Monday, March 26, 2012

ZMA brothers take on Gods own country

Route taken: Bangalore-Mysore-Bandiur-Ooty-Manjoor-Geddai-Karmadai-Coimbatore-Pollachi-Udmalpet-Chinar WLS-Marayoor-Munnar-Devikulam-Pooppara-Kumily-Thekkady-Pampanar-Erattupetta-Muvattupuzha-Kalady-Angamaly-Chalakudy-Thrissur-Shoranur-Manjeri-Thamarassery-Kalpetta-Sulthan Bathery-Gundlupet-Mysore-Bangalore

DAY 1: Bangalore-Mysore-Bandiur-Ooty

It was probably the latest start I have had till date. Initial plan being to start at 4AM was shelved after Gautham told that he would join in if I can leave by afternoon. Without a second thought, told him to join in as early as he can and we could leave together. By the time we exit Bangalore we were half baked. Stopping at Maddur was the only relief from the scorching heat(this was only the trailers, the rest of the movie was yet to be screened).

 Gulped on whatever we could find at that time and left deciding only to stop at Bandipur, but the sight of tender coconuts few kms outside Nanjangud spoiled the plan. The scene reminded me of the new Maruthi Service station Ad, the one in which the guy says “Maruthi service station aur yahaan………”. Was sweating head to toe by now, only hope being, to rest at Ooty would be much better than anything downhill. The sun was going down by the time we enter Bandipur.

The forests were bone dry as if was supporting Anna Hazare’s fast. Hard any wild life to spot except Mongoose, a dozen peacocks, herd of bison, and plenty of deer(After numerous trips through this area these were no more considered wildlife :p ) we start climbing the Ghats in the dark.  As soon as we hit the ghats, a private bus was parked by the side of the road, expecting it to a minor accident we inch forward only to know that the passengers of the bus were trying their best to extinguish a small forest fire. We reach the Bison View point only to see one side of a hill burning as if there was a volcanic eruption in progress. We thought we will let people above know whats happening there. By the time we reached above, efforts were in full swing and the fire was extinguished. Finding a decent enough room outside Ooty we halt for the night. Not soon after having dinner at a nearby restaurant we hit the beds promising to start early.

Day 2:Ooty-Manjoor-Geddai-Karmadai-Coimbatore
When the whole of Ooty was slowly starting to rise, we plan to ride through Love Dale(the railway station of which has been shot in many movies) enroute Upper Bhavani reservoir. The chill in the air, good roads and less traffic was a good start to the ride. First stop was at a tea factory hoping to find a cup of garma garaym cup of chai, instead the only thing on offer was ICED TEA since there was power cut minutes before we arrived. So imagine how much luck we carried with us. Gautham got busy with the CANON (Barrel) of his which disturbed the avain romance around the area.

At this point we saw some school kids curiously watching what we were upto, few of them with a frown on their face, as if asking “How come they have holiday when we have to go to school” . The strange part is the kids wearing the same uniform were seen walking for the next 5-6 Kms. Was just wondering if it was their daily business. The roads started to get deserted with every mile passing. Super smooth ghats made it a perfect morning. Spotted some civilization post Kundha dam. After crossing some 12-13 hair pin bends the next board made us smile ear to ear, 34 hair pins more apart from the 43 going down. At a junction at Manjoor, we were not allowed to take the Upper Bhavani road as it required a special permission and more over there was inspection going on. SO did not bother to convince the cop who had a moustache which resembled two Table tennis rackets attached together. After crossing some 60+ hair pins(everything included) stopped at Geddai for breakfast. Geddai is a very small village which has hardly 20-25 houses apart from the Electricity board quarters and a small school.

 The teachers slowly started coming on what looked like the only bus arriving to this place in the mornings. Have to truly appreciate the work done and the dedication shown by these teachers. Three dosas with astonishingly low viscous, 0w0 graded chutney( My standard beakfast if in TN) and a cup of masala tea just made the perfect ingredient for the first meal of the day. Meanwhile one old man walks up to me and asks where was I coming from after referring to the “KA” number plate. He introduces himself to be from Mandya district(KAR), who had been with the Electricity board for two plus decades. He expressed joy in meeting someone who is from a place closer to his native, since he had not been to his native for years. He starts off asking how the town is now, whether there were any developmental works going on etc etc …..These are the kind of people who make a difference to your touring experience. Wishing the oldies good bye we set out for the next leg of the journey. One has to enter personal as well as vehicle details at Mulli Checkpost, and when I saw the register, we were the only two guys coming from the Ooty side apart from the bus which dropped the teachers. The heat started to show its colors as we descended down the plains. Stopped at Dhayanur to hydrate ourselves, few seconds later two local buses stop there for break. One dude gets out from the bus, comes near and starts talking (in what he considers to be English, even Spanish/French would have been easier for me to understand). Later when we try to let him know that we can understand Tamil, he looked offended and left the scene. The villagers felt sorry for us to be burdened with so much clothing on a summer day. Reach Coimbatore by afternoon for lunch. Thankfully some of the “very bad” patches from Karambadi to Coimbatore had be done and only few “bad” patches existed

Later in the evening leave for Siva’s new Hyosung showroom. By the time we reached there the poor chap was about to roll down the shutter. Both of us had met after close to half a year. He showed me the damage his wheel had suffered during the ride together during September and that he had still got it fixed. After small chat session, he asked which one would I like to take out for a spin, didn’t waste even a single second to have my hands on the GT rather than the ST.

