Vagabond in transit

Day 5 – Tuesday, June 7

I was feeling cold and uncomfortable. I was too lazy to get out of the bed and switch off the A/C. I tucked myself under the comforter, but my sleep was almost gone. Moments later, I realized I was in Munnar and the chillness wasn’t the air conditioner. My senses rushed back reminding me of the ride. One side, I was thinking there is no plan for the day, so might as well sleep a little bit more. The other side was pushing me to get out of the rainy area as quick as I could. I peeped through the window to check if was raining. The place was wet, but it wasn’t raining at that very moment. I freshened up, and loaded the saddle by 5 AM.

My wrist pain was starting to worry me a little. In the case of it getting complicated, I wanted to stay closer to Chennai so that I would be easier to head back home. I decided to head down hill towards Dindigul, but I had no idea where to go after that. The ride through the darkness reminded me of my ride in the Himalayas. Pretty much during the same time of the day, I was riding there in the ghat sections that had no safety rails. I was taking it very slow not sure what lay beyond the darkness. It could be just a patch of sand, a river or maybe a deep valley. I had a similar feel now. But this time around, I was occasionally able to see the tea estates. I still had to keep it pretty slow since the visibility was bad.


Driving in the dark down the hill of Munnar

The roads passed through the estates, then a bit of thick trees and beautiful valleys. At some point, I felt the need to attend to nature’s call and pulled over by the side of the road. All that I’d been hearing thus far was the rev happy Ninja’s engine roars. The moment I shut down the engine and removed my helmet, things were so different. I felt the cold air on my face. There was a mild sound of the crickets. There were other birds singing aloud making it so charming to listen to them. I pulled out my camera to record the sounds made by these creatures. The moment I spoke a few while the camera was recording, the entire place reacted to it. The singing birds stopped paused and the crickets started to make a louder noise. It was getting creepier than before. I spent some time sitting by the side of the road listening to those sounds for a while.


Where the birds caught my attention


Munnar towards Theni

Minutes later, I got back on the bike and continued on the journey. I wanted to descend the hill as quickly as possible to avoid the commercial vehicles that would ply during day time. I crossed quite a few check posts and was back in Tamil Nadu. Somewhere throught the journey, I stopped by when my bike had completed 20,000 kms on the odo since I’d purchased it. I stopped at a tea stall at the foot hills for some chai. While the chai wala was busy preparing, I was removing my jackets to feel a little better. Suddenly, I noticed a patch of green liquid on my knee protectors. I was shocked, thinking that the radiator coolant had started leaking. I checked every spot I could see through the spaces in the fairing. To me, nothing was visible that proved a leakage. I loaded the stuff off the bike and requested a person around to hold the bike straight. I bent down to check the coolant levels and it was just fine. I was feeling much better. After the entire circus act, I sat down by the tea stall to enjoy my cup of chai. That’s when I explained the whole thing to the chai wala about what I was trying to find out. He laughed and he said, it was probably one of the insects that hit the knee protectors on the way. Their blood is generally in green.


When my bike completed 20,000 kms on the odo


The spot where my bike completed 20,000 kms on the odo


The green liquid on my knee protectors

Heading out of there, the roads were slowly starting to become busy. Fathers taking children to school, farmers carrying their produces, shopkeepers opening stores and so much were happening while I looked around. I passed through quite a few towns before I was at the edge of Dindigul. The road I was travelling connected to the massive highway where there was a sign that read, straight to Didigul city and left to Salem.

Now, the big question was lingering in my mind. Where was I heading to? I had no clue. I parked the bike near the highway junction and pulled out my laptop to see if I could get any signal. Dindigul being a big place, I was lucky to have Reliance reception. I positioned the bike right under the highway flyover and started my blogging right there. It was a little noisy with trucks passing once in a while, but I was enjoying the fact that I had spotted a 3G spot. I felt the pain my wrists again and removed to the gloves to see how I was doing. I wasn’t very happy to see my nerves bulged out and the lower part of my palm swollen. I was hoping it wouldn’t worsen by the time I’d get back home.


My swollen wrist


At the Dindigul bye pass where I check for signal reception


Settled down under the fly over for some live blogging!


My beverage counter

Finishing up with the publishing and campaigning for the day, I loaded the saddle again and headed in search of food. I bought a dosa and carried forward in search of a shady location to enjoy the meal. The biggest disadvantage of these well built highways is that all the big trees by the side of the road are chopped off and literally one has go to a shop to get shelter from the sun. My search turned out in vain, and I decided to pull over behind a lorry to finish of my food. To my luck, only after I parked the bike near a lorry did I realize that the sun was right above and there was no shadow being cast in any of the sides.

I decided to have it right under the sun. While I was unpacking the food, I heard someone call me. It was the lorry driver. He was asking me to come inside the lorry and have the food instead of standing in the sun. I was slightly hesitant leaving all my stuff outside, but later decided to head inside since I could see the bike from there anyways.


The lorry where I took shelter to eat the food I’d packed.


The lorry driver who gave me space to eat my food.

