Mysticlama

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Kodaikanal bike trip part 2

Day 1 Trivandrum to Tiruvalla

Trip Distance: 121 km
Total Distance: 121 Km

Dawn of 21st morning came as usual without any real excitement that a trip brings , as things were still not finalized.

I went about my work as usual other than Arun contacting me for few more rental agencies numbers.

At 2 pm I had given up hope and was contemplating on going for a movie in the evening just to take my mind of the disappointment of another non materialized trip.

At 3 got the eagerly expected call from Arun , the bugger had got the bike and was almost half way to his home in Tiruvalla , guess he should have called me when he got the bike but the great news really  overshadowed that aspect.

The Trip was on….yipeeeeee

My plan was to leave office by 4 pm so that I could start the trip by 5 pm that would give me at least an hour of day time driving. Based on previous experience wasn’t too keen to do much of night driving in Kerala traffic and roads , so the more distance that can be covered in daytime the better.

But as luck could have it was 5 pm before I could leave office and that’s when I realized that my tank was in reserve – went to the nearest bunk to fill up and as luck could have it they were out of petrol- finally got fuel from a bunk which was nearly a kilometer way – which meant that by the time I started it was 6pm and darkness had descended – boy it will be hard now as the average speed would have to be low which would directly result in close to 5 hours to reach Arun’s place.

So with a mixed emotion which consisted of cursing myself for delay and a happy prayer for a safe and successful trip I pushed the self starter.

The bike immediately came to life with a very welcoming noise

And I was off; the much awaited trip had begun for me with no more ifs or buts

With failing day light and fast approaching darkness got into NH47 near to my home only to be caught in peak hour traffic – the crawling traffic lasted till Amalacode couple of kilometer past Attingal from where I took a …..Km deviation to hit Kilimanoor from there I would be using the hopefully less crowded and better MC road all the way till Tiruvalla.

Within few minutes of getting on the MC road I knew the heavens were with me on the road, primarily because the road was good and the very clear despite the darkness – I was not even affected by the constant high beam of approaching vehicles (something unusual)

With predictable less traffic and above factors I surprised myself by maintaining high night time speed and within couple of hours (8pm) I was in Kottarakara. And hour saw me in Cheganur.

This was all too good I had covered almost 121 Km in near about 3 hours especially in night.

But as luck could have it just 6km before Arun’s place the sky opened up and I had to bitterly take shelter in a petrol bunk. Had the skies remained calm for another 30 minutes and I would have made it.

Anyways as I said this was a field test trip and the rainfall helped me in realizing that the rain gear was not packed properly and took time to be installed on bike (first lesson learnt)

The rain broke in another 15 minutes and I was off navigating some of the most horribly crater filled roads I have ever encountered. Add to that couple of wrong turns near to Arun’s place and finally I was there. Dude was waiting for me in his sit out and was either amused or pleasantly surprised to see my entire kit including the saddle bags.

I was shown to his guest room followed by a delicious meal consisting of prawns, duck, fish and chicken
After the dinner we inspected his Thunder Bird which looked pretty well maintained for a rental bike , this was followed by an hours tete a tete session which had to be cut short the moment we realized it was getting late.

Our plan was to start early by 6 am next day.

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Day 2 Tiruvalla to Kodaikanal

Trip Distance: 273 km
Total Distance: 394 Km

Got up by 5 am to a very wet morning; however it was 6.50 am by the time we started off, primarily because I had to do a bit of repacking after last nights experience with rain.

It had rained heavily in the night and we were a bit worried that the rains would not break in time, not only was that fear was unwarranted as the rain had stopped by morning but the rainfall had made the road and day more beautiful and entertaining for the ride.

Arun’s plan was to reach Kumily by 10 am for breakfeast , but based on my past experience I knew it would be impractical especially since we were planning to stop in Peermade . Our plan was to visit Vagamon & Peermade and try to get as close to Kodaikanal as possible if we are unable to make it (night driving was out of scope)

The ride was great; we started slowly and soon picked up momentum stopping for occasional photos.


Our first photo stop

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Think we made a good pair ; me all padded up in my cramsters and on contrast this hefty guy with just his helmet on Thunder Bird hahaha
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For me safety was the policy and Arun wanted his freedom – must say I was a bit skeptical about his disregard to protective gear but overall he drove well and didn’t do anything foolish so guess it was okay. He also had a valid argument that being in Sharaja he may not indulge in biking again so spending money on all the protective gear for just one ride didn’t seem right.
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Soon we hit the ghat section and boy we were suddenly engulfed in fog probably due to all that rain last night.
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We had a blast riding through the fog in low visibility, at times the visibility was hardly 50 meters but the most amazing fact was the constant shift of fog and visibility. We would be riding in thick fog with our lights on for few minutes and then suddenly for next few minutes we would be riding through clear visibility- just amazing
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Somehow we missed Peermade possible because we had to take a deviation to reach it and due to our late start we had decided to make to Kodaikanal as early as possible so that we can reach there with daylight to spare, our biggest concern accommodation which was not booked in advance.

