|04-10-2013, 12:37 PM||#1|
big size ding dong
Joined: Sep 2011
East-West Across the Ghats, South India
Been lurking on this site for many years now, even before I registered. I have been vastly influenced to ride by this website. So here I offer you a ride report as a sacrifice. (oh god this is not going well).
Me - I am Varun and I work as a freelance cameraman/editor for television documentaries and news, currently based in Chennai - south of India. Although I work in Tamilnadu in the East coast, I am from Kerala, on the West coast. I am gonna hit 30 soon and have had my share of adventures on the bike. Just that I am lazy to write about it.
Jacopo and Sheerja - My co riders, husband and wife, are also based in Chennai. Where as J is in between jobs right now, S is an architect. J also happens to be my Kayak guru. That is one point that binds us all, we are all kayakers at some degree of expertise. J being the most experienced.
Here is Jacopo and Sheerja enjoying a day of flatwater kayaking near Chennai.
and here is me.
Both me and Jacopo are fans of Royal Enfields. Chennai also happens to be the home of the Royal Enfield since 1956. I own a 2010 year 500cc model where as Jacopo has two - a 350cc and a 500cc. Both are at least a decade old. The main difference being mine is an aluminium engine with more efficiency whereas his is the good old Iron cast engine with a fun to ride feel. For this trip, J, would be using the 500 which is just running in after an engine re-build. So his speeds are restricted to 50 kmph.
Here is my bike three years ago, clean and shiny.
Planning did'nt help. It never does. We initially planned to head north but then soon dropped that idea. The previous night to our weekend ride we decided to travel to the Eastern ghats. The plan was to scout rivers where we could possibly do a run during the rainy season. The plan was to get out Saturday morning, the Easter weekend and ride for four days and three nights. Route and rest stops would be decided along the way. My kind of travelling.
As far as I was concerned, I was just looking forward to getting out of the city. Coincidentally, my best buddy who is in the army was coming to town on the west coast of Kerala, so I decided to continue my journey west to meet him.
So our route was to be roughly,
Chennai > Jamunamanthur > Yercaud > Pondicherry > Chennai
I would ride with J&S till Yercaud and then travel south and west to Kerala over the Western Ghats, where as they returned to Chennai.
Chennai > Jamunamanthur > Yercaud > Munnar > Cochin > Guruvayoor.
Guruvayoor was my hometown, and I intended to park my bike there after the trip. I would see her a month later.
1 hot post coming up !!!
Royal Enfield Classic 500
East-West Across the Ghats, South India
|04-10-2013, 03:12 PM||#2|
big size ding dong
Joined: Sep 2011
Day 1: Getting out!
Saturday 30th March. The plan was to leave by 5 to hit our breakfast point by 8. I, was ready on time - waiting on my ride. Where as the couple were delayed. Wife still packing her gear i guessed. Anyway we met on the road, shook hands and headed off with big grins on our faces. Anyone who has been here can easily tell the nightmare of having to ride in day traffic. Leaving early didnít help as we had to encounter lot of traffic from IT and call centre companies getting home from the night shift. It took us an hour to get out of the City. And what a great feeling it was.
Here is Kong (that is what I call her), all set to roll at 5 in the morning.
This is an hour outside Chennai. Ahh, havenít felt so good in a while.
J&S were puttering along at their set speed of 50kmph. I was more comfortable with 80kmph, so I would often zip away and then wait for the couple to catch up. Often taking short deviations to do some photography.
Saw this beautiful temple en route. The Eeswaran Kovil near Kanchipuram.
We were on the Chennai - Bangalore highway and our first change in route came in at Arcot on the banks of the Palar river. I have never seen water on that river. It is sad how many rivers in India are dying due to bad management. Makes a kayaker very sad.
At Arcot, as we were filling in fuel, J found out that his engine oil level was very low. Desperate calls to his mechanic were made and fresh oil procured. He did not want to take any risk with his bike, so we patiently topped out the bike with fresh oil. Only to realize later that it was a little too much. All this meant we were late for breakfast. It was 9.30 already, waaaay past my breakfast time. We hit J's favourite breakfast point on the route. Soon the waiters rolled out the standard fare of Dosa's, Idli's and Pongal's.
