A Freezing New Year's Day At Ooty

30th Dec 2016

On new year's eve!

Photo of A Freezing New Year's Day At Ooty by Anusha Nakshathra
Day 1

As we left from Valparai, we planned on heading to Silent Valley to enjoy the silence of the forest. It gets its name from the fact that it has no cicadas ... the insects that make that typical night-time sound. As we rode towards Coimbatore, it became obvious that we wouldn't make it in time to Silent Valley.

We drove downhill for a long time and we knew that even to reach anywhere near Coimbatore, it would be a 10o km approximately. It would also take us a lot of time due to the winding narrow roads.

We also needed to ride through main highways. We decided to dump Silent Valley as we circumvented Coimbatore and set our sights on the next destination, Ooty. However, it was too late to make it to Ooty and we stopped on the way to stay in the government's tourism department's stay. We were dog-tired and needed sleep.

All I could remember was getting off the bike, leaving my bags on the bike, heading up to the room, falling on the bed, and falling asleep. I think one of my friend's brought in my bags from the bike.

Day 2

We woke up early the next day not wanting to go late to Ooty. We still had a more than 100 km to cover and it was the last destination of the trip. Ooty is a hill station and so it was an uphill ride all over again. Twists and turns for hours and finally, it grew dark. I soon realized that Ooty was the coldest place we'd ever been to on this trip. I was wearing thermals, a t-shirt, a leather jacket, gloves, socks, and shoes, a face mask, and a full helmet and I could feel the cold bite my shoulders and face. I even had the visor closed over my face. My feet were numb to the point that I felt it would get frost-bitten and I would lose my toes. Every time we stopped, I would get off my bike and touch the bike's silencer with my gloves on for warmth. That's how cold it was.

After a while, it was just my bike and another rider's bike that we could see on the road. The roads were dark and we desperately wanted to just reach somewhere where we could stop. For a long time, the road felt endless and winding with literally no other vehicles. Our head lamps and fog lamps were hitting the road and the only way we could tell the way was from the reflectors on the road hitting the light back at us. Thankfully, they had reflectors! My friend's bike was a Yamaha Fazer and we'd been riding continuously for a long time. As we paused for a few minutes, he said, "Let's not stop for too long. The air is too thin up here for my bike. We'll keep going for as long as my engine stays hot."

After what seemed like an eternity, our two bikes reached Ooty. Some people stood by the side of the road next to a fire they started. We instantly stopped our bikes next to the fire and huddled up to heat our hands. Nearly half an hour later, everyone else began to arrive one by one. We flagged them down to ask them directions to the stay. I was freezing and I didn't even want dinner. I just wanted 10 warm blankets around me!

Finally, 20 minutes later, we reached our stay. My friend's Fazer refused to start as he rightly predicted. He later told me that he had to have a heart-to-heart conversation with his bike for it to start and get him to the stay.

I left my bikes on the bike and headed up to get into bed. I got my friend's massive blanket from Kolukkumalai and dragged a few more rugs to cover me. I stole another friend's sweater and jumped into bed. After nearly an hour, it was nearing midnight and we had reached on New Year's Eve.

My friends bugged me to get out of bed and join them at the massive bonfire they'd started downstairs. We had a whole house to ourselves for this stay. I wrapped the blanket around me and went downstairs to the gate. A huge fire had been started and I didn't need the blanket. The night sky was lit up by several similar fires in neighbouring areas. Loud music and firecrackers bursting echoed through the air mixed with people laughing and singing along. We all sat and tried to eat some biryani around the fire but we were too sleepy and tired to do anything. Some of the riders sat with their drinks while I sat around talking to everyone and taking photos.

Photo of Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India by Anusha Nakshathra
Day 3

Soon, midnight struck and we cheered, wishing everyone a happy new year. It had been a fun way to end the year. As I walked away from the fire, I knew that I would freeze if I didn't get to bed. I ran upstairs, jumped into bed, and dozed off. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling cold and realized that someone had taken one of the three blankets off me. I woke my friend up and bugged him to get the blanket back.

Sleepily, he walked in the freezing cold of the room and saw that five guys were huddling under my blanket from the cold. I instantly felt bad about it and let them keep it. I had two more blankets with me anyway. The worst part about this stay was that the walls were like the walls of a freezer: the cold was emanating from it.

After a cold sleep, we all woke up the next morning to a cloudy and chilly day. It was still terribly cold but the sunlight made things a shade better. I badly wanted fries and a burger. I instantly headed out with a friend after packing my bags while the other got ready.

By the time we were done eating, the rest joined us and we rode for hours through Bandipur forest. The challenge was to get past the Bandipur checkpost before 530PM or they close the route.

We made it just in time and at this point, we had to take different routes. I had to head through Mysore road while the others were going to take an alternative route to get to their part of Bangalore.

We all reached late at night. While I was exhausted and glad to be home, the winter ride had been an experience of a lifetime, something that I will repeat in the coming months.