It was September 2011, and I was already excited about the bike ride we have been planning. Yeah yeah, the yearly new year and Xmas holidays were still two months away. Our Comapny Policy states that each employee has to donate his five earned leaves in the name of ANNUAL SHUT DOWN. I had pretty straight strategy, since I am forced to lose my income in the form of my earned leaves, I would make 100% utilisation of it. I just cant simply sit at home waiting for 31st night so that I can go to some hotel/bar/pub and party which I can do any day through out the year. So the plan was just to hit the road.
As usual the job of selecting destination and finalising routes was on me and Sachin. The plan started with an idea to visit Madurai, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Munnar and come back to Bangalore. We started with enquiring about the accomodation. Since it was the year end and also the season for Sabrimala Pilgrimage, almost everything was already booked. So by the start of December, path for our bike has been taken a completely new shape. Now the final route was Bangalore – Sakleshpur – Coimbatore – Valparai – Thrissur – Yercaud – Bangalore (only Sakleshpur and Yercaud were final by then, and we were in the mood to decide once we reach Sakleshpur). It was a ride of almost 1600 kms, through various landscapes including hills, falls and forest areas. By 15th December all the accomodation details were also in place. In Sakleshpur I had arranged the stay at Planters Club in Sakleshpur with the help of my friend Gana. In Coimbatore and Valparai, Vinod’s Uncle had booked hotels for us. In Thrissur we had Sachin’s house to cool off. In Yercaud we had booked Star Holiday Resort. So all set to go. The plan was to hit the road on 24th December, early morning. Gana had a bottle of Glenlivet Limited Edition which we decided to have on 23rd night.
Bikers (Left to Right)
Nayan Nilank on Pulsar 220
Sanjay Shetty on Royal Enfield 500 cc Standard
Vinodh Krishna on Royal Enfield Classic 350
Sachin Narayanan on Royal Enfield 350 cc Standard
Riders of the roads less travelled
December 24th, 2011 – Bangalore to Sakleshpur (280 kms)
Sanjo (Sanjay Shetty) had already announced that he has some office work to be finished in the morning, only after that he can leave. As usual, Sanjo was showing the his ultimte loyalty towards the job, and announced that we can leave by 9:30 am. But by the time we all gathered at Sachin’s place at Vijaya Bank Layout, it was already 10:30 am. We mounted the Video Camera on the Front Around 12:00 pm we started from Shell Petrol Bunk in Gottigere. We decided to take Nice Road and hit Magadi Road. The plan was to take route : Bangalore – Magadi – Kunigal – Channarayapatna – Hassan – Sakleshpur. We hit Magadi Road around 12:45 pm and after dodging all the traffic for around 10 kms, WOOHOO, it was all open smooth and curvy road. Sachin had already taken the lead with Vinodh following him. I and Sanjo stopped somewhere near to Thaverekere to switch on the camera. The ride on the road was so enjoyable that we just forgot about the path we decided to follow and just follow the road through all the bends and curves. After covering around 25 kms I saw Sachin and Vinodh parked on the left side waiting for us. Sachin waved me to dont stop and carry on. After riding for almost 30 kms, I had to slow down due to increased traffic. It was Huliyudurga. I asked Sanjo (being a Kannadiga) to check for the route to Kunigal. He asked with a local mechanic and got to know we need to follow the same road and we would hit Kunigal Junction around 30 kms ahead. Sanjo said “I am feeling hungry, lets have something then move ahead”. It was almost 2:00 pm. I said “we will cross the city and stop at first eatig joint”. Due to construction work, road was in pretty bad comdition. After riding for around 7-8 kms, I took the diversion and saw a dhaba kind of establishment on the right side of road, and waited for other three to join. We parked our bike inside and occupied one hut. The establishment had around 4-5 small huts to be occupied by different group of customers. We ordered for one Chicken Kabab, one Methi Chicken, one Chicken Butter Masala and 10 Tandoori Rotis. It was not yummy, but with our stomach all empty we found it delcious. After the food, we had a round of tea which was quite refreshing. We were done by 3:30 pm and ready to hit the road.
Next stop was Kunigal to buy some water. We reached Kunigal around 4:00 pm and stopped to get water bottles. From Kunigal it was proper 4 lane NH48 (Bangalore Mangalore Highway). In Kunigal the videa camera was mounted on above the tail lamp of my bike. Next stop was Channarayapatna, which is 75 kms from Kunigal. We ddecided to take full advantage of good roads and cover the stretch quickly. We were already far behind our schedule, thanks to our late start. I was now leading and soon my speedometer displayed the speed of 80 kmph. Zooming through the traffic, I stopped at Channarayapatna Junction sharp at 4:35 pm (thanks to timestamp of snaps). After a quick break, we started off with plan to make next pit stop at Hassan, 40 kms ahead. Once we cross the Channarayapatna, the 4 lane highway transformed into 2 lane road, heavily loaded with the traffic. With all bikes loaded with saddle bags and we in the riding gears, we were like aliens to passers by. And I was the centre of attraction with camera mounted on my bike. 🙂 Struggling through all traffic, we reached Hassan around 5:30 pm. I had been to Sakleshpur earlier with Gana and mark my words, the traffic sense of Hassan residents is horrible. You cant predict which way the vehicle in front of you will turn or from which side of road a pestrian will jump on the road. After crossing Hassan city I could not see anyone in my rear view mirror. I parked my bike on the side of the road and within few minutes Sachin joined me. After aorund 10 mins Sanjo and Vinodh came. Everyone desperately needed tea (thanks to our office routine). I am very apprehensive about stopping in the city for all these quick breaks. So I suggested that we would stop tea break after hitting Sakleshpur bypass. But before we could reach the tea stall sun was apready going down. Being a photograpy enthusiast, we stopped for a quick photography session (although while looking for a spot sun was almost set).
