Monday, July 1, 2013

THE PERFECT ROAD TRIP

What's your name?
Sir, Deepak.
Oh!!! You address yourself as sir?
No sir. I addressed you as sir. My name is Deepak.
Just Deepak? Dont you have a father?
Yes sir. I do.
Then tell me your full name.
Sir. Its Deepak M Reddy.
What does "M" stand for?
Sir, it's my father's name. Madhu.
Then tell me your complete name you idiot.
Sir. Its Deepak Madhu Reddy.

And this is how I took Deepak's introduction during our engineering college days since I was his senior by two years.
I guess that was the only time I spoke with him like a senior because very soon we became the best of friends since we played cricket together for our college team. Gradually his roommates Shiv, Vijesh and Pramod also became my friends and we were soon the"famous five".

It’s been more than a decade now since we have been friends. We have been to countless treks and short trips together. We even named our group as “The CLAN” and got ourselves some t-shirts printed with it.
The CLAN
 Work took us to different parts of the country and it was almost a year since we had seen each other. But we all kept calling each other and promised that the moment we are in Bangalore we would be going for a long road trip.
Finally we all reached Bangalore and met at Deepak’s place to discuss our long pending road trip. But ideas start flowing only when some energy boosters go in (read alcohol). We hit a local pub and within 30 minutes we had decided the route, destination and the date and time. After an hour Shivu and Deepak now high on alcohol literally started and finished the trip in the pub itself. I told Pramod that before these guys start talking about the memories of the trip which they just finished in the pub, its better we leave now.
We left on a Sunday morning from Pramod’s home after the vehicle pooja was dutifully done by his mother. Pramod had borrowed his friend’s I20 car for the trip. The weather was cloudy and a bit gloomy. Heavy winds were blowing and it looked like it was going to rain. I always love hitting the road in such weather when the roads are empty, cool breeze blowing amidst your hair with everything looking green around you and you feel a sense of liberation.
Our first destination was Goa. We had planned to go for scuba diving there, visit some secluded beaches and enjoy some wine. Goa is about 600 kms from Bangalore and we were in no hurry to reach there. Pramod was at the wheels and he didn’t look like he was going to let someone else drive and even I prefer that because he is the most sensible driver among us.
Google Images

We didn’t want to stop at too many places. Deepak and Shiv were quarrelling about the songs being played in the car and that was irritating. Shiv wouldn’t listen to any song more than 10 seconds and kept fast forwarding. Finally we threw him to the back seat and ensured there was peace inside the car. Pramod was zooming on the highway with me and Deepak sipping some beer. We had decided that Shiv was the spare driver and hence he could just look at the beer pints and satisfy himself. It was not long before he snatched a beer bottle and gulped down a sip and said “Hell with spare driver... If Pramod can’t drive then let’s park it somewhere and sleep. But no way I am going to sit here and let you 2 guys enjoy drinking while I keep watching like a dog”.
We stopped for breakfast mid way at Sira. Barely had we sat down for our breakfast it started to pour like hell. We finished our breakfast but the rain didn’t show any signs of slowing down. We had to wait for almost one hour before we could get into our car and resume our journey.
We had lunch at some restaurant in Hubli upon Shiv’s recommendation. The quantity and taste of the Biryani was so evenly matched such that the quantity was good enough to put us to sleep but the taste was so spicy to keep us awake all night. The journey continued and we reached Goa around 8 in the evening.
We had made our hotel bookings in advance and were guided to our rooms immediately. We were tired but didn’t want to waste a single minute lying on the bed. We had a quick bath and immediately set off to explore the city or more so to find a good pub. We settled down at a nearby joint and raised a toast for our friendship and to our youth. Couple of hours later we all were sloshed and had no idea what we were talking.
We returned to our rooms and woke up late next day. I had a bad hangover and felt better after taking a bath.
We had brunch since it was almost afternoon and went to visit some beaches. The weather was a bit cloudy and hence it wasn’t too hot. We kept roaming around the beach for sometime aimlessly, whereas Pramod and Deepak were busy with their photography. Every time a foreigner would pass by in a bikini, Shivu eyes would expand and look like a truck’s headlight in high beam. He would keep staring at them without winking until they went as far as to appear like a mirage. I would constantly remind him to just look at them and not stare at them like a hungry dinosaur.
Google Images

