One part brave, three parts fool

Day 3 – Sunday, June 5

If you probably missed reading the title above, I’d suggest you read it again. Today was quite eventful, but the series of events put me through a lot of introspection. I was all excited about where I had been to last evening. This year, I made sure I Facebook was not going to remind others on my birthday. Two reasons; one, I didn’t want people to get distracted from my updates and two, I was curious to find out who actually remembered my birthday. I was happy to respond to quite a lot of people who had tried to reach me and later left messages. Everything put together, last night was long. I slept an hour more, but didn’t wait for the sun to go way up.

Remembering what happened the previous day

With the complete sense of achievement of last evening, I decided to venture into the reservoir area in the south western part of the Nilgiri Hills. I knew which direction to head from the town, but resorted to asking the locals for help. It was drizzling, and combined with the cold weather, I was finding it hard to ride without my gloves. I generally avoid the gloves when I have to remove the camera every now and then. But this time, I found it hard to take out the camera in the rain.

Taking a small road that could take me somewhere

By the mile, I saw more and more signboards to different places, so I stopped by to ask people how these places were. Most of them recommended a place called Avalanche, but I had a rough idea what was there. I decided to venture into a nearby place called Emerald which also spawns from the Avalanche area, but is more accessible without forest check posts. The route started with a lot of civilization initially, but started getting deserted sooner. The tarmac was slowly disappearing, getting replaced with broken paths and muddy patches. I found a small trail going up the hill. I took my chances and chose the route which branched quite a few times. I had no specific plan, and so when I was at a split, I rode the side which looked more spectacular. I didn’t have to worry much about tracing back since the GPS was doing that job for me.

When there is a split, choose the side thats more spectacular

 Beyond a certain point, the broken roads were covered with wet clay that made it extremely hard to manoeuvre the Ninja. Even the gentlest of the throttle was making the rear tire slip out of place and lose balance. I almost dropped the bike when I crossed a slushy water hole, but traded off by placing my right foot in the slush rather than the other way round. It was now getting difficult to keep my right foot on the foot rest with all the clay in the shoe, and the rains doing no good. I looked at the roads, which actually still seemed pretty possible to me except for the layer of thin clay on top of it which made things uneasy. I chose to ride on the rocks wherever possible to avoid this and finally reached a sweet spot from where I could see the reservoir. It was probably the best place to camp, but I wasn’t ready to repeat the rain tent setup exercise that I’d gone through the previous day.

View enroute the slushy roads

I spent some time enjoying the calmness of the place with the sizzling sound of the drizzle outside my helmet. I think should have been there for about 10 or 15 minutes, since I still remember a couple of songs that was playing then.

I was then thinking whether I should head back or proceed further. I checked the watch and the time was 8:45 AM. I still had plenty of time left before I could head somewhere else. I decided to move forward. The road was getting worse, but the Ninja had already taken enough mud and it was time to test it out. I decided to stay within 10 AM and start my return from wherever I would be.

View enroute the slushy roads

The roads were passing through thick trees occasionally exposing the meadows and cultivation on either side. I was hoping I’d get to see the reservoir and get close to it at some point. I had to slow down quite a bit to cope up with the bad roads. After about 30 to 40 minutes of riding, I found a spot that exposed the reservoir area. But to my hard luck, there was no water. The levels had gone down so much that only the sand was visible. There was small farm by the side with very few people working. The place looked exotic, and I certainly made up my mind to come back a few months later to see it with the water. I couldn’t do much in the drizzling rain, but just stand by the trees and watch the lovely place. I selected a couple of slow tracks and added them to the playlist for the 15 odd minutes that was remaining.

Then it happened.

The clouds parted slightly allowing the sun to enter the place. For a moment I thought the rain was going to stop but I didn’t look like it. I turned a little to the right, and was taken aback. A rainbow; the sun had painted a rainbow to complete the picture. I immediately removed all the bungees to get the umbrella out. I didn’t want to let the rainbow disappear. I knew I hardly had a minute or two before the sun would vanish behind clouds. I was much easier to hold the umbrella without the winds. I popped out the camera and clicked about 10 pictures before I could no more see it.

The magic moment

The magic moment

It was time for me to leave, but I wanted to wait a little longer just to see if the sun would come out again. I spent another 10 minutes, but things didn’t happen the same way again. However, I was completely satisfied with that the Sun God has presented me with!

Half way through the return leg, the rain stopped. I parked the bike and fished out the GoPro helmet camera. I installed in on the helmet and shot a couple of videos. I had already passed the tough parts, but still whatever I could capture was worthy enough to share.

The reservoir almost dry, but still a nice sight

Slushy roads with pot holes filled with water and slippery stones

I came back to Emerald at about 12:30 PM. The other places I had in mind were Avalanche and Glenmorgan. I wasn’t interested in heading to Avalanche since I would be seeing the same reservoir again, and Glenmorgan was way too far on the other side of the hill. I asked the locals where road beyond Emerald headed to. They said it passes through Manjoor and reaches the foothills connecting near Mettuppalayam. They also mentioned that it’s pretty scenic as passes through the forest. By then I was convinced about what the next plan was. I targeted to reach Mettupalayam or Coimbatore for the evening.

