What does it take to build the courage to put oneself out there?
Pushing hard, chasing our innermost dreams, making something out of nothing and most importantly, trying to figure out where the hell one is actually headed – all these pursuits are journeys that can take a toll even on the most hardened of people.
Emotionally, mentally and even physically, people who are change makers need to keep going beyond what their mind (and often body) is capable of. Once on such a journey, there’s no turning back. Even the mere thought of turning back, feels like one is giving up on the self.
What does it take then, to keep one reassured that one is moving in the right direction? To keep the wind in ones sail? What could give one the power to cast aside all doubts and jump, open throttle, onto the proverbial playground, chasing endeavors you could only have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago?
Well, for me, it has always been the pursuit of light. For if I have light with me, I can find my way. If I have light on my side, I can blaze any trail. Go any distance, wade through the darkest of times.
Over the past five years, I have traversed over fifty thousand kilometers of geography across India. My steeds have been varied, my destinations have been numerous but my journey has been constant.
Me – 1, Inhibitions – 0.
From riding motorcycles on easy highway roads, to diving into jungle trails like it was my own swimming pool, I have always taken on the path ahead of me because the lights I have chosen for my vehicles have always had my back.
DENALI LED Lighting – Optimized for 4×4 applications!
Like a proverbial machete in the hands of a tribal hunter, these beams have helped me chase my freedom. Cutting through dark nights and setting me apart when the sun is in the eye, every time I exercise my independence, my lights have been my foremost weapon.
Silently supporting me, when I am alone. Giving me the courage, to head out – time, after trying time.
I am Nipun Srivastava.
All DENALI Electronics products are available in India through the official distributor – BIGBADBIKES.
DENALI LED Auxiliary lighting is ideal for use on motorcycles, pick-up trucks, Jeeps, side by sides, boats etc, get yours today at bigbadbikes.com!
Nipun Srivastava is part of the DENALI Electronics Brand Ambassadors Team for 2021.
Motorcycles, they make our world go round.
Truly, these two-wheeled machines have made me marvel at their form and function, right since I’ve been conscious enough to understand the feeling of wind hitting my skin in tandem with the twist of a throttle. What motorcycles have given me, in return for living with them, maintaining them and fueling them, cannot be quantified. But what I can do is share how they’ve made a huge impact on my life, the type of people I meet and how I meet them.
Ever had a friend who you’ve never met, never ridden alongside, never even spoken to on the phone but your connect is super strong – as if you were siblings? That’s what MK and I share – all because of our motorcycles!
I had just bought my dream machine – the BMW R1250GS.
It was surreal, bringing this behemoth home and like any true motorcyclist, I was itching to ride the living daylights out of it! As if on cue, my friend who I’d never spoken to, MK, sent me a text saying he was on his way back to India in December. (He stays in Dubai most of the year). He was returning to his village home in Kerala – in the heart of South India!
Since we’d never met, yet, were two passionate motorcyclists – passionate about motorcycles, accessories, riding gear et al, this was a golden opportunity for us to finally ride together after years of WhatsApp friendship! MK, like myself, rode a plethora of motorcycles and had a penchant for quality.
MK and I got to know each other because both of us were part of a motorcycle (messaging) group that owned Kawasakis – The Versys 650 to be exact. We both loved the V650s as they made for fantastic, practical and fast machines that were very accessory friendly. As it happens on such groups, discussing accessories and dealing with weirdos who always had a point to prove, MK and I found our opinions chiming in unison more than a few times. This led to us deciding that, as and when we’d get the chance, we’d ride together.
You know what they say, great friends are hard to come by. So I take them when I get them and hold on as tight as the brotherhood allows.
The reality was that MK’s home was a thousand miles away from my home – one way. I’d have to cross 5 states, ride through mountain ranges, alongside India’s West Coast and cover decent highway distances to reach Kerala.
2000 miles ahead!
I convinced my usual motorcycling partner in crime, Vaishali, to join me on this multi state ride across western India. She’s the best pillion I’ve ever had on a motorcycle. Always in sync, always ready to pull her weight (and the bikes! If need be 😜). Vaishali has been a constant companion on quite a few motorcycle rides. Most importantly, she doesn’t mind me giving most of my attention to my motorcycle when on a ride, especially with my cameras.
Vaishali, flanked by the GS and I. #helmethair #forthewin
WELL BEGUN IS HALF DONE
Well, the ride didn’t begin all that well.
Being a Creative Director, leading my own advertising and production teams, I’m always jumping from one shoot to the other and the night before the ride was the same, it got real late. We started the ride a full 6 hours behind schedule, as I spent the early morning packing and setting up my GS, first BIG ride after all.
Starting late (on a ride as huge as this one) is a strict no-no for me. It just puts everything out of whack and has a cascading effect on the whole endeavour. Anyway, we made our way, leaving my home city of Pune at noon, in the state of Maharashtra, India.
It was December, a few days ahead of Christmas. MK is Christian and the whole idea on this leg of the onward journey was to reach the destination in time for us to celebrate together! To help make that happen, MK and his family had made their way to Wayanad, up and into the Southern Indian Mountains, with MK riding his Versys 650.
Vaishali (my pillion), the GS and I were a long ways away though. We were still riding towards Goa, our first overnight stop on the ride.
The worst place to stay, if you have to leave the next morning, is Goa.
Why? Because one never feels like leaving Goa, ever! The food and people in Goa are some of the best. Every time we ride into Goa, the chilled out vibe grips us so tight that we almost always end up extending our trip! No such option this time, we were on a mission, mission to Mangalore!
Susegado baby, you’re in Goa!
‘Susegado’, as the Goans refer to the ‘vibe’ here, is infectious to say the least. From quiet naps in the afternoon to casual beer and seafood in the evening, you just want to slow down and enjoy each breath you take, when here. Something that is so alluring to my current city dwelling mindset, I am certain I will get myself a home in Goa someday. Maybe I’ll even get a boat and spend my retirement dough mounting Denali lights on it!
We reached Goa after dark, just in time for a quick dinner with local friends and then to bed. Next morning, we took our time once again, leaving at noon. On our way out of Goa, our next overnight destination was the city of Mangalore in the state of Karnataka (already our third state on this ride!).
ALONG THE WEST COAST
The coastal road from Goa to Mangalore, a distance of about 400 kilometres, is some of the most pleasurable and easy riding one can do. Especially now that we had already fallen behind our riding schedule, there was no point rushing through the good bits. Taking the Goan vibe along as we rode across state borders into Karnataka, we took time to appreciate the abundant coastal beauty this stretch of the road had to offer. Stopping often, just to enjoy the constant sea breeze and refreshing views.
The whole 400 kilometre Goa-Mangalore stretch winds along the western coast of India, in tandem with the Western Ghat Mountains on one side and the stunning Arabian Sea on the other, lined on both sides of the road with rustling coconut palms.
Even though the 400k distance may seem short, this coastal route is a slow ride by default. After a good 10 hours on the road, we reached Mangalore City and battled its peak hour evening traffic to reach our hotel. Promptly dismounting and heading for dinner.
Just 400 kilometres from the Indian Sunshine State of Goa and a few tens of kilometres short of the Southern state of Kerala, sits the bustling coastal City of Mangalore. With its own unique Mangalorean cuisine and culture, it’s a city and region which is as unique as it is stunning! I’d taken a trip specifically to explore this part of India in 2018, on my Versys 650, check out that story here: Malabar Calling.
On this trip however, Mangalore was just a place to lay our heads before we finally made our way up into the Western Ghat Mountains towards Wayanad.
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY
Ah, Kerala, you beauty!
From crisp coffee to tantalising teas, from calm lagoons to the roaring seas, from life at sea-level to misty, evergreen mountains – Kerala has EVERYTHING any traveller could ever ask for. Not to forget the divine cuisine that is the diamond in the crown of this state!
As soon as we rode into the Western Ghat Mountains, we left the warm and sultry tropical weather behind and were welcomed into the highlands with cool mountainous breeze. With the Boxer Engine of the 1250 GS growling between my legs, I took full advantage of the superb 2-Up riding dynamics of this stellar motorcycle!
Not only were Vaishali and I riding 2-Up, our GS (The Swashbuckler) was fully loaded from front to back! Right from the SW-Motech EVO Daypack Tankbag, carrying most of my Camera paraphernalia, to the AERO ABS Side Cases (also from SW-Motech) – our main luggage. I also have to mention the nifty Urban ABS Top Case that we had, carrying all our footwear at the back.
Why do I consistently choose SW Motech ABS Luggage over a trio of aluminium?
Well, even on a motorcycle as well put together as the GS, one needs luggage that is manageable single handedly. (OR) When touring 2-Up, the rider-pillion team has to be able to lug the luggage up a hill with bare hands. Ultimately, ABS luggage is light, yet holds its form beautifully and looks stunning on the outside. Moreover, the AERO ABS Side Cases aren’t too big and thus make you carefully consider each item you are carrying. You know, so that you don’t end up carrying extra crap that you’ll never use. Most importantly, in a worst case scenario, one can shove these abs plastic luggage cases in overhead bins on an aircraft!
ABS luggage #forthewin from SW-Motech & Denali Electronics D4 V2 TriOptic LED Aux. Lamps
Just in time for this ride, I had mounted the Denali D4 V2 TriOptic LED Aux lamps. These came in very handy as we rode further up into the western ghat mountains and the Sun went down behind the peaks. We were flying towards our destination, the forest district of Wayanad. We passed the coffee plantations of Coorg/Madikeri during early evening and then crossed the state border into Kerala as dusk approached. A few more hours of cold weather riding saw us entering the forests of Wayanad on the GS, looking for our hotel, where our Christmas dinner awaited!
My friend, MK, had made sure that as soon as we got off the motorcycle, our beers were handed to us! Mark of a true friend ;).
A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER
Motorcycle Friends – MK, his wife Seema, Vaishali and I. Our Steeds – MK’s Kawasaki Versys 650 & The Swashbuckler!
When motorcycle tourers meet, the first few hours are spent conversing and analysing each other’s motorcycles. It’s one thing to share messages about which accessory to buy, its a whole another process seeing it mounted on a machine.
MK and his wife had ridden up to the forests of Wayanad to celebrate Christmas with us. What a gesture and what a way to bring in 2020!
WAYANAD & VYTHIRI
Absolutely calm green forests, nestled within sweeping hills and water bodies, that is what Wayanad and Vythiri offer.
We spent a couple of days exploring the areas around, took in the perfect winter weather and generally chilled out. I even took the opportunity to head out and ride a couple of off-road trails deeper into the forests of Vythiri. Lucky that the monsoon season had passed, this place would have been mayhem to ride through, landslides and all!
At the end of one trail, we found ourselves a glassy lake with open views, imperative that I spend some time shooting my GS! 😀
ON TO THE NEW YEAR!
With Christmas behind us, MK, our pillions and I were to ride further deeper into Kerala – to their village home, 300 kilometers further south of Wayanad. This was our first real ride together!
Riding into 2020!
2020 was brought in with style at (what I like to call) MK’s motorcycle-home. One reason why we hit it off is that the both of us are motorcycle aficionados, the constant motoring banter between us is endless, we often found ourselves being the last people in a room. Visiting a fellow rider’s home sometimes treats one to a fascinating insight into their unique perspective on motoring.
MK’s Motorcycle Home & Festive Champagne!
There’s something to be said about living far away from the city. The calm surroundings and slow pace of life in Indian villages is worth its weight in gold if you ask me. Increasingly, I have come to realise that it is the quality of the life one is living and not the location that matters most. Here’s hoping I put my learnings from this trip into practice sooner than later!
Finally then, our time at MK’s home also came to an end. Their family had left no stone unturned in making sure we were fed every type of delicacy Kerala had to offer. Vaishali and I were as honoured as we were humbled by their extraordinary hospitality.
I struggle with goodbyes.
KOCHI – NO TIME FOR MELANCHOLY
On Indian roads, there’s no time to brood. As soon as we rode out of rural Kerala, the heat, humidity and bustle of urban traffic hit us like a freight train!
We were now on our way to the metropolitan city of Kochi.
After spending close to 10 days in the stunning serenity of Wayanad, Vythiri and then at my friend’s village villa. Kochi’s fast pace took some getting used to! Luckily for us, the BMW dealership here was headed by a friend and fellow GS rider as well. For the first time on this ride, Vaishali and I left the GS for some TLC at EVM Motorrad Kochi and made our way to the touristy side of the city. Kochi is a hardcore coastal city, the Arabian Sea forms an inseparable part of the life here. Whether it’s the sea-food or the ways to get around town, the Sea is everywhere.
Ferry Hop in search of the Biker’s Burger!
We hopped onto a ferry to get us to Fort Kochi – probably the most touristy part of town. With the prospect of juicy burgers in front of us, we weren’t complaining! Lo and behold, I found myself a ‘biker’s burger’, I had to give it a go! 😀
Our stop at Kochi city was planned as a jumping off point. We had the GS being looked over by the boys at BMW, just as a precaution, as this was our first big tour with the beast. Next, we had to plan our journey back towards home. Or did we?
TAKING THE LONG WAY HOME
My partner in crime on this ride, Vaishali, is a corporate honcho and her work schedules are always very demanding. But when we’re on a motorcycle ride, she leaves the planning to me. I was free to take whatever route I wished, as long as I got her back in time for her work. Ok then.
Since we’d largely hugged the coast on our way south, I was quite keen on taking the mountainous route towards home. With the GS making short work of highways, I was quite keen on taking a road that had a few more curves and few less curbs, if you know what I mean.
Although as a tourer I tend to ride South quite often, there are still pockets of South India I am yet to explore. The hill town of Coonoor, in the lap of the Nilgiri mountain ranges is one such unexplored pocket for me. And so, thanks to google maps and Taj Hotels, our plan was set.
COONOOR & OOTY
The GS, surrounded by tea gardens, at 7000ft!
If Tea and mountains are your thing, Coonoor & Ooty in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are a must visit. Both hill towns ooze old world (and dare I say, colonial) charm. The climb upto about 7000 feet above sea level brought us to our little cozy spot in Coonoor. This quaint little hotel (managed by Taj Hotels, India), was the perfect example of old British architecture that now forms part of regular life here. The temperatures were quite low, which was a welcome break from the humid hustle of Kochi. Both Coonoor and Ooty are touristy towns with tea gardens surrounding all mountain slopes, all around. Needless to say, both towns are full of tourist traps that are worth visiting only if one is fond of such things.
Sweeping Views – Train Ride to Ooty – Ooty Railway Head – Our Cozy Spot at Coonoor!
Our love for machines, however, drew us to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The last remaining meter-gauge rack/cog railway line in India. The hour long train ride snakes its way along the mountain slopes from Coonoor to Ooty, offering sweeping views of the stunning tea gardens and surrounding hills. A perfect way to take in both towns, when short on time.
On that note, we were no more on a leisure trip. After our second night at Coonoor, we were well and truly homeward bound. Even though home was still a good 1000 kilometres away!
Riding down the Blue Mountains!
Now, it was just a matter of mounting up, riding down the Blue Mountains of India (Nilgiris), wrapping up our 20-day motorcycle sojourn and finally, settling down with the grind once again.
Vaishali and I took one more stop on our way back home. The coffee town of Chikmagalur. If coffee is your thing and you’re in India, Chikmagalur is the place to be! Estate after estate growing coffee line the hillsides here. Check out my Kawasaki Versys 650 story, where I explore this area in greater depth: Malabar Calling.
With Chikmagalur behind us, it was a relatively straight 700 kilometre highway dash back towards our home city of Pune. Memories and experiences in tow, atop the mighty Swashbuckler, we had made good time on every leg of our 3000 kilometre winter journey to the South of India. For the kind of riding we do, I doubt there’s a better steed out there.
