Another solo ride of 1140 KMs, not a very long ride but was challenging in itself. To start with, the plan was to go in a car early Friday morning as soon as one of the guys arrived from Hyderabad. We picked him up, went to our place, packed our bags and while climbing down the stairs he tripped over and hurt his back and ankle. So the guy and his host had to call off the plan. With little hope of turning things around we went to a physician and decide based on his condition, but much to our dismay the injury was bad. It was around 1 PM by then.
Since it is my last few days at Bangalore I thought I couldn't let go off the trip to visit Kodaikkanal/Topslip/Munnar, all close by within 150 KM range. Changed my packing as it's now on a bike than a car and prepared mentally. By the time I started after lunch it was 2:45 PM. 100 KMs before Salem I got a flat Tyre, I was riding in my regular way averaging a 100 KMPH and it started wobbling a bit, I thought it's because of the layout of the road, after a while I felt it so much that I had to stop and check. Luckily where I stopped a garage was close within 3-4 KMs, I throttled up and even then my bike was comfortably going at 100 KMPH - thanks to a tubeless tyre. After a 40 mins halt fixing the puncture the time was 4:30 PM and it struck me that I may should head back and cancel off the plan. But again I thought the worst case scenario would be that I reach Kodaikkanal by 9 PM which is not all too late, so I kept moving.
Took a short break to refuel at Salem as I did not want to take more breaks till I reach my destination, and my bike gives a mileage of 30 KMPL with a fuel capacity of only 13L. Then after reaching Dindugul which is the end of the National Highway you would have to cut into State Highways which leads to the Ghat road to Kodai. By 8 PM I was at the Ghat road police checkpost where I had to register myself followed by few mandatory checks. The Ghat road was of a 45 KM stretch to the top, the road was wet with rain along with few repairs on the go and it took me one hour to reach which was not all that bad considering the wet conditions with my tyres already degraded.
Then the hunt for some place to stay started, since it was a long weekend and a May 1st the hill station was fully flocked with people that there were very few hotels/places to stay. After an hour search or so I found a good place albeit at a premium price.
End of Ride1 : A total of 450 KMs in 5 hours
Next morning I went around the town visiting the toursit places which are on a 20 KM stretch of a road. There was a huge traffic jam all along the road with 4 wheelers, it was damn crowded and one couldn't make his way out unless he was on foot or a 2 wheeler. It just would not have been possible for me to cover all the places in a day had I gone in a car and so it was all worth it at the end !!
Places in the order of visit are: Upper Lake View, Indian Institute of AstroPhysics, Pine Forest, Green Valley view(Suicide Point), Guna Cave, Pillar Rocks, Golf Club, Pambar Falls and Dolphin Nose. One notewothy incident was while I was parking my bike at Guna Cave I spoke to a Policeman asking for places further on the way and left my keys on the bike. After a while I realized I did not have my keys in my pockets, thinking that I have lost them while taking out my earphones I went searching on the path backwards. Half the way I reckoned the keys must have been on my bike and was praying no one stole it. Luckily it was left unnoticed, may be coz of too much crowd. I felt so relieved and thought one should have a spare key to overcome such predicaments especially when riding solo- a lesson learnt. Always keep a check on your pockets whenever you make a stop and carry sparekeys elsewhere. On my way back to Kodai town, I met a Russian who asked me for a lift, she was also travelling solo and apparently was at Varakala on the weekend I was.
Later in the evening by 5:30 PM I started to Topslip, it is 155 KMs from the top of Kodai if you go through Palani Hills Northern Slope to Palani then Udumalai, Anaimalai and Sethumadai. I missed a turn somewhere on the way down and continued to move on the Palani Hills Southern Slope, the way I came through, and as mentioned to be the only route by a localite when enquired. Even later on when I stopped and checked my navigation the route was showing straight ahead, guess thats how Google Maps works on a ghat road - it would not route back when you miss a point and instead point forward through another route, though it routes back on normal roads. Anyways I kept moving as I was recording the trip on MyTracks and did not want to lose time. I so happened to take a round about way to Palani through Athoor, Oddanchatram which was an extra 80 KMs making it a total of 233 KMs to my destination from where I started.
