Dates: 27th September – 5th Otober,2008
No. of days: 9
Total Distance: ~ 2400 KMs
Who?: Me & Vignesh
How?: Me in Honda Shine & Vignesh in Pulsar 180 DTSi
Highlights of the tour: a) Roads of Tamil Nadu
b) Coconut grooves of Kerela
c) Historic Fort Cochin
d) Vast Allepey backwaters
e) Beaches along NH-17
f) Sunset at Kovallam Beach
g) Sunrise in Kanyakumari
h) Las Vegas revisited: Kanyakumari to tuticorin
i) Sky blue water of Palk Strait
j) The majestic pillars of Rameshwaram temple
k) Untouched Dhanuskodi
l) Gopurams of meenakshi temple, Madurai
m) Silent & scenic Valparai hill station
n) Sholayar Dam
o) Mallu Marriage customs & cuisine
p) Verrapan’s kingdom: Satyamangalam Forests
This biking tour of South India had everything what one would look for. Beaches, temples, desert, hill stations, tourists havens, deep jungles….what more one could ask for in a single tour. It was emotional as well, when i was in the tip of India. The trip had a religious importance as well with visits to Rameswaram & Madurai, the two most sacred temples of S.India. I also had some anger on myself, seeing how much materialistic my life has become. The trip surely is going to bring some changes in my future life. The tour also made me felt that, we at Bangalore are very much cut off from actual Bharat. Anyways it was a very good break from boring work life & also i had some soul searching.
At the end of trip, we realised we have completed one NH …NH-47 that starts from Salem & ends in Kanyakumari. Thats quite a feet in itself.
Day1: 27th September: Bangalore to Trishur
Distance travelled: ~500KMs
Route: Bagalore-Hosur-Dharmapuri- Krishnagiri-Omalur- Bhavani – Coimbatore Bypass- Palakad-Thrissur.
7:30AM: We three, me,Vignesh & Vikas started from HSR layout.
8:30AM: Exit from Bangalore & Karnataka.
3:00PM: Tiprupur Bypass. had a lunch in some dhaba.
5:30PM: Coimbatore bypass to Palakad. This is one of the best roads of the trip. Road straight as a line with close to zero traffic. This is perfect road to make your machine work harder. We all went with an average speed of 75KMs/hr and reached Palakad in no time.
8:00PM: Reached Thrissur. Palakad to Thrissur road is also very smooth, but has got a good traffic.
As we all set to reach home (Vikas’s Uncle), first incident of trip came. Vikas’s avenger’s clutch wire got cut. To our bad luck it happened at the end of journey & to bad luck, whole Thirssur was closed by 8:30PM and so we couldnot get his bike repaired. After a lot of drama, Vikas’s bike got a make shift home & finally we went home. After receiving a great hospitality from Uncle & aunty, we all went to sleep.
To wrap up, the whole day was all about driving…but in excellent roads of Tamil Nadu. First milestone accomplished.
DAY 2: 28th September: Trishur to Cochin
Highlights: Anthrapally Falls, Vazhachal Falls, Fort Cochin.
6:30AM: Vikas went to Station to receive his father, as me & Vignesh started getting ready to carry-on our journey.
8:00AM: After having a traditional kerelaite breakfast, Me & Vignesh started for rest for our journey.
10:00AM: Anthrapally Falls. With a height of ~85 feets, the falls is in midst of a moderate jungle.The fall is part of River Chalakudi and is a famous shooting sights among South Indian movies. When we went, there was some shooting going on…with Mani Ratnam as director & Bachans as star casts.Got to see this movie. We went right at the bottom of the falls & it was completely mist because of tiny water droplets. The sound, whiteness & sight of falls was breath taking.
The falls is some 50-60Kms from Thrissur and roads to falls are excellent. Some 6 KMs upstream of Antharapally falls is Vazhachal falls. Although its not that great in height, but is a very good relaxing place, with good seats provided by Kerela tourism, which can be used as beds. The falls does provide some good views in terms of water flow rate, which seemed to be higher that Anthrapally falls.