MK and I, the original dreamers of this trip, have made a pact.
Every year, when he returns to India, we will meet up and ride together in some new part of India. Our next escapade includes the Southern Districts of Idukki and Periyar National Park and Tiger reserve.
As Vaishali and I returned to Pune, MK and his family reached their home in Dubai. All of us, back to the grind. Little did we know, what 2020 had in store for the world. Lockdowns after lockdowns in India have kept my GS and me caged in isolation since this whole pandemic fracas began. Although I’m pretty sure these testing times will pass, I truly hope us ‘Southern Souls’ are riding alongside each other again, soon.
If it wasn’t for our motorcycles, all of them, that got us here, MK and I probably wouldn’t ever have crossed paths.
And if you took a look at us today, we’re like family.
Motorcycles, they make our world go round.
Writing for this piece has been rendered by Nipun Srivastava, our resident adventurer & Creative Head.
There are motorcycles and then there are motorcycles – and then there’s the GS.
Over the years our teams have ridden and used many a motorcycle but when it was time to choose our first ever ‘project motorcycle’ for Image Drivers ( India ), …it had to be the BMW R1250GS.
Watch the Project Teaser!
(scroll down for full film)
We pulled out all the stops when it came to Nipun Srivastava’s beloved new steed. We called in trained technicians from multiple mechanical disciplines to lend a hand with our build. This build was to be an intense one as the challenge before us was not just to outfit the motorcycle from start to finish, within 24 hours, we were to do it with an entire camera crew from @thenirvanateam pointing their lenses at the motorcycle and all the parts we had got for it!
It had to be the GS.
Everything had to happen like clockwork and right from the start, it didn’t. Early, on the morning of the BMW build, we got to the workshop at 5am, hoping to start by 6 but guess what, the shutters to the shop had jammed shut and refused to open. It took us the better part of an hour to figure out how to jimmy open the damn thing. We got it done, eventually.
Getting ready to load up!
Inside our workshop for the day, the boys from thenirvanateam got to doing what they do best, setting up all the motorcycle, camera and tooling gear required for the marathon assembly and video shoot which was about to start.
Here’s a list of stuff that we planned to get on the bike that day:
- Lower Crash Guards
- Sump Guard/Bash Plate
- Front axle Slider
- Side Stand Foot Enlarger
- Windscreen Reinforcement
- Brake cylinder Guard, Rear
- Rear brake Reservoir Guard
- EVO Tank Ring
- Daypack Tank Bag
- Gear Shift Lever
- Denali Light Mount
- Denali D4 V2 TriOptic – Wiring and Install
- Upper Crash Bars
- Rear Slider For Drive Shaft
- Aero ABS Pannier System
- Adventure Rack for Top Case
- Adapter Plate for Top Case
- Urban ABS Top Case
We caught the bull by its horns and started off with mounting the biggies – the lower crash bars and sump guard from SW-Motech. Then came the quickies – the front axel slider, quick lock tank ring and the side stand enlarger, then came the trickies – the windscreen reinforcements and wire routing for the LEDs.
Lower Crash Bars, Sump Guard, Windscreen Reinforcements, Axle Sliders & Side Stand Enlarger.
(Click on an image to see it up close)
Along the way, the brake cylinder and reservoir guards were also bolted on in quick succession. Fairly easy stuff.
Then came the gear shift lever from SW-Motech, which required rider input from Nipun Srivastava, who came in all decked up with his new KLIM gear, ready to show off for the cameras! (Watch the video at the bottom to check it out!)
Lunch for the team was a quick ‘Vada Pav’, which is basically an Indian veggie burger with a potato patty – our go-to snack during builds like these and while on rides.
Brake Reservoir Guard, Gear Shift Lever & Brake Cylinder Guard.
After lunch, as the lights came on again and the cameras fired up, came the job of figuring out how to mount the dutiful Denali D4 LED lights. The directions in the box are a boon but the lights were to go on in unison with the DataDim Module from Denali and also the Denali Light Mount for the R1250GS, which was to replace the crossmember on the upper crash bars from SW-Motech (phew! Just saying it out loud is a feat!), the 3-position-switch was also to be connected as we were not using the Can-Smart Controller. Not to forget the routing of wires all the way under the fuel tank cowl, making its way to the under-seat battery.
This part of the installation took time as so many bits were involved, however it was a fairly straightforward process, with a little back and forth on the routing of wires and ideal placement of the D4 light pods. We would also add a couple of S4 light pods with the help of ‘splitters’ (also provided by Denali) a few days later, so the time the boys took painstakingly snaking the wiring through, helped us bolt the S4s on in a jiffy!
Denali D4 V2 TriOptics all lit up with the new Denali S4s in tandem.
Finally then, as the Sun went under, came the luggage systems. Nipun had chosen the stunning new Aero ABS semi rigid panniers for his steed, an unconventional choice for the GS, but he swears by them as he’d been using the earlier version of the same boxes for years on his Kawasaki Versys 650, check out the Kwacker here: Sport Tourer for the Soul.
The Aero ABS panniers mount onto the new PRO Side Carriers from SW-Motech, even with the boxes off the bike, the PRO carriers look quite smart, giving the motorcycle a real rugged look.
The stunning Aero ABS Side-Pannier System from SW-Motech!
After the panniers, the Adventure Rack went on, with the adapter plate for the Urban ABS TopCase. This took surprisingly long as we found ourselves completely flummoxed by the adapter plate and its mountings atop the Adventure rack. Looking back, it was probably the non-stop 15 hours of standing and continuous working on the motorcycle that had taken its toll on the team, we stopped. We pulled out all product literature and read through the mounting sequence line by line. Our lead technician finally figured it out as the clock struck 11pm (remember, we started this gig at 6am).
And then the Top Case went on as easy as butter melting on toast. Check it out below!
The Adventure Rack & Urban ABS Top Case in action.
Finally, our list was complete and we rechecked every part installed on the motorcycle one last time and that was it.
PRO TIP: If, ever, like us, you are crazy enough to attempt installing so many parts on a GS all at once, take it from us, install the Tank Bag and Tank Ring absolutely at the end. We spent a lot of time installing the tank ring and then repeatedly taking it off to access the space under the fuel tank cowl.
The Daypack Tank Bag from SW-Motech.
Trust us, it sounds way less intense than it really was. Multiple takes and retakes for the video crew, actually trying to figure out how to mount the parts without losing any bits and bobs in the process. Bagging and tagging each bit to come off the stock bike, behind the scenes – it had all been a true marathon. But we delivered on our promise and Nipun got to ride his steed home that night, fully loaded.
Wondering how it all turned out?
Check out the short video below to catch the full reveal and see how @thenirvanateam went about their job.
Over 20 hours of painstaking work, showcased in just 4 minutes, enjoy!
Do share this post with your buddies and feel free to comment and join the conversation!
Just the thought of traveling through this South Indian State conjures up images of stunning backwaters, epic roads, coconut palms, fabulous food, mind blowing beaches and well, tropical beauty at its best!
Feast your eyes !
Malabar Calling – A stunning Kettuvalam Houseboat at cruise on a typical lagoon.
“These refreshing vistas are what greeted me as I took a stop at Bekal, in Northern Kerala. After having ridden my steed (the Kawasaki Versys 650) through Goa, then Mangalore (Karnataka) and finally into Kerala, I was happy to have covered over a thousand kilometers. What’s more is that I was now well and truly in Malabar Country. A place known for its food, culture, temples, forts, beaches, resort hotels and of course – the serene backwaters of the Arabian Sea.
A sunset cruise over the (yet) noncommercial backwaters of Nileshwar is so nourishing for the soul, one needs to experience it to believe it. A two day drive or ride from Mumbai or Pune or a day’s hop from Bangalore, Nileshwar is your surest way of sampling the Kettuvalam houseboats and Kerala Culture whilst being spared the madness of usual Kerala hot spots which are known to be overflowing with tourists at most times.
As one rides up to the backwaters over idyllic little bridges and through lush coconut groves, you come across a dozen or so houseboat operators dotted along the inner waters of Nileshwar and around.
Queen of the water!
Take your pick, most these boats are similar in look and feel, however we suggest you pick Lotus Houseboats or Bekal Ripples as your cruise of choice. Their vessels are good and make for a better nautical experience.
The boats have onboard kitchens, bedrooms with air-conditioning and open dining spaces fit for a family, couples or even a group of friends. Prices range from $50 to $1000 depending on the length of your cruise.
Cruise choices range from six-hour day cruises to short two-hour sunset cruises and you can even stay aboard these vessels overnight as they make their way, at leisure, from Nileshwar to Valliaparamba.
Sunset Hues – Serene waters of the Kerala Lagoons.
When you ride hard, you must eat well. In this part of India, food is sublime. From seafood to the choicest meats, even vegetarian selections, prepared with tongue tingling spices fit for royalty – it’s a real treat here!
Pardon my lack of Instagram professionalism as I conveniently excused myself from shooting images of my food. In the moment, I preferred pouncing on the plates over pulling out the lenses 😀
Instead, here’s a look at where we stayed.
Taj Bekal Resort and Spa – epic accommodation!
Kerala is home to some of the most idyllic Hotel Resorts and Spa Retreats in India. Taj Bekal, our anchor-point on this motorcycle ride, was the perfect home away from home.
Genuinely, what a place to spend the better part of a week. Taking a stroll under lush coconut palms, spending an afternoon at Asia’s largest Spa (really!), taking a moonlit raft ride on the (in-premises) river, sampling food at all four restaurants, spending time at the beach and in the fabulously put together rooms – we did everything this place had to offer.
Taj Bekal Beachfront!
At Taj Bekal, I’ve stumbled upon my new stress-buster getaway itinerary: Take a flight to Mangalore, get the hotel to drive me to Bekal, spend three blissful nights here and then take a flight back to the grind!
Just being at Bekal eases the senses, surrounds you with soothing shades of green and blue as the sea breeze and brown sand take turns tickling you head to toe. It really is my go-to beach holiday now!
Bekal – Stress buster of sorts!
Now then, with the Arabian Sea and the leisurely Lagoons of Bekal behind me, I was in the mood for some good motorcycling. I now set my target as Chikmagalur, in Karnataka.
After what I had just experienced in Kerala, I didn’t expect too much to see on my way inland. Boy was I wrong, motorcycling in India is truly something to write home about!
Riding away from the coast and into the Western Ghat Mountain range in South Western India, I was left dumbfounded by what I saw on my way.
Zipping through the Western Ghats on the Kawasaki Versys 650!
Kudremukh National Park, this is a protected part of the Western Ghat Mountain range in the state of Karnataka, India.
With just a single, exquisitely laid, super smooth and curvaceous road cutting through, Kudremukh has to be one of the most heavenly roads to ride on in India.
Kudremukh Peak & National Park visible in the distance, as seen from Mullayangiri.
Crossing over the Western Ghat Mountains, the roads now cut through lush Tea Gardens and Coffee plantations. The weather was now noticeably cooler and the roads were empty as can be!
The smooth hum of my motorcycle was the perfect companion as we took turn after turn into the overwhelming green surrounds of District Chikmagalur.
Lush Plantations of Chikmagalur!
Chikmagalur is the birthplace of coffee in India. Legend has it that a Sufi Saint on his way back from pilgrimage to Mecca, carried a few raw coffee beans as he transited through Yemen.
Those few beans are what started it all, as far as Coffee plantation in this region goes. Fascinating!
As you climb down from the Western Ghat Mountains, you hit Chikmagalur Town in the foothills. It’s almost as if Chikmagalur is cradled by the mighty Ghats, sitting pretty at a height of 3500 ft.
I made my way through the town, on one side was the semi-urban hustle and on the other, the mammoth mountain of Mullayangiri – the highest mountain peak in the state of Karnataka (6000 ft).
Riding to the top of Mullayangiri was my next target. It had been a while since I had ridden a motorcycle above 5000 ft in Nepal and Ladakh. I wondered how far up the mountain one could reach with the Versys 650.
On top of the world!! (Well, just Karnataka really.)
The Kawasaki Versys 650 – Atop Mullayanagiri – The Highest Mountain Peak of Karnataka, India.
Getting to the top of this mountain was relatively easy. Although the extremely narrow road with tight hairpins and vehicles moving in both directions really got the blood flowing!
Just a couple clicks short of the top, the road vanishes completely. Hereon only 4×4 jeeps hired by tourist groups take on the last little bit of the climb as it is completely off-road. Well, Jeeps and motorcycles 😉
There should be a paved road all the way soon enough but for now, it was a two kilometer long off road track with steep fall-offs on one side and the mountain on the other! Like I said, it got the blood flowing 😛
Road to Mullayanagiri!
From the thick sea breeze at Bekal to the thin air atop Karnataka’s highest peak, this had been a journey of sorts. The number of different terrains I had seen on this short 2000 kilometer ride was really something.
As I rode back towards Chikmagalur town, I loaded up on the famed filter coffee and bought myself a couple kilos of beans. You need to try the blends from here, you’ll forget about the crap we drink in our cities!
I really do mean that. At the Estate run shops in Chikmagalur, you can get customized coffee blends as per your preferences. Might I add, buying freshly blended Coffee here is extremely affordable.
Charged up on coffee, it was time to head home.
What a journey it had been – seven days, over two thousand kilometers, great food, stunning scenery, fabulous roads and so much coffee. This trip ended up being everything I’d imagined it would be and more.
Safe to say, I’m already planning another trip down South. There’s just so much more to see and experience in South India!
Until next time, I’m Nipun Srivastava, Vrooming off!”
Wow, we at The Nirvana Team can’t wait to see where Nipun head’s next and which vehicle he chooses!
We thank Taj Hotels for their exceptional support and impeccable service along the way, their Hotels and Resorts make the perfect pit stops for motorcycle touring in South India.
The Kawasaki India Versys 650 performed like a total champ on this journey, as expected. Great performance on and off the road, fully loaded and even two-up. An absolute value for money motorcycle for India!
Do tell us what you think of this photo-story by Photographer Nipun Srivastava, would you like to see more stories like this in the future? Comment down below!
There are machines and there are machines. Some make you gasp in awe, some make you swoon with envy and then those which just steal your heart.
We were invited on-board the first ever track day of this track ready DUCATI PANIGALE V4, piloted by (Owner) Ashutosh Mahadik and boy, what a pleasure it was for our boys to be there in the thick of it with our favorite rider, going toe for toe in the blistering heat, humidity and uncertain weather!
The Ducati Panigale V4 speeds out of the first curve at Buddh International Circuit in India!
‘A new opera.’ That’s how Ducati opens its marketing pitch for the Panigale V4. With the Akrapovic full-system performance exhaust on this particular unit, there sure were a whole new set of notes ringing around the Buddh International Circuit! Spine tingling sound is one thing, the 1 to 1 power to weight ratio has this machine belting out over 225 BHP! To see this symphony in motion is to see the pinnacle of the Ducati Design team’s strongest performance yet.
Symphony in motion!
“The beauty of this machine is in its handling.
Leave alone its 1103cc motor churning out 226hp! The counter rotating crankshaft gives such brilliant, planted feedback to the rider; it’s unbelievable! Kudos to Ducati for having broken all bounds in engineering and literally hitting the ball out of the park against its competition!”
That’s what owner, Ashutosh has to say about the motorcycle after his first few track sessions.
Ashutosh, taking all the V4 has to give!
The new range toppers for Ducati’s supersport line of motorcycles, the Panigale V4, V4S and the V4 Speciale replace the older Panigale 1299.
They say it’s the closest you can get to a Moto GP motorcycle for your money. Well, from the track-side production pillboxes on the Buddh International Circuit, we could only nod in agreement as we saw the V4 zip by with its Akras screaming in automotive ecstasy.
