September, 2011


Primarily, of course, this was a business trip to Bangalore, with a side trip to Chennai.  But, there's nothing to say you cannot insert a short vacation for a motorcycle ride.


The underground walkway to Terminal 1 of Chicago O'Hare has always been impressive. Nice job, United.



Landing at Frankfurt, and then waiting for the continuation to Bangalore and an inconvenient arrival well after midnight.



The Gateway Hotel is a good one. Each day housekeeping left a different design using towels. I think this has something to do with two birds and a nest.


The Royal Enfield 350cc Bullet was delivered the next day by Nana and Shekar. Without their efforts (and I can only imagine the problems they had to work through), there would have been no ride at all. Many, many thanks! 

The ride into the office. Of course, a driver always took care of me, although I would encounter just a bit of Bangalore traffic on my own, later on.


That evening I had a chance to walk around a bit. Bangalore is a large city by population, but it isn't all that big by area. You can cover much of it on foot.



The city bus transfer station is a busy, busy place. You had better look twice before stepping in front of a bus that's starting on its rounds.

Early on, there was a day-trip to the east coast and Chennai (at the IIT-Madras university campus).


The campus grounds have been kept natural--including the native deer.  From the campus grounds, you would have no idea of the chaos that is just over the wall.


Some old and impressive trees.


That's Manivasagam and me in front of a Hawker Sea Hawk.


Back in Bangalore the next day, and the morning drive to work. This is the so-called pipeline road, which I suspect was never intended to be a real road at all. But, while the main highway is horribly constricted due to road construction, the drivers of Bangalore will always find a way.


Various scenes along the way.



The Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc motorcycle puts out all of 18 horsepower (on a good day). The 500cc engine does a little better, but you won't see many of those in India. This version of the motorcycle dates from a 1955 contract from the English Royal Enfield company to build motorcycles for the India military. It has been made in India since then and little changed until 2007 when there was a significant re-design of the engine (it's all new). I'd be riding a pre-2007 model with all the quirks and character that make the Bullet so beloved by so many riders all over the world.

My plan was to do whatever it took to escape the mad traffic of Bangalore as quickly as possible. It turns out that I missed my expected turn, but that's also expected. Certainly, I would miss many more before this trip was done.

National Highway 7 is a toll road.

I realized quickly enough that National Highway 7 was no fun at all. At the first chance, I took any road that seemed to be heading west. Other than that, it didn't matter to me which road I took.

Note: Frequently, I had no real idea of the name of any town I was in. As often as not, if the name was even on a sign, the sign was written in Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ) or Tamil (தமிழ்).  I'll make an attempt in this report at a name, but chances are pretty good that I'll be wrong.

Along state highway 17, this is (possibly) the town of Sanamavu.

I would occasionally ask for directions, but in most every case, it wasn't of much practical use.


It was very nice to finally be away from the horrible congestion of Bangalore and the craziness of National Highway 7.

This would be typical of a 'very good road.' Some patches, but overall, nothing to worry about.

This style of water tower is fairly common in all the smaller towns.

Signs. You can see what I'm up against. At least the numbers (distances) are meaningful.


I didn't see many tractors being used, but for the small size of fields being worked, this is probably the best way.

Interesting rock formations like this one are common in the area. Some had temples at the top.

By this time, I had ridden off the detail of my map. You can expect the pavement to mostly end within the village limits, but to resume on the other side.


I saw several barriers such as this one. None ever stopped me.

I'm riding towards Urigam. My hope is that the road will remain paved beyond that town. See that large rock in the photograph (below)?  Notice the temple at its base. That would not be an easy trek.


Climbing over the hill west of Anchetty. This particular village doesn't show even on Google maps.


If you follow the road south of Urigam, you will come to the village of Kottayur.

Who wants to be in the photograph? Everybody! 

I asked it the road continued beyond here and was told it did; but, I also found that the road turns into little more than a trail at the village of Jeenmanatha. I would need to turn around (not for the first time).


Back in Urigam.


Reaching Anchetty, I turned south (riding under one of the road barriers).  There would be no traffic on this road.

