IndiBlogger had planned to host their first ever pan India blogging conference in Mumbai called BNLF (Blog Now, Live Forever).
As soon as I read about it in my email, wild adventurous thoughts started to stir in my mind. This was months before more details (dates and place) about the event were announced. I hadn’t made up my mind about it then, but I applied for the delegate pass nevertheless.
“I’ll think about the details later,” I thought to myself.
“Bruce Dickinson is going to be there 😮 What more do I need? That’s enough of a reason”.
At this point, I was considering the possibility of a solo Bangalore to Mumbai motorcycle ride.
Can this be done in a single day? I was hopeful, but I knew it was a challenge. I’d never ridden more than 700km in a day, and here I was, planning to ride more than 1000 kilometers all by myself. A crazy thought indeed.
The delegate pass arrived in my inbox on Oct 13. I had two weeks to finalize my decision; actually, less than that because I also had to get my bike serviced. And so I did, with just three days to go for the event.
After some drama at the workplace, with my leave not being approved and all, I still stuck to my decision. It isn’t every time that you decide to ride to Mumbai, and with a purpose.
I chose life over work. Though, in an ideal world, I’d have loved to do both at the same time. Fortunately, we don’t live in such a utopia.
I finalized everything on 28 Oct. I slept a paltry 4 hours. With over a thousand kilometers of ride ahead of me, it wasn’t a wise thing to do, but there was nothing I could do about it. The ride was still on.
Bangalore to Mumbai Motorcycle Ride – 1000km+ in a Day
I woke up early, had a bath, and got ready. By the time I was finished with my packing, it was already too late. I geared up, secured my luggage to the bike with bungee cords, and departed exactly at 5:15 AM. My mom sent me off.
The first few minutes of the ride were ecstatic. I’d escaped the routine of daily life. I was jolted back to reality when I reached Yeshwantpur. This is probably the second worst section of NH4 as far as traffic is concerned (more on the first one later).
It took me more than 20 minutes just to cover 2km and leave the Peenya industrial area behind me. It was frustrating.
Once I’d crossed this traffic-laden section, I was truly free to ride. The road wasn’t bad either. In fact, it was excellent. Perfect for riding a long distance.
I didn’t stop for the next 70km. Tumakaru highway is great to ride on.
It must’ve been around 6:15 AM now. The sun was creeping up on the horizon, and the sky was a faint blue. The moon was still visible too.
It was a clear day; “at least, I won’t be troubled with rains today,” I said to myself.
If you’re wondering how I’m able to recall the exact time and distance traveled, well, I had a simple solution: a small diary in which I wrote down all the little details almost every time I halted.
My next stop was 50km away, somewhere along the highway. It was for a light breakfast: a few dates. The time was 7:00 AM now, the sun was out in its full glory – bright and raging – and I had covered 140km already.
After fueling myself, I moved on. I didn’t stop until I saw the faint glimmer of windmills before Chitradurga. Some of the windmills had their blades moving. It’s exciting to observe nature’s forces in action. Even greater is realizing the fact that how much we as a species have evolved to make use of these forces.
I took some pictures here. My sore ass also thanked me for the increased blood circulation.
Clouds, hills, and factories. That was all I could see for the next half an hour or so.
After riding for a while, the road ahead of you vanishes into the background. And so does everything else. Now, I was moving like a lonely cloud to wherever the road took me.
With my subconscious taking over the riding controls (at least for a while), my conscious mind was free to wander. It’s almost like meditation, except you’re moving (but again, you’re really not).
Many ideas strolled into my mind. Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, job, salary, love, women, motorcycles, men, my future, life, food, sex, films, music, politics, science, philosophy, and so on. With so much time to go around, the list is pretty much endless.
I saw a few buffaloes lazing in a muddy pool beside the highway, with only their heads above the water. A pretty chilled out life. After all, why should gais have all the fun? Get it? Well, let’s moo on.
A while later I noticed that the bag tied to my rear seat was a bit off to the side. I stopped to adjust the bungee cords properly. It’s always a challenge to find the perfect balance here.