“The Italians consistently create designs which make my heart sing, whether it is their supersports, scramblers or even the multistradas. They know exactly how to take a great design and elevate it to the next level. Every. Single. Time.
No other brand has me looking at their new launches with so much attention. I saw the Desert Sled – fell in love, saw the 959 – fell in love and now this sublime piece of V4 candy. Ducatis always have me swooning.”
Such a stunner – the new V4!
Safe to say, lead photographer Nipun Srivastava’s heart strings are being tugged by these stunning Ducatis left, right and center! New stablemate soon? 😉
Ducati reigns on the BIC!
Great aesthetics aside, the mechanical aspects of this Ducati and its power-plant are equally overwhelming, here’s a list of features on what Ducati calls the
DESMOSEDICI STRADALE ENGINE (pronounced: dez-mo-see-dee-chee)
Twin Pulse Firing Order | Rearward Rotating Crankshaft | A New Desmodromic System | Variable Intake System | A GP Derived Intake/Combustion Chamber
Well, here’s wishing Ashutosh a million more miles on his wheels! Cheers to your spirit man!
The Nirvana Team & www.theroadtonirvana.com, now offer bespoke photo/video-sessions at the BIC for enthusiasts looking to create a portfolio of their Racing Lifestyle at the Buddh International Circuit.
These photo-sessions include: 1. A rider profile 2. A motorcycle profile 3. Track riding images 4. Specific images requested by riders (e.g Knee/Elbow Down, Body Position images) 5. Racing Lifestyle Images.
Photography packages start at INR 49,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (Maximum 4 riders/drivers per track day)
Video packages start at INR 75,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (One rider/Driver per track day only)
Be the star of your own story!
Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries.
Earlier this year, our lead – Nipun Srivastava hit the Buddh International Circuit race track (with his lenses) and he says he fell in love with the Ducati 959 Panigale. With the attention that motorcycle got from his camera, it isn’t hard to believe!
Queen of the pits! The Ducati 959 Panigale oozes sex appeal!
Say hello also to the rider in the saddle – Ronak Gupta. On his second time at the BIC, Ronak shaved over 20 seconds off his initial lap timings around the track!
Ronak, taming the Ducati on the track!
The Buddh International Circuit race track has become very popular with riders who like to stretch the muscles of their super-sport beasts in a safe and well organized manner. The BIC track (located in Greater Noida), is the only one of its kind in India and now hosts track days open to all on a regular basis.
Full safety gear is a must for riders looking to push limits of their machines here.
Hell for leather!
This race track offers riders the perfect opportunity to hone their high speed motorcycling skills. Riders are seen coming in from all over the country with their motorcycles for the track days held here most often on weekends.
Ronak gets his knee down!
Nipun, our lead, made some new friends here while shooting on the track. Here are also some photos of a Yamaha R1 and a Kawasaki ZX10R.
Whacking open the throttle just as they get out of Turn-1 at the BIC!
Riders are seen pushing their motorcycles to the absolute limits of performance and technique here. Time after time, they correct their body positions, race lines and chisel off seconds from their overall lap times. It’s all very exhilarating stuff!
Leaning into the chicane!
The motorcycles are also well taken care of at BIC, safe parking is offered to riders for their machines. Space for riders to spread out and take a breather after completing hot laps is available just next to the pits.
The Kawasaki ZX10R commands the pit at sundown.
For advanced and new riders alike, training here is known to be extremely beneficial for enhancement of their motoring skills.
There are various training schools which also offer training to enthusiasts for taking the track on in a safe and responsible manner.
In it to win it!
The Nirvana Team & http://www.theroadtonirvana.com, now offer bespoke photo/video-sessions at the BIC for enthusiasts looking to create a portfolio of their Racing Lifestyle at the Buddh International Circuit.
These photo-sessions include: 1. A rider profile 2. A motorcycle profile 3. Track riding images 4. Specific images requested by riders (e.g Knee/Elbow Down, Body Position images) 5. Racing Lifestyle Images.
Book your Racing Lifestyle Sessions with us! Email us – email@example.com!
DUCATI – Racing Lifestyle
Photography packages start at INR 49,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (Maximum 4 riders/drivers per track day)
Video packages start at INR 75,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (One rider/Driver per track day only)
Be the star of your own story!
Twenty motorcycles were on their way to us while we huddled and belted out one concept after another, tailored to each individual product according to its placement on the Indian market. We at TheNirvanaTeam never shy away from challenges. Whether it be taking the right risks to get our clients the visuals they deserve or going beyond the boundary set by industries in exploring unique creative possibilities, whatever it may be – we are ready.
On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!
The worlds largest two wheeler manufacturer told us they wanted our boys and girls to design and execute productions for each and every product they made. Every single two wheeler in their portfolio, yes. Let that sink in.
We’ve shot everything from supercars to superbikes but the sheer scale of this photo-shoot was a force to be reckoned with. All the while, our team maintained constant cohesion with our client and with Dir. Nipun Srivastava in the lead, we were soon ready for the mammoth photo-shoot as the motorcycles arrived at our studio in Pune. Bear in mind, this was not to be a simple exercise executed within the comfortable surrounds of our studio. This was to be a fully location based exercise with a unique location chosen for each two wheeled product that we were about to shoot.
As it often happens, all the planning in the world can still not prepare one for the challenges the proverbial open road holds. In early February of 2017, after a solid two months of rock solid planning, scouting and resource allocation we had already endured some serious challenges, unexpected hurdles and managed to swiftly accommodate any new changes that were expected of us professionally.
Demonetization in India had come and gone, moreover, pollution norms in the country were set to change. Our photo-shoot, its time-line and most of our planning were thrown out of whack right when we thought we were ready to start production! In the face of mounting logistical odds, professional challenges and uncertain production dynamics, our team’s unwavering resolve and sheer dedication to our work really shone. TheNirvanaTeam was up to every task, surmounted every challenge small or big with an extremely lean production team to produce the results you will now be able to see here and probably have seen on Hero MotoCorp’s Social Media Channels in the recent past.
Here’s a look at some of the images we produced and also how Hero MotoCorp used images produced on this mammoth Photo-shoot.
Starting off! We hit the beach in our signature Nirvana style! Shooting the Splendor Pro Classic for Hero was a lot of fun as we got onto the beach waaay to early and spent our time dodging the tide again and again! Trying various points of views, playing with ample natural light, et al!
Finally, a little after sunset, we had all our shots!
We took the Achiever 150 up a winding road early on the morning of the shoot. Freakish cold, smooth roads, whistling winds and a mind blowing Sunrise made for the perfect set of pictures for this motorcycle from Hero MotoCorp!
The Achiever 150 by The Nirvana Team
Hitting the highway with the Xtreme Sports motorcycle was a little tricky as our timing had to be just right. We needed perfect light on the road that ran through a narrow gorge, traffic had to be managed and the photography had to be executed – all in tandem! We did it!
The Xtreme Sports by TheNirvanaTeam
While shooting the Splendor Pro, we head across a whole riverbed! Took the vehicle through a lot of dust and grime to reach our little oasis that was chosen for the shoot this evening. Our boys spent a lot of time cleaning the vehicle and only then were we ready to shoot! She looks as striking as ever! All that pain and hard work coupled with being on location finally paid off with perfect lighting. Who needs composites? :-p
Splendor Pro by TheNirvanaTeam
On the Hero Pleasure, a surprisingly zippy little scooter, we found ourselves at a unique location. An unmarked patch of undulating roads, smooth as butter, surrounded with burned down dry grass on either side of the road welcomed us with the sun setting just behind giving us perfect light. And then we got a shot that was just right!
The Hero Pleasure by TheNirvanaTeam
For the Splendor iSmart 110, we drove through a wooded forest extremely early on the morning of our shoot. Prepping the bike in the nick of time, just before the sun shone through the leafless trees in the background, we got our shot on this day. One of our absolute favourites, this!
Splendor iSmart 110 by TheNirvanaTeam
The Hero Hunk was taken off road and onto a rocky outcrop atop a small mountain range. We had a tough time finding the right location for this one before the final shoot, as we wanted a rugged feel and perfect sunlight gracing the image. A few faintly visible mountains in the background help complete the look we envisioned for this motorcycle!
Hunk by TheNirvanaTeam
Can a scooter go off the road? Sure it can! The massively powerful Maestro Edge had no issue swiftly mounting a grassy hillock in the southern part of District Lavasa. What a photogenic scooter, this! We had a ball looking at the results from this photo-shoot.
Maestro Edge by TheNirvanaTeam
With the Karizma we head a little further up the west coast and shot the motorcycles on a rocky outcrop which would be submerged underwater every time the tide came in! Needless to say, this was a race against time as we had to get our shots and in a short time frame, with the sun setting perfectly in the background! Well, we got it!
Karizma by TheNirvanaTeam
Phew! That’s just half the vehicles we shot for Hero MotoCorp on this project! Let’s move on from the shooting to the usage of the images.
Here’s a quick look at how the images were used on Hero MotoCorp social media channels.
Seen above are (from top left) the Xtreme Sports, Splendor Pro, Maestro Edge, Karizma, Passion Pro and the Achiever 150 motorcycles/scooters. This being our first photo-shoot with commuter segment motorcycles in India, it was a steep learning curve! All vehicles ranged between the 100cc to 250cc category, safe to say, these vehicles form the foundation of commuter motorcycling in India.
It was a fantastic experience for our entire team, planning, executing over 20 unique location based shoots and delivering content in an extremely tight timeline. Our clients, Hero MotoCorp Ltd, their entire marketing team and their local (Pune) dealer network have been a dream to work with.
We salute our “Heros” of The Nirvana Team!
Kaustubh Khare: Assistant Photographer and also in-charge of keeping the vehicles shoot ready.
Vivek Bhandari & Team: Logistics Expert and in-charge of vehicle transportation.
Sadhana Saxena: Vehicle Security and Safe-Keeping.
Vaishali Chandan: Planning and Support.
Nipun Srivastava: Shoot Director, Lead Photographer and overall Team Lead.
Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW, MV Agusta, Benelli, Triumph and even Royal Enfield have upped their motorcycle game in India (or have had too!).
We’re the next big market for motorcycle makers in the world. We’ve got the money and we’ve got the trails too! Most of all, we’re buying new motorcycles like there’s no tomorrow! The markets have been going crazy over the past year, so much so that the Motorcycle we’re bringing to you today already has a refreshed version out there!
So, which motorcycle should you get if you want to see the country on two wheels?
Let’s say you’re a practical rider, someone who’s not stingy but you’re one who likes to be smart about your passionate decisions too, what bike to buy? 😉
Take a keen look at the Kawasaki Versys 650. A perfectly priced sports touring motorcycle for the Indian market.
An 800,000 Rupee ticket to premium motorcycling freedom. Buy it and you join the big league, kit it out well and you can ride the length and breadth of India, Nepal and Bhutan – all without a passport and over all sorts of terrain, roads and climate!
The 649cc engine on the Versys is all but battle tested, rock solid and super smooth over the rev range, gives a sweet straight power delivery up to a healthy 69 BHP. It can do 120 kmph all day long, comfortably, getting you where you need to be easily. The torque (64Nm @ 7000 rpm) too is tweaked in favour of the rider travelling with a little load – whether that be your luggage over a long weekend, significant other or both.
It has an ABS and an adjustable suspension setup too! Pretty freakin’ cool at this price point, we can tell you that.
Nipun Srivastava, our resident adventurer, has been painstakingly kitting out a Versys 650, using it on his photography missions and weekend rides alike.
How the Kawasaki Versys 650 is the perfect beginner premium motorcycle to take on the Indian road, we’ll let him break it down for you.
He’ll take you through everything, from what accessories go well with this motorcycle to what one must watch out for when on the Versys 650. Enjoy 🙂 .
“”You’ll be mistaken if you think the Versys 650 is a small motorcycle.”
This Kawasaki is meaty enough to keep you full for a lifetime of comfortable riding, customized to your specific style.
Me, I’m more a sucker for exploration and seeing the country on tour. Piece by piece, I like to pick up areas which look promising on the map and then head out to check if my research was any good. Often times the research goes out of the window when on a major ride, so what I need then is a reliable machine which can get me through some serious stuff.
The 650cc parallel twin on the Versys is known to be a bullet proof engine. It has been used by Kawasaki on a number of its top-selling motorcycles like the Ninja 650 and the ER6N. Right there one knows that if maintained well, this engine will go a long long way. The gearbox is a tad notchy for my liking but one soon gets used to it.
Take the Versys 650 almost anywhere!
Height-wise, the Versys 650 sits right in the middle. If you are too tall or too short, give it a proper test ride before you consider buying it. Lowering kits are available for this Versys but they are almost always underwhelming in performance and often lead to ground clearance issues, especially while riding two – up. For those who hover around 6ft or just under, the seating on the Versys is just right. The seat, well that’s relatively comfortable too.
All fueled up, she weighs in at just under 215 kgs.
Good suspension, that’s what makes the Versys an absolute game changer at this price point. The Versys boasts of Showa’s Separate Function front forks which are manually adjustable for Rebound and Pre-load. The rear mono-shock can be adjusted with just the twist of a knob, while seated even! Although I find the front a little soft for my liking, I am yet to fully explore all the possibilities these front forks offer. I’m pretty sure there’s a setting somewhere which will work perfectly – I just need to find it.
So then, on paper, the Versys 650 makes a very healthy case for itself in India. What more can one ask for then? Read on 🙂 .
In this Sport-Touring motorcycle segment, one major factor is the accessories one can mount on one’s steed. It is here that the Versys really excels. There are just so many options from reputed brands like SW Motech, Hepco Becker, Givi, Evotech and even Kawasaki themselves that one is truly spoilt for choice.
Each Versys then is sort of a blank canvas. A very capable and smart blank canvas.
One can take the Versys from being an intercity shuttle to a relatively tough machine, able to head out on to the road and even off it to a great extent. All one needs is the right set of accessories mounted and you can push the Versys 650 trail-side. On the trails, the 650 is a little top heavy if you’re running a full tank of gas but if you know what you’re doing, the motorcycle does well to get you across a dusty, gravel topped trail without any difficulty. One sore point, the ABS can’t be turned off. You’d think Kawasaki could have thrown in a switch for that just for good measure. Alas.
Trail-side with the Versys 650!
The accessories you choose for your motorcycle need to be on point, always. They must be geared towards the kind of riding you intend to do.
Here’s a list, a brief description and a final GO or NO on the accessories we chose for the Versys 650.
Our accessories line-up:
Radiator Guard: By far the most necessary accessory for your Versys is the Radiator Guard that you mount. It must be light yet strong and be ready to take a subtle thrashing every time you hit a rough patch. On the Versys, this is important as the front tire tends to send small stones flying into the radiator as a routine. We chose the Evotech Performance Radiator Guard as it is extremely light (aluminium), an absolute breeze to mount and covers the full front of the Radiator assembly and not just the fins. An absolute GO from us.
Guard that Radiator Baby!
Also seen are the SW Motech Sump Guard, The Hepco-Becker Crash Bars and the SW Motech Fork & Swing-arm Sliders.
Engine/Sump Guard: Very important if you ride long distances on Indian roads. This guard protects the engine sump, the bottom of your exhaust system and more importantly, the vulnerable O2 sensor located just next to the engine sump. We chose the SW Motech Engine Guard as design wise this thing is a masterpiece. It presents an absolutely smooth surface to the ground so as not to catch on anything and cause damage. It’s made of aluminium, hence is lightweight and the rubber mounting bushes save you from any vibration/resonance on higher revs. GO for this.