This road is being reclaimed by the forest. At times, branches were brushing my shoulder. It was only one lane wide, but it was (generally) paved.

No bridges! Where a creek had to be crossed, the pavement ended, and I picked up a dirt track that would loop to a good crossing point, and then pick up the pavement on the other side. Sometimes, these dirt roads were quite rough and steep, but the Bullet is an ideal bike for this sort of thing.

This crossing had me a bit worried, but the underlying sand was firm, and there was no problem crossing the water (which wasn't all that deep in any case).

At the south end of the road was this closed gate. There was just enough room between posts to squeeze the bike through (while bending the foot pegs just a bit). The guard didn't speak English, but I gathered enough to know that the road I had just ridden was actually closed to traffic. Oh, well.

Stopping to pay the toll on the road that would take me to Hogenakkal. 

I believe the Hotel Tamil Nadu is the best in Hogenakkal.

You can only admire the multiple ledgers and extra carbon paper needed to sign in (and check out the next morning).



The walk to the falls takes you past a number of vendors.


Goats and monkeys are everywhere.


There's a pedestrian bridge across the river for a better view of the falls.  The cost isn't much, but I gather it varies.



There was an additional fee to continue to the next viewing spot. But, this path required a walk through the water, and since I wasn't wearing the practical sandals that everybody else was wearing, I didn't go any farther.


No matter; my camera has a telephoto lens. This is a beautiful area.

Walking through the town of Hogenakkal.


The mist in the distance is from the falls.

At breakfast the next morning, I was joined by a curious monkey. I asked for idli (something that should be available everywhere), but eggs is all they had.


Filling up in Pennagaram.

Note: The bullet returned around 70 mpg during the trip. It really is an ideal motorcycle for these roads.  350cc is not much, but it's enough, and compared to most of the other motorbikes I saw, the bullet was a superbike. Incidentally, it had an electric start, but I never used that; I used the kick starter every time.

There are many ways to thresh your grain. Spreading it over the road and letting cars do the job is one way (and quite common). I always rode around the edge.


The checkerboard paint on the trees is very common. Often I'd see workers applying the paint.

Notice the painted horns (below). Most cattle with horns sport some ornamentation.


Roadside shrines are everywhere.

It would have helped me if I could read these mile-markers. Alas...



Near Mettur. There are multiple power stations here as well as some impressive large factories.

I believe this may be the town of Poolampatti.

Children are almost always very well dressed. Well, I should say the girls are. Boys? Perhaps not.


People walking their cattle along the roadside is expected. In many cases, the cattle didn't seem to be attended, but seemed to know where they were going, just the same.


This could be Kallippatti. These girls are all wearing their brown school uniform. I saw lots of variations and colors.


I don't know if it was my spaceman outfit (compared to what all other motorcycle riders wore) or if it was something else, but school kids almost always broke into laughter when they saw me.

I had to take at least one photograph of what was typical in every town. It must be maddening for the utility electrician.

Climbing the mountain to Dhimbham. Some of the hairpins were very sharp; this one is tame.

I let this blue and yellow bus go by. Later when I came up behind it again, the guys on top were encouraging me to pass. I soon came to realize that they only wanted to see a really spectacular crash. No matter; I was able to make a pass without much trouble.

I turned to a narrow road that (like the last forest road) had no traffic at all. I begin to think that if I could only read the signs, I'd have found out that all traffic was prohibited.



Ant hill? Termite hill?


My name is Daniel. What is your name? This approach worked every time. Clearly, the kids have had English lessons, and we could have quite a good conversation as long as I stayed to the standard phrases that I knew they must have been taught. How are you?  I am fine, thank you.

Note: I packed for this trip pretty much like all other trips. this means I'm washing every evening. You'll notice a water bottle hanging from the yellow duffle bag. I did have a lightweight waterproof jacket packed but never needed it. What little rain I had was not worth thinking about. Of course, I had walking shoes as well. When riding, I wore my two-piece Aerostich Darrien suit (where normally I wear the one-piece Roadcrafter suit) with boots and gloves. Outside Bangalore, I was the only person wearing a helmet, and even including Bangalore, I was the only person wearing gloves and riding boots and any sort of protective clothing.

