A random thought, a longing desire, a traveller’s dream: winding roads and a ruling the asphalt with rubber. If you are a traveller, a rider, a nature lover, you always want a chance, a reason to get out and adore the enthralling beauty. Live amidst the nature and gulp its beauty down the soul. Face the winds, the rough terrain, drag the mountain and conquer the peak. I did it. I did all of it and much more. Touched the heavens, met the cry inside me, alienated self, conquered my fears, I lived.
I just had to do it. I was dying to ride, experience the thrill, and empty my adrenalin, and burn the rubber, fly, And RIDE. I received a blessing and I caught it with the force the winds hit me. It was a 120kms journey on the very coveted trip in the Sahyadri Mountains, those Ghats I had only witnessed through the window pane of the AC bus and a few pictures. Now was the time to experience it with a bare nature. Two major cities in the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai and Pune, connected via an Expressway, curling between the Ghats. My stuff was loaded on a black stallion, a 220cc Bajaj Avenger with all the horses roaring high. There I was, all set to conquer and carried some fear inside me, a fear I had been holding since long, a fear I had to conquer: Me. A few prayers and a lot of guts, I set out. Nerul, Navi Mumbai to Kothrud, Pune.
The evening had masked the surrounding in a light closer to darkness and the calm before the storm (literally). In the very first 10kms of the ride, the rain clouds overwhelmed over me, making me dripping wet in the emotion. With not even the city crossed and a tank longing for some fuel to satisfy the thirst, I faced the very first hurdle. To cross it meant finding a petrol pump and let the bike have its share of liquid. A slippery, muddy, rocky path with heavy vehicles around, I managed to reach the petrol station a few heavy meters away from the highway. With a little exercise with the wallet in the dripping wet condition and a half full tank of shining liquid I left the place with a little content inside me.
Getting outside the city limit was another task, which took a lot of time of accomplish. The expressway as mentioned in the rulebook was meant for heavy vehicles and two wheelers were strictly not allowed on it. So it was time to take the State Highway numbered as 4 on the Nokia Map I was referring to. Officially the journey began when I actually felt I had hit the highway. Green all around me, black strip ahead of me, and a colourful sky above! It was the first time I was travelling on a bike all by myself with slight issues in the machine. It made me a little scary as well, but the excitement took over.
As I got ahead, the huge and beautiful mountains glittered in my vision with snake-like asphalt trails on it. A huge flow of adrenaline gushed in my nerves and I revved up the road. In just a few minutes, the glory showered us in a huge magnitude of raindrops, hitting the skin, the soul inside. Quickly I halted to cover up my body with a raincoat and be ready to face the unexpected wrath. The drops began to tear the sky and fall with a bigger company slashing every being on the path. The force only made the breathing heavy and let a little more fear creep inside. As I began the upward journey, it began to get darker and the rain got heavy, quite enough to scare my insides.
I had a small halt at the Tata Power station. What a beautiful view from that spot! I grazed more, fuelling the horses at a steady pace, with an autowalla driving past me. Now there is a certain point on the mountain where the State Highway and the Express Highway meet. This is a place where anyone can get lost, anyone, including me. The expressway has a significant colour to its roadside borders, a band of yellow and blue. If you are driving beside one, it is no harm to conclude you are on the Expressway. The heavens wanted me to, and I was on it! The rain had left no soul left to ask directions to and all that was ahead was the road. The rain kept on increasing its volume and force and on one corner turn I noticed a small hut, a chaiwalla, and a hope rose in my heart. I just slowed down and hoping to get a nice sip of tea in the heavy downpour. The dripping wet body was expecting a little warmth but was subtly let down by the man who quietly said he ran out of tea. Highly disappointing. The next phase began, fear in my heart and power in my wrists, and a determination to break this hurdle. A little music in my ears helped to take my mind off the hell I was going through. Prayers inside the throbbing heart and search for hope in the eye are all that I can remember. I knew this was going to be terrible, but I had made my mind, I was going to get through.