Google Images

Later we all got into water and kept playing till sunset. Then we returned to our rooms, took a bath and went out roaming around the city. Later we settled down at a restaurant and continued our liquid diet.
So next morning we all woke up on time and went to a nearby resort which conducted scuba diving events. (We had already booked our slots in advance). The instructor gave us the diving suits and asked to try it. We put on the suits and then had our breakfast at the same resort. Then some more people joined for the scuba dive and along with the trainers we left in 2 boats. In our boat we were 4 guys and a family of four. (Parents and a son and a daughter) The daughter and her mother were in the diving suit but the son didn’t seem to be very interested about this scuba thing. The father was too fat and hence I realized that there was no way he could get into this tight fitting dive suit. The instructor decided that we four and the girl would go in first. So we put on the gear and he started giving us instructions. I told the instructor that I didn’t know to swim and he said that I could sink in the water better. Everyone laughed. We had paid extra for the instructor to take our snaps under water. Then the training started where the instructor would tell us what we have to do in case the oxygen pipe comes out of our mouth during the dive or if water gets into our glasses etc. After a small dive Shiv got nervous about breathing under water and hence backed off. We tried to motivate him but the guy was very scared and went back to the boat.
We all went for our dive. While I was underwater, water started getting into my glasses and I panicked a bit. I tried to blow it out but it was not working or maybe I was not doing it right. Then the trainer bought me up and then pulled me to some distance in water and then took me down once again. This time everything went fine. The scene underwater was breathtaking. It was so hard to believe what we were witnessing, that such a world existed underwater. We saw varieties of fish around, a hiding octopus, colorful corals and aquatic plants. Sometimes we would forget to breathe in excitement.

Meanwhile the elders from the other group had been motivating Shiv and finally he decided to give it a second try. Now there are 2 reasons why Shiv agreed to take the dive so soon. One he must have been so tortured by the motivational speech by the uncle’s from the other group that he felt it’s better to dive and die underwater. Or he was worried that if he didn’t take the dive, then we 3 would tease him for the rest of his life.
He went for a dive with the second group and this time everything went well for him. Once he came back to the boat Shiv started to act like as if he had been to space. With his eyes widened and a peculiar tribal kind of expression on his face, he started to explain his experience.
SHIV: Oh man. It was awesome. The underwater life is so amazing. It’s an experience for life.
PRAMOD: If you remember we went before you and had this “amazing experience of life” before    you.
SHIV: But you know what, I told the trainer to take me to an awesome location which nobody has ever seen and he took me there.
DEEPAK: Listen to this guy... He spoke with the trainer underwater it seems.
Everybody started laughing. Shiv was a bit irritated.
SHIV: I mean I showed him signs underwater and he took me to a location where we walked up and down like small hills underwater.
DEEPAK: Ha ha ha ha... I guess you are only one to do scuba dive and trekking at the same time.
Everybody started laughing loudly and Shiv was pissed off.
We came back to our hotel and decided to leave immediately. Our next destination was Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.  We had to drive all the way down to the bottom of south India. We choose to drive thru Mangalore halting there for a night. This time we decided to keep our drive alcohol free since Deepak and Shiv wanted to drive as well. We reached Mangalore late night and checked into a decent looking lodge. We finished our dinner and hit the sack immediately.
We left early morning next day to Thiruvananthapuram which was still some 600+ KMS. Mid way when we stopped for breakfast, Deepak and Shiv got into a tussle about who would occupy the front seat. Finally somehow Deepak managed to get the seat. Shiv was quite unhappy but kept quite. Deepak wouldn’t stop pulling his leg.
DEEPAK: Mummy ko bolo.. Bournvita bhi pilaye!!!!
SHIV: Ha ha ha.. Very funny... Next time please inform me before you crack your pathetic jokes.
DEEPAK: Ohhhh.. Someone is angry.
SHIV: Enough Deepak.. You got the seat. Now be quite.
DEEPAK: Or else what??? Huh.. Else what? All you can do is sit there and keep whining.
SHIV: Yeah... It’s better than having a “CHINGI” girlfriend and ruining the rest of your life.
Shiv was referring to Deepak’s north-east girl friend and I knew now things would get out of control.
DEEPAK: Stop the car Pramod. Stop the god damn car!!!!
Pramod stopped the car and Deepak and Shiv got out of the car and got into a fight. Both I and Pramod had to hold these guys back before they created a scene on the road. Both started complaining about each other and it took me a good 20 minutes before I could pacify these guys and continue on our journey.
Now there was a peculiar silence in the car. Pramod would look at me in the rear view mirror and smile. I tried cracking some jokes but none were amused.
It was evening when we reached Thiruvananthapuram. We checked into a hotel, dumped our bags there and went around the city. We purchased some stuff required for our mission the next day. We had an early dinner and went off to sleep since both Deepak and Shiv were still not in talking terms.
We left early next morning to Ponmudi and then to Bonacorrd estate. We had planned to trek the famous Agasthyakoodam peak. We reached the start point of the trek around 8 in the morning. We parked our car near the forest office and set off on foot carrying tent gear and bag packs. The initial 5 km was fun since there wasn’t much gradient and we were surrounded by thick dense forest. We crossed couple of streams and a splendid waterfall. The birds were chirping all around. 
Google Images