From there hipped off straight to Fort Cochin. We reached fort cochin by 3:30PM, in about 3 hrs of slow & sluggigh drive drive, becasue of hot & humid conditions of Kerela. Here came the second & last victim of tour….vignesh’s bike’s tire got punctured..luckily in Cochin. But being a sunday, it was difficult to find a single shop open….but finally, it got repaired after a hefty sum, which was 3 times more than usual cost.
3:30PM: IN fort Cochin, we stayed in Lonely Planet recommended Home stay…which turned out to be a bad recommendation. But was just a night affair, so we managed. After having a late lunch, we went through historic streets of Fort Cochin. Be it Chinese fishing nets, St. Francis Church, Jew town, everything were telling a story unheard & getting dissolved in this Hip-Hop life. The most close to my heart was drive through narrow lanes of Jew Town, which still has some looks of 15-16th Century. It tells stories of Spice trade, how jews must have come to India, how middle east architecture got mingled with Indian architecture. Its a historian paradise & answer to mnay of the questions of history.
Our plans to see Sunset in Vypeen island got destroyed, becasue of heavy Sunday traffic & the only means of communication being a single ferry, which catered right from childs bicycle to Monster trucks. So we had to settle down in rocks of Fort Kochi beach & watch the sun getting dissolved in infinite expances of Arabian Sea.
After walking through beach for 3 hrs, we had our dinner and called it the day by 9:30PM. As i realised the importance of Fort Cochin, especially that of Jew town in shaping of India’s history, i went asleep with time, exactly like the streets of Jew town went with every passing centuries.
DAY3: 29th September: Cachin- Allepey- Kovalam- Kanyakumari
6:00AM: We started our day very early as per plans. We again passed historic streets of Jew Town and bidded the history a bye, as we went back to roads of our times. Now we were on our way to Allepey, some 80KMs from Cochin.
8:00AM: We were parked in front of vast expanses of Allepey backwaters. And an early morning meant, vacant places & no crowd & noise. We booked a boat for hefty Rs 700 for 2 hours sailing in backwaters. First thought was the time is too long, but after completion i realised, the time was very short & i even didn’t realise how time passed by.
12-4PM: After a the cruise, we headed towards Kovalam, which was some 200 KMs from Allepey. the road was lovely & whole population of Kerela seemed to live along side this road. The whole road was lined with coconut trees & hidden in it were lavish hamlets of kerelites. Road also often, kissed the isolated beaches, and i tell these beaches were more inspiring than other beaches, because these were not crowded & dirty. The hot sun only avoided us staying in these beaches for long. Soon we were into IT Corridors of Trivandrum, capital of Kerela. And within no time, we reached Kovalam beach.Since it was already 4PM, we had to alter our original plan to see sun set in Kanyakumari & settled down to see sunset in Kovalam itself. And it turned out to be a very good decision later on, as drive from Kovalam to Kanyakumari was horrible, with pot holed & traffic lenthening our drive to 3 hrs to cover just 90 KMs form Kovalam Beach.
6-9PM: This was the worst drive in our whole trip. It took us 3 hrs to cover 90KMs, to reach end point of India Kanyakumari. The road were horrible, traffic was huge, and added to our woes were, we were doing night driving. But the moment, we hit Tamil Nadu, in Nagercoil, we got relief. Again we were back to buttered roads, with close to zero traffic. We zoomed our way from Nagercoil to Kanyakumari in 30-40 mins. We settled down in one of the hotel, just ~200 Mts from tip of India & set out for a walk around tip of India. After jogging through the deserted streets of tip of India, we called it a day & went for a sound sleep.
DAY4: 30th September: Kanyakumari- Tuticorin- Rameswaram
5:30AM: The tip of India was crowded like anything, that all to watch the sun coming out from belly of Bay of Bengal. I have never seen, sun rise of eagerly awaited. The market was open, even before the first rays could come of sea, vendors were all busy selling stuffs, photographers geared with their cameras, people running to take the best available view points. This was INDIA AT ITS BEST, that too in its first / last point. Booker prize winner Arvind Adiga has correctly said, “Indians are perhaps the most funniest & craziest people on earth“. Truely i never cared to see sun rise in my 24 years of life, but something happened that day & i was just waiting for sun rise.