Here is a pic of J&S happy with a serving of hot Dosa's and Pongal. It might look messy, but it taste's quite nice.
From Arcot, we travelled West by South West in to the Eastern Ghats. From here, till the end of the journey, it would all be rural roads. I have a personal grudge against Highways (or freeways). I don't feel comfortable in them. I feel bored and the riding leaves me exhausted. On these rural/country roads, it is a different matter. Speed's are low, there are a lot of twists, turns and bumps on the road. The scenery is fantastic and your mind begins to fly.
As soon as we turned off the highway, the views became more interesting. Here a women dries her crop of rice. And on the right, a very brightly painted tourist bus has the portrait of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, former President of India on its back.
We had to take many tiny village roads to get on to the main route to our night stop at Jamunamanthur which sits on the Javadi hill range in the Eastern Ghats. I have not travelled much on the eastern ghats, but I was liking what I saw. On the foothills were lush green fields of paddy, coconut and banana plantations.
It was slow going as the roads were hardly 12-14 feet wide. Traffic was occasional - a motorcycle or a tractor would go by with its occupants curiously looking upon us travellers. We were in no hurry and I would often stop to sip water or take a few photographs. I ran into trouble once when I hit a bad patch of the road and the speedometer cable came off. I stopped to fix it which also gave the couple some time to build a gap between us.
We soon reached a forest check post where we were asked to alight and purchase tickets for a nearby zoo. We were not interested in going to the zoo and just wanted to carry on our journey on this 'public road which happened to go through a forest'. I do not want to start writing about the Forest Department, they are trouble. Anyway the head guard let us go asking us to return before sunset as it was elephant country. Much of the Eastern Ghat range is protected although very poorly and its more degraded than preserved. We nodded in agreement, even though we had no plans to return - our journey was to get to the top and stay there in a little town. As soon as we left, Sheerja changed her mind and wanted to visit the zoo. A few seconds of angry stare later we decided to have tea outside the zoo, and thatís as far as we go near the zoo. As we were having tea, we saw a group of monkey's stealing stuff from bike's parked near the zoo. With amazing dexterity the monkey would open the velcro seal and the zipper of tank bags to look for food or any other item of interest. We watched in amazement on this show of skill. We continued on our journey and started to climb.
A settlement inside the forests. Although life might seem peaceful, existence is a daily struggle for the people who live here.
Soon we were at the first scouting location. The Amirthi river might be dry now, but Jacopo says in full flow it would be a very exciting river run. A good class 2+/3 run. We spent some time imagining ourselves doing slides and boofs on the river. We carried on slowly along the river, reading the river as it twists along plantations of forest dwellers. We stopped at a house to ask for information on when the best time would be to run the river. The man of the house gave us information on rainfall months and amount of flow. He was excited to hear we would come one day to paddle the river.
Jacopo scan's the river bed.
Asking the locals for information on the Amirthi river.
Once we left the house, it was an hour of ghat climbing session. I was having fun throwing the bike into the corners. There were 8-10 hair pin bends and my ears were popping at the speed at which we were climbing. At one corner I applied my rear brakes as I was leaning in, and due to the bad design of the brake pedal, it scrapped the floor and the bike almost threw me off. Had a scare. The couple were having a great time too except that their bike was burning away all the excess engine oil we had put earlier in the morning. We rode till we almost reached the top, then stopped for some pictures.
Jacopo's CI Enfield 500.
Styling it on his bike.
My EFI Enfield 500. Which do you think looks better. Mine or Jacopo's ?
Almost at the top, we had a photo op.
You can see how the climb was from the plains below. Twisty, I say.
The picture on the right is my favourite from the entire journey. It looks like a perfect trip photo.
Finally when we reached the top, the terrain looked dry. This brightly painted church stands in contrast to the surroundings.
We were at the top (at least for today), at a small village called Jamunamanatur. Nothing major about this place except for a small lake and a waterfall, both of which are dry. We searched for a place to sleep for the night and ended up at a co-operative run tourist house. One look and you would walk away, but we were not looking for luxury. The manager was away and the entire place was locked up, so we went to have lunch. It was 3.30 and waaaaaay past my lunch time.
Lunch was a traditional meal served on plantain leaf.
