24th August 2013
South India has always enchanted me, so much so that I have rarely travelled north of Mumbai. The desire to ride to south India has been there since years. Even though I did a small 10 day South India ride a couple of years back the longing to ride in those lush green forests and the curvy roads of Nilgiris always kept running in my mind. But work pressure didn’t allow me to ride much in the last couple of years.
However I travel a lot for work, but the sad part is I don’t do in on bike. I had an official trip for Bangalore planned from 19th to 23rd of August. 23rd was a Friday, so I planned to do a small ride from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. I always wanted to go to Coorg, but thought doing just Coorg and coming back would be too touristic to my liking, hence was looking for other options
Kusumakar Dwivedi (KD), the philanthropist, from the Bangalore Naked Wolves agreed to lend me his bike, knee guards and riding jacket to me for the weekend. I am really thankful to him for his generous offer without which this ride wouldn’t have been possible. I also need to thank Rishab Kannambille from BikingSpirit for his generous offer of lending me the Go Pro Hero3 for the weekend.
Ride Day 1
The plan WAS to start early and cover the boring Bangalore-Mysore highway ASAP so that I get more time to invest on the interesting part. I had set an alarm at 4:00 A.M hoping that I would start at 4:30 A.M. However when I woke up it was already 5:45 A.M and I got ready without wasting any more time. My friend, Anirban, who was also my host for the day gave me useful tips to avoid the confusing roads within Bangalore and told me to take the NICE road from Yeshwantpur till Kengeri. Finally I was ready to roll by 6:15 A.M. I decided to cover some good distance before stopping for breakfast as I was already behind schedule. After Kengeri I took the Mysore road. Thanks to my recent bus ride from Mysore to Bangalore and the helpful members of Naked Wolves Bangalore I was well aware of the unmarked deadly speed breakers on that road.
Well the Mysore road (KA SH17) lived up to its expectations. It a smooth patch of 4 lane road where you can easily maintain 120kmph till you suddenly jump on your brakes to avoid launching yourself into the air using the imminent speed breaker as your launch pad. The other things that would slow you down are the two legged members from Kingdom Animalia who tend to treat the SH17 as their verandah. I was doing good speeds and made up distance pretty quickly thanks to the trusted 200NS. I however felt that KD’s bike is somewhat different from mine, but as it happens, I got used to it in no time. I stopped for breakfast in McD. I also met a few guys from Yamaha Racing Club (YRC) at McD. They were on their way to Sultan Bathery and on asking them they said that doing Bandipur, Wayanadu and Coorg by next day afternoon would be very hectic and they advised me to do either Bandipur and Wayanadu or Wayanadu and Coorg. I thanked them for their advice and started my journey again, but now I was seriously confused about where to go and where not to go. Then I decided to ride on till Mysore and decide once I cross Mysore, but it was sure now that I wasn’t doing only Coorg.
The SH17 didn’t amuse me much so I didn’t stop anywhere to click. I was riding peacefully jumping through some speed breakers, tackling some by standing on the footpegs and getting my crotch crushed in some cases. My mind was at ease till an uncle in a scooter suddenly decided to take a right turn, at that point I was doing around 120 kmph, I had to jump on my brakes and the rear tyre screeched to get the bike to a halt, surprisingly before I could open my mouth to shout at him, he started shouting at me in Kannad (well that’s my guess).
On reaching Mysore I asked for directions to Gundulpet and got out of the city pretty quickly. Once I got out of Mysore I started smiling as the boring 4 lane roads were replaced by 2 lane roads. Now it was high time to decide where I should go, but I was still confused. So I decided to call up Ashutosh, because he knows how I ride and how much distance I can cover, but I came to know that he was ill so I called up MG, the next best man to guide me. He said that I can do Bandipur and Wayanadu, but including Coorg would be a bit difficult. MG then told me that he would call in sometime after having a look at the map. I was in a hurry and hence I couldn’t wait for his call and started for Gundulpet. The road is butter smooth with very thin traffic and occasional speed breakers. I could easily maintain more than 100 kmph speeds on this stretch.
Once I was at Guldulpet, I stopped at the junction on the southern end of it. A right turn would take me to Sultan Bathery while the straight road would take me to Bandipur. I Spoke to MG and updated him of my current location. On realizing that I was already in Gundulpet, he said that I can do all the three locations. So without wasting any time I headed towards Bandipur. Even after Gundulpet the road was pretty good which aided my quick arrival at the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
The ride through Bandipur was mesmerizing as always. The feeling of riding in the Tiger Reserve coupled with the memories of being chased by a wild elephant in my last ride through this same forest made it more special. I wanted to stop at a lot of places to click, but the memories of the wild elephant and the Boards saying “ CAUTION: Elephant Zone Do not Stop, We should not be responsible for attack by Elephants” didn’t encourage me much and hence I decide to continue keeping myself contented with the fact that its getting recorded in the GoPro. However I stopped at some points to click, most of them were the same spots where I had stopped during my last South India Ride. The rest of the ride was uneventful apart from spotting a wild buffalo (I am not sure what it was) and some deer.