Weather was foggy cold and awesome, we halted at Valanjangam nearby a beautiful waterfall for tea
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one of the many road side water fall we saw enroute
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Click to continue.......

Kodaikanal bike trip part 3

After a short halt it was time to move on

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We hit Kumily at around 11:30 am (approx 120 km from Tiruvalla), since we were riding apart we got caught up and separated in Kumily traffic – while arun halted at a restaurant I kept on riding and was soon surprised to see Kumily exit post.

Few phone calls to arun and soon I caught up with him at the restaurant he stopped at.

Lake Queen seemed to be a big hotel with a vegetarian section in ground floor ( Ayur cafe) and an AC restaurant in first floor from the parking spot – from the main entrance I guess AC restaurant comes in ground floor.

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Don’t know why the hotel was called Lake queen as I dint see any lake nearby but there were few other hotels called Lake shore and so on – so I assume there might be a lake nearby.

With Thekady nearby majority of the tourist prefer to stay in Kumily as the accommodations are cheaper than Thekady.

The food was affordable and good, while Arun had masala dosa I stuck to idly sambar which somehow was a rare commodity in Trivandrum- even if you get idly sambar it wont be dipped in sambar as we are used to eating.

At the restaurant Arun showed me his bike documents as he was concerned about border checking - got a bit apprehensive glancing through his insurance papers because there was no validity date mentioned on it - probably because it was a commercial bike . Anyways there was nothing that could have been done so hid my apprehension and told him the docs were good to go - there was no point worrying him.

After a 20 minute break we started towards our next point Theni which was around 60km away , plan was to have lunch from there and then push towards Kodaikanal which was approx 120km from Kumily


It was descend all the way from Kumily and the roads leading out of it was in bad condition, forcing us to go slow especially Arun who I suspected was feeling a bit lethargic and sleepy after a good delayed break fast.

I was getting a bit worried as we had a long distance to cover including a climb up Kodai ghat section however the bad roads wasn’t really favorable.

Few kilometer after the descend we hit a crowded town, and the most standout aspect of this town was its traffic light which was RED as well as Green, Arun and me were confused as to stay or go because half the traffic was stopping and the other half kept going – somehow from the looks of people there it seemed like a normal phenomenon - pheeew weirdly strange.

Couple of kilometer after that town the road suddenly became awesomely straight; though the tarmac was not really smooth it was good enough with hardly any traffic to let us rip. Soon we were ripping past 80 kmph and at times found myself at above 90s

something I had never done and enjoyed immensely – at this rate we should make up for the lost time and may end up gaining some time. though we didn't discuss it I am pretty sure that this was one of the moment Arun really enjoyed and I suspected he did hit 100 at certain times

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And apart few occasional stops as Arun was cramping we did make good time, As I realized later the seat of TB was very hard and the fact that he was not really used to such a long drive may have contributed to his occasional cramps – but the big man did well to keep up the momentum though I suspected he was a bit more uncomfortable than he admitted.

Taking a well deserved break
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One of the big attraction of this section was a spell binding paddy field, we chanced upon it quite by accident when we took a detour to try and find an access to a beautiful skimming waterfall that we saw from road.

Though we couldn’t find an entry to that waterfall we did came upon this sheer beauty – which could not be explained nor could any photo do it justice

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Glad that Arun forced me to take this photo

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Finally after a brief photo session, we forced ourselves to bid good bye to the paddy field and move on - had there been an accommodation option I am certain we would have taken it – it was that beautiful.

Arun was a bit surprised to find such a lush field in hot and dry Tamil Nadu however for someone like me who has seen much of India it was not really that astonishing but the sheer beauty was unmentionable

my bike at the splendor
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the photo doesn't do justice to the beauty
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Our plan was to stop in Theni for lunch but the town was so crowded and congested we decided to push forward and try our luck in finding a roadside dhaba – my idea was that every km we went further in search of dhaba the lesser the distance between us and our final destination for the day (Kodaikanal)

Strangely we didn’t find even one proper restaurant or dhaba enroute and kept going.

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One major irritant factor were those big overloaded autos who will drive slow in the middle of that awesome road and wouldn’t give you space to overtake despite numerous honking.

