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Old 10th August 2011, 15:50   #31
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Kodai Kanal - Day 10

Being wiser from our previous experiences, we first headed to Tourist Information Center after breakfast, to decide on day’s activities. The TIC at Kodai kanal is pretty well equipped with maps of almost all tourist sections of Tamil Nadu. We took opted for the English maps (there were some in regional languages too). Also we had a local tourist company’s day tour list. I find such day tour itineraries very helpful. Usually you can cover a full day taxi tour in a half day by private vehicle. Besides, as these tours are mostly linear, that is on tour covers points on one side of the town and doesn’t go crisscross; you can cover all the famous tourist spots properly.

The tour plan in Kodai kanal seemed pretty linear. There were countless taxis going to one direction only, evidently on a day tour. We followed them, and reached to the first stop, Telescope house. But it was closed on account of Sunday. There was hardly anything to watch either, because of fog. And a gang of monkeys was following us, so I didn’t dare to take out the camera. Running after a monkey shouting for my camera was not part of today’s itinerary.

After the view point, next stop is Fairy falls. The road to this water falls goes through an ungodly steep road. After climbing down a lot, you finally come to this waterfall. Surprisingly this had fair amount of water in it. Just after the monsoon, it would be grand, but then it would have a lot of competition from its neighbouring waterfalls.

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The taxis were seen returning from this point, but when we checked the map, it showed an Apple Research Center just ahead. Seeing it market on the tourist map, we guessed it would be open to tourists, and headed that way. A big closed gate stopped us. Seeing that there was no guard, we quietly opened the gate, and entered. Some distance inside, there are lots of green houses, with various plants. These are seemingly not commercial ones, but government research ones, so cleanliness was not a point high on agenda. But the collection of plants was good. The atmosphere was so eerie in the green house with some twisted looking plants, that Nandinee refused to enter more than a step’s distance inside it.

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We roamed around freely. The fact that we couldn’t communicate in their language was sometimes favouring us, like this time. We didn’t have to ask for permissions, and they didn’t feel any need to stop us for that. However, we were always in social limits, and never did anything that would mean too much on their accommodating nature.

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There was a greenhouse where they were doing some research on Gerbera flower. We both like this flower a lot, and would have loved to hear or know a bit about the research. I am no botanist, so wasting a time of a research person would not be prudent, but having someone who could let us know what it was about would have been great.

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We left the research center, and continued on random roads. Surprisingly, we landed on the road we were heading to, miraculously much ahead on it. So now we had to do the sight seeing in opposite manner.

There was a golf course shown on the tourist map, and we passed besides it. Except some patch on the ground, all the rest of the course was yellowed grass, and not the green maintained one. Guess it was not the season for golf!

Then came the Shooting point. It is said a lot of movie shootings are done here, and it might be truth. The area is dense with closely planted palm trees that are backdrop of romantic scenes. But the ground is at 45 degrees slope at this point, so how they manage to run around singing remained a question. Later we saw that the opposite part of this ground was on a flat level, and thus apt for dancing. This would be more suitable for a ‘villain-chases-heroin’ part.

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Then it was the Guna caves. You have to walk some distance, for reaching the main point. Frankly, I did not get where the caves were. They seem to be behind a barricaded cliff. As usual, whenever people know there is something at height, they go and jump from it. Similar thing happened here too many times, and the government got bored of finding out the bodies from jungle. So they put up huge rails barring people to go near the cliff to see any cave, thus nullifying the reason to go there. Few brave souls were sneaking around and over the compound to go to Guna rails. Being married is adventurous enough for me, so I didn’t go for such heroics.

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Next point was the Pillar rocks. These three rocks are many meters high standing solemnly, and are a tourist attraction. There is a nice point developed for seeing these rocks. From a telescope-wala there, we could see a big white cross fallen near the rocks, said to be fallen about hundred years ago. Couldn’t click the cross’s photo, because I couldn’t align camera’s lens with the telescope’s.

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Last, there were two view points. First was Moir view point, that is strictly guarded by forest department. The guard gives you a grave stare if you ask anything. One needs permission from forest department for continuing tours inside the forest starting at Moir point. The other view point is Silent Valley View point. You walk up a good distance slightly upwards, and come to a dead end from where you can see the city, on a fog free day. This was not a fog free day, so we couldn’t see much. Thus no photos of this point either.

The roads around Kodaikanal are steep, twisty and non-crowded (in off season). Riding on them slowly was a pleasure, taking in the beauty of nature. Even the houses and hotels we spotted while riding were beautiful, and truly resembling a dream home.

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After lunch, we went to Bryant’s Park. With a fair bit of entry fee and camera fee, we felt this park was an exaggeration of tourist spot. Almost whole garden was Work in Progress, with almost every area covered in newly potted plants, with zero flowers. There was only one interesting flowery area, the greenhouse in the park, which proudly displayed the sign ‘no photography’. There too, majority of the plants were ‘begonia’ a commonly found flower plant. The park was big and nice with the lawn, and seemed a local attraction too, but surely the claim of ‘740 variety of roses’ is to be taken with a bunch of salt. And so is the claim of some 140 years banyan tree, which is surrounded by much older looking trees. It seemed local authorities had gone bit overboard with the park.

