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Old 24th February 2013, 23:31   #1
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Default Trivandrum - Kodaikanal : A Motorcycle Trip

The roads sweltered under the sun, but I don't mind and still want to take that ride once again. The roads were plain and at many places it appeared deserted. For many miles, all we could hear was the grunt of our own motorcycles. It was as if we were riding somewhere far away from civilization. Though I was wearing my helmet and gloves, it was as if I could feel the wind throughout. Is it the plain roads that is calling me back or is that indescribable feeling you get when you ride through endless plain roads? Haa..those nice roads, with their occasional crowd near the small busy junctions that it passes through....

Rakesh chose to skip his breakfast even though I had asked him not to. Our bags were already packed with our cameras, clothes, water, toiletries, numerous other things and a printout of a map that marked the route and towns between Trivandrum and Kodaikanal. Anticipating the ride, both our bikes chains were lubed the previous night and my 2200km old Avenger's oil was changed prematurely. Rakesh would be riding his 7000km old Classic 350. I rushed through my breakfast, double-checked the items in the bags, made sure that the extra key for the bike is in that small, almost unreachable corner inside the bag. We put on our helmets, arm/sheen guards, gloves, jackets and our 385km ride is about to begin. We will be taking the Palode - Thenmala - Thenkasi - Rajapalayam - Battalakund - Kodaikanal and our plans were to take the first break at Thenmala. A few minutes after 8.30 in the morning, our room-mates flagged us off with their thumbs up and sleepy eyes.

As usual, our starting point was the very pleasant looking and cool road in front of our rented house, lined by coconut trees on both the sides. A little through the MC road, and we took a right and rode towards Nedumangad through the smooth State Highway. We kept a constant speed and didn't had to downshift much. Why can't all roads be like this? Even the sharp turns there are a song to sing. We were about a couple of kilometers from Palode when Rakesh, riding on his Classic 350, showed me the 'thumb-to-mouth' sign - He was hungry. So that was our first break, about 40km ahead of where we had planned. He had his 'Puttu', and I had some tea and water.

Our second stop at Thenmala.
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The roads gets real patchy and a little annoying as you near Thenmala, but gets slightly better once you enter the Thenmala zone and then you hardly notice the roads because you will be looking at the garden on both the sides. Not real gardens, but its nothing less than travelling through a road between the gardens. A great place to be. There is a dam at Thenmala, that we didn't bother to stop at. Have seen too many dams and they all look and feel the same. So we kept riding till we reached the famous meterguage now-abandoned bridge which is about 8kms beyond the Thenmala dam. Except the hot sun, this is a place that an automotive photographer would love. The bridge makes a nice background.

We stopped there again to click a couple of pics. And that's Rakesh on his C350 who took at U-turn for me to click this pic.
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Old 24th February 2013, 23:40   #2
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After Thenmala, its Shenkottai, a name familiar with Malayalees. Somewhere in the middle of the beautiful Thenmalai - Shenkottai road, we crossed Kerala-Tamilnadu border. The road was still green on both the sides, with some brown patches here and there. We saw buffaloes and cows herded by old lunki-clad bearded men and thick walls painted in typical Tamil style of thick vertical lines. The roads were smooth and enjoyable and we reached Shenkottai sooner that we thought. Shenkottai is nothing much to talk about except being a small town. So we didn't bother to stop there and looked forward to reach Thenkasi. Another name that is quite famous with Malayalees owing to its numerous references in various movies.

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That is a view of 'ThenkasiPattanam' a few minutes before entering the town.
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Thenkasi is loads of narrow, busy roads with too much traffic and pedestrians. Not to mention the houses and shops too close to the road. As with anyplace with too many roads with no signboards, we got a little confused and sought the help of the locals to confirm the direction towards Rajapaalayam, from where we were planning our lunch. Come to talk about locals, throughout the ride, every local we spoke to and asked directions for appeared extremely courteous and none of them acted busy. My opinion of the people of Tamilnadu has definitely gone a few notches up now. I got a glimpse of Thenkasi railway station while in the town, but didn't bother to stop and look. I don't recall how long it took before we reached Rajapalayam, which is a bigger town than Thenkasi. There, we were able to locate a nice little vegetarian hotel to have our lunch. Like with the locals at Thenkasi, the staff at the hotel was friendly too. They seemed particularly interested in serving us and were giving us friendly looks and smiles (probably because we were in our full riding gear and they might have thought that we are riding on some sort of a 'mission' ). Nice. If there was feedback book at the cash counter of that hotel, I would have given the place five stars. After the paying the bill, we confirmed the route towards Sriviliputhur with the cashier who gave us crystal clear instructions with even the number of kilometers we have to run before each turn. The bikes were parked outside under the shade of a huge hoarding, giving it a chance to cool off while we had our lunch.