It was around 9:00 AM now and I’d traveled 240km; I was somewhere near Davanagere.
I rode hard for the next 80km, covering it within an hour. It was just 10:00 AM and the sun was blazing hot already. I halted to take a few snaps of the brilliant sunflowers.
The low-fuel indicator on my bike was blinking. Both I and my bike were desperate for fuel. Thankfully, a Kamat restaurant was nearby; it also had a fuel station within its premises (or is it the other way around?). I’d ridden almost 320km by now.
After refueling, I rested for around 30 minutes at the hotel. Strangely, for such a big place, I was the only guest there. It felt queer.
Once I and my bike were fed, the ride was a bit easy. I didn’t stop for the next 100km, which I covered in just over an hour. It was a long non-stop boring stretch towards Hubballi. I didn’t stop for long here; just enough time to rest my sore ass.
After crossing the dangerous Hubballi-Dharwad bypass, I reached Belagavi soon enough. By now, I’d covered more than 510km in total and it was 12:50 PM. I halted for a break just opposite the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha (also called Mini Vidhana Soudha).
Not surprisingly, I was running out of time. My plan was to cover as much distance as possible before sunset; crossing Pune while there was still light around was a good bet.
I refueled at an Indian Oil pump at around 1:30 PM. The traffic was building up as I was nearing Maharashtra.
The Nipani-Kagal-Kolhapur section is one of the busiest stretches on NH4 highway. The traffic here, though moving slowly, was extremely frustrating. However, I didn’t slow down. I had to overtake a lot of trucks, lorries, cars, and mindless local motorcyclists.
It was jarring to concentrate on the road continuously, especially when you’ve ridden the past few hours nonchalantly. I stopped under a small tree for rest after crossing Kolhapur. It was 2:45 PM.
After eating a few dates (and 15 minutes of rest), I moved on. That was one of the only things that was constant throughout the ride: moving on.
I didn’t stop for the next 1.5 hours, in which I covered more than 100km. It was time for my lunch (if you can call it that). I drink a liter of milk and had a few more dates. Pune was just 100km away from where I was. I was back on the saddle, yet again. The time was 4:45 PM.
I refueled at an Indian Oil pump at around 5:15 PM.
The road towards Pune was in a pretty bad condition. There were just too many diversions for my liking, especially on a highway. However, I did pass through an awesome tunnel (Katraj tunnel). It was fun riding through the 1km+ lighted stretch of the tunnel.
After riding for an hour or so, I finally reached Pune. It was 6:10 PM now, and I’d ridden more than 850km so far since I’d started my journey.
As soon as I entered the city, I was welcomed by a mass of smog. I stopped at an ATM to withdraw money (which I would need to refuel later). The sun had almost set.
By the time I escaped the clutches of Pune traffic, it was already dark. I was on my way towards Mumbai.
The winding roads of NH4 from Pune to Mumbai are excellent to ride on. However, riding here in the dark is a tad tiresome. For one, the roads are not wide enough; you wouldn’t believe it’s a national highway. Secondly, it’s partially a ghat section. And most importantly, you never know where the road joins the Pune-Mumbai expressway and exits it (two-wheelers are not allowed to travel on this expressway).
I passed through Lonavala at around 7:30 PM and stopped for a small break after I’d crossed it.
I’m not sure where exactly I took the diversion after here, but my mistake ended up with me being on the Pune-Mumbai expressway (and not NH4) with no exit in sight. The funny thing was I didn’t know where I was then. I just kept on riding.
On this expressway, trucks, trailers, and lorries flash past you like supercars on a race track. Just imagine a fully loaded trailer going past you at around 160kmph+ speed.
Damn. That’s the only word I could muster up then.
My fuel indicator was blinking, again. I just hoped that I didn’t run out of fuel out here on the expressway (a road where a two-wheeler is not supposed to be in the first place). Thankfully, I found a fuel station just before the next toll exit.
After refueling at around 8:00 PM, I moved towards the toll exit.
