Friday, August 9, 2013

Shivansamudra on Two Wheels

Our little adventure began at 5:00AM – then again, waking up at 5:00 AM was more of a nightmare for me than an adventure, and we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. I had only fallen asleep at 4:30 AM. But I awoke, bathed, got dressed and met with others from our small motorcycle group out in front of the house. Rajeev emerged from the house last, big surprise, and we left by 6:00 AM.

We followed Rajeev-- the Kamikaze biker -- as we snaked our way through the back streets, shooting between and around the few cars and trucks we encountered, en route to the prearranged spot on Kanakputra Road where we would meet up with Kiran and Nishanth.

The road, like many in India, became sort of a country highway that wound through small villages and then opened up into long stretches of semi-empty 4-lane blacktop – well, sem-cement-top anyway -- with patches of broken road. Of course it wasn't the broken road or occasional speed bumps that caused a high-speed rider concern as much as it was bearing down on an Oxcart .. or oncoming bus in your lane.  

While Anshu preferred to cruise at 50 to take in the scenery, with Rajeev leading the pack we were
more often at 80 – 100 Kilometers an hour most of the way; though I was able to take it all in and enjoy the scenery nonetheless. And the high speeds were exhilarating; I could feel my stress of the past weeks being stripped way kilometer after kilometer.  

I had talked about driving in Bangalore before, and oncoming traffic is common place here, so after a while it becomes second-nature to navigate. But the first few times you see a bus passing another bus -- or row of cars -- coming straight at you head on in your lane, it’s a bit unnerving: in one instance I resorted into riding the unpaved shoulder-of-the-road at 80 KPH until it passed.

And while the death-defying style of the ride was similar to the Mysore trip, at least today we did it without rain!

By 7:30 we stopped for a breakfast at what Rajeev referred to as the “best Masala Dosa” place to be found.That stretch of the road was dense with congested traffic, so it was nice to take a break.

A few hours later the scenery changed as the road climbed in altitude and we could smell the moisture of falls in the air. The roads leading into the area however wasn't so refreshing. It was heavily rutted, mostly dirt, where we had to dodge potholes that could consume whole villages, or so it seemed. 

And, we also had to avoid hitting animals from the wandering herds being led along the road that they sensed they owned. Well, they sort of did own the roads: who was going to tell them otherwise as they filled it side to side. 

We had to drive slow, navigate between them without getting them excited, only to then speed away and have to brake for yet another herd shortly thereafter.

When we finally arrived, the Shivansamudra Falls were majestic at first site.  

They were also misleading: while they were wide with multiple falls, they seemed lower in height than they really were -- from our viewing point, directly across from the top.

We hung at the summit observation area, where – like all the other tourists – we snapped a bunch of
photos as we recovered from the long 3 hour drive, stretched our legs, and relaxed.

Then we began our descent down the many stone steps that led to the bottom and the river’s edge. With each step down I was already dreading the climb back up.

The mist coming off the falls was delightful, refreshing, while the deafening sound was a reminder of the power called nature. We loitered around the river at the base of the falls.

A few of the guys decided to get their feet wet, then Kiran decides to go all the way!

When the ranger came and told us to clear out, it was because the water level was rising fast he said; "the area would soon be flooded". 

I envisioned some wall of water streaking towards at that very moment. But the reality was that “soon” meant many hours.  

Nonetheless, we hiked back up the long set of steep stone steps. The words of Anshu still clear in my memory -- “You’re old, like ancient!” -- as I scaled the steps with ease to my surprise. Anshu was panting like he's just hiked the Himalayas when he finally reached the top, the last to arrive.

There was a nice sun shining, so we sat for a while and enjoyed the nature and the quiet.
We snacked on watermelon and cucumbers that we bought from vendors near the exit. Then, bikes revved, we headed out ... we thought. Only a few hundred meters down the road Rajeev’s bike stalled: it seems that someone emptied his fuel tank while it was parked.

With four kilometers of dirt and potholed road to travel to reach the nearest petrol station, all we could do was push. So I did; I extended one foot to his back foot place, and we rode side by side with my bike propelling his -- which Nishanth filmed unknowingly to us.

In the village of Sattega we stopped at Rajeev’s granddad’s home. The vilalge in on land owned by the family, and Rajeev's dad has watched over it for decades. No one lived in the family home there any longer, but the house was preserved and cared for. There were rooms filled with family photos in a testament to the lives of those that passed through these doors. It was nice to see a legacy preserved in this way.  

We relaxed in the great room, where in its day the center sunken area would have been filled with water. Anshu was all but snoozing in a chair; it seems age and energy don’t always go hand in hand.

Next we stopped in at the village temple (a Lord Krishna Temple) that was over a thousand years old!

The ride back was high-paced, and Anshu -- during many stretches -- led the charge at 80- 100+ kilometers an hour, with each of the other bikes, in turn, taking the lead in a shuffle and reshuffle game of follow the leader.  

We all arrived home in one piece, so it was another great trip.

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