|12th February 2018, 16:57||#1|
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Midnight Trails, Ulupuni & Urumbikkara on a Bajaj CT100B
Kollam – Thodupuzha – Ulupuni – Vagamon – Urumbikkara – Mundakayam – Kollam.
The Riders(and Driver).
23rd of January 2018 was just another day if not more boring than usual as I’d quit my job roughly a month before and with only personal engagements keeping me busy I was nearing the brink of craziness when I got an unexpected call from a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, Faizal Sabu of the ‘Bullet Buddhas’ fraternity.
After dealing with family and a couple of other uncertainties by 21:30 I was on the open road towards a mutually agreed upon meetup point which was roughly 150 km’s from my residence. For the grey-haired this might seem like an impulsive decision to ride through indistinct roads to meet up at odd hours but to me it was a godsend as I was in dire need of some motivation and very less can beat an adventurous ride when it comes to that, my excitement was spiking to such levels that I wanted to spend the least possible time off the saddle and that even included fuel breaks which lead to me fastening my Rynox Optimus to the rear seat which thought at the time seemed like a feasible idea, almost sent me off a cliff later that night.
Stopping only for a quick fuel break at ‘Mannar, Alappuzha’ I was able to reach the designated meetup-point i.e. ‘Muttom, Thodupuzha’ at 00:00, 24th January 2018, where Faizal was waiting for me for quite some time due to his home point being Kochi which is roughly a 75 km’s ride with even better roads compared to the route I had to take.
With just a minimal exchange of pleasantries and a hug we initiated our duo ride towards Ulupuni enroute which Faizal mentioned that a bunch of off-road enthusiasts would be joining us mid incline and that is when it hit me! This dude was crazy enough to off-road at night! Though I knew there would be considerable off-roading my assumption until then was that we’d call it a day somewhere before the incline, and climb first thing the next morning. But coming to think of it now, the thought of climbing Ulupuni at night shouldn’t have bothered me much then as what was about to follow sure did take the cake, but then again only for the time being as little did I know of the chain of events that were about to follow.
After a quick stop to intimate the other guys of our location we decided to resume climbing but before we got moving I informed Faizal of my apprehension of stalling mid-incline hanging there on the side of a mountain at an awkward position in pitch darkness unable to shift to neutral to restart the engine, though AC lighting and lack of a self-starter is not much of a deal-breaker what really goes against the CT100B’s favour when it comes to trail riding is its ‘Transmission Drive Kickstarter’ which is the reason why the motorcycle cannot be started in gear with the clutch pulled-in like its counterparts from other manufacturers. Faizal brushed off the whole statement by assuring me that he’d come looking for me in the event that I fall off a cliff, provided I honk 3 times!
Now before moving on let me introduce you to Faizal’s ride, a hot-rod Royal Enfield Machismo 500 with some serious weight reduction mod’s running off of a carburettor from the UG3 Bajaj Pulsar 150 DTSi with a simple ball-bearing/weld-shut SAI delete mod and to make things more exciting a quick-throttle setup.
Though personally I’m not a fan of using a quick-throttle with a CV carburettor due to the fear of the vacuum piston seizing prematurely like say mid-overtaking, but all was well in Faizal’s setup which I presume is due to the high intake velocity as a result of the smaller venturi carburettor, the evidence of the same being the dirt that went flying every time he cracked open the throttle or when he was chainsaw’ing through corners.
When the gnarly sections were in sight I thought it would be best to keep up with Faizal’s pace as I’d benefit from his DC lighting and not to mention that it won’t take long for him to come to my rescue if anything bad happened, speaking of which I soon realized how bad an idea it was to have the rear end laden while riding trails as my front end at one point bounced off a rock and almost had me flying off the hill which fortunately ended with my front wheel coming into contact with the ground and stopping just at the edge.
The panic had got the best of me and I needed roughly a few seconds to regain composure all the while convincing myself to resume climbing at my pace rather than try to keep up with a Professional and end up dead in the process. So resuming at my own pace I steadily climbed trying to overcome obstacles with torque rather than momentum which resulted in me burning a lot of clutch due to the lack of ‘Vitamin D’ as in ‘Displacement’ but that was fine as long as I didn’t end up in sticky situations, again speaking of which trying to avoid boulders on either side of the train I decided to take the centre line and fell into a rut which was deep enough that its edges forced my shifter up into neutral, but having prior experience falling back from accidentally shifting to neutral while riding uphill trials I instinctively dropped the kickstand which stopped me from tumbling down.
This time I wasn’t hindered by the mishap and as soon as I was able to get the motorcycle out of the rut I resumed climbing until I spotted Faizal conversing with a bunch that came in an Isuzu D-Max, the bunch to be more specific was our aforementioned off-road company led by Sarath Mohan a young professional motocross rider representing ‘Workshop 13 Racing’ and his friends who had set out to celebrate his birthday.
After exchanging pleasantries while still being seated on my motorcycle due to partly being worn out and party being on an incline without a decent spot to park, we moved on to reach the peak where we’d agreed to set camp for the night.
Finding the peak was not as easy as we’d expected, Faizal being the only one in our greater group who’ve been to Ulupuni before had a hard time distinguishing the exact path due to lack of visibility so we raided the area until we managed to find a decent peak to set camp, and by setting camp we meant having a good time sharing experiences and getting to know each other better until sleep got the best of us and a few of us slept inside the pick-up while the rest slept on the cargo bed in which the guys had already setup a mattress and sheets.
I woke up at roughly 06:00 on 24th January 2018 to experience the sunrise and noticed that the park lights were still on from the previous night and hurriedly turned them off worrying that the battery would’ve already been drained but to my surprise the D-Max cranked to life without the least bit of resistance, a surprise for me considering that I come from 35ah batteries on my Zen's.
In the morning after witnessing the sunrise we wandered a bit further into Ulupuni had breakfast and left for Urumbikkara. While exploring certain stretches we had to leave the motorcycles behind and that's when I got to experience the potential of the D-Max, with just the twist of a knob you could switch it from 2W to L4W and then to 4W which made it possible for it to match up to the capabilities of the Mahindra 4X4's driven by professional drivers of the region with years of experience routing through the terrain, a remarkable feat by Isuzu indeed.
We entered via Vagamon and at around 2:45 PM I was the first on the spot courtesy locals who helped me when GPS failed, after waiting for the rest of the guys for roughly 45 min's(I could hear Faizal's exhaust note in the distance all the while I was up there, though I couldn't find him in sight) I decided to move on via the Mundakayam route due it getting late and the thought of having to ride solo towards Kollam.
The Mundakayam route was hell and to add insult to injury after negotiating the worst terrain I've come across I was asked to return due to construction, which I didn't bother listening to and decided to move forward via the side-lines without damaging (much) the construction. After a few hours of this turmoil I managed to reach Mundakayam via Kokkayar, after which riding was a breeze in spite of the 2 lane roads which seemed like a blessing, reached home via Adoor - Bharanikavu route by 7:00 PM.
As for the rest of the lot, they returned from Urumbikkara via the same Vagamon route and headed towards Thodupuzha where Faizal was the first to reach and was waiting for the rest to catch up at around 7:00 PM, after which I do not recall much as sleep got the best of me and I slowly drifted off to a well-deserved slumber in spite of the radiating ache in my legs, with my phone slowly slipping away from my hands.
Also here's a snap of the stats from the Sigma cyclocomputer on my CT100B, they seem to be decent considering the terrain and certainly my amateur trail riding skills.
Last edited by ashwinprakas : 12th February 2018 at 17:00.
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