On the 1st of March 2016 I bought my first car — a used black 2011 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10. The previous owner had preserved the car in pretty good condition except that the clutch seemed too hard.
This was the first time I was driving a car all by myself. I drove to my mother’s place completely petrified, constantly expecting the far side of the car to knock down a pedestrian or a parked bike. At one point I turned on the wipers and was too scared to figure out how to turn them off. I kept driving for about 15 minutes till I worked up the courage to park by the side of the ring road and turn them off.
This used car was supposed to be a temporary, sacrificial, practice machine to take all the fender benders of the learning stage. But given how quickly she was taking me from 1st gear to 4th gear, I decided to keep her for good. The folks over at Team-BHP don’t call this the Pocket Rocket for nothing.
I thought I’d be too scared to take the car out at first. But it turns out that driving to office everyday in peak Bangalore traffic can teach you a decent bit of driving very quickly. Each day I’d count how many times I stalled the engine. That count started at around 5 and as I got better at driving I had much nicer things to think about.
Being a stickler for safety I resolved that till I had a year’s driving experience under my belt I would take no passengers on board and would not drive out-of-station. But that’s just bullshit! I have been zipping all over the countryside since April 2016 itself and I often have Mom in tow. Here are some pics of my ride.
While learning to drive, there were two incidents which led me to name my car after a French film actress. The first was opposite the K R Puram Tin Factory where a red Maruti Suzuki Swift brushed past me as I tried to steer into traffic. The second incident was just outside Shivajinagar bus-stand where the left headlight was applied slowly but firmly against the rear of a BMTC bus. Now the front of the car had a blue patch on the left headlight and a red patch on the right of the bumper and knowing the colors of the French flag, I named my car after the only French actress whose name I could remember.
Who would have thought that one day there would be a page on the Internet with a picture of me and Brigitte Bardot on it. Heh.
Shortly before Christmas 2015 I rented out a brand new Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and took my 2nd trip into Wayanad.
This was the first time I’d driven a Bullet and I loved the ride so much that I did very little on the trip apart from driving.
I left Bangalore on the night of the 23rd December and stopped over at Mysore. Left early the next morning towards Kalpetta. I came up with two rules for the trip: no highways and no traveling the same route more than once.
I drove through Nagarahole with my heart in my mouth and passed Kalpetta just before noon. I took a room at Lakkidi Grace Tourist Home; some pretty nice views from the 1st floor rooms here and lunch was Kerala fish curry meals.
I had to return to Bangalore the next morning itself due to some unexpected change in circumstances at home. So I slept well. Even though I did not get to see many places I was glad for the ride.
Christmas morning. This turned out to be the most beautiful Christmas I’d had in quite a while. I stopped at a church near Kalpetta.
I looked up Google Maps to come up with a suitably interesting route while aiming to reach Bangalore late in the evening.
Gonikoppal. Beautiful name and the place is even more so. The roads, the homes, the little church… I stopped by to take a picture of this house which is just opposite a beautiful little church. More about that church later on.
I hit a very bad patch of road near Anechowkoor which was nothing more than mud and gravel. This is where the RE350 earned its keep. It just kept moving like a thick-skinned pig unconcerned with all the punishment.
I received a call from Lakkidi Grace saying I’d left my keys under the pillows. I told them to hold on to the keys and that I’ll be returning in a couple of hours. Now I had a reason to avoid returning to Bangalore the same day and I could stop by all those places where I had wished I had more time to take photos!
So here is the church at Gonikoppal I spoke about earlier. Now there was enough time to take some pics and look around. It’s hard to leave this place.
Christmas lunch was some Kerala style Chicken Biryani at Hotel Bismillah.
And then I loafed around and taking only those roads I had not passed previously I found probably the most roundabout way to reach Lakkidi. Ask anyone from that part of the country and they will agree that when going from Gonikoppal to Lakkidi one really has no business going to Iritty. But I did pass through Iritty that day and have photos to prove it! \o/
Reached Lakkidi, collected my keys and drove around all evening before a good night’s sleep. And next morning I was off again, and yes I again had to find a route avoiding roads I had taken before.
I passed through a place called Vellimunda just as it was explaining its name to the world. Look at it!
Here are just some of the places I passed through: Mananthvady, Kartikulam, Tholpetty, Kutta, Srimangala, T Shettigeri, Hudikeri, Ponnampet, Gonikoppal, Anechowkur, Periyapatna, Virajpet, Maakkootam, Makutta, Vallithode, Madathil, Peravoor, Nedampoil, Periyapatna, Valad Road, Korome, Padinjarathara, Vythiri, Lakkidi.
I did break the no highways rule by returning via Yediyur. But no regrets. Got home to Christmas sweets, Christmas stories and Christmas wine.
It has taken me nearly 2 years to get my lazy self to put this down on a blog post. A few more road trips have been undertaken since, some routes traveled repeatedly, some on highways too but for the most part I still stick to these few rules:
Avoid the highways – going through less prominent roads helps you discover new places that are not yet on the tourist map
Avoid traveling by the same routes repeatedly for the same reason, find new places
Be an early bird to grab a few more hours and to escape traffic. If you want to stay in bed, why travel at all?