To my surprise, all of the toll lanes (or booths) were marked for LMVs (cars and such), HMVs (trucks and lorries), and trailers. No lane for a two-wheeler. No sight of an exempted vehicles lane, which is what I’d been passing through at all the other toll gates throughout my ride.
There was an exit to NH4 though, and this exit didn’t have any toll gate; just barricades put up with a small gap for vehicles to pass through. I realized now (though not exactly sure) that I was on the wrong road.
As soon as I passed through the barricades I was stopped by a cop. A lone ranger standing in darkness, with just one intention. Can you guess what that is?
He asked for my documents, and I showed him that. He then asked me more details about where I was coming from, and I told him. He asked me where I was going to, I told him that too. He asked innumerable other details. And when all was said and done, he finally came to the point.
He told me that I was passing through the expressway, and bikes aren’t allowed here. I told him that it was a genuine mistake and apologized.
Moreover, I wasn’t on the expressway anymore and NH4 was just a kilometer away.
He’d have none of it. Finally, I had to pay him the unofficial fine to satiate his pot belly. He would’ve eaten well that night, I presume. My dinner though was far away.
I wasted more than half an hour with this “sensational adventure.” I was back on my way on NH4. I think I rejoined the expressway and exited it a couple more times, but I hardly remember the details now. The roads were too dark and I was just too tired.
All I cared about now was reaching Mumbai as soon as possible. And I did, meandering through Pune-Mumbai traffic for an eternity (at least in my mind). I reached Mumbai at around 9:00 PM.
I took me more than two hours to find my hotel, which was hidden in a road parallel to the main road. I rode almost 30km around it in circles before I found it.
Finally, I checked into my hotel at 11:30 PM. I’d ridden more than 1030km today; it felt good. After a quick shower and a light dinner (milk and dates again), and some reading to dull my senses, I dozed off on my bed.
BNLF – Blog Now, Live Forever – Day 1
I woke up on time, got ready, and headed straight for the event, which was at The Lalit. My roommate arrived the exact moment I was leaving my room. Stayzilla had arranged the stay for all the outstation bloggers and it was on a sharing basis.
The first day of the event was reserved for keynotes by famous personalities (and some not-so-famous ones). I wouldn’t go into the specifics here and bore you, but I’ll just highlight the main points covered.
- Purba Ray – Popular Indian blogger. You can check out her blog A-Musing. It’s kind of funny. Her keynote was good too.
- Anshul Tiwari – Founder of YouthKiAwaaz.com, a news and views blog. A sort of online platform for citizen journalism. They post interesting stuff now and then, but overall, I find it disappointing. The keynote was about how YKA got funded in spite of not following the usual route followed by other content companies (hint: it’s paid content).
- Arnab Ray – Another famous blogger, and now also an author. He’s better known by his online persona Greatbong. I found his presentation interesting. He spoke directly to the audience.
- Christoph Trappe – Content marketing expert. His presentation was highly detailed and lengthy. I can’t summarize everything he said here, but his main suggestion to content creators was to become storytellers rather than just regurgitate information. Just search his name on Google to know more about him.
- Preeti Shenoy – One of the highest selling authors in India. I haven’t read any of her books, but from what I’ve heard, she’s far better than Chetan Bhagat. She looked pretty young for her age. I liked her honest replies to all the questions thrown at her.
- Kannan Gill – The biggest disappointment of the day. He was invited to speak about video blogging, considering he runs one of the most popular Indian YouTube channels (Pretentious Movie Reviews) along with his vlogging partner. Instead, he went on and on about how he wanted to be famous and achieved it. Add in a few sexist jokes, and there we have it, a dud(e). If only this was a stand-up comedy. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
- Jeff Bullas – Another popular internet marketing expert. His keynote felt stretched. I got bored listening to the same old strategies I’ve read a countless time before. Everything was presented brilliantly. I liked his book suggestions, his ideas about perception in content, and aspiration sickness.