Sun is already down while we were looking for a spot
After travelling for few kms we stopped for much needed tea break. We parked our bikes in front of Car Repair Workshop. Soon we were surrounded by mechanics and all were quite amused with the camera mounted on bike. They were trying to figure out what that was. By the time we finished out tea, it was already dark. We started slowly towards Sakleshpur on the rough patches for few kms. After that we were back with on the nice wide road. It was total fun riding on the pitch dark road. But Sanjo was not pretty comfortable riding in those conditions with his low power headlight and high beam lights of oncoming traffic. Around 20 kms before Sakleshpur we had to wait for Sanjo to join us. After listening to him I decided that I would tail and help Sanjo with my high beam on the curves. We reached Planters Club around 7:30 pm. It was pretty decent arrangement, thanks to Gana. Only pain was you cant roam around in shorts and slippers, you need to be properly dressed with shoes to go to bar and mess. Once we settled down, had two cups of coffee (who will drink tea when you are surrounded by coffee estates), caretaker came to take the order for dinner. Ohh did I mention, in places like Planters Club or Munjarabad Club (where I had stayed last time), they dont have a fixed menu, you can order whatever you want and the chef will cook it for you. So we asked Akki Roti, Chicken Curry, Rice, Sambhar for dinner and Chicken Kabab and Pepper Chicken for snacks. We freshen up and we were in the bar around 9:30 pm. Over the drinks we decided that we would go to a place Kegenari from where you can get 360 view of Western Ghats. It is located around 17 kms from Sakleshpur towards Charmadi Ghat. On 25th December we would visit that place and on 26th we would leave for Coimbatore. Had few drinks in the bar followed by dinner, we hit the bed around 1:00 am, as it was not long ride tomorrow. I must say the Chicken Curry was fiery hot with chilly and green pepper.
December 25th, 2011 – Sakleshpur (50kms)
Everyone left the bed around 10:00 am. Later on we came to know that Sanjo and Vinod had got up around 8:00 am had their breakfast and then again trying to sleep off. We got freshen up around 12:00 pm (it included cleaning up aur bikes also 🙂 ). We ordered for Biryani in lunch and thought we would go to Kegenari after lunch. So we hit to Billiards room. Played Billiards with a glass of beer till the lunch got cooked. Around 2:30 pm we had been informed that lunch has been served in the dining hall. We had Biryani which was not that much spicy, thank god. We enquired about Kegenari and came to know that since it is peak of coffee picking season so we might not be able to go to the top, as it falls in some private coffee estate. Its better to roam around rather sitting at the club. So we took our bikes and head towards Shiradi Ghat (by mistake 🙂 ). The plan was to sit and watch sunset which we missed yesterday.
After crossing Sakleshpur town, I asked Sanjo to enquire about route to Kegenari. He checked with one of the Nariyal Paniwallahs, and he pointed us towards the road heading to Shiradi Ghats and said its hardly 14 kms from there.So we headed towards the Shiradi Ghat. We crossed Munjarabad Fort which is around 11 kms from Sakleshpur town. It was just the begining of Shiradi Ghats and road was getting curvier and curvier. I was leading and thought we just want to watch the sunset, place hardly matters. I just zoomed pass the Munjarabaad Fort and entered in the Ghat section road. Road was steepily climbing up and up. We had covered just 6-7 kms and found ourself stopped due to traffic jam. I though shit, now we have to head back as I knew how much time it takes in the Ghats to clear a traffic jam. By that time Sachin had already moved ahead in the jam and we thaought we would give it sot to pass through it. When we reached in front, found that a mini bus had rammed into a lorry while turning on a curve. All terrified faces of passengers on board was not a pleasant thing to watch. Anyways we moved ahead and crossed the traffic jam and stopped for a Tender Coconut. Sun was already on its way to hide behind the hills. So we decided to move ahead and stopped at the first good spot. Sachin and I spotted a good spot around 7-8 kms down the road. But at that time Sanjo was ahead us. So I ripped and chased Sanjo to get him back. We just sat by the side of the road on a stone and watched sun going down behind hills.
Sunset at Shiradi Ghats
We reached back Planters Club around 7:30 pm. Over the coffee it had been decided that next day we would leave for Coimbatore as early as possible. And ordered for Akki Roti, Chicken Curry, Rice and Sambhar :). By the time dinner got ready we freshen up and pack our sadlle bags to minimise the time next morning. After couple of drinks, we finished our dinner and hit the bed around 10:00 pm.
December 26th, 2011 – Sakleshpur to Coimbatore (360 kms)
The plan was to start by 8:00 am as it was a long distance to cover today, wtih Sanjo and Vinod being quite apprehensive about cover this much long stretch in one go. Route to reach Coimbatore : Sakleshpur – Hassan – Hole Narsipur – Elivala – Mysore – Nanjungud – Chamrajanagar – Hasanur – Dimbam – Bannary – Sathyamangalam – Annur – Coimbatore. We finished the coffee and loaded our bikes with saddle bags and headed towards Saklespur Hassan Bypass road around 9 am (yeah, again we were an hour late :(). It took us around an hour to reach Hassan and we stopped at roadside joint to have something for breakfast. We had some masala rice, checked out about the route and were back on the road, heading towards Hole Narsipur.
Road from Hassan to Hole Narsipur, State Highway 88, was in a pretty nice condition. Smooth road, surrounded with lush greebery, passing through villages, rides was proving to be pleasant one. Sachin was leading the group. Around 30 kms before Hole Narsipur, I saw Sachin stopped the bike on the side of the road. I stopped and asked about the issue. He said “I am feeling damn sleepy, rice effect”. While we stopped there Vinod said he needs to tank up his bike. We stopped there for around 15-20 mins, I took some snaps while Sachin was taking rest. We stopped at an Indian Oil Petro Bunk after around 5-6 kms from our last stop. My bike was still in main, giving a mileage of around 48 kmpl :). From there we started and I was leading. I was cruising at the speed of 85-90 kmph, and Sachin was just behind me. All of a sudden I saw a hump just ahead of me, it was not painted so I could not see it. Also there was not even a single hump after Hassan, so I was not expecting anything like that. The next moment, my bike was all in the air for a moment. When I landed I thought of applying brakes, but WOOHOO another one, and my bike took the same course in air. I slow down and Sachin overtook me and signalled to stop. We stopped, Sachin started “dude what are doing, I was just behind you and my bike also took off”. I explained “there was not even a single hump in last 60 kms, and the first one that I encountered was the unpainted one, what could I have done”. Anyways Sachin checked his bike, settled the saddle bags and we moved ahead. We were about to reach Hole Narsipur, we passed one water body on the right side of road. Just after 100 – 200 meters, I saw one on the left hand side. I overtook Sachin (he was leading after the hump incident :)), signalled him to stop. Moment I came to Sachin he said “are you also thinking what I am thinking”? I said “lets take a detour and take few snaps”. We waited for few minutes for Sanjo and Vinod to catch up and after that we take a detour of 50 – 60 meters.
