Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dhanushkodi Awesome Kumarakom Awesome


After the cross country ride I thought no ride will be good enough. But there is still lot of life out there. Rides to do. Places to see.

Arun plans a ride for interiors of TN State, ancient historic temples and then going to rameshwaram. This is to visit dhanushkodi, the city in ruins, after the 1966 cyclone which destroyed it. N near by a place called sangama, which is the tip of this, narrow elongated piece of land and is the starting point of Rama's bridge to srilanka, popularly known as Adams bridge. Y? ok lets not get into that ;). Then on the plan is to get to kumarkom, backwaters in kerala state n some ride through valparia forest to top it. It kinda seemed not possible for me to join with all the work on the bike's engine and electrical system pending. But tried hard to make it to the ride.

Delayed work on bike, and office commitments made sure that I can only start 1.5 days after arun leaves for the ride. He suggests me to rendezvous with him in Rameshwaram and continue together. Sure will miss some parts but with 4 days up for grabs, gotta take what ya get.

Day 1: Bangalore->Salem->Madurai->Rameshwaram

Since my bike was up and ready by Friday night, I can start only by 28th morning. That too with a guilty mind, as I could not change the engine oil and tire. But I was eager to ride out with xenon light now on the bike. Get rolling by 4.30 am armed with the Eicher map and my 61k kms old bike. It’s going to be my longest solo ride and pretty exited about the ride as well. Let there be light. That’s an awesome throw of light from the xenon lamp and cant believe its from my bike which previously ran at candle light. I slowly break the run-in after the bore/piston change and when I get challenged by another bike its break-in now ;). Day breaks as I near krishnagiri and I see some flicker in the headlight. It frequents and lo light is gone. Electrical is system behaving unreliable again. That’s very disappointing right at the start of the ride. Really frustrated to be on one more ride without lights. Kinda think of heading back. A few kms after krishnagiri I am stopped by cops and they ask NOC straight away without even asking for the regular Dl,Rc book etc. They knew very well that I would not have it as its not required by the low if we go to different state for a few days. But they threatened to book a case on me n all and were goin on and on in tamil. Me totally helpless not knowing the language decided to pay up the 200 bux. Well put it this way kinda entry fees to see TN :D. Reach selam at around 7.10 am covering 190kms and stop for break fast at A1 plaza. Then realize I had actually give the cop a 500 rupee note!! damn the same color notes grr.. That’s one lucky cop. Call up arun to update my status. It seems there is no night rides in the schedule for next two days and can as well continue. Now the rest of the ride I have to manage in day light.

Have a lazy break fast and check out the map. It seems rameshwaram is 175 kms from madurai compared 70 km what we thought. I gotta buckle up now ride in good time to reach rameshwaram early as we had plans of covering dhanushkodi the same day. But its not goin to be easy. The route being the lifeline of TN State, is full of traffic and lot of towns. I hardly get a chance to ride full throttle. Sprinkled with 4 laners just to keep me goin. Ppl cross the road all the time. I get inside dindigul though there was a bypass. Take some time to get to highway. It took me like 4 hours to do the 200 kms till madurai. Another half hour to cross the city. Again as if the heat and n all was not enough I miss the bypass and get into the city. It was one hot ride and hardly any free roads. After some 25 kms from madurai, I finally see empty stretches and crouch and ride full throttle. I see strange trees including palm trees. Many places I feel like stopping for a pic but I gotta make good time to rameshwaram. Had told arun not to wait for me beyond 3pm. By 2.30 I was at the Bamban bridge connecting the main land to rameshwaram. It was an awesome sight. The view looked like a painting. The Sea in light blue/green color under the sunshine and the small boats sailing. Could have spent an hour there. But with a few quick clicks I moved to Hotel tamil nadu looking out for arun. It seems I have reached their first and book a room for us and have lazy lunch waiting for arun. He shows up at 4.30 quite tired by the heavy offroading sessions earlier in the day.

