…The navigation in my car asked me to take an unpaved road. I love these roads as there wouldn’t be any traffic and I get to use the whole way. Road signs along the Morton Rd started to get a bit weird after a while. It showed me that there is no outlet in this road, while the navigation said 3 miles to my destination. Then, it got weirder, when the navigation asked me to take the next right to Copper Creek Road, which looked like a trail of 2 wheel marks, and forest growth everywhere else. Seeing the wheel marks, I chose to trust the navigation than my fears. And guess what, this forest road had a name too, as per the navigation. After a while, it became real difficult to know which is the trail and which is not. The forest became denser, with branches scraping my doors and windows. The collision avoidance system kicked in, beeping over and over, trying to stop the car. I disabled it and pushed forward. Things got even weirder when the navigation asked me to take a left to enter Green Road. Green, indeed it was. No more trails. Just the damn green everywhere. 2 more miles to rejoin the W Forest Trail Road and my beautiful little campsite. Forward was the only way to go as there is no space to backup. Forward did I go. The ground started to get marshy, as I could feel the wheels loosing traction. And I switched to Sand / Mud mode. The revs were more and the traction control was off in this mode. 1 more mile to go…
And there it was, right in front of me, a huge pond of smelly slurry, breeding all sorts of insects, right in the middle of the trail. I stopped the car, got down to investigate the way to go forward. Huge it was, with no possibility of depth perception. I managed to find one pair of tread marks on my side and a similar one coming out far on the other side of the pond. I flipped a coin. Just do it – said the coin.
I backed up a little to carry some momentum as I drive into the pond. And I hit the pond hard. I almost reached the middle of the pond with the momentum I had, but then I was loosing traction. And then. I was stuck ! I could feel the Jeep sinking deeper, as if the pond was sucking it inside. The Jeep was wheel high under in the pond. And I could feel the slurry coming inside, and the stinking smell all over the place. With no network in my phone to call for help, with no living thing around except for the breeding insects, I was DAMN stuck !
I thought of my options. Honk, and wait for someone to hear me. I was deep in the jungle, so that was hopeless. Get out of the Jeep though the sunroof, jump out and escape. But I was sure that if my bare skin makes contact with the shit pond, I’d die of some undiscovered disease. Escape from the Jeep was not an option. Escape with the Jeep, or die trying, till I run out of gas, was the only thing to do. With a fully pressed accelerator pedal, I felt the Jeep wiggle a bit. There’s my ray of hope. I weaved in and out with full acceleration, and slowly I came out of that mess.
The escape was so exhilarating, that the rest half a mile to join the W Forest Trail Road was a blur…
Clear skies- not a rain bearing cloud in sight. The pre-ride shivers were back on me, taking me longer to get my ass to office. The bull was more enthusiastic that i was, it sprang into life in a single kick on a cold morning.
I dragged through the day at office with puffy eyes and boiling blood just to find Ranjith with a cup of tea to keep his calm. We took frequent breaks to discuss about the weather and road conditions. Ranjith was concerned about his bike skidding at low speeds, which might be bad for long rides through traffic. He had this checked but couldn’t find the reason behind it.
At 3 pm, i finally decided that i couldn’t work anymore. I left Ranjith to his work, bidding bye to colleagues at work. I headed straight to the fuel station just to find Ranjith already fuelled up and airing his wheels. Good, now i wouldn’t have to wait anymore to hit the road. Having mine fuelled up and aired, i hurried back home to have my bags mounted. By 3.45 pm, i was all mounted and geared up, waiting for the call
Finally, he called. Just to inform me that we have to wait a bit more. In fact, he was having more trouble with this bike. He was leaking air from the front wheel, making it difficult to be tamed. By 4 pm, we hit the road..
The Ride Finally
I badly wanted to reach the overdrive, that feeling where i hear the two sides of my brain talking to each other, the one place where i find bliss. The scorching sun and the blinding traffic wouldn’t go easy on us though. More troubles from Ranjith’s front wheels, may be psychological though, but we had to make a few intermittent stops.
We sped past the Kollam town, avoiding a close call with a bus. At a particular junction, with GREEN for us, Ranjith overtook me and went ahead to overtake a bus, which was moving slow in the left hand side. Suddenly, it turned right at the junction, with Ranjith in its right. Me, having gone through Kollam traffic quite a number of times, knew better though. I stopped at the next junction to find a pale faced, wide eyed Ranjith stopping behind me.