Google Images

Then suddenly the gradient changed and the trek became steep. Deepak just needed a reason to open the beer cans and we getting tired coz of the steep was well enough for him. Beer can do wonders as now I saw Shiv was walking close to Deepak since all the beer cans were in his backpack. No sooner things started improving between Shiv and Deepak, Shiv started off with his so called one liner.
SHIV: At this age we should be seated comfortably in some resort drinking cold beer than climbing a mountain and drinking warm beer.
I am ready to give a month’s salary to anybody who can lift me and take me to the peak.
DEEPAK: I will give you 2 month’s salary if you can just shut your mouth.
We all had a hearty laugh.
It was almost 5 hours now since we began our trek. The trek was becoming difficult now with the steep gradient and our bag packs getting heavier with every step. We now started to see lot of elephant dung along the path. It smelled a lot indicating that it was fresh. The tall trees, the dark forest and the peculiar silence now became a bit terrifying to us since we felt some wild animal might lurking close to us. We didn’t slow down, we kept trekking at good speed but we also started to take lot of breaks. Deepak and Shiv were walking together, whereas I and Pramod were ahead of them.
Google Images
Deepak and Shiv decided to take some extra rest whereas I and Pramod decided to move ahead. It was barely 10 minutes we had started walking when I heard lot of noise like some heavy thing walking on dry leaves. I stopped to check on the sound but the sound had stopped. After 2 minutes when we started to walk I heard the noise once again. When I stopped walking the noise stopped. It was like the noise was playing hide and seek with me. But this time I didn’t budge from my place for almost 5 minutes and this time I heard the noise loud and clear. I realized there was some animal around and it was approaching us since the noise grew louder and louder. I froze in my place thinking what it could be. Pramod was looking at me completely scared. I wanted to scream and alert Deepak but was afraid to do so thinking the animal might get alerted. Little did I realize that the animal was well aware of us and was actually moving towards us for a confrontation.
I was still at the same place wondering whether to run uphill or downhill. After a minute or two to my horror I heard loud elephant trumpeting sounds and realized that there was a group of elephants around us. We (Pramod and I) threw our bag pack on the ground and started to run uphill at the same time shouting to Deepak that there were elephants around us. I couldn’t hear any response from Deepak since the elephants were making lot of noise. My body had a sudden burst of energy as I pulled Pramod and ran uphill at great speeds.  After about running for 5 minutes we finally slowed down since now the elephant trumpets had stopped. I screamed out loudly calling Deepak’s name but got no response. I was hoping and praying that they both were fine.
Google Images

 After about 15 minutes I could hear somebody calling my name and realized it was Deepak. Both of them were fine and asked me to come down to get my bag pack. When I reached there I saw both Deepak and Shiv grinning happily.
I asked what made them smile and he said their friendship had grown stronger after they both had saved the backpack containing the beer cans from the elephants. They gave high five to each other and said now only they have the rights over the beer cans.  I was happy to see them back together.
We reached the peak in the afternoon. The view from the peak was so soothing that we all forgot the danger we had faced to reach this peak. We could see valleys of greenery around us, some dark green, some light green. 
Google Images
Google Images
We decided to get down the same day and cancelled our camping plans. We were totally drained out by the time we reached our car. We drove back to Trivandrum and reached our hotel. We finished off our dinner and went off to sleep.
Next morning we checked out and headed towards a place called Anchal in Kollam district which was about 90 kms from Thiruvananthapuram. We actually had to cross Anchal and then take a country road. Shiv who is good at remembering roads was guiding Pramod. After about driving for 30 minutes pass Anchal Shiv recognized a country road and asked Pramod to take a left. We now were driving on a mud road surrounded by rubber trees and other huge trees. After driving for about 15 minutes we reached a church. We took off our shoes in the car and walked towards the church. We had bought some flowers from Anchal which we carried along with us. It was a quite a big church with not a soul around. It was located amongst thick trees and birds chirping around.
Google Images

