Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bandhavghar, kanha, jabalpur on bike

It feels like just yesterday that I was excited about my impending bike trip with my wife to Madhya Pradesh, today I am sitting with wonderful memories of the great trip.

Gunjan and I had been planning for a bike trip for some time now, since I bought my Royal Enfield Bullet 350(Machismo-350) in the month of April 2007. And we were thinking of the new year to be the ideal opportunity for such a break. New year was quickly approaching and we had no concrete plans in our mind. Things were getting little anxious when one fine day, we darted towards the MP tourism office in Cuffe Parade in South Mumbai and decided to go for a break in the wild. Decisions had to be taken in impulse when nothing is getting formalised in the formalised way !!

So we were finally going to the land of tigers - Bandhavgarh and Kanha and then round off the trip with a day in Jabalpur enjoying the marble rocks. The plan was to take the bike in the train to Katni in MP, then bike around MP staying over at Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Jabalpur. At Jabalpur, we would board our train back to Mumbai with our bike in the luggage van.

This is not a travelogue that describes the journey inch after inch. But an effort to share the learnings that we experienced, that would help everyone who wants to do biking around or who wants to go to Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Jabalpur.

After a sleepless night full with last minute preparation, Gunjan and I loaded our new saddle bag (Cramster-Stallion) at 6:00 AM in the morning to our bike (Machismo-350), made sure that we have carried all our necessary items and documents and started our bike towards Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla terminus). The bike ride was peaceful with cool breeze in the morning giving a great feeling of pure exhilaration and heightened expectation of what lies ahead.

To give a little brief on Cramster, it is a good bike accessory brand that has a good range of saddle bags, protective riding gear and other biking utilities. Cramster Riding Gear was nominated for OVERDRIVE'S Product of the Year Award. I had a good experience with their products.

Loading the bike into the luggage van of the train was a painful experience. One needs to wrap the bike with gunny cloth with proper safety support for the lights and then do the cargo booking at the parcel/cloak room. The packing of the bike has to be done through private agents and only when the packing is done, the railway authorities would proceed with the other formalities. Here you face the crooks hungry to fool you asking for around Rs. 600 over and above the railway booking charge. They would behave like parcel consultants taking responsibility of loading and unloading of the bike with proper care. Please dont fall for that.

Only the railways can ensure the loading and unloading of the bike in the right stations. No private person can have any say on that. The private guys are only present for the 'gift-wrapping' of your bike. And the conventional rate is Rs. 100 for the same, wherein they should ensure that all the breakable parts of the bike are wrapped with shock absorbing materials (mainly paper!!). They should use card board paper to cover the engine and seat and use layers of normal paper to cover the lights. (I wish I had a photograph of my packed bike)

Once the bike is packed, you need to fill the booking form. Please carry your original RC book, one photocopy and the train ticket. You would be given a red receipt and from then on the bike is the responsibility of the railways till you acknowledge receipt with your signature in the destination station.
However, it is recommended that you should be with the bike when it is loaded to see whether it is loaded properly; preferably next to the entry gate if the destination station is not the end destination of the train. Even for unloading, it is better if you run to the luggage van as soon as the train reaches the destination station to nullify any chance that your bike is not off-loaded.
Finally the train started moving... we were on our way to our dream vacation. Rest assured that the bike is coming with us, our immediate priority was to sleep as we had not slept the previous night and would not get to sleep the following night, as the train was supposed to reach Katni at 1:15 AM in the morning.
28th December 2007 - Be careful when you are travelling in an AC compartment. You dont get an idea of the outside temperature. We knew that Katni would be much colder than Mumbai but had no idea till we actually got down at Katni. We reach at 2 AM in the morning and immediately froze. Fortunately for me that I had to do some running around to offload the bike. After getting the bike next to the cloak/parcel room, we ran to the waiting room to lock ourselves from the cold breeze that was hitting on us like crazy. Here there is a thing to remember. Never take delivery of the bike or any luggage that you have booked with the railways till the last moment. Take delivery when you are going out of the station. That way you can be in peace about the security of the belongings.
At 5 AM in the morning, we came out of the waiting room, took delivery of the bike and loaded the saddle bags. Immediate thing was to fill petrol, as you can only have 200 ml of petrol if you transport the bike on a train. At 6 PM, we finally started our bike for the first time outside Maharashtra in Katni to look for a nearby petrol pump. Luckily the petrol pump was close by and it was a 24 hour pump. So we had a full tank and ready to zoom ... but it was still dark and we were very clear that we wont bike at night. Biking at night in MP is not a good idea especially when you are alone.
At 7 AM, we started our bike trip. We went around a 2 kms towards the state highway when we see a never ending stretch of a one lane (hardly) non-metalled road filled with dust by the trucks ahead of us. Gunjan reminded of one of her friends saying, "Dont take the bike, there are practically no roads in MP" It was just the start of our journey and we had abundance of excitement to get demoralised. We asked one of the truck-drivers while over-taking him about how far is the highway. He said two kms and added that the roads are good from then. The first good news of our journey!!
To be contd...

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