The overdrive did come. The sky turned orangish red by the time we crossed the Kayankulam overbridge. “Monster, a Monster, and it keeps getting stronger” – by Imagine Dragons played in my EarPods. Indeed, it was getting stronger, taking me miles and asking for more
The averagely rubberised roads turned nasty with unexpected, random and deep potholes. Once i remember, with “Kahaan hu mein” from Highway playing, i saw Ranjith falling prey for a pothole. I laughed out loud seeing this, meanwhile i myself fell into one, a bad one. Yes, my iPhone does know when to play a song, and it went on.. “Kahaan hu mein ab…”
We stopped by Haripad, as we had to get ourselves rehydrated. Nothing better than a Sugarcane juice. We licked our moustaches for the remains for the juice, and back to business. The roads ahead were merciful to us. Without much adventures, we cruised the remaining 140 kms. By 9 pm, we decided to fill ourselves with some veggies, and stopped near Aluva. By 9.45 pm, we reached The Premier Lodge, Chalakudy, the cheapest of the lot we could find. A non-ac 2 bedded room, with a bathroom so small, that you had to stand on top of the closet to take a bath. All I remember was removing my gear and lying down on bed.
I was sound asleep. A big day tomorrow, as we hit the Athirappally-Valparai-Pollachi-Mettupalayam-Kothagiri route, the one i consider the best route to scratch your knees on the tarmacs
Destination Agumbe was decided sometime last year, to be explored with my mate Ranjith. The adjectives ‘Cherrapunji of the South‘ and ‘The land of the King Cobra‘ made us excited about riding to this place. The initial plan was to ride during the winter, as the ride would be most comfortable. Well, health issues and other personal stuffs made sure we miss those burning rubber for a while. It took one’s VISA approval and the other’s rejection, that we decided to just go for it and forget everything else for a while.
The ride preps began a month ago. A big shopper list – Riding jackets, gloves, knee guards, luggage carriers, a new up-swept exhaust, accelerator and clutch cables, front and rear break pads, chain lubes, roped crash guard, titanium-wrapped exhaust for lesser engine heat, etc – cant say it didn’t put a small hole in my wallet, it did…
Sept 23rd evening [by 4 pm]: Leave TVM to Chalakudy. Stay at Anamala Jn, Chalakudy [cheapest that we could find, Rs 500 for a double bed]
Sept 24th Morning [by 8 am]: Ride to Valparai – Pollachi – Coimbatore – Kotagiri. Accommodation at Kotagiri [Couldn’t find anything online. Hope there are rooms available there]
Sept 25th Morning: Ride to Ooty – Massinagudi – Bandipur to Mysore. Reach Mysore by evening. Find accommodation on reaching there
Sept 26th Early Morning: Ride to Agumbe via Shettihalli Church, Hasan and Chikkamagaluru. Stay at Agumbe. Find accommodation on reaching there
Sept 27th Late Morning: Ride to Kozhikode via Udupi, Mangalore, Kasarkode, Kannur
Sept 28th: Lunch at Hotel Zains, Kozhikode and ride back to TVM B-)
Total distance: 1700 kms approx [Initial plan as per the google map]
Days passed with two blank screens at office, Nights with four open eyes, dreaming about that day we ride at last
Way before ‘THE DAY’, we were all packed and charged. Clothes, towels, buffs, extra socks in case the ride gets rainy, rain liners, document proof for vehicle ownership, duplicate keys for the bike, laptop to backup the action camera videos, chargers, water bottles and sun glasses went in the tail bag, and the ride essential money, camera with backup lenses, selfie stick, glass cleaner towel, etc went in the tank bag.
This travelogue is about the four of us, me Anil Gopakumar, my RE Desert Storm, my buddy Ranjith Nair and his Pulsar 200 NS travelling to the exotics of the God’s Own Country; Munnar. The date was set to the October first week, as we had the Gandhi Jayanti and the Pooja holidays. A week before the trip, we started browsing through various travelogues for the must-visit places around Munnar. We decided to explore Calvary Mount near Idukki, Top Station 30 km north of Munnar, Bodimettu which is en route Munnar to Theni, Ramakkalmedu en route Munnar to Kumily and Parunthumpara which is to the south of Kumily.
“Time started to crawl from a week before The Day !”
Alas ! Its October 1st 2014 ! Tomorrow morning 2.45 AM we start riding 🙂 All set and packed by 9 PM, I had to get enough rest
Trying to sleep before the Royal Ride is the biggest challenge I’ve faced. I counted seconds, minutes and hours in vain. At 1.30 AM, I decided not to try sleeping anymore and sat on the Sofa watching TV. And it happened !!
“I was riding and something was wrong all of a sudden. Why do i hear glasses breaking? Why is my seat vibrating so much? I opened my eyes and saw 2 figures outside, trying to get into the house ! It was 4 AM and why was I still on the sofa?”
