Roads to Paradise – Day 3

“Every place is best at sunrise and be there on time.”

When I got up, my nose was blocked, which generally doesn’t happen until the air is really cold. I could feel the chillness and found the bathroom floor quite a challenge. Quick refreshments and packing was wrapped up in record time. I looked at the plan Allen had sketched the previous night to target the places in Munnar. I was quite convinced it made a lot of sense and memorized it to the best level. I walked down to finish the checkout activities and waited for Allen. The moment he was there, we walked to the parking lot at the back to start the bike. Yet again, cold start issues with my bike. Allen succeeded again and I was all smiles! Waving to the watchman, we rolled through the dark streets, slowly and steadily.

There were no vehicles in the opposite direction making the ride easier, but fog had set in. I was noticing something weird in front me. It was dark and moved from right to left and vice versa. At some point, when Allen was exactly behind me and the road was straight, I recognized it was my shadow on the fog right in front of me. It looked very scary, but I managed to take a picture of it.

We kept riding for about an hour and entered the town of Munnar, where we spotted a tea stall opening up. The road was still deserted and no vehicles on the road. It was clear that people were still fast asleep. We waited until we could get some tea. We were targetting to reach Top Station, a view point 35 kays from Munnar that exposed an exotic view of the hills and the plains. Without much time left, we rode through the deviation to Top Station. As the sun was breaking in , the roads were glowing. The quality of the roads were exceptional and the closest match I could remember was Sunny’s New Zealand road trip.

Half way through the final destination, we had to pass through Mattupetty Dam. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The water had hills on all sides and the farthest hill slowly disappear into the mist that looked like clouds. The sun was about to break in and the limited lighting made the water look so inviting. I still can’t explain how the scene was and finally understood one of my fellow tourer’s words, “Every place is best at sunrise and be there on time.”

Roads were extremely curvy after the dam and straight stretches were very rare. Almost 5 kays before Top Station I was feeling quite dizzy and was counting my remaining distance to the final point. I took it quite slow and manged to be there before the sun was well out. The final one kilometer was through a private estate and found that Top Station was private land that was open to public for access to the view point. To get to the view point, vehicles were stopped beyond a certain point closed by a small barrier. We managed to get the bikes through as there were still no people. A few hundred feet from there was a vast piece of open area, as big as a helipad. Crossing that was a small road with a scary cliff to the left and I made sure I was leaning well to the right. Beyond a certain point, there were steps that went down and we had to park the bikes and walk. The gate at the end of the steps was locked and we climbed back to the bikes and went the open area we’d just crossed.

The area was cold and breeze kept blowing without a pause. There was nobody to reply even if we shouted and the both of us were always for places like that. We preferred such places to the crowded regular visiting spots. This was the farthest tourist spot from Munnar which also meant that it would attract the least number of people. We had no problems for about an hour and a half when we talked about everything from office to bikes. Suddenly, two people walked from behind a bush and asked us to move the the bikes to the place where we
skipped the barricade. We managed to extend the stay by another half and hour beyond which the guys were pissed off.

With no choice left, we moved the bikes close to a small shop for some lemon tea. It was a cozy drink for the early morning and the lady there told us nobody wakes up before 6 as its quite cold. We decided to head back to Munnar though the place served some bread omlettes. We were always concerned about good food during these trips.

On the way back, I had to fight the curves again and therefore took a break to complete the whole stretch. As we passed the same Mattupetty Dam, we were stunned to be caught in a traffic jam. We were just there a few hours ago, when there wasn’t a single soul and we ruled the place. But now, there is no way one can take a picture of themselves without having a tourist in their background. Crossing the place, I told Allen that the town would only be worse and it would be a better idea to finish breakfast somewhere before entering the town. It was already 11.30 by then and breakfast was closed in most places, forcing us to enter the town.

Luckily, we spotted a North Indian restaurant that had limited food, such as rotis and parathas. We tasted the regular and aloo parathas that were served with Punjabi and Rajasthani sabjis. The food tasted brilliant and I preferred the Punjabi to the Rajasthani, though I could appreciate its taste. The food definitely convinced us that it was safe to consume and we wrapped up with a soda to help digestion.

People outside gaped at us as we got into our weird looking costumes and made our way through the crowded streets. We’d crossed most of the other tourists spots at Munnar, but we were sure they had high levels of people infestation and we were never going to enjoy them as much as we did so far. We needed to tank up and fuel wasn’t a big deal. Next stop was for air pressure. The fuel pumps did not have any and had to head for a tyre repair store. There were no digital calibration for the air filling and had to depend on the hand gauge. It took us about ten minutes to get everything right and start riding again. Our idea was to descend Munnar on the other side that takes us through Chinnar and eventually to Udumalpet, which is a place completely out of the hill.

The road didn’t look so good and neither were the tyres. The ride was bumpy and understood that the guy had filled in more air than asked for. His calibration was wrong and ultimately I had to ride with caution as high pressure tyres are more prone to punctures. I stopped and asked Allen about how he felt. He had the same opinion confirming that the guy at the shop and done a mess. But by now, we were a considerable distance from Munnar and heading back for recalibration would only delay us. We made sure we were not going to ride with caution and proceeded.

The sight of tea plantation and mist was so common, but I stopped everywhere for pictures as I knew I wouldn’t be seeing them for a long time to come after the next one hour. We got stuck in a ten minute traffic jam near a small tourist spot and started breathing on crossing it. Without many cars to overtake, we took the ride slow and steady through the very normal roads. The bumpy ride was making us quite uncomfortable. We didn’t want to screw up the last meal and eventually the whole day.
We stopped at a small village to refresh with some tea and a long talk. We were almost at the foothills by then after which, we entered the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The roads were protected with electric fences on either sides for about ten kays, beyond which the forest was exposed. We didn’t spot any significant wild animals except for monkeys. The high air pressure had made us lose a lot of our tempo and we stopped very little making the forest ride a catch up session. Slowly realizing that the forest land on either side was reducing by the mile, we finally hit the check post that let us into civilian land.

Demotivated, we needed to pep ourselves up. We decided to exchange rides to the destination. Quite excited, the both of us kept riding for a while when the signboard read ‘Udumalpet’. The time was just 4 in the evening and we were all excited by each other’s rides. We wanted more of it and decided to move on to Dindigul, which was about a 100 kays from there. A guy at the petrol pump promised that the roads were good and we could reach it on time.

Not giving it a second thought, we danced through the twisty country roads with green fields on either side. Palani was the first major town we crossed and we spotted the great Palani temple as well. The buses plying were not as bad as the ones we faced in the last trip. They gave us enough room to drive and we reached Dindigul well before sunset. Inquiring for a couple of rooms, we finally found one that had decent parking. Luck, yet again; the room was dead cheap.

We spent the evening watching TV after refreshing. The hotel guy hesitated to provide us dinner at the room and we chose to tank up, check air pressure and finish dinner outside. We decided to start by 5 AM the next day as Allen didn’t want to drive in the dark due to a poor visor.

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