The pandemic brought about a slew of changes in our lives. Ever since COVID came knocking on our doors, it affected everything around the globe, including the way we travel and to some extent, where we travel as well. It was September 2020, right after the first wave of COVID that my wife and I decided to move to our hometown, Lucknow, from Bangalore. It was a temporary change but a big one still.
Since moving to Lucknow, we had mostly been riding to the usual destinations in northern India; the Himalayas, Lahaul, Spiti, Uttarakhand, Northeast, and so on. Our most recent ride was the 30-day-long Unexplored Spiti Ride. After nearly two years, we are visiting Bangalore and as happenstance would dictate, we got an opportunity to ride for xBhp and CEAT for their #CEATxPlorer project.
Opportunities like that do not come by frequently so we instantly said yes! After all, who can say no to a monsoon ride opportunity that will let you explore the wilderness of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu? So, the first weekend after we got the information, I sat down to work on the itinerary. After having stayed in Bangalore for nearly a decade, charting out a route was not a problem. The problem was arranging for a motorcycle as Bella (my G 310 GS) was in Lucknow.
After pondering over a few options, I picked up the Royal Enfield Scram 411. I have been wanting to ride one over a long distance for a while now and I finally got the chance to. Coincidentally, the Scram 411 comes fitted with the fantastic CEAT Gripp XL tyres as stock so that was sorted too. For the route, I decided that we will be riding through forest reserves, in addition to a few more of my favourite places in the Nilgiri mountains.
Everything was set, we were ready to go, and so, with a cloudy skyline and a prediction for a thunderstorm, we started our ride on a fine Sunday morning!
Day 1: Bangalore to Masinagudi
Masinagudi is located 36 km before Ooty and just after Mudumalai Forest Reserve. We had chosen to ride to Masinagudi from Bangalore via Mysore. There are multiple routes from Bangalore to Mysore. We skipped the NH275 and decided to stick to a countryside route via Harohalli.
The ride started well and the countryside stretch was a godsend after so long. It is beautiful and every turn brought back so many memories from the past. There are quite a few spots that used to be our favourites. As we continued, it started to drizzle a bit. The rain made the views even more spectacular. Rain too brought back quite a few happy memories and we were beginning to realize that the early part of this ride was going to be a trip down memory lane.
Just after a few kilometres though, it started raining heavily. So the weather and the scenery called for a break. After some refreshments, we decided to continue the ride as I am not a big fan of waiting by the roadside praying for the rain to stop. Riding in the rain is bliss to me and so, after covering up our camera gear and other important stuff with rain covers, we were on our way.
After riding in the intermittent rain for a couple of hours, we entered the Bandipur forest range and we were welcomed by a herd of deers. Deers are abundant in these forests and it is a usual sight regardless of the weather. But because of the weather, we got lucky and spotted around 4 elephants and around 10 or so peacocks!
We were also enjoying the ride to the fullest because of the confidence I had in the tyres. Riding in the rain is fun but it can be challenging too. CEAT Gripp XL tyres have a tread pattern that facilitates the dissipation of weather from under the tyres. This ensures you have optimum grip even when the conditions are less than ideal.
We kept on pushing and after around 18 km, we crossed the Karnataka border and entered the Mudumalai tiger reserve. Borders are for humans but not wildlife. The same forest reserve goes by the name of Bandipur in Karnataka and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu. With that, I also believe that this is one of the most beautiful state borders.
As we continued our ride, the sightings of elephants, peacocks, and deer continued. So did the sound of the chirps and the drops of rain. All of this was accompanied by the intoxicating smell of the forest soil. It was beautiful and I can recall that I had a smile on my face throughout this ride. With that, we reached our destination for the day- Masinagudi.
Day 2: Masinagudi Safari
As we woke up, we found that it was still drizzling. Since the weather was so beautiful, we decided to go for a safari to the Masinagudi viewpoint. The entire forest area (Mudumalai and Bandipur) is spread over 650 square kilometres and is home to a diverse set of flora and fauna. There are leopards, elephants, bison and more than 250 species of birds; just to name a few.