My phone, which was safely kept for charging, showed 22 missed calls, 17 from Ranjith and 5 from my buddy Sreekanth. Ranjith woke him up and they both came to my house to see if I was alright 😀 Waving good bye to Sreekanth, we hit the road by 4.30 AM.
Day I: October 2 2014
The roads were filling in with morning traffic by the time we left the Main Central Road. NH 183A to Pathanamthitta needed some careful riding as the roads weren’t wide enough and we were forced to throttle our speeds to sixties.
“The first rays of the day hit us. I saw a small yawn in the face in my Rear View Mirror. And we stopped for tea, enjoying the sunrise”
We sped past Pathanamthitta, Ranni and Manimala to reach Kanjirappally, where we had our breakfast. The road wasn’t helping us and was getting from bad to worse ! Mists welcomed us as we left Kanjirappally to Erattupetta.
We reached our Day I destination- Cheruthoni, Idukki by 11 AM. En route, we got a taste of how the road ahead is going to be- twists, turns, hairpins, blinding fogs and unexpected bumps 🙂 We got settled in a cheap double bedroom at Cheruthoni, with a balcony view of the small town.
A refreshing bath after the 200 km hot ride and a tasty meal at a nearby restaurant, we were all set to explore the Calvary Mount. Off from the main road, the path to the Calvary was unsurfaced and steep.
A lot of bikes and cars were parked. To the right side, there were hills and crosses on each hill. The road was treacherous, but we decided to take our bikes.
After a while, it was impossible to move forward. We parked our bikes and proceeded to the top of the hill on foot.
The view from the top was awesome. There were beautiful mountains guarding the silky smooth river.
Crosses lined up as we reached the top of the hill. A group from a christian community had reached there to pray. The first to climb were waiting for the pack to arrive and we went to have a chat. They told us about the history of the place. The whole group arrived and started their choirs. Feeling blessed ;), we returned back to our bikes to explore the other side of the Calvary.
The other side of Calvary had a meadow landscape with 2 trails through the green.
The trails started getting slippery as we climbed the hill. We slipped and skidded throughout, but managed to reach the top.
“She wouldn’t listen to me. She’s uncontrollable. We fought. And at last she brought me down”
Yes, i lost control of my 190 kg machine and it fell on my knees. Lucky, I had my knee guards on, i pulled out without a scratch. I checked on my mirror and found the two of them down too. I parked and helped Ranjith with his machine. We rode more carefully after that and managed to reach the end of the trails without any more actions.
“14 machines lined up. A gang of riders chilling out, taking selfies as the sun sinks behind the Ghats”
We met a pulsar 200 NS bikers group named “The Naked Wolves – Kerala”. Ranjith knew a few of them through their web site and had contacted them before he bought his 200NS. We talked about our rides, riding gears and riding destinations. After taking a group snap in self timer, we bid adieu to the gang.
On the way back to Cheruthoni, we stopped for tea at a shop just below the Asia’s biggest arch dam, The Idukki Dam.
Back in the room, we freshened up and set out to explore the town on foot. We had a heavy dinner and a black tea at a thattukada. The owner said that we were lucky to have no rains, as the whole week was rainy.
“Tired after a day of new places, faces and races, Excited about the unknown tomorrow, we lied down dreaming of the roads ahead”
Day II: October 3 2014
I did not need an alarm to wake up at 6 AM on the second day of our trip. All set by 7, we decided to hit the road first and have breakfast on the way. An hour into the road, we stopped for tea, as we started ascending more hills towards Munnar. By 9.30 AM, we reached the outskirts of Munnar, with beautiful tea plantations on both the sides, a single lane well maintained road and a hell of a traffic caused by an awful lot of tourists coming down to Munnar for the holidays.
We decided to find a room for the day first before stopping for breakfast. The rush and the sun were really tiring us down. We stopped at a thousand hotels/home-stays enquiring for accommodation, but in vain. After an hour of searching, we managed to get a single room for 1.5K after we said we will be leaving early the next morning. After parking our bikes, with our bags untied, we went to the room.
“Through a small door at the far end of the parking, we entered a flight of steps that goes to something like a basement and saw our rooms. Everything about the room looked inappropriate. No one would know a room like this exists”
Keeping our bags to a corner of the room, not touching much of the furnitures, we left the room to explore the places around Munnar.
Our destination, the Top Station View Point, which is 36 kms away from the Munnar town. By 12.30 PM, we were on our bikes, riding away from the city traffic, climbing the hairpins, cornering the bends and cruising through the landscape. We sped past Mattupetti, the Echo Point, Kundala Lake and Yelappatti. And then it happened !
“With all the safety gears around, i couldn’t feel anything. Ranjith stopped me asking ‘Are you crazy? You’re gonna wet your cam !’ Oh yes, it was raining heavily !”
