The long weekend of 27 March 2013 – 24 March 2013 had to get some increments on the odo.
Me and JK left for Mahabaleshwar planning to see every stupid honeymoon spot as a biker couple ! Plan was to go along the Wai, Satara route to Mahabaleshwar enjoying the soothing Wai temple. We did eventually but it wasn’t as calm and serene as in the movies – thanks to the scorching sun.
Pachgani being our first stop to do “sight seeing”. The table top’s only attraction – more than the caves the steps.. – err.. – JK would know better.
En-route to Mahabaleshwar was the fun-fair pit-stop at Mapro Garden. Full of people, kids, crowd and everything that Manas could dream of.
Mahabaleshwar as it promised was good on the outskirts and worst inside. Evening’s ride to the famous points were just as expected. The exception being the Elphinstone point for which we had to tread 10km extra in the cooling evening air.
The return journey was from NH-17 with Pratapgad Fort as our last scenic stops. The downhill ghat from Mahabaleshwar was awesome, something that we missed since our Ooty – Munnar trip. Had some awesome breakfast with the kitchen smoking our eyes as well.
NH-17 as expected was more interesting to ride than the NH-4 / AH-47. However the ride from Vadkhal to Panvel was horrific. Pen’s bad and narrow road (also read as National Highway) were the pain in the a*#.
The alarm rings at 7am. Its the last day where we can afford to laze post the alarm bell. Today we’ll start our journey back to the Financial Capital of India, Mumbai. However a little of Kerala is still left on the plate. Its JK’s cousin’s engagement, the very engagement that JK wanted to attend, miss, I’m confused just as he was all the way. Eventually he will have to make it. We ready with our bags, luggage, bikes keep them semi-ready. We’d make a quick trip at the engagement and then off to Hosur, Tamilnadu, our first night halt on the way back.
At the engagement, women are draped in lovely sarees, from colorful to golden striped off-whites. The men, however is a different story. Everybody, almost everybody has put a shirt, un-tucked – On a मुंड ! Ya – the मुंड. That’s the tradition, it looks weird, but thats what it is. JK is bending every muscle of his neck to take a look at available beauties.
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.