Today is our last day when we won’t be burning the rubber. Its rest day today. Nothing much on schedule today except for one thing – Relax and rest. After waking up after 7.30, we get a royal treatment of breakfast, tea, etc. without any walk to a tapri, or a dirty food-stall. JK’s aunt has prepared idlis, chutney and sambaar. Throwing away our awkwardness, I and Manas get into the kitchen. I see a big bowl, full of idlis. JK follows later with Vinu and Sri. The idlis are glowing white, I’m sure Rin, Tide, etc could use these idlis in their commercials. Not just with their appearance, but its taste too was supreme. I’d never had such soft and yummy idlis ever. In Mumbai idlis look and taste murky as its waters. While I enjoyed the countless idlis placed in my plate, Vinu and Sri tussled over the last dollops of the white coconut chutney. Tea followed and the feeling took me back to the bliss experienced few days back at Idli anna’s shack.
Its my parents wedding anniversary and the phone call had more conversation about the white idlis, its taste and the place around than the cliched, ‘happy wedding anniversary’, ‘whats going on?’, etc…
Thiruvilwamala, just as its long name, it has a long list of goodies associated to itself. It has its own rivulet flowing through a tributary of Barthapuzzha river, a lovely terrain of hills and plains, a picturesque temple on the top of the hill and the greenery of God’s own country.
Last day was dedicated to our bikes, and today as well. Starting with the same focus, Manas’ bike needs an oil change. We get up around 7am and head out by the near by tapari for chai. I displayed my malayali skills,
नाल chai (showing 3 fingers)
JK laughs his ass out, shouting ‘मून चाय!’ While we have our tea, the aged foreigner comes up to the stall and asks for tea. We start a conversation with general ‘Heys’ and ‘Hellos’. Somebody from us asks, how was his trip goin, to which he answered.
Its going great, I’d been to all the temples of South India, Rameshwaram, Madhurai, Kanyakumari, now Allepy. Its great. Prior to that I’d been in North India, visiting Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, etc.
We’re taken aback by his itinerary, JK asked
How long have you been touring here?
O.. Its been 3 months !!!!
All of us stared each other, It was a nightmare for us to sync our leaves for a period of just 2 weeks. He continued..
The back waters beckon. Its one of the attractions that we had in plan for the Kerala Trip. JK’s incessant talk with Kamruddin continues. History, polictics, foreigners, art, women, Kerala, Middle-east, you name it. There wasn’t a topic that was left unturned.
Mallus speak a lot and malayali is a compressed language.
JK’s validating every letter of his statement. Kamruddin has suggested us that we should have our breakfast at Idli anna. A locally hit fellow whose idlis are the softest, yummiest. So good that he has earned that sobriquet.
An autorickshaw ride takes us to Idli anna’s eatery. A small room for sitting less than 10 men’s seating capacity, with a small kitchen as well. We entered and as our urban seating logic dictates, we selected the most secluded of the seats. A fellow in cream shirt and the folded मुंड (local name for the lungi) came and asked us to seat ourselves as close to the other patrons having their breakfast. We told him about our choice of breakfast. While we adjusted in the small seats, the guy rushed and put 3 banana leaves in front of us. No sooner the leaves landed on the table, another guy put white idlis on the leaf, twisted his other hands, overflowed the idlis with chutneys and sambhar.
I have managed to learn only following in Malayali
१ = उन्न
२ = रण्ड
३ = मून
४ = नाल
५ = Damn! I’ve already forgotten !
OK = शेरी
Water = वलयम्
I’m in the land of the Mallus or the middle-east? and this is all that I’ve got to hold my self in this terrain.
