Motorcycle Therapy For The Soul!
The sun is at its harshest by now, I’m making good time and I’m half way to where I need to be – the final stop on my day-long ride before I head back home. I’ve settled into a rhythm, gently leaning into corners and smoothly powering out at the exits – there really is no better way to clear the mind – just me, my motorcycle and the open road.
It was turning out to be one of those years when life was giving me no breaks – work had been hectic, and the only time I found myself at home was late in the night – just to hit the sack, wake up and head back out to work again. I needed a vacation real bad and that seemed nowhere in the near future at the time, so I decided to do the next best thing. It’s amazing what a motorcycle, any motorcycle, can do for your mental well-being. Some good old motorcycle therapy is exactly what I needed and if I couldn’t manage a long, multi-day ride, I would make the most of at least a Sunday.
Living so close to the Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other means that there are bucket loads of quick riding routes out of Mumbai and Pune and so the plan was simple. Start while the rest of the world was still asleep and head out to Lonavla to catch the sunrise. Ride on to Pune, catch up with some old friends for a lunch stop before cutting all the way across the ghats through Tamhini and make a beeline for the beach at Alibag to catch a stunning sunset. Once it was dark, I would take NH17 all the way back home in Mumbai. What I was doing was essentially a loop – one that would cover just about 450km (which isn’t much really), but one that would make me feel like I was on a destination-hopping vacation – all in just one day.
5am on a Sunday morning isn’t when most people would like to be out on the road, but with the darkness ready to fade out before dawn there was a cool nip in the air and the instant I wrung the throttle open on the Mumbai-Bangalore highway, it filled me with a freshness I hadn’t felt in a long time. Riding out early is good for the motorcycle too – the lower ambient temperatures keep the engine cool and that’s how you want it to be – at least when you’ve just head out. It’s all about the good vibes! 20 minutes later, I had left Panvel behind on NH4 and it was a quick run to Lonavla, turning off towards Aamby Valley on probably what has been one of the most loved stretches of twisties between Mumbai and Pune for a long time now. Lined with a thick cover of trees, it’s easy to make mistakes here, but I was looking ahead at the bigger picture – my ride was just beginning.
It was almost 7am by the time I rode to the top and the sun had just begun peeking out over the Sahyadris. The warmth of the first rays were a stark contrast to the cool breeze from before but it brought with it a clear view of the valley beneath and no matter how many times I may have seen it before, it is still such a sight to behold! I stayed glued to the view for about an hour more and then head back down for a much-needed breakfast in Lonavla before continuing down NH4 towards Pune. I tend to avoid riding in the afternoon if I possibly can – the sun can take quite a toll on stamina and morale. It’s not really the best feeling in the world to have the heat attacking you from all sides – radiating off simmering tarmac from below and cooking your calves and thighs from the motorcycle’s engine too. With the afternoon off the motorcycle and chilling with some old friends over a light lunch, I was ready to head back out on the road towards my destination for the evening – Alibag – where I would catch the sun setting over the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea.
Cutting through from Pune towards the west coast of India offers a unique riding experience that transitions from smooth, wide highways to winding mountain roads to end up in narrow trails leading to the beach. Heading westward from Chandni Chowk in Pune through Mulshi means that the stunning views at Lonavla are complemented by the equally pristine panorama of Mulshi dam and Tamhini Ghat before joining NH17 just ahead of Pali. There on it’s a quick run to Alibag but the real challenge is finding a quiet, peaceful spot on the beach that is otherwise overrun by a massive tourist population. After spending about half an hour hunting for a decent spot, I finally found myself off the saddle again, gazing at the waves beating at the shore. The gentle rhythm mixed with the soothing symphony of splashing water was nearly as calming as my pre-dawn ride on the highway.
As the sun dipped lower, it painted the sky with some of the most vivid hues I had ever seen – pinks, yellows, purples and even some that only women have names for. Far away, a tiny boat floated on – a lonely fisherman pulling in his nets so he may cast them out again the next day. That’s when it hit me – my rigorous work routine wasn’t entirely unnatural. Everything we know around us works to a cycle. There’s day and there’s night, there are the seasons, there’s Life itself – it’s all just one repetitive cycle of events. The key is to find a rhythm, keep calm and to soldier on because every once in a while there will be a storm – a disruption that will break the cycle and when that happens, you’ve just got to make the most of it. Then again, maybe I knew that all along – which is why I choose to ride motorcycles. The road isn’t always arrow straight – there are dips and rises, twists and turns but how you take them is what makes the ride interesting.
I had set off on my journey early in the morning and now with the sun way below the horizon, it was time to ride back home. It had been a tiring day – but the exhaustion overcoming me is the kind that will rejuvenate me and help me settle into a rhythm till the next time I ride. Having watched the sun rise from the top of a mountain and having seen it set from a sandy beach, I wouldn’t want to make the journey any other way, but on a motorcycle. It’s surreal – philosophical even, and at the same time, extremely thrilling. For me, nothing can be as refreshing as Motorcycle Therapy.