Lunch
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The word 'agriculture' was flying all around us throughout. With vegetation on both sides of the smooth wide roads, tractors carrying goods, people who looked like farmers walking in groups with sickles and similar tools.

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Couldn't resist the temptation to stop at this place that had nothing much the road, lots of green and the sky. One can spend hours sitting there just looking at the paddy fields and enjoying the breeze.
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Old 24th February 2013, 23:44   #3
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Most of the roads till Batalagundu consists of plain open highways with nice smooth roads with acres of space on both the sides of the road. The only exception was the road towards Usalampetti. About 20kms of roads towards Usalampetti was not at all a highway and it did not look anything like even a major road to a famous place. It was hardly 4 metres wide with wavy roads and gutters, but deserted. Both the sides of the roads were endless barren land hidden behind man-sized rough dry grass. It made the place look 'closed' despite the acres of the land on both the sides. I only sound I heard through the helmet was the grunt of the Avenger. Or may be it wasn't an official major road and someone had directed us through a shortcut. After about 20kms, this narrow road suddenly met with another network of narrow roads. The tarred road brown on account of the dust accumulated there. Small, thatched houses that were very close to each other lined those almost brown roads. Dusty roads with lots of pedestrians. A place where you wouldn't like to spend much time. A few minutes ride through the small network of roads and we reached Battalakund.



Batalagundu : Busy and crowded, a town as big as Rajapalayam. Lots of good shops, hotels and bakeries. It was around 5pm and the roads where full of people who looked like they are going back home after work. We caught Batalagundu at its rush-hour. We had tea and snacks from one of the bakeries there, with an eye on the bags on top of our bikes parked in front of the shop. Talking of tea, I say Tamilians make the best tea ever. Has confirmed and re-confirmed it again and again. An unreliable source once told me that their tea is tastier because they use buffalo milk instead of cow milk for tea. It could be true since buffalo milk seem to be thicker and denser than cow milk and buffaloes seem to outnumber cows in TN. Anyways, if I am allowed to have only one thing from TN, I would choose a cup of tea . Payed for the snacks and tea and we left for what we thought would be the final stretch of our ride towards Kodaikanal.

We were told that its freezing cold up there. Getting out of the crowded Vattalkundu, our bikes were now back on one of those plain open smooth highway again. A perfect evening with a very pleasant and refreshing shade around. A highway that would make even the slowest driver on earth to put a heavy foot down. A highway with some serious fast traffic, but vehicles moving with safe distance between them. We must have been riding directly to the west for most part, for I could see the sun up there above the skyline as a big orange ball, appearing and disappearing as we took large turns to the right and left. I resisted the temptation to stop and click a picture of the Avenger with the orange ball up there as the backdrop - the ride was too good to stop to click. We moved at 70-80-90kmph speeds. Saw a couple of colleges with barbwired fence around it, large buildings, acres of what seemed like fertile, but brown land and some vegetation. Strangely, none of the signboards said 'Kodaikanal - XX kms'. We became doubtful and stopped at a shop with a huge frontage of untarred ground in the front. Two men stood in front of that shop smoking beedis or cigarettes and one of them confirmed our doubts. He said that we had missed to take a right-turn by a petrol pump. We are supposed to go back 10kms to that petrol pump.

The only reason I feel bad about missing that right-turn was that I had hoped to reach Kodaikanal before nightfall. I like riding when there is light. I want to see all that I can see on the sides of the road. The tarmac is the same everywhere. What runs alongside the tarmac is what makes places different. Though there wouldn't be any house or shops on the uphill ride to Kodaikanal, whatever that runs alongside the road to Kodai would be new to me and I had hoped to see them in daylight. By now there was no sun up there, but the day was bright enough and we took the U-turn and reached the petrol pump in what didn't look like a 10km run. Took left from that covert petrol pump.

