The second day of the ride was more exhilarating than the first, though we covered far lesser distance.
After having breakfast at the same place where we’d dinner the previous night, we departed from Periyanaickenpalayam (seriously, who named this place?) at around 10:15 AM.
Route: Periyanaickenpalayam – Coimbatore – Pollachi – Udumalpet – Amaravathi Reservoir – Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary – Marayoor – Kanthaloor – Anamudi Shola National Park – Marayoor – Munnar – Mattupatty Dam – Kundala – Top Station – Pampadum Shola National Park – Vattavada
Distance Covered: ~270km
Google Maps: http://goo.gl/C70zfv
Our first priority was to fill up our motorcycle’s fuel tanks. Martin had already filled his motorbike’s tank at Pricol Petrol Bunk (he used to work in Pricol before joining Bosch). He’d suggested us to fill at the same station, but Arun wanted to fill at Shell (and me too). Google Maps showed us that the nearest Shell was near Coimbatore city, which was not far from we were.
We headed towards Shell only to be disappointed after reaching the fuel station. It was barricaded and I could make out that there was some construction work going on in there. We had to fill our tanks at some BP bunk on our way towards Pollachi.
Martin had the last laugh, though we had the final one by the end of the day 😀 (more on that later).
The roads leading from Coimbatore to Pollachi were well laid out. The traffic was above average here since Coimbatore is a fairly large city. Any roads branching from it are expected to be full, especially at this time of the day. The heavy crosswinds along this stretch ensured that our throttles were relaxed.
We witnessed a series of wind farms on our way towards Udumalpet. There’s something strangely beautiful about these man-made machines in the midst of nowhere, waiting for the wind to hit their blades at the right angle and velocity.
We stopped at a couple of places to capture few snaps of the windmills.
The Sun was at its zenith and the temperature was soaring high.
Fully geared up, our bodies needed something cool to relax. Is there any other thing better than stopping at a roadside coconut vendor in this situation? I don’t think so.
While Martin, Bala and Pramod enjoyed their drink, I and Arun headed inside the restricted area to take a few close-up shots of the windmill.
The windmills don’t look as good from near as they do from afar.
After fueling up our bodies, we resumed our journey on Udumalpet-Munnar Road. Soon after we crossed Udumalpet, we reached a junction where there’s a road diverting towards Amaravathi Reservoir.
There is a checkpost just before this junction. All of us were stopped by the Police officials here for checking. Martin went ahead and showed his papers; he checked out, so the police didn’t bother to check any of ours. They even told Martin that bikers who go on long tours usually carry all their driving and vehicle documents with them; good for us travelers.
We parked our bikes at the base of the dam and asked a vendor hawking nearby to keep an eye on our luggage. We paid him a small amount of money as a token of appreciation.
Our luggage was all tied up with bungee cords to our respective bikes. Arun had even brought a couple of chains along with him (these came in handy to secure the bikes).
The Amaravathi Dam is fairly large. We had to climb quite a number of steps to reach its top. The view from the top was amazing. Plain stretch of water with overarching mountains and a gloomy sky for background: the perfect scenery.
We asked a visitor nearby to take our group picture. Arun instructed him how to use his camera and he picked up on it quite easily I’d say (plus one to the camera’s UI designers).
I think this is the only picture where all of us are present in the same frame without our bikes (or our helmets on).
Apparently, this place is famous for Mugger Crocodiles living in the reservoir and the catchment basin. However, I didn’t know about this fact until afterwards, when I opened up the wiki to read more about it.
After relishing the nature’s beauty here for a while, we headed back towards Udumalpet-Munnar Road.
After a few minutes of riding we entered Anaimalai Tiger Reserve area. There are around 30 tigers residing here according to the previous census, but we didn’t come across any (wild animals are hard to spot along the busy roads).
The roads here are just a single lane, but since not many vehicles traverse through this area, it was a fairly easy ride. Some of the stretches here are beautiful, with trees on both sides of the road forming a canopy over your head as you ride through.
There are a lot of checkposts along this route, but most of them just let you through if you’re on a bike (only in daytime though). I didn’t bother counting how many checkposts we passed through, but according to Martin there were 7 of them.
Elephants and Leopards also roam these forests, but as usual, the luck wasn’t on our side.
Just before entering Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuaury, we had to stop at a check point (Kerala Forest Check Post), park our bikes, stand in a queue in front of the office, and enter our vehicle details and signature in a register.
