Vidisha to Dhule, Sanchi Stupa, Typhon Breaks Down, Dining Hall
We started relatively less early the next morning. The Stupa at Sanchi would not be open before sunrise so we had decided to leave by 8 AM. I had to fix the idling RPM of my bike which had somehow reduced, so I got the bike out of the parking lot and opened it up. For some unknown reason the guys at RE had decided to make it thoroughly inconvenient to fix a thing as simple as this. BBC came back with his bike and we had a silly fight with the parking attendant over 10 rupees. It ended with us paying him an extra 10 bucks, him calling us liars and me shouting at him while he walked away. Finally I fixed the Typhon’s RPM, shut it up, withdrew some money out of an ATM, had breakfast at a street-side stall, and reached Sanchi by 9 AM. We bought a couple of tickets and a couple of delicious guavas. After eating the guavas we rode a winding road up a hill and parked our bikes in an empty parking lot. The cloak room was not open yet so we asked the guard if we could leave our bags with him. He agreed and so we dumped our bags, got our tickets stamped and went inside the Stupa complex.
For some reason the history text books had always given me the impression that the Stupa was situated on a lowland and would be overcrowded with tourists. On the contrary, it was situated on top of a small hill which was chosen specifically for the quietude it offered that was necessary for monastic lifestyle. A bit of history :
The Stupa was commissioned by Asoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BC and the construction was overlooked by his wife, Devi, who belonged to Sanchi. During the next two centuries, under the Shunga and Satavahana periods, the Stupa was adorned with the toranas (gateways), balustrades and the canopies, as well as the Stupa 2 and 3. Many more temples and monasteries were added over the centuries as the site continued to be an active site for Buddhist activities.
I personally found the Stupa very exquisite. The artwork on the gateways was extremely detailed and impressive. Plus there was a detailed explanation of the artwork and the stories they represented, mostly Jataka stories. I spent quite some time looking at the artwork on all the toranas. There were not many tourists around. Perhaps it was too early in the morning, or maybe it was the middle of the week. Whichever the reason, I enjoyed the peace till a loud group of Tamil aunties came, got all worked up and started conversing in loud voices. Then we moved away from the Stupa to and went on to explore the ruins of the monasteries and temples. The sun was up and the heat was slowly cranking up. We sought the shade of a large tree and sat under it hoping the attain enlightenment alike Buddha. The conversation drifted towards yogis and sanyasis who master their bodies to an extent of being able to defy nature. We had heard stories of people who lived in the mountains, surviving in the extreme cold without food and water. But was it a myth? Did such people really exist? If so, where could one find them? We contemplated the questions for a while and then gave up the futile exercise to go explore more temples.
After having seen most of the vihara, we decided to get a cup of coffee and then leave our own separate ways. The Stupa more or less marked the end of our trip. From here, BBC would go back to Vidisha, thence to Jhansi and home to Agra. I would continue towards Pune, covering as much distance as possible.
But this definitely was not the end of my adventure. The few kilometers till Bhopal went by easily enough. The day was still young and not many vehicles had taken to the road. From Bhopal onwards, the highway got much better. It became a one way, 4 or 6 lane highway and allowed me a decent amount of speed. I was planning to reach Dhule by the end of the day. This would make my next day easier, leaving just a few hours of travel to Pune.
I enjoyed the change of highway quality and was making quite good time. Around forty kilometers out of Bhopal, I crossed the village of Dodi and decided to stop under a tree to rehydrate and take a short break. Once I was ready to leave, I found that my bike was unwilling to comply. It was the EFI (Electronic Fuel Injector) again! I tried all the tricks I had learnt in the previous months, hoping that it would be one of the older problems that had resurfaced. But nothing worked. The battery was okay, the handle twisting did not activate the EFI, the wires seemed fine. I was at the end of options, so I tried calling the phone numbers of the workshops in Indore that were listed online. None of them picked up. I did the only logical thing I could, I dragged the bike a kilometer back to Dodi and asked for a mechanic. I was not expecting to find a RE workshop here but something would be better than nothing. The mechanic was one of the rare type that actually listen to the customer rather than acting like a know-it-all that most of the RE mechanics are in a habit to do. We started looking for the fault and failing to find it, decided to check the EFI. He pulled a wire directly from the EFI to the battery and it buzzed alive. So the EFI was not faulty. Phew! That was good news. Since the mechanic did not have time on his hands, he suggested that he could make a direct connection for the EFI and I could get the wiring checked in Indore. Though I would have liked to get the wiring check then and there, he said he would not be available for another couple of hours at least and assured me that I would be good for the distance till Indore. While I contemplated and he taped up the wires that he had opened to inspect, I asked him if there could be a fault with the engine switch on the handle bar. I switch it off and on nonchalantly and lo and behold! The EFI had started working without a direct connection! I swear I will never understand Typhon! At times he just seems like a moody woman that I am stuck with.