Surprise. When the highway had given us a wide view of the sky and with acres of fertile land on both the sides of the road, this road starting towards Kodai from the Petrol Station had fat trees running alongside very close to the road. It appeared as if those two roads are at different parts of the world. The sky could be seen only through the big branches that hovered over the road. It was another road riding through a park. We came across a check-post with two or three well-behaved young cops who seem to have an appreciation for our safety gears. Hell, they didn't even bother to check our papers or license. Asked us where we are from and just looked admiringly at Rakesh's bullet and asked me isn't it an Avenger that I'm riding. Probably petrol-head cops. Our ride continued and night has begun to fall. In a few minutes, we found ourselves riding uphill and we were riding now with our headlights turned on. Riding up a gigantic pillar through a ribbon of smooth road coiled around it. We also had a nice little healthy who-takes-the-next-turn-first contest with a Fiat Punto.

After a few kilometres, the road started to get irritably patchy, we are nearing the town and we stopped at a toll booth. Two-wheelers had to pay for the toll too. And while waiting at the toll both, at least three men came to us with visiting cards in their hands, asking whether we would need rooms to stay. I remembered my friend Deepak's words. "There are 143 registered hotels at Kodaikanal. Plenty of rooms will be available always. Even at the peak season, you don't really need a reservation at hotels". True to what he said, the 'salesmen' who came with the visiting cards were not offering us cheap rooms at cheap hotels. Those would be nice rooms at nice hotels available through a wide range of budget. Rakesh's colleage had a friend there who had arranged rooms for us at Raja Poornima Residency, which is a very decent hotel not far from the famous Kodai Lake. However, we took the visiting cards from those 'room salesmen', just in case...

The Kodai lake is only about 4 km or so from the tollbooth. So after 4km, we made a call to our friend who took us to the room. It was freezing cold and we could not even take our shoes off. Dinner was ordered to the room. Surprisingly, we were not even a bit tired after the long ride
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Old 25th February 2013, 00:04   #4
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I don't remember what time I woke, I dressed up as quickly as I could. I couldn't wait to get out and see Kodai in the day light. I told Rakesh who was still on bed that I will be back in a few minutes by the time he gets fresh and went out with my camera and bike. Rode along the famous Lake Road running around the famous Kodai lake. Boy, it was beautiful. One could stop anywhere on the Lake Road and click magnificent pictures. Lake road is not normally busy, except for the group of cyclists you will see every now and then.

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There is nothing like an early morning bike ride in a new town and a tea from a shop where one could see the road and place while sipping the hot tea. So I stopped at this healthy looking tea-shop at this small un-tarred space that shooted out from the road. One of those tasty Tamilnadu teas. The combination was perfect. A view of the beautiful Kodai lake, the fence around it that made it even more beautiful, and a tasty hot tea. I was having the time of my life. A few teenage cyclists stopped by the shop for soft-drinks and from them I learned that those cycles were rented from 'there' - a place to which one of the boys pointed at. Hmm..didn't see any such place there. I took a road that shot off from the Lake road and rode through many other roads that was as beautiful, but in a different way.

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Having tea:
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The best mode of the transport to get around through a place like Kodaikanal is a bicycle or a motorcycle. You get to see more and you get to feel a lot closer to the place. At center of the town near the lake there is this place, to which the boy had pointed at, with about a hundred cycles parked side by side. They rent out bicycles for Rs.20 an hour. Good business they have there. Next to the bicycles, you see horses standing in rows, ready to take anyone who is willing to pay for a ride on them. Kodaikanal is surprisingly neat. We walked along one of those shopping streets with hundreds of shops and did not find even one untidy shop or spot. Many of the places have names reminiscent of the British days - Bryant Park, Van Allen hostipal, Coaker's walk, Barlett West, Carlton Boat House...

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Later that day, Rakesh and I rented one of those tandem bicycles for the heck of it.

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Shopping:- Things you get there cheap are Jackets, Sweaters and T-shirts. Not to mention the 'Home-made Chocolates'. As with any other tourists spots, there are lots of shops selling wooden decorations, key-chains, bags...etc. But what seem to be hot were jackets, sweaters and those home-made chocolates. I recommend the shopping spot near the Lake where most of the shops are run by Tibetans. They seem to have a wider variety of Jackets through a wide price range.

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Old 25th February 2013, 00:27   #5
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Visit to Guna Cave.