All around me where huge vehicles, SUVs, Trucks, mostly carrying those huge containers and the most dense rainfall I ever had witnessed. With near zero visibility and scary fast vehicles, this joyride had now become an endurance test. The Ghats had a few tunnels which provided a little shelter from the rain, but the condition was you cannot stop in between and the minimum speed to be maintained was 80kmph. Also, the magnitude of the terror was realized when I could actually see the size of the vehicles around, and among them was this puny motorbike. Each of this moment was filled with fear and a thankful soul being reminded of how awesome and fearful the Almighty Father was. That expanse on the top of the Ghats filled the heart with the light of the creative and destructive powers of the heaven. The transition from the tunnel to the open weather was so quick that the body shivered with amount of rain crashing all over the body. I so well remember that one moment when a white Toyota Innova ran past me and splashed water all over my entity with some of it making a way through the raincoat and over my chest. Chilling!!!! Filled with rage, I yelled out a few foul words to that insensitive driver.
As the road continued with all its twists and turns with literally rivers flowing on that asphalt, I gave a few glances to the highway police posts only to find no bloody man there. It was getting dark, time flying, and now a pursuit began, to catch the city. I throttled more and reach the highest ‘safe’ speed I could. The heart felt a little light after the Ghats end and the straight road became visible. That stretch was like another 40kms. I slowly started losing myself, the chill inside the body, mind filled with the scary moments from the mountains and a steady body started to give in to fatigue. There were moments when I wanted to talk it out to someone and the moment not allowing that to happen, made screams to escape my throat. Those moments still move my very core, unable to express myself, screaming was the only option left. At least that got a little warmth in the upper body which was trembling with the cold. Shouting gushed blood in my head and jaws and the lungs felt a little free from the ribcage that had been dominating the internals. After a little stretch I suddenly felt if I drove more, I’m sure to lose control of the speeding vehicle. Gently pausing to the left the disc brakes worked well on the slippery path and the machine halted. I got off the bike in the fastest stroke like it had been eating me. I shrugged myself; let every emotion drain away like the water from the entire flesh.
That once small moment and eliminating the fluids holding in and on my body made themselves one with the streams flowing off the road. I was near to the city. Some 40 kms more were left to be burned. I was dripping wet, exhausted, scared and had huge amounts of adrenaline gushing through my glands. The mind pushed the body back on the bike and I again roared the engine to 70-80kmph. The city lights welcomed me soon and some peace reigned inside the heart. Soon I reached the toll post and the guy there was shocked to see me driving on a two wheeler (which aren’t allowed) on the Expressway. I told him I was lost and he asked me to take to the left on the State Highway. Buzzing ahead in the darkness between mountains the road was still confusing. It added to my fears already breeding inside. Heaven’s grace shined and a couple of men guided me to the right path and I set off. I was the darkest patch I’ve witnessed at 8pm, lone roads, daunting surroundings, it was depressing. Soon I found myself connected on the State Highway and took of the known path from there. Zooming past men, machines and wandering cattle, the road felt like an acquaintance.
One of my favourite spots on the road arrived, an intersection which had two ways, one to the suburb of Aundh and other to the suburb of Kothrud, where I had to go. That place also had a tea stall and my insides were screaming for a cup of that hot liquid! I stalled near it, shrugged all the left over water over me, and walking between faces staring me; I reached the stall and satisfied the want for tea. It was then; I called up my friends in Mumbai and told them I was about to reach and safe till now. The city was all dry with no sign of a rain cloud over it, with me drenched in the spell on the Ghats! I continued again, bit refreshed and with a clean and less scary road ahead, I pondered over all that happened in the past few hours. It was exalting. With a less traffic of thoughts inside the mind, I calmly reached my resting place. Carrying the water from the mountain top all over me, I entered the room, changed, and dozed off!
When I think over it, it sure blew me, tested my spirit, mind and body, but it gave me a story to tell. A story which has just been completed, it was an experience of a lifetime. I won’t be able to have those moments again, and frankly I don’t want to go back to that situation. Maybe, I cleared a level of life; I reached higher state of being in that entire journey. Something better and bigger waits for me. It was a great lesson; the hardest times surely teach you a lot!