Yelagiri; when cupid strikes

On a weekend

I didn’t need an alarm to wake up as I was so excited about the forthcoming adventure we were set to experience. It was 5 in the morning, quite dark outside, but I still made sure we had a clear day. I got out of my bed, had a quick bath and logged on to the computer to see if my fellow riders had posted some information as I was asleep. I didn’t quite find anything except Steve asking us to alert him. I was ready in sometime and started packing the things I would need. My first target were the gadgets; my camera, the iPod, and my phone. They were all completely charged and I was hoping they could take it on for the next couple of days. With a couple of clothes and a med kit, I was all set to leave.

An hour prior to the meeting time, I called Kiran to find where he was. He was already waiting at Chennai Trade Center, where we had all agreed to meet by 7. Since he was quite early to the place, I asked if he could take me to my friend’s place where my bike was parked. I knew he wasn’t the guy who would give this a second thought, and as said, he took me along. We had a tough time splitting the things and we had to tie them to our backseats with bungee cords. After some mix and match, we were all set to head to the meeting point. I was the last to reach the place at 7.20, after a fuel top up. I saw 5 eager bikers waiting for me with a few already worked up by the delay. As I got down, on a second look, I noticed Krish’s new black ZMA (Hero Honda Karizma R). I congratulated him for his new ride and I was impressed he was doing a run in.

Our next stop was at a point on the NH where Praful had agreed to join us. We moved swiftly though the traffic reached the point one after the other. We couldn’t see the lad, so we got off the bikes for a casual chat. Not after long, the red Pulsar 220 zipped to a stop and the awaited biker was finally there. It was already time for breakfast and our stomachs growling, but we chose not to waste much time, but to ride on to the next stop, Vellore.

Vellore is about 140 kays from Chennai, but what could probably stop us on the way would be the addictive highway and the gloomy weather. As we passed through the outer areas of Chennai, I could see dark clouds ahead and I was already preparing mentally to face rain. I don’t like such situations, but with no choice left, I did it. We were group riding for a very long time, but were very slow as Krish had a new ride and was in run in period. He chose nothing above 60 kmph for his first 100 kays and we were all with him. I was with the pack for a while, but eventually started ripping my way to Vellore. I was getting familiar with the twists as I’ve been through this NH for quite a few times in the last one year. Well ahead of everyone I reached the place and parked my bike at the start of the road that leads to Vellore. It was about half an hour before I could signal everyone to stop at this point, yet we were missing someone. It was Srini. He had overshot us without each other noticing. So we asked him to come to a common point where we regrouped and headed to Saravana Bhavan for breakfast.

Like goblins munching humans, we swallowed food to fill our tummies. I had a heavy breakfast and I was even doubtful if I could have lunch. Getting back on the bikes, we rode through the busy streets of the town and touched the highway. Once again, I chose to leave the slow and graceful pack behind and to ride at my own pace.

Shortly, I recognized a place on the highway and slowed down. For a moment, I felt my head go a little dizzy and my eyes closed in on a broken building on the left. Few months ago, I’d visited this building; it was a small tea shop run by a family who impressed me. A husband, wife and their son, who sold idlis, biscuits and tea to make a living, yet they spoke English. I walked up to the road and stared at the point which still had long tyre marks and some dark spots here and there. I’m guessing its the blood that was left on the road after the accident that took four lives from our family. By then, the other folks had already passed me, but I wasn’t even thinking about them. I wanted to leave my Uncle, Aunt, cousin Sister and her daughter some flowers, but I didn’t find any on the deserted hot highway. I got back on the bike and drove very slowly until I was convinced my mind was back to normal. With the scene of the beautiful highway and the sun right above me, I had so much to think of, that helped divert my mind from the disaster.

