Photo & Story By – Uday Krishna Peddireddi
So my free stays were getting lapsed… that’s wasn’t a good feeling. A quick check on what could be a possible destination ends up in spotting Ganapathipule… and Google shows glimpses of a heaven on earth and the yearn to visit grows. The adding factor was the availability of the room.. so a free stay in heaven by a Bike ride was fuel enough to rope in my partner Murali Krishna..
A few quick inputs from friends on the best possible route ended up on finalizing Hyd-Solapur-Pandharpur-Satara-Chiplun-Sangameshwar-Ganapathipule as the best route 692 kms with ETA around 7pm max.
17th Aug morning 5 am at BHEL Gate was t
he start point and we were there on time.. and after a quick discussion we started off… It was a beautiful monsoon morning and the cloudy skies were a treat to watch. Perfect weather but a Highway under construction took us almost 7 hours to get to Solapur. Our estimate was about 5 hours… so we were about 2 hours behind schedule by afternoon. As a policy, I hit the gas when the roads are good no matter if we had the time or not.. however this time I wasn’t travelling alone.
We went on to reach Mohol about 35 Kms past Solapur and a quick lunch at a roadside hotel saw us get a much needed break. We were in Mohol from where we get off the NH9 and head towards Pandharpur. We had plans of stopping at the famous Pandharpur temple but since we had another 300 odd kms to go we decided to give it a pass.
We were on SH 204. The road was opening up into the interiors of Maharashtra and all that I had read about Maharashtra in the Monsoons was coming true. The scenery was astonishing. We ran into some windmills, right next to the highway and we couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. We rode upto one of the Windmills and a photo shoot followed. It was about 3.30 pm and the sunlight was . After a few pictures we started off again realizing we were still quiet far off form the destination.
We both were riding the Triumph Tiger XCX.. an SUV of bikes and they were handling simply superb. The best part was these are off roaders too and by then a feeling had come in that riding in India was as good as offroading. Coming back to the Scenic beauty.. Maharashtra turns into a land of Magic in Monsoons. It was green everywhere. The kind of green you don’t see elsewhere. Have read about this for years and finally here I was in the heartland of Maharashtra and in mid monsoon and was thoroughly enjoying it and to experience this with the freedom that comes from riding a super bike added to the kick. It was about 4.30 and we needed a tea break.
We stopped by a small tea stall in a little village. The tea turned out to be the best Ive had in recent times! Simply awesome. We head on keeping in mind the distance yet to be covered and not knowing that the actual ride was about to begin… that too after covering 500+kms!!
Somewhere between Pandharpur and Umbraj I saw a valley and a little dirt road leading to it. This looked like a perfect spot for some pictures. Even though we were behind schedule, the setting sunlight coupled with the scenic beauty of the location was enough to hit the brakes. A photographer that I was had made it a point to stop no matter what when I came across a good photo opp..
I had lost hundreds of such opportunities over the years all in the hurry to reach the destination. After many road trips I did realise that the journey was the destination.. so I enjoy every moment of it as it unfolds. A little off road ride took us to a valley and a few manmade water bodies.. the pictures that emerged were stunning. Was I glad for stopping!! By this time we had another 180kms to go and after spending about 40 mins taking pictures, we started off again.. it was after just a few kms that a ghat section began and the road condition worsened. Potholes by the hundreds.. some 1.5 feet deep or more were hitting on the tires relentlessly.
The Tiger XCX comes with spoked wheels and tube tyres and getting a flat fixed is a challenge… and while venturing into the country side.. the challenge is multifold. There were two options to convert the wheels to tubeless. One was the expensive route.. buy new tubeless rims by shelling out a bomb and the second was to apply a treatment and use the same rims to convert to tubeless. The latter was the obvious choice… whats the harm? So a couple of days before heading out on the trip I convert my existing rims into tubeless.. and picked up a manual pump as the electronic ones sometimes fail at the right moment. I carried along the removed tubes.. just in case the tubeless treatment fails.. I could always shift to the tube option. The best part was I forgot the tubeless puncture kit.. now why am I writing all of this? Did I end up with a flat tyre? Nope.. this was on the back of my mind constantly as the road condition headed south.
By 6.30 pm it was completely dark and the ghat section never seemed to end and we were riding the bike standing upright for most of the Ghat section… initially I was trying to count the bends.. but after 40 something I gave up. They don’t seem to end and the potholes were multiplying and their size and depth increasing. This was one of the worst roads Ive travelled for a while. It remembered me a trip to Pachmari in the early 2000’s where the situation was quiet similar. A few more kilometers and the challenge multiplied.. it started raining.. it was a downpour.. or was it a cloud burst? We decided to continue riding.
By 11pm! we had about 80kms more and Murali was exhausted and wanted to break the journey. We were on the road for 18 hours now.. including the 45 mins lunch break. All the excitement of the ride seemed to have worn off and we were desperately looking for a place to stay so that we could get up early morning and reach Ganapathipule.
Our destination hotel was informed ahead of our late arrival but we did not mention how late. We ordered for a hot cup of tea and enquired for a room. The place had one but non AC and also at 11pm there was no power and no generator back up.. on enquiring for the next best option we were told to go a few more kilometers further upto Aravalli for a better stay option. So with heavy feet and soaked suit we rode on. Kilometer after kilometer.. lodge after lodge… we were refused a room.. by then it was about 12:30 in the night and we had another 50 odd Kms.
Murali looked exhausted and I was hoping to go on as we had wasted almost an hour trying to get a room in the middle of a forest at midnight in a heavy downpour and the possibility of getting a room was looking difficult. After taking stock of the situation it was decided to carry on to Ganapathipule. We were told by the locals about a shortcut with excellent road but right through middle of nowhere. Should we take it? Lets see… we were cautioned that if something were to go wrong there wont be any help available till next afternoon. In the darkness, downpour we come across a small signage which we almost missed. It read 31 Kms to Ganapathipule.
In the exhaustion we decided to take the road assuming this to be the forbidden road through no mans land. The road was good and we did come across a few vehicles which were a comforting factor. The bikes held on and we managed to reach Ganapathipule by 2:20am. We were on the road for 22 hours now and had just finished one hell of a ride to reach a Heaven called Ganapathipule….
This ride will go down as the most enduring one for me till date. Never did 692 Kms take me 22 hours to reach but here I was with Murali with whom this was my first ride and what a ride it turned out to be… 21 hours through hell… to reach heaven.