We stopped at a small wooden hut seeking shelter. It was a shop selling spices. We waited for the rain to subside, and after around 30 minutes, we resumed our ride.
“I don’t remember if it was the bullet or me that was shivering more!”
It was getting cold, with the onset of fog as we reached the top station. We were starving since there was no solid intake the whole day. We stopped at a hut and ordered tea. The lady in the shop was very good to us and made omelettes for our roaring tummies 🙂
The lady told us to park our bikes behind the shack, as bikes cannot be taken any further the road to the top station. We kept our riding gears at the shack and walked to the top station. With mist all around us, horses taking kids and tourists for a ride, small stalls lined up for noodles and juices, the place was filled with bachelors, bachelorettes and newly-weds.
We bought tickets to the top station. Descending the steps to the destination was easy. The top station was covered with mist and gave us zero visibility of the landscape below. There was no wind, hence no chance the mists were leaving us. Disappointed, we made our way back to our bikes.
Back to the shack where our bikes were parked, the lady offered us noodles and tea. We hungrily ate everything that she offered us 😀 It was already 5 PM and we decided to make a move. Bidding good bye to the lady and her husband, we made our return to Munnar town.
By 7 PM, we reached back to our rooms. An hour of stretching our backs, emotion hunger started to overpower. We decided to hunt in the Munnar town area. We stopped at a shack where the staple food of Kerala, “Porotta” being made.
We made it heavy for the night and ordered black coffee. Something special felt about the coffee. On enquiring with the coffee maker, he said he sprays pepper in the black coffees to make it spicy.
“The feeling when you gulp a steamy hot peppered black coffee while you’re freezing ! It was magical :)”
There were a lot of tourists sleeping in the bus stop as they could not manage to find a room. Even a place like ours was occupied. We reached back to our rooms by 9.30 PM. Lights out, sleep !
Day III: October 4 2014
Morning 6.30 AM, it was very difficult to get up from bed. My watch showed 17 degrees, but seemed like less that 10 ! We had to vacate the room by 7 AM. Too lazy for a freezing cold bath, we got ready and mounted the bags behind our rides, all set for Kumily. A selfie with the boy who gave us the room and our rides roared through the streets of Munnar, for one last time !
We hit the NH 49 to Poopara. This was the best one through out the journey, with lush greenery all around and beautiful winding roads before us.
It was a single lane, so we had to be extra careful while banking curves and overtaking.
We reached Poopara by 10 AM as we stopped for a morning tea. We had masala tea and cake for breakfast and enquired about the route to Bodimettu. The good old roads were a history now that we took the detour to Mettu.
“As I dodged a pothole in the middle of the road, I saw Ranjith with his legs out, trying to stop his bike. It looked really funny. Took a moment for me to realize that he was going to crash”
With all the gravels and metals, it was really difficult to ride a two-wheeler. We would skid if we catch brakes. Lucky for him, nothing happened 🙂
We stopped at the next bend for a pic and to get over the ‘almost’ accident !
We cruised through the hairpins of Bodimettu. To our surprise, the roads at the foot of the hill was very well surfaced. Yes, we had reached Tamil Nadu ! The heat was unbearable. After a while, we stopped at Bodinayakanur for a cold refreshing fresh juice 🙂
We took a short cut to reach Cumbam without touching Theni. Three days of cruising in 60s, banking hairpins and careful overtaking, we badly wanted to stretch our legs 😉
“110…110…112…..116…..120……125 kph and rising !!!! I am on fire :)”
Hairpins started appearing as we crossed the border to kerala. Hot and dusty roads turned to cool breezy and clean ones. Red flat desert lands changed to lush green mountainous landscapes. We reached Kumily by 1 PM and managed to find an economical room.
By 2.45 PM, after a refreshing bath, we hit the Thekkady Tiger Reserve Park. We did not want to miss the boating as we had read good reviews about it in various travel blogs. Tickets were sold out for the day and the next. A police officer informed us that the queue for tickets will start by 5 AM, and the counter opens by 6.30 AM. Planning to explore the rest of the place in the morning tomorrow, we left Thekkady for lunch.
Ramakkalmedu, known for winds and beautiful views, were next on our list. A 35 km ride of twists, turns and unknown detours, we reached the place by 5.45 PM. Rain showed no mercy on us, but we did not budge. Shivering, we stopped at the top of Ramakkalmedu. We tried taking our rides to the top of the hill. Ranjith went first and came down skidding immediately. It was impossible to take my 190 kg monster up the hill. So we parked and hiked on foot.
There was not much of a view from the top, as it was too foggy, rainy and windy. The protector suit we were wearing did not stop the chills running down our spine.