Pretty soon I lost my patience with them- cant they understand that they are slower than a cycle?

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By now we had started to take things a bit easy as were under the impression that this road will go on and we may have just 10-15 km of Ghat section climb. Imagine the shock we received when we arrived at the base of the Ghat section to find that 48km of the remaining road was purely on Ghat section.

Reached the base of KodaiKanal by 4pm – we have to climb to the very top of that mountain – that’s where Kodaikanal is- wow that’s a looooong climb!!!!

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We soon shifted gears as much as possible in ghat section and tired to make up time once again as it was already 4 pm and we had to reach the summit before night fall.

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Had fun riding through the twisties as in some areas we were able to maintain speeds of up to 50 kmph safely however then there were sections where every 10-15 meters we had to gear shift, which kind of got irritating.

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Had to navigate this unexpected Slush Monster – thankfully we passed through with no major issues- though Arun’s brand new lactose shoes got real dirty- he had to sacrifice one of his socks to clean it up later guess he was afraid his wife finding out as it was her present.

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As soon as we reached the sliver cascade waterfall few kilometers before Kodai - we were literally surrounded by agents canvasing for hotels/resorts.


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This waterfall comes immediately after the Kodaikanal entrance gate\toll booth and I believe is called the Silver Cascade.

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Since we were anyway in search of a good accommodation, we gave a ride to an agent named Dravidium who was going to show us a good property with an excellent view with garden in front called Kodai Gate.

This property is approximately 2 km before town and on the roadside, the access to this property is through a steep incline bylane where my bike struggled for the first time, anyways made it to the top and the first thing we noticed was no garden haha

The view was good but there was no proper sit-out or balcony to enjoy the view and at around Rs 1200 per room we felt it was not worth it.

So we left the place and decided to go down to the town for a better accommodation, we were in search of a cottage like accommodation which has a decent garden in front and a good view of the valley.

By 6 – 6.30 we entered proper Kodaikanal town, and started to bike around the town in search of an accommodation fitting our need without any luck.

Finally we decided to bike down to the lakeside where we had Kodaikanal version of bhelpuri which was pretty tasty considering the weather was getting real cold and that too pretty fast.

Arun then called up his friend in Saharja who had studied in Kodai and still knew some people there, he promised to get back with a reliable contact.

No callback came for more than 30 minutes and now engulfed in cold darkness we decided to head back to Kodai Gate hotel.

As luck could have it Arun’s friend callback at that time and gave us the contact detail of a guy named Ganesh , who had an Homestay near to the observatory.

A quick call to Ganesh to get the directions and off we were, and boy was it cold- I had anticipated some cold but this was way above it probably due to the recent rainfall in Kodaikanal.

Both of us were in summer clothes and had not bothered to pull out the sweaters from our bags, Thanks to my riding jacket I got some warmth but both our hands and finger were literally frozen solid.

Since Arun had forgotten to bring any woolens other than sweater I loaned out my woolen gloves to him, I was hoping my Twister gloves will be sufficient to handle such weather but what a shock – I felt as if I didn’t have a gloves on – My hands were exposed to the elements as badly as Arun’s were.

That’s when I was seriously considering the sensibility of buying this gloves.

To be frank apart from the knuckle protector I really don’t see any practical purpose of atleast using Cramster Twister – atleast it was a good wake up call ( lesson 2 – need better fleece glove for Himalayan circuit )

In Freezing cold ( and I literally mean freezing cold – I am used to Shimla and Ladhak and this was equal to that maybe due to the month and rainfall) we met up with Ganesh and his friend who arrived to pick us up on his Avenger.

Luckily the homestay was not far away and though it was not luxurious at Rs 800 for a 2 bedroom setup- it was a nice and decent bargain.

Once we had settled down and it was time for the most important mission of the day (from Arun’s point of view) poor fellow had gone without any Alcoholic drinks for the entire day and the moment we were settled in the homestay – we took Arun’s bike and went in search of a wineshop.

Amazingly it seems Kodai has only one wine shop (near to BSNL office) and boy was the place smelly and full of dirt. Got an overpriced pint of vodka and headed back into the cold in search of a good restaurant for our dinner.

Some searching around for a good restaurant found us at Hill Top restaurant – a nice place to have good veg and non veg food with over friendly staff – got the food parceled and went back to our homestay.

Had a good relaxed drinks & chat session, however by 10pm we were dozing off so decided to hit our bunks– guess we were more tired than we thought

Tomorrow around Kodaikanal

Click to continue


Kodaikanal bike trip part 4

Day 3 Around Kodaikanal
Trip Distance: 34 km
Total Distance: 428 Km

Got up a bit late at around 8 am thanks to our drinks party the previous night; and after a tasty breakfast of Idli sambhar prepared by the caretaker we pushed off for kodaikanal sightseeing.