We decided to simply accept that something had worked and not shake things up any further. I learnt how to make a direct connection just in case I needed to do it further down the road. Then we closed everything the way it was and I resumed down the highway towards Indore. I had lost just an hour in this ordeal and could still make it to Dhule by the end of the day. Perhaps I would have to drive an hour or so in the dark but it would be worth the effort the following day. I stopped on the Indore bypass for some lunch. It was a proper restaurant instead of a highway dhaba but I thought I would allow myself this luxury. The decision was regrettable. The waiter brought a chicken biryani instead of the mutton biryani that I had ordered. On top of it he decided to argue that he remembered what I had ordered while I did not. Then the owner decided to charge me more than the price given in the menu. When I asked him what that was all about, he told me that the prices had increased and the menus had not been updated. I was quite frustrated and decided that the twenty rupees was definitely not worth the time. So I paid and got out of the restaurant fuming and furious at being cheated; the value being of no relevance.
It was three in the afternoon and the sun was glaring down on the earth. The heat was getting to my head and I was feeling a little uncomfortable. I broke up the remaining kilometers in chunks and milestones. I took a break at every milestone and refreshed myself with a tea in case a stall was available, or with some water and shade. One of the tea stalls had a rather curious owner. He told me that I reminded him of a biker friend of his who was in the army and was currently posted in Goa. Elsewhere I rested my tired back in solitude. The sun went down slowly and the heat lessened. I crossed the border to Maharashtra while the sun was low in the western sky. Dhule was not much farther away.
I was close to Dhule when it got dark enough for the headlights to be switched on. In another hour, I was at my destination and stopped by the streetside to check if there were accommodation options listed online. A bike stopped next to me and asked me where I was coming from. Thus began another conversation with two young men who were curious about who I was and where I was coming from. They were even curious about the price of the bike and then the salary I was earning. I gave them satisfactory answers and some dampened figures. In return I took a recommendation for lodgings. The recommended lodging was a bit too expensive for a water hole. So I decided to go further inside the city. An auto-walah gave me another recommendation and I followed it. This one was within my budget and I checked myself into Lodge Comfort Inn. While I was entering my details in the register, two more Marathi men asked me about my trip thus far and my plans further. They were a bit more thorough and asked for more details. I gladly answered them, the conversation was nothing I was averse to. Then I went up to the room and got out of my riding gear. I rested a while and then went back down to grab a bite.
I had some disappointing bhel and then went to a dining hall that the owner of the guest house had recommended. This place had a long waiting line, and I had to wait for almost twenty minutes! Usually I do not wait this long for food but I was quite curious as to why people were thronging this particular dining hall in a big city like Dhule. While I waited, I noticed that Dhule had a lot of Hindi speaking population. I guessed it was because of it’s proximity to the state border. When my turn did come, I went and sat and was served with an unlimited meal. It totally justified the price, though not the wait. No food is worth such a long wait, in my opinion. Never the less, the simple meal was quite delicious and I ended up overeating! But I still bought a bowl of srikhand at the end and lapped that up as well. I suffered from the pleasurable discomfort of an overstuffed stomach as I walked back to my guest house.
Once back, I tried sleeping and managed to in a short while. The day had been long and tiring and the trip meter had read 1668 when I parked the bike. The blanket given seemed unwashed since ages and I decided not to use it. But the mosquitoes forced me to cover myself up with it despite my hesitation. I have little recollection from the remainder of the night.
Dhule to Pune, Shirdi Madness
I woke up the next morning and was glad not to have contracted any skin ailments. I quickly changed and checked out. I left the main highway (NH3) and took the detour to Shirdi. The main highway was going to continue to Nashik and thence to Mumbai. I stopped here for some breakfast. Good old poha and masala dosa! Then I resumed the journey on the two way highway.
The highway was quite well made and the traffic was easy. However, as I neared Shirdi, I could see a lot of people walking on my side of the road. Initially it did not strike me but these people were walking a length of more than 5 kilometers, making a pilgrimage to the Sai Baba temple! They had choked the street to a near halt and support vehicles slowly moved with them, taking up another lane of the road, blaring loud music and distributing packets of water to the devotees. The used up packets were thrown on the roads and made for an impressive sight. Things people do in the name of devotion. I somehow managed to cross the few kilometers till Shirdi town. Here people started popping out and coming uncomfortably close to my bike, offering parking spots and hotel rooms. Hoarding announced budget lodgings and various kinds of food preparations. I have developed a strong disgust for such commercialised religions.
After Shirdi, I took a couple of more stops and was in Pune before two in the afternoon. It had been a short day and I was left with enough time to rest my tired body. The trip meter gave me a total of 2021 kilometers since Delhi. The distance felt like an accomplishment of sorts. I celebrated the rest of the day doing nothing.
I would spend the coming week repairing Typhon, taking care of some professional commitments and wondering if I had rushed the road trip too much. Madhya Pradesh had been amazing. It was probably one of the more underrated states. There are a lot of historical gems there but they are unfortunately not widely promoted. It would take some time to explore the place. And for the lack of any state transport, it can be best explored by the road on a vehicle of your own. Of course the traffic is a little crazy and you risk the buses and trucks running you off the road, but hey! That’s part of the adventure, right?
I do recommend a bike trip, if you have the time and appetite for it. Riding is an experience of it’s own. I have not yet come up with a convincing argument of my own as to why one should ride. So, for the time being, I will redirect you to a post that my friend wrote about our road trip through the Great Indian Thar desert. The opening paragraphs list some compelling reasons of why one would, in his sane mind, choose to ride on two wheels rather than four.
Whether you enjoyed the post or not, do leave a comment!
Here is the route taken during the final leg on Google Maps.