“We enjoyed an awesome 90 minutes of the silence of nature, the gusting winds and the splashing rain”
It was dark. Feeling of numbness was seeping through our body. We badly needed something to warm us. At the bottom of the hill station, we found a few shops. Relieved, we stopped for tea.
“Hot tea served ! Covering the glass with our hands to get warm, the tea was getting cold. Oh yea, we are deep frozen ! Better try fire !”
Feeling better, we started our ride back to Kumily by 6.45 PM. There was literally zero visibility due to fog and rain. But that did not stop us.
Back to room by 8 PM, we did not need another bath ! We scrambled through our bags for dry clothes and wearing them, we went hunting on foot. Our eyes met hot dosas being served at a restaurant named ‘Aryeas’ [oh yea, Aryeas Veg and Non Veg restaurant] and ordered 2 hot dosas each. The restaurant, even though being a copy-cat, served us good food [or may be we had rumbling stomachs to even taste the food 😀 ] After dinner, we had a chat with our motel owner, regarding the availability of tickets for Thekkady boating. We decided to wake up early for the tickets 🙂 Back to room and lights out 🙂
Day IV: October 5 2014 : The last day of the ride
“I heard the alarm go off. But my eyes wouldn’t open. I kicked Ranjith to go have bath first 😀 What a buddy, he kicked me back ! “
At 5.30 AM, we were rushing to our bikes to Thekkady Tiger Reserve Park. There were around 30 people already in the queue for entry tickets, I stood there as the 31st. Meanwhile Ranjith talked to some local people and came to know that this queue is only for vehicle entry pass and that the boating tickets were to be taken from inside the Tiger Reserve Park. We decided that while I stay in the queue for Vehicle entry tickets, Ranjith would catch an auto as soon as the gates to the park opens, and try get the boating tickets, while I would bring the bike to the inside of the park.
By 6.15 AM, the ticket counter for vehicle pass opened. By the time I got the vehicle pass, all the vehicles blocked the gate entrance trying to rush in as soon as it opens. At last, the gate opened and Ranjith in an Auto, me in his bike rushed in to the park. Vehicle entry is restricted after a check point in the park. So Ranjith had to run a kilometre or so to the ticket counter, while I carried his helmet, my camera bag and strolled through the road to the boating area. And we got the tickets 🙂
We met a few other bikers, one gang from the Enfield family, the other from the Yamaha. All of us were seated together in the boat, which started at 7.30 AM. We spotted deers and wild boars having their breakfast, and birds chirping at the top of their voice.
Half an hour into the ride, all of us were snoring heavily louder than the sound of the boat 😀
90 minutes later, we were back to the shore. Bidding each other good bye, we set out to our rooms with heavy hearts. The ride back home begins now !
A light breakfast from The Aryeas and our machines roared through the streets of Kumily. Speeding past Vandiperiyar and Kuttikanam, we decided to skip Parunthumpara and Vagamon and enjoy the ride back home without any more stoppages.
“Never travel on a path that you’ve already gone once”
We took a detour at Kuttikanam, where instead of going to Kanjirappally, we reach Erumeli South directly. Towns of Erumeli, Ranny, Pathanamthitta blurred behind us. Feeling starved, we searched for a restaurant at Pathanamthitta, but being a Sunday afternoon, there were none open. We sat down at the steps of a half closed shop for biscuits and a bottle of Mango juice. 20 minutes of stretching and we were back on our rides. We counted down the next hundred kilometers. At last, home sweet home by 4 PM safe and sound 🙂
Image Gallery 🙂
heavenly rays 🙂
hard life ahead
offroading at Bodimettu
devikulam landscape 🙂
whoa, a selfie 😀
night out at thattukada
view from bodimettu
with the Naked Wolves – Kerala
riders on the storm 🙂
my trails 🙂
Look back only to see how far you’ve travelled
God is trully in the RAIN 🙂
foggy top station
road to calvary
The Idukki Dam
treacherous road to the top of the hill
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear 🙂
Destination was set, the dates were set, all we needed was the GREEN lights !! This story is about the trip that me – Anil Gopakumar with my boy, a RE Desert Storm and my friend – Ranjith Nair with his Pulsar 200NS made on the Independence day Aug 15 2014. Hence we call it, the Freedom Ride.
