In Search Of “The God” – In God’s Own Country, Kerala
Hello readers, I’m Ananth from Chennai, An avid motorcycle enthusiast and a casual photographer. Here I am, Representing Wranglers to go on a dream ride to Kerala for 7 Days - In search of what makes Kerala so special. What is in it for us to call is the God’s Own Country? What makes it so godly that no other place is described so? And hence the ride: In Search Of “The God” – In God’s Own Country, Kerala. have always been passionate about discovering places on motorcycle and which automatically inspired me to visit Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and recently Jammu & Kashmir. One such ride I did last year was “The Monsoon Ride to Kerala” which got me into the top 10 finalist for “The True Wanderers” contest by Wranglers.
Upon getting selected, I was sponsored to ride for 7 days across South India, From 03-June-2011 till 09-June-2011. You can as well goto Search for the True Wanderers - Ananth T E if in case you want to read the log along with pictures uploaded on the go. In this thread, I would attach images that were processed after the trip, and try to update the logs with any other useful information. I did extend the ride and visited couple of other places after the ride and made it a grand 10 day ride. Do reply back with your comments, suggestions, critique or anything that could help me do better.
The results were published much earlier than I anticipated and was announced that I was one of the top 10 finalist for the contest. I was jubilant and went around everywhere praising myself on the same. The D Day came as the dates were fixed as June 3 to June 9, 2011. My cousin sister’s marriage and another family function were also fixed on 2nd & 3rd June, 2011. So that made things complex. After discussing with the officials, the timings for the flag off were relaxed and I get to be at the Wrangler Exclusive Showroom, Kochi on 3rd June 2011, by 11:00 AM. Since I could not ride on 2nd or 3rd to Kochi, I decided to start to Kochi on 1st June – Leave the bike in Kochi, return back to Chennai to attend the functions and again go back to Kochi on 3rd June for the flag off. Phew, So much drama even before the start of the trip.
Things I’m using on the Trip:
Hero Honda Karizma ZMR – For the joy of riding!
Cramsters Tank Bag – For easy access to stuff I need on the go.
Cramsters Saddle Bag – For anything and everything else I might need on the trip would be safely stored here.
Canon 500D – The awesome crop camera!
Tamaron 17-50 F2.8 – For fast and vibrant images
Sigma 10-20 – To see things W-I-D-E
Sigma 70-300 – To get up-close and personal with anything I wish to shoot.
Gorillapod – On the go easy mounting tripod.
Vivitar Pro – Steel Tripod for better Night & Self-portrait pictures
Cordura Riding Jacket – For protection from cold, wind and water resistance with C E Approved armor.
Riding Gloves – Cordura, Leather and Mesh gloves – One for each type of weather.
Duckback – The trusted companion on rain rides. The amazing rain coat.
Garmin 76CSX – The GPS that cannot drown. All weather GPS which could float!
Read on as i start one of the most interesting rides of my lifetime - My moment awaits in K-E-R-A-L-A!
Special Thanks to :
I would like to extend my thanks to the following people, wiithout them - I dont think the trip would have been a success..
- H V Kumar
- Sudharshan Sreenivasan
- Sudarsan Srinivasan
- Tarun Charles
- Praveen Selvam
- Srinivasan Rajagopalan a.k.a Steve
- Sathish K Ponnuswamy
- Keerthy M
- Karuna Karan
- Ranjith M, Cochin
- Swaroop, Cochin
- xBhp & Wranglers, Ofcourse!
Route Map of the True Wanderer Ride:
Day 1: 03-June-2011 --- The D Day
Thanks to the courteous Wrangler staff, I was allowed to reach there by 10:00 AM instead of the actual 9 AM start. I finished my work, packed up things and was at the airport by 7 AM. To my surprise my flight has been delayed and won’t start for at least an hour. I called up my friends (Cochin xBhpians) informing my status and requesting them to pass on the message to wrangler as soon as possible. I really did not expect this situation as I did not want to cut a sorry face on Day 1 itself. An hour went by and we were asked to wait in a special waiting area. Little did I know that the flight was cancelled and we were boarded on the next flight to Kochi. I called up the taxi driver in Kochi asking him to be present in Kochi airport in an hour. The flight finally took off by 10:20 AM, almost couple of hours late. Landed up at Kochi by 11:30 AM, way too late – Thankfully the taxi was on time and instructed him to get there as fast as possible.
Received a call from Wrangler marketing team enquiring about my status, and they were very humble enough to accept my reason and apology. The flight was mainly delayed due to the very heavy rains in Kochi and literally inundating all the roads in the city. As I reached the showroom, everything was readily prepared and waiting for my arrival. I was asked to select a Wrangler Jean – I let the selection to the showroom manager and was given and nice and sturdy looking Jean and couple of Wrangler T-shirts. First impression was the jean may be a bit tight, but I was wrong – It fit and matched my requirements completely. I should be riding with the Jean on for the next 7 days continuously. The jean would sport a rugged look after extensive usage and thus making it a much more useful, usable and valuable garment.
By 1:30 PM, I was flagged off from the Wrangler Exclusive Store, MG Road, Ernakulam, Kochi by the Wrangler Officials. The officials were very happy to flag me off, and by now we all had already built rapport. The owner of the showroom was a champion in last year’s Pala Off-Roading competition and was full of energy. I was given so much advice, Information and precautions about travelling in Kerala. They even went about writing down the list of places they feel is worth visiting along with directions, kilometres and the difficulty level in accessing the route. Swaroop and Kochu from Kochi xBhp was also present a round of thanks for their efforts as well. As I set out from the showroom, the sky was open and raining like there is no tomorrow.
