Dec 9, 2012
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.
Back to the trip log – We stopped at a Truck-dhabba in Sira. We had a idli-vada (vada being very oily and idli luckily – fresh !). And hopped back on our bikes and took a right below a flyover – which showed a strange red colored U-turn sign for Mysore. JK enquired in his Malyali-originated-Tamil for the right direction for Mysore and we got into the virgin villages of Karnataka.
The road intially was good, smooth a little curvy. Everything that a biker looks for. But then exactly what a biker dreads – Under-construction road, with just the gray crushed stone-sand with the pointed crushed black rocks along with a pot-holed road which was under construction. Our speed which was clocking on the good part of the SH reduced from 60+ kmph to 20 kmph. At times less than 5kmph. Manas asked to stop on the sides.
क्या चूतियागिरी है। JK पूछ तोह की ऐसा रासता और कितना है ? वरना दूसरा रासता लेते है। टायर की गांड लग जाएगी ऐसे तोह
At the next major junction till where the roads had slightly got better, we asked for a better road to Mysore. To which a local auto-rickshaw driver responded
straight – good road !
luckily the bad stretch had only lasted for 5-6 km. And we found nice route through the farms. After Belluru, the road even got bigger and we started going 70kmph+ Soon we crossed a hotel where we saw a gang of bikers enjoying the shade and food. I atleast saw a CBR-250, R15, Apache, and a few more bikes. We kept twisting and turning. We stopped for a water break where I complained I felt light-headed low-sugar like. Had some Granola bars and ripped the road again.
Past 12noon, We were passing a smaller town, Mysore was another 30km which meant another half an hour. All of us were hungry after that unsatisfying breakfast at Sira. We decided to halt somewhere closeby for lunch as Mysore would be too crowded, typical city where we wouldn’t find easy parking for bikes in view with our tables. A garden-hotel passed by and we slowed down and decided to go there.
As we approached the garden area, where some tables and chairs were placed, we stopped. A guy in a blue IBM T-shirt came to us and asked
Yes !? Lunch ?
We looked at each other and asked him.
Can we park here ?
he promptly replied
and asked one of the waiters to arrange for tables, chairs under a conical tree about 9 feet tall almost perfectly creating a circular shadow. The setting was perfect. Threw our helmets, gloves, other riding gear on a bench adjoining to the chair and relaxed. The blue guy came back again, very cheerful asking us about our trip, suggesting dishes.
We ordered for some dal, some chicken dish, rotis. The tandoori rotis were so tasty that we almost ate them plain savoring the butter on it. Looked above us at the tree, it was a neatly cropped tree, branches well trimmed to avoid growing above our chairs and tables.
After cleaning our hands I stepped on something wet, like shit! Aeeeuw ! I looked down only to see that I had pressed a small red fruit into pulp. I picked up another red sperical fruit less than a cm. in diameter and checked it. It was a small red cherry that I had eaten off the trees more than 20 years ago. I asked the guy in blue T, if it was a cherry.. He nodded and asked me to go ahead and it it. The taste was awesome !! nice buttery, sweet a little of tang. I asked our foodie, JK
भेनचोद ! मस्त है रे
The guy in Blue came back, chatting with us. Quite a resourceful fellow, he had picked ideas while working in Mumbai in some 5-star hotel and decided to start this restaurant. He said it’ll take another 4hrs+ to reach Ooty. He warned us that there is a gate towards Ooty in Mysore which normally closes by 4pm since the route goes through a forrest. But then said being a Sunday it’ll be open till 6. We got the cue – Hurry !!
We were irritated by the Mysore traffic, somehow we made out of the city towards Ooty. We are anticipating a splendid ride for Mysore-Ooty road was recently voted as the world’s most scenic and beautiful road to ride. But reality is always a little different. We were definitely on a beautiful road, left side being dotted with some restaurants, forrest like features while on the right long and wide meadows with lakes, ponds. But on the road we were following a KSRTC bus, all govt. state tourist buses notorious for their bad driving skills. This one proved the common notion to be true. A mini tempo was even worse, he was overtaking the bus, while refusing to budge when another white car came in front. The poor car had to go down the road on the dirt and ensure safety while the stupid driver continued to drive in an nonsensical manner.
It was around 5pm when we were welcomed by a big signpost – Bandipur National Park.
The road was butter smooth, however there were speed-breakers almost every 500m. not allowing us to go past 40kmph. The national park reminded me of my safari trip through Kanha Tiger reserve. Extremely serene, still, cold. I could hear cicadas, crickets over the engine’s hum. The bamboo shrubs creating a spooky scene, like a predator is gonna pounce from behind. Everything seemed to be untouched even the dead trees. The smell too was different, unfortunately a city-dweller like me can’t put it on words. Perfect – forest – period.
