Riding in Northern Kerala and Coorg – Days 2 and 3

Read about day 1 of the ride.

The morning in Vythiri was cold and misty and I couldn’t resist taking a walk around the home stay even before splashing water on my eyes. Since riding in the mist is even better I quickly got ready to leave and of course not without a cup of hot tea :) The sun was just up as I made my way out of the town and down the Vythiri ghats. The view was quite nice and part of the valley was still under the shadows of the adjacent hills.

I had been dreaming about riding along the Kerala coast and reaching Mangalore by the end of the day, and ride back home to Mysore the next day. But as it often happens, it was going to turn out differently and I would end up in Virajpet.

After descending the ghat, I decided to get off the highway for a while and ride on the narrower secondary roads. That way I could get to see the local people and their ways. I overshot a bit on the highway and took a turn only after the town of Thamaraserry, towards the western edge of the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary. This part of the ride turned out to be great. For some distance it was a bit hilly and quite green with almost no other vehicles around. I was surprised to see that even the hills were covered with coconut trees around here!

It even passed by a small reservoir.

Then I started encountering small towns between patches of farms. I stopped at a small hotel in one of these towns and had some parota and puttu for breakfast. Small though it was, everything was served in porcelain and overall turned out to be a good breakfast. The roads were quite shady but I was sweating all over, I was in the Malabar coastal plains and the humidity was very high in the peak of the summer. I managed to push on, crossed the bridge over the slow Kuttiyadi river and hit the coastal town of Vadakara.

The first glimpse of the sea is always a damn good feeling. It was mid-day when I reached Mahe a little north of Vadakara. Only after seeing so many vehicle registrations with PY (for Pondicherry), did I realise that it was part of, well, Pondicherry! I had my lunch there after spending some time near the sea and left Mahe to continue north. I stopped to see the forts of Thalserry and Kannur, the one at Kannur being slightly bigger and on a cliff.

St. Angelo Fort, Kannur

St. Angelo Fort, Kannur

Another picture of the fort at Kannur, it opens up to the sea behind.

Between Thalacherry and Kannur there is a beach about 3 km long, the Muzhappilangad beach and it’s speciality, it is a “Drive in Beach“! It was good fun riding on the fine sand and the waves.

The humidity was so high on the coast that I couldn’t even walk properly and my eyes started to burn from the salty water dripping into them! :) It was almost 5 in the evening and I knew I didn’t want to ride on the coast anymore. I thought it was best to change directions and reach Coorg before the sun was down.

With little power on my phone I checked for directions and rode on towards Iritty on the way to Virajpet in Coorg. I reached Iritty pretty quickly and as it was almost half way, I took some time off. But the second half was hilly and needed much more time. It got darker and darker as I rode as fast as I could. Soon it was pitch dark and I was riding in the forests with almost no other vehicles. It was a bit scary as I remembered my mother had told me that just the day before elephants had attacked somewhere in Coorg ;) Although I don’t plan to ride in the dark, that was actually quite nice. After a lot peaking at my odometer, I finally arrived at Virajpet just after half past 7. As most towns in Coorg are, its cool and quiet. I went and sat in a small old style cafeteria and sweets shop to have a snack that would become my dinner as well. I had a plate of hot Kharabath/Uppit and a coffee. I spent some more time hanging around and talking to the shop keeper and one of his friends. They gave me directions to a home stay on the edge of the town that would be my roost for the night.

It was an entire house and I had it all to myself, a living room, a bedroom and even a kitchen. I was too tired and fell asleep in the living room next to a large window. The next morning, I was woken up by the chirping of the birds just outside my window! Again, it was cold and misty but I didn’t venture out as there was a dog they owned and let free for the morning. (OK, I am afraid of dogs of all kinds :|). I had a quick wash and left the place.

Since I planned to reach Mysore later that afternoon, I had a lot of time and I decided to take the longer way and then turned it even longer. Riding in the hills in early morning must be one of the best things one can do! I went through Tadiandamol hills, took a very narrow and bumpy road to Napoklu and through Madikeri to home, Mysore.

I’ll end this post with a picture I clicked that morning, just imagine a continuous sound of birds chirping and cool breeze. :D

Riding the morning away in Coorg!

Riding the morning away in Coorg!

Thank you for reading the post and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please comment to let me know of any feedback or to share your stories or just to share a thought, I would love to talk to you.

Riding in Northern Kerala and Coorg – Day 1

After my last ride to Chitradurga, I was a bit pumped up to ride more. And just in time a friend suggested I ride to Ooty during one of the long weekends. That is when I realized I actually had never ridden out of the state of Karnataka. I had been to Tamil Nadu as a tourist before and decided to visit our other neighbor, the state of Kerala! Since I had only three days I decided I would ride from Mysore, around northern Kerala and enter back through Coorg and back home. With that plan in mind I started from home, Mysore on my brother’s Hero Honda Glamour. I rode hard for the first 30-40 km, until I reached Manandawady road and the road going beside the Kabini reservoir. Here I hit a snag, my rear tyre was flat, thanks to the bad condition of the Bogadhi-Gaddige road and my curiosity to try it. I had to come back to H.D. Kote, the town near the Kabini handpost and replace both the tyre as well as the tube. I rode out from there as soon as possible as I wanted to ride in the Nagarhole National Park before it could hot.

