The Motorcycle diaries: #4 To Lavasa & back #IndianArmyFC

And why the #IndianArmyFC hashtag in the title you'll ask. We'll get there soon.

As if a 155km bike ride from Mumbai to Pune was not enough, I took Faisalwa (my Avenger 220) for another spin, only a day after. And this time we were three - Pranav with his white Bullet and Mathur with his black one accompanied by my red Avenger. The plan was to ride up from Pune to Lavasa, spend the evening there and come back - some 130kms doorstep to doorstep.

A tale of two Bullets and one Avenger.

The Route - The Good, the Bad and the Godly.
The boys did have the toys but none of us knew the roads to Lavasa. GPS Mata ki Jai, but we didnt have no pillion riders to be our navigators even. Precisely here came to our rescue an old purchase of mine from Mumbai's grant road - a GPS device holder for bikes. Fortunately I had taken it with me for the Mumbai Pune ride. It had been unused till then.

As a wise guy, Sir Vedder once said, "...just where to put all your faith and how will it grow."
I put that random purchase of mine to task.

Long live Eddie Vedder!

And the GPS screen showed this - 65 km ride up into the mountains!

The delay.
We were enthusiastic but we were also super hungry. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves getting super late for the trip. The original plan was to leave at 3pm, by 4:10 we were still in a small coffee shop, sipping iced lemon tea. So much for our first ride up into the mountains!
Anyway, we packed our stuff, put the helmets where they belonged and throttled up the beasts.

An hour later, we were again having tea, but this time in the mountains. Oh my love for recurrent tea breaks while biking knows no bounds!

The Indian Army Fan Club.
One day before all this happened, both Pranav and I had done some bro-shopping at Pune Decathlon - you know, this pair of running shorts... that hell of a wind cheater etc. We both had gotten two full sleeve t shirts with the Indian Army camouflage design. And we both wore that to the Lavasa trip. a few jokes later, we named our pack 'Indian Army Fan Club Riders'. Wannabe stuff, but it stuck like all wannabe stuff.  Yeah, what's in the name they say!

Now you know the secret behind #IndianArmy FC in the title!

Lavasa bike trip - A couple hair pin turns too many.

The road remained good for almost 2/3rd of the trip. Then things began to fall apart. Next thing I knew, my GPS holder (with my darling nexus 5 phone) spun off on the road from the bike. Thank God neither did it roll off the hill, nor come under the tyres of other vehicles. I promptly put the phone back where it belonged to. Inside my jeans pocket. As we reached up, hair pin turns started appearing more frequently. Things did get tough on a couple of occasions but we managed our way!
 "Darling, let me show you the hair-pin trick". (Opens the lock.)

"The North Remembers."

Make photographs while the Sun shines.
And we finally reached a high point from where the entire Lavasa could be seen. Sun was setting faster. Time for us to get some quick snaps!
Mathur looks like Danny Denzongpa.

Wine colored days.

Almost posing in front of a painted landscape. Almost.

Lavasa - The night of colors.
Finding a budget one night stay in Lavasa can be tough. Fortunately not the case for us. We managed an easy access to Lavasa clubhouse's landscaped amphi-theatre. A beautiful open sky amphitheater with the lake forming the backdrop of the stage. And distant colored lights making hazy images in the water.
Writer's note: The activitied & discussions that went on till late night/ early morning on that amphi-theater have been censored. Jai Gajendra Chauhan. 

When the stage in front goes in the background.

 What the dawn revealed.

All things good come to an end.
Time had come to return back to our senses. And bikes. And senses. We had come to the clubhouse in awe. We left in awe. Beautiful it was. Everywhere!
A colorful morning with a promising return bike trip ahead!

One for the road!

A sunny, happy, chirpy morning in the mountains.

Return trip was faster than what we had expected. As I rode up and down the mountains with blind turns and known hair pin bends, they all seemed way more familiar than they should have been. The sun shone bright on the horizon, rising & getting stronger by the second. Cool winds made the head bands useful and brushed past our cheeks, as we made our way back to the Pune city.

I realized how much sense it all made - taking my bike from Mumbai to Pune and then to Lavasa. A good break from all the monotonous shades of a corporate life. I promised to myself I'd cruise more. 
And more often.

Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. The Pahadon waali Maggi should not be forgotten. It fed the Indian Army FC Riders well. Three glasses down to the Pahadon wali Maggi.


The Motorcycle diaries - #3 Mumbai to Pune on NH4

Maintaining any kind of blog is cumbersome. A travel one at that, even more so. One, the job world robs you of (m)any such traveling chances, two the lethargy that sets in after a rare travel or two kills the rest of the scribbling mood.

