Although I was struggling with all the luggage - a backpack, a laptop bag and a bike bag, it felt good getting down at the Trivandrum railway station. The 4 day kerala ride was now a reality. I spotted Manu on the station and we drove down to his ancestral home, just couple of kms from Trivandrum Station, where I would be staying that night
Abhi arrived the same evening. Together, we set the bikes up, took them for a small test ride. We were all set for the long awaited Kerala Monsoon Ride – A 4 day bike ride through the Hills , forests, backwaters and beaches of Kerala. We were all very excited!
Sumit , Ravi and Magin arrived by the next day morning. After a very heavy breakfast at Manu's place, 6 of us set of for the much awaited tour.
Rain Drenched Ponmudi
After shepharding us out of the town, its was time for Manu to go back and make arrangements for his Younger son's birthday party in the evening. With our luggage in the panniers, the 5 of us set off from there. Destination Ponmudi, around 50 km from there.
The initial plan was to have a heavy breakfast( which we did have at Manu's house), skip lunch, and ride on till the top of Ponmudi. The plan got altered on the way, and we ended up having a heavy lunch as well. Nobody complained as everyone of us started falling in love with the Kerala cuisine
At one of the hairpins
The climb started roughly 10 km from our lunch point. For many of us, it was the longest climb we had attempted till then (As Ravi acknolwledged later, first time in his life he used the smaller chainring:-)).
I tried to maintain a rhythm which I thought will last till the top. I was trailing Abhi's wheel. Ravi was a little ahead, but I could see him. Sumit was behind me and Magin had already dissappeared ahead. With distance though, the gaps started increasing. After around 30 min of climbing, I saw Magin, Ravi and Abhi waiting at one of the turns, taking a breather.
That turned out to be one of the many banana break's we had in kerala ( we always had one of our pannier's stuffed with bananas) . Started riding again. We were kind of together till halfway into the climb, and then the gradient kicked off. And it started pouring as well. The forest around was breathtaking, and at each turn I could appreciate the view from the top. It felt lovely climbing ponmudi in rain, something you can only experience. I stopped a couple of times more. Ultimately, by around 6 pm, I reached the top, with the others already waiting.
The Rubber Plantations
We started the second day with Ponmudi descent. Manu and Hari joined us midday as planned. Even through there were no big climbs that day, the terrain remained seriously rolling. To the extent, that Ravi continued on the small ring most of the time :-) But the highlight of the day had to be the road leading to the Chittar Dam .
It rolled through the rubber plantations, the tall textured tree trunks of the rubber trees providing sufficient contrast to the greenery around.
The road led us to the backwaters of Chittar dam, where we spent probably an hour sitting by the water and doing nothing.
And then it was time to ride down to Manu's house at Kulasekhara. The house was recently build by Manu as a weekend getaway, and looked inviting. It was perfect place for us to be after a day's hard ride.
The Terrace Barbeque
The plan was to have a terrace barbeque at Manu's house. Tomatoes, Onions, Capsicum and Chicken were on menu. And a barbeque is incomplete without beer. While Abhi, Manu and a few others were busy litting the coal, myself along with Hari and Sumit worked on the marination. Abhi took the charge of the grill. After a wet day, it felt nice sitting by the terrace near the fire, looking at the stars, sipping beer and catching up with buddies. The hot food disappeared evrytime they were dished out of the grills.
Does Fish taste better after long climbs?
On the third day, we had plans to ride down to the Kodayar Dam. So after the first couple of hours of riding, we entered the forests. The elevation was illusive ,the climbs relentless. Road condition was patchy, but the forest had its own charm. The dam was around 15 km from the forest checkpost. Around 1 pm we reached a small bridge and a view point. The dam was still another 2 km to go and all of us were tired and hungry.
We decided to turn back and stopped at a tiny place for one of the best lunches I ever had. The local fish fry was delicious and I couldn't stop myself from multiple serving.
The ride along the chittar dam 2
On the same day, on our way back from the dam, we took a road that passes through what can be described as a valley with pineaple plantation on one side and hills on other. There was not a soul and it felt almost like a private road. The road then led us to the Chittar Dam 2 and we couldn't stop appreciating nature's bounty.
The Tall Coffee glasses and the Kadi's
The whole trip to Kerala would be incomplete without a mention of the multiple snack stops at the tea/coffee shops. I particularly liked the tall coffee glasses. And all those mouthwatering snack items used to make us actually look forward to the stops. My favourite was the ripe banana fry (pazham pori) - a slice of ripe banana, fried with coat of gram flour.
Life is a Beach
One of those pristine, non touristy stretches of beach, a few km from Varkala
After 3 hard days of riding, we hit the beaches of kerala. . End of the day 3, we were at Kovalam.Its was a different world. More touristy, less pristine . On the last day we rode down to Varkala. Thanks to Abhi and his navgational skills, we actually located a stretch of beautiful white sand beach where you don't see a soul. It was right out from one of those movies.
The Backwater Cruise
By the 4th day afternoon, the Ride had ended, but Hari had one last bit of surprise planned for us. Not far from Hari's ancestral home near Varakala, the backwater connects to the old canal way to allepy. We drove down to the Jetty and boarded the private boat rented out by Hari. The next couple of hours were bliss. As the expert boatman channelled the boat through the backwater, the vista changed. The coast line was primarily compromised of forests , coconut plantation, occasional old architectures .The boat felt like a cradle , the serenity almost making you drowsy. It definitely was one of the most memorable part of the trip.
Next day we drove back to Manu's Home in Trivandrum, from where we left for Hyderabad. It was a trip that surpassed my expectation, a trip that would make myself wait eagerly for the next one.