After having breakfast, we sat in the jeep and headed to the Mayoor River Dam through Masinagudi. Masinagudi is a small town with many shops, hotels, resorts, and a supermarket too. But what surprised us the most was the absence of plastic water bottles and cold drinks in all the shops. This made us immensely happy as it drastically reduces the amount of plastic waste that is dumped into the ecosystem. Nilgiris is a plastic-free forest range and it was amazing to witness the forest conservation measures being implemented with such sincerity.
After the beautiful landscapes of the Mayoor Dam, we continued our safari to the Masinagudi viewpoint. Nearly 2 km of offroading in a 4×4 was a heck of an adventure as we made our way to the top of the hill. And predictably, the 360-degree view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking.
After spending a couple of hours in the forest we came back to our stay- Chalets Resorts in Masinagudi.
Days 3 and 4: Masinagudi to Ooty to Kodanad
The next day, we planned to ride to Ooty and then to Kodanad. Leaving the lush green Mudumalai forest range, we made our way to the famous 36 hairpin bends that lead to Ooty. I enjoyed this part of the ride to the fullest. The CEAT Gripp XL tyres, despite performing so well in the rain and even off the tarmac, surprised me with their proficiency on the tarmac. Even the edge grip is much more than you can ask for from these kinds of tyres and it will need a lot of skill to saturate these tyres even with spirited riding.
Now, on the way to Ooty, there is a secret tribal settlement and a temple. It was something I had been longing to visit for a while but the location is not available on Google Maps. That is why my past attempts at trying to reach this place had failed. But this time, I did a little more research and with some help from locals, I finally reached the Toda Temple.
Todas tribe is spread through the entire Nilgiris and they live in small pockets, 6-7 houses, at various places in the Nilgiris. The temple was intriguing as there were no gates to enter the small temple. It was amazing to have finally seen this place and I was also satisfied with the work that I put in to find this place. Every bit of it was worth the effort. After this halt, we made our way to Ooty and since it had started raining a tad too heavily, we headed to Hobbit Hole Stay at Aventura Hills.
The next day, it was time to ride to a lesser-known but one of our favourite places- Kodanad. Located 46 km away from Ooty, Kodanad passes through the beautiful tea estates in the Nilgiris. The reasons why it is one of our favourite places were reaffirmed. Rain, clouds, tea estates, serpentine roads; what more can one ask for? It was the perfect setting for the perfect monsoon ride. Equally beautiful is the Kodanad Valley viewpoint and it is surely one of the most beautiful and unique mountain peak views in southern India.
After taking in the beautiful sights and creating memories for life, it was time for us to head back to Bangalore and this is the end of this short but beautiful 4-day ride. Till next time…
Tyre Review: CEAT Gripp XL
During this ride, I covered more than 800 km in all kinds of riding conditions and road conditions. So I would like to think that I have got a fair idea of what to talk about when it comes to the CEAT Gripp XL tyres. First and foremost, these tyres are simply awesome in the wet. The majority of our ride saw rains and on the wet roads, the Gripp XL tyres made their performance known. In a straight line, these tyres are rocksteady but even more surprising was their grip in the corners. Even with a fair bit of lean angle, in terms of what’s possible with the motorcycle, I never felt a lack of composure. Despite the stiffer construction that lends stability and tread pattern that suits off-roading too, these tyres work very well even in the corners. In the itinerary, I had allotted some time to put these tyres to test and I did just that by riding through mud and slush. Even while off-roading, the Gripp XL tyres more than held their own and it was really easy to manoeuvre the motorcycle even when traction was in short supply. Overall, I’d say that if you are an adventure- tourer, the Gripp XL tyres are one of the best you can get with the balance they strike between on-road and off-road performance, in addition to the fantastic wet grip.