A ride to the scotland of india – coorg

goorg1An excellent ride through the open roads, curves, slops, hills, cool breeze, ghat, me and the thumping rhythm.

It has been a while, or should I say that since I got my bullet I had this desire to ride to Coorg. A long ride of 250 kms from Bangalore. Some say it is crazy, but for me it was a challenge, an achievement, something that requires courage and confidence in yourself, your partner -your bike, and above all in God almighty. I had asked several friends for a company since I got my bike. But due to several reasons none was able to join for a long rides. After successfully riding alone couple of times to Mysore I guess the confidence was there. My mind said, yes, I can do it, and that was all I required.

My family had to go to our native for a week to attend a marriage, and I knew that it was the right time to make my trip. April 5th, 2008 was the date I decided to take off. It was a long weekend (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) due to Ugadhi festival. On the 2nd I took my bike for a checkup. It was in good shape for the trip other than few works that could be done later. Fear and excitement build up, and I was searching, and calling few hotels in Coorg to book a room. Since schools were closed for summer break, and due to the long weekend, all the rooms were already booked. Finding no place to rest your back after 250 kms of ride through rough roads including the ones through the ghat section was something that bothered me a bit. To be very frank I was still ready to try my chances. Then a thought came, why not work this Monday and try to get a comp-off next Friday. By doing this I will still get three days off, and the chances of getting a room in Coorg will be much higher. I got permission to work on the 7th and to take off on the11th. Since there was two days off in between I got the bike’s pending works done too.

goorg3As one can imagine, as days closed, the excitement and anxiety was shooting high. It was the 10th, the day before “the” day. Detailed plans were made including things to carry, route, and speed to be maintained, etc. The route I planed to take was Bangalore, Srirangapatanam, Yelivala, Hunsur, Kushalnagar and finally Madikare. Bag was packed, final round of cleaning the bike was done, cooked and ate a good dinner, and finally hit the bed.

The long waited day is here! It’s Friday, 11th of April. Woke up from a good night sleep at 5:30 am, and was all set to kick off by 7:30. An excellent morning and my partner, my Royal Enfield Bullet was waiting in the porch, shining, all ready for the ride. The tank was topped up last night itself. Tied the bag on the back seat, made sure the house doors are locked, and started the bike. As usual, it started in the first kick itself and we were ready to go.

So the journey began. As per plan the speed to be maintained was 60-70 km/h. Many riders will ask why just 70 on a bull? Though the bulls can do 90s easily, I like to maintain a speed of 60. Taking the road conditions and the stops into consideration, if everything goes well it will take around 6 hrs to reach Madikare. From the beginning I kept reminding myself to keep the speedometer needle above 60, and to avoid unwanted stops. The first stretch through the Bangalore – Mysore highway was a very smooth ride. The traffic was moderate and I was able to reach Mandiya in a single stretch. There I stopped for 15 mins to have my breakfast. I had a plate of idle-vada and a good cup of tea. From there I crossed Srirangapatanam, and by 10:00 I took the deviation from the highway towards Yelivala. Roads were not that bad and as planned I was able to maintain 60 km/h comfortably. Passing through the villages, the scenery was really pleasing. What a difference compared to the busy Bangalore city! Green paddy fields, trees, hills and rivers. The road after Yelivala till Periyapatanam was good, kind of a highway, seems to be a newly tarred one. In the middle of no where, on the road side were a bunch of fruit vendors lined up with their carts filled with mangoes and apples. I could not resist myself to stop there to get some. I grabbed a kilo of mangoes and continued my ride.

goorg2The next major stop was at a place near Bylakupee, where I was able to see several Tibetans. Its already 12:15 pm and my legs and back needed some rest. I stopped there for about 20 mins and I had some mangoes to cool myself. The roads from there were not that even, and maintaining the planned speed of 60 was difficult. Major places crossed included Periyapatanam and Kushalnagar where I spotted a bullet workshop on the road side. I guess that was the only one in that area. Kushalnagar seems to be the big market place that is close to Madikare. As I left Kushalnagar, the scenes started changing. The hills began, and we started climbing the narrow roads through the coffee plantations. Some curves were really sharp, and I had to be very careful while overtaking the slow trucks and busses that blocked the narrow road.

Finally I reached Madikare. Since it was April, the temperature at noon was hot. My first aim was to find a place to stay. Unusually several hotels were full and the town was busy with people. With God’s grace I got a place to stay that was close to the main bus stop, and close to the room where I stayed during my last visit. The only room available there was a double that coasted Rs 500 per day. Though the whole setting was not professional, without thinking twice I grabbed it immediately. It was a 2:00 pm and I didn’t have lunch yet! The next immediate thought was to hit a restaurant as early as possible.

On the way to the restaurant, I stopped by a church that is close by the museum. It was a small one, but really beautiful. Though the restaurant was over crowded filled with tourists, since only one seat was required I somehow managed to get it. I had my lunch, and headed straight back to my room for a nap. I slept till 4:30 PM and had to wake up since the power went off. It was 5:00 and what could I do during the rest of the evening? Abby falls was near, about 7 kms from where I stayed.

