Some rides are planned months in advance, some weeks, and some happen just like that, out of nowhere. This was one of those out-of-the-blue rides for me, and it was an exciting one indeed.
Thankfully, the 4-day ride was planned meticulously by my fellow riders. I just had to follow their lead, twist my throttle, and enjoy the ride.
The ride turned out to be much better than I expected. Hills, valleys, forests, rivers, dams, flat landscapes, remote villages, bustling towns and some boring highways; we covered them all, plus more.
Number of Days: 4
Date: 26th to 29th, July 2014
Main Areas Covered: Gopalaswamy Betta, Ooty, Munnar, Vattavada, Athirapalli, Valparai, Anthiyur.
Number of Riders: 5
Riders and Motorcycles:
- Salman on Royal Enfield Classic 500
- Balakrishna on Royal Enfield Classic 350
- Pramod on Yamaha R15
- Arun on Bajaj Pulsar 150
- Martin on Honda CB Unicorn
My friend Balakrishna had told me about the ride he’s going with his colleagues a few weeks before the start. It wasn’t until two days before the ride that he asked me whether I’d join him too. I asked him to forward me the ride itinerary.
There was a long weekend coming up (in working professional terms), and avoiding Ramadan at home is always a pleasure. Plus, I’d be coming back home to eat Biryani. It took me a day to make up my mind. That was it. That’s how I went on to participate in this memorable ride.
One funny detail was that I and Arun were already friends on Facebook (we’d met online in groups related to atheism, rationality and freethinking).
Martin, aka The Forest Rider, was the brains behind this entire operation; kudos to him for arranging such a wonderful ride and taking care of all the intricacies.
The theme of this ride was Forests & Wilderness.
Route: Bangalore – Kanakapura – Malavalli – Kollegal – Yelandur – Chamrajnagar – Gundlupet – Gopalaswamy Betta – Bandipur Tiger Reserve – Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary – Masinagudi – Moyar Falls / River – Masinagudi – Kalhatty Falls – Ooty – Doddabetta – Kotagiri – Mettupalayam – Karamadai – Periyanaickenpalayam
Total Distance Covered: ~420km
Google Maps: http://goo.gl/0eqH8Y
We’d decided to meet in front of Bosch, Adugodi at 5 AM. I was the last to arrive. Everyone was eager to get started. We started our journey from there at around 5:15 AM and reached Kanakapura Road soon after.
From there on it was a pretty uneventful ride. We stopped at a Darshini (don’t remember its name) for breakfast; it’s a common stop for all riders passing through this road.
Once we’d filled our tummies, we throttled towards Malavalli.
We stopped at the Kollegal Main Road junction for tea once we reached Malavalli.
The initial plan was to ride through Mysore and Nanjangud to reach Chamrajnagar, but we changed plans after suggesting to Martin (our ride’s leader) that taking the Kollegal-Yelandur-Chamrajnagar route will be much more scenic and enjoyable, and faster too.
It was a beautiful stretch indeed. I’d suggest you to always take this route if going towards Ooty from Bangalore.
We stopped for a while after Yelandur to relax; reached Chamarajnagar at around 9:10 AM. Soon, we were on our way towards Gopalaswamy Betta.
We took diversion towards right around 9km after Gundlupet to head towards Gopalaswamy Betta.
The road here was fine till we reached the checkpost, but once the climb started it was in a very pathetic state. However, the surrounding area is very scenic.
The reason why we even chose to come here is because the authorities are planning to close the road to private vehicles after Dusshera. This is being done to protect the wildlife here. Visitors’ vehicles will be allowed only till the checkpost, after which they’d have to take a minibus run by forest department if they want to reach the top. According to the officials there, 4 minibuses are to be introduced, and the fare will be around Rs. 30/-.
This may as well be the last time we rode beyond this point.
Once we reached the top the climate changed instantly. It went from warm to cool within a few moments. It was almost as if we were transported to a different place. It was also very windy.
We didn’t linger here for long. Arun was the only one to climb the stairs and go behind the temple to snap some pictures. It started to drizzle and we hurried back to continue on your ride.
Once we traced our way back to NH-67 (Nagapattinam-Coimbatore-Gundlupet Highway), we continued on our ride towards Bandipur National Park. There’s not much to talk about the route here till we enter the Tiger Reserve area. Once we enter the Tiger Reserve though, we’re surrounded with trees all over.
The last time I rode through here my bike ran out of fuel. My friend had to rush back ~15km to a petrol bunk to bring me fuel. Make sure that you have enough fuel if you’re entering this area, because there are no fuel stations to be found for the next 30-35km.
It’s disappointing to see plastic bottles, cups, snack wrappers, beer bottles and other junk being thrown on the side of the road by the visitors. The environment here needs to be protected at all costs. If none pays heed to the instructions laid out by the forest officials, what could one expect?
It started to rain heavily once we reached the ticket counter area for Safari (we had no intention to go on one though). We parked our bikes and waited for the rain to dwindle.
