Across the hills
We were getting used to this style of early rising, no breakfast, juices throughout the day and a heavy dinner. There were two routes to reach Sutan Bathery; one from Gundulpet and the other from Gudalur. We’d done the one from Gundulpet the previous day. So we thought of taking the one to Gudalur. To motto is to reach Ooty and Gudalur is on the foot hill area. Starting by 4.30, we rode in the dark with no oncoming traffic. Unlike the previous day, this time we knew how the forest was and thought we could manage our way. We enjoyed the forest come to life in darkness as we clicked pictures with the sun breaking in slowly.
At dawn, we were at the border, entering Tamil Nadu again! We were surrounded by bamboo trees, much preferred by elephants. Since we didn’t spot any on the previous day, we were quite confident about the safety. From this point on, the forest areas were getting lesser and we were starting to see tea estates. I was getting the feeling of home. I’ve been to Ooty a lot of times before and the sights where quite normal to me. But the time I was doing this was what excited me. Early in the morning, roaming around the tea estates with the strong smell of tea making it much better. We shot a few pictures around the estates, and proceeded quickly to Gudalur.
There are two routes to reach Ooty from Gudalur. One is a usual style long route via Pykara. The other one is a deviation from the way to Mysore. It passes through a place called Masinagudi, thus calling the route by its name. The uniqueness of this route is the steep climb and the fact that one has to cross Mudumalai, which makes it a big plus. We stopped at Gudalur for a quick tea and to ask our way to Mudumalai. In about ten minutes, we were in the forest area. The scene was quite similar to the Wayanad forest, but the road quality was quite acceptable, though not at par. We chose a calm spot that exposed a hilly area on one side and the forest on the other and parked the bikes. With traffic intruding now and then, we moved from there slowly. We spotted a big group of deer on the way and finally we realized we were close to the sanctuary.
On the right side, we had running water exposing stones on the ground. There were people washing clothes, and elephants were being cleaned. We got our bikes to the area and parked it by the bank. We hopped between stones and made it to the middle of the water. We sat there for about half an hour enjoying the sounds of flowing water and talking our way out. Not long, we had a policeman come in screaming at us for having got down to the area. We could see that there was a guy who had complained about us being there. Who cares? We were happy that we had a complete half an hour time to spend at such a lovely spot. We apologized and left the place.
As we passed, we noticed people waiting for the jungle ride provided, but we weren’t interested in it. We moved on through the jungle, spotting a wild pig/boar. Allen seems to know enough and spotted a few other animals on the way. We had by now diverted from the Mysore road and we had the big hill to climb in front of us. On either side were areas that were once a forest. Slowly we had the inclination that four wheelers found it hard to climb. We crossed it in comfort. As we were heading further, the roads were extremely steep straining the engines. Four wheelers sometimes stopped with hand brakes, and pushed it again with first gear. Allen was the helpful guy who lent his water bottle to the Safari that had its radiator boiling.
The uphill climb was not very scenic considering the fact that we’d seen some of the best places in our life just the previous day. Somewhere before the end of the route, there was a small tourist location with a view point and a falls down hill. When inquired, the security fellow told us, there aren’t any tourists there as they prefer much better places near Ooty. He told us the road until the view point is motorable, but beyond that one had to walk. We thought it would be an ideal resting spot for the engines and went on to the view point. As said, it was deserted. We parked the bikes and talked everything from George Bush to java. We had few people coming in, but they instantly returned by the look of the downhill walk. That was exactly what we needed.
As we proceeded further towards Ooty, we saw more and more people. It was so irritating. We wanted peace. We understood it wasn’t the best time of the year to visit the location. On reaching a junction with three roads, where one led to Ooty, one lead to Pykara and the other one was where we were coming from. We chose to ride towards Pykara instead of going into the town. We bought a few puffs and some juice from the bakery nearby. We stuffed them into the saddlebag and proceeded towards Pykara.
There are a few other shooting spots on the way to Pykara. Our plan was to find out some location nearby that would be deserted. We were literally freaked out by the crowd in every location. We also got caught in a couple of traffic jams. It was that bad. After passing a few places, we found a broken fence on the right and some trails. We decided to check it out but we found nothing but open land. It was like small hills, but the foot of every hill was not motorable leaving us with limited space to travel. Not getting a satisfied spot, we got back on the road, and traveled a little further to find another small area with a broken fence.
This time, there were no trails and thus exciting us. As we rolled in a little further, we had to travel along a slope with one very small trail for walking. We used it for traction but every now and then the wheel kept slipping. We had to wade through a couple of thorny bushes, but beyond a certain point, is was not quite possible. We had a tough time turning the bike in such a slope and found a shady spot under a tree right on the slope. We had to ensure the bikes stood fine, else all that you can call it would be ‘beyond repair’. We unpacked the food we had got and spent more than an hour in the peaceful and unknown location. It was just us, the air and the birds.
We had planned on a sunset ride to Mettupalayam down the hill. There are two routes again to the destination, one being though Coonoor and the other one via Kotagiri. Allen seemed to like the second option better as we had a chance of visiting Kodanadu. This was a familiar location to Allen and he told me the view from the place is just fantastic. With obvious reasons in mind, we rushed from our current location due to lack of time. We had to deviate from the Kotagiri – Mettupal
ayam route for a half an hour to reach Kodanadu. As we proceeded through the route, it was getting gloomier. We saw dark clouds cover the area. The last thing we wanted was rain. With a very few drizzles, we reached the location as planned. The view was something I found very hard to capture with the camera. I have it in my mind, just as I saw it, but I’m out of words to explain it.
A quick five minute photo cum chat session wrapped up the Kodanadu visit. We were heading back to point from where we deviated, when I felt hungry and stopped for tea and vada. That was when it started drizzling. We were in a state of confusion if it was going to get heavier or stop. The bus coming in the opposite direction were pretty dry telling us it wasn’t raining on their way. Allen was quite hesitant, but I made up my mind for a rain ride. We stuffed the electronic gadgets into the saddlebag and started from there. To our surprise, in five minutes, the rain stopped. Traffic was heavy down the hill and it was irritating. Some places where scenic but we were already overloaded with exotic locations in the past 48 hours, leaving them unnoticed. Until half the way, I rode slowly with Allen, but then on, I zipped past and waited for him near the check post at the foot hill.
As he joined me, the sun was setting and the place was beautiful. It was probably the last forest like area we were going to see in this trip. So we parked the bikes and had a nice time chatting. A little before dark, we headed into the heavy traffic Mettupalayam in search of rooms. All we found were lodges inside the town. The road that leads to Coonoor has a couple of resorts. Allen preferred that as they were quiet and away from the usual buzz. After a tank up, we managed to find a nice AC room deal for the night.