Crash Bars: These cover the lower part of your front fairings and the sides of your engine heads. We chose the Hepco Becker Engine Guard for the Versys 650 as it provides very good coverage, has perfect clearances with the fairings and fits in seamlessly with the design language on the Versys 650. It is also very easy to bolt on. It is rock solid once bolted on correctly. An absolute GO from us!
Front Axle & Rear Swing-arm Sliders: We went with the SW Motech sliders as they seem to be the most polished and easily available sliders in India. Once on, you almost forget they’re there. GO.
Chain Lubrication: No one will tell you this before you buy a premium motorcycle but your chain is the key to a good ride. It is also a part which demands constant attention when riding religiously. We’ve gone ahead and mounted a Versys Edition Scottoiler V-System on the bike so as to keep our chain lubricated at all times. Giving us the peace of mind to carry on riding regardless of conditions. This is a GO if you don’t want the hassle of manually lubing your chain.
Note: The single sided lubricator, included with the Scottoiler, does an OK job. We suggest you use the dual sided lubricator for consistent lubrication.
Barkbusters hand-guards. As purposeful as they come!
Hand Guards: This is a requirement only if you tend to test your skills every now and then, which obviously increases your chances of taking a tumble or having your brake/clutch lever smacked out of shape. We got the Barkbusters mounted on our Versys with the VPS guard cover. Moreover we added the Barkbuster DRLs atop the cover to increase the visual footprint of the vehicle and add style to the overall look. The Hand Guards are a GO from us, the cover and DRLs you can do without.
Dazzle Baby! The Denali D4 Auxiliary lamps.
Auxiliary Lighting: We think this is important. Also, it is one of the most confusing and cost intensive investments you can make on your vehicle. Important because in our riding conditions, one needs to be visible. Confusing because of the sheer number of choices out there – Baja, Denali, SW Motech and even Chinese knock-offs – it’s a tough call to take. We went with the trusted Denali D4s for our Versys and give it a healthy 7/10 on its daylight and night time performance. GO for the Denali D4s as they are simple, hardy and get the job done effortlessly. Just look at them dazzle!
Tank Pads: We’ve mounted the Tech Spec Snakeskin for the Versys 650. Industry leading, very good performance and absolute value for money. GO.
Tank Bag(s): We looked at them all and then settled for SW Motech. We got two – The Yukon 90 for when it gets wet and the Micro for short intercity bursts. Both mount to the same tank ring and can handle rough riding. The Yukon is ugly and a pain to use but is waterproof, the Micro is a breeze to use but is a tad small, even for something called a micro. SW Motech, Givi, Hepco Becker or even Giant loop, the choices are endless out there! GO.
Travel light, travel right! The SW Motech Aero Semi Rigid Panniers.
Luggage: We’ve mounted the SW Motech (Quick Lock EVO) Aero ABS Semi Rigid Panniers. These are cost effective, let you carry more weight (8 kgs per side) and look bloody amazing on the Versys 650. We give these a 10/10 for looks and an 8/10 for functionality. GO for it!
Side Stand Foot Enlarger: This is probably the most underrated accessory for your bike. Our SW Motech side stand foot enlarger helps keep the bike steady on soft terrain, like a boss. Be it on a beach or a mushy trail, the motorcycle stands steady.
OEM Accessories: The Kawasaki Gear Indicator and the DC Output Socket. The DC Socket is an absolute GO. You can live without the Gear Indicator, moreover it comes console integrated in the 2017 Versys 650.
That takes care of the accessories list on our Versys 650! Phew!
Why didn’t we go with OEM Kawasaki Accessories? Two reasons, one – they are freakishly expensive and two – they do not inspire confidence when on the road.
VERSYS 650 – ISSUES
Every machine has its quirks and the Kawasaki Versys 650 is known to have a few too.
- For starters, Kawasaki India has recently gone solo and split its operations with Bajaj Auto Ltd. This boils down to a smaller service network and in places service that’s not so great. Moreover, basic spares have become slightly tougher to come by.
- On the road, some riders claim to have bent their rims while riding over large pot holes at speed. We faced no such issues, yet.
- The stock tires (Dunlops) are geared towards delivering high mileage only. They perform badly on dry roads, wet roads, good roads and bad roads alike. We exchanged ours for Metzeler Sportec M7 RRs after the first thousand clicks.
- The stock headlamps are weak. You NEED an auxiliary light setup. Alternatively, we hear, Cyclops make good replacement LED Bulbs for the Versys.
- Versys 650’s jerky gearbox takes getting used to but becomes smoother after the second/third service.
- Typical parallel-twin behaviour – the handlebar vibrates when getting off the mark, can make a novice question his/her intuition when new to the motorcycle.
- The Horn is puny, in India, one needs to get something with more punch.
- Lack of a healthy exhaust note. The Versys 650 sounds like a refrigerator. Sorry.
If you notice, I’m picking nits here. In the end, the Versys 650 is a damn fine proposition for Indian roads. 😉
VERSYS 650 – THINGS TO LOVE!
- An absolutely bulletproof engine and a suspension setup which is sublime.
- It comes touring ready. If you had to, you could take the Versys 650 out of the box and hit the road straight away. It would do well.
- Short running in period of 1000 kilometers. After that, get new oil and kiss 9000 rpm all you want.
- Comfortable service intervals of 5000 kilometers. This will irk the mile-munchers but most riders will be fine.
- Acceptable cost of maintenance. It’s not a super expensive vehicle to keep in ride-ready condition.
Overall the Versys 650 is damn easy to live with.
This motorcycle provides the perfect mix of reliability, mechanical prowess and is very accessory friendly.
The Versys 650 delivers decent power, nothing crazy or too intimidating, so as to get your soul the sport tourer it needs!””
We hope you’ve enjoyed our story on the Versys 650 from Kawasaki. Tell us what you feel about this motorcycle and whether you would consider buying it.
If you already own one, let us know how it’s going for you and how far you’ve travelled on your steed!
Versys 650 ABS – 2017 Update
There’s a new kid on the block and it’s more or less the same as the old kid.
The New 2017 Kawasaki Versys 650 is now green in colour, has a console integrated gear indicator, sports a giant Versys decal on the fairing and that’s about it. The Engine (now BS IV compliant), Gearbox and Suspension remain the same on the new Versys as well.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Views represented are personal opinions of the rider based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.
Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS (2016)
Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava and assistant photographer Kaustubh Khare.
Model: Our resident adventurer – Nipun Srivastava.
In this article, we’ll briefly talk (and walk) you through the Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycling Boots in India.
Our review will help you understand whether this is the pair of adventure boots you should go for!
The Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycle Boots!
Adventure motorcycling in India is fast catching up. Manufacturers are rushing to our shores with their machines, trying to bank any spare penny that the Indian tourer may have to invest in their products. Well, motorcycles aside, what often gets talked about is quality riding gear to go with these adventure machines.
A good helmet, a great riding jacket, good pair of gloves and a functional yet hardy pair of boots which will get you through thick and thin – that’s what’s on any true rider’s gear list. Well at least that’s the idea, anyway.
Here in India, buying quality riding gear takes a little doing. Very few places to test out the big brands, check the look and feel etc. If premium gear is what one is after, in all probability one will have to wing the sizing and bet ones money on a leap of faith while ordering these pieces.
This time, we bring to you the Alpinestars Toucan Adventure Touring Boot.
A boot we’ve lusted after for a while. A boot that’s almost mystical in its concept and a boot we’ve got our hands on recently! They say it can take anything any tourer worth their salt can throw at it. So does this thing really match expectations in India? Read on.
The Toucan is a premium motorcycle touring boot and costs a hair under INR 30000/-, which includes a 41% import duty. The boots aim to incorporate features of Alpinestars’ top of the line dirt-riding boots and safety aspects from the years worth of research and experience they have gained in creating riding gear for all types of motorcycling.
All that means little if these boots don’t keep a rider’s feet cool, dry and most importantly – safe while out on the Indian road (or off it!).
Studio images for the Alpinestars Toucan Boots, shot at our in-house studio at TheNirvanaTeam HQ!
Over to our lead Photographer and resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava, who is actually using the Alpinestars Toucan Adventure Boot currently:-
“”Damn, this thing feels stiff.”
When you first put on the Toucan Boots, you’re gonna panic. They feel extremely stiff, offer limited movement and make your heart sink. Putting these boots on for the first time made me feel like it was a waste of 30 grand. I probably wouldn’t be able to ride the bike with the foot freedom I was used to anymore. I even considered not riding with these boots at all, yes!
Once I calmed my disappointment however, I read the owner’s manual. There it was, the manual clearly states that the boot will be quite stiff when you first start using it and will loosen to fit aptly in due time. Alpinestars even advises one not to size up if the boot fits snug when new.
Walk in the boots. Keep walking and flexing the boots to get used to them and let the boots adjust to your feet. The Toucan is a big boot and may be a tad overwhelming initially but bear with it. After a while of walking the boot, I got on to the motorcycle and took it for a ride.
Leaving town with the Toucans!
The gear shifts were tougher to make now. Braking no longer remained a casual flick of the foot, it now had to be a more conscious effort. Riding with this boot takes some getting used to.
Here are the usage aspects broken down for you:
Was I comfortable? – Yes.
Was the fit right? – Yes
Were my feet hot? – No
Were my feet sweating? – Very slightly.
Were the gearshifts easy? – No, especially at the start, since the boot is new and stiff it takes quite an effort to get the gears to shift when you need them. It does become easy as one keeps riding though.
Was rear braking easy? – No, I had to alter my braking style and be conscious of the amount of weight I put on the brake pedal. Since the boot is heavier than the ones I was used to (SMXs), usual force applied seemed too much. I got used to it eventually.
Are the boots easy to wear? – Absolutely, the boots are a breeze to wear and take off. The aluminum arrowhead buckles make the boot very easy to use.
Can I walk with the boots on? – Yes, it gets easier with every step.
Can I hike/trek with the boots on? – Hell no.
Are the Toucans waterproof? – Yes, you’ll be amazed. The Gore-Tex membrane keeps all water out 100%!
Are the boots prone to slipping on wet surfaces? – It is possible to slip in these boots. Do not take a chance.
Are the boots easy to live with?
Big boots seldom are but the Toucans do the job they were meant to do very well. So taking that into consideration, yes, the Toucan is easy to live with.
Nipun’s Gear Setup:
Alpinestars Toucan Boots, SX-1 Knee Guards, Apex all-weather gloves and the Air Jacket – a perfect harmony!
You will buy this boot only if you’re in search for the best that’s out there for your feet. It cost us just under INR 30,000/- to import it to India from Germany, with a 41% import duty included. So, it does cost a pretty penny. If you’re still interested, you probably intend on doing some great travel with your motorcycle. After getting into these boots, you’re going to want to ride far and ride hard.
With the Toucans on and adapted to your feet, you can ride far and long. Comfortable cruising on the highway is a pleasure as there is lesser need for rider inputs. On the trails too the boot manages to support ones feet very well. Should you have a brush with the dirt, rest assured that the Toucan will perform well. Adventure riding is where the toucan shines beautifully.
I spent long, hot and sweaty days riding with the Toucan here in India and I have no negatives to report. It performed very well on the road. When I took it off-road and onto some tricky trails, the Toucan supported my feet and calves as I stood up to negotiate ruts and mounds. They have a solid feel when you put your feet down next to the motorcycle and make you feel well protected. The Alpinestars Toucan Adventure boot is value for your money despite the premium price tag.”
Give it dirt, give it dust, give it mud or splashes of water while you tease your comfort zone exploring new horizons – the Toucan will thrive.
Then, just clean up and head out again!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All views represented are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the product showcased.
Product: Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycling Boots.
Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava and assistant photographer Kaustubh Khare.
Model: Our resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava.
Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS.
In this article, we’ll briefly talk (and walk) you through the New 2017 Arai Tour X-4 Adventure Helmet in India.
Our review will help you understand whether this is the helmet you should go for!
Adventure Ready – Arai Tour X4 ADV Helmet
As part of our jobs here at TheNirvanaTeam, we often head out to lesser explored parts of the Indian countryside. “Recces”, as we like to call our photography and trail finding expeditions, sometimes expose our team to conditions less than adequate for a “safe” and comfortable experience. As they say, no great story ever starts with the words “it all went smoothly”.
Given the risks we take to get our clients the shots and images they deserve, our boys and girls deserve the very best of motoring protection out there when exposed to the elements. We pride ourselves on using the best equipment to get that epic shot every time and that’s the same philosophy we like to follow for the vehicles and gear that we use for our job.
Helmet Colourway – Route White
Over to our lead Photographer and resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava, who is actually using the Arai Tour X4 (XD4) currently:-
“”Jesus, you want me to pay close to a thousand dollars for a helmet?! You must be crazy.”
The Arai Tour X4 ADV touring helmet costs exactly INR 57000/- here in India. That’s a lot of money, a hell of a lot. One can by a brand new scooter for that much cash or maybe go on a short luxury holiday even. Is there anything that justifies spending so much on a helmet? That’s the question to ask, I think.
There are helmets and there are helmets and then there are Arai Helmets. What’s so special?
Well, everything. Arai does everything humanly and scientifically possible to get us the lids we deserve. The impression one gets is that every freakin’ stone was turned before asking you to shell out the better part of a months take home for a lid that is so expensive, one may want to store it in a hermetically sealed container. At least that’s the treatment our Tour X-4 got when it landed up at our studio, flying in (first class, we assume) straight from Arai HQ, Netherlands.
Studio images for the Arai Tour X4, shot at our in-house studio at TheNirvanaTeam HQ!
Arai only has one dealer in India. Moreover, there is no place where one can go, try out, have a look and then buy a lid of ones choice here in India. So, we’re more or less buying Arai products off of hear say or online reviews and in the rare case, having seen one a friend uses. This is something which should change, Arai, at least create one Pro Shop in India?
I met a couple of big shot looking riders once and saw them flaunt their Arai lids around like it was made of some special material. Showoffs. But that did get me thinking and I researched Arai and what they do. This was almost a decade ago. It’s taken almost a decade of touring and motorcycling for me to finally get my hands on an Arai Helmet. So as far as I’m concerned, each Arai is a saga. Less a fantastic piece of motoring gear, more a fantastical entity that every enthusiast must enjoy at least once for their type of motoring usage.
Right from the start, my Tour X4 fit me like a glove. I was lucky that the helmet fit me perfectly and I didn’t need to fiddle with the peel away cheek pads for a better fit. The clear visor let me comfortably wear my Aviators inside while being closed and the air vents (on the visor) did their job very well in keeping the top of my head cool even at the peak of the Indian Summer. Right from our first ride with the Tour X4, the climate was very hot and humid. More over, we did the better part of our ride close to noon, when the temperatures were tickling the tropical 40 degrees. Add to that, we were riding to the coast (humidity for the win! Not.) .
To the West Coast!
So, the Tour X4 had its job cut out for. Keep my head cool, don’t let it get too sweaty, keep noise low at high speeds and do not buffet in the wind.
Arai Tour X4 / X.D 4 Performance:
Ventilation: Very good. Kept me cool throughout the ride, didn’t feel the need to get it off my head at every stop.
Dealing with sweat: The Tour X4 is good here too but only just. Ultimately, with the Sun directly overhead, I needed to open the visor.
Noise: Good. You will hear the wind at high speeds but it’s very manageable.
High Speed Dynamics: Sadly here, the Tour X4 is prone to buffeting in the wind at high speeds (with the peak on). Mind you, this happened even though we had a windscreen on our test motorcycle.
Visor Behaviour: Very good. Wide vision. Good clarity and very low on distortion. Locks down firmly. On-visor air intakes seal the deal for tourers.
Weight: 1620 gms.
Safety Ratings: ECE | SNELL
Emergency Release Tabs: Yes.