I’d never climbed up a lorry before, and I must say they are nowhere near being comfortable. I’d have felt safe with rappelling ropes, but still managed to make it to the top without help. The driver put a plank near the seat where I could place the food. He was very courteous and asked if wanted anything like water that he would go and buy for me. As I ate, I picked up a conversation to know the nearby places from him. He was suggesting there are a couple of hilly areas around there; one, being Kolli Hills and the other one being Yercaud. I wasn’t very happy with Kolli since the place had nothing much out there. I was happy about Yercaud, but I’d been through the hills for a few days now. I asked him for something different and he suggested Hogenakkal, which is a waterfall place. It looked like a choice, but there would be too many people out there. I was done with my meal and I already had a few good choices to pick from. I thanked him for the space, and got out of the lorry.

Before I could start my ride again, I had to decide where I was going. I was getting equally tempted towards two places; Yercaud and Hogenakkal. I spent five whole minutes weighing both and ended up making no decision. There was an easy way to this. I took out my wallet and grabbed a rupee coin. Heads, I head to Yercaud, tails to Hogenakkal. I placed the coin on my finger and flipped it. It fell near the lorry tire. Anxious every moment and I walked up closed to find tails. So, there, I’d made my decision. Hogenakkal it was.


Flipping a coin to decide where to head to, next.

On the way to Salem, I stopped by a fuel station to tank up. The service attendant was very curious to know what I, the alien like suited person was doing. While the tank was getting filled, I explained to him about the entire ride. He was insisting that I must go to Kolli hills which were probably visible from the fuel station itself. Typical locals, they brand the places near to them pretty well. I gave it a thought, but I’d made up my mind on Hogenakkal.


Some shelter to beat the heat. Live blogging while time permits.

Crossing Salem, I tried finding different routes to the place. Being closer to the Mettur reservoir, I could find different routes taking me there on the maps. I tried talking to the people to understand it much better. Most people suggested a road route passing through Mecheri, Pennagaram and finally ends in Hogenakkal. Some suggested that there is a ferry ride across in a place closer to Mettur. I was thrilled by that suggestion and went around asking about the ferry place. Further closer to Mecheri, I was stuck at a rail crossing for about 10 minutes. I got off the bike and spoke to the guard to find out if the train was going to come by anytime soon. He said there is a delay and it might take another 10 minutes. It was the best time to fill my tummy.


Waiting for the train to come.


Waiting by the rail crossing.

I rolled the bike into a dhabha that was right there. The parota master (as we call them here in South India) was excited to see a sportbike at shop. He couldn’t believe the fact I spoke Tamil. People nearby came to see what the buzz was all about. It was just me who knew there was no buzz. I had to keep a close watch on my stuff since these situations are typical places to lose gloves, wallet or anything that looks interesting to the common man.


My special parota master


Curious shopkeepers


Now, we’re friends. They say “Bye bye!”

I went around the place while my food was getting ready. When I was back, the parota master handed to me, what he called as a special omelette. It looked pretty inviting. I was sure this would satisfy my hunger. Half done with it, I was struggling to finish the rest. I wondered how many eggs he used to make it.

Meanwhile, I head the train pass and the traffic was clearing near the gate. I wanted to rush before there was going to be another stop. I pulled out my wallet to pay for the food and the people in the dhabha refused to get money for it. I was getting a little embarrassed. I tried convincing them but they wouldn’t budge. They said, such a person in ‘super’ bike generally spoke only English or Hindi. This time, they were happy to see me speak in the local language and to add to it, I came by to eat in their shop. This wasn’t the first time such a thing was happening. I’d experienced this a few times because of the Ninja. “I’m loving this bike.”

Just across Mecheri, I enquired the locals about the place for the ferry cross. They told me that it’s a 30 kms diversion towards Mettur, whereas the road from there to Hogenakkal didn’t need that diversion. I decided to take the road since I didn’t want to waste that time. Having no idea what to do at Hogenakkal, I wanted to reach the place quickly to figure out options for the evening.

I was expecting the roads through the villages to be pretty bad with potholes. To my surprise, all the roads had been well laid and I could do 80 – 90 kmph comfortably. Enroute the villages, I passed by a bridge across a pond with a lot of water. I stopped by to take a picture and there was only one thing running my mind. With the sun soaring high above, and sweat all over my body, I felt like jumping right in. I waited and watched to see how many people came by. I was concerned about my stuff being on the road and me being in the water. There weren’t too many people in the area except for a couple of kids playing around in the place. I could certainly trust them; they would have no idea what to do with anything they might take from the bike.

I’d finally made up my mind. I tucked all the loose stuff under the rain covers. It took quite a lot of time to position the camera. I used stones to make sure the entire trajectory was getting covered in the camera’s position. After positioning the camera, I went to bike to get the GoPro. I planned to have it in my hand to record a different perspective.