This was a 3 day trip, where we intended to see the South East coast of India. So here it goes:
Aug 14th 2014:
Left office for the day early by around 4, in preparation for the Freedom ride. I had bought a Viaterra Claw tail bag for my Desert Storm, and a new Spartan Helios jacket for the trip. Time to pack. 3 t-shirts, a shorts, a swimming trunk, towel, toiletries, water bottle, portable charger, adapters, pair of riding glasses, Rain-covers, tripod, camera all of them easily fitted into the CLAW. As this was the first time i was going to use a tail bag, i tried fitting this in my ride. It took me less than 5 minutes to safely fit it in the tail, even for a first timer. Had a good strong dinner. All set by 9 PM. We were scheduled to start by 2.45 AM on 15th August, so that we could cross the Kerala-TN border without much traffic issues. There was still around 5 good hours for resting. The excitement of the ride was unbearable, that i stopped trying to sleep, and started playing music at the max volume and taking pushups. Those 5 hours seemed like crawling.
Aug 15th 2014
At Last, at 2AM, I had a bath and got the tail bag set in the rear of my desert storm. We decided to meet at the nearby Fuel station at 2.45 AM. The road till Nagercoil wasn’t that awesome. A lot of potholes in unpredictable places made us to slow down a bit.
“When I look in my mirror, I see a pair of eyes looking over me. Always.”
An hour or so in the road, we saw a shortcut to reach the National Highway 7, which will lead us to Tirunelveli. The route to NH7 was awesome. We stopped on the route to NH7 to take some snaps of the Western Ghats. As it was around 4 AM, I took out the tripod for more light. With the stars twinkling and the Ghats bowing over us, a few long exposure shots of our rides in front of the paddy fields, and we were good to go.
The cold started seeping through our jackets, and we wanted some tea badly. Stopped at the next tea shop, enquired about the route to NH7. It was almost 5 AM, and we continued our journey. The roads were getting better as we left the Kerala-TN border and were nearing the NH. We started seeing a few windmills and small hills, which were the southernmost part of the Ghats. We entered the NH by around sunrise time, and what a view 🙂 There were a thousand windmills all rotating in unison.
“The first rays of light hitting the windmill farm was indeed a delight for us to see :)”
After a break, and a few clicks, we resumed the ride.
The engines were pampered as we got a chance for the first time in a no-traffic-at-all four lane road. Ranjith in his 200NS could clock around 130kmph. I clocked @around 110kmph as i heard my boy scream for more but another voice said “This is not you buddy!” and i slowed down to 80’s.
There was this beautiful place, where the road was carved out of a hill. This place looks a lot similar to the one from the movie Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvannabhumi where Dulquar gets his tyre puncture.
We stopped at this place and thought of getting on top of the hill to get a view of the NH. We kept our bikes at the foot of the hill and started walking towards the top. It was a 500 mtr ascend to reach the top. At the half way when we looked back, the bikes seemed a long way away. Climbing to the top was tricky as the rocks weren’t solid hard and they slipped. I still managed to get to the top and enjoy the view. It was an awesome landscape, which included the hills, few colonies of people living there, markets, local navigators in their TVS Stars, deserted lands and the miles that we were gonna cover.
“Sitting there with the sun to warm us, eating biscuits lazily was definitely a moment. But we had better miles to cover. And we resumed our journey to Tuticorin”
We reached Tuticorin by 8.30 AM. We enquired about a decent hotel to a taxi driver, found ourselves one in Hotel Chitra in Gin Factory road. We had a heavy breakfast, lots of dosas and teas 🙂 Now we were all set to explore Tuticorin. Places in our checklist were Uppalam [Salt field], Harbour, Tuticorin Bay, Harbour beach and Hare Island. We started for the Harbour area at 11 AM, lost our way and ended up in a Muthu Nagar Beach, which was totally deserted. There were a lot of kid’s rides like giant wheel, see-saw, etc.
It was too sunny, so we found shelter under a shade. We saw the Indian flag hoisted in a pole there and a lot of small flags stuck to the sand.
A few clicks in the beach and we continued to the harbour, where on the way lies the Uppalam. We took a detour at a fish market leading us to the Tuticorin Old Market. We rode to the edge of the sea, away from the tarmac. There were people pouring in, enjoying the Independence day in their own way, playing cards and drinking beer. The place was completely dirty, with all kinds of crap lying around, but gave us a good view of the Thermal Power station. Again time for some clicks and poses 😉
We continued to the new Harbour and the Hare Island. Hare Island was a beautiful place, not exactly an Island, but it has the Bay of Bengal all around it. With the white sand and the blue sea around us, we took our boys to the beach. There was no traction at all, so we made a hole at the edge of the beach and parked them there.