Village Houses on the bank of Water Body
While we were taking snaps one of the villager, who was crossing on a bike, stopped and chit chatted with Sanjo (as he was the only Kannadiga among us). Sanjo later on told “this is kind of a reservoir, which Gram Panchayat has made to harvest fishes, and they give contract for fishing for it, and other surrounding small water reservoirs”. After the photography session we quickly started towards Mysore, as we had came just 60 – 70 kms from Sakleshpur, and still had to cover 290 odd kms. We hit Mysore via Elivala some where around 12:30 pm, and it was getting really hot. Sanjo and Sachin need to fill up their bike. While they were getting their machines tanked up, Vinod enquired about the route to Hansur. We took Mysore Outer Ring Road and headed towards Hansur. The Ring Road was under construction and full of diversions.It took us around an hour to cross Mysore and hit Kozhikode Mysore Kollegal Highway. We all were quite hungry and tired (thanks to Mysore traffice), and all of us were signalling each other for food. After almost 30 kms, I saw Maharaja Punjabi Dhaba on left hand side of the road. It was a very rare thing to locate a dhaba on the highways of South India (no pun intended). We parked our bikes, removed our riding gears and threw ourselves on a khatiya. We started with tea, and ordered Dal Fry, Butter Chicken Masala and Tandoori Roti. Sanjo ordered for a lassi (which he never got :D). Food was pretty decent. We complemented our lunch with another round of tea. We geared up and hit the road to stop at Chamrajanagar, which is 40 odd kms from there, for tea.
We reached Chamrajanagar somewhere around 4:00 pm, from there we needed to take a left to hit the road leading to Hasanur. But Vinod and Sanjo were going ahead us and they missed the left turn. I had to rip up and I stopped them after some 3 kms. We took a U turn and get into the road which Sachin had shown me, and where he was waiting. The road was not in too good shape, and quite bumpy due to nice patch work. I was tailing and Sachin was leading. I felt that Sanjo’s bike was not stable, sometimes it was going left or right without any reason. Within few minutes Sanjo stopped the bike and said he is not able to keep his eyes open due to sleep. I asked Vinod to stay with him and take some rest, and I moved ahead to stop Sachin. I saw Sachin waiting after 6-7 kms. We waited there for around 20 mins for Sanjo and Vinod. We crossed Suvaranamathy Dam and got on to the road leading to Bannary via Hasanur through Satyamangalam Tiger Reserve Forest Area. The road throught the forest was in amazingly good condition, not even a single pothole. We reached Hasanur around 5:15 pm, and decided for a quick photo break, after taking a small detour. We knew that we were way behind the schedule, but the landscape was so mesmerizing that we could not resist and stopped.
Beautiful Sathyamangalam Forest Area as seen from Hasanur
From Hasanur we started around 5:20 pm, and it was aready started getting dark. Next stop was at Bannari which is around 25 kms from there. We decided to take a break at Bannari as from there we need to climb down through heavy ghats with around 14 hair pin bends. We reached Bannari around 6:15 pm, had a quick break and started descending towards Sathyamangalam which is approximately 15 kms from there. We reached Satyamangalam around 7:30 pm. Took a tea break there, and proceed towards Coimbatore. From there we drove non stop to Annur, which is in the middle of Sathyamangalam and Coimbatore. In Annur Vinod (who was leading now, since only he can read sign boards written in Tamil) and Sachin were waiting for us, as Sanjo was not comfortable in riding during night with high beams of oncoming traffic and I was tailing him. From Annur we started and entered Coimbatore around 8:45 pm. It was a complete chaos of traffic. Vinod’s Uncle had booked room for us in some Comfort Hotel which is in the R.S. Puram. We reached our hotel around 9:30 pm, checked in and asked for dinner order. Surprise surprise, it was a completely veg hotel. We ordered for Veg Manchurian, Dal Fry and Tandoori Roti. And we went out to Flames Pub. Man liquor in Tamilnadu is f**king expensive. We come back after just a beer and a peg of whisky. I could not have dinner, thanks to the great taste. Around 11:30 pm we hit the bed, and there was a snoring competetion within minutes.
December 27th, 2011 – Coimbatore to Valparai (120 kms)
We were ready to leave for Valparai by 11:00 am. Sanjo and Vinod already had breakfast while I and Sachin were getting ready. I did not feel like having anything after tasting last night dinner, so I decided I will have smoething on the way in some bakery, along with tea. We loaded our bike with saddle bags, put on the riding gears, and Oh yeah, we were again aliens for all the hotel staff, customer and passers by. We were just about to start off and Vinod was mounting the camera on his bike. Oh I missed that part. We had two HD Mountable Cameras with us, one was mounted on the rear fender of my bike and another one on the handle bar of Vinod’s bike. Ok, so when Vinod was trying to mount the camera, he found that someone has taken out the screw from the camera mount. so we cant mount it. We spent next one hour searching for some appropriate screw so that camera could be mounted again, but all in vain. So with a heavy heart we left the market area and head towards the OLD National Highway, which leads to Pollachi which is 45 kms from there. Just before taking left for Old NH, we stopped on Indian Oil Petrol Bunk to fuel up our bikes. Fuel indicator lamp on the speedometer console was glowing red now, still my bike was in main. The trip meter which I reset at Shell Petrol Bunk in Bangalore was showing 696 kms and my bike has not hit reserve yet :). Still I also got my tank full, and we all headed for Pollachi around 1:15 pm. The road was heavily loaded with traffic, and Vinod had taken the lead.
