21bikes 24people from Royal Knights Motorcycle Club started on a journey to Valparai on 17th February 2011 at 4:30am. The route Bangalore – Kanakapura – Kollegal – Satyamangalam – Pollachi – Valparai. While the early morning temperature kept everyone cool the afternoon heat was starting to get everyone mad. The route was still scenic as it was in December. Just that the heat was far more. While riding I was wondering all the time was this the route that we pedalled during December. And of course I did keep looking out for the turn which was a detour towards Bandipur. Was almost 4:00pm when we reached Pollachi and that too due to sudden increase in pace and denial of lunch. It was at Pollachi that we had lunch.
Post lunch we started our journey towards the foothills before the climb up, yes 40 hari-pin bends. A small photo stop at 13th hair-pin bend and it was also getting dark fast. On the climb up further on few stand and wave for me to stop to learn that one bike had got its break jammed. After fixing the same we proceeded our climb. Me with my bullet never have climbed hills fast and always go slow to enjoy the nature. Few hair-pin bends later one of the couple is hurt due to a bad fall. We dress up the girl’s wound, switch riders and soon are on the road. A little later post a tea-break we loose our way to the resort Selaiparai Club and go in the complete opposite direction. One in the front, another in the middle riding slowly due to broken footrest of fallen vehicle and me behind accompanied by 2 more. After about 8 – 10kms we realise we are on wrong direction. We turnaround the same path in the darkness. It seems we were lucky not to have met any elephants though only a rabbit crossed the road.
Day 2: The first plan was to go to Sholayar Dam. Later it was changed by then few of them had proceeded further down. While I was taking a U-Turn I realised it was difficult to move my front tyre. There was a puncture. With no other option I park it at the resort and jump on to a free bike as pillon. Lunch was again at 4:00pm on this day. Accompanied by Valparai Tourism Director we went to Kurangumudi and down to the river, dangerous to get into water. He was reeking of smell of alcohol and got stung by a bee when he was explaining honey extraction process. It was little boring to be sitting here since there were far better places in Valparai which can be ventured out and looks more scenic. There was hell lot of photoshoot. Finally we escaped from there into town with my front wheel to fix the puncture. The other bike with broken footrest was also taken for fixing. All done, there was ample time for campfire and party without music!
Day 3: Morning when I take my bike out the front wheel wobbles and I safely deposit it back to resort, climb on to another bike as pillon. The ride is to Athrapally and it is through the forest of Kerala crossing the TamilNadu border. Not before we halted at Sholayar Dam for a photoshoot and stumptuous breakfast. Not only was the breakfast tasty the owners had a tough time cooking so much for us and it never seemed to end. Finally when all of us finished eating they had done their business for entire week!!
The moment we cross the line it gets very clear that we are into Kerala, thats the road condition. Something that TamilNadu has always kept up with good roads apart from Gujarat & Rajasthan. Even Maharashtra cannot talk of such road conditions.
Elephants roam around in forest and at checkpost we were told not to stop anywhere for our own safety. Kerala is very strict when it comes to taking plastic inside the forest, one needs to give a count of even the water bottle being carried. This is definitely a good sign and something which the neighbouring states can also follow strictly. Uncertain terrain and other conditions and situations made us go at a slow speed to the falls. Cutting short the time spent in water and rushing for lunch we were soon rushing back towards Valparai. Its not safe to be on the forest post 6:00pm or after dark. Not before each one had their share of fun in their own way. In return I got a chance to ride one of the other bikes and finally I was happy. Trust me it is not easy sitting behind another bike.
Some of us did see elephants but I was more in mood of riding and did not stop. Neither is it safe to stop as one can never predict how many are there in a pack. Half might be drinking water rest might be lurking somewhere. And moreover with a baby around, just ride.
Post sunset from Sholayar Dam to the resort a distance of about 20kms was really amazing to watch. All bullets were riding in a perfect formation with headlights on. A steady pace maintained, it was really great.
As usual it was time for repairs and luckily mechanic Pradeep came up. Thanks to him and others who arranged for same.
Day 4: Supposedly a long ride was waiting in front of us. Valparai – Pollachi – Coimbatore – Ooty – Bandipur – Mysore – Bangalore. What should have been an early morning start became a 9:00am start. Early morning would also have meant ride through mist and thats something we missed out this time. In my earlier ride I rode through the mist and thats real fun. One cannot see anything except the front lights of approaching vehicle and rear light of vehicle in front. Its really that dense.
As soon as we started into the 5th hair-pin bend I had another tragedy. This time chain got cut. This has never happened before and another breakdown added to my list. Thanks to the rest, we fixed it. It did take sometime since we had to remove the wheel and sprocket before fixing it. Whether we fixed it correctly or not time would only tell. Everything looked ok, did a cautious ride down the ghats and from foothills raced down to Pollachi.
Rest were waiting for us. While we were into our brunch they headed towards Mettupalayam and yes post lunch we did catch up with them at Mettupalayam. We ripped through but not at all stretches due to very bad road conditions. There were expansion works going on which was making it difficult to do a good speed added to which was the traffic. A simple calculation at Mettupalayam suggested we could cross Bandipur by 6:00pm. Climbing up Ooty was lot more fun when the traffic is at its peak and one need to cut through being careful at all times. Vehicles approaching towards you, buses/lorries/vans/jeeps/cars in front; overtaking was fun. Zig-zag, zig-zag we reached Ooty another brief stoppage for coffee/tea.
Hair-pin bends never leave you when in ghats and we had 36 such in front of us before we get down Ooty. We did this in no time maintaining a safe distance and safe pace. of course the pack was cut-off due to individual speeds. Once we entered Bandipur and after few humps at one hump which was little bigger I braked and went over it still, my bullet back wheel started wobbling and making a noise. Stopped again in the forest no other option fiddled around for sometime. It was not easy to ride with wobbling. You want to go in one direction the bike goes in another. Luckily there were no hair-pin bends or steep up-slopes & down slopes, otherwise my bike would have been left for wild animals to test ride!!
The problem was because the axle was rotating with the wheel. This could maybe because we might have missed something while fixing in the morning or due to general wear and tear. But this cannot be predicted. None to blame. On reaching the outskirts of forest we stopped removed the wheel and it axle was jammed inside. Finally with no other option in sight we hired an auto loaded it inside and brought it to Mysore.
Leaving it at Mysore, clung myself (literally) to a friends bike as pillon. Was holding the side so not to fall off. Finally morning 4:00am home.
Was a great trip but not the best for me. My bike which survived even a ride of 2500kms when mechanic gave it only 250kms was not getting fully fit. Not having done long rides has made my bullet fall ill!!
(All photos are on facebook courtesy my friends and fellow rides)