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Just in front of the park, there was Coaker’s walk, a paved walking path that goes besides the valley. The views are beautiful, and the ambience superb. It is very calming to stroll down the Coaker’s walk, looking backwards on your life and planning for future. Or some may find it apt just to sit in quite and connect to themselves. This is no place for music fanatics who can’t go anywhere without having blaring loud music with them, neither for careless parents with cranky kids. This spot is of writers, poets, artists and lovers. This was the last point we saw on the day, and the one that made the biggest impact.

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It was time for the customary shopping, and soon after dinner we were back at hotels. Tomorrow would be a lazy day, as the destination was Munnar, hardly 100 Kilometers from Kodaikanal. We figured that even on ghat roads, 3 hours ought to be enough for covering 100 clicks, so the departure time was set at 3.00 P.M. We had the Google map printout with us as always, and it showed a nice road connecting Kodaikanal and Munnar. Tomorrow we would have a lesson of our life because of trusting machines blindly.
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Old 11th August 2011, 16:20   #32
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Default Re: Vesta tours and travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal Couple t

Lesson of a lifetime - Day 11

Like good tourists, we decided to do the ‘activities’ of the town before leaving for next halt. Or at least some of them. Kodaikanal is a hill station built by Americans, the only one set up by them here. It it is mainly a supporting town for Kodaikanal International School. But I think it was before it gained tourists attraction. Because we spotted much more number of tourists than the KIS students, contrary to what the guide book was suggesting. Almost all town seemed to live on tourist income, which is understandable for a hill station.

There are many bicycle hire shops spread around in town. Some are from locals, some seem unionized, and some even from companies like Hero and Atlas. You get a wide variety of good quality cycles from them to roam around. Roaming around is a term very loosely used here, because all town is a roller coaster ride with steep inclines and declines. Unless someone is in pristine shape and is regularly cycling, I would suggest against the thorough cycle-sight-seeing. You would go very merrily on the downward slopes, but climbing upwards seemed very difficult for non-cycling folks like ourselves.

But the thought of cycling through the beautiful town is irresistible. So we hired a two-seater cycle to have a go around the lake. The road was flat, still the ride was exhausting but at the same time very involving. On motorcycle, you have this machine between you and the world, which you can rely to keep distance from others if needed. On cycle, you are a part of the world! The speed is not that high, you can’t put too much distance from anyone, and don’t have to worry about right gear or engine knocking. When your heart starts knocking, you know it’s time to slow down!

From 14 odd Braking Horse Power to 2 Human Power:

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Later, we went for boating in the lake. There was hardly any crowd, because the off season and the fact that it was already 12 noon. The boat ride seemed very heavy when we were dragging by the shorelines, but once we went inside the lake, suddenly the resistance of water seemed very less, and we could peddle fast.

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On the way out, there were these speed boats kept which I presume they use in tournaments.

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After lunch, we lazily checked out of the hotel at 3.00 P.M. After all, 3 hours for 100 kilometers was an overkill by any standards, come what worst roads may. We casually asked the manager how to reach Munnar, and he said.

‘See, go from here to Kodaikanal road, and then Theni….’
‘Haha! Come on man, if you don’t know, say so. Don’t bluff!’

He was telling us to take the same road that we took while coming here, which was stupidity. The Google maps clearly showed the road, and it was not through Theni. In fact, Theni was about 100 kilometers from here, around same distance as Munnar.

We checked out and started rolling. Stopped to ask a rickshaw driver about the road. He replied:

‘Go straight on this road, turn right only after 60 kilometers.’

We left him and started wondering, did he say sixty kilometers or sixteen? It can’t surely be 60, as the roads shown on the Google map is twisty and required lot of turns. And how come we were moving in completely opposite direction, when Google told us to go south?

After confirming with third person that we were on right track, we stopped to review to Google map again. And then it dawned on me. The road that Google was suggesting, through Top Station near Munnar, was closed some 10-15 years ago! I remembered reading about it some time ago. That road passes through forests, and you have a high possibility of running into wild animals. That’s why it is no more in operations, and tourists are forced to use the longer but safer road.

But how much longer? If we are not taking this 100 kilometers road, then how many extra kilometers are we talking about? I prayed it wouldn’t be more than 30, but it turned out to be total 190 kilometers!

90 kilometers extra doesn’t sound too overwhelming by its own, but I was worried about covering that distance because of the passing hour. It was already about 4 when we were riding speedily down the Kodaikanal ghaat. There was no chance of reaching their by daylight. Munnar being a hill station, and as we were climbing down from one, it would surely have its share of ghaat roads. Would they be good? Would Munnar hotels have any vacancy? What if I have a minor emergency like puncture? In Rajasthan, at least people spoke Hindi. Here in remote villages, communicating would be lot more problematic.

For riding long distances on unknown roads, I always prefer day time, as in case of emergency you have full day ahead of you. If you ride at night, a minor mishap can multiply in consequence. And here there was no chance at all that I would make it in Munnar in day light. Damn!