Anyway, beating all that and a hiatus that has seemed to have spanned a couple of centuries, here we are - aS travel tales are back, with an additional flavor of motorcycle grease (I know. Bad pun; in my defense, didn't i say I was on a hiatus?).
And so I re-start with my recent joyride from Mumbai to Pune on my Faisalwa- Bajaj 220 Avenger.

Faisalwa eyeing Dum Biryani midway. (More pics below) 

 The analysis paralysis.

So many reviews on the internet about biking route maps from Mumbai to Pune and all too confusing! I remember having thought of taking my bike along for a spin whenever I went to Pune in the last year, and that has been like at least 7-8 times. Each time I would read some 4-5 reviews, contemplate the pros and cons of a bike ride on highways and end up taking one of those "cool cabs". All the blogs talked about how you have to make sure you never touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would anyways touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would have to have a good eye on the signboards how you should never assume and how you could be fined by the cops for riding a two wheeler where it ain't allowed. And of course there is worse.

I don't think travelogues should discourage travelers.

The Go.
And one fine day (Gudi Padwa I guess), I had had enough! I just took my riding gloves, my helmet, my keys and hit the road on Faisalwa. Simple as that! Let's tackle one signal at a a time, let's tackle one sign-board at a time, like the Kapur son had said recently to his father. I understand pro-bikers will remark that Mumbai-Pune bike trip is no big deal; the thing to remember here is, I have never rode for more than 30 km at a stretch, and we are talking about some 155 odd kilometers.

The Route. The Rule.
 One thing I really like about Maharashtra in general and Mumbai in particular is that there is always a sort of discipline in everything they do. There is always a rule for everybody to follow. And if you find yourself walking in the wrong 'lane' on the pedestrian part of an overbridge, you'd often hear "Mumbai mein naya aaela hai kya?"

Anyway, the rule of the game here is, there is a route parallel to the much hallowed Mumbai Pune Expressway, partly formed by the NH4 and Old Mumbai Pune Highway and partly by other side-roads. It's a biker's delight. The heavy vehicles (also, most cars) would never tread this route (for it's longer) and the bikers would stay away from the expressway for obvious and legal reasons.

TL;DR? Zoom this pic and ride off.
Above is the route I took. From Dadar in Mumbai to Koregaon Park in Pune. Took me some 4 hours to size it up. If you're a biker who has reached this blog only to get gyaan on the Mumbai Pune bike trip, here's where you should have scrolled to directly instead of reading all the arbit speculations above. ;)

One more thing before we begin. Here's the google maps link for the trip: . All the Mumbai Pune Bike trip blogs I read had failed me here. You can read all the warnings and suggestions and get even more confused or you could just hit this link and ride off. And no, this is not what you'll get by default if you search yourself on maps. No option there to disable the expressway but keep the highway. I had to manually add all the places I rode through, in retrospection. Thank me later. ;)

1. From Dadar to Panvel Naka: Easy peasy. Reach RK Studios. Take whichever route that strikes your chords. Then head on to Sion Panvel highway - keep on driving, you'll hit NH4 at the Panvel Naka. A friendly advice: After you reach Panvel, go hunting for the McD in Panvel. No, McD hasnt paid me for this. While doing that, you'll avoid the flyover which will directly take you to the mouth of the expressway. And McCafe has been good lately. ;)

2. From Panvel Naka to Lonavala: Stick to NH4 like it's your long lost love. It will take you home. Well, almost! When you reach Lonavala, you'd suddenly be betrayed by her and would find yourself driving right on the cruel expressway! Ignore the infidelity and drive on for 6-7 kms (highlighted in yellow on the map above). Take the Lonavala exit ramp and hug the AH47 now. She's a beauty with her curves. She's amazing.

3. Lonavala to Pune: Keep hugging AH47 and pass through Vadgaon. I had tea there. Bad tea. You may choose to move on. You'll reach Dehu Road. A tea here, maybe?

What's riding without those recurrent tea-breaks? Thank God those Tapris littered around, almost everywhere.

Now where you ask? Well, keep pressing the accelerator and you'd cross Pimpri Chinchwad and then the old Mumbai Pune Highway will do the rest.

You may think what's so special in a regular Mumbai Pune roadshow. To me it did an interesting thing- it unlocked another degree of freedom for me - the one to long cruises on Faisalwa, and the realization that online reviews for bike trips are needlessly scary. And mostly boring. ( Does that apply to this one too? You decide.)

Anyway, here are some happy memories of the trip:

The Five Pointed star just doing it.

 Chaai with a Chick. (in background)

 Curves ahead.

 "Aaja Shaam hone aayi" "Oh no!"

In sharp contrast to Mumbai Pune Expressway.

Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. - This trip soon led to a more challenging one to Lavasa and back (a 130 km bike-ride into the mountains of the Maha Rashtra.) Will blog soon about that. I hope. :)