Praful, Madhu, Prajwal, Srini, Veda, Vicky, Praveen
and everyone who took hold of the camera.
On a weekend
After a huge break, I was going to fight for my right to ride. My parents were worried about long trips and wouldn’t let me go. This time, I made up my mind, come what may. As expected, it wasn’t that easy. We ended up in an argument and finally, they gave up with a shrug, thinking that the negative body language would be their last weapon against me. I had well expected all this and convinced myself that it must not bother me during the ride, which on the other hand could prove costly.
I had the guys waiting at the Chennai Trade Center since 3.30 in the morning. I alerted them that I could not make it until the hour hand touched 4. Keeping up my word, I raced past the first gate of the Trade Center unable to find my pals. I could see the only other gate to the Trade Center, but there was only a Police jeep standing there. It was like they had left and I had to catch up, but moments later I realized they were all waiting for me just behind the jeep. The guys were trying to explain to the cops about the safety we follow, but the heated up discussion only proved the police to be adamant on their points.
With nothing to earn by proving our points to them, we didn’t waste too much time and started from there. I chose to lead the pack as sweeping or keeping up with slower riders is not my cup of tea. I had a great company with a couple of ZMAs and Pulsars closely by my tail. Our plan was to hit Vellore for breakfast. About ten minutes before that, we were forced to stop due to the mass suicide of insects on our visors. Somebody lent their only water bottle and I lent my only hand kerchief. By the time we cleaned everything, we’d met up with the others.
Meanwhile, the Bangalore guys had started off and were riding as per plan. If things were to go right, we would be meeting them soon at Vaniyambadi.
Saravana Bhavan was our best bet, when it came to Vellore. We went through the regular iteration of a heavy breakfast and the first round of money was pooled in. Ke ke, as he is known, is Steve’s friend who has joined us on the ride from Chennai. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to convince his Manager for a day off and had to return home from Vellore. But it was nice to have had him with us until then.
At the verge of pushing off from there, we got the message. The Pulsar 220 had shown up its rare face. John, a member of Bangalore xBhp owns a 220 and somewhere on their way, the fuse had blown. The gang has yet another of the kind and they tried installing the spare fuses they had. His bad luck, the electrical system had a problem and refused to accept any. Chetan, yet another member of the pack, had tried his luck from a few fuses from car sheds as well… no luck! The bike was towed a few kays and was parked in a Bajaj service station in Krishnagiri.
We were now ahead. Even after a couple of photo sessions on the way, we managed to reach Vaniyambadi sooner by an hour. We tanked up at a BP fuel station and spent the time there chit chatting. We stopped at a tender coconut shop for a quick chill and later parked our bikes at the beginning of the road that would take us to Yercaud.
About ten minutes later, we saw the bikes rolling in. It was so majestic and such a magnificent sight that I don’t have words to explain. We were then given a detailed report on how John’s bike screwed itself up and we moved on after a quick intro. The Bangalore guys had skipped breakfast due to the unexpected incident and we were now on the lookout for food. I was again leading the pack and we eventually got split up in the last 30 kays. Regrouping at Tirupathur, we searched for a good hotel, but nothing seemed impressive. We were guided by the villagers to Harur, but the best hotel was something like a dhaba that had no place to park all the bikes.
Obviously, we had to rush to Salem for a direct lunch. I’m happy that the guys cooperated well and showed no signs of disappointment. The roads after Tirupathur were the best in the trip. Totally unexplainable twisties demand you to ride them to experience them. Some stretches are as good as the East Coast Road between Chennai and Pondicherry. I could see everybody trying to scrap their foot pegs, being completely lured by the structure of the roads. At some point, we had the road running between two small hills, making it look exactly like Wayanad, except for the climate. We had bamboo shoots on either side with the road twisting itself to ecstasy.
We stopped there for a small bending/leaning session. We arranged the bikes by the wall and posed for one of the best teaser pictures of the ride. We had so many vehicles stop by to watch the majestic rides and its’ masters. It was a nice feeling, I admit! The only bad thing about this was we had missed out on Krish and Praful. They had fled before us and were trying to reach us over phone. We were amidst an area unreachable by the cell phone towers. Poor guys, they kept waiting for us about a kilometer away.
We reached Salem within half an hour from then and did not know of a good place to eat. The biggest constraint was parking space for 25 odd bikes and eating space for 27 members. Hunting for a while, we were guided to Saravana Bhavan again. There was a small parking area for some bank nearby the hotel. We used that for our bikes, thanks to the lady outside. We were given a separate area that exactly had the number of chairs we needed. The second round of money was pooled in as the clock showed 4 PM.
We were on a relaxed ride up the hill. Most of the scenery has the big town of Salem in it. The trees and the hill were of course inviting but, not the best I’d say. This time, it was more of a rider get together than a scenic exploration of the destination. So, I wasn’t disappointed as we leaned through the curves. The uniqueness of the ghats is that the second hairpin is at almost half way though the hill! We took a few breaks to enjoy the top spots and met the crowd finally at around 5.30. The tea stall was a nice place to halt with some pepper tea and bajji.
A quick hunt took us to the hotel we had booked. We had 2 suites and a hall. The suites had 3 double beds and 2 baths each. The hall was completely vacant and could accommodate a maximum of 20 members. Since we’d not intimated the hotel folks about the dinner, they hadn’t prepared any. We had to buy it outside. Yercaud is not a popular destination and getting food for 27 people without prior intimation is no joke. We took a few bags and planned to start the hunt after we’d visited some good place.
Pagoda point, the nearest tourist spot is a view point about 5 minutes from the hotel. After a crisp check in, we moved to Pagoda point. We started a chit chat session again munching corn and bajjis. The view point had two leve
ls, with us occupying the whole of the upper level. It was a great time talking and pulling legs as the sun went down. We had express entertainment from everyone and we were liking the way the members were gelling in.
At about 7, we sent most of the guys to the hotel with Kiran arranging the camp fire for us. I had 3 to 4 guys assisting me to buy the food. We split up hunting for hotels around the place. I walked into one and asked them what they had. They immediate question he asked me was, “How many people?” When I said 25, the polite response was, “We have only 3 to 4, please walk out. Don’t waste our time.” Startled, yet patient, I thought we may have to combine smaller orders like these and called Krishna, who on the other end was hunting as well. He said the first hotel he went to had absolutely nothing. The second hotel had agreed to cater all the 27, but may not have a same dish for all. It was a gamble for us and we thought it would be the best option. We had to wait for more than an hour as he gave us chicken biriyanis, dosas and chapathis. We were quite unsure about the taste, so bought a little extra of the available dishes as well. Overloaded with food, I had Sandhesh sitting behind me doing the balancing act. We had other riders carry about 12 liters of beverages, snacks and some small bitings.
We were well received by the hungry folks. The camp fire was set and the dinner began. Sir Johnny Walker joined us with the party helping a few levitate! We pulled each others legs as we gobbled up everything we had ordered. Very few hit the sack soon after dinner. The whole of others were still there enjoying the camp fire and party talks. We had a intro from each of the riders about what they currently do, either at college or at work. About a hour or so later, we settled down in the rooms we had dumped our bags.