Its kinda late, but we still give it a go to Dhanushkodi. There is tarmac for some 15 kms and rest of 4-5 kms was offroading on sand and slush as the road was destroyed in 1966 cyclone. It was fun riding till there and let the offroading begin. To start of there is some 300-400 meter of ride on the sand along the track made by the tempos and jeeps ferrying ppl. Then on its on soft wet sand and slush. Its so humid that even with cold breeze and sun going down we feeling sweaty. The tracks laid by the tempos and jeeps are the only way to know which way to go. By 6 pm we still have lot of distance to cover and recon it’s not doable today. So we take a left turn towards the water and ride the bikes till the slush is too soft. The environment was euphoric. Could see all the colors in the sky with the sun setting. There was this big cloud that looked like nuclear explosion mushroom. Words can’t do justice. We stay there till sun down and lights fade. All the riding in the heat felt worth it. Now its dark and to my fears my lights are gone. Have a tough time turning around arun's bike, which we had taken quite some distance into soft slush. I thought with the days riding battery would have been full and will have lights by evening. But it was not to be. With the help of arun's light and navigational skills we find our way back to settlement where the road to rameshwaram begins. Have tough time getting our bike through the sand. Park our bikes have fluids and sit on the beach facing the sea breeze. We hardly see any tourists around other than the local ppl there. Could see thunder and lightning afar towards dhanushkodi but same time could even see stars above us. Feeling sweaty even facing heavy sea breeze. Only when a bus approached the area, by its lights, we could see gust of vapor blowing from the sea. That explains all the humidity around. At around 8 a cops show up and said no ppl and private vehicles allowed in the area after 6pm and we have to leave. Hmm.. that explains lack of other tourists. Some times ignorance is such a bliss :D. I tailgate arun till we get to rameshwaram. Have a rum session before crashing for the day.

Day 2: Rameshwaram->Dhanushkodi->Rameshwaram->Madurai

Woke up at 5.30 in the hopes of catching sunrise in the open area where we saw sunset the previous day. But we get lazy and leave a bit late. We find a view of the sea on the left side of the road and sun is about to rise and we stop there to witness it. It was an amazing experience looking at the sun come up the wide expanse of calm water. By the time we are done with it, I see my rear tire has taken a flat. So much for adventure riding. Unwillingly I ride my bike back to the hotel. Now we go two up on arun's bike. We pass the point where we stopped the previous day, and continued following the tracks. There were often confusing tracks going in many directions. N we had to pick one and hope it goes the right way. I got down many places to cross sand. Then we ride on soft slush. Some places black with decayed algae. We would be in trouble if the leave the track and it would be very slippery outside. Slowly we get to the ruined city of dhanushkodi. As expected the houses and a church lay in tatters. Not much of the city we could see cos most of it was swept away in 1966 cyclone. Of the church and houses left could the briks exposed and eroded. Kinda haunting. But surprisingly a few ppl have made the ruins their home. An elderly man in orange drape invites us to his house. He also lets us have a mouth full of fresh water from a well. Wow sea water on both sides of the land and there is fresh water under the ground!. We get into his house, with arun expecting to know a lot about the place and the history. The old man was more interested in talking about the local politics. It seems his house is a passport office as well. As ppl going to srilanka have to get a impression of the seal he has. After spending quite some time there, we buy some shells as souvenirs. We start to the place called 'sangama' which is the tip of the Indian land mass towards srilanka and also the beginning of Rama's bridge.

It was peak summer’s hot day but luckily we had lot of wind and intermittent cloud cover helping us take a sigh relief every now and then. Arun doing the hard task of ferrying both of us on his bike on the unstable ground. It was awesome going there with hardly any ppl around. I missed my bike so much. We used to catch the old pieces of road every now and then. We were now making our way through puddles of salt water. Then there was this big hut and a guy who looked like a tourist waved at me. I waved back. Then he and his friend came running to us and stopped us. It turns out they were nave personal and it was a navy check post :D. We were told that bike not allowed any further and we have carry on by foot now. Now it’s trekking all the way some 1.5 kms to sangama. We could see the sea on both the side and we headed to the place where we could see it all three sides. One side it was pounding steep bank and the other side it was shallow calm seas, with the wind blowing in one direction from south to north. The water was light blue/greenish and color changing with sun and cloud color. Tiring as it was, pretty exiting as well. Though we had plans to hit kumarkom the same day, we din wanna hurry and took our own time at the place. Wading through the sand we got to the tip of the Indian land mass. Really felt euphoric. We were like 30 kms from srilanka just one swim across :P. We see ppl visiting the place in jeeps and tempos. But they had to go back with in half hour or so. But since we came on our bike we had the luxury to spend as much time as we wanted. We now walk back on the calmer side of the sea. Here it was very shallow and waves hardly higher than 3 inches. What do you think we did? Dove into the water. The sea water is the clearest I have seen in my life. Have a gala time over there. At around 1.30 unwillingly we decide to head back. Get to arun's bike back in town by 3 pm. I get my puncture fixed. Even check out the rameshwaram temple in a hurry. No time to take bath from the 21 fresh water well in the temple complex. Try to fix the lights talking to the electrician on fone. There seemed to be a loose contact and can see the lights turn on now. Too early to be happy that its all fine. We take a couple of hours nap from the tired hot day.