So we rode and rode and rode. Down the Kodai ghaat, on the Kodaikanal road, on to Theni, and yet a lot of distance remained. We knew we had to cross Theni, but then after Theni, there were no boards for Munnar. I found this really irritating pattern of putting up boards. Only those boards which would have any meaning to tourists are in English. All the rest are in Malyalam. You will find yourself passing through many junctions, and having no idea where the other roads went or whether you are on the right road, if you can’t read Malyalam. Here, there was another problem. There was no board to show Munnar’s Direction. We passed an intersection of roads at full speed, where to our right we could read a direction board pointing at ‘Bodi’. But where was Munnar? There was no one on roads to ask too, as this was a highway-ish road. I accelerated and caught up with a tempo, and shouted at him :’Munnar?’ The worried expression on his face told us that we left it behind.

He stopped by the side of the road, and directed us to take the left for ‘Bodi’ that we missed behind. As these two states are separate, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Tamil Nadu government has shown boards towards its village ‘Bodi’, not bothering to mention the other state’s more interesting town, Munnar.

So we turned back and continued on Bodi road. Suddenly a water drop fell on my helmet’s wisor.

‘What the…? Rain in March?!’

I hoped this would be a one off event, but soon the frequency of water droplets became noticeable. It was not completely raining yet, but the roads that we were going to were apparently wet. At some distance on the same road, we saw clouds covering the path. We were heading towards the rain. On a motorcycle, I can handle any two out of the three things: rain, night and pillion. But not all three together. Here I had no choice. We halted and donned our the motorcycle jackets’ rain-proof liners. I might even had halted on some on way hotel had there been a nice one. Barring a few really dicey looking hotels, there was nowhere to stop. Approaching the rains for some time, we finally entered in its zone.

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Driving inside the rainy zone was really tricky. There was a lot of fog-like smoke, but the HID usually pierces through fog. Here the visibility became too low, and we lugged on, bracing for rain any time now. The kilometers seemed really long, and the speed really slow. We rode ahead, and suddenly, found ourselves at clear horizons for as long as we could see! We couldn’t believe ourselves, but eyes don’t lie. We had literally passed through the belly of monsoon without getting wet! Thanking our lucky stars, we moved on, with more brevity now.

The sun had almost bid us good bye when we started climbing on the first ghaat. Bodi had came and went like any other small town. We had now decided to reach Munnar, and not halting for any fear.

The first ghaat is quite curvy, and has many hair pin bends. To keep Nandinee involved and occupied, we started on betting the number of hair pin bends. After 18 such bends, we left the count, and simply enjoyed the ride. The roads are not in their prime, and some bad patches right on the hair pin turn could be fatal to a two wheeler.

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The ghaat continues for a long distance, but its riskier turns are in the beginning only. Later it becomes a long road with incline. The daylight was almost gone, and so was our energy. As they say, everything lies in its preparation, and we certainly were not prepared to ride 190 kilometers today. We should have been in a warm bed chatting or watching TV now, rather than riding hard in falling light on an unknown ghat getting colder by the minute. The frustration was mounting high, and here I realized the Zen of motorcycling.

You don’t ride for next 100 kilometers or next 20. You don’t ride for reaching your destination. You don’t ride in pursuit of something. You ride for the moment and in the moment. To each kilometer you ride, you give your utmost attention. Not more than the one you passed a while ago, not less. If you focus on other things, then you are not riding, you are just reaching there. Why bother for a motorcycle then? A bus will take you there. You ride for staying and living fully in the moment. You celebrate your tiny successes of avoiding the small rock that could have made your bike slip, and you learn from it, and you forgive yourself. One kilometer at a time.

And it such accumulation of one kilometer at a time that helped us munch the distance happily. It would have been natural to feel grumpy about the situation, and bark at others, perhaps at each other. But being a motorcyclist, one can choose to be accommodating over being irritating.

Just at the twilight, we were stopped by a police stop about 50 kilometers from Munnar. After realizing we were tourists, they didn’t bother to check my documents and thus saved the drama of explanation of the missing license. They asked us whether we had booked any hotel for stay, and informed us that it was alright to go and search hotels, as there was enough vacancy. One of them said ‘Curfew after 8’o clock’, which I laughed away at that moment, but later it made me wonder what he meant. The policemen confirmed that the road was safe to travel at night, and I should proceed without worry.

Later it was travelling in the bright light of HID. I can’t thank enough to the day I installed this HID in my bike. A must addition to any tourer or night traveler, HID increases your probability of survival many times. Because of HID only, I was able to dodge many deep craters in road, and at one time near a cliff when suddenly an under-construction road started, full of wet sand, I managed to steer safely.

At about 7 P.M., we approached a bustling village. Finally spotted an ‘acceptable’ hotel for tea break. The village’s name was Poopara. We were yet about 30 wild kilometers away from Munnar. It was with great efforts that we were keeping our wits together, and tried not to get irritated or frustrated by the seemingly endless travel.

Just after we left Munnar, the road bisected into two, and as usual, no boards to show the direction. We stopped at the intersection and gazed with wonder. There was no soul in sight. What if we took a wrong road? Taking risk, we slowly proceed on the left road, and to our relief found that the two roads were nothing but the same road bisected at turns, maybe for avoiding accidents.

