Drenched in monsoonal showers, Fabulous night stay in House Boat, Kissed the mist, Donated blood to leaches, Mastered the corners of the ghat Roads, Slept above the clouds, Bath in spine chilling waterfalls, Thrilling journey through reserve forests filled with wild animal’s dunks, Tasted the authentic Kerala cuisine, New friends for lifetime..
Day Zero [Aug 31st ,2011] Leaving Concrete Jungle
When everyone in Chennai had already started spending their holidays with TV / Beach / etc, We the Pirates of Western Ghats gathered in Omni Bus stand with lot of expectations about the trip, and excitedly started having a quick intro within the group that had gathered while waiting for the bus. Introductions made and at last we boarded the bus with lots of expectations about the next four days and adventures that were in store.
Day One[Sep 1st 2011] Started our Dream Ride
Our bus reached the base location Cumbum in the early morning, Sahaya had a quick recap session on ESF (Easy Riding Formation), then we loaded our luggage and ourselves in our Beasts, filled the petrol tank and kick started the DREAM RIDE. We started proceeding towards our first destination Thekkady. The climate was neither cold nor hot in the plains, the moment we entered the Ghat section Mother Nature welcomed us with her Showers of blessings. The Ghat roads were not in proper condition due to recent rains, but our 12 Beasts crossed it slickly thanks to ESF (Easy Riding Formation) which helped a lot here. Whenever there was a pit in the road the Lead Bike used the standard biking signal by raising the hand which warned the whole Convoy, and helped them to cross the pitch / vehicles from the opposite direction without any much exertion.
After having a bumpy ride we then reached the “Periyar Tiger Reserve” check post where we paid the Toll for entering the reserved forest along with a warning from the forest officials that their rangers had seen a group of elephants at dawn break and were asked to be on alert all through the drive. We crossed the Check post and had a stop from where we had the splendid view of Thekkady Dam, Boat house. We purely enjoyed the silence of the nature, Rhythmic singing of the Birds but unfortunately couldn’t have a boat ride due to lack of time. Then we had a typical Kerala style Parota / curry as our breakfast and started proceeding towards the next destination “Kumarakom” where the downhill drive was very wonderful due to the chilling climate & showery rain
After negotiating the hairpin bends / sharp curves / Speedy KL drivers, we reached Kumarakom @ 4.30, where we met our house boat coordinator Mr. Crispin who was kind enough to make some arrangements with the local petrol bunk to park our bikes & deposit our helmets / Tarps overnight. Later we reached the House boat and we had a warm welcome from the House Boat crew.
The birds in the nearest bird sanctuary were for sure disturbed a little due to our sound “Hurray” while the House Boat started moving, then we had a welcome drink, “Chaya” (Tea), and authentic snack “Pazham Puri” (Fruit Banana Bajji) and people started sitting in the dinner hall @ first floor and started enjoying the ride by observing the different sounds of the birds. The Pro - Photographers had a very nice time in testing their skills, by shooting the water reflections of the other house boats / Candid shots / Portrait shoots with their so called “Subjects”,
The boat been anchored after an hour ride from the shore for overnight stay, While the crew started preparing the dinner few of our adventurous freaks went for an short ride in the small boat till the next shore where there was a function in the nearest village. The boat ride was thrilling as there was no moon light & the boat was shaking in the water, but we did enjoy the ride to and fro and once we returned to the boat our dinner’s smell pulled us to the upper deck where we ate the authentic tasty Chappathi with spicy side dish.
That’s how day 001 ended as we rested our tires bodies and souls in the comfort room in the Boat House while couple of fellow adventurers slept with their sleeping bags on the upper deck
Day Two[Sep 2nd 2011] Pristine Back waters, Hard drive towards Mist Queen
Even though we woke up @ 6 am in the morning we missed the sunrise due to the cloudy weather, but were still lucky enough to sight few "Kingfishers", "Cormorants", "Eagles", and few other birds which aren’t normally sighted anywhere. The routine life in Vembanad lake begins at early morning, be it the house boat cruise, or the fishermen who start their chores in small boats by beautifully pulling out the China Fishing Nets which usually is immersed a day before and shuttle boats between the shores everything starts at the break of the dawn here.
While we were busy tasting the yummy breakfast "Idly / Sambar / Thenga Chutney", our house boat moved deep inside the Vembanad lake and that’s when the photographers again started testing their skills. It was fun to watch the almost professional Photographers experimenting their learning with their so called subjects, and the subjects who were very eager to pose. After an hour cruising the moving bungalow came to a halt, and there we ended the house boat trip and bade a sad farewell to the house boat and said "Miss you, But see you soon"
Back to the thar roads and we kick started the machines and the drive this time to drive along the WCR (West Coast Road) and soon reached Fort Kochi from where we then took the "Vypin Ferry" to reach the other shore instead of making it on the roads. The ferry experience was new to most of the souls and bikes and we indeed did enjoy the ride and few of our "Pro's" started casual chat with the foreigners to make them feel jealous by briefing about our trip.
