Riding through the garden of Tamil Nadu!

I was on my way to Nagapattinam from Thanjavur the previous night and had to stop at Thiruvarur owing to some intermittent heavy showers and the fact that it was dark. (Read post here). Today would be the last day of the ride and I had to get back to Bangalore by night. But I wasn’t sure if I should ride to the coast (just 25 km to Nagapattinam on the coast!), ride north and possibly touching Pondicherry, then turn back home or, just take the shortest (well not really) route to Bangalore.

I had good distance to cover in little time, so I hesitantly decided that riding to the coast wouldn’t be worth it and it deserved an entire ride or two to explore. I started early in the morning, just before sunrise. I looked up the maps and plotted a route to Bangalore. I avoided going through Salem as I didn’t want to ride the shade free highways afternoon. So, I rode north parallel to the coast as long as I could and then turned towards Bangalore at Thiruvannamalai.

So, you must be wondering, “Garden of Tamil Nadu”!? Most of us have a picture of Tamil Nadu as the land where the sun shines unusually bright and the land is scorched by its heat. That may be true in the central part of the state, but the coastal plains south of Pondicherry and Chidambaram are as lush and green as you can imagine. Water is aplenty here, owing to the Kaveri river system and the double monsoon it gets. The Kaveri river splits in two to form the island of Srirangam and then fans out into multiple streams to form a delta system that is known as the Garden of Tamil Nadu. Although each of these streams get their own name, they are all distributaries of the Kaveri. A Cholan King, Karikala Chola, build a dam after the island of Srirangam to control the flow of water through these streams. That is considered as one of the oldest dams/water diversion systems in the world!

This was the route I took for the day. Look how green that corner on the left-bottom is! Zoom in and take a closer look.

It was cloudy and had rained all over the region the previous night.  The road from Thiruvarur to Kumbakonam is never straight for more than half a kilometer and the curves were smooth to ride on. It was the perfect setting and I’d count this as one of the best rides I have done recently.

Paddy and sugarcane fields are a common sight. It was so wet that there were ducks being reared on what looked like paddy fields!

Sort of a northern border to the garden is the Kollidam river, a branch off from the Kaveri, but bigger than the other stream which continues to carry the original name. I am yet to wrap my head around it and I consider all of the branches in this delta as the Kaveri herself. The river is now very near to the end of its journey across the Deccan plateau. It has carried a lot of sand and dumped it on the banks. The river is barely flowing and the sand banks are together with the river a kilometer across!

The view from a long bridge just north of Kumbakonam.

The greenery faded only a little before coming back to its lushness as I neared two more rivers, the Vellar and the Manimuthar.

Further, the roads are good, with only patches of gravel, still the greenery is good enough to make the ride pleasant. It was almost mid-day when I reached Thiruvannamalai and took a break for brunch at a nice looking restaurant that caught my eye. Lots of foreigners were hanging around and I overheard them talking about a certain “Ashram”.

Misery strikes after Thiruvannamalai! Turns out, the road is under construction all the way from there to Krishnagiri. I did not know this before and kept wishing for the agony to end soon. At many places I couldn’t even tell if I was still on the road or drifted away! The sun and the dust made it worse. After a couple hours of endurance came Krishnagiri and a smooth ride back home.

To my surprise I had reached a couple hours earlier than expected as I hadn’t taken many breaks. That made me think if I could have touched the coast and then returned. 🙂


 

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Ride to the huge temples of Srirangam and Thanjavur

This was part of a three day ride in Tamil Nadu during the Independence day weekend this year. This post is about the second day, so please give the previous post a quick read.

Early morning ride down the Kolli hills:

Riding down Kolli Hills. #travel #nature

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I rode down the Kolli hills where I stayed the previous night, and faced the decision of either riding on further or riding home to Mysore. I feared the intense heat that was to surely follow soon. The bit of rationality in the decision was that I was close enough to the other places I wanted to go and didn’t want to let this opportunity go unused. Of course, I decided to ride on.

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Riding the Kolli Hills!

What better way to spend the Independence day (and the following weekend) than riding solo wherever I want to! At least I couldn’t think of anything else and went riding away from Bangalore into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu! I had heard about a hill near Namakkal with a lot of hairpin curves and decided to ride there. I did not plan the next two days in detail, but I wanted to visit the temples of Srirangam and Tanjavur/Tanjore, continue towards the coast and ride along the coast till Pondicherry and return back to Bangalore. Pretty audacious.

I started a bit late than planned, I stayed up late the night before to finish this lettering piece 😀

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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 tea 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!

Apparently this was the very first bungalow in Ooty.

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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.

Spencer and co. Ooty

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