Far from where I was riding, I saw a group of bikers and I realized it was my folks. They were still taking it cool, riding slow and enjoying every moment of the group ride. Occasionally some biker would overshoot on purpose. We used to think that he’d given up the slow ride, but instead he would be waiting with a camera to capture our group as we rode in harmony. We made so many stops before reaching Vaniymabadi, where we had to deviate from the NH to go towards Yelagiri. We had a small discussion there to plan our lunch. Some wanted to pack the lunch as it was quite early, but some wanted to eat right away.

This small place called Vaniyambadi is famous for biriyani and we inquired the local people about the best place for it. The name was Kaja and we went searching for it near the bus stand. It was easy to spot; an old store filled with people and not much sophistication. We didn’t have enough place to park the bikes, but the security guard there was quite courteous in making some room for us. It was only then I realized the people were surprised by our attire and probably this was one of the rarest occasions when the shop had customers with such sexy bikes. Those hungry bikers who wanted to have immediate lunch had all changed their minds by then. It was already piping hot and they didn’t want to be sitting inside a room without ventilation to swallow pieces of meat and rice. We all chose to pack it and ride to the hill and our wish was granted!

Back on track, we leaned and rolled though the twisties that led to the foothill. The sight of the long stretch of road with the hill at the end would be the best a biker would expect when he plans on visiting a hilltop. I was the last of among the pack and took it slow as I wasn’t the one who is very confident about cornering the bike. Since I’d already been to this hill very recently, I chose to ride slow and enjoy the scenery rather than a quick ride to check out the ghat roads. Very shortly, I found Krish, Kiran and Steve with their bikes parked near a hairpin bend enjoying the beauty of the plateau below. It was exactly the same point were we got hooked during our recent trip to the hill. We posed in every single way we liked before we got a call from Praful. He had rushed his way uphill along with Srini and Neal. He insisted that we all make it to the top, dump our bags and come back for a photo shoot. Agreeing to what he said, we met Praful a few hairpins from where we were. He stood with the other two busy posing for pictures.

It was a view point alongside the road that exposed the beautiful townships nearby. Before we could start off again, we chose to check up on our other biker Aparajith. He had started late from Chennai and said he would join us at the final destination. Apar is famous for his hacked bike engine which saw a drastic increase in mid-range power. We called him and to our surprise, he was very close to the hill. We wanted to wait for him and reach the top together. Meanwhile, our budding photographers laid their hands on the camera and the posers completed the job!

After Apar had made it, we greeted him with all respect that a biker deserved and reached the final spot pretty quick. Our next task was to find out a cheap hotel room to dump our things. Myself and Steve took off all the jazzy gear that we wore and went around inquiring hotel tariffs. We finally got a place for 800 bucks. The room was huge; three beds and attached bathroom. I’d say it was a steal. The only reason for the low price was the pathetic looking front that may not attract family tourists. But this was the ideal place for us. We relaxed for a while and unpacked the biriyani. Steve and Apar were the only two veggies and they chose to have something later. The others did what they had to do!

We had heard about the Jagalamparai Falls somewhere near Yelagiri, but had never been to it. When we asked the hotel guy, he said its about 15 kays from the foothill. We were more than ready to do the ghats and visit the place. So we started our engines and danced through the ghat roads. After reaching the foothill, we were asked to ride towards Tirupattur from where we must take a diversion. Comfortably overshooting that point, we rode into the town and stopped at an Ice cream stall where Apar and Steve had their lunch, snack or whatever you call it. We joined them as we always gave food a very high priority. Wrapping up quickly we headed back to that point where the road split and we drove though the small town roads. Slowly we started seeing fields on either side instead of houses. And the further we drove, the greener it was. Not much signs were kept for the falls, so we had to ask the people. Sometimes we even lost each other as we stopped for photos. During instances like that, even before I could ask the local people, they’d already be pointing to the direction the bikes had gone. So I found it easy to regroup with my friends who were waiting on the road by a deserted farmland. We had a express 5 minute stunt session and we rode together to the falls.