As per my initial calculation I thought I could reach Topslip by 8 PM and with me missing the shortest route and taking the roads connecting all the towns, it got late. By 8 I could only reach Palani and on the way was a magnificient temple. I wanted to pay a visit but still having to cover a distance of 130 KMs, I kept moving. My ride from this point to Sethumadai was a bit risky as all of the connecting places were villages except for Udumalai. The roads were double or sometimes single laned and it was pitch dark with absolutely no one on the roads and raining too. In case I got a flat tyre again I would have absolutely no one to get help from or even if I did they would most probably be on a cycle or on foot and a communication would be difficult too as I did not know Tamil (a note: if you get scared when alone or in dark this is just not for you to take a ride through). The only thing that kept me going was that my accomodation was booked by few people I met at Kodai, very amicable people. Apparently the resort owner's a good friend of their's, they called him up spoke in Tamil and made a reservation on my name.
After reaching Anaimalai I called the resort owner to inform that I would be reaching in a while and asked to keep the gates open. At sethumadai where a procession was going on, I asked a few lads the direction towards Topslip they emphatically mentioned that two wheelers would not be allowed inside. I was totally shocked as I was under the impression that the resort was inside and it was 10 PM already. I called the owner again and he asked me not to worry as their resort is before the checkpost. With a sigh of relief I moved on ahead. The owner stood at the gates waiting for me, and after a quick chat on my journey asked me to join them for dinner. Only he could speak English as he worked as sales executive at Dubai and left his job to help run his brother's business. I freshened up, took a jump in the pool accompanied with a couple of shots, had a filling dinner with his friends and conversations followed with another round of booze and went to bed by 1.
End of Ride2: A total of 233 KMs in 4.5 hrs
Next day he suggested me to take a lift from passersby at the checkpost. There I met three guys who were coming from Kerala to spend a day in their brand new Swift and one of them who works at Bangalore was more than happy to offer me a ride. Perhaps this was the only time I was not on a driving seat and so the ride through the forest did not seem great. On reaching the checkpost of Kerala Police, after a quick ransacking again, we booked a safari. One and half hours later our safari vehicle arrived, went around the jungle spotting few deers, monkeys, wild buffaloes, rodents but never a Tiger. Ofcourse it aint that easy to spot a Tiger and for which one would have to spend a whole night at its regular adda only to catch a glimpse of it at an unexpected timing. I would plan a night stay some other time at some other place.
By 4 PM I was back at the resort and ready to check out. The owner and I had a quick chat about my day and he mentioned that he too was a passionate biker and asked me if he could take a ride on my bike. Well I would never say no to a fellow biker on such requests. After freshening up I started my return journey to Bangalore at 5:30 PM, a distance of 425 KMs. I reached Salem by 8:15 PM without taking a break and stopped for dinner and resumed my journey by 9 PM. A 200 KMs to cover and thinking I would reach by 11 I asked my roomie to get a couple of beers to rejoice and conclude my yet another solo trip. On the way back at the toll gates there was an unimaginable traffic jam for almost 600 m, at all three of them. Had I been travelling in a car it would have easily taken more than an hour each at the toll gates and would have reached Bangalore by 2 or 3 AM. As planned my roomie and I sat down with beers while trying our hands on an extra spicy pepper chicken. IPL and football matches were on television and I wished if only there was a Live F1 race going on to make the ending just so Perfect.
End of Ride3: A total of 425 KMs in 5 hrs
Key Takeaway: Almost everyone instantly gathers respect for you when they find out you are a solo rider and have driven along so extensively.
Lesson Learnt: Carry sparekeys always on a trip and keep a check on your items.
Thing to ponder: No biker's high this time, may be it was not a long enough ride!!!!Will I ever get tired ?!
Happy Riding. Ride safe and stay safe. Cheers. #incredibleindia