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.

Bespectaled engineer, a bit thick in the middle takes a selfie in the driver's seat of a Maruti Suzuki Alto K10
Driving my first car home. “Do one thing each day that scares you.”

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.

Black Maruti Suzuki Alto K10, trees in the background
At St. Lawrence Church, Mallundur, May 2016
Black Maruti Alto K10 parked to the side of a road slick with recent rain. Forested slopes in the background.
Driving to Panaji, June 2016

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.

Brigitte Bardot - 1962
Brigitte Bardot – 1962 (By MGM (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Wayanad, December 2015

Shortly before Christmas 2015 I rented out a brand new Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and took my 2nd trip into Wayanad.

Royal Enfield Bullet 350
Rented out this new Royal Enfield Bullet 350 with 11km on the odo; they hadn’t even fixed the crash guard yet.

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.

Royal Enfield 350 parked beside a village road
Heading out of Mysore towards Wayanad
Royal Enfield 350 parked facing the left; in the background a herd of skinny cattle pass towards the right
Just before entering Nagarahole

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.

Hills and trees covered in mist
View from the 1st Floor at Lakkidi Grace Tourist Home
Fish Curry Meals
Fish Curry Meals at Lakkidi Grace Tourist Home

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.

Trees in the parking lot of a church near Kalpetta
Trees in front of a Church near Kalpetta
Misty Christmas morning at a church in Kalpetta
Church near Kalpetta on a misty Christmas morning

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.

House with hedge in front of it and creeper along the tiled roof
House in Gonikoppal opposite the Church
Winding road with greenery on both sides on a sunny day
Roads in Gonikoppal were in great condition that December
Two boys on a bicycle crossing a small bridge
Lots of pretty spots all along the road through Gonikoppal
A software engineer smiling beside a muddy path
Just me standing beside a mud road. But even mud roads are beautiful in Gonikoppal.

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.

Two roads branching into the woods
The road towards Hunsur and another going left.
Royal Enfield 350 parked on side stand
Good looking bike. Looks better with a decent set of guards.

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!

Royal Enfield 350 parked on side stand beside a very basic bus-stop
This is where I had to turn around. I wasn’t too bothered. The more I get to drive, the more fun I have.

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.

A small church with a garden around it
The church in Gonikoppal

Christmas lunch was some Kerala style Chicken Biryani at Hotel Bismillah.

The front of a small restaurant with a tall coconut palm rising behind it
Christmas lunch

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/

Royal Enfield 350 parked on side stand in front of a very basic bus-stop with a tiled roof
Don’t even remember the places I visited.
Royal Enfield 350 parked by the side of a hill road overlooking a cliff with a hill rising further ahead.
You really don’t feel like stopping anywhere with this bike. This was one of the very few stops.
Tired but all I wanted to do was drive.

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!

A hill in the distance with  a small cloud looking like it is draped over the peak.

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.

A Royal Enfield 350 parked beside a Yamaha RX135.
Home. Shivajinagar bus-stand. That’s my RX135 beside the RE350.

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?