Accessories: Pinlock screen comes included in the box.
Looks: It looks very good. The paint finish is fantastic and the myriad colourways will satisfy everyone. Although, Arai charges extra for the smarter schemes.
Overall: I’ll cut this helmet a very good chit. It does everything a 50-50 on-road off-road helmet should do and does it very well.
A feature rich and premium helmet!
The new Tour x4 feels like a solid high quality piece of gear in your hand. No loose trim, nothing hanging out anywhere and immaculate paint schemes all around. Even the moisture ‘wicking’ inner fabric is soft enough for rugged use. The double D ring fasteners are relatively easy to use with just enough space to loop the strap through and finally button it down. Buttoning down the strap ensures no flapping in the wind or at higher speed. So the attention to detail and build quality on this Arai is truly extraordinary.
Where living with the helmet is concerned, it’s not too difficult. As we mentioned, Arai has just one dealer in India but they do a good job of suggesting the right sizing etc and are open to questions. Moreover, ordering replacement parts (like the inner liner, visors etc) should be relatively easy in the long run. What that means is, you don’t need to be over protective about the helmet. Use it like you would any other piece of good riding gear, store it relatively well and it should last. Arai recommends using the helmet for 5 years and then replacing it, which seems reasonable.
A premium helmet that’s easy to live with, in India!
The Arai Tour X4 Adventure Helmet is the way to go if you’re used to this kind of thing. If you’re an adventure tourer worth your salt and often put yourself in situations where you may get lost without a road, you should consider this Arai. You know that Indian motorcycling conditions are very challenging. Our extreme traffic scenarios, bad road surfaces and unpredictable conditions demand that we get ourselves the best in personnel protection we can afford. There are only a few helmets that make the cut for on-road & off-road touring and the Arai Tour X4 sits at the top.
On the other hand, if you’re an occasional motorcycle adventurer looking for a premium lid, there are options like KLIM’s Krios or AGV’s AX 8 (DS) which are good and hurt the wallet less.
Even if you’re not used to the moto-x shape of this helmet, Arai has done everything they could to make the helmet behave like a regular helmet. If you’re new to ADV riding and don’t mind shelling out the dough, this is a very good bet.
The competition: AGV’s AX-8 DS EVO, ICON’s Variant, KLIM’s Krios, SHOEI’s Hornet X2 and the likes.
The competitors come with similar issues, not many dealers, nowhere to test these lids out in India and sizing is a big fat $500 guess (at least).
Finally then, is the Arai Tour X4 price justified?
The answer – Yes, if you value the research and development it takes to develop these top of the line products.
When you buy an Arai, inside, you know you’re getting the best that the world has to offer. Quality seldom comes cheap.”
— Nipun Srivastava
There it is then, If you are confused between what’s good and what’s arguably the best, go for the Arai Tour X 4 (XD4).
We see the Tour X4 as very good adventure touring helmet which can protect you as far as your wit will take you.
So head out and blaze trails.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All views represented are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the product showcased.
Product: Arai Tour X4 Adventure Helmet. Also known as the X-D4 in the American Markets.
Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava.
Model: Our resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava.
Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS.
We would like to thank Kaustubh Khare Photography and Vaishali Chandan for assisting on shoot.
Note: Mounting any helmet on rear view mirror stalks may harm the inner linings of the helmet.
Our resident champ takes the new Mahindra Mojo – Tourer Edition out for a spin!
Join Nipun Srivastava as he chases his vision and talks about the striking New Edition Mojo by Mahindra Two Wheelers.
The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition
Fully loaded with Saddle Bags, a Tank bag, Custom mounted Fog lamps, an engine guard, Pannier mounts, Tail carrier and a Mobile Phone Holder which works!
“You know what they say, “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride at all.”
I’ve been shooting photographs for the better part of a decade now. In that time, I’ve travelled long distances on two wheelers loaded up with my stuff, most of it being camera gear, since my motivation for travel was second only to my need of creating images wherever I went. – Showing it off, once I was back. Stands to reason then, that vehicles have played a major part in my journey. I can’t even remember the last time I took a flight to get somewhere for a shoot.
When Mahindra Two Wheelers came to me with the Mojo, I was intrigued to say the least. I was to take a short trip with the Mojo Tourer Edition and see what it was like. For me, it’s the little things that take a motorcycle from being a mere machine to becoming a true companion on a journey. Power is good to have and we all love style but a motorcycle that takes care of the rider is one that will truly stand the test and taste of a motorcycle rider.
Found my Mojo!
Each time I ready myself for a journey, it starts with nervous excitement. Nervous because no bike ride is the same. Each trip has its own charm and challenge, no matter what direction one takes. On this ride, The Mojo Tourer Edition was to be my companion. A motorcycling date of sorts!
The motorcycle was a black, one pot, 300 cc, twin exhaust, fully kitted out and ready for action Mojo Tourer Edition. With new saddle bags, a tank bag, a handlebar mounted phone holder and two new super seductive fog lamps, this version of the Mojo had us all under its spell right from the start! Phew!
Loaded up and turning heads!
As I walked to the motorcycle, I could hear Santana’s Black Magic Woman chiming at the back of my head. Only fair I thought, this Mojo seemed like a very snazzy slice of motoring kit.
Parking lot silence is blissful. Especially when you get to break it with a sweet sounding twin exhaust. A turn of the key, a flick of the ignition, the mellow hum of the fuel pump and then the ripe cherry of a starter button. The Mojo rumbled to life and settled into its characteristic note.
“It sounds bloody good”, I said to myself.
Time to ride out!
Six gears will let you own the better part of 100 kmph. As will the linear and pretty much effortless power delivery to get your riding day started right.
Purpose built for the long haul
The Indian monsoon is at its peak here in Pune, a dreary grey and overcast sky had me wondering if there was any point in riding out on this day. I love golden light you see, I love the setting Sun, especially in my photography. Still, a day of good motorcycling trumps almost everything else really. We dodged the rain quite a few times on this day but eventually it caught up with us and I decided it was time to eat, for me that is. The Mojo’s 21 liter belly meant it could keep going way longer than my fight with hunger.
No damp spirits here!
As we waited on the weather to let up, I noticed the attention to detail Mahindra has put into this version of its flagship motorcycle. For instance the pannier frames on either side of the rear wheel hold the saddle bags in place, giving the rider more confidence while tackling Indian roads and their temperamental surfaces ;).
No road, no problem!
Connected to the pannier frame is the Tail carrier. A spot perfect for my tent and sleeping bag, if I’d carried it on this day that is! Still, it made a sexy hold for the helmet. With the helmet on it, damn she looked hot!
Ready for adventure!
Rain had now given way to a steady breeze around Kusegaon on this early evening. The rays of the Sun took turns poking at the landscape while I sat admiring the Mojo and setting up some shots of myself with the bike. Kusegaon is a place I come to, often. It’s the perfect place to quickly disconnect from the city and its usual trappings. Something which the Mojo is good for too.
In the thick of it all!
The Mojo Tourer Edition is a purpose built machine for the aspirational Indian motorcycle traveller, to say the least. It’s a nice bike to start ones motorcycling journey on. I was beginning to regret the lack of time I’d have with this motorcycle, only a 300 kilometer ride around Pune/Mumbai this time. Would be an experience to ride through the night with those sexy fog lamps, I’m sure. I have a penchant for auxiliary lights, I must confess. 😀
Evening was upon us as I vroomed around exploring the lush green Kusegaon had offered on this day. With the kind of weather we’d had all day, I was almost certain there would be no good sunset to write home about but boy, was I wrong!
It was surreal, as if the clouds decided that this would be the day they would put on a show of sorts. As if to mark my ride with the Mojo. Further driving home the point of getting out of one’s comfort zone and more importantly, getting out there on a purposeful machine.
The Mojo Tourer Edition – as purposeful as it gets!
Touring is all about being out there and when you least expect it, you’ll be gifted for the choices you made to get on the road and travel on a motorcycle.
The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition has been put together for just such a person. One who’s in control of their individuality and does not fear going out there and conquering dreams. Even if it’s as simple as – Chasing Clouds!“
— Nipun Srivastava
Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra Two Wheelers Limited, for flying with @TheNirvanaTeam and for providing the Motorcycle.
TheNirvanaTeam: Kaustubh Khare, Roy Kulkarni, Dinesh Pawar, Vaishali Chandan and Nipun Srivastava (lead).
All views represented on the article are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.
Check out how Mahindra Two Wheelers Ltd used the content: www.mahindramojo.com/mojo-tourer
More on the motorcycle, here.
Many great quotes have been written about travel and exploration outside one’s own comfort zones. These words often make us question our dispositions towards travel or the lack of it. Here at Nirvana, we humbly try and go beyond every time we find ourselves looking for excuses not to do something.
The mind plays tricks on the body, inertial towards change, it takes all of one’s passion to overcome the inertia and jump into the beauty this earth has on offer.
The need for adventure, sometimes resides deep within the heart. For those of us burdened with the daily grind of things, it can take some doing to unearth that true calling. Cutting away from what the world calls life and regaining one’s individuality. Becoming the person one truly desires to be is not an endeavour for the faint hearted. Especially not for those who loathe being judged.
Once we’re over it though, once we realise, it is only our thoughts that truly matter in our lives. The world becomes our playground. A palate of dumbfounding experiences which we would never have explored was it not for our heart’s restless beat to the tune of adventure.
Ever wonder what it feels like to be a vagabond?
We struggle with it sometimes. Forgetting why we started out in the first place, neck deep in ‘work’, making ourselves believe we’re already in the right place. Irony is, there is no right place. Only the place where you are now and the next place where you want to be at.
It is that journey which is worth all the effort in the world.
Director and Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava has this to say:
“A day off or a weekend doesn’t cut it anymore. I feel the need for eye opening experiences. Adventures which leave me humbled, add the most value to my life.”
We agree. Slowing down is sometimes a great way of making sure one is doing everything one is supposed to. Not just ‘work’ but spending time actually living and loving where we are. Smelling the roses, from time to time, refreshes the soul – Readying it for the next challenge. 🙂
At Nirvana, motoring powers our soul and the pursuit for great photography is the fuel that drives us forward towards a life of driving adventures. Have you ever felt this intense intrinsic drive to explore?
These days, when we head out as photographers, we go out looking for experiences. Whether it involves travelling a thousand miles or maybe just ten, it is the experience that counts. More and more, thanks to our unique clientele, we look at shooting experiences rather than just ‘set up’ shots for our audience. Our job of shooting vehicles and landscapes affords us the opportunities to actually be there in the moment. So much so, that many a time, the roads just run out!
Our adventures have seen many friends join hands with us in our photographic endeavours. Teamwork, as they say is imperative for success and it’s no different for photography. Someone’s gotta drive while we shoot ;).
It is our constant endeavour to find like minded individuals who are willing to share our adventurous dreams. And we have been lucky.
We’ve found a few great people, who work with us not just to earn but also to learn, with us. As we grow ever greater into these times, they’ve had our back and we thank them for it.
Now, we move into a new era with Nirvana. Greater stakes, greater endeavours and epic outcomes await. Join us.
As we wait for the rising sun. As we start engines for the upcoming run.
Do you feel you can explore with us, as one?
Apologies for the silence on our website for the past few months. We were busy.
But hey! You can now track us daily on our NEW FACEBOOK PAGE!
See you out there!
Photography for this piece has been delivered by our resident Champ – Nipun Srivastava.
The muse for this shoot was our very own Kalmoohi – The Jeep. More about her, here.
One thing we love about our job is that it always feels like a vacation. Recently, our resident photographer landed up at a destination so beautiful, in a car so cool, he had to bring out the big guns!
Check out the view!
Nashik, in Maharashtra, is an Indian city tuned mostly towards religious tourism and the occasional trek. In recent years though, this city has taken on a unique personality. One, that has truly intrigued and amazed the entire country and the world!
Nashik is home to India’s most popular Winery – Sula Vineyards. Just outside the city limits stand the stately Vineyards. An expanse ripe with enthusiasm, technique and a unique taste for the good life – that’s the Sula vibe. Right then, we struck a chord with the place.
Arriving in style!
We drove from Pune to Nashik in the striking Mercedes Benz GLA. A car we chose for its unique form and laudable capability. Right from the get-go, the GLA 200 CDI took on the challenge of the Indian road with solid gusto. Traditionally, Mercedes Benz cars occupy a luxury oriented placement in the Indian market. Touring in the GLA however, we felt brand Mercedes Benz was now venturing into territory not just for the chauffeur driven CEO but also for the one who likes to take charge of the wheel and steer into the good life, head-on.
Head into the Indian countryside and one is greeted with boundless beauty albeit coupled tastefully with the occasional bad road. A place not ideal for soft, sexy and luxurious cars, surely. It is here that the Mercedes Benz GLA, with its rugged disposition, throws down the gauntlet in the face of this fact. Roads, good or bad, are easily traveled by this mid sized GLAdiator of sorts. The GLA also excels in quenching the thirst for trailblazing across the countryside. All this while keeping the driver cocooned in familiar luxury. It is by far the best suited Benz for the aspirational Indian.
All about the GLAm!
Talking aspirations, the Sula winery was born out of sheer passion and a great attitude. CEO Rajeev Samant took what little he had, poured his heart into his work and gave rise to a truly global wine brand. The creation of Sula has brought about a wine revolution in India. Growing at a healthy pace and gaining popularity by the minute, Sula’s Wines have captured the attention of most curious travelers and wine connoisseurs alike.
Taste the Sula Life!
Attention is something the GLA grabs by the ton as well. The GLA’s road presence is something which needs to be felt to be believed. This luxury SUV gives India the pomp of a three pointed star, the elegance of a luxury tourer and the go-almost-anywhere attitude! The GLA rivals the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1 when we look at price points. The Mercedes Benz GLA looks stunning from every angle, something that its rivals struggle to do even on the best of days.
The GLA is big enough to command the road and small enough to even be called compact! On the motorway, the GLA drove flawlessly across hundreds of kilometers that we threw at it. Eventually the roads ran out and we were doing trails towards Nashik and this is where the GLA came into its own. We weren’t worried about ground clearance, we knew there was enough power and all doubts about the GLA’s capabilities evaporated as we circumvented traffic jams on the Pune – Nashik Highway by driving through tricky village paths & broken roads!
We did not push the GLA beyond the broken road however. When driving a luxury car of this form, it isn’t always the best course of action trying to do high articulation maneuvers. That’s simply not what the GLA is about. A 7 speed dual clutch gearbox mated to a 4-pot diesel motor churning out 135 bhp provides effortless on-road performance on the new GLA 200 CDI. The diesel engine does create some noise outside and on the inside as well but it’s not something which affects the overall drive experience. Space is tight on the inside, making the GLA in essence a two person tourer.
Two of us, with our luggage and camera equipment traveled very comfortably in the GLA. We fell in love with the fantastic driver and spotter seats in the car, these seats make long drives an absolute dream! The unmissable sport mode makes easy pickings of sharp mountain curves and the suspension which is specially tuned for India (owing to the increased ride height) does well to keep the GLA centered and the occupants charged up ;).
Ideal for India!
On a drive which ends at a location as stunning as the Sula Vineyards, we had to go all-in. We reached Sula and were greeted by their brand managers, Nirvana was given a one-on-one tour of the Vineyard and the manufacturing facility. Not to forget the tasting of 10 most popular wines from Sula!
Sunset at Sula!
A visit to Sula can be an all encompassing experience. Soléil, the restaurant, serves Indo-French Cuisine at the vineyard and ‘Beyond’ is a luxury hotel managed by Sula for its patrons. They also undertake tours of the winery for a small fee which includes a quick wine tasting as well. If chilling out is all you plan to do, you can head to the cafe overlooking the Vineyard for some amazing sunsets and snacks.
