Western Ghats Biking - Oct 6-9

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the occasion of Dussehra/Ayudha Pooja, 8 bikers & 8 pillions took off on a 4-day/3-nights 800km bike ride throughout the Western Ghats on the long weekend of Oct 6-9.

It was a distributed team with members joining from Chennai, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Madurai. The planning of the trip started early with booking of onward/return bus tickets to Coimbatore a few weeks in advance - the entry and exit point of our road trip, located nearby the mountains to maximize our biking pleasure in the ghats. A few days before the start of trip we transported the bikes using KPN parcel from Chennai/Bangalore to Coimbatore. 

On Oct 6th, Thursday morning we took delivery of the bikes at KPN Parcel Coimbatore and set off on a 4-day road-trip heading towards Polachi and from there diverting to Udumalpet. As 3 bikes were delayed we decided to split up in two groups - the latter starting later in the day after the arrival of the remaining bikes. First stop over was near the Amravathi reservoir at the base of the mountains offering splendid views on the Southern side of the ghats.

From here we entered the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary) and starting driving up a scenic, small, winding ghat road up the hills. At Marayur we took a diversion from the usual road that leads up to Munnar through scenic tea estates. Instead we drove up an ascending ghat road through the Anaimudi Shola national park which took us through a beautiful, dense forest taking a shortcut towards Matipettu.

After riding through some pretty rough roads affected by monsoon rains we hair-pinned our way over the ridge into the next valley leading towards Kundale lake, the destination of day #1. As the sun was setting over the outstretched tea estates, misty clouds appeared transforming the landscape in a magical setting.

CTCians are not made to spend the night between concrete walls - no, they search for a scenic outdoor camping spot to sleep within nature under the starry skies and the glow of a nearby campfire. We identified a nice grassy flat spot near Kundale lake and set up camp, cooking CTC's standard dinner - Maggie noodles. As dinner was getting ready the second group rejoined us at the campsite. The night was chill, the sky was clear, everyone slept peacefully. 

As usual when sleeping outdoors, we woke up alongside the wake of dawn around 6-30am. A good 45 minutes later all camping gears and luggages were packed and we kick started our machines to our first destination of the day - Top Station on the border between Kerala and Tamilnadu. Soon we were riding alongside the scenic Mattipettu lake, an artificial reservoir formed by a dam with the same name.

The bikers were bending their vehicles through the curving ghat roads winding through beautiful tea plantations which covered the hilly slopes like green carpets with beautiful patterns. The fresh, chill mountain climate felt like a wonderful escape from our daily suffocating metros. 

After taking breakfast and enjoying the steep deeply-cut valley views at Top Station we took a U-turn towards Manali and proceed to Old Devikulam and Suryanelli towards Kulukkumalai, world's highest organic tea estate at 2200m altitude offering spectacular views on the Tamilnadu plains below.

It took us nearly 1.5 hour to climb up 700m at a snails pace over some of the most atrocious roads we had ever encountered before - a real test for bikers and their machines. Through the upper part we were driving inside the clouds surrounded by tea plantations as far as the eye could see.

The bad condition of the roads caused several hours of unexpected delay so we had to shortcut our original planned itenary. Next, we moved on towards Boddimetthu and from there the journey continued to another amazing viewpoint discovered through Google Satellite maps which we could only reach by nightfall - a 600m steep vertical drop near the Eastern edge of the Western Ghats - a sea of lights from the towns in the Cumbum valley were seen deep below us while 50m above our heads we could hear the imposing sound of the huge blades of the power-generating wind turbines cutting through the air -

With dusk passed it was time to proceed to our 2nd day campsite - we proceed straight to Katappana where we had gulped down the usual Kerala parotta's and curries and continued another 15km to the Southern shores of the Idukki reservoir - a huge artificial lake around 20km long and 10km wide surrounded by dense forest. We set up camp next to the lake on top of a ridge surrounded 270 degrees by water by 10pm. Exhausted of the journey everyone fell soon asleep with the stars shining bright above us.