We continued the ride, looking at a far distant village whose lights were sparkling in night. In complete darkness, that small village with its little lights from it’s homes was our lighthouse tonight. But all of a sudden, it went total dark! It took a while to register what had just happened. We deduced that the electricity of that village decided to go out at that time, and didn’t want to think any other probability. When you are riding on pitch dark roads, your mind opens up to all possibilities, including supernatural ones.

Slowly the tea estates started. We were riding through the tea plantations now, though our view was limited to what the HID was illuminating. We passed a few hotels that I remembered having good reviews on travel sites, but they are so far away from the main town, I wondered about the night’s stay there. Not wanting to get stuck in an off the way place, especially after riding this far, we headed for Munnar.

Finally, at about 7.50P.M. we reached Munnar, and started our search for hotels. In Kodaikanal, I was worrying that finding a good hotel at night may be troublesome. But in Munnar, I realized how wrong I was. At night, all the good hotels have bright signs put up on top of them, and usually they are clustered to certain areas. We could spot the neon signs of the hotels from far away, and then would go and scout that area. We checked about 6 hotels. I was longing to throw the stuff along with myself on bed after the tiresome ride, and morning’s exercise of cycling and boating, but Nandinee had got her second wind. She would merrily go prancing in each hotel to check its rooms, and would come back disappointed.

It was past 8 now, and I understood what the policeman meant by ‘curfew’. All the shops started pulling down the shutters, and the tourist information center which was surprisingly open that late when we arrived, was closed down too.

In the end we found ‘Jay’s tourist home’. It is a good hotel, with attentive staff. It’s just at the beginning of the Mattupetty dam road. Checked in, and had a rushed dinner in a nearby hotel.

We rode hardly 190 kilometers today. But they seemed very long and tiresome, perhaps because we were not prepared for them. It became clear that Kodaikanal is not a part of Kerala itinerary, it should be covered in Tamilnadu tour. It is beautiful, no doubt about it, but the logistics don’t allow it to be a part of the Kerala tour.
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Old 26th August 2011, 16:50   #33
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Munnar - Day 12

As had become our protocol now, the first thing we would visit in a tourist town was to visit the Tourist Information Center. Bought a map from the TIC, and found these helpful routes painted on the outer wall of the same building.

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While having breakfast, we consulted the routes and the map, and deduced that we would limit ourselves to the Coimbatore route. We would ride the Cochin route tomorrow, while going there. And the name ‘Top Station’ was enough to bring up painful memories, so that Mattupatty route too was out of thoughts. Thus, we decided for the Coimbatore route and moved on.

The first halt was at Kanan Devan tea factory. I kept on checking whether we were at the original factory, or is it some local copy. Because I was clearly remembering that the name was Tata tea factory. They have a steep charge to enter the premises. We saw a documentary movie that was shown on a projector, which mentioned that the Tata factory was sold to Kanan in about 2006. This explained the name difference, and satisfied my curiosity.

Later, we were directed to the upper floor, to hear a brief explanation about how tea is made. It is an interesting process. First the leaf, then the drying by blowing air, then something, then something else… I lost track at blowing air. But heard some interesting things. That tea crop is called a cash crop, because one plant can be plucked every 10 days. Also, the reason that the eucalyptus trees are in abundance is, the trees are fast growing, and hence can be used for burning as fuel. The original Eucalyptus seeds were smuggled in an officer’s wife’s stockings from Australia! Also learnt a proper way of making tea. What we usually do is to put the tea powder in water and then boil it alive. But this adds up to nicotine content in tea. The proper way is, first you heat the water with sugar to the boiling point. Once you see the bubbles, you pour the steaming hot water ON the tea powder kept in a pot, and then you cover the pot and wait for 5 minutes. This way the tea’s original taste remains unchanged.

Came down to see demo machines working on demo tea powder. For some reason, there was ‘no photography’ board, and as expected, people were frantically taking shots. I couldn’t find anything photogenic there, so did not think of overruling the board.

After a customary tea - sadly a machine produced one, not prepared one – we left the factory, me wondering why was I charged so much and how much did that cup of tea costed. We continued on the Coimbatore road. Looking at the list of spots on the route, we did not have any hopes to see anything great in particular. But the ride is amazing with capital letters. You ride on and on, not wanting to stop at anything. There is so much beauty around you, after each turn, each dip in the road, you are in awe.

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The waterfalls were supposed to be on this route, but as expected they were dried up.

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We travelled a good distance, and finally crossed a hill and continued on the other side. Here the tea plantations were sparse, and a taxi driver told us that the next spot was some 30 kilometers ahead. Not wanting to go that far, we turned back.

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After lunch and rest, it was 4.00 P.M., and we were roaring to go. Travelling up in the hills with the tea gardens rolling past you is an experience to behold. We chose to go to top station road now, to at least see from where we would pop out had we taken that route.

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There are many spots on this route. If you have very limited time, then do this route first, as it has the main spots that Munnar is famous for. We first halted on the Mattupetty damn. The view on the river side is very calm, with the peaceful water reflecting the hills, but on the opposite side, it’s a different story.

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The opposite side of the dam had a door opened for some purpose. Water was rushing out of it at such force, that it was getting sprayed at least a 100 meter far, if not more. The sight was jaw dropping and terrifying at the same time. I couldn’t imagine travelling down that little road at right when the water is on its way out.