We reached Pollachi around 2:00 pm. Since I did not have my breakfast, I was damn hungry. But on either side of the road, I could just see either veg restaurant or bakery. Its a normal human tendency that he ignores whatever he has in the present hoping that he would get something better in the future. With the same hope we kept going. Vinod enquired about the route from Pollachi to Valparai. We had to go through the city, and it was a pretty congested one. I could see the eating joints while we were crossing the District Court area, but there was no place to park the bike. Sanjo and Sachin got stuck somewhere in the traffic. At a very junction we needed to head straight for Pollachi. I and Vinod proceeded. But the junction was so small and so heavily stuffed with bikes, cycles, pedestrians and of course TSRTC buses that it was very difficult to figure out the road and keep going straight. So Sanjo and Sachin took left by mistake. Meanwhile I and Vinod dodged the traffic through hardly 10 feet narrow streets and reached flyover which was under construction. We were waiting for Sanjo and Sachin, Vinod got a call from Sachin. Sachin told them about the route, and in 10 mins they reached. Everyone was hungry by now, and we had almost reached the exit of Pollachi. But none of us wanted to go back and look for food, so we proceeded. At the very end of the Pollachi township I saw a board on the right hand side of road. It was in Tamil which is like a jalebi for me, but there were pictures of Chicken, Egg and Fish on it. I just put on the left indicator and signalled everyone to stop. All of us crossed the road, and parked our bikes in front of the shop. We stuffed ourselves with Scrambled Egg Parantha (not Paranta and Scrambled Eggs), Half Fry Eggs and Poori Salan, and the Coconut Chutney was amazing. We had two rounds of tea as dessert. Food worked as a catalyst to our brains, and we mounted the camera with tapes on the handle of Vinod’s bike. Around 3:00 pm we left for Valparai which is 70 kms from there.
We reached Aliyar Dam around 3:30 pm and found many tourist vehicles there. We stopped there just for a quick photo break and moved ahead. I started moving slowly on my bike waiting for others to join, all of a sudden Sachin zooped ahead of me and soon he could not be seen anywhere. Gradually Sanjo and Vinod also joined me. When we were crossing the Check Post for Aliyar Dam, a person from Check Post shouted to stop us. When Vinod went to check about it, person in the Check Post asked “the one biker which had already gone ahead and did not stop, you have to pay for him too”. We paid the toll for all four bikes and started on the uphill road to Valparai. Valparai is 40 kms from Aliyar Dam and route consist of 42 hairpin bends. Road was pretty smooth, surrounded with trees on the both side. Somewhere the trees are so dense that we needed to switch on headlights. After around 3 kms I found Sachin parked on the side with camera in his hand, and it was now clear why ripped to be ahead of us. Soon we started on hairpin bends. At the 9th hairpin bend there was a spot from where you can see the entire Aliyar Dam Reservoir. We stopped there to click few snaps.
Three Musketeers At Aliyar Dam Enroute to Valparai
After the quick photoshoot we decided that the next stop would be in Valparai. But the road and surrounding was so much beautiful and picturesque that we stopped for another photoshoot just after 24th hairpin bend. We were riding through Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. It was an amazing experience. After 41st hairbin bend, road started to descent, and forest on the both side of the road were replaced by tea planatations. We reached Iyerpadi around 5:15 pm, had a quick tea break there as we needed to empty up the memorey card of the camera mounted on my bike. After 15 – 20 mins of break started towards Valparai. We reached Valparai around 6:30 pm. Vinod’s Uncle had arranged our stay in Wood house Resort (please dont go by the name, it was not any resort, just a guest house). The rooms were pretty decent, for bachelors at least, with attached bathroom fitted with geyser. We ordered caretaker of the resort for dinner (Chicken 65, Chicken Curry, Ceylon Parantha, Biryani Rice) and we left just to roam around. We went to the market, had tea and cake, purchased a bottle of Old Monk and came back to our room. After having dinner and everything, around 1:00 am we left to check out the town again. We did not see even a single person on the road. We took a walk of around 6-7 kms, Vinod and Sanjo got into the stream flowing near by to the guest house and we came back and hit the bed. Next morning when care taker asked about the last night, Vinod, being the translator, narrated him the entire story. Then he said you should not have done that, sometimes leopards get into the in search of food. We were just staring at wach other.
Valparai Town During Night
December 28th, 2011 – Valaparai to Urakam, Thrissur (130 kms)
We had decided beforehand that from Valparai we would head to Sachin’s home which is approximately 20 kms from Thrissur city. We started from Valaparai around 11:00 am for Thrissur. We decided we would take most scenic route and so : Valparai – Upper Sholayar Dam – Chalakudy – Potta – Innajalakuda – Thrissur(Bypass) – Urakam. We came out from the Valparai town onto Valparai road, and stopped to mount cameras on my and Vinod’s bike. We mounted the camera and started towards Upper Sholayar Dam. After few kilometers I felt that something is touching on the front tyre. I stopped the bike and checked but could not find anything. By that time rest three also came there. I gave my helmet to Sachin and went for a short test ride to confirm the noise. When I came Sachin there was a black tape (which we used to mount camera on Vinod’s bike) got stuck to the front tyre. He pulled it out. So we proceeded further. I was leading as my bike had a camera mounted on the rear fender. The road was route was simply awesome, smooth roads, lush green tea plantations on both sides, bends after almost every 100 meters. The sky was perfectly bright and clear.
Lush Green Tea Plantation, and Road Crossing Through It
After travelling for almost 20 kms, we needed to take a right turn of almost 90 degree curvature from Primary Health Centre. I keep watching the rear view mirror for others. This time I could not see anyone. So I was shuffling between looking forward and looking in the rear view mirror. And at that right turn, the moment I took the turn I saw a big TSRTC Bus almost at the right edge of the road. I was like shocked, as it was not completely unexpected, but never had imagined that it would be so quick. I stopped my bike just after 50 meters from that right turn. I waited there for others to catch up. Soon Sachin same and I signalled him to keep going. After around 10 mins Sanjo and Vinod also came. After covering around 12 – 13 kms, we reached Upper Sholayar Dam. It was huge and quite scenic. The village houses made on the edges of hills were looking amazing. We realxed there for a while. Vinod got some local fruit from a vendor near by, almost half a kg for Rs. 10. It was so sour that could finish just one. After clicking few snaps,we started moving towards Thrissur. The road crosses throug Idamalayar Reserve Forest and Sholayar Reserve Forest.
We at Upper Sholayar Dam
From Upper Sholayar Dam onward road was a bit bumpy, lots of potholes crossing through villages. After around 15 kms, we reached Idamalayar Forest Reserve Check Post. Sachin went to the office to make the entry for all four bikes. Then an officer came anc checked all saddle bags loaded on our bikes for liquor. Also he instructed us not to throw anything in the forest, and also not to stop anywhere for a longer duration. After completing all formalities we started on Anamala Road. This road connects Valaparai Road to Athirapilly Road. Since the road was not good enough so we were riding at a very slow pace (average speed was 20 kmph). Due to this slow speed, Vinod started feeling sleepy. We had to stop for sometime.