I went to the nearby petrol pump to tank up, and set out on an expedition of sorts. I did not know the route and the directions given on the GPS was a traditional route which I did not want to traverse through. The first 10 kilometres took me about 1 hour. With rains playing joyfully, the commuters were finding it difficult to navigate across the city. It took me a while to keep things going as I was chasing time against the mighty rain. I planned to hit Thekkady (Kumily) as I could get decent accommodation and internet connectivity as well.
Reached Moovaattupuzha, 40 kilometres from Kochi by 3:30. It is raining constantly giving no respite for anyone. Stopped for a cup of tea - informed parents, friends and also SunilG (xBhp) that I have successfully started the ride. The roads thankfully were in a good shape from here, so I could maintain at least about 40-50 kmph. Consistent rains meant I can’t ride fast nor take things easier, had to be safe and vigilant all the time. Next up was Thoduppuzha, Similar names by pronunciation but each and every town is different in its own ways. I did slip and skid for a while, I was still getting used to riding in heavy rains. It’s not as easy as we think – Every move needs to be done with care, even the slightest extra throttle on a corner would skid you off. So, Overtaking, Cornering, Breaking, etc needs to be precisely done and hence the reduced speeds.
From Thoduppuzha, I wanted to take the Pala – Kanjirapalli - Thekkady route. The rains by now started to be intermittent. So I could blip the throttle once in a while to up the ante. Every now and then I had to stop to see the scenery, give life to school kids or just to let the bike rest for a while. Mind you, The bike is constantly on first three gears and so more stress on the engine. As time flew by, Darkness started gripping in. I had about 85 kilometres to cover and it’s about 5:30 PM already. I took things as it comes by, So stopped where I wanted and rode without a break if I don’t feel like stopping. The rain came back with a bang recuperating for my fast run to Thoduppuzha.
As I started entering Pala, The roads became narrower, steeper and with a lot of potholes. One funny thing I noticed was: Few potholes are covered by coconut shells and coir’s. It would help a car, but not a motorcycle as it doesn’t grip on to the tyre. I had to wait every few kilometers to wait for rain to stop but as I reached Pala, A new challenge awaited me. Fog. Small Village roads with less traffic, Better inclination and hence even more rain. Whenever the rain stops, the fog overtakes and takes over the entire place and would not bind up unless it rains. It’s a do or die situation. I cannot ride with my visor up since it’s raining, but if I do open up, the fog does irritate you.
I crossed Kanjirapalli and the vistas started to be amazing. Its on the other side of 6 PM and my luck the sunlight still stayed. I took as much use as I can, but just like the wanderer in me – Eyes too keep wandering and see the b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l vistas around. So, I had to stop every now and then to keep on telling myself not to stop and just concentrate on the road. The traffic on the highway too helped me a great mile. If the visibility goes down because of fog, everyone on the road starts behaving well! They turn on the hazard lights and keep driving slow. As soon as rain comes (Better visibility) they intend to overtake and race each other.
I kept on riding for 40 kilometres without a break. I adjusted the GPS to show the route I wanted. Few kilometers ON, the GPS again gave some wrong directions – for a second I lost concentration and kept my eyes off the road and saw the GPS – I missed a corner and went out of the road. Bless fully, I skid and stopped with the rubber side down. Wonder even the slightest of the mistakes has so much impact on the road. I shouted, screamed and advised myself to ride safely – After all I’m riding solo and I’m the only person to pacify myself!
I took a short break for tea, relaxed for a while. 44 Kilometres to go and the time was 6:35 PM. I do an average of 20 kmph on the hills. This includes food / photography breaks. Since I ride slow in general, I had to push hard in few places with good visibility and straight road. The fog took its job after rains and then immediately it was Fog + Rain! One cannot ask for more trouble than this. I quiet seem to enjoy the experience as It helps in gaining more experience and also to suit ourselves to ride in such conditions.
Saw a lot of waterfalls, Viewpoints, Tea plantations, Rubber plantations etc. Since the rain is not going to stop – It is very difficult to take pictures from the SLR. Remove gloves; Open the rain cover, Open Zip, Take out SLR from the cover – take a picture – close cover – close zip – close rain cover. This itself consumes a lot of time. I patiently rode behind a truck for another 45 minutes and covered 22 kilometres! I am going too slow and may not reach Thekkady If I don’t rush up. Had to stop by an huge waterfall. Had missed spotting it last time as the water was not much – But this time it was too huge to be missed. Since it was dark – I had to use the oncoming light to fuel the picture. I started shivering from inside with cold water dripped on to my shoes. The riding glove was also not waterproof so my hands too went numb.
The next 10 kilometres till Kumily was havoc. Rains, Fog, Idiotic cars and much more. I was tired as well, So speeds too came down. It was all dark by now and I could not see what’s on the road. Every now and then I will wait for a rather slow car to pass through so that I could tuck behind it to ride safe in such conditions. After 6 hours of gruelling ride, covering remote villages of Pala and Idukki – I reached Thekkady by 7:40 PM. 6+ hours for 180 kilometres. As said, Riding in rains and the hills is not easy task – especially when you are chasing the South West Monsoon. I rode on straight on to the Guest house near Periyar Tiger Reserve and crashed for few hours.
I woke up at 10:00 PM to get some food and blog about the day. To my dismay – There is no internet connection in Thekkady and all connections were ripped off in the rain. There is no cyber café open and won’t be open for the next few days. Since the data card to wasn’t working – I could not help but to go back and sleep.
Total Kilometres: 185
Fuel: 11 Litres topped up at Kochi – 700 Rupees
Food: 100 Rupees
Accommodation: 600 Rupees
Best Moments of the day: Riding across the green hills of Idukki and the panoramic view of the misty mountains.
Worst Moment of the day: Taking a corner and visor getting fogged up forcing me to come to a grinding halt (Thankfully Safe).