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There was a spot named ‘Elephant arrival point’, where there as an old elephant standing quietly, perhaps reminiscing about its past days.

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We moved on to Echo point. Usually the echo points are on a mountain top, where you hear your voice echoed in mountains. At this point, you can hear the echo from the trees on the opposite side of the river. I was testing this phenomenon perhaps a bit too loudly, because Nandinee was distancing herself from me the whole time we were there.

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Next came Kundaly lake. You travel on some real bad road seen around Munnar to reach this lake. There are boats and horses available for respective hobby seekers. We satisfied ourselves on photos, and moved on.

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The tourist bus trip ends here, and heads back to Munnar. But we wanted to see Top station, so we continued the journey. The roads slowly started inclining upwards, and at about total 30 kilometers from our hotel, we saw the board for Top Station. I continued on the road, but it was too silent with no sound whatsoever. Nandinee started to urge me to move back, so we decided to give one more kilometer to the search, and if we don’t see any habitat within 1 kilometer, we would head back. Then we saw the forest check point at Top station. The persons at the check point seemed surprised to see a motorcycling couple, that too at this late in evening. I saw the road that comes from Kodaikanal, and my heart skipped a few bits.

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The road seems like it was done and attended to years ago, and is now being claimed by nature. At the start of Top station we felt eerie and fearful. We couldn’t imagine what it would be to travel by this route. That too, we left Kodaikanal yesterday at 3 P.M., so it would definitely had turned dark before we reached. The imagination was enough to send a chill down our spine. From time to time, there are news that some biker either in group or solo has travelled through this route, and I have a huge respect for them. Travelling on these roads would require not only stamina or determination, but sheer madness.

It was already past sunset, and the light was getting dimmer by the minute. The return journey was fast, yet memorable. The total journey of today was above 100 kilometers. 100 clicks of random travelling, just for the joy of it. This was my last ride in the tea estates on this trip, and I would miss it a lot. Truly, Kerala folks are lucky to have beach, hill stations and backwater in one place.
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Old 6th September 2011, 11:35   #34
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ani_meher - Being a Keralite, I am ashamed I never did such a trip . When I read Couple Tour in your title, never thought you were doing it in a bike. Congrats to both of you for taking such a enthu step, I'm sure this will be a most memorable trip in your life.

Moreover I was planning a Kodai trip this October and this TL is a good starter. Happy blogging!
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Old 6th September 2011, 15:55   #35
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As usual a 5 * thread. Hence the rating from my side. And I regret not meeting two of the members when I was in Pune. One is you and the other is CN (Chevylover).
It is high time you upgrade to a DSLR.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:01   #36
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Back to the lands - Day 13

Today we would return to the flat lands, to hot weather. For about past 7 days, we were roaming around in the hills enjoying the coolness. We were near the end of our trip, and these days were not too crowded. When we modified the itinerary for visiting Kollam and dropped Athirapally, we rescheduled our later days, which enabled us to have two days each at Periyar, Kodaikanal and Munnar. Two days of visit seemed perfect to these spots. This also gave us one extra day, which we decided to spend on Kalady – Adi Shankaracharya's birth place, and Kodanad, where elephants are trained for safari.

Climbing down from Munnar

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Jackfruit transport

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After breakfast, we rolled ahead for Kalady. There was hardly any tea estate on this side of Munnar, though many waterfalls fall on this route only. As whole road was a downward slope, we rolled down happily chatting loudly against the wind. Halted mid way for lunch, and reached Kalady very leisurely at 3.00 P.M. I did not have any huge expectations of hotels on this route, because this is not exactly a tourist’s route. The regular tourists run past Kodanad and Kalady towns, never needing to stay.

The search for hotels in Kalady was fruitless. We just couldn’t find any good hotels at all. The temple’s accommodation building was empty, and so was given a slip. We consulted the map, and rolled to the next town – Angamaly – about 6 kilometers ahead. There is absolutely nothing to see in Angamaly, and the town is not bothered about tourists too. But here, we got a good room in Noor Lodge. The name is dicey, and lesser said about the service the better. But the rooms and whole hotel was clean, and we had good parking for Vesta.

This day has the smallest trip log of our tour, including the train travel ones! This is because after seeing the majestic Munnar and bathing in the beauty of hills, the rest sights don’t appeal to you that much. We did some shopping in evening, and fount that this town too housed some small shops for nice brass items at good rates. Bought hanging dipam here.

We returned early to room in hope to get enough sleep, for tomorrow we would wake up early to visit the famous ‘elephant bathing’ at Kodanad.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:07   #37
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Kodanad - Kalady – Ernakulam - Day 14

We woke up hurriedly in morning, because we were visiting Kodanad as well as Kalady at the same visit, and thus had to be bathed and all before going to temples. The roads were wonderfully vacant at morning, and I could cover good distance in short time. At 7.45 A.M. we reached Kodanad Elephant Training Center and Zoo. We saw a very small elephant, about waist-high, getting royal bath from a worker of the zoo. The kid was clearly enjoying the cool water, seeing how it danced around and stretched itself to allow the worker to reach hard spots.

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Unfortunately the guard had not come yet, and the workers did not know any language other than Malyalam. They were also answering us in loud scolding type of way, which at first startled us. But when we saw them later handling the elephants, we realized this is the way they talk to elephants, and thus are habituated to do so all the time.