Quick Stop In Idamalayar Reserve Forest
The quality of road kept detoriating with every kilometer. And also the forest was becoming more and more dense. After riding for around 20 kms, we got into Sholayar Reserve Forest (there is no clear demarcation though). Vinod was still drowsy. So we stopped at a curve where there was space to park the bike and sit. Vinod parked his bike and sat down to relax. I took out my camera from the saddle bag and walked around 100 feet ahead. While I was taking their snap, I heard some movement in the forest across the road. I was concentrating hard and removed my sunglasses, and was trying to see whats happening in the grove from where the sound was coming. I was feeling a bit apprehensive also due to the fact that the area is full of elephants. And passers by getting attacked by an elephant is not an uncommon thing to happen in that entire stretch. Suddenly I saw monkey type creature jumped from one branch to another. I pointed my camera in that direction with a hope to capture some nice snaps of it. But the creature was barely visible. I saw Sachin coming towards me with his camera in hand. He asked “what happened”. I said “there is some monkey type animal on the tree, but it is barely visible”. After some observation, Sachin said “its a Lion Tailed Macaque“. I had 18 – 200 mm lens zoomed to the maximum and was trying to take its snap from there itself. Sachin walked towards the grove to capture Lion Tailed Macaques with 18 – 300 mm lens. After sometime he disappeared in the forest. I waited there and got lucky to capture one of it in one snap (as they are second most camouflaged animal in the forest). After around 5 mins, I saw Sachin almost running towards us. I understood something is wrong. He came to me and said “there is an elephant hardly 30 feets away, so lets move”. We quickly packed our cameras back in the sadlle back and got back on to the ride.
Sachin was continuously in lead after that incident. And most of the time he was no where near us. He was going as fast as poosible, as there is a bond of love between him and elephants since the day he started visiting such areas. We were trying to catch up with him. That elephant incident was proving fruitful, as Vinod was not feeling sleepy anymore after that. 🙂 After covering around 17 kms in almost 45 mins, we reached the highest point of the route, which was also the end of Anamala Road and start of Athirapilly Road. This spot offers a mesmerising view of Poringalkuthu Reservoir. And it was pretty huge. There was a group of engineering students, whom we crossed on way from Valparai till here. They also came and stopped there. While I and Sachin were taking snaps, Vinod got properly interviewd by them, regarding bikes, saddle bags, source, destination, everything.
Magnificent View Of Poringalkuthu Reservoir
After the quick photoshoot we started towards Thrissur. Next stop was Potta which is around 23 kms from there. Anyways, we began to descend. It was quite a road, full with potholes, or I should say it was a bed of potholes with patches of road in between. Still the ride was quite scenic, through the deep forest and with hairpin bends every now and then. So we were moving at a very slow pace. Sachin was leading and was going at quite a speed (thanks to the affection between him and elephants). I was keeping a watch on Vinod and Sanjay in my rear view mirror, as I knew that they start feeling dizzy in these riding conditions. And at one of the curves I saw only Vinod in the rear view mirror. I asked Vinod to go ahead and I stopped for Sanjay. Sanjay came after few minutes and he said that he is feeling sleepy. I said this area is famous for elephants so we should not stop here. Once we reach Potta then we can stop there for tea. On moving ahead we saw Vinod was also waiting for us, as Sachin as already taken a lead of almost 4 – 5 kms. There were bamboos on both sides of the road. At one curve I saw Sanjay taking right and kept on going right. THUD THUD THUD. His helmet covered face recieved few tight slaps from tree leaves. I overtook him and stopped. I asked him to stop for sometime. Suddenly he saw fresh elephant dung just few feets away. Sanjay said “no, no, I am not sleepy at all, lets move”. 🙂 After covering around 5 kms, we saw Sachin waiting for us. And we all were riding together again towards Thrissur.
Around 04:00 PM, we reached Athirapally Falls. We stopped at one of the eateries and ordered for Ommelettes, tea and some pakodas. By the time it got prepared I just took a stroll near the falls. And it was the same shit. People were taking a bath (not the dip) as if they had not taken bath a long time. Most of them were even using soap, shampoo, detergent and were trying to clean up the fall with the foam. I seiously don’t understand the thought process of such people. We finished our snacks cum lunch, put on our riding gears and started to our destination. Just after the entrance for Athirapally Falls, there is a Kerala State Check Post. We stopped at the check post and Sachin went to fill in details. Then cops from check post came to our bikes and asked us to open saddle bags. I guess they were searching for liquor, as it is quite expensive there. We were done with formalities, and wlecome to Kerala. From there it was proper two way road, and full with greenery on both sides. Also traffic was quite high on this route, that too typical Kerala Traffic, each and every vehicle was zooming in a zig-zag manner. Soon we got adjusted to the traffic, which we had not seen after leaving Pollachi. We reached Chalakudy around 05:30 PM. I saw a proper four lane highway, and was relaxed. It was NH47 (Thrissur – Kochi Expressway). But to my disappointment, just after 100 meters, we took right from the underpass leaving that express way behind. And we were back on the same kind of road, on way to Potta. Till Potta road was somewhat bumpy, with very narrow streets connecting to the road, every now and then. I was finding it a bit uncomfortable, as you never know when anyone will come from any streets without bothering about oncoming traffic. We hit SH22 near Urakam around 06:30 PM (covered around 30 kms in one hour). And we were at Sachin’s place by 07:00 PM.
