calvary-mount

Exploring Exotic Kerala

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.

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onward-route
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return-route

“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

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ready to roll 🙂
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Whatsapp chat between two crazy riders 🙂

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.

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Misty Ghats 🙂

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.

Cheruthoni town
Cheruthoni 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.

road to calvary
road to calvary

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.

treacherous road to the top of the hill
treacherous road to the top of the hill

The view from the top was awesome. There were beautiful mountains guarding the silky smooth river.

calvary landscape
calvary landscape

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.

my trails :)
my trails 🙂

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.

with the naked wolves - kerala :)
with the naked wolves – kerala 🙂

On the way back to Cheruthoni, we stopped for tea at a shop just below the Asia’s biggest arch dam, The Idukki Dam.

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tea shop below 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.

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a night hangout at Cheruthoni town 🙂

“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.

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Traffic Jammed at the outskirts of Munnar

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 !”

God is trully in the RAIN :)
God is trully in the RAIN 🙂

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 🙂

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hungry kya? 😀

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.

hot corn served :)
hot corn served 🙂

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.

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misty roads to top station
cloudy view from the top station
cloudy view from the top station

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.

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dinner at a street shack

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 :)”

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a heavenly coffee 🙂 the moment of the day 🙂

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 !

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a selfie before the ride

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.

devikulam landscape :)
devikulam landscape 🙂

It was a single lane, so we had to be extra careful while banking curves and overtaking.

riders on the storm :)
riders on the storm 🙂

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 🙂

offroading at Bodimettu
offroading at Bodimettu

We stopped at the next bend for a pic and to get over the ‘almost’ accident !

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winding roads ahead 🙂

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 🙂

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waiting for the drink 🙂

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.

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In front of Kuravan and Kurathi 😉

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.

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Ranjith in the shades clicking 🙂

“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 ! “

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hustle in front of the gate 😐

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 🙂

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Hurray 🙂 Tickets at last 🙂

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.

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Half an hour into the ride, all of us were snoring heavily louder than the sound of the boat 😀

sleeping beauties :)
sleeping beauties 🙂

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 🙂

Odometer says 856 km. We travelled a lot more than kilometers :)
Odometer says 856 km. We travelled a lot more than kilometers 🙂

Image Gallery 🙂

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