At about 8, slowly the elephants started moving outwards. We were wondering where the bathing takes place. At that time, the guard had arrived. He said ‘follow the elephants!’ and so we did. The huge animals walk their own pace, and so we had to stop again and again, for not missing them en route. After a 5 minute walk, they turned left to approach the river flowing besides the town. Surprisingly a large number of people, 90% of them foreigners, were already gathered there. Seems this spot is more famous with foreigners than with Indians. I don’t remember Kodanad being on any tourist agency’s itinerary.

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The royal bathing is really something to see. The elephants are made to lie flat on the shallow waterbed, first on this side, and then on that. The mahout then scrubs the hell out of the animal by using the inner shell of coconut. They reach some really unimaginable places – yes, there too – and scrub them. I was half expecting them to put on polish on the elephants, the way we do when we wash our dirty bikes after many days! Though there was no polish applied, the elephants were sure spick and clean at the end of the bath.

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The bath lasts about 1 hour, and that’s the only thing worth seeing in Kodanad. They do have a collection of animals which seems too much of an exaggeration to be called ‘zoo’.

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Here I saw this sad scene, one monkey was kept in a cage, and other was hugging it from the outside!

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Later we again roamed around the campus, to see the now clean elephants all dolled up, happily munching their breakfast.

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Kodanad is famous for its elephant safaris, that’s the elephants are trained for. But on Sunday, the elephants too have leave, and thus no rides that day. People were slowly turning up at the zoo, but now there was nothing to see or do there. If you want to visit Kodanad, then make it before 8 to see the bathing. If you can’t make it, then forget about it, because there is not much you will miss.

After breakfast, we went to the Adi Shankaracharya mathh. Here there is the famous ghaat, when a crocodile had caught Adi Shankaracharya’s leg, and he asked his mother to permit him to take Sanyas, before that crocodile could relieve him. The mathh as well as neighboring Sri Krishna temple are nicely maintained.

We returned to the hotel in hard sun. Somehow, the ride in the hot afternoon had made me so sleepy, that I dozed off few hours! Nandinee patiently waited for me to wake up out of my slumber. We moved toward our last stop at 35 kilometers – Ernakulam – at about 3.00 P.M.

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We learned from Rajasthan ride that if you are parceling the bike in morning train, it is better to stay in a hotel near railway, because in early morning the rickshaws charge manifolds. The map was saying there are a few good hotels on station road, and we decided to check them. After one – two bummers, we stumbled on Shalimar Metro. It’s really a good hotel, the second one I liked on this tour. The hotel just below too serves good food.

We roamed around in evening on the MG Road. Almost every city has named its major road as MG Road, and Ernakulam was no exception. There are a lot of shops that sell jewellery and sarees and most things that your wife loves and your wallet hates. We checked out a few big names in saree business, before settling in Chennai Silks.

Life has taught me that there are few things that are best accepted without attempting to understand them – some in general, and some pertaining to females. Selection of a ‘best shops’ is amongst them. After walking out of shops that housed several thousands of variety of clothes, because none was to the ‘liking’ of Nandinee, I have come to the conclusion that this ‘best shop’ decision is better accepted blindly that to be discussed with. First I used to feel bit ashamed, walking out of the shop empty handed after getting a considerable amount of sarees or dresses piled up on the desk on the pretext of display. I used to sympathize with the salesman and avoided the gaze of the doorman. But now I am hardened to this, and have perfected my poker face. Now whenever I enter a shop for her shopping, I first hunt a chair and fan or AC, and make myself comfortable.

A tip for unmarried folks, the decision of clothes is already taken when she shows them to you for ‘opinion’. It doesn’t matter what you say, she is just testing you. In fact, I tested this while our shopping in Cochin, and found that after a lady spends about 30-40 minutes in a shop, only the sound of your voice is hearable to hear. I would answer randomly, and yet that answered the query perfectly.

‘How is this saree looking, Aniruddha? Good na?’
‘I think it will rain early this year.’
‘I thought so too… please pack this. Eww, look at the color of this! What do you think?’
‘Sine theta by cos theta equals tan theta’.
‘Absolutely. Who could wear this?!’

As if on a voice detector module, only the presence of my sound of voice would be detected, siphoning out my sentences. I found it really ironic that we were buying Tamil Nadu sarees in the state of Kerala, but didn’t bother to illuminate Nandinee about this geographic dilemma. She was already neck deep in a bunch of sarees from various counters, in search of that ever eluding ‘different’ one.

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Finally at about 9.00 P.M. I dragged her out of the shop, calculating the total damage of wallet done. Surprisingly not much! Hmm, guess these things are cheaper here!

Tomorrow’s agenda was to have a tour of Fort Cochin and surround areas. Then the bike was to be submitted to the railway folks, which was a bother considering the language difference.

