by anil on December 29, 2008
I don’t remember who exactly suggested Valparai as the anniversary ride destination of Silver Bullets for this year. The choice was not bad as it was a hill station (most of us like to ride up to a hill, then ride down and live the next one week with post-ride hangover). And that even makes some write ballads and poems.
Each ride influences the way we look at our lives as we see new faces and places. I particularly love going places on my motorcycle. It moves me over miles and towns and states over highways, county roads and even through woods while in touch with the nature. I feel closer to people and places than while travelling in a car. So each time I get a chance to get on my Bull for a long ride, it makes me happy.
Valparai is a hillstation in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. It is a small township and is part of the Western Ghats. We decided to take NH 47 up to Angamali and then deviate to Athirapalli, Vazhachal, Anakkayam, Malakkappara Tea Estate and reach Valparai covering around 400 km. There were eleven members to ride this time (including Raj as a pillion and a another guest rider). Of which ten were from Trivandrum and our new member Bejy Mathew from Kochi.
I started by 4:20 in the morning. I had to pick Raj from home and I headed to Manacaud. He was ready and already started twitting (he was the “official” twitter and photographer of this ride). We were planned to meet with the rest of the group at Kazhakootam junction. We reached there by 5:50. The sky was so beautiful with fabulous moonlight (as the moon the day before was the largest full moon of the year). The gang arrived and we started off at 5:20.
There is nothing like enjoying day break on the saddle a motorcycle; that too in crispy weather. This time too, it was no exception. We regrouped at 7:00 at Kayamkulam. The next regroup point was before the Cherthala bypass and we reached there by 8:45. I gave a call to Bejy, our host at Ernakulam. We were supposed to meet Bejy after Aroor bridge. The first rider in the group found him by 9:15. Bejy’s home is in a nearby beautiful island called Kumbalam. We reached Bejy’s home and there we were greeted by Bejy’s parents and his lovely four-year old son, Aron. Bejy’s mom prepared very homely breakfast for us (thanks Aunty!). We ate enough and more of idly, appam, cake and other stuff. She was kind enough to prepare and serve hot appams on-the-fly.
Bejy’s planing was meticulous! He prepared four copies of riders’ list along with required details to be handed over at check posts (we usually end up spending lot of time at check posts as each rider fills in data in their registers). His Bullet was loaded with everything we would require in such a ride.
We refuelled at the IOC pump near Edapally and headed towards Angamali by 10:55. NH 47 was not that crowded as it used be. And the weather was sunny which added up our spirits and enthusiasm. We rode at around 70 kmph with occasional burst to 90-100. We reached Angamali at 11:25. Our next leg took us to Athirappilly. We passed Athirappilly by 4:05pm. We had a short stop there for a few snaps. The fall looked awesome from the
highway. Immediately after that we reached Vazhachal . After Vazhachal the road was empty as it entered the forest and traffic was low–I hardly remember seeing any other vehicle on the road. So if you have plans to take this route, be prepared to handle a breakdown and have water and food to eat. There is nobody out there to offer you any of these.
That leg of the ride was not bad though the place was not scenic, the roads were mostly good but there were some bad segments as well. At around 5:00pm we entered a tea plantation area known as Malakkappara. We had tea at a rod-side tea shop. The people there were talking Funny Malayalam with Tamil accent. There were 20km ahead of us to reach Valparai. The roads were very twisty and narrow. At one particular downhill left-hander (a horribly designed one which appeared to go straight to a first-timer), I made a misjudgement and I narrowly escaped from falling down.
We reached Valparai and it was not difficult to spot the Hotel Green Hill Resort where we reserved our rooms. Bangalore gang led by Jayan SR reached around an hour later. I was meeting Jambo, Jawahar and Udhay for the first time. We had a great dinner party together and Jay (our club moderator) was presented with a memento, as a token of gratitude by the club members. Party went on well and entered with a philosophical discussion between Dr. Gopu and Jambo–I can see those who were present in there, while reading this, laughing their heart out
Valparai is a very small township with a strip of road with small shops and restaurants. I was told that the government do not entertain tourists there. There is not much choice for stay. Our hotel was not all that bad as a bikers’ stay and was bang-for-the-buck. The weather was cold but bearable.
We had a nice breakfast and packed our stuff and hit the road by 9:30 in the morning. As soon as I turned into the main road, I got a hitch hiking request from a police man! Folks, the real story begins now!
I love giving ride to local people. I get to give a ride to at least one person every trip. This time it was a police man. He jumped over the Bull and I started catching up with the rest of the gang. Until I passed a few curves, I was not sure how he would react if I leaned my bike a little bit more and enjoyed the roads. To my surprise I got overwhelming response from him. He started saying some cheering up words in Tamil. So I started riding faster That was fun of a lifetime–speeding with a police man! He started shouting to on coming vehicles to give way for us. For the rest on the road, it appeared that we were on an emergency. He wanted me to over take every vehicle in front of me. We were climbing the hill and got way ahead of the rest of the team in a few minutes time. We were negotiating curves at peg-scrapping speeds and he was enjoying all along. We negotiated a right hander and he made the sound “hum” which meant go faster. I took the immediate right turn at speeds above 50+ and before we could realise the bike flipped on its right side with both the riders. There was spilled diesel on the road! While falling I looked behind and saw Akhil too had his bike flipped and fast nearing me sliding on the road. Luckily we stood up and cleared the road. Thanks Akhil, if you didn’t stop (and fell down), probably you would have run over me.
The police man stood up and started praising God for such a safe fall. He appreciated me for my riding skills and he said he enjoyed sitting behind me. He asked me to give him my address and phone number (I was afraid that I would receive a summons for speeding but I haven’t received anything as of this writing ). There came a shuttle bus and he continued his journey in that.
There were some minor problems with the bike and me and Ahil had some small bruises here and there. Jayan’s first aid box came handy and Dr. Gopu convinced everyone that having a doc in the team is worth a million! Thanks Gopu for your valuable help.
This leg of the journey was more scenic than expected (see the links below). Roads were well paved and marked. The valley had a fantastic view from the top. Dams on the way looked fabulous. We spent a lot of time taking photos and roaming around.
Trivandrum and Bangalore team parted just before Pollachi. As the Banaglore team proceeded to Pollachi we took a left turn and hit NH 47 at Vadakkancheri. The traffic in NH was maddening till Chalakkudi and we zipped through after that till Vyttila, Ernakulam. Bejy said good bye there and left for his home. The sun went down as we passed Aroor and rain was kind of on and off after that till Alapuzha.
It was a very normal ride after that till Trivandrum. We had a regrouping at Kazhakootam. By that time the group led by Raghu and Bala reached homes ahead of us. I dropped Raj at home and reached home by 11:45pm. My Bull performed very well in this trip; thanks to Crank for tuning by bike. I guess it returned very good fuel average as well.
Over all trip was fantastic and I am looking forward to the next one.