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.
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 🙂