Last edited by ani_meher : 13th September 2011 at 12:33.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:35   #38
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Cochin - Day 15

You get some really good hotels in big towns, and in Ernakulam, we ate our breakfast in a hotel that served giants. We were so full, that lunch was no more on the day’s agenda. MG Road leads to Fort Kochi after a myriad turns. It turned out to be – well, disappointment will be too harsh a word, but – something of a too touristy thing. Maybe after drinking the beauty of Kerala and some of Tamilnadu, Fort Kochi simply didn’t have anything that could top it. There are few text book spots. One is a church where in past some Spanish sailors were buried, and now the tombstones from those graves are placed on walls! I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty weird and scary to see the stones decorating a church wall, that once covered the dead.

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Then there was this St. Francis Church, which once housed the tomb of Vasco Di Gama. His body was taken to his land Lisbon soon afterwards.

A customary shot of Chinese fishnets:

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There is one last attraction, named ‘Jew street’. Some Jews settled in Cochin long time ago, and the area they lived in is now called Jew street. There is a Jew temple – synagogue – nearby, which frankly non Jew people will not understand at all. In other religion’s temples or masjids or church, you can at least guess where to bow and where to take the prashaad, but here it was a square room with a square podium standing in the middle. It was written that all its thousands of tiles are different in design, though I couldn’t spot the difference. The first time I sucked at a child’s game – spot the difference. Going by the display boards outside the synagogue, there are very few Jews that are left now in Kerala as well as in India.

Jew street has a lot of curio shops though. We started window shopping, and liked some stuff. I never fall for such ‘antique’ stuff in normal case, but here some things we saw were really very beautiful to pass by. After a long bargaining session, we finally bought few items from the shop.

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I saw some old photos that were for sale in these shops. First I thought they would be photoshopped pictures of Amir and Shahrukh, to fool foreigners. But these seemed legit! Who buys others’ ancestral photos? It was really shocking, and I hope my great grand children don’t sell my photos in antique shops.

While coming back, we stopped at Kairali shops, the ones run by the government. The prices were so exorbitant, that I had to look really hard to confirm that the shop keeper was not joking and those were indeed the prices. Just for an example, a brass deepam that was costing some Rs.300 outside had a price tag of Rs.990. And this phenomenon repeated for each and every thing kept in the shop. All the things were priced at least trice their actual worth. The same story repeated in the government coir shops too, which had rates that were at least double of what they were in the Aleppy coir shop. It seemed the government was hell bent on fleecing the tourists than providing a value for money deal.

We returned in time for submitting the bike on the railway station. My worry about the language barrier was in vein, because I had forgotten that the world has a common language – money. When there was this opportunity for the station porters to earn money, suddenly they could communicate very well! Rs.300 seems the normal packing rate in all the railway stations. The parceling took about 1.5 hours, and we ended up drawing about two bottles of petrol from the bike. One bottle is usually good, because it is easy to carry and hide on train, but two was bit too much. I miscalculated the mileage of the bike, and ended up with one extra liter of petrol. But there, a person asked me whether I wanted to sell that extra one liter of petrol! I first thought he would be an agent who usually fleece unaware customers by offering very low price to the petrol, scaring them with stories of how the railway police will catch them and all. But this person was asking me genuinely. Turned out that his bike had recently arrived from train, and he required petrol to get it running. Otherwise he had to push it all the way to petrol station. I really wondered at the curios ways God works. That I have an extra unwanted stuff that he requires, and we meet at exactly that point in time which would benefit us both!

We roamed the city on foot in the evening. There was nothing new to do tonight, except to chat about the past 16 days, and wonder whether the bike would be placed safely in train. While chatting, we roamed too far, and were tired to walk back. So we got on a bus, asking whether it goes to ‘station’. It did go to station, except it was ‘bus’ station, and not the railway one. Thus we had to walk a fair bit anyways, but at least it was on some new roads.

We thought about booking a rickshaw today for tomorrow’s pickup from hotel. But the rickshaw stand at the station is operation 24 hours, and so we did not feel any need to pre-book it.

After a nice dinner at the Shalimar Hotel, we were packing till late night, because carrying all the stuff outside of bike was really troublesome.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:35   #39
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Travelling back to home - Day 16

In the wee hours of the morning, the helpful hotel attendant fetched a rickshaw for us to travel to station. Though we were hardly few hundred meters from the station, the luggage made sure we would need a rickshaw. We reached the train, half expecting Vesta to be standing outside the parcel van. To our surprise, the bike was already loaded in the train, and the luggage bogie sealed. The train guard confirmed the safe loading of the bike, and informed that this was the only luggage in the bogie today! Seemed that like us, Vesta too would be traveling leisurely on her journey back.

As expected, this train did not have any pantry car. It is really questionable, that many of the long distance and non Garib-rath trains do not have pantry car. I thought pantry car increased the revenue of railways only, so what’s the harm in attaching them to trains that travel for more than 24 hours?