I stayed back to check on the luggage; once others had finished entering their details, I rushed to the register immediately. The official let me through the queue since he didn’t want to hold me up while my group members had already entered their details.
The roads inside Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary were decent enough; nothing a motorbike cannot handle. Single lane, a few potholes here and there and almost non-existent traffic; it was a blissful ride.
Though not much scenic, there were a lot of waterfalls and river streams along the way.
Once we reached Marayoor, we took a deviation towards Kanthaloor since we wanted to go through Anamudi Shola National Park area and directly reach Kundala, and then move towards Top Station.
This meant we didn’t have to go all the way to Munnar and circle around towards Top Station.
This rugged forest route is supposedly more harsh and adventurous, but it is also far shorter than the one we had to take eventually.
At around 3:30 PM, we stopped at a small village eatery called Gayathri Hotel (between Marayoor and Kanthaloor), where I think we probably had one of the best meals of this entire ride (there was one more on the last day that came pretty close).
The meal served along with fried fish was just amazing. Nothing too fancy, but the local fare had us yearning for more. Considering the fact that it was well past lunch time, we all were starving. We ate to our heart’s content; I even ordered an extra serving of fish. The hospitality of the hotel owners was also heartwarming. They also gave us a few suggestions about the route.
The road after Kanthaloor was virtually nonexistent; just pieces of stone cobbled together to make a pathway.
We were stopped at a checkpoint just a few hundred meters after reaching Kanthaloor. To our shock, we were told that tourists are not allowed beyond this point. Only vehicles bearing Kerala registration number plate were to be allowed.
I, Bala and Arun waited near the checkpost while Martin and Pramod went ahead to talk to a higher official. We pleaded, begged and requested the officials for more than half an hour, but the officials wouldn’t budge.
Their argument was that even if they let us through here, we will be stopped yet again at the next checkpost, and the officer there will call these guys and question why they let us through in the first place.
Our plan to cut the route short and go through the forest area had come to naught. We had to go all the way back to Munnar, and then move towards Kundala to reach Top Station.
What would’ve been a short but arduous ~15km ride to Kundala had now turned into a ~77km commute.
It was already 5:30 PM and the sun would be below the horizon soon. Suffice to say, we were losing light fast.
We hurried back the same way we came here. We reached Marayoor at around 6 PM. We still had to ride ~40km to reach Munnar. It was drizzling now and there was still a lot of ground to cover.
This unexpected ride to Munnar was breathtaking. Lots of curvy hills filled with tea plantations. The overdose of greenery was stunning.
I was so mesmerized with the natural beauty here that I almost crashed into an oncoming Wagon R (Pramod later told us that even he had an almost similar experience).
We reached Munnar at around 7 PM. Daylight had left us long ago; hence, no pictures of the ride from here on. The drizzle had grown into heavy rain by now. We stopped at a small shop in Munnar to have tea; meanwhile, our bikes were getting drenched in the rain.
The road leading towards Top Station was completely dark. There were a lot of blind curves in this route, and it was also drizzling. Martin, our leader, was freezing. He let Bala take the lead. I could see Martin shivering in my rear mirror. Though struggling, he kept up with us just fine.
This unexpected ride is something I cherish today, and I’m pretty much sure my riding partners have the same feeling too. This is what an exciting adventure feels like.
We took around 2 hours to reach Top Station. From there we moved towards Pampadum Shola National Park; we reached the checkpost at ~9 PM. We were allowed past the checkpost, but the officials residing there told us to be cautious about bisons roaming in the area (we didn’t come across any though).
We reached Vattavada at around 9:30 PM and had to traverse through a small village road to reach Anand Resort, our final destination of the day.
The resort was spacious with enough parking area for all the dwellers plus more. It was very cold here since we are at an altitude of somewhere between 1,450m to 2,695m (according to wiki). Pramod was the one who was the most affected by the cold here (him and his hair dryer were on a honeymoon).
Our hopes to see a wild cat were partially fulfilled by the resident cat here. It was very welcoming, especially considering the fact that we were only guests here.
The hospitality granted by Anand Resort was great. We had chapatti and chicken curry for dinner (Pramod had a vegetarian fare instead). The beds were warm and the blankets were thick, but we were still shivering.
Day 2 turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our entire journey, thanks in part to the unexpected change in our plans. Riding at night through the ghat sections, and that too in rains, is something that we’ll all cherish for a long time to come.
We were all too tired. I believe we all slept by midnight. The next day was supposed to be the highlight of our entire ride.