Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Munnar Bike trip

To all those who expect to read an itinerary on places to visit in Munnar and the like, this article is strictly not for you!

The sleeping valley

Am back!
:) Its been some time since anything has been put up over this vacant lot of mine, my garage where I tweak with what I like, I don't, I would die for and I would rather kill for!! :P And yea, I had started missing this crank shop! :)

Its been about 3-4 months since I have left college. Graduate, that's what they call me now!! ;) Devidas K, B.Tech in Computer Sciences and Engg.!! It had been a twisty journey up all along in the past four years of under-grad life, and bless me, I scrapped out unhurt! phew! :)

Struggling to find the normal flow after months of inexplicable silence, I am directly coming to what I had intended to write upon here without much ado: My last and probably the best bike ride till date on which the six of us: Sailesh, Ashith, Rohit, Raman, Rogen and myself had embarked upon in March, 2010. The plan was quick and the trip was sudden! But hey, thats what always happened the past four years! :D

The itinerary just included Munnar, the beauty spot of God's own Kerala :). Though we had been to Munnar in the first year at college as a class trip, Hitting the tarmac with bikes has an entirely different feel to it that a bus journey can just simply can't give! ;)
Destiny lies here within....

Coming back to the team, It was going to be the first ever long trip for Sailesh's babe : a glamorous and sexy black UNICORN, which, thanks to the endurance and patience of Sailesh, was finally delivered to him just a week or two before after a prolonged wait of over 4 months! Riding on the black babe were Sailesh and Ashith ak.a Lt. Ashith Krishnan now, Rohit and Raman on Appu a.k.a Apache RTR 160( yet another dark horse from the TVS ranch) and finally, the ultimate ride that was ever built(exaggerated, I know :P ) my red hot Discover 135!! My trusted friend, companion, partner in crime and what not for the past 3 years= 60,000kms!! :) Riding with me, was Rogen, buddy and friend since the day we met!
Miles to go before he turns me off ;)
We had a big trip to make and 3 days to make it work! The journey started off early in the morning from Thrissur. The route in plan was : Thrissur-Perumbavur-Munnar-Marayur-Udumalpet-Pollachi-Govindapuram-Nemmara- Thrissur.

Lesson learned : Map reading skills are quintessential.

Circumnavigating the forest ranges along the way, the route would take as heights in the Ghats of Munnar, a treacherous journey thanks to the altitudes and mist falls. The otherwise smooth start to this amazing trip was at around 5.30 6 a.m in the morning at Mannuthy. Trip meters were zeroed in, helmets pulled on, jackets and backpacks ready, we were all set for the journey! :)
We stuck to N.H 47, calmer except for the occasional high beam lorries that would whoosh by with the constant humming of tires rolling on tarmac. The roads have been made beautifully apt for us bikes with 4 lane safe driving assured. We did not halt except to take a leak, and were covering good distance in the very first hours itself.

The first major stop was at near Kothamangalam where we halted to correct our directions. The locals were pretty helpful and thanks to the glittering green roadsigns which we blissfully overlooked, we were back on track to Munnar, now about 80 kms away.
Yea, yea we saw it! Its just another 80 kms!!

Then it was time for breakfast, tummies making that ever so familiar grunt. Had some real good typical Malayalees breakfast, nerves pulsating to get the first glimpse of, what would ultimately be, the only thing that we would see for the next 2 days- the mystique hills and ghats! :)

And then finally we were there! the climb started gradually, then drinking in more fuel than what my bike would have ever experienced. The climbs were often steep, accompanied with crooked turns at unexpected points. At one time you would be tempted to charge the throttle high and soar, and ships ahoy! there comes the next pestering turn!! :(
The beginning stretch

Climb went on and on, til the sun was right over our heads and the town was MUNNAR!!! :) Took the first big stop for lunch, before which was the photo session in the woods near the bus station.
The jockies, the stallions!

The next requisite was to find a shelter for the night, which we was gotten even more easily than we expected.

