It was several minutes after six in the morning, while waiting as usual, for the President of the club to arrive, we witnessed a bus dangerously overtake a lorry, narrowly missing our bikes parked at the tea shop and as the drama unfolded between the drivers of truck and the bus, the president arrived with Meena riding pillion. (Well, of course you guys are curious to who Meena is but I shall leave it at the comment: ‘you will know soon!’ and let’s focus on our ride, that included five bikes to Gandikota, quite late.)
The most fascinating aspect of our ride, I must say, included our National flag flying amongst the tied luggage at the back of one of the riders, Jimmy (2008 batch). Patriotic as you may or you might indulge in thinking that he picked that habit from acts of the present government but it was just a trick to ward off unwanted harassment from police in his long rides alone across south India. Further he hadn’t started the ride from Chennai like all of us, he had ridden all the way from Velankanni, another 300 km south of Chennai, the previous evening and still was undeterred about the ride.
“It’s the not the destination but the journey” is the phrase we all throw around quite carelessly, and so was Jabez (2008 batch) throwing around the phrase in his mind when the journey began, he later confessed, for he conveniently thought that this journey would take us around four hours to complete. But little did he or rather we knew that this journey would take around 10 hours to complete, including all the pit stops we made, thanks to the road. Most of the journey took us on the two-lane state highway Number:31, of which some parts were scenic, like a forest, that were riddled with mango trees, where we stopped to photograph as normal, social media addicted human beings and the other parts were dry and open and not photo worthy. The worst part of the journey was between Koduru and Kadapa, where it almost seemed that every house to be built beside the road had to get a speed breaker alongside, built on the road and this became our ordeal and the longest part of the journey, or so it felt because of the assumption Jabez carried around in his mind and it had poisoned us all.
Eventually we made it for lunch around 15:00 hours and we were still 57 km short of our destination and were greeted by notifications of missed calls from Paul Raj (Fla from the 1998 batch), who had already reached Gandikota from Bangalore on his SUV.
Photo: Finished eating Visiting day Pandam that Paul (Left extreme) had brought
After lunch we tried unsuccessfully searching for toilets and then took off before we hit a place called Muddanur, from where we turned North for the final 25 km or so. This stretch was definitely picturesque, empty, devoid of speed breakers and windy that we forgot everything like children, specially the speed breakers we had encountered but that didn’t make Paul Raja (2006 batch) any more forgetful about taking photos that he went missing for a while. We finally reached Gandikota, met Paul Raj and had tea and for a few, it definitely was the destination not the journey, as they went to the restrooms and stayed there for a while.
Pic: L-R: Paul (2006), Jason (2006), Jimmy (2008), Jabez (2008), Binny (2006) and Paul (1998)
The 13th century fort, sitting at the edge of the gorge, cut by the river Pennar, has a tiny village inside, which we passed to get the viewpoint, the spot everyone photographs and which appears when one googles Gandikota. The fort also houses an old Mosque, a granary and a temple close the viewpoint, where the scene was spectacular, with the 60-70-meter-deep gorge, down with the river flowed so silently, yet cutting deeper into the valley and yes, we photographed everything.
Pic: Caption yourself!
The sun soon began to set but that didn’t stop Binny Singh (Director of Media, SVAA) from doing a live video, to feel significant and taunt guys who had dropped out in the last moment.
When we headed back to have dinner at the Andhra Tourism canteen, it was already dark, after which we headed back to camp. A local followed us and said it’s been disallowed to camp inside the fort itself and only at the place designated, which was crowded but we didn’t have any choice and the fun of camping was gone.
Pic: When Jason the mermaid came out of the water for a sunbath
Having learned at school to build house philosophically on rocks, we pitched three tents on smooth rocks, that involved heavily on SV teamwork, which was quite splendid I must note but then we had to rotate the tents to a few degrees, to involve the principles of vastu: factor in the heavy winds and the sun rise the following morning, noted by Paul Raja. Binny Singh, on the other had didn’t know the song of building stuff on rocks, pitched his on the sand nearby, and he was the last to wake up the following morning.
Pic: Brand house pitched their Pachai tents early
Pic: Captured mermaid chilling to some Jazz music in the tent
The following morning, I woke up early and headed down to the river to get to taste the water and it wasn’t in the slightest sense anywhere close to the taste of the waters from the streams of Naraikadu.
Photo Caption: Gettap gettap!
Disappointed I returned to find the rest, lazily packing up amongst the request for photographs and i was told that Jabez had headed to the temple courts, west of the fort and it was a Sunday.
Pic: Bikes waiting in line for breakfast in front of Inspection warden Paul
After having packed we headed to have breakfast and use the crowded toilets, which we Svians were quite used to anyway. After this we found ourselves in the same temple, which Jabez had gone in the morning, and yes, it did involve photographs. But Paul Raj was exploring the walls and carvings curiously in the corner, while Meena finding a room, that looked like a kitchen and explained to us why she thought so, pointing to the two symmetrical openings in the top and the old carving of fish. Jabez and I then stole ourselves and went the explore the other end of the massive fort and the gorge, a view which the others missed and we came running back not to report it but to make it back on time.
We had tea and some group pictures amid some pretense discussing Alumni association, where Binny Singh declared himself unopposed the President of the Dohnavur Riders’ club and we all clapped for joy in unison. Bidding goodbyes to Paul Raj and having prepared mentally for the roads ahead we left.
Pic: Next time when you’re deciding whether to join us for the trip, look at this pic
On the way back, we stopped at a beautiful rice field discovered by Paul raja, and of course it did involve photographs, while I pretended to nap on the stone bench under a Mango tree , which I must tell you that was a perfect stone bench. The journey back wasn’t all that bad for we were able to predict speed breaks as the same efficiency of the artificial neural networks and the only thing thrilling observed was Jabez, riding while standing on his bike and overtaking vehicles seamlessly.
Photo: Entire Squad in one Picture
We all reached just in time for the World cup finals but Jimmy rode on unfazed to reach Velankanni, around two the following morning. He truly was the best biker and the flag had prevailed!