Ride to Lonar

Posted: by Pulsurge in Labels: ,
1

Riders:
Sanket, Parimal, Prasad, Naijo, Deepak

The Route:
Mumbai- Lonavla- Chakan- Shikrapur-Ahmednagar- Jalna- Lonar- Buldhana- Aurangabad- Ajanta- Ellora- Mumbai.

Distance covered:
1310 kms

Though I was never a brilliant science student, astronomy always fascinated me. I love sleeping out in the open if I am out of town, just for the simple reason to star-stare on a dark night. I still remember my school days when I used to pull out books either related to astronomy or the Paleo age. So, just over a year ago, I came across this place called Lonar Crater situated somewhere in central Maharashtra. More amazing than its shape, I was excited to know that it was formed some 55,000 years ago. Now who wants to miss out on something that is so so primordial? Hence this place was always on the front page of my riding books. I had been thinking about this since last year and I remember discussing it with Kapil- but nothing came out of it. I had my eye on 26th of January that was on Friday, so I could have begged for a leave on Saturday that would give me 3 days for a ride. Lonar though being on the priority list was still further down owing to the pre-planned ride to Mandu in MP. Not quite sure as to whether to call it a fortunate or an unfortunate piece of info- I came to know that roads in MP as they are well-known for, were in bad shape. Still I was reluctant to cancel plans for Mandu and wanted to ride. But then suddenly Lonar came to my mind and the plan I had discussed with Kapil struck. Being in close proximity to Aurangabad, we could explore the ancient architecture of Ajanta and Ellora caves too. So a final stamp of approval on the plan and Lonar it was going to be.

Going by experience, I never had enough people for company on any of the overnight trip except a bare few. So instead of first posting on the group, I rolled open the plan to Kapil, Apoorva, Glen, Sanket, Parimal, Vinod and Revel. I was sure these guys if not strapped on with some commitment would always turn up. Luckily I found Prasad during a meet at Reclamation and he was in, right from the word go. Vinod as usual in a hurry mood wanted the plan to be up 10 days before the ride. But I rather at my own pace composed it and put across to these people.

Unfortunately Kapil could not make it coz of his Hyderabad ride and Apoo had his relatives coming home after long. Glen was tentative as he would be flying to Netherlands at any point of time. Revel couldn’t join as I couldn’t get a bike for him and it would have been a torture to be seated as pillion for close to 600 kms one way. That left 4 riders for company- with Mr. Lone Ranger aka Purushottam (Naijo) joining in at the very last moment, so that made it 6 to Samba. Did have some more people from other forums interested, but I was never confident of them turning up, which turned out to be true. Sanket, Parimal and Prasad were too excited and were eagerly counting the days out, not to mention having sleepless nights. Everyone with their leaves sanctioned and waiting for the dawn of the Republic day. Am sure it would have been one of the longest nights for these three to pass, but finally 26th was here.

As planned to meet up at 5.00 a.m. at Palm beach and I wished someone was there to witness history- I turned up at Vashi, not on time, but before. Though this time I was at the waiting end, it was past 5 and no sight of anyone. Vinod got a taste of how Raikkonen would have felt at Nurburgring retiring on the last lap after being at pole. Poor chap had made all the arrangements for the ride and his neighbour expires on late 25th night. He called up conveying his inability to turn up. I was utterly disappointed with the news as he is always a great rider to be on a trip. The ride had to go on, and after some moments the rest 4 arrive. Plans of leaving at 5.15 goes into the dustbin and we leave Palm Beach at 6.00 a.m. I couldn’t even maintain a speed of 80 kph speed as Naijo wasn’t comfortable with the new helmet riding in dark. Taking the wonderful JNPT Panvel bypass for Datta snacks at Panvel - our first decided halt for some breakfast, but one cannot expect to jump upon hot snacks before 7 in the morning? It wasn’t up yet. So the day started with a hot cutting chai, not before Prasad digging his foot into a pool of muck :P

No breakfast made us cancel plans of skipping Lonavla for a halt. The sun hits from below the horizon scattering a mild glow of light all over. That’s what I was waiting for - a twist on the accelerator to take the needle to at least 80 kph. Glance in the rear view mirror to see everyone’s comfortable with the speed. Empty roads, mild light, cool breeze and everyone riding in near-perfect harmony- that’s group riding at its best. In no time we pass Khopoli before zig-zagging our way through Khandala and to a gobble-halt at RK’s Lonavla. Replace my original drained out battery with Sanket’s, but luckily it was charged enough for the ES to crank up the engine. We all do crank up and are out on the road again.