6:12AM: Finally we got the first glimpse of sun, and there was a loud uproar all around, as if all of us are Plutonians, who rare to get see Sun. Thousand of cameras clicks went at a time to capture Sun rise against the backdrop of Vivekananda rock. The scene was very inspiring and photogenic.
6-8AM: We had photo session all around the tip on India. A very strong nationalistic feeling was coming in my heart, while being in the tip of India.I was just thinking of vast land, infinite people, millions customs & languages, 10000 years of history. All these thought just kept creeping in, and i became very senti for some time also.
The deserted roads across Indian, Bay of Bengal & Arabian sea gave Vignesh some time to practise his bike stunts & he took full adavantage of this opputunity.
At 8:30AM, we went to Vivekananda Rock in a crowded ferry, which is just 5 mins of sailing from main land India.The rock houses a museum, book shops…all dedicated to Swami Vivekananda.It also provides very closer view of Thiruvalur Statue.The place is always have a silent looks, irrespective of number of tourists. The sound of sea waves hitting the rock, continuously dissolves the noise of a hectic world close to it.The rock also provided good views of near by hills & newly installed thousands of Wind mills.
After 1.5 hrs of meditation (within heart), we headed back to mainland.By 10:30AM, we were on our way to Rameswaram, some 300KMs from here.
11:00AM-2:00PM:On NH-7, to Tuticorin. This was one of the fastest drive of trip.The road was X-rated excellent, vacant. The region is a semi desert & very sparsely populated. The region in now hot spots of India’s green initiative map. Now it boast of highest number of Wind mills.The drive reminded me of my LA to Las vegas drive, through death valley.The scene was very similar, weather was hot & dry.The afternoon sun caused serious sun burn to both of us. But we were thrilled to have such a sexy ride.
2:00PM-6:00PM:We travelled parallel to Indian coast, through small village roads to reach Ramnathpuram. The roads were equally good & bad. The vegetation of region was big grasses, which were quite scenic, when seen from heights. The road from Ramnathpuram to island of Rameshwaram was rocking. It was smooth as butter with no traffic.But all these were nothing infront of scenic beauty encountered in this 40KMs journey. Beaches on both side of road, jungle patches & stunning evening sky in Pamban bridge. It was just a delight to eyes after a day long journey from Kanyakumari. Without wasting our time we soon were to bed by 9PM.
DAY5: 1st October: Rameswaram (Dhanuskodi) to Madurai
4:00AM: I woke up & a tough time to awake Vignesh. But any how by 5:00 AM we were standing in line for darshan.
Already there were around 500 people in fromt of us. That was unexpected as per our plans.But any how within 2 hrs we had darshans of lord Rameshwara and after 1 hr of exploring the temple, we were all set to start off our day.
7:00AM: Because of unexpected line in temple, we missed our plans to see Sunrise in Dhanuskodi. But still no regrets, even without that, this was best part of our whole journey.Dhanuskodi is 20KMs from Rameswaram & is last point of India, which is hardly 16KM from tip of Srilanka. In some way mature wins over human beings here & is so still in its pristine format. Although some infiltration can be seen(Mainly Lankan refugees), because they are having close to zero carbon footprint. I seriously & heartily- appeal & discourage people, tourists to not to go this place, if they donot have even a penny respect for nature. Even a piece of paper thrown would be a curse to its beauty here. Although we went in a bike, i would encourage the explorer kind of tourists (not exploiting type ones) to take a walk/cycle down this 20KM track & too on wee hours of the morning. I bet all diseases & pain would be forgotten, may be cured as well.I plan to cycle down this track on my next visit (hopefully my plea is heard to all visiting there). I became kind of poet or may be psycho during 1 hr of our stay. Returning was a completely against my hearts wish. But i had to ….
9:00AM: We went to Gandapastham temple, which is about 3 KMs from main temple. It is beleived to be having footprints of lord Rama. Being on a hill top, it provides excellent views of Rameshwaram temple, surrounding seas & sea deserts.