But now the travelers as well as the agents in trains are too used to this. We got timely breakfasts and meals from a gentleman travelling in the same train, who was actually an agent who arranges such things regularly. Breakfast consisted of hot idlis, but the lunch and dinners were of rice only. Being in Kerala for past two weeks, we already had too much of rice, and were longing to eat chapattis and other Maharashtrian meals. This is a superfast train, taking a handful of halts. Without any problem, we reached Pune on the next morning. Taking down the bike at Pune station is always a grand function, and this time was no different. The railway porters were nowhere to be seen. So I pushed the bike myself to the parcel office to get it released, paid the customary tip to the station police who clears the bike for taking it away. Poured the petrol that we carried from Ernakulam, and headed home. By 7 A.M., we were at home, our professional lives awaiting us. There would be a lot of work pending from these 18 days away from it. House to be dusted, projects to be completed, files to be updated, but now we were fully charged to take anything head on. Till the next tour!
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:36   #40
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Thoughts on the tour

We had modified the itinerary on the go, because of hectic rides. The final itinerary that we followed is this:

Day 1 - Ernakulam – Alapuzha
Day 2 -Alapuzha - Kollam
Day 3 - Kollam - Kanyakumari
Day 4 – Kanyakumari
Day 5 - Kanyakumari - Trivendrum - Veli - Shangumugham beach
Day 6 - Pazhavangadi Ganapathy - Padmabhaswamy temple - Trivendrum - Kumarakom
Day 7 – Kumarakom - Vagamon - Periyar
Day 8 - Periyar Sight seeing
Day 9 - Thekkady - Kodaikanal
Day 10 - Kodaikanal Sight seeing
Day 11 - Kodaikanal - Munnar
Day 12 - Munnar Sight seeing
Day 13 – Munnar – Kalady - Angamaly
Day 14 - Angamaly - Ernakulam
Day 15 - Ernakulam sight seeing
Day 16 - Catch morning train to Pune

As the Athirapally waterfalls were most probably dried out, the above itinerary suited us best. It even allowed us to add two off beat locations that are not usually on any travel companies itineraries; the beautiful Kollam and the elephant training center in Kodanad.

We toured the states Kerala and bits of Tamilnadu without any worry. Not knowing the language was a hindrance, but not so much as to take the fun away. A small state in this huge country, Kerala is making great progress. It has its share of industry, but it hasn’t lost its touch of nature. As mentioned before, the use of river as travelling option is something that should be learnt by other states, especially Maharashtra. A land of hard workers, with highest literacy rate in India, Kerala is not the perfect tourist state in India, but is taking great steps towards becoming one.

There are few negatives too. Anything with the word ‘tourist’ comes with a price tag of twice of more than what it is actually worth. Language barrier can be looked at as funny, but is a real pain in tight situations. The boards on roads written in local language do not aid to the image of tourist state. Some spots like Aleppy are already too much exploited and are fast losing their image of natural beauty, because of increasing numbers of boats in the small canals and the large infestation of water hyacinths. The rickshaw wallas needed to be humanized a lot, both for driving as well as for attitude.

But the positives overwhelm the negatives. The people are nice, and there is a tendency to attend the visitor well. The land itself, so fertile and beautiful, is very welcoming. We did not feel unsafe anywhere. When we visit Kerala again, may be after 5-10 years, it would have surely developed a lot. We only hope that the development doesn’t occur on the cost of nature, the way it had happened in Mumbai and is happening in Pune. In future, such spots will become rarer, and I really hope Kerala will still be there at the top of the list of ‘must visit places’.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:39   #41
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I would appreciate your suggestions and comments on above travelogue. It gives me great pleasure as a writer to share my views with everyone, and every little advice and comment helps.
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Old 13th September 2011, 12:50   #42
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Superb account Aniruddha. I do enjoy reading all your travelogues! And hats off to your partner for being as enthusiastic about biking trips as you are.

Originally Posted by ani_meher View Post
‘How is this saree looking, Aniruddha? Good na?’
‘I think it will rain early this year.’
‘I thought so too… please pack this. Eww, look at the color of this! What do you think?’
‘Sine theta by cos theta equals tan theta’.
‘Absolutely. Who could wear this?!’
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Old 13th September 2011, 13:28   #43
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As always fantastic account of your trip Aniruddha! As sajo has mentioned hats off to your partner for her enthusiasm and efforts.

Just one suggestion from my side: it would be great if you could include the word 'bike' or '2 wheeler' (or equivalent) in the title so that fellow bhpians and readers know this is a long trip done by bike.

- maybe OT here, but any update/ progress on your Jazz prospects?
- do you want to bring Vesta tours to Kaas this Saturday?
- you mentioned a Rajasthan trip. Did you do this by bike and do you have an existing account here on tbhp?

Last edited by selfdrive : 13th September 2011 at 13:29.
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Old 13th September 2011, 14:09   #44
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Thanks sajo and selfdrive!

The Rajasthan trip log can be read on
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...rajasthan.html (Vesta Tours and Travels: Package for adventurous couples - Explore Rajasthan!)

About Jazz, bit budget constraints as well as ever hopeful mind for mini xylo are two things that are holding me back. Still a few months away, I think :(

Saturday @ Kaas sounds good. Are you planning a trip or a get together? I was planning for a Satara ride this saturday, maybe we can meet there.

I will try whether I can edit the post title for adding 'motorcycle trip'. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 13th September 2011, 14:26   #45
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its wonderful travelogue,
i must quote that after long time, T-bhp got a proper travelogue.[ 5* from me]

Its me and my wife wishing to have the bike tour like yours since long time but d-day has not arrived yet.

We all would like to meet you enthusiastic couple at kaas coming Saturday.

Last edited by ASHISHPALLOD : 13th September 2011 at 14:44.
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