Friday, November 23, 2012

The Road to MYSORE

I felt tense; my mind racing, my adrenaline flowing. I was being assaulted by the rain as we streaked along the Bangalore-Mysore Highway at speeds up to 100-120 kilometers an hour, swerving in and out of traffic.  Our three motorcycles in a row (with two riders each), only feet apart, trailed the vehicles before us waiting for a crack of opportunity. Then without warning, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, one closely followed by the other shot through the sliver of opening as we raced towards Mysore. Had I lost my mind?  Welcome to yet another India experience.
We left Bangalore in the early afternoon for what have should have been a leisurely three hour ride to Mysore; reminds me of Gilligan, the Skipper and guests out for a three-hour cruise.

This was to be my first trip outside of Bangalore; I bought my Yamaha motorcycle for the trip only the night before

The traffic in south Bangalore was without reason; a chaotic free-for-all.  With Rajeev driving my bike, me on back, we weaved, jerked, turned and shot between vehicles working our way out of the city traffic headed for the Bangalore-Mysore highway.   The small side streets were interwoven like a maze; there were small shops, a clutter of vendors selling things from carts,  the smell of spice in the air, and an energy I can't quite explain. And though it wasn't pretty -- the roads were very dusty, like a 1800s town in an old western movie --, but it was authentic.  At least it seemed that way to me; as if the bustle on the street had been buzzing like this for a century, with  the cars, scooters, motorcycles and modernity simply a new addition without altering the day-to-day culture.

South Bangalore
Only an hour up the highway the rain was intermittent, torrential at times, though we unlike the Skipper and crew we didn't get knocked off course. We were, however, forced to stop and wait it out -- twice, each time for about an hour.  Together with all the cigarette smoking stops, night was fast-approaching so we decided to push on, rain or not.

We periodically switched drivers and bikes, and I was again back in control of my Yamaha. The 6-8 lane highway would often be reduced to a two or four lane road with light after traffic light, or worse, speed bumps that were neither colored nor marked, as we approached roadside towns.  Worse than that was on the highway itself where we would be flying along at 100 and then bear down on one of these speed bumps, or worse, a slow-moving ox-cart with no reflectors, wandering cows or herds of goats. Oh yeah, it was just like that!

Same Mysore Ride Different Day WITHOUT Rain
The rain was only teeming as we entered yet another small town, but traffic on the four-lane had turned into a parking lot due to the preceding flooding the rain had caused.  We moved at a snails pace, trying to avoid stopping and having to put a foot down into the pond-like road we were traveling through. I wasn't even sure that the engines would keep humming at some points were the water was highest.

When I spotted a make-shift sidewalk I pulled up onto it and began making better time.  I quickly caught and passed the two bikes that were previously way ahead of me (they drive like lunatics, so I was way behind them on the highway). 

We were all soaked thoroughly. A chill was taking root in my bones.  The other two bikes saw me and quickly followed as we worked our way passed the traffic jam, left the town limits and were flying again. 

It was somewhere in the forth hour, still 40 kilometers from our destination, night set upon us, that the rain mercilessly hit us again; we pushed on.

It had dawned on me -- more than once that day -- that I had lost my mind; I was for a time sitting on the back of a motorcycle, helmet-less (only the driver wears a helmet in India) traveling at 100-120 kilometers an hour through traffic. I'm not ashamed to say my heart had all but bored a hole in my chest cavity from the intense and accelerated beating.

Later at the fuel stop it was discovered that my key was missing; we couldn't unlock the fuel cap; Rajeev and I spent the entire next morning -- on a Sunday -- which we actually found, and the cost was only $10.

After we met up with a friend, Kiran, and headed to the Sweet Palace for breakfast.  If you get up here, stop by, great place.

The Shardha Resort grounds that we stopped at that afternoon provided a wide-variety of family fun: families were relaxing in the picnic area, with exotic and non birds wandering about.  The resort also had in-door and outdoor restaurants, a bar wrapped around a tree; a billiards room, volleyball, tennis, basket ball, football (soccer), a swimming pool, a small boat pool, ping-pong and more.  After a drink to get out of the  hot sun, it was time to push off for the Mysore Palace: a big tourist attraction.

The weather was still being stubborn though as the rain came again and we raced back to the house, where we were holed up for four or five hours.

That night we went for dinner, and then on to Planet X; an entertainment venue -- billiards, go-cart racing, video-game arcade, hookah bar, restaurants,  and bar/lounge.  Hey, I was with a group of twenty-somethings, so this place was high on their list of places to go. We hung out, played billiards and then after drinks and smokes outside (I was able to buy a Dominican cigar for 800 rupees -- $16 --; the onlookers after hearing the cost when I inquired, were shocked when I bought one) planned to leave.

Well, until the keys one of the other bikes were missing.  Took us an hour, but we found them, and averted another min-disaster. As we drove the thirty minutes back to the house we went through a little village called Metagalli, where I now realized was my first experience smelling the real India: it was so powerful with the smell of spices. 

Because the guys had a midnight urge to pack and hit the road back to Bangalore, I didn't get to see much of Mysore; I only saw the palace at night on the way back to the house. But when we traveled through another small town called, Metagalli, I now realized it was my first experience smelling the real India: it was so powerful with the smell of spices.

Like I have written about before, it is the journey that is the experience, not the destination(s). And thus far, I have experiences galore.  

The highway driving back was wide-open. We left the house in Mysore at about 2:am, and raced back at 100 kilometers an hour without any rain. We arrived in Bangalore about 5:AM, just in time to stop for a morning tea. 

Moreover, the intense ride to Mysore seemed to have desensitize me; from time to time on the way back I'd switch and let Rajeev drive as I sat on back. And even without a helmet my heart-rate was constant; I was no longer nervous. Regardless of my apparent stupidity riding at those speeds without a helmet, I was nonetheless relaxed, as if I was sitting on the couch on my terrace.  

More photos here

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