We wanted to be there before sunset and spend the moment there. We passed through very beautiful fields which were similar to Kerala. Lush green and inviting to the eyes, they were the right combination for the sunset to come. We were at the falls well before sunset, but we found nothing but a rocky region with water seeping though and being collected in small pot hole at the bottom. There was a temple by the side with a lot of devotees who had come in 2 buses. The place wasn’t very impressive, but it would have been better without the crowd or during sometime when there was water. We didn’t waste much time there. So we moved on after a brief photo shoot. We wanted to go back to the lush green village area which could be the best place for the sunset at the moment. Steve and myself were at the end, with the others already zipping their way in the front. We both took it slow and stopped at every point where we wanted pictures. I could see the happines
s in Steve’s eyes when he had a couple of sexy sunset shots with his bike.

When the sun had almost gone down, it was time for us to get back and start with our camping plan. By the time we reached the foothill, it was quite dark. As I switched on the Pulsar 220′s projector lamps, all I saw was astonishment in the fellow biker’s eyes. It was a boon at night and I helped my fellow riders with as much light as I could. It was close to 7.30 when we were back, so we chose to finish dinner and head to a camping spot. We made a request for a local guide and made our way to the restaurant. The waiter was confused with the number of dishes we had ordered and it reached us in jumbled numbers. We had to sort it out amongst ourselves, but finally we had a great meal.

When we got back to the room, the hotel guy said that the guide was unavailable and so, we devised our own plan of finding a place to camp. We knew it would be cold, so ripped the beds of its’ bedsheets. The hotel guys had places a few rugs and we included them too. We packed everything we needed along with the med kit, tool kit and clothes in a saddlebag and a huge haversack. Along with this we had tents fastened to the backseats with bungee cords. We had set an order of the bikes with a Pulsar 220 leading the way and one in the last. The reason was the powerful headlamps.

It was 8.30 when we started. I was amazed that the whole place had become calm, and people were already sleeping. We slowly glided through the dimly lit village roads and finally hit the spot which at least one of us where familiar with. It was the place where you park the bike and trek to the Swamimalai peak. But this can’t be done without a localite. As it was out of question, we found a small slope on the other side which was leading to darker areas. We flashed the light and saw there was road, but it was definitely creepy and we couldn’t see much of what was ahead as it was a curve. We slowly moved into the area and we were hoping we would find a safe enough place to camp for the night. We had already heard enough stories of bears and rock pythons. So it was not a good idea to take a high level of risk. We ended up in a spot on the road where there was a split. On the right, we were clear that the road was proceeding without an end. But the point ahead of us wasn’t so. We went went to explore what was ahead and found a dead end which lead to a hug space with a small building with a very small light. Completely dark, we were closely standing to each other thinking if it would be an ideal choice to camp there.

Steve suggested we switch off all the lights and experience the darkness for a moment. Within moments, only the neutral lights were on, nothing else. But even they were quick bright at the moment, so we switched them off too. That very moment, I was quite unsure if we were a group or I was the only person in that place. I couldn’t see the biker standing a foot away from me. Slowly my eyes adapted to the darkness and I made out the others with the small light from the house. Seconds later, a dog from somewhere nearby started howling and we were on the run!

I was experiencing such creepy moments for the first time in life and I was enjoying every moment of it. We got back to the split point and rode on the other side that lead us to newer places. In the back of my mind, I had thoughts of youngsters trying to test the limits ending up in danger. You never know when you are in such situations. But on the other hand, you don’t experience great things unless you do the undone. By now, I was no more leading the pack, but Praful was. Since I was the last, I took a moment to turn back and I was shocked. I was constantly followed by darkness and the constant thoughts of creepy movies irked me. I was thinking of movies that showed the last member of the gang being grabbed by the monster even without the others knowing about it. But then, I convinced myself this was reality and moved on. We found a flat spot ideal for camping, but the problem was it was close to a house and we were doubtful if the place belongs to them. In such a case, we would have to get their permission, but just the look told us they were all done for the day and fast asleep.