A small roadside shrine. Common.


Thalavady, I believe.

I didn't even come close to ending up where I had expected to be for the night; but, no matter. I stayed in this resort hotel in Chamarajanagar.


I intended only to ask when dinner would be served (answer: 7:30), but they were insistent that I have a seat even though it was quite early.  That's good as I was hungry.

The food (and the beer) was quite good.



Filling up in Santhemarahalli. The fire buckets contain either water or sand.

I missed the turn in Kollegal, and ended here until I figured out where I was. This was a peaceful stop.

Rice fields near the Cauvery River.


Crossing the Cauvery River...

...and, crossing it again near Thoralkadanahalli.

It's a good day for doing the washing.

Running a farm is probably not much different no matter where you are.  The technology changes, but what has to be done, doesn't.


Another short toll road before diving back into the traffic insanity that is Bangalore.

Note: The bullet is happy to cruise at 80 to 90 kph and that's about as fast as you'll ever want to go no matter what the highway. I found myself riding like a local and doing things that I would never, ever consider doing. But, you have to adjust yourself to ride the way of the traffic if you expect to blend in to that traffic.


I don't know if it's an auspicious number in India, but my final odometer reading when I shut the engine down at the hotel in Bangalore had lots of eights.

Dinner with coffee south-Indian style. Mix the coffee and milk and sugar by pouring from the cup to the bowl and back, again.


Back on the streets of Bangalore.




There are occasional signs of the more relaxed age that once defined this city.


The Hindustan Ambassador (below, left) is based on a 1956 Morris Oxford and has been made in India up to the present day. If you had to pick an automotive equivalent to the Royal Enfield Bullet--this is it.






The Bangalore city library.


"Save that tree" and build the sidewalk around it.


I took the stairs to the top of the east tower of the central post office.


This is the electric motor that powers the elevator (which I did not use).  Are those piles of undelivered mail? I didn't look any closer.


I am not sure what the difference is between an auto and a car. But, mostly, there is no way that anybody could ever drive this fast in Bangalore.




You can generally count on the English churches to be open and to be a cool place to rest.


The Cauvery emporium is state run and a very good place to buy hand-crafted goods. The price is fixed, but the quality can be trusted.


Nana's house is in the nicest part of Bangalore, looking out over Yediyur Lake. 


Soundarya served me coffee made with one of the "coffee filters" on the table. It was quite good, so she offered to take me to a local store to get one of my own. Of course.


This is the sort of store that seems common (even typical) in India, but nonexistent in the U.S. As stores in the U.S. used to be many years ago, it isn't self-serve; you ask the man behind the counter for what you need, and he offers you the selection.




I walked to the north side of Bangalore to see the art museum and the palace.



The art museum is a good one. 




By this time, I was told that photographs were not allowed. I was allowed to take this shot of the floor. 



The Bangalore Palace is under restoration, but it isn't clear that they will be able to keep up.





An unexpected (and large) collection of Victorian "art photographs" that was tucked away in a hallway and under a staircase.





A sign that is hardly needed. This is the Bangalore cricket field.


The elevated metro is not yet running, but it is expected to begin very soon.

The crew back in the office: Manivasagam, Vineet and Gopinath.

And, back at the pipeline road. A truck that was just a bit too high for the arch didn't quite make it through. Some shifting of the load and with the extra weight of several hanging men lowered it enough to make it. What a road...


The flight back is long and tedious and uneventful.



Our reflection in Frankfurt.

Crossing over the English Channel. 


I watched "Roman Holiday" and managed to capture these famous scenes from that movie.


At U.S. immigration and customs I was able to avoid the endless lines by using the Global Entry kiosk. Nice; very nice. Just walk on through (and perhaps avoid eye contact with all those people still in line).


Excellent trip. Once again, my thanks to Nana and Shekar!



last edit: 5/14/2013