- Bruce Dickinson – The star of the day. Everyone waited with their bated breath (at least those of us who knew who he is) for him to arrive. He arrived on the stage in formals, dressed like a proper businessman. I’ve spent countless hours listening to his electrifying voice, and now here was, delivering a keynote about how to build a strong relationship with fans and make your business thrive. It felt kind of strange.
The main takeaway from his speech was 0 + 0 = 1, a strategy to take two seemingly unrelated concepts and make them work (e.g. his passion for music and airplanes made Iron Maiden‘s world tour possible). Everyone liked his presentation.
We were served snacks and lunch between the presentations. It was decent I guess, for a 5-star hotel that is. There was also an after-event party for all the attendees. I was here for only a few minutes. I feel lonely in crowded places. So many humans, very few real connections. I retired after a while to my room.
BNLF – Blog Now, Live Forever – Day 2
…and Mumbai to Pune Motorcycle Ride
Two workshops by Christoph Trappe and Jeff Bullas covered the entire second day of the BNLF event. They were interesting. A Masterchef event was also conducted during the break. By the time both the workshops were finished, the sun had almost set.
After the event, I had a choice to either search for another room in Mumbai and stay for the night, or go to my friend’s place in Pune immediately. I chose the latter.
I bid goodbye to my roommate and a few other people I’d met at the event, put on my riding gear at The Lalit’s parking lot (the guard kept staring at me for obvious reasons), and off I went towards Pune.
The traffic in Mumbai is seriously horrible; Bangalore is heading for the same. It took me two hours to escape the city limits. It was around 8:00 PM by the time I could breathe a sigh of relief. Though, there was still much ground to cover.
Traveling from Mumbai to Pune on NH4 was as confusing as coming from Pune to Mumbai. I don’t know when and how I entered the expressway (yet again, I know), but I did. Thankfully, I found the Lonavala exit before a cop found me. It was 8:50 PM now and I’d covered almost 100km from Mumbai.
I fueled up at 9:42 PM at a gas station about 22km from Pune. It took me a while to find my friend’s place, which is situated in the Amanora Park Town. Finally, I found the place at around 11:30 PM.
My friend’s roommate Abhiram was very helpful in helping me settle down. We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant. I slept well this night.
Rest, Get Bike Serviced, and Explore Pune
My friend Rajendra Shetty arrived early morning from his hometown. We chatted for a while and then slept again. It was almost noon by the time we all woke up. He left for work soon, along with his roommate.
I was left alone, once again.
If you could condense the human race’s future, this place could be it. Tens of thousands of people live in a compact area, but almost no one knows each other, or even a few. It’s just a safe place to be locked up away from everyone else.
I read a few pages on my Kindle, relaxed for a while, and then headed out to get my bike serviced. My rear left indicator had fallen somewhere on the highway. It was essential to get a new one fixed.
Google suggested Platinum Auto at Diamond Baker Lane as the nearest service center. It took some time to find this place, which is hidden in a remote area behind a graveyard.
I got my bike fixed and roamed around the place on foot for a while. With nothing else to do, I entered the nearby graveyard. It was highly crowded. It turned out to be a Christian graveyard.
It was quite a busy place. I walked aimlessly amidst all the graves. Some were decorated brilliantly; most of them were lit up with candles. However, a majority of the graves were left untouched. It felt like they were abandoned. I spent around an hour here, and then I went back to my friend’s room.
I, my friend, and Vinay (my engineering classmate who also works with him) chatted late until midnight. I slept late, but I had to leave early.
Pune to Bangalore – The Journey Continues
I departed at 5:45 AM. My friend Shetty sent me off.
I remember now that the roads for the first 30km or so were especially horrible. I stopped at 6:30 AM to drink water and take the first picture of the day.
Thankfully, the road started to get better after just 5km. One could now say that this was a proper National Highway. The newly laid tar road was superb.
I stopped for fuel at 6:50 AM. The sun was out in its full glory now. The road was getting better and better as the miles crunched by. I just couldn’t stop riding for the next 2.5 hours, in which I’d rode around 160km. My ass was sore as hell, but I kept on moving. Luckily, I had no backaches and muscle cramps.