That ride to the falls was excellent. Narrow roads, sharp turns, really cool breeze, and excellent sceneries. Finally I was able to feel that I am in a hill station. The roads and the houses were like the once seen in old movies taken at hill stations, a bit away from the crowd. There were no much traffic, nor people on the roads. It was soothing to see houses, greenery, hills and the narrow streams of water. As I reached a particular area I saw a crowd walking on the road side down the hill. I wondered were they came from. May be there is a school or a church near by. Within a minute from there I reached the entrance of the falls. There was a parking lot, and the fee was Rs 5 per bike. I parked my Royal Enfield and passed the entrance gate. It was as if I entered a coffee plantation. From the entrance while going down the slop I could hear the sound of the water flowing through rocks. At every curve I eagerly looked to spot the falls. There it was at the end, a beautiful one. In front of the fall, about fifty feet away there was a hanging bridge, where people could stand and watch the falls. The fall was not a big one, but was really beautiful to see in that surrounding. There I met a couple from Bangalore. They told that it was their first wedding anniversary. Noticing my AOL id tag they asked, “Does AOL have a camps close by?” We had a small chat about my bike trip and why I wear the tag always while on long trips. I spend around 15 minutes there and headed straight back to the park, that had the “Raja’s Seat”, close to my room in Madikare.

goorg4I reached the park around 7:00 PM. I paid the entrance fee of Rs 2, and walked towards the Raja’s Seat. It was a wonderful site from the tip of the other side, close to the “Raja’s Seat”. Within few minutes I heard the sound of the Indian national anthem, and saw people rushing towards the center of the park. There was a musical fountain and the show began. Several songs were played and the fountain dancing accordingly.

Once the show got over, I headed to the market looking for a cable lock for my Royal Enfield. I felt a bit uneasy to park by bike overnight in front of the hotel since it had no enclosed parking space. I thought that it will be better to add a cable lock along with the handle lock the bike had. There was no luck. The only ones shops had were real thin ones, which I already had. Though I was assured by couple of folks that it was safe to park my bike just in front of the hotel, I was not comfortable since the rooms were on top of the building, and there were no one in the ground floor who could keep an eye on what is happening in front of the hotel at night. After thinking for a while I went to the hotel where I stayed last time in Madikare with my family. They had an enclosed parking lot and a watchman too. I met its owner who was kind enough to allow me to keep my bike in their parking lot.

Once the parking issue got resolved I headed to a close by restaurant to get my dinner. I got a parcel and had it in my room itself. It was time to hit the bed. It was tough to get a sleep in the beginning. Initially I woke up several times seeing some unpleasant dreams. The later part of the sleep was good and woke up at 6:00 AM.

A cup of tea was a must in the morning. I got dresses and was walking towards the entrance door of the hotel. The main door was locked from inside and the attendant was fast asleep in a couch close to the front desk. I saw a couple standing outside knocking the door. I woke the attendant, who handed the door keys to me. The couple asked the attendant for a room, but there were none. I once again thanked God for getting me a room without much struggle. After ensuring my Royal Enfield was there I walked to the close by restaurant. Since early morning, complete breakfast menu was not ready. I had two cups of tea and a plate of sweet kesaribath. Within 15 minutes I was back in my room. I had a good warm shower, and got ready to get back to the park (Raja’s Seat).

The site was spectacular. The songs of the early morning birds, chill weather, and the fog made my morning dashing. I spent close to an hour enjoying the view and the weather. Early morning in the park was the last in Madikare as per my list. After having my breakfast I went back to my room to pack my bag. I relaxed for some time in the room and by 9:45 AM my Royal Enfield and I started back home. While coming down the road, I stopped close to a mile stone to capture the distance from there to Mysore. It was around 110 kms. When we reached close to the Royal Enfield workshop in Kushalnagar, I stopped and checked the clutch cable, and the wheel chain to see if I will need to pull over at the workshop. There was no need to stop, everything was in good shape. I felt the ride from there was much faster though I kept the speedometer needle just on 60. At around 12:20 PM I made the next major stop to cool myself down. This was about 88 kms from Madikare. There I had two tender coconuts and took rest for sometime. It was a continuous ride from there till my Enfield chocked since it was running out of gas. I switched the gas knob to reserve and continued my journey on the road that intersected with the route to the Brindhavan gardens. There I spotted a BP petrol pump. Since it was a very small filling station I filled petrol for just Rs 100 and continued my trip till Mandiya, where I filled petrol for another Rs. 500 and continued my trip. From there till I reached home I had only one break where I rested for some time enjoying the remaining mangoes I had. On the way back from Madikare I saw three accidents out of which two were really bad. One was where a bug truck fell on its side, and the other where a Maruti van ran out from the highway into the field.

By around 5:00 I reached back home, safe and sound. I thank God for the wonderful trip, alone with by buddy my Royal Enfield.

–Shiju Varghese