The Nirvana Favorite – Chenin Blanc Reserve.
We’re no wine boffins but we do have our favorites! On our scales, the Chenin Blanc Reserve and the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc take the top spots! Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Shiraz and Merlot are a few more among the varieties produced at Sula. If you are someone with a genuine thirst for travel and love a unique experience, a visit to these Vineyards is a must-do. It is one of the most unique weekend experiences one can undertake.
In it to win it!
Pushing the realms of possibility and chasing perfection relentlessly are traits both Sula & Mercedes Benz embody. Our boy Nipun Srivastava cut short his vacation and took on the task of showcasing both the car and the destination, single-handedly. This, because we value true originality, class and quality. Any such endeavour inspires us to do more and way better than ever before. We thank Sula Vineyards for their exemplary hospitality.
Motoring and alcohol do not mix, let’s be clear.
Here at Nirvana we practice the highest norms of motoring safety. We adore the vehicles we drive and use, behooving us to do our job responsibly.
Do share our Sula story if you liked it! In our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think.
We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!
Lex Talionis! – A long term update on the Mahindra Thar!
We’ve spent an adventurous four years with this mean and mod-friendly machine! So before we let you through to our original story on the Thar, here’s a quick look at the major modifications on our daily driver!
Mahindra Customisation: Snorkel, Midnight Edition Front and Rear Bumpers: Inspire confidence while fording and enhance maneuverability / aesthetics.
Bimbra 4×4: Heavy Duty Rock Sliders, Fiber reinforced Hard Top (V2), Aluminum Roof Rails: Protection from rocks underneath and the Hard Top takes cabin comfort and security to the next level.
Hella: Front Auxiliary Halogen Lamps (Comet 500 Black Magic): Used as DRLs and driving aid.
Onella: Rear Auxiliary LED Lamps: Rear driving aid and campsite illumination.
Aurora LED: Front LED Bar (Off-Road): Off-road path-finding.
Cooper Tires: Discoverer STT Pro 31″ Mud Terrain Tires on 15″ Steel Wheels: Improved off-road capability, increased stability on road, the trade off – an audible ‘humm’ while at speed, reduced top end.
Mopar: Wrangler Hood Latches: Aesthetics primarily, eliminates squeaky noises made by stock metal bonnet Latches.
DampMat: Thermo-Acoustic Insulation: Reduced cabin noise and heat by 50%. Improved life inside cabin (and air-con efficiency) immensely.
ARMORO: Custom Spare Wheel Cover: Adds attitude and improves overall aesthetics, protects spare rubber from elements.
Built not Bought!
Each modification/add-on mentioned above has been made after careful research and due scrutiny of each available option in the category. The custom accessories market in India is steadily growing and so are the options that are natively available for enthusiasts to use on their individual rigs.
Now, back to our original story on the Mahindra Thar!
The Jeep Life!
Those who follow our work will know we did a quick review of the Mahindra Thar some time ago. The Thar is an SUV which carries the tag of a Jeep in India. People who drive these brutes are often from a different school of thought altogether. These men and women, like most, value comfort, style, ease of handling and most of all practicality. With all these in the bag though, there is still something missing. The chase for this missing element is what makes people buy a Jeep.
A jeep is not practical, it isn’t comfortable, the handling on these machines is appalling and as for styling – it hasn’t changed for the last 7 decades. So then, what is it? What makes one buy a Jeep? Nirvana set out to unravel this mystery in the best way there is!
We cleared our schedule, packed up as much stuff as we could, stuffed it into a Mahindra Thar and then drove off in tandem with the rising Sun. For the first few kilometers, we battled the blistering cold as the Thar warmed up. The cabin heater takes its own time to wake up and the canvas-ish soft top roof was not helping things either. Eventually though we did find some semblance of temperature inside the cabin. The drive had now begun. We were now officially giving chase to the element, that one thing which makes one go out and buy a jeep.
Barreling through the cold morning winds, we’d defog the windscreen manually (with a cloth) every few minutes. Irritating at first, it is something a Jeeper gets used to very quickly. Much like the bumpy ride one has to deal with even on smooth highway roads. The rear end of the Thar sits on an antique leaf spring suspension setup making it jump over every little lump of tar on the Indian road. Safe to say, the ride is not something to write home about. Even with the fully independent pot hole eating front suspension, there is only so much this Jeep can offer.
Highway Crusin’ – Indside Story!
The 2.5 Litre turbo-diesel does tend to impress when given the beans on the highway. Sluggish at first but given time, the Thar holds its own on the highway. For what is essentially a box on wheels, the Mahindra Thar is a gem on smooth straight roads. On mountain roads however, curve after curve, one has to calibrate to the comfort zone of this Jeep. The driver learns to read the road for potential bumps and it’s his/her skill which decides how smooth or unnerving the ride will be.
Barring a rudimentary seat-belt, there is nothing between the passenger/pedestrian and certain loss of limb. Oh, maybe the less than adequate brakes might soften the nudge a little. And then there is the price tag; eight and a half lakhs on the road (Pune). Phew! So where does all that money go? Clearly the interiors (or the lack of them) is not something which eats up the budget.
As we found out, the Borg&Warner 4×4 transfer case mated to the 2.5 turbo is where the money’s at. It is the off-road capability of this Jeep that costs. Off-road loyalists in India will probably want to discount the Thar’s ability when things get a little too technical (Compared to a traditional solid-axle). Not to say this jeep is bad when taken off the road. We found the stock Thar to be adequately endowed for someone looking to break into the world of Indian jeeping. Having said that, we were still miles away from discovering the magic element (and our destination!).
I can go anywhere!
We had driven a few hundred kilometers by now. Over highways and in the curves, we’d found our rhythm with the Thar; then something funny happened.
As we got used to the Thar’s antics, she took on an almost endearing personality. Like a human being, even with all its limitations, the Thar kept moving. Eating miles and sipping diesel, she got us to our destination – Our holy grail – Hedvi.
Holy grail – Hedvi!
Despite all the niggles, we had fallen for the Mahindra Thar! Every time we looked, we couldn’t take our eyes off it! On a beach, out trailblazing in the wilderness or even on the city street, the Thar cuts a very crisp figure. And gosh is it attractive! Driving down the streets, everyone from young boys and girls to middle aged couples and even a few Army and Police personnel will give you the thumbs up.
The Thar almost always becomes the conversation piece because truth is, the Jeep (as a concept) has seen it all. Over the past century, in all corners of the world and in every walk of life this vehicle in all its forms has proven its mettle beyond doubt. Starting from the military, through utility and going all the way till recreation, the Jeep can do everything.
The compromise in comfort and luxury, we feel, is fair in return for the capabilities and downright uniqueness. Safety on the other hand is something Mahindra & Mahindra still need to work on for the Thar.
Finally though we’d cracked it; we now knew why one buys a jeep. Read on.
Travel till land’s end!
Romance is rare, charm is even rarer and class, well that’s almost extinct. There is a reason why a charming, secure and confident man makes any woman swoon. The reason is romance. Any man who is secure in himself and confident about his abilities probably knows how to woo a woman. He could walk onto her turf with his charm and the only thing a lady will do is welcome him. No matter how uncomfortable it is to be together, no matter how unpractical the love is and regardless of the cost, if the romance is alive – the love will flourish.
And that is it ladies and gentlemen. The romance of a lifestyle is what attracts enthusiasts to jeeps like bees to honey. It’s the romance of doing things differently, standing unaffected by the way the ‘herd’ looks at living and going where few bother to look which sets true blue Jeepers apart. Living with a Jeep is not for those corrupted by comfort!
The virile lifestyle!
Comfort zones become a thing of the past with a jeep. A well kitted out vehicle and with a strong skill set on tap, anyone can become an explorer. In fact, we love the romance of Jeeping so much, we’ve bought one! The vehicle you see in the pictures is a bone stock* Mahindra Thar from our very own Nirvana stable!
Expect a lot more travel and Jeeping stories hereon out! Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!
For more Jeeping photography click on The Jeep Life!
Every motorcycle ride is a collection of small stories. Experiences, bundled up into fond memories for a lifetime.
Nepal is an enigma. When thinking about this country, what comes to mind are the mighty Himalayas and heroic feats of men and women who have set foot on some of the tallest mountains in the world. There’s more to Nepal than just mountaineering though.
Adventure in Nepal is a way of life. Once here, the ideal ingredients for adrenaline gushing, heart rate increasing and mind altering travel are found in every corner. It was time we took the Nirvana tread to Nepal!
Nepal is a neighbour to India and a mystery to everyone who hasn’t been to this country of concoctions. One of the smallest countries in the world is a window into some of the the biggest mountain ranges in the world. Not to mention the downright dumbfounding natural beauty that is routine here.
Breathtaking landscapes at every turn.
For this rumble through the mountains Team Nirvana would like to thank the Firelords Royal Enfield Owners’ Club and its members who we rode with. Motorcycling is a different ballgame when it comes to international travel. There’s a lot of boring stuff involved before one can actually get to the ‘two wheels moving the soul’ part. Paperwork, permits, hotel bookings and (when you’re riding Royal Enfield bikes) mechanic finding are just some of the things we had to put in place before we left home.
Making plans for such trips is very exciting, mostly because in the heart every biker knows, nothing ever goes to plan. It’s when things do go wrong, that the motorcycling life lessons begin their hallowed teachings.
Distances are small in the mountains but it’s the intensity of roads and conditions that pose the real challenge here. Nepal just about manages to have a road network. It also has some of the worst roads (paths/tracks) we’ve ever ridden on. On our 17 day journey through this country, we rode on everything that this terrain could throw at us.
Ridin’ through a landslide!
On what we thought would be a short sprint from one destination to another, we came across a five kilometer stretch where one entire face of a mountain had slipped into the valley below. A landslide. Five kilometers of track took two hours to cover on our aging Enfields. Because of the toll that two hour stretch took on our bikes (and us!), our entire schedule went out of whack. This is when our motorcycle ride truly started with all its intensity. This is the charm of Nepal and its terrain, nothing is ever what you expect yet, everything is beautiful.
We learned pretty quickly that a ‘good road’ in Nepal is merely a dirt track all the way to one’s destination. If to our surprise we found good tarmac, we worshiped it with both our wheels! The value of smooth roads is understood only when constant off-roading becomes an everyday routine. Sheer tenacity and the ability to take it slow come in handy on endless rocky sections of the roads here. Beyond every challenging road section though, lay the best prize of them all, unhindered beauty.
Reverberating to the sounds of our thumping engines were the stunning Himalayan valleys through which we rode all across this country.
The Capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is hard core. The traffic here is MAD! The pollution is literally sky high and the dust, oh god the dust is everywhere!
Nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught that was Kathmandu. KTM is a concoction of sorts with its touristy yet formal ethos. Formal mainly because of the host of embassies present here, security is tight. Roaming the streets of Kathmandu, one can find adventurers and tourists of many nationalities. A melting pot, not of cultures but of people – in pursuit of their next big experience.
Kathmandu is a gateway into Nepal. A crash course in how to get around in the rest of the country. Hotels here are generally soft on the pocket, memorabilia on the other hand is not, we got ripped off a lot here! Evenings are lively in KTM and the cuisine too is varied and up to the mark. No matter where you’re from, you will find your food here.
The people of Kathmandu are slightly different from the rest of Nepal (we say this largely because of our hotel manager & shop keepers who we encountered). Although they treat everyone the same, when it comes to money, one needs to be careful. The streets are safe and most importantly, fuel is available 24/7.
Boudhnath Stupa – Kathmandu
We, as usual, made the mistake of trying to do too much in time that was better suited to explore rather than endure. Here, we discovered another trait of the mountains.
No matter how much one tries to hurry, the mountains will slow you down. Someone somewhere has rightly said, “you never cross the Himalayas, these mountains merely let you through”. We had a motorcycle issue on the day we rode out of Kathmandu. Although we did reach our destination for the day, it wasn’t before we’d crossed an entire landslide. This stretch took a lot from us mentally, our machines were fine though.
Never underestimate the rigours of mountain motorcycling, ever. We realised here, that even trying to anticipate what the road ahead would bring was futile. Instead, it was best that we slept well, ate well and rode hard.
Photography on this motorcycle road trip was kept to an absolute minimum. We only shot when we had the energy and will to do it. Many a times, we let million dollar scenes pass by just because motorcycling was our first priority. It had to be, for us to keep to our schedule, we couldn’t spare a moot minute. Lesson learnt.
We were now making our way across mainland Nepal. Riding through the lush countryside, we were met with beauty beyond comprehension. The toil we had been through was worth every minute. The views were overwhelming!
Goa of Nepal! Pokhra!
The beach town vibe of Pokhra is inescapable. Chilled out people, good music and great food made Pokhra our favourite place to ditch the motorbikes (for once!) and plonk ourselves for some R&R.
Nestled within the Annapurna valley, Pokhra is where everyone comes to start their journey into the Annapurna mountain range. These are treks which, according to your taste, can stretch from one day to about 20 days. Safe to say, we were not up for THAT much walking, we love our bikes too much! 😛
Instead we chose to sit back, relax and wake up freakishly early to watch the first light fall on the Annapurna Mountain Range.
Watching the first rays of Sunlight fall on these mountains was such a gripping experience for all of us that we hardly even spoke to each other while watching the Sun rise.
It was a very cold morning and we were all very sleepy but as soon as the light-show began, it was like mountain magic. We just sat there in the cold wind, sipping one chai after another, looking.
And that was that. Fifteen days had gone by without us even thinking about going back home. Yet, we had to turn the handle, twist the throttle and push back into India. Nepal as an experience was over. Or was it?
On our way back from Pokhra to Lumbini, we rode our bikes on the most spectacular mountain roads of the entire trip! More than a hundred kilometers of silk-smooth roads, twisting through the Himalayan foothills, it was like Nepal had saved the best for last. This was the cherry on the icing for our motoring heartbeats. We were a happy bunch by the end of this ride.
Secretly, we were all in love with Nepal and its antics. Here, some met their limits, others pushed theirs and for some it was just another day on the road to Nirvana :).
We are yet to have our fill of this wonderful country. It is our promise, we will go back.
“The kiss of the mountain air is everlasting.”
Motorcycles & Mountains!
Check out our video from this motorcycle trip!
Road trips, to us, are the best way to break the ice between a vehicle and the people who use it. Much like it is for strangers travelling together. Here at Nirvana, we like to believe that vehicles, regardless of the number of wheels, have personalities too. With the Mahindra Xylo, we were on the verge of finding out what motoring could mean if one let go of stereotypes and just put pedal to the metal.
The day before our trip, as the Mahindra Xylo arrived, we were a tad surprised with the space inside. The initial drive made us feel like everything was where it needed to be in the vehicle. Power, space, air conditioning, stability and that all important 3rd row of seats. We would be putting the Xylo to the ‘Nirvana Travel Test’ so obviously we had no back up vehicle to lug our stuff separately.
Let’s go that way!
Five boys, seven days and loads of camera things, we set out to conquer the Indian countryside in our Xylo. We must be honest, an ‘MUV’ is probably not the first choice of vehicle for a bunch of young boys who’d want to have a bit of fun on a road trip. Through our photography, that was the very mindset we were out to change!
There were two major aims of our week long trip. We were to photograph the vehicle and also experience life with the Mahindra Xylo H9. H9 being the most well equipped ‘top end’ version.
Our first destination was the beach town of Murud Janjira. A 170 kilometer drive saw us there well in time for the sunset and a quick bite. On the short drive here, the Xylo behaved like a silent companion, nonchalantly going about its business of turning wheels and getting us to the town.