Next lookout was for a diversion for Chakan- but this time the riding discipline takes a crack. My vibrating, loose and super-aerodynamic right RVM (rear view mirror) made me lose sight of everyone except Parimal. Naijo got left behind in the process of attending a phone call. A left diversion and we head towards Chakan- I adjust my RVM only to find Parimal and Prasad behind.
Minutes later Sanket comes fuming towards me- no excuses, had to take all the firing. Riding carries on before taking a halt again – Naijo for an oil change and myself for front wheel air pressure.
Doesn’t take long and we hit the road passing through some nice occasional curves, with rumbler strips spoiling the fun somewhat- never expected a speed breaker to be at the end of a curve. We pass through Bajaj’s Chakan plant wishing for a visit if invited. Reach Shikrapur and take left for Ahmednagar with some nice cruising along the four lane highway. Our dry throats force us to take a small halt for water at Shirur, just before the Ghod river. Curious about the river and the bridge, I head towards it for a snap.
20 minutes later, on our bikes and decide not to stop before we reach Ahmednagar.

Roads were good enough to cruise along with a bit of traffic and irate car drivers annoying us. A crowd of pedestrians and vehicles hints at us reaching Ahmednagar. We take a halt again for tea at a restaurant without getting in. Just laze outside sipping on some good tea. We were already running some 2 hours behind schedule and decide to catch up on time on the way to Aurangabad. Just one stop in between and we reach Aurangabad. The stuff that went in was digested long back and our stomachs were crying out for food. Memories of our Saputara ride came alive- remembered Dharampur where we were hunting around for a restaurant and couldn’t find any. But this time luckily we did find one, and I believe that was the only one around. The other four enjoyed forcing them over some good chicken, while I satisfied myself with some veggie items. Full and satisfied we head to our next destination Jalna.

Everyone goes ahead with me riding with Sanket. A scooty chap suddenly brakes on a good wide open road, only god and he knows the reason. Sanket right behind him brakes hard to avoid impact, but an Omni not efficient enough to stop and….. BANG- he’s onto the rear of Sanket’s 180. Thankfully nothing major to be worried about except an out of shape number plate and we’re on our w
ay again. Now I start developing some doubts as if we’re heading in the right direction. I stop for direction enquiries and we have a mob of people around us with each and everyone showing us a different way. Everyone of us embarrassed immediately leave the place and decide to stop some distance ahead to escape the crowd and refer to the map. Looking at the map, we are assured that we’re into the right direction. The distances we referred to from the net, turned out to be all wrong. Ask a local taxi driver for reliable info and directions to Lonar.
Take left just before hitting Jalna town, stopover for refuel again asking for directions from the bunk manager. Now his info puts us in a deep worry. Lonar is actually very far than we had thought of. It was dark already, with Sanket not comfortable riding in the dark. But we all decide that we would be heading for Lonar, no matter the amount of time it takes. Now it was completely dark and we had to be alert so as not to lose any important diversion. Apprehension creeped in and we decided to halt again at a roadside restaurant for some tea.
The break helped everyone recollect a bit and we were somewhat relaxed. Now the apprehension turned into pleasure, complete darkness with our electricals the only source of light on the road. Stars in millions and the half lit moon being visible in all its grandeur. Suddenly Parimal stops- and guess what do we have here, A PUNCTURE!!! Pirellis being tubeless didnt help much at that moment as they were running on rims. The puncture repair we came across was at the restaurant we had stopped over and by a rough idea it was some 10-15 kms back. Had no option, we couldn’t see a tiny dot of light for miles ahead. Pushing the bike would have been a silly option, losing out on energy and time. So we decided to detach the wheel and take it back. Met two guys from Inddiethumpers returning from Rider Mania, Nagpur. Enquired about Ishtiaque to find him coming by some different route. There was nothing they could help us out with and left. The tyre was out of the swingarm, Prasad riding and me holding the wheel as a pillion started on our way. But luckily we found a puncture shop just a km back, which we missed out on the way. Finished off fixing the tyre with F1 crew like speed and we’re back into momentum.