Today’s plan is the Tea museum, and then off to Alappuzha (Alleppy) via Kochi. We head out early after having another round of Idi, vadas to the Kannan Devan Tea Museum. Its the first time JK and Manas are going to resent the way the tea is made in their respective homes. First the video of the Munnar’s history and then the tea manufacturing process. In the process there is this realization of the fact, that all of us who are used to the टपरी चाय are not having the right tea. The right way to make it is add tea powder to boiling water, stir it a little and then leave it for its flavour and colour to blend into the water. But our tapari chai is more of all ingredients at once and BOIL ! BOIL ! BOIL ! Its poison according to few… but hell with it ! I like my chai the boiling-hot style.
Today we are supposed to leave for Munnar. Last day was complete rest for us and the 250km ride doesn’t seem as big a task as first day’s 780km. After some chai, biscuit we hop on our bikes head towards Kerala, our 3rd state in the tour.
Last night we spent an hour to figure out of we should do Munnar. Reason being Manas wanted to be back in Mumbai by Tuesday as he was short of leaves, while me and JK had them overflowing… After a long bout of puzzle in planning and figuring out how to save days, we decided that we’ll roam Munnar on the way, and the next day too we’ll leave in late morning after visiting Munnar’s tea garden / museum.
The down hill ride from Ooty was spell-binding. Trees, smooth down-hill road, cool air of December, the early morning sun rays cutting past through the leaves and not to mention the throttle control in our hands. We came down via Coonoor, another hill station just below Ooty having its own fairy tale railway station. We stopped for snaps at a point where we could see a river down the valley, mountains stacking behind the scenery and the sun finally throwing its golden hue into the picture.
The 5 am alarm bell reminds me of a devil pushing you down in burning oil pan in hell – scenes from Tom & Jerry. I get up only to realize I’m around 800km away from the comfort of home with 2 other dumb-fucks like me sleeping besides me. Its Ooty today, another 400km before we finally take a break from riding and start enjoying our vacation.
I push others and try to clear bowels. Ya – emphasis is on try. This early morning routine will follow us for next 10 days. JK gets up and needs a सुट्टा and chai before his dump. He goes downstairs while me and Manas try to gather our senses. We check out around 7am and head straight to the टपरी where we have chai and biscuits and continue with our biking talks, bikes, kilometers, roads, slopes and ghats.
Almost past 7.30, we mount back on bikes and head towards Sira, the junction where we’re supposed to get off the comforts and speeds of NH and onto the state highways of Karnataka. Just after Chitradurga, roads start to change with the scenery. The roads have constant diversions after 3 km or so for a new flyover over small junctions or villages, while the nature changes its trees. I start to see more Coconut trees and its farms. A sight that will be common throughout the trip. From concrete farms of Mumbai, to shrubby sugarcanes of the black soiled central and south Maharashtra to the red clayed Karnataka transforming into a greener coconut and palm tree laden earth. This was gonna be better by the end of the day !
The board of “Historical town of Sira welcomes you” was just around the turn, and we stopped near a truck-dhabba for breakfast. One might wonder how different is a truck-dhabba. So there are 3 types of dhabbas that I’ve know of
Truck-dhabba – the most authentic of all dhabbas (it may be called something else if its not in central or north india). Its only purpose to serve food. It may not be most hygienic and but could be tasty. The ambiance is not certainly a point to be discussed. Its pricing and other attributes mean only truck drivers and local laborers could patronize it. Oh and I forgot there is nothing like a clean toilet / washroom in such places. The cleanest place to pee would actually be outside the toilet.
Car-Dhabba – for the elite tourists touring in cars. Food is typical of what you find in cities, cleaner. There is a neat shaded parking for cars unlike the dusty open areas found in truck-dhabbas. The prices reflecting the extra effort gone into maintenance of toilets, tables, flooring, etc.
City-Dhabba – only thing dhabba-ish in this place is the name of the restaurant/hotel. Such establishments are only found in cities. The ambiance is made to look like a punjabi road side restaurant with fake or cut-through vehicles mounted on the walls. The food is a typical with its prices touching the ceiling where the bold colors and vehicle cut-outs are mounted.