At around 11:30 A.M., I crossed over to Tamil Nadu and entered the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. At the checkpost between the two states, a guard noticed my GoPro and told me to shut it down as video shooting was not allowed. I stopped by the side to turn it off, but the guys behind me started honking and consequently the other guard waved his hand indicating me to push off. I stopped a few kms ahead for a photo break, yet again making a futile attempt to capture nature’s grandeur through a piece of glass.
Soon I was out of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and entered Gudalur. It was here where I needed to take a right to go to Sultan Bathery.
I then started for Wayanadu, without wasting much time. The road was more than orgasmic, smooth single laned surface with uncountable curves. Well I that’s the fun of State Highways. This time it was KA SH 98. I was already running late considering the distance that I needed to cover before night. However thanks to the SH98 I could maintain decent speeds, but soon my speed run was stopped by the gorgeously beautiful vistas of the tea gardens. It was my first ride through Wayanad in day time and the view was truly breathtaking. I stopped for to take some pics.
Soon it started to drizzle and I decided to move ahead only to find myself stopping every km to take photos. I knew I would get late if I continue like this but somehow I just couldn’t stop clicking. I kept riding and crossed a few small villages and towns. On exiting one such town, most probably Devarshola, I found what I was looking for, tea gardens the way I wanted. Without wasting a sec I took my bike to a small trail that was running beside the fence of the Devarashola Estate and started clicking pics.
I was not sure if I could just walk in to the estate and waited for someone to cross me so that I could ask them, after a few mins a few ladies came and I asked them but they weren’t able to understand either Hindi or English, then I somehow managed to express my query through sign language and the laughed and nodded saying that “ Yes, you can go in.” I spent a long time clicking the gardens and had to retreat my steps once it started raining again.
HDR of the same view
I just couldn’t get bored with the curves laden with tea gardens on both sides. From time to time I would stop again and again to capture the vistas and then start riding again. This continued till I reached Sultan Bathery.
It was almost 2:30 P.M when I reached there and decided to have lunch there before moving ahead. I ordered for a fish thali and called up MG again to update him. He then suggested me to visit Lakkidi View point; I started calculating if I had that much amount of time to do that. But MG assured me that it can be done easily and it’s worth the time. On hearing this I quickly got done with lunch and headed to Lakkidi View Point. However once I was halfway to the point, it started raining. I still kept riding hoping and praying that the rain clouds would clear up in the next few kms. Once I reached Lakkidi View point my suspicion was proven right. Unfortunately it was raining pretty badly and I could hardly see the mountains which comprise the view point. I took some snaps and video using the GoPro and waited for around 10 mins hoping that it would get clear. But nothing changed and I decided to start for Madikeri as it was almost 3:40 P.M. and I was not aware of the road conditions till Madikeri. One thing worth mentioning is the road from Sultan Bathery to Lakkidi View Point, the NH212. I guess this would be my favorite road after NH 17, and coincidently both the roads lead to Cochin 😀
I didn’t stop for any photo breaks for the next hour primarily as I was getting late and secondly it was raining pretty hard. While riding back I inquired about the road to Madikeri and the locals told me that a few kms after Kalpetta, I would get a Y junction and I need to take the left road. I recollected that MG had also suggested the same. On reaching Kainatty I took the left road which would take me to Coorg, the right hand road would have taken me back to Sultan Bathery.
After riding or more than an hour I needed to take a break and hence decided to stop at a point which would serve as a photo cum water drinking break. All this time I was just enjoying the ride and the roads, the roads are so well maintained that you don’t ever feel tired and the curves always makes you stay alert. Finally I found a good spot and stopped for clicking some pics. It had already started getting dark because of the clouds.
After a quick photo break I started again and took the route via Mananthavadi, the roads were still good and I was actually surprised to see such good roads in maybe not so common routes. Upon reaching Mananthavadi, I took a much needed break for coffee in a local road side coffee shop. The coffee tasted and looked so different that what I had in the past. I said to myself, that it might be because it’s made from fresh beans here. I guess I was just trying to justify my decision of stopping and having the not-so-good coffee. Soon after Mananthavadi I was supposed to take the left road at Kattikkula, I somehow missed it and went into the Begur Reserve Forest. The roads were again awesome and soon I found a trail and took it which soon ended in a village. While returning I clicked some pics.
After a few more kms I came across a check point and I asked the guard for directions to Madikeri. He told me that I have taken the wrong turn and directed me on the correct route. I started back and wanted to reach Gonikoppal as quickly as possible and decided not to take any further photo breaks. As always I soon had to change my plans and stop a couple of times for photo breaks. Well when you see a vista like this you have no option but to click.
It was already around 7:00 P.M and I had still wasn’t near Coorg. And I was already dark. So it was decided that the next stop would be Coorg. I kept riding and soon the unexpected hit me. The road which had been so kind on me till now changed its character completely. Before this point it was hard to find a pothole in the road and now it was difficult to find a piece of road amidst potholes. Well I am not a hater of bad roads but I started hating it now. I was already very late and it was dark and drizzling and to make things worse it was a single laned road meaning that the lights of the oncoming traffic made it even worse.
After a lot of struggle I finally made it to Madikeri at around 8:30 P.M. and negotiated a room for Rs. 700 for the night. I was drenched and was in no mood to go out for dinner and hence ordered food, filled my stomach and spread out my stuff to let them dry and went to sleep.
(To read Day 2 Of the ride please click here)