We saw chittal deer on our way, and I was having conflicting thoughts raging in my head. One which was happy to have National highway pass through the national park adding to the beauty of the road, while the other feeling its ridiculous to have trucks, buses, vehicles go through this pristine nature and troubling animals on its way. The sign boards too were strange – Please give way to Elephants – seriously !? I don’t think anybody dares go against a group of wild elephants crossing the road. More of these followed, Tiger crossing area !
I hoped to see more wildlife, but a group of guards stood on the word blocking it, on the side another plaque – Thank you for visiting, Come again. O ! thats it Bandipur, Karnataka is over, transforming into Mudumalai Nationl Park, Tamil nadu. One of the cops on the TN border stopped us and asked us to pull over to the side. Another cop gestured him to let us go. He looked at us, my quizzical look make him give the ans.
MH (referring to Maharashtra reg. vehicles) not problem. KA (Karnataka reg.) problem.
Welcome to state of Tamilnad – The yellow sign wasn’t that welcoming, as the road wasn’t as good as KA. However, we continued.. after going another 5km through the reserve, it seemed like the park was over as we saw more settlements adjoining to the road. We stopped for water and had a few snaps. It was the golden hour, which meant at max 1 hour of sunlight.
We had a group of local-rossis buzz past us through the hilly terrain. We continued with our steady pace. I pointed to huge hills ahead of us and said to JK that Ooty was probably behind those. The ghat started with steep curved tar. Luckily it was well kept. A hairpin bend followed, it had mirror too ! Luxury. Another one followed, this one steeper than the first, almost 40deg. Our bikes only treading in the 1st and the 2nd. The hair pins continued well over 20 minutes, later we got to know there were a staggering 51 bends on this route ! It was really cold, my palm was cold. The leather jacket just managing to shield my torso.
Once above, which seemed like a plateau land, Ooty was still about 10-15km away. It was now completely dark, and we were tired as well. it had been more than 400km since our start at 7.30am and a 2nd consecutive day of riding. We got into Ooty town and decided to go little past the hustle, bustle. But it never died, and we fixed on a hotel with decent parking.
We asked for hot water for bath, and soaked ourselves in bath since more 48 hours. We headed for an irani restaurant serving Kababs, Chicken, etc. On our way back JK, Manas arranged for some Old Monk, Pepsi. In the room we were relaxed for the 1st time, knowing that the next day is relaxation, local sight seeing and no kms. to be added on the bikes. Sleep was easy.
Dec 10, 2012
Day 3 was just plain old tourist style. JK and Manas the honeymooning couple, with me the “kabab mein haddi”. After a morning breakfast next to the hotel we headed straight for the Ooty lake, where JK and Manas wanted to paddle-boat-ride. As we entered the boat, I ensured that I wasn’t paddling.
After the ride, we entered the Thread garden that JK had suggested. About 50 feet by 10 feet long garden with flowers made out of canvas and threads. Like a pro-tourist, we snapped at every opportunity, forgetting our roots were in touring not tourist-ing. Doddabetta beckoned, another cliched tourist visit to the hills of Doddabetta where honeymoon couples waded for search of privacy and guys like us just scared the hell out of them. On our way back we decided to have a meal on Domino’s – Ya ! thats right from descriptions of dhabbas to Domino’s pizzas. This was as low as we could get!
Back the hotel in the evening, we tried to register some biker-pride, with a task in hand – Chain lubing. Manas and JK doing their share of bike maintenance while I clicked their pictures. JK getting all the instructions from Manas on his first encounter with chain lubing.
Non-bikers reading this – Chain lubing is an art to display your calibre in cleaning the O-ring chains and lubricating them.
I too readied my bike for the next day’s ride to Munnar, all it contained was dusting and cleaning the exteriors 😛 My poor lady not getting pampered as her sisters, FZ-S and R15. Then another pitstop at the fuel station where we topup-ed our tanks as well as checked our tire pressures. The girls were ready for the next day.
Dinner was at Hyderabadi Biryani House, where the veg. biryani was so hot (spicy, chilly, and any other adjectives that can be considered) that I had to leave half of the bowl. We ordered for छाछ (chaas) as its called. The waiter however being a Darjeeling fellow got Tea for us. He heard it “Chaa”, I wonder if he was from a french origin where last syllables are considered to be silent by default. But tea was good and we ordered more only to find milk containers empty.
The last day in Ooty wasn’t difficult to end with cozy sleep in the hotel room.