As dawn appeared the next morning we woke up surrounded by a magical layer of mist slowly floating across the surface of the lake and gradually disolving as the sun rays broke through the clouds above. The lake is surrounded by hills all around which were barely visible through the fog. Far away across the 20km long reservoir we could see the Cheruthony dam near Idukki. Most of us enjoyed a refreshing swim in the crystal clear water of the surprisingly warm lake.

After wrapping up our campsite we were soon zipping through winding ghat roads again along the Western edge of the Western Ghats. Initially we were driving along the wide Periyar river which is supplying fresh water inflow to the Idukki reservoir. Unable to resist yet another refreshing dip some of us jumped in the water once again for the 2nd time that morning.

Next destination for the day was Vagamon - a small idyllic town located at the Southwestern side of the Idukki reservoir - the bikers were initially cruising  through tea estates, followed by the bright green Vagamon meadows, along steep vertical drops at the Western side of the Western Ghats high above the Kerala plains below, winding slowly down from 1000 to 100m altitude till we reached Kanjar located near a big lake formed by the Malankara dam.

At Kanjar we took a U-turn driving back up towards Idukki through numerous hair pin bends going steep up. Near Idukki town we drove up a hill offering splendid views on the lower part of the 60 square kilometer large Idukki reservoir formed by the Idukki arch dam (shown left top) and the Cheruthony dam. At 170m height the arch dam is one of the highest in Asia and took 13 years to build.

Having skipped our lunch we took an early dinner at Idukki near 5pm after which we proceeded towards the next stop of the day - the Athirappilli falls along the Challakudy river. After a 3 hour night ride we reached our destination and set up a campsite nearby. The next day we started early morning at 4:30am and reached the 80 feet high falls at dawn - the pinkish-orange sunrise on the Eastern horizon and transparent layer of mist above dense forest surrounding the falls.

Waiting for the tourist gates to open only by 8am we finished our breakfast and took in some distant views of the impressive falls. A steep path took us down towards the base of the falls from where we could admire the mighty force of the water falling on the rocks below and producing a strong current of misty air refreshing our faces.

After a quick dip (it's hard to resist clear water for CTCians) in the Challakudi river at the top of the falls we were ready for the most scenic part of our 4-day bike ride - the 50km stretch from Athirappilli to Valparai through the dense and scenic Sholayar reserved forest. On the way we passed along several beautiful lakes including the Ponngalkutthu reservoir and lower Sholayar reservoirs - crystal clear blue lakes located amidst slopy hills covered by dense, virgin jungle  -

Driving over narrow, winding ghat roads through these shady, dense forests is simply beyond words. Yet again unable to resist we took another quick dip in the clear waters of the lower Sholayar lake. While entering back into Tamilnadu, the lush green forest made way for open tea plantations spreading across the hills till the horizon. Soon we passed along the upper Sholayar dam as we were approaching Valparai.

After finishing lunch in a small, peaceful town across the border, we proceeded through the beautiful tea plantations near Valparai and finally started our descent towards the TN plains near Polachi along 40 hair pin bends offering spectacular views on the vast lake formed by the Aliyar dam below us.

We hit the plains just before dusk and another 2 hours later we reached back to Coimbatore where we packed the bikes again through KPN Parcel Service before grabbing a quick bite and catching our AC overnight bus back home. Exhausted but overwhelmed by the many intense experiences and beautiful locations throughout our 4 days/3 nights road trip covering a large section of the Western Ghats our minds where still struggling to take it all in....

More photos and experiences on our forum

CU all soon on the next one....


www.rasanai.blogspot.com on: October 13, 2011 at 9:58 PM said...

Dear CTCians
wow..... excellent write up with wonderful photographs. missed it out this time. will join in the next venture. the article gave the feeling "been there and done that" this article kindles my nostalgic moments at maraiyur, kolukkumalai and valparai
will surely interested to join with you guys next time.
kudos to peter and entire CTC team.
sundar g


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