Now it was decided not to stop anywhere till Lonar- but all the bad luck was on Parimal’s side - the headlight on his silver 180 goes blank. Dark road, no headlight, his head covered with a brand new GPR helmet with a mercury-tinted visor. He’s a blind man now- cannot lift the visor up and ride, or else he already would have had enough insects for dinner :P We found a tea stall and Prasad fixed up his magnetic-charging torch on the handlebar to provide whatever light it could provide- still it wasn’t sufficient enough. Naijo and I started riding besides Parimal to share the lights of our bikes with him. Rolling for some distance we finally reach Lonar at 11.30 in the night. Meet up with three more guys from Inddiethumpers- one by the name of Sarabjeet, BombayPulsar’s ex-member- he had a 180 earlier and now a roaring 500. Very soft spoken people- totally contrast to what we think about their attitude. Called Ishtiaque to know he was some 150 kms from the place with his bike broke-down. Dinner was being readied, the other three continued chatting and in the meanwhile Prasad and I hunt out for the MTDC resort. Lost in the middle of nowhere we return back. No rooms were available at any place. We decide to have dinner and leave the overnight halt thoughts for later. Everyone’s through- Parimal goes with Sarabjeet to check out his 500 and returns back thoroughly impressed. That was just revving the bike, forget riding. Parimal always had a big dislike for Bullets, but then a Bullet is something you can either love or hate, but just cannot ignore. So here it was- start of a romantic chapter between him and a thumper. Just yesterday night I came to know that he had been to a Royal Enfield Showroom :D

So then we needed a place to spend overnight. We take to the same road where Prasad and I took earlier. Ride and ride and ride with the road never seeming to end, with us having no idea of where we were heading. We had enough of it and decide to take a U-turn. I remember a drunk fellow showing us directions to the MTDC resort, which Prasad and I thought to be nonsense, but then correct he was as I recollected passing a sign board that pointed Lonar Crater to the right. So we find our road and in 5 minutes we are at the edge of the crater. We park our bikes and stroll around to find someone whom we can ask for a room. It was 1.30 in the night, but fortunately found someone snoring away from a window grille. The place we thought of an MTDC resort was actually a Government rest house, this we realized next morning. Struck a deal for 200 bucks for a night’s stay. I was quite excited as I had been dreaming of seeing Lonar since more than one year now. I go out again and try hard to see how it looks like, but darkness had it covered. Went to sleep planning to get up early to have a satisfying sight of the crater.

Alarm was set and I was up at 06.30 in the morning excited to have a glance of the crater at the first ray of light. My sleepy eyes opened up wide- and boy, wasn’t it an amazing sight? This was a hell lot bigger than what I had thought of- I just stared and stared and stared. Clicked some snaps around with Naijo joining me to trek down the crater only to reach halfway with no further path leading downwards and we return back. Everyone gets fresh with a hot bath and tea and I bid a warm good bye to Lonar. This time no confusions about the route, just keep riding with known directions until we reach Chikhli for breakfast. Tasty hot aloo parathas with curd and we’re off towards Buldhana.

Passing through some bad roads, Prasad tells me there’s some noise coming everytime he gets on the rear brake. Thinking its just the brake pads, we move ahead. Not comfortable, he couldn’t take it any longer. He gets down and asks me to take a test ride. Every hair on my body stands up, I find that the rear axle on his Unicorn is almost off the rear swingarm. After trying hard for a fix, we find a temporary solution consisting of some washers and a bolt that didn’t look like a bolt from any angle. Luckily we find the perfect match after riding carefully for some 10 kms. Parimal and Naijo had reached Ajanta waiting for us, we caught up speed passing through some great roads and the awesome ghat section till Ajanta. Vehicle aren’t allowed at the caves to keep the pollution out, MTDC provides CNG buses till the spot. Searched around for these two but couldn’t, cell out of coverage- maybe they already are at the caves. We reach Ajanta again not to find them anywhere. Dump our luggage in the cloak room enquiring with the attendant of the other two seeing their helmets there. They were already up at the caves. So we hurry up and in haste leave the tickets behind. Repurchasing was a better option rather than to run down again to the cloakroom. Sanket and Prasad are tired and not interested enough to see the caves. It was already 05:05 pm with the doors being closed in the next 25 minutes. I set myself up for the complete exploration and not missing out any corner of the wonderful place to which I succeed.
It was simply fantastic, the hammer and chisels of those artisans would put the modern machineries to shame for carving out such mind blowing structures. On our way back we catch up with the rest two. On a lighter note, Prasad poses on the drivers seat in the bus with helmet on. Finally we’re near our bikes and ready to ride off to Aurangabad. I somehow manage to fiddle with the wires on Parimal’s bike getting back his headlight to work. Though it did go out of order again, but this time I was able to locate where the real problem was.