All of us had just backpacks to carry which were kept of at the room, spacious and comfortable for all six to pull rug up together, before we rode down to perhaps the most beautiful view point I have ever seen so far in my entire life as a biker-tourer. The stunning view of the valleys at Top station view point was simply, to put in the least words, breath taking! The sunshine seeping out through the clouds, casting a golden gleam on the green patches down below in the valley was a rare spectacle for the eyes. It was a dreamworld all together, and we stood mesmerized for a few minutes before returning to our senses! :)

Snaps and snaps again, I swear we ought to have had an SLR with us to capture some of them beautiful scenes visible to our naked eyes and contented hearts!
Spell bound...
The return trip included a run over Mattupetti dam, Echo point, deserted completely as it was almost sunset, thereby making sure that the only people shouting for echo would be us!!
At Echo point, the sounds reverberate from hills/ opposite river bank and echo back to where you stand, low yet clear.
Was a nice experience, calling names, making weird sounds and being merry!
Back at room, it was time to catch some sound sleep and to rest those aching limbs which had seen numerous gear shifts, mud tracks, uphill(and a corresponding down hill) climbs all in a day's work!
Early morning the next day we were up and ready to hit the roads again. It had been intended to be a purely ride for pleasure trip and thus, as is obvious, the lion's share of tim was to be spent on the road.period. To make things better, the return route was through the other exit point to the hills, the roads that wind down and down into Udumalpet in Tamil Nadu, crossing the Marayur sandalwood forest and sugar cane fields.
Above: A local jaggery plant at Marayur.
Engines revved and heated up for the day long ride back home, we embarked on yet another 12 hour ride, inquiring directions intermittently until we were put on the route downhill, and by downhill I mean reaaallly down the hill for kilometers together, to Marayur.The rounded vessel which is used for extracting jaggery from the sugar cane juice.

The ride downwards from the altitude was riddled was surprises. There were long stretches of path where the throttle remain untouched. The steadily dropping heights saved a lot of fuel which could actually compensate for what we lost during the uphill climb. It being the off-season at Munnar, traffic was not heavy and with engine shut off, we were, at times, cruising at excess of 60kmph!!
Along the road side were flowering trees local to the place. It was definitely a pleasant sight to see them blossoming, and the fallen flowers spreading a magenta, violet, yellow or blueish tint on the ground below.
The regular pee/tea perks were the only time when the vehicles actually halted, and often otherwise when Sailesh would call for some picture perfect shots en-route. :) We were really having a good time!!!

Though not in our chart and definitely not in our already late running schedule, we decided to take a halt near Marayur, at a place called Muniyara( the burial chambers of saints). The place is supposedly belonging to the Megalithic age, and is surely a surprising sight.Atop the hill at Muniyara, we could see fumes rising from a distant forest fire in ghats. It definitely is a sad thing to find such serenity being destroyed by man and, sometimes nature.
We were way behind our scheduled time, and it was time to hit the roads again. The usual citing of elephant herds, a group of which was blocking the roads, welcomed us near the TN border! :)
after some skillfully mastered snaps of the wild parade, we were racing speeds to reach Pollachi Govindapuram state highway.
One good thing that I admire of TN roads is the way they have been maintained over the years, once built. The speeds gained on these routes were enough to put us back in our time frames.
As always, it was easy to identify where in we crossed back into the Kerala state borders as the road conditions soon turned worse. ;)
The last leg of this enticing, thrilling, and albeit superb trip was less eventful, skillfully making our way through the clogged NH 47 stretch from Mangalam bridge to Mannuthy. The final readings on odo stood at about 55okms.(don't remember the exact number! :) )

Must say it was truly a memorable journey, a ride which definitely made the urge in me to make even bigger, longer and riskier rides stronger! ;) Heard there are some real good places near Bengalooru worth exploring! ;)
P.S: For all those lazybones out there, get a hold of yourself, or atleast, a bike! Wander the roads, feel what it really means to be an Indian! The diversity of virtually everything, bonded by the strand of oneness, of being brothers of same blood and flesh, the sons of one motherland, India. Where else can you find such marvels under the blue sky?!! :)
Current feeling: Nostalgic. Slightly desperate... :)