 Was really impressed with the red fellow and also promised to come back when the nakeds arrive. Wishing him luck we leave the place for a good peaceful night.

DAY 3:Coimbatore-Pollachi-Udmalpet-Chinar WLS-Marayoor-Munnar-Devikulam-Pooppara-Kumily-Thekkady
Breakfast was packed, general minor checks done on the bikes; the machines started rolling towards Pollachi. Not far from Pollachi, with a coconut plantation by the highway, we stop for having breakfast and a brief shutterbag session. With every windmill crossing in the rear view mirror we proceed closer to enter “Gods own country”. This was supposed to be a long day of riding in the ghats(in fact that’s the whole point we were here).

A quick break to complete the general formalities at Chinar Check post, we were through. Few vehicles coming from the opposite direction warned us about a herd of elephants that were there on the road and to be careful if going that way. The camera mount and camera came out in a jiffy to capture some nice pics of the gentle giants. We were so lucky that the pachyderms had already had their share of human nonsense and ventured into the forest.

 After few photo breaks enroute, We reach Munnar for lunch. The next thing on the to-do list was riding to Top Station. Kept briefing Gautham about the place where we stayed, the photo shoot locations etc during the last interstate meet till a point that he showed signs of getting bored and asked me to shut up. Missed the roar of 60 machines and the kind of attention we grabbed the last time we were here. Without even stopping at the last point till the bikes can go we return hoping to reach Thekkady, the destination for the day as soon as possible. The clouds started to become darker and darker as we started descending down. The ride towards Devikulam and Pooppara was heavenly with lesser traffic for company. We stopped at Pooppara for a small chai session and had a conversation with the shop guy about the route ahead till Thekkady and any wild life interference if any. “Sir if you have proceed 8-10 Kms ahead, be a bit cautious since there was elephant herd sighting a day or two back and the roads are very narrow.” The tea we were sipping didn’t pass through the throat instantaneously. Night ride, ultra narrow roads( so much that if an elephant stands in the middle, even a cycle would not pass through).  Somewhre near Kallar, one of the main attractions of Kerala temples, decorated tuskers which carry the lord on their back, on particular occasions, was in sight.

But sadly by the time we stopped, took the cam out and take some good pics the procession went inside the temple premises and the cops post a barricade. After close to two hours of riding in the dark(one of the pleasant late evenings ride I had in recent times), we reach Thekkady and stop for the night at “WHITE HOUSE”. On entering Thekkady I pinched myself to confirm that I was awake in Thekkady and not in Colva/Calangaute. So many foreign tourists, though I am not surprised by the presence of them in Kerala, but the sheer numbers made me to think. The host of the stay told us to be ready by 5-5.30 if we intended to go for boating. “Hell Yes” that’s the whole point we were there. A short walk till the forest gate, with a true Kerala cuisine to satisfy the growling tummies made sure we have a pleasant sleep.

Day 4:Thekkady-Pampanar-Erattupetta-Muvattupuzha-Kalady-Angamaly-Chalakudy-Thrissur-Shoranur
Wake up at half past four, hoping to be the first ones to get the tickets. That dampens the spirits. Nevertheless we faith fully stand behind an old lady in the queue, just the looks of whom was very irritating. We wonder what she will do seeing an Elephant/Sambar/Bison at this age, may be a last wish (sorry for being so rude, but I didn’t like her). The purpose she was there made me to hate her even more, she was a teacher of a school, for whom she was waiting to get 100+ tickets. Somehow managed to get the tickets. Waiting for the next half an hour or more was so boring, exciting combined into one. Was just praying if at least there is one animal sighting (this was based on my previous disastrous safari outings). Bang at 6.30 the gates open, ours, since it was the only two wheeler, the guard let us to go though first. Rode as if there was free gold on offer. Luckily we were the first ones to get the ticket. Behind us was a firangi couple who were “very romantic “in the morning. When we stand in the waiting queue to board the boat, by the side were some damaged boats. Both of us exchange a sarcastic smile which read “Meet you again, if we are alive“. By now the student crew had become more than just irritation. When the gates opened to board, a sigh of relief, they were accommodated in two separate boats apart from ours. The engines start; they clap and shout, the guard almost had them off the boat. Thankfully their boat leave early and their non sense started becoming more distant. First animal spotted a lone female elephant, the boat slows down. Few seconds later, her “gang” joins in, a group of 4-5 female start loitering along the banks of the river. Few calves were also present because of which the females were very protective of them. Lucky enough so far , we proceed further to find a herd of sambar. With both hands folded, pray to god , next one a striped feline please. A loud voice comes from the skies “Rs.150 mein itna hein milega” , say to myself hold your horses “ a waiting kettle never boils “ . Going further we spot more elephants, deer, wild boar and many birds, we were content that at least we were able to see something for the money paid. At one point the boat takes a U-turn to get back to the place where we boarded, indicating that it was almost done. When we turn back, we see the lone female elephant that we saw earlier, is swimming from the shore it was on earlier to another. The kids in the boat get hyper excited, probably this was the first time they saw the largest land mammal take on the water.
Few pics from Periyar Tiger reserve