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The second day at Kodai, was spent around all the places in town. But this time, on one of those Rs.20 an hour bicycles. Except Coaker's Walk, I would say I have been all the spots in Kodai town - the advantage of visiting a place on a motorcycle. The busy market area is nothing beautiful to talk about, but the cold climate puts into us a sense of being at a wonderful place. Again, I never missed a chance to have tea from shops there. I lost count of the number of teas I had at Kodaikanal. Back home, I am not a big tea fan, unless its black tea. Our friend/guide had promised us to take to a place where most of the Kodai visitors don't go to - The Guna Cave. Hell, most people go there, but what he promised us was this spot at the Guna Cave which is separated by a fence where most tourists don't go and it could be one of the highest spots of Kodaikanal. We took the ticket to the Guna Cave and our friend showed us a secret path through the loose forest that took us to the restricted area. Until now, 18 persons have been reported missing at this place, suspected to have fallen down to the depths between the huge rocks known as Guna Cave. The Guna Cave used to be known as 'Devil's Kitchen', before the Tamil movie with some real nice songs 'Guna' (which was shot here) came out. After walking through about a km, we reached at this little spot with a heavenly view. It was one of the most beautiful side of earth that I have ever seen. It looked like heaven. It looked like a wallpaper on the computer screen.

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We spent some time there talking, admiring the beauty of the place, drinking water, having snacks and clicking some pictures. It is not a place for a person with a fear of heights to be. You encounter a few 'life-death' sidewalks and have to walk by the edge of rocks with frightening depths by its side ( Reminded me of a dialogue from a malayalam movie ' kadukumani vathyasathil, onnu anghotto, onnu inghotto maariyaal, nammalum engineum thavipodi' - Malayalees will get it ). We did not actually realize that it was a restricted area until our friend asked us to climb up a fence and jump over to the other side. The other side being the non-restricted area. This place had huge deep gaps between the grounds too, but they were covered by metal nets which would prevent anyone from falling down to those deep dark pits.

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From there we walked out of the Guna Cave through large areas of Pine forest and crawled out through a gap in the barbwired fence around the Pine forest and walked back to the place where our motorcycles were parked.

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Pine 'seeds'

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We had a very serious and angry gang waiting for us there near our bikes. Forest police. They weren't happy to see two motorcycles parked outside, even after all the tourists had gone. They obviously feared the worst and had assumed that we somehow ventured into the restricted area and had fallen into one of those dark pits. It was their responsibility to make sure no one entered that area. Not that they were concerned about our lives, but their job would be in jeopardy if something unfortunate like that had happened. We also found the seats of our bikes marked by the footprints of monkeys who lived near the Guna Cave.

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From Guna Cave we rode through some very beautiful roads and visited the 'Upper Lake View Point'.

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View from 'Upper Lake View Point'.

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On the way towards Guna Cave.

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Old 25th February 2013, 00:34   #6
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The Return.

We packed our bags on Monday morning, said good-byes to our friend there and the hotel manager who was very professional and tanked up the bikes at the petrol station there. I was looking forward to the trip downhill to see in daylight what we had missed on our ride uphill afterdark. Past the famous Kodai Lake and the busy market, past the toll-booth and patchy bad roads, we reached the smooth road unwinding down the hill. The place reminded me of Ponmudi. Again, I had to resist the temptation to stop and click a pic. A few kms down the smooth road, we got a company. An white couple on a worn out Bullet Machismo . We engaged in a healthy who-takes-the-next-turn-first contest, showing thumbs to each other. We have an impression that foreigners ride or drive very safe compared to us, but trust me, this guy was the worst rider I had ever seen. He was careless, rode outright dangerously at unsafe speeds. He almost rode into the oncoming traffice couple of times. We took a break after we met with straight roads (the one after the petrol station mentioned earlier), all of us pulled over and we learned that they were from Israel and the Bullet was rented from Delhi. I thought in my mind that if he had managed to ride till here so wreckless, then he will make it back to Delhi no problem.

The cops did not stop us at the check-point on the return ride. We chose the same Batalagundu - Uslampetti - Rajapalayam - Thenkasi - Thenmala route on our return journey. A place seen once, we forget. A place seen twice, stays in the heart. We had the lunch at the same hotel again and as expected, the lunch was good and full. Like with any other journey, we seemed to cover places faster in our return ride. We reached back at trivandrum around 8.30pm. I looked at the fuel guage and I had plenty of petrol left in the tank. Made me smile. Bags were unloaded, bikes were put on stands, boxes of home-made chocolate bought from Kodai where opened and we weren't feeling tired even one bit.

More pics coming.

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Old 25th February 2013, 05:26   #7
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A very well written travelogue my friend. I enjoyed reading it. And the pictures are nice too. Thumbs up for riding safe !