We start to kumarakom by as late as 7pm. Arun all set and in enthu to ride the night till kumarkom. My light was working but with in a few minutes it flickers and its out. Not again. Second ride me having trouble with lighting. Now I ride behind arun with only my indicators on. Really get upset as it killed the fun of night riding. Some consolation was that, I have put reflective stickers on my bike and am at least visible to oncoming headlights. I was not sure of continuing with the trip now. Cos any change in the schedule will need night riding n I don’t have lights. By the time we get to a town some 25 kms from madurai I feel some wobbles. We stop for dinner. I check the tires, which seem to be ok. Guess it was me who was wobbling. Feeling too sleepy as well and dont want to ride ahead and that too in stealth mode. N I din wanna mess up arun's plan of one month, so suggested arun to carry on and I stopped at madurai for the night. 660 bux for single ac room, which did not have temperature control. Well anything for a nap away from the heat. By now not sure what I wanna do next day.

Day 3: Madurai->Theni->Thekedi->Kottayam->Kumarakom

Get up 6 am and first thing I want to do is to have some decent food. I was feeling very week from previous days trek and no proper food. I din even have enough energy to climb up to my room. Now thinking of options. I know I could ride once I get on my bike. Din really want to do the frustrating madurai-salem stretch. Took out my eicher map to see any other route in the direction arun went. Cos I had two whole days and wats the point hurrying home and wasting 1 day. Thought of doing some route that I could manage in 2 days and get some rest in the mean time as well. Kodai seems to be and option some 100 kms from madurai. Crossing madurai I catch the road to theni. This unlike the highway was with less traffic and was scenic. Pretty happy with my decision I ride on taking couple of pictures. I get to theni by 9 am and see the deviation to kodai, which may be some 35 kms from there. By now having proper food in the morning I was feeling bettor and was enjoying the ride so din wanna stop so soon. Check out the eicher map. Munnar 80 kms from there, thekedi 70 kms. Considering I got the whole day before stopping could check out thekedi as well and get to munnar. Still undecided I carried and in a few kilometers I see the deviation to munnar and simply head to thekedi. Ok I am goin to thekedi, felt energized about going to a new place and the trip is still alive. May be I am talking too much into it here, but it was first time I was riding by the map, making route decisions on the go. Now the planes are done and time for the twisties. Having a gala time cornering. As I go higher down goes the temperature. Good that I din give up and head back to bangy. With this excitement I thought y not give kumarakom a go. Sure I am miss a boat ride and be it touch and go, there is nothing bettor I got to do getting home early. I get to thekedi and decide to hit kumarakom any way, which is 100 kms more. Even if I get to chamarajnagar the next day by sun down it should be ok. Call up arun to inform that me joining them. Arun and pradeep were about leave for a 5 hour boat ride and may be I can catch a small boat ride post noon. Ok I am gonna do the whole trip now. With time in had I thought of checking our the thekedi lake. Could at least see it if not go on a boat ride there. There were lot of hoarding about wild life crossing n all but really doubt any of them showing up so much tourist traffic.

Have a tummy fillup near the lake and start to kumarakom by 11.30. Put some talcum powder to the sunburns I had on my neck and back. Yes its one hot ride. 100 kms to go. Its all twisties and arun said it would take four hours. The roads were twisty smooth and awesome. kerala roads always are. Pass by some tea estates and rubber plantations. As I get down the altitude so gains the heat. It’s back to sweaty sweaty ride. Here I discovered a cooling technique. Once you have collected enough sweat in the jacket just pull the jacket and shirt outward from the neck, and voila you have instant cooling system. Of course this works only when on the move :P. Once the sweat is dry you let the jacket go to collect some more sweat. If in a hurry you could stop in the sun for couple of minutes to intensify the sweat gathering process and ride and feel the cool. :D I am in kottayam by 2pm. After hundreds of enquiries I find the road to kumarkom. Now I start passing small bridges built over the backwaters. Finally I see it. I ride by the backwaters some time just see a board of Shine tourist home. Yup thats where the guys were staying and surely find their bikes in the parking lot. Guys are not back yet. Get in, bargain a room for freshening up and get to a restruant to have lunch while I wait for the guys. They show up after some time, happy about the 5 hour boat ride and tired cos of the heat as well. They suggest having a speed boat ride for the evening.