We decided to make it a backup option and head further. We came across another junction on the road. By the neatness of the road, we were quite sure that by proceeding, we would either head back to our hotel, or head downhill. We also had another problem. Krish’s bike was low on fuel, so we couldn’t take a chance roaming too much in darkness, though we liked doing it. It was decided that we would travel the next 5 kays, and if we don’t find a spot good enough, we head back to the flat area by the house. To our luck, we ran in to another location, which was quite flat, close to the road, surrounded by bushes, and eerie. There were truck tyre marks here and there with 2 cows being tied in a corner. When 7 bikes crawl into the darkness of the silent roads, it does alert the houses nearby. About a few hundred feet away, there were two houses, and we could see people movement in both trying to figure out what was happening in the darkness. We were wondering if we must tell them we wanted to camp here, or totally hide the fact. After minutes of confusion, Steve took the initiative to walk to the nearer house and ask them for permission. He came back smiling saying they had no objection.

We started unpacking our tents and helped Kiran get the job done. He was the onl
y guy who knew how to go about this and we were all astonished to see how simple it was to setup a tent. We used the lights from our bikes to light up the area so we could setup the tents. We had 3 tents, one that can accommodate 2, the other one that can hold 3, the the final one which has a capacity for 4. The first 2 didn’t take us much time. The last one however was quite complicated that took us a lot of effort to setup. We were already there for more than an hour and the dew had settled down on our bikes and bags. I’d also noticed that the lady from that house was watching us for a very long time before she actually made her mind to get back into the house. Finally we were all ready to get in and we had a call for the choice each one had in mind. Steve was the only member in the tent that could hold 2. Apar, Neal and Srini had settled in the 3 member tent. Krish and myself were both inside the 4 member tent. Praful peeked in and thought there wouldn’t be enough room and insisted there was a lean person in there. So he swapped with Srini and finally Kiran joined us after settling down everything outside.

The 3 member tent was the only one without a rain cover and the guys inside could see the sky. We were all quite tired by then so we experienced silence very soon. As I closed my eyes and was almost asleep, there was a sudden creepy noise outside that shook the person to my right and also I’m sure everyone must’ve woken up. The noise repeated and this time, I was quite sure it was some animal that wasn’t bothered about us, but yet the sound was very creepy.

In the middle of nowhere I woke up to the sound of some hindi song. It was the alarm someone had set to wake up at 4.30. We had planned to start off then and hit some nice place for sunrise. Feeling quite cozy in the tent, we wanted some more sleep. But the 3 poor guys in the tent nearby were already wide awake. Since the tent had no rain cover, the dew had settled down and had started dripping on them. They had yet kept quiet through the night though they had to sleep in the cold with wet bedsheets. I appreciate their patience and feel sorry for what they had to undergo. In a conversation with them asking for more time to sleep, they comfortably overpowered us with unanswerable questions. Few minutes from then, we got up and invited the 3 of them into our tent. The 7 of us were sitting inside the one and only 4 member tent chatting very early in the morning. There was no sound from Steve though we gave him a couple of calls. We assumed he was fast asleep. Poor guy, he had never slept in the last 24 hours. He did need sleep.

Not even half an hour had passed and we were starting to feel uncomfortable in the tent. We decided to pack up and head to the hotel room, drop off the unnecessary stuff, and get to a nice spot to experience sunrise. Slowly, each of us started wearing our shoes and getting outside the tent. I was the last member. Kiran went out and started packing up the 2 other tents with the help of the others. As they found bedsheets in the other tents, they threw it inside the one I was in. I picked up everyone and organized them back in the saddlebag and haversack. I ensured everything was in place and finally got out of the tent. Just like the time consuming setup process, it also took time to pack the tent. We were slowly watching the sun come out. We knew it was already late for sunrise and it was not quite possible to get back. So we decided to find out a good spot on the way back to see the sunrise. We asked a few local people but they didn’t have an answer for such a spot.