Shooting big vehicles such as the Xylo can be a tricky proposition. We had to think and shoot, constantly reworking frames to get shots worthy of the Nirvana name. We wrapped up our first sunset shoot. Taking some time to relax and absorb the beauty that was Murud Janjira, with the Xylo by our side. The vehicle had performed well on her first day. We were now excited to see the rest of the trip unfold!
Spontaneity equals fun, always!
The whole premise of this road trip was spontaneity. Everything would be decided on the go. Be it the next destination, the next photographic angle or even what/where the team would eat, we were flying freestyle all the way!
Early next morning, we forgot to wake up.
It happens, too much prep and no relaxation before hitting the road can lead to this. Good sleep is most important on any road trip. Good sleep leads to good fun, we think.
Finally, around 10 AM and with everyone on the breakfast table, we bounced ideas off each other. It was important we did that, 5 heads and no calibration can lead to a lot of chaos with the lens. Having decided we would let our quest for exploration guide our shoot, we hit the road destination unknown! Driving through interiors of the Konkan Coast, it was inevitable that we hit the famous National Highway 17. The smooth and bendy roads of this highway were a good test run for the Xylo. Not to forget the five boys inside!
We drove about 200 kilometers on this day, finally finding ourselves in a quaint and almost completely secluded beach village, Hedvi.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Nirvana team loves beaches. We believe some of the greatest driving roads in the world run along the coasts and it’s no different in India. Another reason maybe that we love shooting images in those dreamy golden hours :). We had timed our arrival perfectly. Hedvi welcomed us with the perfect sunset vistas, not to forget the perfect beach driving opportunity. Until now we had driven the Xylo on good roads, bad roads, straight roads and bendy roads but now it was time to have some fun on the beach!
The New Mahindra Xylo: Practically Brilliant!
The stereotype of boring MUVs does not apply to this vehicle. The New Xylo is a very amusing car. Right from the voice enabled commands to the mind bending amount of space inside, the Xylo surpasses all expectations. To delve deeper, lugging all our camera equipment along with the team that makes it all work is no easy task but the Xylo was toe for toe with every challenge we could throw at it. We’re not shy of acknowledging the elephant in the room either, a car this big has to have monumental body roll right? Wrong!
The new Xylo with its comfort spec suspension once again had us snoozing in our seats as we munched those curvy coastal miles. Trust us when we say this, a hard working team loves a vehicle that takes care of its passengers over long distances regardless of the road conditions. Rumbling under the hood was the Mahindra’s flagship M-Hawk engine. We really enjoyed putting the 120 horses to work on the Indian highways, taking turns to drive the vehicle all throughout the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash. We were impressed.
Boys will be boys and who doesn’t like making a splash in water?! As the Sun set over the Arabian Sea, we pulled up our socks and washed the behemoth off of the salt water from all that driving and splashing in the sea (basics!).
It is imperative that we mention more about the Hedvi village. Hedvi is something else, it is solace, freedom and fun all rolled into one exquisite ballad of beauty. We’ve always been in love with the simple and rustic charm of this place. The beach here is absolutely untouched by civilization and the village brings the same ‘middle of nowhere’ feeling into any stay at this place. Especially since there is no cellphone network here, time spent here is exclusively private. Which is something that helped us get in touch with the vehicle we were shooting even more.
Evening under the stars!
At Hedvi, the Nirvana Team had spent all its time interacting one-on-one with the Xylo. The climate here was so humid that we spent an entire afternoon napping inside the Xylo, you know, taking advantage of that exceptional air conditioning system. Night fell and we were out again, we realized that it’s the perfect vehicle to go camping with buddies. Oodles of space for camping gear and everything else one might need!
We hit the road early next morning. Initially deciding to stick to the coast as long as we could, in the Xylo, we explored a little bit of the Konkan (coast) one usually misses out on. We even took a short ferry ride (with the Xylo!) to get ourselves across a river. As the day progressed, we took turns suggesting our next possible destination. In the end, we needed the map to figure out where it is we could actually go in the time we had. As soon as the road map of India unfolded, Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava exclaimed – Hampi!
The moment Hampi was mentioned, we took off! Hitting the National Highway Number 4 a little after lunch and then soon getting off it to head towards the prehistoric temple town that is Hampi, we were on a roll with our Xylo! We reached Hampi late in the night, a drive that was not just beautiful but also equally intense. We had spent an entire day travelling in the Xylo. To be honest, none of us were too tired so we treated ourselves to some well deserved pints of beer :D.
Hampi is a village about 850 kilometers from Mumbai, close to the town of Hospet in the South Indian state of Karnataka. This place is a true wonder of nature. Views of the landscape here are full of boulder hills in various sizes and shapes. Hampi is a site located within the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire. It is older than the medieval city of Vijayanagara and is still of much religious importance. Hampi is home to the Virupaksha Temple – the main center of pilgrimage here and dedicated to Lord Shiva. On the banks of The Tungabhadra river which flows through Karnataka into Andhra Pradesh, Hampi is not just a religious stop for the Indian traveler but is also a place of wonder and amazement to the foreign tourist. Hampi to us was the perfect opportunity to photograph the Xylo in truly unique surroundings.
The Mad Dash team at Hampi!
Amidst the ruins our team of photographers had a ball shooting the new Xylo! We drove from one ruin to another and explored the unique architecture and rock–cut structures and boy did we have the ‘time of our lives’! On one hand, temples of the Vijayanagar Empire poke ones spiritual inner self and on the other the awesome expanse of ruins spread as far as the eyes can see make one wonder, how on earth did they manage to build this wonderland!
The Nirvana Team spent two days amidst the striking structures of Hampi. Six amazing days of travel, motoring and unparalleled fun were to be followed by one last Mad Dash across the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra to get us back home to Pune. Pack up – load up – rev up – kind of a theme now for us and the kind of work we do around here.
The Xylo MUV is regarded by most as just a people carrier and nothing more. Understandable, as it feels like one’s private cave on the road – it’s that huge. When Mahindra & Mahindra called us though, we were forced to look at the whole idea of the Xylo differently. As is the case with every vehicle we shoot/test, the can of worms opens first. Once that’s been dealt with, we head out with the vehicle to see if we were right.
Take a trip with the brand new Xylo!
The mood inside the Xylo on our drive back was surreal. Each doubt we had about the super-MUV had been quashed by the intense trip we’d taken in this car. So much so, we were even talking about getting one for the Nirvana Garage. Yes, the Xylo is that good! Turns out that our preconceived notions about the Xylo were exactly that, preconceived. Talking about personalities again, we think the Xylo knows where it stands in the ‘looks’ department. Like most underdogs though, it outperforms expectations and delivers on platter a lot more than one might imagine!
The Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash was conceptualized and executed by Nirvana exclusively for Mahindra & Mahindra.
Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra & Mahindra (Brand Xylo), for flying with us and for providing the vehicle.
Hedvi: Abhay Bhatkar, for the extremely personalized service to Team Nirvana.
Hampi: KSTDC Mayura Bhuwaneswari, for the best hotel deal in town!
Videos from the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!
‘The Best or Nothing’ says it all. The statement resonates so fiercely with our passion for creating experiential motoring images, that we push ourselves to the absolute limit every time. The moment we got the message from Germany, our planning began.
We were to deliver images that were clearly rooted in India. Routine as that may sound, fitting a car/vehicle into that bracket was always going to be a challenge. The list of possible destinations was endless. Right from the backwaters of Kerala to the mountain passes of Ladakh and even the seven sisters of the North east, we considered everything. After all, this was a unique opportunity. Through our photography, the world would lay its eyes on India.
Something still eluded us. It was the peak of the Indian Monsoon. Everywhere, the skies were grey and the earth a wet green. Then it struck us, we would have to outrun the Indian monsoon! We would head to Rajasthan!
The Desert State of India is home to the Thar Desert. A place we are very familiar with and if you know our work, it is a place we love to shoot at. The sound of the wind in the Desert carries with it stories of times past and as the sun beats down relentlessly each day, the sheer tenacity of the desert people comes to the fore. The odds were stacked against us though. The Desert was 1200 kilometers away, the rain was heavy and we had just enough time to make it all happen. Along the way, we were also to shoot at Vadodara for a separate brief.
Then came the question of the car itself. We were to shoot the new CLS and also the GL 63 AMG both and we had just about a week to make it all happen. Even though the weather was an obvious risk, The Nirvana Team was ready and we slotted ourselves into gear. We flew out to Vadodara where we were to collaborate with a local artist for 2 days. For Mercedes Benz, of course. This shoot was part of the ‘Homestory’ and artist profile for the St Moritz Art Masters, Switzerland.
Making a presence in Vadodara!
The Laxmi Vilas Palace at Baroda is an eternal icon of the city. In every mention of the City, the Palace features at the top. The question was – How do we get in?
We exercised all our contacts and then some more to at least get a word through to the palace authorities. The people at the palace were superbly kind to us and let us shoot on the grounds solely on our merit. The palace gates opened and we drove the mighty GL 63 AMG onto its August grounds! Rani ji, the reigning Queen of Vadodara also graced our shoot and met with us. We were truly honoured! On this day, even the Sun came out for a short while and we got a few shots worthy of the Mercedes Benz Badge.
Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.
As soon as the adrenaline of shooting at the Palace wore off, the realization of the start of the road trip set in. Experiential road trips are our forte but even then, each road trip shoot brings with it unique challenges. The Indian monsoon was still unrelenting. We were very low on sleep too, an average of just three hours a day. Then again, if the car you’re driving is more luxurious than a 5 Star hotel, who needs sleep? This is where the GL 63 AMG really came on song.
“Enough power to move the earth, while keeping one cocooned in luxury.” were lead photographer Nipun Srivastava’s actual words just after they hit the highways leading into Rajasthan.
GL 63 AMG – Grunt Central!
Whoa!! That’s the first thought one’s brain will have when you ram the pedal into the GL. You will be punched into your seat and then your world will change. As you hurtle forward, your ears will tingle to sounds of the V8 sitting under the hood. As the needle hits red, one pull of the paddle will usher in another delivery of power as if it was something the gods arranged for you to have. Crisp steering response and a not so heavy steering wheel make controlling the GL 63 AMG a pleasure.
By now, you’re in a trance. Eyes on the road, pedal to the metal and going hell for leather – that is the AMG experience. The handcrafted engine will follow your every command, in the GL 63 AMG, you are the Maharaja of the Indian road. When you’re coming, they will hear you and when you’re going they WILL look. That’s the reaction one gets on the roads.
The Indian Road:
Indian highways are notorious. Bad roads were the least of our concerns.
The Blue Hulk, as we had begun to call the mighty GL, was powered by a V8 Petrol Bi-Turbo engine. A high performance engine like that needs to be fed appropriately. Only a high octane diet would adequately satiate The Hulk’s appetite. Sadly though, out near the Desert, just finding a fuel station which sold petrol was a luxury. The fuel economy of just over 4 kilometers to a litre of fuel (when Nipun aka lead foot was at the wheel) was not helping things. On the secluded desert roads, we fueled up every opportunity we got!
Leaving the weather behind!
We covered the distance of 650 Kilometers from Baroda to Jaisalmer in record time. Stopping over at Barmer and at a few other places along the road as well. Driving across the landscape was such a rush that we forgot lunch! Improvisation was the answer – Bananas! We reached Jaisalmer as the moon rose over a now clear sky. Team Nirvana had finally outrun the Indian Monsoon. We love it when a plan comes together!
The Desert, The City: Jaisalmer.
This city and Nirvana go back a long way. One of our pet projects; Rooh – e – Rajasthan meaning ‘Spirit of the Desert’ has featured this superlative city. To us, Jaisalmer is like home.
To twist things a little, this time, we were not staying at the city per say. Team Nirvana and the mighty GL 63 AMG would be put up at a special place a little outside Jaisalmer. Super car – super hotel, you know. The luxurious surrounds of Hotel Suryagarh out in the Desert was to be our new playground and also our home base for the remainder of the shoot. As soon as we were in the city, we tanked up the Hulk and then our tummies as well. Shooting photographs on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster ;).
With full stomachs, we marched onto the Desert, knowing exactly where and how we were to shoot. This shoot started at 11pm and we shot in the dunes for a couple of hours. Not a soul around for miles, the only lighting we had for this mini shoot was the Moon and the GL 63 AMG itself.
Shooting in the moonlight!
After our initial fill of playing around in the sand under moonlight, we drove back to our (not so) humble abode.
A word about the hotel we stayed at: Suryagarh is a hotel which has little in common with the other places we’ve stayed at. In the middle of the arid desert life is difficult to say the least but if you’re at this hotel, everything is literally taken care of. We had spoken to them about our “plans” beforehand and they were most happy to oblige. Even before we reached, they knew what we needed and had it ready for us, customized to our liking. Amazing. It helps to have things sorted when on a photo shoot such as this. Kudos to Suryagarh!
The Suryagarh Courtyard
Nothing ever goes to plan. We were up early for the sunrise but the eastern skies over Jaisalmer were overcast with mist and remnants of the monsoon. It felt as if the skies themselves were telling us to take a break. For the first time in 6 days, the Nirvana team sat down for a proper breakfast. Breakfast is a luxury few can afford in the bets we make to shoot in the golden hours. One look at our work and the sun and its shades will tell you how much we love using just natural sunlight.
As the Sun rose, the skies cleared. We began our final recce and chalked out a rough plan of action. Over the next two days, we shot in the desert, at our hotel and of course the city of Jaisalmer itself.
For us, the two most important things are motoring and travel. These words continue to define our style of photography. Jaisalmer and its surroundings gives photographers like us the perfect play ground to make our mistakes, learn and then deliver – every time.
Not to forget, another word which defines our work is adventure. We love taking a risk or two with everything we do. Whether it is shooting without camera straps altogether or dangling out of an open top jeep to get that perfect rolling shot, we’re always pushing limits.
We wanted to explore the roads that turn off of the main highways here in the extreme western parts of India. These small and almost inconsequential roads are sometimes gateways into photo opportunities which one would never imagine out on the highways. Going ‘off the beaten track’ as they harp every time ;).
As we drove further into the desert on one of these inner roads we saw the real temperament of the elements here. The landscape in this part of Rajasthan is unpredictable, from hills to sand dunes to sand dunes the size of hills – one never knows what will pop out of the horizon. In the Thar Desert, sand has the unquestionable right of way.
Hell for leather – always!
Another side to Rajasthan’s beauty is the music here. This desert region is known for its folk and regional music and musicians. No evening is complete without a song or two from the repertoire of these tenured musicians. The tunes are mesmerizing and take one into bygone times when kings and queens reigned over this part of the world. It was a simple shot that popped up into our heads. Musicians + car + local architecture, simple.
Music & Motoring
As it happened, on that particular evening, the Super Moon had come out in all its glory. The moonlight and the clouds added just the right amount of drama into the frame, we think. This was also the last night of our week long shoot. Before the Sun rose again, we would be on our way back to Pune.
The journey is eternal.
The shoot had ended but the journey was a long way from being over. Not only did we have to drive our way back but like most journeys this was an experience which would continue in our minds for quite a while. The GL 63 AMG was the first super car we had ever shot, here in India and the way we do things, that was a big deal. We can hardly take credit for this shoot though. Yes, we shot the images but without the special support of our friends, acquaintances and team members none of this was possible. It was the people that we met who made it possible, we just made it happen :).
Germany: (Client) Mercedes Benz for their awesomeness.
Pune: Mercedes Benz India for the vehicle.
Vadodara: Benchmark Cars – local Mercedes Benz Dealer. Miss Vishwamohini Priyalak Bhatt, Miss Malvika Singh and her highness The Queen of Vadodara.