I noticed an interest phenomenon while we were stranded here. The monkeys here are really smart. They know how to open a bag’s zipper and search for contents within. One had almost opened two of my bag’s zippers while I was concentrating elsewhere. He would have gotten away with it too had there not been a bungee cord tightly wound around my bag.
The rain slowed down soon after and we were on our way once again. Saw a herd of around 50 Deer towards our left. If there are any Tigers left in this reserve, then they surely must be happy.
We exited Bandipur Tiger Reserve and entered Mudumalai National Park after crossing the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. This part of the forest was full of greenery. The roads here were great too. It was spellbinding, though it’s nothing compared to what we would be experiencing later.
I’d seen a Gaur (Indian bison) the last time I’d been through this forest area. The luck was not on our side this time though (Martin? Where are the wild animals? Hehe…).
We did see an elephant though. Not sure whether it was a tamed or wild one. Martin thinks it was a tamed one. I’d say it doesn’t matter; an elephant is still an elephant, tamed or otherwise. We were lucky enough to see it in its natural environment without any shackles (it had a bell around its neck though).
We then diverted our steeds towards Masinagudi, one of the five ranges of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a beautiful and picturesque place that is surrounded by hills all over.
While Martin, Bala and Pramod headed towards the place where we would be having lunch soon, I and Arun stopped by a scenic place for a photo session. With such vast hills in the background, there was no way we’d be missing this opportunity (especially Arun, the ever-willing photographer).
We continued towards the restaurant after our brief photo session. The restaurant looked nice from the outset. It had a large parking area where some motorcyclists had already parked their bikes. Most of them were Royal Enfields (which also included a Diesel variant), some were Harleys.
Bala and Pramod ordered unlimited Gujarati meals, while I settled for a dish which I don’t even remember now. Martin and Arun took the limited meals I think; not sure about that.
This place was seriously understaffed. The meals arrived late, and the quantity served was stomach wrenching (and not in a good way). Bala and Pramod suffered the worst fate, for they had ordered an unlimited fare. They got tired of waiting for the seconds to arrive, and soon the rest of us were bored too. We just gave up after waiting endlessly and ordered a Lassi each to finish our meal; sadly, even that turned out to be bad.
It’s a good place to relax after a long ride, but the food and service wasn’t up to the mark.
We moved towards Moyar Falls after our lousy lunch. The falls are around 10km from Masinagudi. The road leading towards the falls was well laid out and a breeze to drive on.
We stopped at Maravakandy Dam en route to check out the surroundings. It’s a small dam with a mini powerhouse. The view from the dam was quite spectacular. I’m glad that we stopped here.
Finally, we reached Moyar River. We were told by the villagers that visitors are not allowed near Moyar Falls. We stopped near the river’s edge and took some snaps.
I liked the way the road curved towards the falls. So we decided to go there anyway, but there was nothing for us to see. We headed back to Masinagudi and were on our way to Ooty via the famous 36 hairpin bends route.
While heading back to Masinagudi we spotted a Peacock on the roadside, but by the time I could stop, take out my camera and shoot, it was already gone. Peacocks are very sensitive to sound and will scatter in an instant if they sense any danger.
Anyway, the ride to Ooty was enjoyable as expected. There were a lot of government buses (TNSTC) plying through this route. The abysmal power combined with overloaded passengers made these buses really struggle while climbing; they were crawling with such a speed that you could walk faster than them.
This also made it difficult for other vehicles to ascend, especially cars and tempo travellers. We struggled a bit too, but motorcycles can always manage to overtake these slow monsters easily.
Once we almost reached the top, we took a diversion towards Kalhatty Falls. It’s around half a kilometer from the main road (the road here is very narrow). We reach a dead end where there was not much to see. One has to walk downhill yet another half a kilometer to reach the falls.
Me, Bala and Pramod decided not to go and let Martin and Arun take the plunge. After seeing their snaps from the falls, we realized we hadn’t missed much.
We then resumed our ride towards Ooty. The final stretch of the road leading towards Ooty was in a very bad state. My motorcycle’s fuel tank had reached reserve; so I filled up at the first petrol bunk we came across.
The climate in Ooty was pleasant as usual. Since it would be getting dark soon, we didn’t halt here.
From Ooty we moved towards Kotagiri. The roads here were amazing. Bala and Pramod enjoyed the ride here more than me for sure; they were leaning heavily in the curves and just taking pleasure in riding along the twists.
We stopped for tea and snacks once we reached Kotagiri. Had tea, bajji and some snack made of soya chunks. It was already 7 PM by the time we left here.
Martin had booked us a room at C.K. Hotel in Periyanaickenpalayam. The sun had set and we had to wade through high beams in the dark to reach our destination.
Our accommodation was decent enough. We parked our bikes in the basement and dumped all our luggage and gears in the room. Once we’d refreshed, we headed out to have dinner at a small restaurant nearby. The dinner was great; I had Kothu Parotta.
Our first day of the ride through wilderness had come to an end. We still had a lot to look forward to, and the excitement was palpable. We all went to sleep soon after.