10:00 AM: We were on way back to Madurai, some 250KMs from Rameshwaram. On way back we shot our best photo of our trip…over pamban birdge.
10-2PM: We zoomed our way from Rameshwaram to Madurai in 4.5 hrs. As usual the Tamil Nadu govt had done excellent job of maintaing the roads. The whole was a smooth ride, even under a hot & shiny sun. The temperature was close to 35 degC.
Madurai, one of largest cities & not to mention oldest city and against not mention is the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu. The literary activities, Tamil culture & traditions can be felt in the air of this noisy town. The whole city is centered around its main attraction : Meenakshi Temple. Now our time happened to “Durga Astammi”, the most auspicious day for the temple goddess. So hit upon two bad lucks: Crowd & sadly the main attraction of temple-Gopuram were under covers due to repairing works. But still we were able to have Darshans of Mata, after 5 hrs of tussing in crowd amidst the comforts of slokas, light breeze & occasional rain. But i promised goddess to come back again soon to see Gopuram & whole temple.
By 10:00PM: We were in our sleep after two evil washing darshans on the same day, that of Lord Shiva in Rameshwaram & Goddess Meenakshi. JAI HO JAI HO.
DAY6: 2nd October : Madurai to Valparai: ~250Kms
After having yummy breakfast of Idlis, we started our drive towards Trishur around 8AM. Driving via Dindigul, Palani, Udumalaipettai, Kottur, we reached Valparai hill station. It was almost 5 PM, we reached there. The ~250 Kms drive of the day had mixed quality of road. Madurai to Dindigul was partly under construction, followed by NH-209 from Dindigul to Udumalaipettai which was not that great. Also it didn’t had much to offer for stomach. We had our lunch on traditonal Tamil food, in an un-descriable hotel in an unknown village. Udumalaipettai to Valparai was quite a steep drive of 40 hair pin bends, surrounded by forests & tea gardens. But at end of tough drive, we treated with some eye soothing sunset views from Valparai hills. Aliyar dam near before Valparai is also worth a place to stop.
DAY7: 3rd October : Valparai to Trishur: ~125 Kms
It was a real tough drive, but worth it. he road, if it can be called so, passes through heart of Indra Gandhi National Park, as it can be seen from map. It passes through Sholayar dam, which is certainly was surprise discovery. It was big, pristine and somewhat untouched by trashing Indians. Its good that roads to such places are bad. After completing a photo shoot up there, we continued our journey through deep forests. I gave a forest guard lift, feeling pity over the tough life, he must be living in this dense forests. Finally, after drive of around 3 hrs, we crossed over to Kerala and hints of human civilization visible. The first stop in Kerala was Antrapally falls, which we had visited couple of days back. From here, drive to Trishur was really tough because of heat & traffic & under construction roads. Anyhow, we reached Vikas’s home in Trishur by 3PM. After having rest, we participated in Vikas’s sister marriage functions. This was first experience of Kerala home environment, culture n marriage.
DAY8: 4th October : Trishur to Coimbatore: ~120 Kms
After attending Kerala wedding function, which to my surprise was of just 15 mins, which was a shock to me, who is used to wedding stretching over days. Anyways, after savoring on mouth watering Kerala food, we decided to start our last leg of journey. After some nataka, we started from Trishur by 3 PM and reached Coimbatore by 6PM.
DAY9: 5th October : Coimbatore to Bangalore: ~350 Kms
Coimbatore- Satyamangalam- Chamrajnagar- Nanjangudu- Mysore- Mandya- Maddur- Bangalore
We started from Coimbatore from 7AM and had great breakfast of idlis, vadas and 7 chatnis in Anand Bhavan. We decided not to go in same route of NH-47, rather a different route through Verappan’s den of Satyamangalam forest. From Coimbatore to TN-Karnataka border, through Satyamangalam forest was the best drive of whole tour. But moment we crossed over Karnataka, road quality turned sour and forest vanished. Till Mysore, road was of average quality. After having lunch in Mysore, we started towards Bangalore and reached home by 6PM. And that was end to my longest, most memorable journey.