Our overnight rest was at Prasad’s relative’s place. The gentlemen was more than happy to see us and though not much into biking, we went on discussing bikes into eternity. The night passed in good sleep and we were up early to leave for Ellora and site seeing Bibi-ka-Maqbara along the way. A group snap for a click before we bid good bye to the family.
We lost direction on our way to find we were heading opposite to where we were intended to go. Later on the right track taking a U-turn and reaching Bibi-ka-Maqbara pretty quick. Resembles very much to the Taj Mahal though nowhere close to one of the magnificient wonders of the world. Didn’t spend much time there- just went around for a casual sight see and I tried to click it from most angles I could. Next stop Ellora- we’re off.
On the way to Ellora, we stop over for breakfast at the well-known Fauji Dhaba. Aloo parathas for the second time running. Nonetheless they were quite a treat.
We were quite close to Ellora and had a glance at Daulatabad fort which was in our ride plan, but no way we could have made it in time. Again in no time, we’re at Ellora- dump the luggage at a restaurant @ Rs.15/- per person. I had to do all the clicking and I split from the group. It was already 1 pm and it was decided that we get back by 2. I spent almost 1 hour in cave no. 16- it was that stunning.
The amazing fact that it was carved out of a single block of a mountain rock- just unbelievable. These people came back to the parking lot waiting for me.
The beauty of the place made me forget to see the watch and I proceeded towards the other caves. There were 34 in all- I wish I could have covered them too.
But then a glance at my watch made me retreat. I had explored everything till cave no. 29. Came back to find others totally annoyed at me- I apologized and we started our way back home. Naijo decided to ride to Shirdi and broke off with us at the Ahmednagar highway diversion. We took the bypass to Aurangabad which was in a total mess till we hit the highway again. Having lost a lot of time, we planned to cover as much distance as we could without stopping. Some 175 kms of non stop riding in quick time before everyone started feeling thirsty.
The sun started getting close to the horizon and my horns and indicators had stopped working suddenly. Checked on the fuse to find out the battery water spoil the wire completely. I did manage to rectify it and we were off again. Meanwhile got a call from Naijo that he had reached Shirdi.

Darkness descended, traffic started increasing with all of us getting worried for Sanket. Tried to give him maximum cover possible in traffic and in the ghats. A small nap after getting through the traffic before finally taking our last scheduled halt at Chakan for dinner. Everyone was done in half an hour, but with dinner going in and everyone tired with not enough proper sleep for the past couple of days- the dreaded situation of falling asleep on the bike got in. For a few seconds on different occasions, everyone had fallen asleep. Having realized this on their part, everyone stopped at one place to freshen up- luckily found a chai-wala. Felt better after a hot sip.
We carried along through Lonavla cautiously before taking a halt again at Khopoli- after which it was a continuous cruise till Palm Beach Vashi. So three days of togetherness and the biking camaraderie had to come to an end. We thanked each other for the wonderful company and seeking much more of such riding experiences soon. I took straight to Thane while others took left from Vashi. Everyone home- just dying to get their backs flat on the bed but only after a confirmatory and acknowledgement sms for a wonderful time we had in those three days.

A great ride it was, ingredients of everything one wants, including the puncture on a dark night at an unknown place. Those three days gave us a feeling that we had been riding for a month now. Thanks to everyone for making it an absolute memento for years to come and to people at this point of time for reading such a long log. Sorry guys cant help it, I know I write too long :P

Check out the pics HERE

1 comments:

  1. dd says:

    The only single sentense I would write to you "I have added this blog to my favorites"....so please keep riding and writing.

    Regards,
    Dhananjay