Ride map of the day:

The maps showed a road going right through the park but when I reached there, the guard told me to take a road that goes around it. The sun had almost reached its peak and this other road was in a bad condition and had no shade of the trees. With no other option I rode on it for about 25 km and then it entered the park! On the way I picked up companion who was on his way to the other side of the park. I spoke to him briefly asking questions as we rode through. It is always a pleasure riding through any forest. We spotted the all too common deer and a small heard of young elephants. I dropped him off at the border town of  Bavali and entered Kerala and in no time reached Manandavady. It is a small town and it was about time for lunch. I had the regular meals with boiled rice that is common in Kerala. With no proper plan I decided to ride towards Sultan Bathery.

But that turned out to be not the best of ideas as the whole route is almost flat and out in the open without much shade.  They don’t seem to like the sign boards for directions and I had to check the GPS even in seemingly major junctions. And asking the locals isn’t much useful either, Malyalam seems to be a totally different language. I reached Sultan Bathery late afternoon and went to check out the Edakkal caves. It is a steep climb on foot to reach the caves on a small hill, but not a very long one. The caves were used by pre-historic people and they have left many carvings on the walls of the caves. I  entered the cave with a big crowd of college students. I spent some time watching the details of the carvings.

There are depictions of a king, probably the sun and perhaps their god. On another end there are writings that look close to Tamil and must have been done at a much later date. It was time and I was  the last one to leave the place for the day.

After thinking for a while on where to go next, I decided to head towards Vithiry for the night. I had heard from a friend that Vythiri is a green and beautiful place and I didn’t have much trouble deciding. There were a few waterfalls along the way (Soochipara, Meenmutti) and I was pretty close to the Chembara hill/peak, but couldn’t stop or deviate for anything as I was racing against the sun and those weren’t my priority. I went through Meppadi and stopped for a quick snack as I had skipped lunch. I got to talking with the guy who was looking after the place. He was very kind to call up his friend to check if there was a good place for me to stay. He didn’t find anything close by and suggested that I either go to Kalpetta, the small town with budget lodges or to Vythiri where cheap accommodation is rare. But I stuck to the Vythiri plan.

It was taking a bit longer than I had expected but I got to see the sun set on the road.

I reached Vythiri after dark and found a good home stay for an affordable price. I dropped off my bags and rode around to checkout the town. It is quite small and in no time I found myself impulsively riding on a pitch dark road that was taking me out of the town :) but my sane part soon turned me back. The man who owned the home stay was totally cool and put me in ease. Most of the time he had a cigarette lit in one hand and pulling up his lungi with the other. I sat out in the open while he played some Arabic music and claimed that all the Indian film songs are stolen from or at least inspired by Arabic songs!

He sent me a big cup of tea and a big dinner right after that. The maid there was a Kannada lady and from my home town of Mysore and I chatted a bit while I had my dinner. I was a bit tired from the climbing at Edakkal and soon dozed off.

Read about the next two days of the trip.

A ride to Chitraduraga

It had been a very long time since I took my motorcycle for a ride out of town. It always feels good to go to a new place and I had been wanting to see the fort at Chitradurga for some time. Now the time seemed perfect. Chitradurga is about 230 km from Bangalore. Starting out on a Saturday morning would mean that I would have to cover the whole distance not taking long breaks and wasting any time. Even so, I would only reach by afternoon. Some how I had the picture of entering the fort a bit early so that I could avoid most of the noisy tourists that arrive much later in the day and the harsh sun. I made quick arrangements to stay with a friend at Tumkur, on the way to Chitradurga. I started early the next day planning to reach the fort as early as possible.

The high way offers no good sights except for a chain a smaller hills most of them having wind turbines installed on them. The turbines don’t seem to reveal their real size when on the hills at a good distance, but they are huge. Parts of them were being carried on trucks all along the way to be installed. A wing alone occupied a whole truck’s back! Apart from that there is very little view from the highway.

But I had cut my morning ride to just 160 km by doing the rest the previous night. With just one stop to loosen up a bit, I hit Chitradurga at around 10 am. I took a quick spin on the main road there to check out the city and to find some place for breakfast. It is quite a contrast not to find any restaurants after having stumbled across so many wherever I go in Bangalore.  I turned around and head towards the Chitradurga fort anyway. Close to the fort entrance there is a restaurant run by the tourism department. It was little more than 10 now but there were no visitors to be seen around. I had a couple of dosas followed by a cup of coffee and left to enter the fort.

It sits among a few rock hills and the stone used to build the fort was locally quarried. From the size of bean bags to as big a multistory buildings, there are rocks of all sizes and shapes. According to one legend all these rocks were part of the arsenal used in a mythological war between Bhima and a daemon named hidimba. There are rocks that look like an elephant, a ship, a frog ready to leap, it all depends on where you are standing and what you can imagine.

