficulties. I was so tired and wanted to take a shower before I eat something. I took one of the puppies home, Athul took the other. My parents were so happy to see her, named her Asta. I could hear them playing with Asta while I took a long cold shower, part of my ritual after a long trip.