After trying n number of places, we could manage a ride from the Taj residency. Its already 6 and we could have speed boat ride only for half hour as its the fishermen's turn past 6.30 pm. Start off from a narrow weedy canalet and into an open canal. See houseboats of different sizes and different levels of luxury. Even saw a plasma TV on one!!. Once we get to the open expanse of wembanaad lake the driver gasses it. Its rip and scream time. He twists and turns the boat much to our exitement. We circle around slow moving group of boats and give teasing screams :D. We want to catch the sunset from the lake but the boatman is in a hurry to get back. Arun suggests him leave us at the jetty on the other side of the taj campus. This was really awesome place to catch the sunset. It was soothing to sit on the jetty and watch on the sun go down the horizon other side of the lake. Just then our peace is disturbed by a boat of taj, ferrying back the hotel residents from a ride which included traditional music play by ppl!!. dunno if ppl were genuinely interested in the music or it was another service give by taj that had to be utilized by the money paying customers :D. But every one leaves the place and gets into their room. Arun laughing at these ppl, that they pay so much to stay there and when they can have the pleasure of watching the sunset and darkness approach near their room they prefer to get in and watch TV!!. By 8 we decide to start back. Now we have to cross the taj campus. It was very beautifully done with theme of kerala of yesteryears. It was a pleasure to walk in. Wondering if we are actually trespassing the campus. But wait we did actually use 1 of their service and paid for it tooo! Get out and its time to dinner with some beer. Settle in a restaurant by the backwaters. N we have thunderstorm for few minutes. It blows a hole in the hotels tile roof. Arun and pradeep get drenched while coming to the hotel. Every thing calms down and the small storm cools the temperature and we have dinner in the open by the backwaters.

Day 4: Kumarakom->Ernakulam->Trisur->Coimbatur->Mysore->Bangalore

Looking at the map we thought bangy was like 650 kms even by the NH route suggested by pradeep. Arun and pradeep were to ride according to the plan through valparai forests and then hit the NH. While i got to reach bangy by daylight start early riding the NH. Have breakfast in Vaikum at 8 am. Appam is in the menu. Simple food is wat I wanted with my tummy misbehaving and me still burping out the beer I had last night!. From now on ride on pretty much continuously except pic stops here and there. Crossing ernakulam its boring highways with lots of traffic. Once I cross Trisur, it turns out to the bettor with lot of greenery and light twisties as well. Not boring at all. I get to Coimbature by 12. It can be like 5.5 hours from here to bangy well in time. Wait a min I had done only 220 kms from morning and comby - bangy is 330. So its 550 not 650 kms. Though generally distance does not matter it saved me a good couple of hours of daylight. It was one frustrating experience to cross coimbature city in high of the noon. Takes me half an hour. Then on its pretty much full throttle ride. Get these irritating stares by the ppl going by. Guess they are not used to see a biker crouching and ripping :D. In sathyamangalam by 3.00. Now on I seem to be getting a lot tired and getting aches in ma back, shoulders, knees and of course my butt ;). I take frequent stops to stretch myself. Felt I was loosing concentration as got into uncomfortable situations in couple of curves. Hot summer trip really getting on to me. Most of the ride I had to do in day time cos of lights against planned night ride. Not to forget few stops for clicking sathyamangalam ghats. Hoped to find food in chamarajnagar but e'thing is closed for Labor Day. By now I am coming undone and have to make it to Mysore somehow. Even the minor bumps in the road feeling like shock waves. I am in Mysore by 4.30 and stop at kamats for some grub. Really tired by now and wanna hit the sack then and there. Still burping out the beer. Damn I hate beer. Have food and decided to brave it home in a go. Then on it’s a rip ride to bangy. A merc was the only challenger but soon got bogged down among the lot of traffic of ppl getting back to bangy. Though lot of traffic I make it to bangy in 1.5 hours by 6.30 in daylight. Home by 7 and bed sweet bed it is. Once satisfying nap I must say.

That was an awesome ride. Got sun burnt, tanned and heavily dehydrated but in the end loved every part of the ride. Though I missed almost a third of arun's plan still happy with what I got. 1653 says the trip meter. This ride is kinda special as 1450 kms of it I rode solo that too in unknown areas. A first time thingy for me. Thanks arun for the awesome plan.