I checked the fuel range I had left in the bike. I’d done about 165 kms since the last filling. The usual range for the Ninja is 230 kms. I inquired about the nearest fuel station, and the locals said that I had to head back to the main town from where I’d come in the morning. This was 20 odd kms. Doing those additional 40 odd kms meant that I would probably not be able to reach Mettupalayam or Coimbatore while the sun is still out. I did the simple math. I had a range of 65 kms left and the distance to the foot hills was 75 kms. I had a feeling that the reserve fuel should be able to get me those additional 10 kms and therefore proceeded towards Manjoor.

View enroute the Manjoor route

Half an hour through the route, I was already getting lost from the people. It was much better than the Coonor or Kotagiri routes. This route I took seemed to be a longer path, but was extremely scenic. I was glad that it was not raining anymore. Rain was making it very hard for me to ride, and slower speeds meant that I had to put more pressure on my forearms to balance my body. I had crossed about 30 kms through the valleys and suddenly I was in for a surprise. The low fuel indication came up. I was wondering how this was possible. I’d done only 200 kms since the last tank up and the low fuel indication came up much ahead of when it was supposed to come. It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason. The previous day when I’d filled up at the base, I stopped the service attendant at the fuel station to cut out much earlier than when it reached the brim. He was insisting that the tank would hold more, but I refused since I was sure I was going to fill it at the top anyways.

I certainly wasn’t expecting this small decision of mine was going to put me in such a tricky situation. The main town all the way back was 45 kms. The town at the foot hills that I was heading to was also roughly 45 kms. If I headed back, my day was going to be done and I would still be stuck at the same place where I started. If I proceeded, I could probably make it to the foot hills, but the route was going through the forest and there wouldn’t be any help.

Descending a hill via the Manjoor route

Descending a hill via the Manjoor route

Descending a hill via the Manjoor route

Yet again, I chose to ride on. Somewhere at the back of my head, I was thinking if I got stranded somewhere, some vehicle would come by in a couple of hours, and I could definitely borrow some fuel from them. On the other hand, it could very well be a four legged creature approaching instead of a vehicle. However, I couldn’t change my decision as I was already heading in.

The scenice route to Karamadai

In about half an hours’ time, I was out of the valley and in forest land. The region was still hilly and whenever I was at an elevation, all could see was a thick forest. When I had about 25 kms left to cover, I felt the bike was slightly choking. My heart skipped quite a few beats. That was the moment I felt I was completely foolish. I should have turned back. I would have probably been stranded in a small village where I could have gotten some food. Here I was, in the middle of a forest, with no food or water and very less fuel. I didn’t want to stop the bike and let it run without revving hard. At some point I was going down the hill and I found it more sensible to switch off the engine and ride with the gear in neutral. Every bend, I had to slow down quite a bit. Sometimes, the road was flat and was going down a little ahead. I resorted to pushing the bike with the legs rather than using up the very little fuel that was left.

Broken bridges through the forest

When Earth and Sky collided

Remembering the mud

I was getting too tempted to open the tank and see how much was left. But what if it was dry? I would completely be lost in confidence. In an attempt to keep myself going, I assumed there was very less fuel left and kept it going. I was losing a lot of time pushing the bike through flat roads and only using the fuel when the road was going uphill. But, anyway, I was gradually proceeding down towards civilization which reduced the risk of me getting stuck.

Can’t really avoid the colors, can you?

Just about the time when I realized I had been riding with a pillion

About an hour later, I was almost at the foot hills. The road was getting entirely flat. I saw a couple of houses a little far away, but I knew I could always walk up to them. I gathered confidence and eventually started the engine. I rode at very low RPMs to use as little fuel as possible. The town I had to reach was called Karamadai. It was probably the most patient ride on the Ninja ever. It was slower than my run in, actually. Roughly at about 5:30 PM, I entered the small town. Every mile of the ride, I was actually prepared for a break down.

A few kms before the Karamadai foot hills

A few kms before the Karamadai foot hills

At the foot hills, very patient about riding the bike

Cultivation at the foot hills of Karamadai

Even when I finally saw the fuel station, the thought stayed in my mind until I finally parked the bike near the pump. I targeted to reach Coimbatore and asked the attendant to fill a few litres that would take me till Coimbatore. Just before he filled, I finally peeped into the tank and saw nothing but empty space. I shook the tank a little, and heard a very little glug noise, but I still wasn’t sure if it was the little fuel remaining, if there was any. I felt a rush of blood through the body when I saw the actual state of the fuel tank. I asked the guy fill a couple of more litres just to satisfy myself.

My oxygen, after a long wait!

From there on, it was traffic piled ride into the city. Being an auspicious day for marriages, I found it pretty hard to find space to settle down for the night. Finally, I ended up in an expensive room, but I was extremely glad things had not become worse in the middle. Whether it was my thought of switching off the engine through the downhill, or pushing the bike through flat roads, whatever brought me to the base, I was thankful for it.

Ride Stats

Route: Ooty – Avalanchi – Karamadai – Coimbatore
Distance: 130 kms
Ride Time: 10 hrs, 15 mins
Trek Time: 30 mins


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