Somewhere on the road, I saw a deviation that looked interesting. I rode into check out what was available, but bad luck, nothing. When I came back, I found the other riders, already taking pictures of the sunrise. About ten minutes from then, we were in the hotel room. Praful went on to check some places where we could go. By then, we had dropped of the excess luggage we had and were ready for a trek. When he came back, he said he found a nice location and took us to a place where a man made path started. It was quite deserted, so we parked our bikes there and stared trekking through the bushes. It was thorny but we enjoyed moving along as a group. The further we went, we started smelling the eucalyptus trees and the dense forest. It was getting beautiful by the moment with the sun still behind the mountains and us within the trees. We halted at a spot with a small tree which Kiran and Srini chose to climb. Some of us were busy climbing a rock nearby. We shot a few pics and continued to trek.

The path was going downhill and I wasn’t very happy about it. I told the others that I couldn’t hear water and so even if we did trek, all we would find would be denser forest. Nobody seemed to be convinced, so we all walked on. Very soon, the path unveiled us an amazing spot with a water hole and a small bench nearby. The water wasn’t the most pleasant but the whole place with just a few birds chirping was a great reward to our trek. Maybe I was wrong in the beginning after all! Excited with what we had found, we were busy taking photos in poses we had only dreamed of. We jumped off the small bench one by one and tried to pose in the air. Praful had a funny fall but nothing big to be hurt. We thought about a good poser picture with one hitting the other and took it off a self timer. We were discussing this would have been a great spot to have camped, but it would have scared everything out of us.

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As the tummies started to grumble again, we took small steps on the return uphill trek. We were only a solid 30 minute trek from where we had parked our bikes. But we saw both thorny bushes and thick forest. Getting back on the bike, we rode to the room and split ourselves into two groups. One to head for food and the other group to get ready. Once complete, we’d planned to swap. I was in the former group along with Praful, Steve and Krish. We chose a different restaurant this time as the last night’s dinner wasn’t the best. After an eager wait, we ate tasty idlis, dosas and vadas. We got ready pretty quick and the time was about 10 in the morning. As we waited on the others, we fell asleep. When waken up by the rest, we convinced them we’d leave by noon as some hadn’t slept in the last 48 hours. The 2 hour sleep was very refreshing and we were all set to head back.

Quickly checking out, we started from the hotel and we chose to ride down the hill with our engines shut. I have heard this is a bad practice, but we don’t do everything right when its a fun trip. We ensured safety speed limits and proceeded downhill smiling at each other as we rode with equal power. After reaching the foothill, our first target was the fuel pump. Most of us were low and we rode to the closest BP fuel station. We were thinking on Ambur biriyani for lunch, but in that case, Apar and Steve would have to head to Vellore for Saravana Bhavan. We gave up the biriyani idea and headed together for Vellore.

At Vellore, Apar wanted to leave as he wanted to watch the F1 starting soon. We made it to the hotel and after a quick wait, placed ourselves around the table. Praful joined us very soon with some glucose he insisted everyone to have. Lunch was over in an hour, and we were on the roads again. We made sure there were no more stops as we were losing time. We cruised at 90 kays and reached the outer part of Chennai at 5.30 in the evening. From there on we had to split to make it to our places. We shot a final picture of the riders, thanked each other for making this ride possible and fled home.

Its said that you never know when you fall in love. I went through an experience I have tried to explain to you in words. But yet there is something that is in my mind, unexplained and unexplainable. Along with the thoughts of the hill, there is a rush of blood that makes me feel peculiar and nice. I’m wanting to go there again, but I may never get the first time experience repeat itself. Cherishing all the memories, cupid strikes again!

This entry was posted in Bajaj Pulsar 220, Tamil Nadu, Yelagiri and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Yelagiri; when cupid strikes

  1. Swagat a.k.a chicane1879 says:

    Brilliant Write-up n one helluva of a trip!!…gr8 going!!

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