The Initiation Ride: Misty Munnar

The Initiation Ride: Misty Munnar

                                                       “The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.”

Travelling for us, involves getting to experience the ‘extraordinary’. Experiences that we would not get to have on a regular day given our lifestyles. It is an escape from the monotony we deal with and about visualising the world from completely different perspectives of the places we visit and the people we meet along the way. What better place to experience that than in ‘God’s Own Country’!

Must admit, the thought of rattling along in the good ol’ KSRTC did not do anything to boost our enthusiasm. The aim was to be one with the immense natural beauty around us and to be able to experience the elements as they presented themselves spontaneously.

Just then we came upon an advertisement on Facebook which read ‘Caferides Luxury Motorcycle Rentals’. Was it too good to be true?  We visited the ‘Caferides office at Padivattom, two days before the ride just to check out the motorcycles on offer and learn more about this venture and spent a good 15 minutes ogling like curious schoolboys at the polished chrome on display.

We then met with the three friends who initiated Caferides, Alok, Sanish and Jithu. What attracted us most was their philosophy, ‘of trying to create a culture of motorcycle touring in the state.’ It’s true that despite boasting of one of the best landscapes in the country, there has not been much traction in terms of motorcycle tourism in the state.

Our companion for the two day trip was a glistening, near factory condition Thunderbird 350. The ODO read a mere 3790 km. The paperwork was done in a matter of minutes. We hit the road at 9.15 AM with a beautiful 130 km ride ahead of us to Munnar, a hill station synonymous with the beauty of Kerala and the perfect destination to commence our riding adventures. Our first stop over was at Kothamangalam, where we saw the St. Thomas Church, known locally as ‘cheriyapalli’, believed to have been established in AD 1455 and is famously associated with St. Baselios Yeldo, who was born near present day Mosul, Iraq. After that brief ‘spiritual’ detour, we got back on our route to Munnar; crossing the Neriamangalam Arch Bridge (also known as the Gateway to the High Ranges) built over the Periyar River by the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore in 1935 and connecting Ernakulam and Idukki districts. Crossing into Idukki brought a pleasing change in the scenery with the forests becoming denser and the chattering of monkeys becoming a common feature. We followed the route along the ‘Thotti Aar’ right upto Adimali town. The route was marked with several waterfalls, prominent among them being the Cheeyappara and Valara Waterfall, although the throngs of tourists in its vicinity made a bit less attractive. Not wanting to miss out on the sunset, we started the climb for Munnar with the air becoming distinctly cooler with each passing corner. We stopped at a scenic point just next to the Muthirappuzhayar River which had a small ‘chai’ shop. Having refueled ourselves, we continued on ahead of Munnar town towards Marayoor, a small border village, in the hope of seeing hills carpeted by tea gardens, a visual synonymous with the landscape of Munnar. 

In the hills, the Thunderbird came into its own as we then rode through the picturesque Kanan Devan Hills and stopped at a vantage point from where we could see the neighbouring hills. Curiosity got the better of us and we entered (read as trespassed!) into one of the tea gardens by the roadside. We spent some time listening to music and enjoying the structured view of the nearby tea estates amidst silence breached by the sound of numerous birds, engrossed in their own evening music! It was welcome change from the bustle of Kochi city. After a good 30 minutes of soaking in the vibe, we headed onwards along the Munnar-Udumalpet Road. The route was a gradual descent after that till we stopped again at a view point near Gundumalai from where; we could hear rhythmic temple chants and the sight of tea plantation workers returning back to their colourful homes around the temple. Their dialects had a mixture of both Tamil and Malayalam, a feature of most border villages in the area. We ventured up to Lakkam Waterfalls where we stopped for some special jaggery tea made over an earthern stove at Ayyappa’s little hut, a pitstop Jithin had visited on his previous trip. The hut was secluded from all other settlements in the area (even secluded from electricity!) but Ayyappa didn’t seem to complain! As nightfall approached, we felt it was better to head back to the town of Munnar since we were thoroughly exhausted and the route was a wildlife corridor. The powerful projector lamps were a boon on the dimly lit road. The chill in the air made the return ride very pleasant.

The following morning, we felt the chill of the mountains as we headed out at 6 AM towards the famed Top Station View Point clad in our fleece warmers. First stop was Mattupetty Dam with its stunning view and Old British era bungalows in the vicinity. The ride along the reservoir was beautiful. The roads were lined with eucalyptus trees and sweeping grasslands maintained by the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project. The linear power delivery of the Thunderbird made it a very enjoyable ride. Soon, we started spotting large amounts of elephant droppings. These are elephant crossing corridors as they venture out for water. Further ahead, we spotted many shops destroyed completely. A localite informed us that a herd of elephants had done the damage last night! Although we didn’t spot any of the ‘gentle’ giants along the way, we did see a couple of mountain fox taking a romantic stroll along the tea gardens in the morning, clearly displeased by our presence!  The climb to top station was challenging due to the sharp elevations and drops in between but we reached there soon enough. We took a short trek down to the View Point but were unable to see the vast plains of Tamil Nadu and the majestic mountains in the backdrop as it wasn’t a very clear day. Nonetheless, we stopped by for a mandatory plate of hill-side Maggi and Chai. The ride back to Munnar was very relaxing as the bike cornered extremely well along the winding roads and was also a star-attraction among little children in the mountain villages.

The ride back to Kochi took us just about three hours since it was a Sunday and there was very little traffic. We just had to be a bit wary of the tail-wagging KSRTCs though who seemed to want revenge for having chosen two wheels over them for this trip!  As the journey came to an end, we pondered over the past two days. There was just one regret; we should have booked for a longer ride! Exhaustion was the last thing on our minds.

A big shout out to the team at Caferides for this bold venture into motorcycling tourism in Kerala. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend on the saddle. The bike was extremely well serviced and the paperwork was very easy and hassle-free. Here’s to many more trips in the future. Who knows, maybe a ‘Harley’ for the next trip eh?!  

                                                                                                           ~ Vinith Kurian & Jithin Jose

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