by anil on May 5, 2008
[Correction 1: (corrected text in bold) … straight Highways and a deviation at any point towards the west will take you to some beach …]
[Correction 2: Thenmala is around 10Km ahead from the KTDC restaurant we had lunch at. This restaurant is exactly opposite to the Palaruvi road in NH208]
We at Silver Bullets have been consistently riding on all one-day holidays for the last one year. The latest in the series was May 1. One-day rides normally covers a round-about distance of around 300Km.
In Kerala you can choose to ride along the coast lines (straight Highways and a deviation at any point towards the east will take you to some beach) or through the eastern sides of Kerala which are full of twisties and hills. Most of the time we choose to ride through the eastern side called Western Ghats. This ride was no exception.
By Wednesday we kind of finalised the route: Trivandrum, Ayur, Anchal, Punalur, Achancoil, Shenkottai and decided to choose the return route along the way depending on the road conditions and mood.
There were not many takers for this trip. SB Trivandrum members were unusually busy with work/family this time. There were just me, Sankar (cutcrank) and Bala. But we had a few guests this time: my buddy Binuraj (who originally suggested the route), then Gokul and Shahu (both from Linuxense). Binuraj rides a Honda Unicorn. Gokul rides a brand new TVS Apache RTR 160 (who is running-in the engine as per the MotoTune theory and the reason for participating in this ride) and Shahu was pillion riding.
We gathered at Paruthipara at around 6:00am. Weather was cool and crisp and luckily the unexpected downpour prevailed since last week has stopped just the day before. So we had a very nice morning and we hit the MC Road by 6:30. This time too I was the sweep and cutcrank was the obvious choice to be the lead.
Ayur, the first deviation, was around 50Km from Trivandrum and then another 10Km to Anchal. We reached Anchal by 7:30am. Binuraj is a native of Anchal and we waited for him to join us. By that time cutcrank took out his Canon EOS400D and started flashing. Here is one pic from that lot (which I clicked):
Our next destination was Punalur which is 12Km away from Anchal towards the East. We had a nice breakfast there and headed towards Achancoil. To those who are planning to venture this route: you need to take the Ranni route and take the road that goes to the right at around 4Km (the junction is called Alimukku). It’s very easy to miss this deviation; some of us did.
I used to accept hitchhike requests, when I’m riding, from locals if my luggage permits; especially from aged people. I kind of chat with them and get some geo/socio information from them. I found it interesting. This time too, I offered ride to an ammavan (uncle by age). But this time I was in a kind of trap.
As mentioned above, I missed the deviation at Alimukku. I was riding along the Ranni highway enjoying the scenery and the weather, one aged man in his 70s asked for a ride. I offered. As usual I started chatting with him and a few minutes later I explained where I’m heading. Then he realised that I’m a lost guy heading in a wrong direction! He said with exclamation that I lost my way. And the situation was more interesting because he was in trouble too: I either should get him back to the place where I picked him up or I should take him to the next point where he can get another ride (or catch a bus). I said to myself; well, I’m out here to ride and why not do a social service. And I decided to ride three more kilometres to the wrong direction and dropped him in a junction before I headed back.
That’s one of the good sides of motorcycling I enjoy. We can never do (or we don’t prefer to do) this if we are driving a car. With a motorcycle you are more free, more local and you can afford to show some random act of kindness.
Punalur Achancoil is the leg in which we leave civilisation and enter forest. Houses and grazing cattle begin to disappear and the green lush will get thicker. What you would notice while in a forest is the “deafening” silence. We stopped at several places to enjoy that and roamed around to get the feel of oxygen-rich unpolluted atmosphere.
Achancoil is a township in the midst of the forest and at the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. People speak Malayalam there. I think they can speak Tamil too. We approached a local corner shop in Achancoil hoping to get some drink. We were totally tired by then. Bala was prudent enough to stock a few bottles of water but the terrain combined with this riding style made them pop out and fell down along the way; leaving all of us thirsty and tired. We found pre-packed sambharam in the corner shop. But that guy discouraged saying that that was not good (it may be of low quality butter milk prepared for local people for a cheap price) and offered Soda-Naranga Vellam (Neembu paani). Surprisingly he has got a Mr. Butlers Sodamaker in his shop and he prepared enough glasses of drinks for us in no time. We were recharged and ready to proceed to Shenkottai.
Achancoil–Shenkottai is more scenic. It has some excellent twisties for those who enjoy it. cutcrank and Binuraj were racing through the twisties pushing their bikes to the limits. And we reached Shenkottai by around 1:30pm. Our next priority was to find an eatery.
Shenkottai seemed deserted. May be because it was May 1. And we found it strange that we could not locate any restaurant. To add to the difficulty, majority of the team voted for a non-veg (read “mutton”) meal. So we checked with the locals for any “non-vegetarian” restaurants around. They said “yes” and pointed us to some direction. But, surprisingly, each time we landed in front of a vegetarian restaurant! Then we found out a small bug in our communication: the “non” in “non-vegetarian” was not understood by the locals and so it was ignored!
Gradually we realised that we were not going to get non-veg food in Shenkottai. The weather was gruelling; the temperature must be above 35 though humidity felt to be lower than that of Trivandrum. We decided to have some soft drink and head back to the Kerala border.
For our return trip we decided to take the Ariankavu, Thenmala, Madathara, Nedumangadu, Trivandrum route. NH208 takes us from Shenkottai till Thenmala. NH was excellent till we cross the Kerala border. After Ariankavu it was totally broken. It was an acid test for the shocks and an endurance test for our body. At Thenmala we stopped at the KTDC restaurant for lunch (finally we found a place!).
But disappointing some of the ardent mutton fans in our team, they had only chicken in stock. But [luckly] our folks lost their ability to distinguish mutton from nicely prepared chicken. So they didn’t make much noise this time. We enjoyed homely meal there, took a 20-minute rest and we were ready for the last leg.
It was around 3:30pm when we started from Thenmala. There were around 80Km lying ahead to reach Trivandrum. We decided that there won’t be any scheduled stops hereafter and we would stop only on as-needed basis.
Kallada dam is located in Thenmala and it was visible from the road we took. We can ride over the dam. There weren’t much tourists there when we reached that spot. So we decided to have a stopover and take some snaps. Here are some: . Bala riding down the dam:
Binuraj said goodbye at Kulathupuzha (5Km down from Thenmala) and deviated to Anchal. From Kulathupuzha to Trivandrum, were almost solo riding. cutcrank and Gokul were riding ahead with considerable lead, followed by Bala and me.
We were safely back home by around 6pm covering around 300Km. Rough roads and lack of physical activities these days made us tired and caused some body aches here and there. But we were totally charged. I found a great way to fight the hang over: plan the next trip! Yeah, we are going to ride through Munnar soon!!!
1. cutcrank’s Picasa album.
2. Binuraj’s Picasa album.