We were welcomed with tea, biscuits and bananas by Sachin’s Uncle, who stay just next to Sachin’s house. We hogged on those, and everything was over within few minutes. I was planning to take a hot shower while Sanjay and Vinod had already occupied the bed, and Sachin was busy meeting his relatives. I called up Sachin and asked him that we need to arrange some booze, to get rid of tiredness. 🙂 He said we would go to market in sometime. Since Sachin’s parent does not stay there so there was nothing in the kitchen. I filled up the ice tray and put it in the freezer. We went to terrace for a while. It was completely quite and calm there. We just gazed upon stars and full moon. By then Sachin had came back. I and Sachin went to market near by which was around 7 kms from his place. When we reached the Kerala Government Liquor Shop, we saw a long queue on the payment counter. You have to pay and get a slip, and then move to delivery counter, hand over the slip and you will get your stuff. This is the scene throughout the Kerala. But I was happy to see Black & White available there (it costed Rs 1800 though). Sachin was in the queue to get the slip, meanwhile I was checking out available brands. I saw Bullet Beer there and thought of taking it for Sanjay, but forgot at the time of payment. The shop was stuffed with varieties of Desi Daru, and Beers which I never heard of. We took the bottle and came back. I freshen up and Sachin was again engrossed in arragements for dinner. Once he came back again we both went out to get some snacks. There I searched for ciggarettes and was unable to find Gold Flake Kings. But we got Thunder Soda. 🙂 When we came back, I asked Sanjay and Vinod to freshen up.
Around 08:30PM, Sachin’s Uncle got us dinner. And we were just waiting him to go back so that we can start with our drinks. Before we could have thought of anything else, Sachin asked his uncle for a drink. I made drinks for everyone and started discussing about the plan for next day. We took our drinks and went up to terrace. Sanjay and Vinod were a bit apprehensive about driving all the way to Yercaud next day. They were saying to stay somehwere in between and day after tomorrow we will go to Yercaud for sometime and continue to Bangalore. I and Sachin were thinking, if we are going to Yercaud then we shoud stay overnight (we had bookings done from Bangalore itself). Sachin said he had to finish some work next morning and we can leave by 11:00 AM. Finally even Sanjay and Vinod agreed. We finished our drinks and went down for dinner around 11:30 PM. Homemade Rice, Sambhar, Pallaya, it was amazing. We stuffed ourselves and hit the bed.
December 29th, 2011 – Urakam, Thrissur to Yercaud (350 kms)
I got up around 08:00 AM. Sachin had already gone to finish his work. Sanjay and Vinod were awake but had not freshen up yet. I left the bed, freshen up and started packing my stuff into the saddle bag. Around 09:30 AM Sachin was back. By 10:30 AM we all had our saddle bags packed and we were heading to Sachin’s Uncle home to have our brunch. Sachin’s Aunt served us with delicious food, Idli (special one, I dont know the name), Plain Dosa, Rice, Sambhar and Chane ki Sabzi. We hogged on the food and overstuffed ourselves. Earlier our plan was to leave latest by 11:00 AM. But by the time we were done with the food, it was already 11:30 AM. We loaded our bikes with saddle bags and started around 12:00 PM.
The route we needed to take was Urakam – Pattikad – Palakkad – Coimbatore Bypass – Avinashi – Bhavani – Sankagiri – Poolavari – Salem – Yercaud. Sanjay said he needed to tank up. And it was decided that we would stop at We started on SH 22 which led us to Thrissur, and we take a right from there towards Pattikad. Whoa, what a maddening Kerala traffic. We reached Pattikad around 01:00 PM. From there it was uphill ride for around 20 kms enroute to Palakkad. Initially Sachin was leading the herd and Sanjay was tailing. But once we hit the Palakkad road, I dont know why but Sanjay started slowing down. He was riding hesitantly, which was not good. So I started tailing him. Sachin and Vinod had already gone ahead. At one time while overtaking he got so slow that I almost hit him from behind. It was quite frustrating. So I moved ahead of him and was keeping a watch in the rear view mirror. In all these traffic chaos, we forgot that Sanjay needed to tank up. Sanjay reminded me of that. We stopped at a petrol bunk where he tanked up. My machine was still running on the fuel that I filled in Coimbatore. 🙂 After tanking up we just stopped to buy a bottle of water, had a smoke and proceeded. Now the traffic was not that much and I let Sanjay go in front. I saw Sachin and Vinod parked near a Tender Coconut Wallah, but I guess Sanjay missed them. I ripped and catched Sanjay. We took a U-turn and came back to the spot where they were waiting. Sanjay had a tender coconut and we were again back on the road. After around 3-4 kms Sachin and Vinod also tanked up. Next stop was Coimbatore bypass.
Till Palakkad road was good, it was two lane though. We reached Palakkad around 02:30 PM. We did not make any stop there as we were already behind the schedule. From Palakkad to Coimbatore it was smooth double lane Toll Road, NH 47 (that too two wheelers exempted :)). We covered that stretch of 55 kms in 25 odd minutes, where I touched top speed of entire trip, 138 kmph. For Coimbatore city you need to take a left from the NH 47. We kept on going straight, and next stop was Avinashi which is around 90 kms ahead. After covering around 20 kms from Coimbatore we saw construction of four lane road going on in full swing (which I saw in the same condition even three years back). The road was either four lane of diversion. There was a diversion after every 250 meters. The frequent diversions resulted in very slowly moving traffic. At some diversions traffic was almost stand still. As we were on bikes so we were able to dodge the traffic on most of diversions, and able to move at a steady speed of 20 – 30 kmph. 🙂 At one diversion, one Scorpio zoomed across me, cutting the lane. WTF! No traffic sense at all. Suddenly I saw its number plate and realised no wonders driver was like this. Number plate readed KA-13 ** 007. My name is Bond, Rowdy bond. 🙂 Anyways, we kept riding at the same easy pace. We reached Avinashi around 04:30 PM. Due to the road full of diversions, we all were tired and a bit hungry also, so decided to take a quick break at the out skirts of Avinashi.
We saw a bakery with space to park all four bikes after crossing Avinashi and stopped there. Filled up ourselves with Veg Puff, Bun – Jam, Cakes and Tea. There also every one was staring at us like we are not from this planet. We started from Avinashi around 05:00 PM. After Avinashi, the road was again full fledge four way highway (Salem – Ernakulam Highway). I had a feeling that my bike was not taking on jerks in a very good way, due to low tyre pressure. After travelling fro around 10 kms saw an Indian Oil Petrol Bunk and stopped to check the air pressure. Now we were moving at a steady speed of 70+ kmph, thanks to nice road. During dusk the visibility was not too good for high speed. Also there were quite a number of side roads getting merged on the highway. From those side roads, two wheelers, small tempos, even pedestrians were getting on to the highway without even bothering about the traffic. Just before Bhavani while passing an underpass, I was splashed by something, some kind of microscopic insects I guess. My helmet visor was completely covered with small dots. I had to stop, no other option. All four of us had the same condition. Once we stopped, we realised that somehow its not the regular dusk. The sky was red instead of being saffron. I took out my camera from the saddle to capture it. Mean while Vinod called uo Star Home Stay, where we had the booking in Yercaud to inform that we would be reaching a bit late. (We were running just 2 hours late). We clicked a few snaps, cleaned our helmet’s visor and started from there around 06:50 PM.