Even though the home stay was not an expensive one, the caretaker really knew a thing or two about good service (and it was not as if we were the only guests).

Anyways back to the local sightseeing, we had a handicap to start off the day with and that was our lack of knowledge on places to visit in Kodaikanal – somehow both Arun and I had forgotten to do a research - both thinking that other would have the required information.

So it transpired that when we drove out in the morning we had no idea where to go other than the famous Pillar rocks.

Once at town junction, I suddenly had a brainwave to get a tour brochure from a travel agent as these tour guide\brochures mentions all the “need to see” places in that area.

So having made up my mind I stopped my bike at the very next travel agent I happened to see, however Arun somehow missed my stop signal and rode on, by the time I came out of the travel agents office armed with a tour brochure -we were well and truly separated .

To complicate matters I was having network issues with Airtel and he it seems had nearly run out of talk time.

I decided the best place to wait for him would be the cross roads at Cockers stop hotel , however I soon grew impatient waiting for him there (even though it was just quarter of an hour’s wait ) and decided to move on towards Pillar rocks .

It was logical to assume that he would meet me in Pillar rock as it was our primary destination.

Road was beautiful but I couldn’t really enjoy the drive as I had to make those occasional stops to check if Arun was behind me – even calls to his phone was going nowhere.

Finally just as I crossed Dolphin’s falls and got into a rhythm I got a frantic call from Arun- now it so happened that he had got pulled over by cops and he wanted me to reach him at the earliest.

It was a relief to find out that he was ahead of me all this time but at the same time there was a bit of apprehension as to the reason the cops stopped him for - Did the dude ram into any local vehicle or worse pedestrian?

When I finally arrived at the scene a minute or so later, I was relieved to find out that he was stopped during a routine checking of vehicles going towards pillar rocks – probably to discourage drunk driving and teenagers driving without valid documentation.

They were a bit surprised to find a KA and KL registered bikes and were satisfied once I showed them the documents for Arun’s bike.

It was only when I took out my documents to show that I realized with dismay that I was only carrying the Xerox copies and my originals including my drivers license was still at homestay where I left it for safe keeping due to fear of rains – wonderful now I’ll have to pay a bribe to these cops.

Surprisingly these Tamil Nadu cops were of different breed – once I explained the situation to them they politely let me go – no bribe nothing – only amusing fact was the breath test they did – but that was being done on all motorists.

Good thing we had brushed in the morning else the smell of previous nights party would have clearly stood out.

We scooted off the moment the cops let us go least they changed their minds and demanded some chai pani haha.
Eventually we reached pillar rocks and were immediately taken aback by the crowd ( mostly school children)



Pillar Rocks
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Covered in mist
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Atleast 2 schools were having an excursion at that time and that was not good for obvious reasons. Too much noise – long queues but was funny to see serious looking teachers running around trying to maintain discipline – kind of reminded of our school outing and the hard times we gave our teacher.

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Occasional breaks in mist
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Not much of an opportunity for photo session due to persistent mist, clicked few shots when the opportunity arose and we decided to move on.

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Considering the crowd we decided to go to the last point and then back track with an aim to get some peace.

Trying out photography on a nearby mountain stream while waiting for the mist to clear
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Next stop Pine forest

Arun on his Thunder Bird
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We stopped at Pine forest for sometime and even managed to take few snaps keeping an eye on the monkeys . However pretty soon we decided to move on as monkeys were kind of becoming a annoyance – and it was good we turned back when we did, because another adventurous group of monkeys were having time of their lives on our bikes.


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Both our bikes suffered - my bike seat had a small tear towards the rear – small but big enough for it to be visible and allow in water if it rains- and I had just replaced the seat cover some days back.

Arun’s bike seat had more damage with roughly a two inch tear on main seat and random tears on the pillion backrest. Damn the monkeys what’s so fascinating about bike seats anyways?.

Few snaps inside the pine forest

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We wanted to go for a long walk inside the forest but somehow we weren't comfortable leaving our bikes alone with the monkeys

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Its pretty relaxing without the heavy biking gear 
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There was also a big scratch on the fuel tank of my bike which I notice once back in Trivandrum – so its difficult to know if it was result of the monkeys or as a result of my Tank bag which had started to slip towards the end of the trip.