The second door

The second door

A rock that looks like an elephant

A rock that looks like an elephant

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Ride to the Niligiris (Day 2)

Read the post about day 1 here.

The first day ended with me checking out the road I wanted to ride the next morning both by going some distance on it and on the maps. It was the road that goes between the Avalanchi and the Emerald lakes. The map showed a couple of routes from that road to where I eventually planned to reach, the Devil’s gap, close to the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. But when I actually went there, there was only one road and it wasn’t the ones on the map. Since I had no choice I decided to ride on it as far as possible. The map showed that I had to go through the forests for 10-15 km to reach the Devil’s Gap road.

First I crossed the tea gardens of the Emerald valley estate, with beautiful views of the valley and the hills around. View the below panorama in full-screen mode for best treatment on your eyes.

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Ride to the Niligiris (Day 1)

People who like to travel always keep looking for excuses to get away, may be, to avoid feeling guilty of too much of it. My excuse for this trip was an Airbnb offer that was about to expire. They had sent me a coupon code worth enough to get me a nice place in a good location. Naturally I didn’t want to waste it. After a quick search I found a nice place some 10-15 km away from the town of Ooty and booked it. I had been checking out amazing places on Airbnb for sometime, but this was the first time I actually used their service and it worked like a charm.

It was a Friday and the day I had to participate in the polling process of the general elections of 2014. I finished my duty early in the morning and soon left Mysore on my motorcycle.

It was the peak of summer and I badly needed a ride to the hills. I quickly reached Gundlupet and stopped for a yes break. I noticed that it had rained there last night and was sure it would be nice to ride throught the Bandipur and Madhumalai forests in the morning after a rain, and it was amazing. With almost no other vehicles, I had a pleasant ride through the forests. I took the shorter route that goes through Masinagudi and Kalhatty. Kalhatty has great views of the valley below, called the bison valley. After a series of (enjoyable) hairpin curves I reached Ooty!

I had no specific plans for the day and just wanted to explore the town. I didn’t want to run into the tourists and skipped the botanical garden, but went to the doddabetta since it was quite close. I had read about the oldest banglow in Ooty, called the ‘Stone house’ and went to see it as it was close to the town. But it was empty and locked up. There wasn’t anything special to it, it didn’t even look very old!

I then randomly went around the town stopping a few times to enjoy the view. There are a lot of old houses and commercial buildings in the town. Some of the old houses are still in use and kept me wishing I knew someone who lived in one of them! This is the abandoned building of the Spencer and Co. the first retail store in India.

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Day 6: My first dive! Netrani Island, Murudeshwara

This was the day that I did something for the first time, my first scuba dive! I hadn’t planned for this, I didn’t even know that I could go diving there. I had noticed a sign about the diving team there the previous day as I rode from Kundapura to Murudeshwara and called them up. It was there alright but it was too expensive, I though, for just one dive and carried on. I reached Murudeshwara, popular for it’s temple and the huge statue of Shiva.
Since there isn’t much to see in Murudeshwara I did not take a place to stay. Instead, I went straight to the temple with the pending decision of whether to dive or not in the back of my head.
Huge statue of Shiva

Huge statue of Shiva at Murudeshwara

After going around in the temple, I even called up a couple of my friends to check if they could join me for a dive there anytime soon, just to avoid doing it alone. But that didn’t help me much. There is a restaurant right next to the temple build on pillars going into the sea bead. I could vaguely recollect my memories of being there with my family several years ago. It felt kind of nice knowing that I had come there riding on my own now.
Boats at Murudeshwara

Boats at Murudeshwara

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Day 4: Agumbe, Kundadri, Nishani Gudda and Kundapura

As some people do, I too have a mental morning alarm that mostly works, at least it had worked the morning I am going to describe. The room is pitch dark and I check the time on my phone, its a little over 5. I had planned to visit a place for which I had to get up and leave early. But I was afraid to leave the bed and get out of the room. That’s because I was staying at an old house that I had arrived at last evening and remembered little of. I could bump into something on the way. I was waiting for someone else to wake up. After a few minutes I heard the distant roar of a mixer. So, I slowly made my down on a narrow stairway and reached the kitchen and there was my host grinding up delicious chutney for breakfast. It was her home that I was stayed at, know as Dodda mane (literally, the big house). Know as Kasturi-akka among the travelers who are allowed to take some shelter there, she is one adorable lady. She (and their family) make each and everyone of their guests feel like its their own home.

The previous night she had told me of a small hill nearby that I could go to, to watch the sun rise among the clouds. But it was more than a half hour ride from the place. I wished her a good morning and washed up my eyes. I asked her for the directions to the hill and there were a few more turns and deviations than I had expected. I noted them down on a paper and left in a hurry.

Thinking I might miss the run rise I rode as fast I could and reached the top of the hill eagerly looking to the east all the while. It was not dark anymore, but the sun was not out yet. The peak was windy as expected, but in a pleasant way. The view of clouds and the greenery around was amazing. There was a white band that you might mistake for a river in the below picture.

Band of clouds seen from Kundadri

Band of clouds seen from Kundadri

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