“We lied down at the beach for some time looking at the sun and listening to the waves, resting our backs”
Clicks that we took were like we were in one of the top beaches of the world. It was getting too hot, we decided to get back to the room for some sleep and come back in the evening. We were dehydrated by the time we reached back. We left the bikes at the hotel and went searching for a juice shop. Found a fruit shop with a small crowd drinking juices a few blocks away from where we stayed. Had 2 glasses of grape juice and a bottle of mango juice to get us back to our consciousness. Back in the room by 2.30 PM and the sight of bed was like seeing food after a month long starvation. By 4.30 PM, we got ready for the rest of Hare Island action. On the way, we visited Harbour beach. It was getting crowded. We bought a Chocobar and had it in the beach, then left for Hare Island. At Hare Island, we noticed an old and abandoned lighthouse.
This was established sometime in the 19th century and looked haunted to us. We decided to explore the building. The door in the entrance was taken off and had battered walls with signs of termites. Ranjith went in first and I followed with my DSLR. The spiral staircase inside was very narrow that it would be real tight for a fat guy to go upstairs. We started ascending the stairs and it started to get dark and suffocating inside the lighthouse, our own unfamiliar footsteps being the only sound.
“If there happened a different noise, we are sure to have passed out there”
We were scared, but decided to move on. We reached the top and found a lid roof, with a small hole through which no one could get through. Disappointed, got down the spiral staircase silently and walked back to the Hare Island. We found a few scuba divers in the sea, collecting corals. Rest of the evening was spent on clicking, clicking and clicking.
“The four of us lied down in the beach enjoying the dusk”
After sunset, we returned back to the room, had dinner and roamed around for some local sightseeing. We were surprised to see a shopping complex called Velavan Multi Complex Shopping Mall, just behind the place we lived. The whole place of Tuticorin looked underdeveloped and there it was, a landmark of a BIG city 🙂 There were escalators and lifts built in this complex and a hundred thousand localites with that twinkling eyes of a small kid going for a adventure 🙂 We saw so many women, tripping down in the escalator, getting up with pride and returning via another escalator. It was going crazy there. Back to hotel.
It was time for the journey to our final destination. On enquiring to the hotel staffs, there’s this East Coast road, which we have to take from Tuticorin to Ramanathapuram, then a 60 km cruise to Rameshwaram, where we had planned to stay. We started from Tuticorin at 9.30PM. Even though we got lost while trying to find the East Coast road, with the assistance of a few lorry drivers, we found the right way. The road was just awesome. The Tuticorin Thermal Power plant was lighted up in the night and was looking beautiful. We rode continuously for around 2 hours, when we started to freeze due to the cold winds. With frequent breaks, we reached a police checkpost, around 80 kms away from our destination. The Police officer seemed to be a nice guy. He asked us whether we were a part of the gang of 14, who passed the checkpost some time back. On enquiring more about the gang, we got to know that there were 14 Kerala registered ‘ROYAL ENFIELD’s in Rameswaram, and we were excited that we might see them there. After a steaming cup of coffee at the checkpost with the officers, we were fresh to ride again. We bade goodbye to the Officer.
Aug 16th 2014
By 1 AM on Aug 16th, we reached Ramanathapuram, we stopped at a Bus stand for coffee again as the cold was getting severe. We were shooed off by a rude police officer while we were having the coffee. He asked us about why we were roaming around in this area at this time, and asked us to leave the place immediately.
“May be we being in riding gears, scarves and glasses, with a big enough luggage packed tail, looked suspicious to him”
Next stop was at Pamban bridge, which was around 17 kms away from Rameswaram town. We reached the town and started searching for a room to stay. After a lot of difficulties and waiting for an hour, we got a good room at Thittakudi, in front of the Rameswaram temple, and we slept unconsciously. But I was sure I could still hear the thump of my boy in my dreams.
We woke up at 9.30 AM. The plan was to spend the day at Dhanushkodi, and return to Pamban for sunset. At 10.30 AM, we left for Dhanushkodi, skipping breakfast as there was a huge rush at the restaurant. We decided to get some biscuits and bottled drinks on the way. The road to dhanushkodi was beautiful, with sea on both sides of the road and thorny trees at some parts. The road to dhanushkodi ended at Mukundarayar Chathiram as the rest was washed away by cyclones and tsunamis. So we could take our bikes only till there. We decided to park our bikes, check the place out and see if it is possible to take our rides along with us till the Rama Sethu. When we arrived at the parking lot, a police officer came forward and asked us to park in the reserved parking lot as they thought we were a part of the 14 member bike gang 😛 And we parked there.