Dusk at Bhavani
From Bhavani we rode continuously to Salem, and reached the outskirts of Salem around 07:20 PM. We stopped there to check if there is any ways that we can avoid getting into Salem City. While we had tea, Vinod checked woth the shop keeper about the route. As per the shop keeper, we have to cross the entire city and take SH188 to Yercaud. We asked Vinod to call up Home Stay to enquire about route, dinner and booze. The guy at home stay also said the same route, took the order for dinner and informed about the unavailability of booze. Vinod we had to take liquor from Salem itself and then go. We entered Salem City through Sankari Main Road. It was packed with traffic. We reached SH188 via SH159, Sandaipet Main Road, Fort Main Road, Vankatappan Road, Bretts Road, Cherry Road. Vinod was also enquiring about TASMAC stores on the way. Just after Cherry Road, he saw a TASMAC store on the other side of the road. There I saw the whiskies which I never jeard off, and we enquired about the whiskies they never heard off. Even Old Monk was not available there. So we picked up eight bottles of Kingfisher beer, and started on SH188. Just before the uphill road, there is a toll booth. Vinod stopped and paid the toll while we moved ahead. Yercaud is around 29 kms and 23 hairpin bends from the toll booth. The SH188 was pitch dark, with not even a single vehicle when we started on it around 08:00 PM. I stopped just before the first hairpin bend and mounted the camera on my rear fender. Sachin had already ripped too ahead by then. When we were at 8th hairpin bend, a droplet fell on my visor. I thought it may had came from some tree. Gradually I realized that it was drizzling. I recalled that Vinod was saying that Cyclone Thane had hit Tamilnadu and we may get rains on way. We found Sachin waiting for us after 12th hairpin bend. At 20th hairpin bend GRT Nature Trails is located. It is quite a locatiuon for anyone to stay. Its one set of rooms have a marvellous view of valley. We thought to give it a try if we can get a accomodation here itself, as Vinod and Sanjay were almost dreanched by then. Vinod and I went to reception and enquired about it. The guy at the reception shown us a room, which we liked it. But he asked for Rs 4000 for a double room and also we need to check out by 10:00 AM next day. What shit! Vinod called up the Star Home Stay guy for direction. We reached Star Home Stay around 09:15 PM. We had booked a cottage (Super Deluxe Suite in their terminology). It was a big double bed room, with a guest area with sofa-cum-bed in it and a big sit out balcony. We checked in, unloaded our bikes and called up cafeteria to deliver the food in room itself. I asked Vinod to enquire about the TASMAC store or any bar near by, from where we can get some whisky or rum. The temprature was dipping at a very fast pace. The reception guy said tehre is a bar near by where we can check. Vinod and Sachin decided to go there. But I had something else in the mind. “Guys there is a spot near 18th hairpin bend from where there is clear view of Salem City and GRT Nature Trails. I want to take a snap of both. So by the time you guys get whisky or rum, I am going with Sanjay till there to take few snaps”.
View of GRT Nature Trails from 18th Hairpin Bend
It was around 10:00 PM and drizzling. Sanjay wrapped camera and tripod in a polybag. I took out my bike and we started towards the 18th hairpin bend. When we reached the SH188 and started descending towards Salem I realised it was quite windy. We reached to the point which I noticed while coming in 20 mins. Chose a proper location where there was a gap from which you can see full lit Salem City and brightly lit GRT Nature Trails. I put on the indicator of my bike so that vehicles passing through can spot us from a distance. It was a deadly silence, not a single sound other than the pouring of raindrops. When Sanjay was mounting the camera, I felt that I heard some footsteps. But suddenly it faded away. Sanjay put the camera on long exposure shot. “Did you hear that”, I asked Sanjay. “What”, Sanjay asked. “The foot steps, like someone is walking towards us. I heard it second time now”. “Dude don’t freak me out, lets take snaps and go back”, Sanjay said. We took few long exposure shots of Salem City and GRT Nature Trails, wrapped up camera and tripod and rode back. By the time we reach our room, it was around 11:00 PM.
View of Salem City from 18th Hairpin Bend
By the time I took a hot shower, dinner was delivered to the room. We ordered Chicken Pepper Dry, Chicken 65, Chappati, Chicken Curry and Biryani Rice. Sanjay, Sachin and Vinod were already having beer. To my disappointment, Vinod and Sachin did not get any whisky or rum. I had snacks as I was really hungry after the shower. Then I narrated the entire footstep episode to Sachin and Vinod. Sachin said on the 2nd hairpin bend there is a huge board stating “whatever may be the case, do not stop at any cost at any point in the entire route after dark”. “Can’t you have told this earlier”, I said. While we were having all this conversation, door leading to the balcony open by itself. Now everyone was alert. Sachin said “its nothing but wind”. Sanjay who was sitting next to the windo with a broken window pane, said “if it was wind then I should have felt it, but I did not feel any wind at all”. We all went to balcony. It was now raining heavily and became chilly. Sachin checked the temprature in his watch, which was 23 C. “No ways” Vinod said and took the watch from Sachin. He put the watch on the railing of balcony and within 5 minutes, it was showing 8 C. We came back to the guest area and were enjoying our beer and watching TV. After another 15 – 20 minutes, again the door of balcony open by itself. All of us were just staring at the door. We came out to balcony. It was around 12:30 AM and entire area was covered with mist. The visibility was reduced to 10 feets. Sanjay started his research work on the door. He closed and opened the door multiple times. And EUREKA, if you don’t close the door properly, the latch gradually slips and door opens on its own after sometime. In all these analysis and chit chatting we never realised it was already 01:15 AM. I had my dinner and hit the bed. Since it was not a long ride tomorrow so we can get up late and start off for the final stretch of the trip.