Lunch was traditional Tamil fare consisting of rice with lentil curry, beetroot side dish, curd and crispy pappad's. The owner of the shack surprised us with some freshly cut pappaya's on the house. The total came in for less than 140 Rupees (about 3 dollars). I relished the food so much that I over ate. Now must lie down.
And as it went, we finally traced the manager of the guesthouse who brought us the keys to our place. It was very run down; the beds had no linen on them; the floor had not been cleaned for ages and dust was everywhere. I opted for a Non AC room (Rs 450/$9) and the couple for an AC room (Rs 700/$14). They figured an AC room would be cleaner. The manager tried his best and got us some pillows and fresh bed linen but hardly enough to cover the entire bed. I gave mine to the couple as I had a sleeping bag. We agreed that sleep was top priority and that we would meet at 5.30 to have tea and go star gazing at the nearby observatory.
My room at the guesthouse.
We met at 6 in the evening and went to town for some tea. We had called the nearby observatory to ask them about coming over. They warned us that if the sky was cloudy, they would not be to blame. We had to travel around 10 kms out, through the forests to get to the observatory. Since it was elephant country we made quick reaction plans.
The Vainu Bappu Observatory, is home to the largest telescope in Asia.You can read all about it on the wiki page, and the discoveries they have made at the place. Now we were in for two big disappointments. One, even though it was a Saturday - there was a huge load of noisy annoying school kids on a field trip. This meant waiting for a long time for a chance to look through the telescope. Secondly, no one was allowed into the main telescope tower and we had to do with a six inch field telescope. Sheerja made a comment about the six inch something and we had a nice laugh.
She has been here before to do her thesis and was very excited at looking through the telescope. For me, this would be a first time and listening to Sheerja I started to get very excited. As we waited for the school kids to leave I saw three shooting stars. The night sky was clear and in the pitch darkness one could see millions of stars with the naked eye. Finally after almost an hour of waiting everyone had left, except us and a family from the plains nearby. They had two daughters, aged 12 and 8, and the elder one named Kalpana wanted to be an astronaut.
The four from the family along with Sheerja were making all kinds of wonderful comments as they looked through the telescope. "Wow, the colour...the texture OMG I can see the rings of Jupiter...OH Look the moon of Jupiter...". Jacopo was more timid in his response. He saw and sighed. Now it was my turn to look at this giant mass called Jupiter. I put my eyes against the glass and.......I saw nothing. I twisted and turned every knob on that little telescope but I saw nothing. Angered by my actions the in charge of the centre blasted me for blaming the telescope. He said something was wrong with my eyes - I panicked. I thought I had good eyesight, yet here are people seeing things I clearly could not. I could not see the planet except for a little dot. I could not make out its colour nor its moon or the ring around it. More stars, planets and clusters followed and all I saw were little dots of light - nothing more that what I saw with the naked eye.
The in-charge, now calmer, explained that different people have varying sensitivity for light and that I should try eating fish, carrots and cycling to improve my eyesight. At least Sheerja had a good time. I gave the little girls a candy each and wished them well.
We left the observatory wiser (maybe) and rode back into town. I encouraged Jacopo to do some lightless night riding. Guided only by the stars and their reflected light, we rode through the forests slowly sans any traffic. It was a great experience. By the time we got back to Jamunamanathur, it was already 9 and the entire town was shut down. We were hungry and the only thing that was open was a bakery. We bought an assortment of snacks and headed back to our guesthouse. Over conversations about the universe and what life actually means, we ate our dinner consisting of fried peanuts, biscuits and buns.
No kidding. This is how we saw Jupiter, atleast how we thought we saw Jupiter.
Dinner was an assortment of snacks.
It was a good first day of riding. More coming soon in the next post. Stay tuned.
Royal Enfield Classic 500
East-West Across the Ghats, South India
KingKong_500 screwed with this post 04-10-2013 at 03:17 PM Reason: Baah...some pics had to aligned. What do you care.
|04-10-2013, 03:33 PM||#3|
Joined: Oct 2011
Location: Tahoe/ Humboldt
Cool pictures, looking forward to more!
Do you do much boating over there? I am from California, boat a bunch here. I went to the western ghats once in the dry season, and saw tons of potential there. Do you guys do a bunch of creeking out there? I know there is good kayaking in northern India, but I always wondered about the south.
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