The ride in search of the "Mist Queen" Nelliyampatti started there and we enjoyed the rain and rain drenched highway all along and continued our ride even amidst heavy downpour. After having lunch near Angamaly, crossed the ever congested traffic zone "Palakkad - Guruvayur" Road, we reached the foot hills of nelliyampathy (the mist queen) @ 6.05, and while we stood wondering if we would be allowed to ride up, to our glee the check post guards opened the bars for the bikes, and here started the "LIFE TIME DRIVE" where the entire ghat section is fully covered by deep mist and we could haradly see anything beyond 10 feet. While I took the lead entire convoy, I couldn’t even judge the direction of the road even with my headlights turned on, but we drove higher & higher with the misty road getting darker and darker, all I had in my mind was "machan, Yenna dirve da ithu" :-). Later as we reached the top and booked the dormitory and ordered our dinner rain started pouring heavily and everyone who came one by one said that oh wow what a rid. The freshers were unable to express their feelings as they were totally impressed. And two of our bikers were lucky enough to sight the "Sambar Deer" on the way up.
We had a Teasing chair round where the group has to speak / tease / pull the legs of the person who sits in the chair placed in middle of the group. We started getting all the tits bits of each and every one which made the gathering warmer and closer
Day Three[Sep 3rd 2011] The Hardcore OFFROADING, Misty Drive
THE OFFROADING KINGs 4 X 4 Jeeps were waiting down for us and soon we started the ride and our stunts by standing in the foot rest at the back door , side door etc. the chill breeze was too impressive to stand outside, but the moment the Jeeps entered into the off roading track the situation turned topsy turvy , we all had a feel of going an adventurous ride in amusement parks. The jeeps were shaking all the directions and the thrill begins when we feel losing control of our hands holding the bars, but truly enjoyed the ride, the track gets steeper and ended in a "Mist Valley", where the clouds were below our foot, and where we enjoyed the cool breeze where again our photographers started shooting with their subjects
Soon we drove down on the same off-road track; we had our breakfast "Puttu & Kadala Curry", and then started our drive to nearest waterfall, the bath in the spine chilling water falls is worth bathing :). The drive down hill started once we were back from the waterfalls and the down hill drive was totally amazing as the hill getting covered with mist and drizzling. Most of the gang said it was heaven on the top and hell on the bottom (due to road condition),
After hard negotiations with the KL Buses (Pei Buses) and KL Lorries who drive as if they’re driving in NFS we reached Indian Niagara "Athirapalli Falls" and ended our day with hot hot parottas chicken curry.
Day Four[Sep 4th 2011] Indian Niagara, Reserve Forest, Valparai
The last day of the trip had a good start with one of our bikes having air leak in its front tyre, & another bike had a chain derail problem as soon as we start from the camp place to Athirapalli Falls. We all proceeded to the falls while, our Recovery lead Mr. Koushik went in search of mechanic to fix this two.
Being the end of monsoon in Kerala the falls is fully surrounded with water and the current in the stream was too strong, hence bathing been strictly prohibited which was a great disappointment as this is the first time we couldn’t bathe visiting Athirapalli. The drizzling added more to the romantic atmosphere to the falls for sure. Post breakfast we camped in the road and waited till our Recovery Van came, which was there after 30 Mins and shouted Hurray the moment it was sighted. We packed all our things and started our ride deep into the reserved forest.
Being this is our second visit to this place within 40 days we could feel the positive difference due to the monsoon, the Upper & Lower Sholayar dams were full and have reached their highest capacity this time. After an hour ride in the reserved forest the vehicle from the opposite side stopped my bike (lead Bike) and said Elephants were on the way which when I conveyed to Koushik and to which he smiled and said “va machi aanai pakalam”. But we didn’t see any physical existence of elephant but saw the very fresh dung on the road side at many places which proved everything about their presence. As the altitude increased the hills gets surrounded with mist and our misty drive started again and ended in TN-Kerala Border for Lunch.
After swallowing couple of omelettes and meals we kick started the drive again with the never ending mist following us. We took the bypass and crossed the Valparai town without entering it, which felt good as our sweep bike got stuck in the festival crowd as soon entering the city. The downhill drive was very smooth and pleasant mainly due to the climate. After tight turns in the hairpin bends we reached the Aaliyar Dam view which was the first pit stop after having our lunch.
Later we reached the Foot hills and stopped near Axis Bank ATM to top up our Purse and pay the organizers for the excess money. After finishing the accounting sections, we got chance to have Sweet Pineapples, Cucumber from the local sellers.
Finally we reached our Packing Zone which again as ever is a road side zone near an engineering college where we all helped the Van drivers in packing the bikes and pushed it into the bank using the Ladders and we started back our journey to the Concrete Jungle ..