December 30th, 2011 – Yercaud to Bangalore (240 kms)
I got up around 08:30 AM and asked Sanjay who was there in the guest area to order for some coffee. I freshen up and came out to balcony. It was amzing view. The peaks were covered under mist, it was drizziling and the temprature was about 12 C. In another half an hour or so, coffee was delivered in the room. Hot cup of coffee in such a weather, sitting in the balcony looking on to the misty peaks, oh! it was heaven. Soon we had to face the reality, and we started packing our stuff. Today we would be covering aur last run of the trip, to Bangalore. By the time we packed our saddle bags and loaded it on to the bike, settled the bill, it was already 12:30 PM. nd it was still drizzling. Route we decided to take was Yercaud – Salem – Thoppur – Dharmapuri – Krishnagiri – Hosur – Bangalore. We took the SH 188 to Salem and started descending on Salem – Yercaud Ghat Road. I had the video camera mounted on my rear fender, as I wanted to capture the entirely mesmerizing ride. It was drizzling and the entire valley was covered with mist. We were descending at an average speed of 40 kmph. We crossed Salem – Yercaud Toll Booth around 01:30 PM. There was no sign of rain in Salem City area.
Misty Peaks of Yercaud
We stopped at the entrance of Salem City to check about the shortest route to cross the city area. We crossed the city via Cherry Road, Rajaji Road, Peramanur Main Road, Omalur Main Road. After Omalur Main road we got on to NH 44 (Old NH7). We stopped there to tank up. There was a boy on the petrol bunk who was checking the air pressure in our bikes. He was very curious, and asked a lot of questions (as he only knows Tamil). I saw there was a Punjabi Dhaba just beside the petrol bunk. I suggested that we should have lunch here itself, as we did not have breakfast and it was already 02:15 PM. Sachin said we will have it in Thoppur, I know a nice place there. We said ok, so next stop Thoppur which is 35 kms from there. We just had tea there. I thought on this road it should not take more than 45 minutes to cover 35 kms. We had covered just 15 kms when rain strikes again. This time it was raining heavily and amde worse by heavy wind. My bike’s rear tyre was swaying badly due to wind. My speed was dropped from 70 kmph to 40 kmph. All of us were ducked as most as we can to reduce the wind repulsion. After 10 minutes the rain stopped. It was raining almost every 10 minutes. At most of places the road had become slippery also. Riding cautiously and struggling due to heavy wind, we reached Thoppur around 03:30 PM. Sachin pointed to one small marketing complex kind of place on the other side ot the road. We took a U Turn and came to that place. Just before the building I saw a Punjabi Dhaba, I thought Sachin must be talking about this place. But Sachin rode ahead and stopped in front of building. The board in front of me read Sarvana Veg. “What the hell, you asked us to ride 35 kms in this condition to have food here, have you gone mad”, I was pissed off. By that time Sanjay and Vinod also arrived. Sanjay said he will have tea and biscuits, but can not have Rice and Sambhar, which was the only thing available there. I suggested better we should go to the dhaba and have food there. Before anyone could have responded, I started my bike and went to the dhaba. Everyone followed. 🙂
Clouds near Thoppur
We parked our bikes just in front of the entrance of dhaba. Since it was still drizzling, we decided to sit inside rather than under the tree. We asked about the availability of food. The owner-cum-chef said whatever you, we have chicken, egg, rice, roti and some another bird, looked like some breed of hen, Sachin said it was bater. So we ordered for Bater Masala, Checken Masala, Tandoori Roti and Egg Fry. And the cooking was on. Vinod asked the owner that can we have beer here. He said not in the dhaba, as cops do not allow that. But there is a place in backyard of dhaba where you can have it. They took out left over two bottles from Sanjay’s saddle bag and went into backyard. i just sat on the cot to keep an eye on the bikes, as they were loaded with saddle bags with camera and everything inside that. While they were having beer, a group of people in fourties came out from the sitting area just besides the dhaba (it was some family area kind of space :)). They came and stood near bikes and were discussing about bikes. I asked Vinod to just go and take a casual check on bikes. Vinod went there and was bombarded with questions. They asked him regarding price of bikes, saddle bags, mileage, whatever they could have asked. In another 15 – 20 minutes lunch was served. The food was tasty, and spicy for normal weather. But in the drizziling and chilly weather that was tasting just awesome. We finished our lunch, settled the bill and were back on road by 04:30 PM. We thought we would stop at Dharmapuri Cafe Coffee Day, which is around 27 kms from there.
As we started from Thoppur it started raining cats and dogs. The visibility was reduced to 20 feets and bike was swaying pretty badly due to wind. We kept our bikes in the left most lane and keep on driving at a steady speed of 40 kmph. We reached Dharmapuri around 05:30 PM. There is Anand Bhawan on the other side of the road, and we got confused it with Cafe Coffee Day. I was the first one to take a U Turn. I waited there at Anand Bhavan for 10 minutes for them. Then I saw Vinod coming. He said there is no CCD here, its in Krishnagiri, around 40 kms ahead, we will stop there for coffee. We rode for around 50 meters in the opposite direction and headed for Krishnagiri. It was getting dark and raining also. Due to high beams of on coming traffic, it was very difficult to ride at a good speed. I knew that CCD is on the other side of the road. I saw a truck moving at a good speed of 50 kmph in the right lane. I put my bike behind it with a gap of almost 10 feets, and kept on going. We reached Krishnagiri CCD at 06:30 PM.
We had been riding in the rain from almost 6 hours. We all were drenched to the bone. We were sipping our Cappuchinoes and everyone was staring at us with only one expression in their eyes “a bunch of insanes”. We finished our coffees and were back on the road by 07:00 PM. It was still raining and droplets on the visor of helmet with headlight of oncoming traffic was making it difficult to ride. I lifted my visor up so that I can see the road clearly. Now I was riding at constant speed of 60 kmph. We rode non stop, as due to riding in the rain, in that drenched state, had been tiring for every one and we all wanted to reach our home ASAP. We reached Hosur around 08:00 PM. Crossing through the peak traffic in Hosur was nerve breaking. We did not took any break, crossed Hosur and moved towards Bangalore, which was another 24 kms away. I reached Electronic City Elevated Expressway around 08:45 PM. I waited others to come. Soon Sanjay, Sachin and Vinod also came. From here Sanjay and Vinod had to take the Elevated Expressway and me and Sachin had to take Begur Road. So we parted our ways from there. Our ride through three states, five places, almost 1600 kms in seven days came to an end.