Jaisalmer: The Suryagarh Boys: Siddharth, Sunny, Rajesh, Asif and Kunal for taking every effort to make sure our shoot and stay goes smoothly!
Team Nirvana: Niranjan Tarphe for his support on shoot.
That probably isn’t the best way to address a car but when the car is this beautiful, chic and so very elegant, that’s what comes to mind. On a recent shoot, we shot the 2015 CLS for Mercedes Benz, right here in our hometown, Pune.
Even before the CLS hit the Indian roads we were out there pointing our cameras at it! Hence we were limited to shooting the CLS inside the Mercedes Benz plant premises (closed roads). We didn’t get a chance to really drive the vehicle and put it through its paces but our deep penchant for shooting vehicles was enough to help us look past the minor displeasure.
The 2015 CLS is an upgrade (facelift) from the older CLS which, to be honest, was pretty neat too. On the outside, the new one has swanky ‘Multibeam’ LED headlamps, a more aggressive grille and front bumper which gives it a bold/in your face look. Having said that, the new avatar still retains the super elegant look and sleek lines, side on. We spent our day with the CLS 250 CDI version of the vehicle.
Here are some shots from our day in the rain with the new CLS:
She makes the camera sweat!
The 2015 CLS: A masterclass in motoring art!
Thankfully, TeamNirvana got complete access to the Mercedes Benz Center of Excellence. That gave us super drenched souls some much needed respite from the incessant rain and also a chance to get up close and personal with the new CLS. Something we’re still absolutely in love with is the contour hugging/wrap around tail lamp cluster and the overall look of the CLS’ back end. It’s no wonder the designers didn’t fiddle with it – you don’t mess with perfection!
The dynamic and almost seductive rear end of the CLS four door coupe 😉
This was a quick wrap of our CLS shoot, coming soon is more Mercedes Benz motoring action. Stay tuned as we break geographical shackles and head out into the country with (wait for it) a supercar. Cheers!
Germany: (Client) Mercedes Benz.
Pune: Mercedes Benz India for the vehicle and premises.
Once they asked me why I ride.
I told them, I take everything into my stride,
leaving a trail while through life I power slide.
So that others may have a guiding line.
So they too can break free from the grapevine.
This is how I live my life,
unencumbered and free from strife.
Challenges accepted are challenges won,
failure makes things even more fun.
They looked at me all wide eyed,
as I told them why I ride.
~ Nipun Srivastava
Photographs sometimes have a way of touching the innermost chords with their maker and the subject. These are personal pieces of art. They embody much more than just the subject and thought process. These photographs represent the philosophy behind whole existences. Entire life stories in a picture, meanings of entire lifetimes visualized through action and depiction.
Here’s one such image. The rider and I spent close to an hour composing and recomposing this particular photograph. Fading light and a slippery riding surface were two major constraints, this shot could have been better. But like somethings usually are, this image is beautifully imperfect. Enjoy.
The Motorcycle: Royal Enfield Classic 500.
The Camera: Nikon D 800.
Motorcycle rider: Vishal Kankonkar.
Photographer: Nipun Srivastava.
Well, the title should really be Shooting Car, since we’re gonna talk about just one motor. Mercedes Benz and theroadtonirvana.com have, through downright amazing photography, created a relationship unlike anything else we’ve been a part of. Continuing the same, we shot the C-Class earlier this year in all its glory, right here in Pune, India. Our Home!
We LOVE our motoring. What we love even more than that are vehicles which make magic happen. Both on the road and in front of the lens, there are some cars which truly take the cake. The 2013 Mercedes Benz C-Class is one such epic motor. Here we go!
Gift wrapped in a package of precise and confident design, the 250 CDI was delivered to us and we were told, it is your way or the highway. You know what though, “our way is the highway!”. You see, it’s all about analogies when it comes to motoring. Magic – is one such one-word analogy.
What is absolutely imperative for us before shooting any vehicle is the fact that there must be a connection between the photographer and the ride. That is, we need to take these beauties for a spin – a good old fashioned drive through the country. More often than not, triple digits and then some on the speedometer builds a connection of sorts between the vehicle and its driver. “I begin to trust the vehicle and that helps me feel right at home shooting these cars and bikes” says our lead Photog Nipun Srivastava. We agree!
Making that connection
We’re a little selfish in most our endeavors here at Nirvana. What we mean is, “motoring” is great but what use is motoring if one doesn’t travel?
You don’t just simply head out looking for shots, no. You head out looking for an experience, photography, just happens. That’s what we believe and that’s what helps us grow as photographers, travellers AND motoring enthusiasts!
Head out, chase the Sun.
Nipun drove the C-Class onto back roads which surround Pune city amidst the Western Ghaat hills of India. “How can you not have a sunset shot?” we thought just as we roared off on one of our signature short drives onto unknown roads.
Pune, incidentally is also the home of Mercedes Benz in India. The assembly plant for these cars is just a 30 minute drive away. It was mandatory for us to showcase the C – Class on the roads of our city. We made our way to Pune’s shopping street, the Mahatma Gandhi Road!
Like a boss.
Driving this C-Class Mercedes is a pleasure. The handling is damn crisp at high speeds which inspires confidence on the road. Then comes the interior which was pretty chic and gave us all the luxury we asked for with every touch. For a car of its class, in India the C-Class is slightly overpriced according to our experience. Still, no harm in dishing out dough for quality.
One shortcoming the C-Class shares with most its counterparts is the lack of adequate ground clearance for Indian roads, there’s just no way around that one. She drives smooth with a ten-on-ten automatic transmission but you do get flappy-paddle mode which takes a little getting used to. On the whole though, we would buy this baby. No grille or combination rings can outclass the three pointed star on Indian roads! Wink!
THE SPORT MODE: Yes, we did press that pretty button. The C-Class revs higher in Sport and other boring things change to give back a sharper, more fun ride.
After our mandatory road-tests were done, it was time for us to do what we do best – have fun with our cameras! We put in close to three hours scouting for and setting up a single shot and then we shot the star among stars! You won’t believe how awesome peanuts and diet coke taste out in the cold sitting beside self clicking cameras and a beautiful car. And then when the final shot comes out of processing, it just makes us swoooooooon!
Star among stars!
Shooting this car over three days was a fantastic experience for us. There are few things we value more than good vehicles, good places and good people. This shoot was right up there with some of our best over the past three years. Having said that, ladies and gentlemen, this is just the start. There’s a BIG Nirvana surprise coming soon! Hint: It loves flying!
A Masterclass in Quality, Mercedes Benz.
For all their awesomeness, we would like to thank Mercedes Benz Stuttgart, Mercedes Benz India for blessing us with the car and a BIG thank you to the master drivers who helped us navigate through each step of our insane shoot!
Until next time,
Motoring enthusiasts like ourselves are defined by the thrill of travel. On wheels powered by engines, we traverse every kilometer we can afford. We ride and we drive, it’s who we are.
The Firelords have literally scorched the roads for over four years and here we are celebrating our power-slide into the fifth! Join us!
As an ode to our dedication for motorcycling and our ever-revving spirit, Ladies and Gentleman, we bring to you the Firelords Motoring Video 2013! Enjoy.
Do leave your comments below!
Driving in India and off-roading are synonymous. Seriously! How we manage to drive our little hatchbacks and sedans is a mystery. Which makes the case for brute, no nonsense off-road vehicles.
We’re at the peak of the monsoon here, the roads are more interesting these days and so are the weekends. On one such interesting weekend, we drove ourselves to a tourist spot near Pune. Read on and find out what happened. No, not Lonavala.
There is something to be said for not caring about potholes while driving. Take it from us, that luxury is priceless. Not worrying about the underbelly of ones vehicle is a whole new level of nirvana, especially when one enjoys adventurous road trips.
Our choice of vehicle, the Mahindra Thar CRDe, is a 4×4 jeep made for the young and tough or rough or whatever defines men and women who don’t mind a little fun in the mud.
Some ask, is it comfortable? No, kind people, it’s a jeep.
Our particular version had a thick cloth roof which didn’t leak, too much. AND we had an air con which worked! The epic simplicity of a jeep is what is beautiful to us. It takes use, abuse, reuse and still keeps going like nothing else on the road.
We figure, as long as a person can deal with less than average driving comfort and above average maintenance interactions, this jeep is perfect. The Thar has a good engine for over-taking on the highways and doing your average off the road antic. Give the CRDe a smooth road and it will touch 140 km/h. Yes!
It’s planted too, more so than other jeeps which lack front independent suspension. Pardon the jargon. What we’re saying is, the ride is bumpy but you won’t hit your head on the roof. The Thar is a pleasure to drive on smooth and curvy hill roads as long as you keep it under 70 and have some rpm in your pocket.
It rolls just enough for you to get a cozy moment with you know who. 😉
Mahabaleshwar, surprisingly, turned out to be the perfect test run for this little doer. We drove through pouring rain in the day and as soon as the sun set, we found ourselves doing 10km/h in completely fogged out driving conditions.
For those who don’t know, jeep headlamps are some of the worst that were ever invented. Somethings that are well invented are roadside reflectors and footpaths! Literally tracing our path with the help of these aids, we reached our destination. Beer, food, sleep and back in the jeep.
We, being awesome, chanced upon an open table top mountain on our way back and stopped for a quick photo-session. Remember the joy of jumping in rain water puddles as a kid? We did that and a little more.
Lets splash that!
Tourist spot shmoorist spot. Thanks to the constant rain there was hardly anyone here, making our pictures look like they were taken in the middle of nowhere. That’s the thing about jeeps, rain/slush/snow only excites the driver. There were no damp spirits here!
Okay, I’ll play alone.
Hard core off-roaders would probably not like this turbo version of the jeep too much. The ECU controlled engine dynamics can sometimes make a tricky situation trickier. But, that’s not to say that the CRDe Thar is bad at off-roading. It can handle pretty much anything that the average enthusiast can throw at it.
I can go anywhere!
So, we think this jeep is a perfect all rounder. All this when it’s completely stock with no modifications. We know, what’s a jeep without modifications right? There you have it, even when stock, the Thar is a damn fine vehicle. We’ve had our eye on it for a while now, who knows, you might see the nirvana brand jeep rolling alongside soon!
Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!
Vishal Kankonkar: His jeep!
Early this year, we hightailed it through the Indian state of Gujarat in a car. A 2500 kilometre long journey packed into a tight 4 days. They say the best journeys are the ones that are planned the least. This mad drive into Gujarat was exactly that. One crappy car and four drivers can do a lot more than one might assume.
Gir and Gujarat
Our biker friend, Pankaj Goyal, was getting married deep inside Gujarat and we had to be there to bid our boy goodbye. We drove endlessly and under the cover of darkness in mid January. Swapping driving and navigation responsibilities at every rest stop, we saw the sunrise. While we were still on the road and now only about 50 kilometers from our destination, our minds started wandering.
500 miles from home, it was imperative that we make the most of our journey. But, time was short. We met our friend and his lovely fiance, stayed and shot the wedding (our first wedding shoot evaar!) and then darted out into the vastness that is Gujarat.
The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary is very popular amongst tourists and hardcore photographers. To be true, all our wildlife gear was sitting pretty back at base! Our photography, cameras and lenses were optimized to shoot a wedding, not the wild!
Thus began our trip to Gir, the final stronghold of the Asiatic Lion.
This was the first time any of us were visiting this part of the country. Yet again, we started our drive in the night. Gujarat, in India, is synonymous with ‘development’ or so we thought. We drove into the interiors and were taken by surprise, the roads in this part of the country were abysmal. To make matters slightly more challenging, the gates into Gir National Park did not open till 8am.
We snoozed in our car till a shabbily dressed, half asleep forest guard let us in. At 8 am and on the outer boundary, things got worse. As one drives into the sanctuary, roads virtually disappear. This was bad news for our overloaded car. Our speed was less than an average of 25 km/h.
Nothing but nature
They say everything happens for a reason and after 2 hours the slow, irritating and bumpy early morning drive bore fruit.
We saw her, as she walked protectively behind her two cubs. Protective but not concerned, we were on her turf. The four of us suddenly froze, as if in a daze. She was aware of our presence, we shut off the engine of our car. Just for a second, she turned to look at us.
I see you
That was the moment when the photographer in us took over. Before she could look away, we had our shot. That little moment felt much longer when we were in it. In her gaze, she sized our vehicle up. We were no threat.
Just as soon as we had clicked a couple of photos, she turned and walked away. As if she knew she had given us what we wanted, our first sighting. Before even entering the safari zone, where people go weeks without a single sighting, we had met the Lioness.
Luck and a Lioness
It was clear, luck was on our side.
We reached our campsite cum hotel a little after noon. All four of us were eager to try our luck at catching a glimpse of another Lion. We just had to go on safari. A completely modified SUV, optimized for carrying up to 6 people arrived to take us around the forest.
Our group of four was allotted one of the longest safari routes through the main forest. Our driver and spotter (Forest department registered) were adept at telling us about every aspect of the flora and fauna here. Albeit in a routine and practiced manner.
Dust, grime and a whole lot of fun!
One hour into the safari and having seen just a few hundred deer and buffaloes our spotter got news of a Lion sighting over the radio. We reached the spot with about 25 other jeeps already waiting at a distance.
A safari at Gir is rather amusing. There are unsaid practices here which make sure the paying tourists get their shots.
Sightings at Gir are actually enabled by people called ‘Trekkers/trackers’. These Trackers are local villagers hired by the forest department to patrol a designated piece of land. Their job is to relay the presence of Lions in their sector to the higher ups.
There were a lot of tourists at this sanctuary, the kind who come for the heck of it and not for the value forests of such nature hold. There were mammoth lens toting photographers too, who maybe didn’t care about the way they got their shot, as long as they got it.
And then there was us. Four confused guys, on a safari in India for the first time. We didn’t have our lenses but our conscience was alive. Sort of.
Here’s the truth about Gir. Everybody wants a sighting but not everybody gets one. It is sort of possible to ‘arrange’ for one to get a proper sighting. If a Lion has been sighted, drivers and forest guides act as if their vehicle has broken down. Then, once everyone else has left the spot, one ‘pays’ the tracker and gets the shot one wants. The moment guides/drivers learn that you’re interested in taking pictures, the offers come up.
We were gifted with another sighting. A slumbering male Lion, snoozing in the afternoon shade, lying on a carpet of dry grass.
The Lion was lying flat on the ground. Looking at us photographers the tracker walked to a bush and shook the branches, which alerted the King. It looked up to see what the commotion was about. We all got our shot.
It is at this point that I realized the sorry state of the wild here. Yes this was a forest and yes the Lions were free to roam the boundaries of Gir, but there was something missing. That thrill of the chase, the chance of getting lost. And the sheer convenience of looking at these Lions had made this a very mediocre wildlife experience.
The only issue we had to deal with was dust. Which, had we been prepared, would not have caused us any discomfort.
My land exists but my wild is lost.
Gir is simply not what it is cracked up to be.
We had our share of fun. Buttered paranthas in the biting cold, under the stars and around the bonfire, licking pickles of unimaginable potency with me carefully keeping my distance from the sweet Gujarati Daal.
We had to be heading home, people among us had work to get done. But the disease of travel is such that it never leaves you cured. We took the long route out, stopping over at Somnath to check out what the temple holds.
Somnath, the forbidden temple.
It was a lackluster trip once we left the wedding but as any good road trip is incomplete without its share of mishaps, ours was yet to give us the final challenge.
On our way back, doing three digit speeds, we lost our brakes. Yes. The game was still on!
At a remote dhaba, we waited for 5 hours as a mechanic charged us a bomb and got us new brake pads. Then, we drove for a thousand kilometers and reached home. Safe.
This land holds secrets, too many to count on ten fingers. Gujarat.