Would be nice if you can share some pics of the hotel and the tariffs. It would help others who may go there, especially after reading you posts.

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Come to talk about locals, throughout the ride, every local we spoke to and asked directions for appeared extremely courteous and none of them acted busy. My opinion of the people of Tamilnadu has definitely gone a few notches up now.
Good observation bro. Even I have always found them very helpful and patient. There are a bunch of really nice people in that state. I have always been fond of their culture, their farmlands and their simple ways of living life happily. And to top it all, they are hardworking too.

Keep riding and keep writing.
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Old 25th February 2013, 19:05   #8
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A very well written travelogue my friend. I enjoyed reading it. And the pictures are nice too. Thumbs up for riding safe !

Keep riding and keep writing.
Thank You

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Would be nice if you can share some pics of the hotel and the tariffs. It would help others who may go there, especially after reading you posts.
We stayed at Raja Poornima Residency, not far from the lake. Our friend knew the guy at the hotel so we got the rooms at a discounted rate of Rs.800/night (Double bed). I think it normally goes out for Rs.1000 per night. Very neat rooms with water heater, a shelf, bedside drawer, sofa, chairs, teapoy, a television and Balcony. They have a nice little lawn in the front and their own restaurant. Dinner/Lunch/Breakfast can be ordered in. The staff was very professional and courteous. I recommend them. Unfortunately, I don't have any clear pics taken from inside the room. These are the ones I have:

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View from balcony:

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Old 25th February 2013, 22:29   #9
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Default Re: Trivandrum - Kodaikanal : A Motorcycle Trip

That's my hometown Kodaikanal ! Brought back nice memories! Very nice Travelogue!
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Old 26th February 2013, 09:45   #10
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Thanks for uploading the hotel pics. This place looks decent enough for Rs.1000 per night.
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Old 26th February 2013, 18:13   #11
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That's my hometown Kodaikanal ! Brought back nice memories! Very nice Travelogue!
Lucky you.

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This place looks decent enough for Rs.1000 per night.
Yeah, since the hotels there don't need Air-conditioning or a fan, I think they are able to offer the rooms at very good rates.

Some more pics

A family enjoying the boat ride at Kodai Lake.

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Lake Road again, with the Rs.20/hour bicycle I rented.

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Kodai House.

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The patchy roads approaching the Kodai town.

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Shopping street by the side of the Lake.

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Kodai Town.

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Don't remember exactly where, but somewhere between Shenkottai and Thenkasi I guess.

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Old 26th February 2013, 18:54   #12
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Default Re: Trivandrum - Kodaikanal : A Motorcycle Trip

Great RR!

And even better when these places are visited with a bike. Studied in Kodai for 6 years and brought back some great memories. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 1st March 2013, 03:47   #13
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Excellent travelogue dude, pictures are just awesome. Me too planing a trip to kodaikanal and your travelogue answered my doubts. Good job. It would be great if you post few more pics!!
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:12   #14
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Excellent travelogue dude, pictures are just awesome. Me too planing a trip to kodaikanal and your travelogue answered my doubts. Good job. It would be great if you post few more pics!!
Thanks Junaid.

If you are planning to shop some jackets or t-shirts there, make sure you bargain well. Most of the sellers there are well-behaved, courteous and are not very strict with their prices. I bought a T-shirt for Rs.250. The seller had asked for Rs.450 first, so I was happy I could get it for Rs.250. Later that day, when I went out for dinner, I saw the same T-shirt for Rs.175 or so at another shop .

Shopping Area in the night.

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Somewhere before Uslampetti

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'Little Italy' at Kodai.

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'On the way back'

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Which route are you planning to take?
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Old 3rd March 2013, 22:41   #15
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Default Re: Trivandrum - Kodaikanal : A Motorcycle Trip

Thanks dude for those new pics! and you captured well keeping your wheeled mate. Me too have a T-shirt saga. My friend went for a Mangalore trip about a year back back and he bargained with a T-shirt on the line somewhere near Kodai, I don't know the exact place. The amount quoted initially was 300 bucks and after a long bargaining the deal concluded at just 50 bucks. But trying to leave without buying is not that safe, especially for us, Malayalees. The sellers often say that people from Kerala likes to bargain but never buy. But what further adds to my shock is my friend wears that T-shirt often but still its in top notch condition.

Btw, I don't mind the extra distance but I would like to take the road with well laid tarmac that makes it fun to ride/drive. Which route should I choose if I start from Attingal?
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