All set, I setup the camera, stepped across the guarding and counted down, like the camera would do. Five… four… three… two… one… I held the GoPro tight, and jumped! I felt the rush of the air. Like never before, the world was going up so fast. I was flying, or was I? Moments later, I heard the splash. Everything was brown. I could see the light from above. The water wasn’t so cold and just the perfect temperature. I must’ve gone down considerably well. I started kicking my feet and made it to the top in a few seconds. What a feeling. In the middle of the pond, the water all around, I was alive and kicking. I realized the clothes were heavy making it harder to stay at the top.

Just then, I remembered Go Pro. I put one hand out of the water and smiled at the camera pose for the recording. I was taken aback to find that the camera had turned off and there was water inside of the camera cover, which was supposed to prevent the camera from making contact with the water. I tried keeping it to above the water as I swam slowly to the shore. I kept constantly looking at the camera to ensure nobody was around fiddling with it. I was grinning with a big smile. I examined the GoPro while I climbed up the slope to the bike. I realized that the camera holder had actually broken some time back, which I’d never realized. End of the GoPro?


[ No caption ]


End of the GoPro?

I was thrilled with the jumping experience that I wanted to do it again. I looked around; there was still no one around. I decided to go for it again. I ran to the camera, hit the timer again, crossed over the guarding and there I was, flying again! Wow, I felt like staying in the water, but I was constantly bothered about the stuff being unattended on the bike. I swam back to the shore and prepared for a ride that was about to dry my clothes.


All dry in ten minutes


Enroute Hogenakkal

I reached Hogenakkal at about 3:30 PM. I’d skipped lunch and my tummy was grumbling. I went to a tea stall and had some tea and biscuits. I picked up a conversation with the chai wala and the people around. I was enquiring if there was any place where people wouldn’t bother me and I could hang around near the waters. Most of them pointed in the same direction, away from the falls, but very few were encouraging me to do it. I caught hold of one person who seemed to be pretty confident about it. He was local person. I asked him if he could help me to get to some unchartered location where there would be no one. He was hesitant at first, but later agreed after some coaxing.

He drove through small passages of the town and later into a relatively small road from where I could see the water body. Finally, he went into a location where there were thatched ferry  ferrying people across the river. I convinced the boatman to get the Ninja across the river. He was pretty fine doing it. I was extremely concerned about the fairing resting on the edge of the vessel while placing it. He reassured me that it would be fine and did the job pretty well. I had to trust the local person at that point with the camera and things. We just went off the shore for a couple of pictures with the bike and then came back, put everything on the bike and transported it across the river.


Getting the Ninja on the vessel.


The ultimate experience that I never thought would be possible.


My ROCKSTAR boatman.

I wasn’t expecting such things would happen even in my dreams. On the other side, the local person took me to a deserted spot. I told him that I wanted to camp in the location, but he asked me to forget such thoughts. It took some time convincing him after which he suggested that I should leave the place by 7 PM, since there were crocodiles in the area. He helped setup a camp fire while I setup the tent. He said that the camp fire would help in scaring away the animals that might approach. He also showed me the route to take to get across the river.


Camping neighborhoor


Looking around the camp site.

He once again warned me that I must leave by the time specified and left from there. I paid him some money for all the help, but he refused to take any picture with me and requested that I shouldn’t let others know that he’d helped me.


The moment that made it all worthy!

The place was calm and serene. The local person used the fuel from his bike to setup the camp fire and he left half a bottle for me to keep the fire up. I made myself comfortable in the tent and started my session of photography. Anticipating that I might take time to return, I’d loaded my bag with lots of food. I picked out a chips packet and that very moment I realized I had company.

Monkeys!

I came out and zipped the tent to seal the entrance to it. I poured a little fuel to keep the fire up and went around clicking pictures. I realized I had too much trouble with the monkeys trying to fiddle with the tent. I tried shooing them away, but they were responding with growls. I was now scared, with the feeling, “Hey, that’s my tent!” Did I enter the wrong territory?

Desperate for some action, I removed a stick from the burning fire. The monkeys reacted immediately to it. They flew away and the one thing they managed to grab was the Pepsi on my bike.


Setting the camp fire on the banks to shoo away animals.


Processing images before the sun went down and it was time to leave.

The sun had almost gone down by then, and I was getting scared of the crocodile warning. I was relatively close to the banks and so I started packing the stuff. It took a good 30 minutes to get everything loaded back on the saddle. I put out the camp fire with water and sand.

I followed the signs the local fellow had given me. The path was pretty difficult to climb with just the headlights. At times, the shadow gave a perspective of huge pot holes and I have to live with it. Wading through the woods, I was lost for a while. I had to leave the headlamps on and walk here and there to figure out if there was a path ahead. After 20 minutes or so, I found a piece of road. I followed his directions and kept myself to the road. After a while, the GPS was also assuring I was proceeding in the right direction.

I passed through celebrations in temples and road side parota stalls. I was getting tempted to stop by again, but I’d had enough road side food for the day. I reached the town and found a decent place to halt for the night.

What a day!


Ride Stats

Route: Munnar – Theni – Dindigul – Salem – Mecheri – Hogenakkal
Distance: 420 kms
Ride Time: 13 hrs
Trek Time: 2 hours


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