“That’s when we came to know, it was not 14 ‘ROYAL ENFIELD’s, they were 14 KL registered Harleys”
Took a few snaps of their Harleys and went to enquire with the localites about taking bike till the Sethu. The police officer asked us to write down our name and number so that in case we don’t come back, they will know whom to contact 😛 We decided to take the route that the police jeeps normally take, which is the shortest and direct way. We got stuck as soon as we left the tarmac. Thank god, we got some help from a few other Bullet riders from Kerala, they helped us pull the vehicle out of the sand. It was impossible to go this way. So we decided to take the route taken by Vans and Tempo Travellers. This was a longer one, taking 11 kms in total instead of the 7 kms. We had to follow the trail set by the tempos, where the sand is a bit more fixed and has lesser traction.
“Following the 10 cm tyre trails were really challenging. Away from the trail will lead us to a moor, a point of no return and no ‘bullet lovers’ to pull us back”
After a while, the whole place seemed to have wet sand, so we shifted to 2nd and 3rd gears, cruising slowly.
On the way, there were a lot of battered boats, which were destroyed in the cyclones. We took a break at dhanushkodi railway station, which was also destroyed during the cyclones. There were a lot of shops, which had ornaments made of shells, etc to attract tourists. We had a refreshing tender coconut juice and continued with the ride. We met a few other riders returning from Dhanushkodi Rama Sethu Point and they gave us a thumbs up 🙂 We reached the Rama Sethu Point, with the sun scorching over us. We parked our bikes at the edge of the beach and started clicking a few snaps.
“We were dead tired, that we stripped and jumped on to the sea”
It was too deep and the sand was slipping under our feet. After about 30 minutes in the sea, we went to dry ourselves in the sun. It was almost evening and the sun showed mercy on us. We lied down on the sand and had the biscuits and drinks we brought. A few bullet fans came around enquiring about the 11 km ride in the sand. A guy said that this was what his father’s dream, The Royal Enfield. They clicked a few pics with us and our rides.
The sky showed some signs of rain, so we decided to return back before we get stuck and stranded. We were cruising by the beach when we felt the sand getting very loose and causing us to skid more frequently. We decided to try a different route. It looked shorter and had a few grass, so it should be strong. Less than 5 minutes later, we were stuck in the moor. Ranjith parked his bike and helped me push mine out of it. With lots of difficulty, we had our bikes out of the moor and back in the track. We again stopped at the Railway station for a drink, as we were tired pushing the bikes. We met a family in the shop – A husband, wife and their kid.
“The wife came to us and started kind-of scolding because her husband couldn’t resist himself seeing us ride in the sands”
He was a rider himself during his good old bachelor days. He too talked to us and envied the bikes that made this far on the journey. We took a tour of the old railway station and had a few clicks with the guy.
After the short break, we continued till we reached the tarmac without any more adventures. All muddy, we decided to return back to the room and get ourselves clean. It was almost sunset time when we reached the room. We rushed to Pamban for the sunset scene and had a few clicks there. Boats were piled up beneath the bridge after the day’s fishing and the whole place was in a relaxing mood.
By 7.30 PM, we were back to our room and we decided to sleep for some time before the longest ride of the trip, destination: back home.
“The thumping pulses did not give up and it stopped us from sleeping”
We found a small place to have dinner, we kept it short as there was a good chance of sleeping off if we were on a heavy tummy. After a short stroll at Rameshwaram town, we packed and started our ride back home at 9 PM. Our bikes were almost running on fumes after our ride to Rama Sethu. Stopped at a fuel station to fill up the boys. We took the East Coast Road again. A couple of hours into the ride, we were starting to feel drowsy. The only sounds were the ones made by the wind galing on our visors. We stopped at the first tea shop we could find in the ECR. We were greeted by a man of mid 40s along with his few workers. He was the owner of the shop. He admired our bikes and enquired about our trip. He narrated his experiences in his past bachelor life. He got married at an early age of 18 and since then, he had been working in that tea shop.
“He advised us to get married soon and stop roaming around in bikes”
We bid him good bye and hit the road feeling refreshed. We left the ECR in search of the NH7 and got lost. After getting help from a strange guy in a scooter at 1 AM, we decided to take the route that he mentioned to reach the NH. A few kms down the road, we stopped and slept on the road to rest our backs. It was by 2 AM that we reached the NH7 at last. We stopped at a tea shop by around 3 AM. They had a Tamil movie playing in their TV set. Even though i did not understand, it was nice to laugh with the fellow roadies [lorry drivers] for their jokes. We had hot egg omelette and a few biscuits. By the time the sun rose, we had reached Nagercoil and took the NH47 back home. The morning rush had already started with a bit help from the long distance buses from Chennai. The feeling of numbness and sleeplessness were creeping on us. We started taking more frequent stops to get some rest.
“In one of the stops, i remember Ranjith sitting on top of a milestone and sleeping, while i kept my ride on centerstand and slept on it”
We reached back home by 8.30 AM on 17th August 2014, completing the FREEDOM RIDE successfully 🙂