 We walked past the church and reached the graveyard. There were some 200 graves now. We all went in different directions when Shiv called us out and said “It’s here”.
We gathered around the grave. These words were written on it.

"God took you away so young, But you continue to remain in our hearts"
VIJESH JOHN OLIKLE
BORN: 08.12.1984
DEAD:12.06.2006 

I still remember the day when we came here 7 years back along with Vijesh’s dead body. He had expired in a freak motorbike accident during his final year in college. We all had cried endlessly. I could still hear his mother cries echoing in my ears.
Pramod kept those flowers on his grave. Deepak and Shiv were almost in tears whereas I put up a brave face. We stood there for about 10 minutes in silence looking at his grave and then decided to leave. We came back to Anchal and were discussing if we should pay a visit to his home. We felt his mother might start crying again if she looked at us and so decided not to visit his house.
On the way before Anchal, We saw a home stay amidst the jungle. We parked our vehicle on the side of the road and went and enquired. An old man greeted us and said we could be the only guests for the day.
Google Images

 The rooms were pretty good and we decided to stay there before we start our journey back to Bangalore. That night after dinner we asked our host if the nearby field was used by anyone. He said it has been unused since years. We asked if we could pitch our tents there and spend the night to which he smiled and asked us to carry on. We pitched our tents there and put our beds there. We lit up a campfire and then slept on our beds under the open sky. None of us talked and just kept gazing at the stars lost in our thoughts. For a change even Shiv didn’t speak anything. I was lost in my own world with thoughts about the last few days of ours on the road. Wondering how life would have been if Vijesh was around. Will we have another road trip of this kind??? How long will this phase last?
Google Images

When I opened my eyes the sun was shining brightly and we all four had slept out of our tents. We returned to our rooms, freshened up and then bid good bye to our host and started back home.
Pramod was driving while we three were watching our photos in the camera and laughing at them when suddenly Pramod applied brakes……..

Screaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Ponnappa…. Wake up.. Wake up.. Wake up.. You will be late…

I am fine!!! I am fine!!! How are you???

Wake up.. It’s your mother... Have you been watching a dream???
I opened my eyes and saw that I was at my home and on my bed.
So was it a good dream or a bad one???
Why did u wake me up mom??? It was such a wonderful dream!!!! I wish I could see what happened in the end!





16 comments:

  1. Your posts always make such engaging reads...and it's full of so many emotions...humour, conflict, retrospection...Do keep writing.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you... Just let my imagination run wild!!!

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    2. Oh and I must tell you that elephant thing was really scary! I would have stood rooted to the spot!

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  2. hahahahahahaha i too was travelling in your dreams while reading your blog. Please do take this route with Shiv deepak and promadand do write your next blog all the best

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  3. Well written post with perfect travel experience. last picture looking very nice.

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    ReplyDelete
  4. Dude this is incredible writing... Well done..

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lovely write-up, and the choice of photos is awesome! Best of luck for the contest!

    http://www.solitarytravels.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello...Too good to read...just keep going and rocking

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  7. Good one Ponnappa.. way to go..!!!

    keep posting updates in facebook with URL so that we get to know if there is any new update in your blog.

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  8. Hey superb write up dude. A perfect road trip indeed. U have managed to combine all our trips in a single blog. Awaiting your Kerala trip blog....:-)

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  9. brilliant piece of story... i liked it.. very nice mix of your previous blogs.. keep writing.. :)

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  10. You took me for a ride,literally !! But superb narration and great climax.

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  11. Thanks for sharing information, Nice one. When everything planned before start driving on road make journey memorable. Because every plan have clear and confirm, never create on confusion. If perform the driving on road take care about vehicle recovery techniques and spend your time with fun.

    ReplyDelete
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