Also, I was hungry. I didn’t trust any of the hotels I found on the way. So, I kept delaying my breakfast for as long as possible. “I’ll have a brunch instead,” I said to myself.
Finally, I stopped for a thirst break at 9:34 AM. I’d ridden around 200km from Pune. Pretty slow for a 4-hour ride. The bad roads in the beginning really put a dent on my plans, and my mindset.
Fortunately, the four-lane Satara-Kolhapur highway was excellent to ride on, save for the infamous Kolhapur traffic, which I’d also faced a few days earlier.
I had a decent chance to make up for my lost time. I crossed the state border at around 10:30 AM and entered Karnataka. Almost home, I guess, except I was still more than 500km away from my actual home.
I stopped for my second thirst break at 11:06 PM. The NH4 section in Karnataka was even better than that in Maharashtra. The road was almost as smooth as butter. I snapped a few pics and moved on.
At 11:41 AM, I stopped by the Mini Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi, yet again. With the sun right above my head, it was as hot as a furnace under my riding gear. I rested for around 15 minutes here.
I was riding constantly without any breaks and with almost no fuel in my tank, and no food in my stomach. Well, I could go on without the latter, but I had to refuel soon. I found a petrol bunk just 15km before Dharwad.
It was 12:38 PM now. At 1:40 PM I stopped at a milestone which read “Bangalore – 375km.” Assuming the sun would set by 6:30 PM, I had almost 5 hours to cover the remaining distance. Maintaining an average speed of 75km was pretty doable, but it would be very tiring.
I decided not to eat anything for the rest of the journey. Though, I planned to stop for a quick refresher if I spotted coconuts along the highway; I never did.
It started to rain heavily at around 2:00 PM. I put all my valuables in a zip lock pouch and covered my rear luggage with a rain cover. Unfortunately, I was going so fast that the rain cover flew away (maybe I didn’t tie it properly).
The rain stopped after a few minutes of slow riding.
After this came the biggest setback of my ride. My bike’s silencer was cut exactly in the middle. Though I’d noticed that something was rattling, I didn’t realize this for the next 100km or so.
That’s the consequence of riding so hard for such a long distance. It heats up the entire engine and exhaust system beyond their capabilities. With the rain water cooling it down, and the engine’s exhaust heating it again, it creates pressure points that just give up after a while.
Anyway, I kept on riding. The rattling and occasional misfiring didn’t bother me much. I just wanted to get back to home as soon as possible.
I refueled my bike for the last time at 5:04 PM. Bangalore was still more than 200km away. My plan now was to reach the city’s outskirts before sunset.
The dark clouds up ahead didn’t look promising. Almost every time I’m coming back to Bangalore from a ride, I somehow seem to bring the rains along with me. It doesn’t matter which direction I’m coming from. It’s almost always the same. I’ve got used to coming back home drenched and shivering.
As predicted, the heavy downpour started just after crossing Tumakuru. My bike’s silencer was ratcheting feverishly now. The misfiring had also become louder and more frequent, especially when I was decelerating. I didn’t stop anywhere though.
I realized it much later that my exhaust’s gasket had detached from the engine exhaust port; practically, my bike was running without a silencer.
The rain become even more violent just before Nelamangala, and it lashed with the same intensity until I reached Bangalore. It subsided a bit after I reached Yeshwantpur at around 7:00 PM.
The traffic here was horrid as usual – FML. It took me more than an hour to reach my home. Even the usually tranquil Siddapura Road (beside Lalbagh) had a traffic jam right up to Madhavan Park.
I had a bad cold, mild fever, a rash throat, shivering, and a myriad of other unexplainable conditions. Moreover, I hadn’t eaten anything for the entire day. The last 15km of the journey was more hectic than the 150km before it.
I reached home at 8:10 PM. I unloaded my luggage, took bath, had dinner, and slept. If at all there’s a heaven, it felt like it must be where I was now. Plus, it was real.