The monkey incident kind of spoiled our mood especially Arun’s, as his was a rental bike he was concerned how much the renter would charge- I tried my best to calm him by advising him seat covers are not really that expensive and his damage would be covered under a maximum Rs 500/- ( which proved to be correct as time will show)

Well carried on to the next point Guna caves – which was a total scam – if the entry was free I wouldn’t have felt so cheated but after charging an entry fee and a fee for the camera you walk to the spot to find no caves – the supposedly caves are just couple of vertical looking overgrown fissures covered by a grills – I mean they don’t even look like caves – The Chamundi hill fissures in Karnataka look more like caves than these ones.

When inquired where the so called caves were , one of the locals pointed to the two sorry looking fissures covered by grill - he further informed us that it has been covered up for years now.

Great !

Why promote something which is no longer there !

It seems we were destined to waste more time, as soon as we got out from Guna Caves we got stuck in a traffic jam created due to reluctance of people to give way.

Next stop was Suicide point where we didn’t stop for long as the entire place was covered in mist and nothing was visible from the looks of it – also it seemed that in order to reach the view point one has to climb down some steep path.

One look at the path and I decided to skip it as it would have been a very tiring return climb and definitely a no go for Arun haha.

Lets face it, we were certain that traveling on bike we had seen much better views than what could be seen from such viewpoints – same reason why we skipped Green valley view.

Majority of these view points are for people traveling in cars or big coaches as they don’t have the luxury of panoramic view from their window seat or the option to stop at will.

We were a bit interested in checking out Berijam Lake, however it seems that you need prior approval from some govt office in Kodaikanal town and further more only 4 wheelers are allowed.

Seemed a bit discriminatory against bikers, come on what are they afraid of ?

If we can bike through forest like Madumali, Bandipur, Ranny then what’s so big about this ?

Attitude of the watchman manning the gate was pretty irritating – probably having worked in the same position for years I guess he started to believe he owned the place, especially the way he was behaving rudely with people- didn’t knew tamil else I would have told him where he stood.

As I was uncertain how much we would have understood if I spoke in Hindi or English, I decided to give it a skip.

Having said that I must point out that majority of people in Kodaikanal are very friendly & sweet ; and would answer your question with a smile – which is very refreshing.

By now it was close to 1pm so we pushed off to find a good place in town to have lunch and probably a drink, found such a place in Kodai International.

Back view of Kodai International
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Its a beautiful place and not really that expensive to stay considering its supposed to be the second best hotel in Kodai after Carlton.

What a view from that section of the hotel , with the waterfall in back drop
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Interestingly much to Arun's relief they opened the bar even though there were only the two of us- which we felt was a nice gesture, they could have easily said no.

Big man finally gets a proper drink
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Couple of drinks later we moved down to the restaurant and hogged on some real tasty Biryani followed by some great service.

Truly enjoyed the Kodai service, which was not prompted by greed of tip.
At one time the waiter even went out of the restaurant just to check if it was raining or not for us – amazing they wouldn’t have done that even in a 5 star.

Will definitely stay there if I ever visit kodaikanal again.

Seconds before we attack the delicious biryani
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In the middle of the luncheon it started to rain cats & dogs slightly spoiling our plans .

Not that we had any real plan anyways other than to do some boating and visit Coakers walk.

By the time rains let down it was getting a bit late, so we rushed to the lake to do some spot of boating which was short lived as the paddle boat started to list uncomfortably towards Arun's side. Which forced me to end our boating prematurely much to Arun’s relief.

We then decided to make good use of what little daylight we had , by hopping across to Coakers walk

Beautiful view from entrance of Coakers walk- an indicator of whats in store
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Coakers walk is a kilometer long (didn’t measure it) paved walkway which runs along a slope offering some great views. It was one of those few places in Kodai where paying an entrance fee was really worth it.

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Delay in reaching this place meant we were deprived of some great photography opportunities due to bad light; saw a great rainbow which unfortunately was fading away by the time we reached

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Enchanting view of Kodaikanal valley
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Few hurried shots in and around Coakers walk in fading daylight
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Dont know why but have this fascination with trees growing at impossible angles on cliff tops - I believe its a reminder that " Life goes on, against all odds"
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A true hero
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Parting shot at Coakers walk
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Sun has set now
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After an hours time our departure from Coakers walk was hastened by threat of another rain, which turned out to be a false alarm, setting the scene for an awesome campfire drinks party with Ganesh and his friends.

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Preparing for camp fire
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Alcohol + chicken kebabs + some great friends + awesome camp fire+ some great biking stories = great evening
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Can still feel the warmth
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Enjoying the warmth of alcohol inside and fire outside :)
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Arun and me a trip to remember
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Shot of my room low light combined with sleep equals to poor effort to capture the room

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Next Kodaikanal to Vagamon coming soon.......