 After what looked like an eventful boat ride we head to the room for some breakfast and leave the place. The sun was shining right over our head and Kerala humidity had set in and Manjeri/ Perinthalmanna was like light years away.
Around 3 o clock somewhere post Erattupetta we stop for lunch. Looking at the tripmeter, was a shocker, we had done only 90+kms in 3 hours in some fine roads, that was disappointing. Ha done innumerable twisties and hair pins by now. Took a long lunch break to hog over the Traditional Kerala parothas and idiappam. Roads further become a lot straighter than uphill which helped to gallop miles faster. Just before entering Kalady Bridge , met a specimen of the “nth” order on a Victor, when honked to give way for me to pass(there was so much space that even a trailer could easily pass) the gentle turns back and says “ I don’t want to give you space, do whatever you want”  I was like WTF , where on earth have I come to. Somehow crawling post Angamaly we hit the four laner and in no time we reach Thrissur, where Jumbo Circus(on the road) for the evening show was already underway. Patiently we reach Shoranur to halt for the day.

As soon as we reach Shoranur, Gautham goes in search of an accommodation and I look after the luggage and the bikes. A guy briskly walk up to me as if he was being chased by Osama bin Laden’s followers, tells “The wine shop is about to close, hurry up”. Taken aback by his gesture, I told him that I don’t drink; he got angry and started asking why was I around then. Later he introduces himself to be a native of Kundapur in KAR and had been a laborers there for about 3-4 year, I was like , so what. After a struggle to let go him, find ourselves a not so tidy room, take a bath and come down to the restraunt for dinner. Hardly 5 min after taking bath , we start sweating ,wonder where are we Shoranur or Sudan. After some light dinner and a tanker full of fresh fruit juices, we crash after having a very tiring day.

Day 5:Shoranur-Manjeri-Thamarassery-Kalpetta-Sulthan Bathery-Gundlupet-Mysore-Bangalore
Alarms supposed to ring at 5Am, by the time it starts ringing, one of us is getting dressed and the other one taking bath, how time conscious are we :b:
5.45 Am the machines start warming up on a considerably cool summer morning. Since I had done this stretch earlier in Jan, it was easier for us to pass through smaller towns without any problem. The weather, the open roads, the twists and turns, everything was just perfect. Few kilometers before Areacode (Areecode) we stop for some fine parothas and curry at a restaurant which seemed like we were the first customers for the day. The early morning Junta around the hotel were wondering what we were up to so early in the morning. Had told Gautham well in advance(infact even before the ride started) that he will enjoy the ghats of Wayanad from Thamarasherry. Towns kept passing in no time. Around half past 9 we were climbing the ghats of Wayanad . The roads were neatly marked this time, giving an indication that the ghats relaying work is complete. One can easily do the initial stages of the ghats at triple digits. Ultra wide roads with clear sight of oncoming traffic, adds the cherry. I know somebody who has done these roads about 6-7 months back would read the above few lines twice or thrice. Even though it was a Sunday, the traffic was minimal. Over excited over the plight of roads, we stop for a photo shoot. Kept wondering how things were going so perfect since morning. If one have to describe the roads, it BUTTER SMOOTH (could have given a better example, but for now will stick to this comparison).

After spending some 30-45 min watching the vehicles do the twisties happily, we leave the place only to stop at Lakkidi View point for some nanoseconds. At probably the3-4th hair pin bend a truck had broke down and causing a beeline of cabs, buses, cars etc etc ….. and the cops were trying real hard to make way for up going vehicles. Blessing in disguise the cops let the two wheelers by the side, which meant no SUV would trouble us to give way. After crossing the tourist towns of Kalpetta and Sulthan Bathery, we stop at Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary. The sun had started burning on us by now. What was supposed to be short break turned out to be bit longer as we had calls from family about the status of the ride and where were we and the types. The calls get disconnected and we are on the road again. Stopping for lunch post Gundlupet was the only respite from Blazing Sun. Have a light lunch and loads of fluids enough to take us to Bangalore. With a break or two in between the two of us reach Bangalore by 5.45.

With everything said and done it was a fantastic ride, covering one of the finest roads of TN and more of Gods Own Country.