Monday, April 18, 2011

Exploring a Virgin - The Bulls day out

The water was freezing cold, the time I showered in the morning and the dormitory owner failed to give us 'hot water' as promised. What is there in forgetting a small promise, when all your life, you have been conveniently forgetting bigger ones made. Smelling of the new liquid soap made by lux in market, we started of on the second day of our journey. There were not even a single tale of hardship from last day, the bums didn't hurt nor did the road seemed long. All that remained was the eagerness to cover good stretches while the sun was still hiding. Had heard many a tale about the road from Valparai to Pollachi, with its numerous hairpin curves. Being  in love with the road and being easily fascinated by the spectacle of the foot rest emitting sparks from the road while taking the curves, we were  eager to catch up the morning grub and head straight all the way down.

A small shop at Iyyerpadi, adjacent to a home was were we had our breakfast. The tea was tasty and the food awesome, making our bond with the small hotels even more thicker. With tummies full, supplies re-stocked, we started down the hill. The weather was pleasant, the golden rays were making its way through the trees on to the road and the shadows that they made seemed like  masterpiece paintings. The dark long trees, the damp atmosphere, the golden rays tracing a trail in through the trees, all three of us felt basking in the abundance of universe.

The hairpins started and we were to navigate 40 of them till Monkey Falls, near the Aaliyar Dam. Coming down the road, the view was picturesque, the many hairpins lying down and the big pool of water at the end of all the hairpins. At the 13th hairpin, out of the special fascination I have for the number 13, I even posed for couple of pictures and had a good shot of the scenery down. There were some ladies feeding monkeys at the next hairpin and the time bull crossed them, they had jumped to the safety of the sides for dear life. I was taking the video of the climb down and that is when Rohit told me that the Bull's clutch cable has broken. We were taking the turn of the hairpin and the cable gave way. My first reaction was to laugh and slowly Rohit got the Bull to the safety of the side and shouted for Manoj to come back. After assessing the situation, we decide to ride the Bull down till Monkey Falls and then decide on the next course of action.

With no clutch and almost a non existent back-brake shoe, we made the decent. Being not on the gear, the Bull was not the best bikes to climb down with, but nevertheless, Rohit made it feel easy. Finally we reached the bottom and Manoj and Me set of towards Pollachi to get a clutch cable and a guy to repair the Bull. The packhorse, hit a 110km/hr on both legs and in 2 hours time, we drove back to Monkey Falls to see Rohit sitting on top of the Bull with a dozen monkeys surrounding him. We were lucky to find a guy named Arjun close to the Aaliyar dam, who had a repair shop and knew his business. He helped us fix the clutch and then noticed that the Bull was leaking engine oil and asked us to drive to his shop 8 kilometers away.

At the shop, Arjun got working on the Bull and I set of to find a barber shop to shave my beard. The Forest Guards at the checkposts been staring at me and my documents and frisking our bags and I felt my beard was the reason behind, so of it went. 60 days of not shaving and a shave finally at a discreet unknown barber shop in a strange place. Arjun, fixed the oil leak for the moment, but then he said, the bulls clutch plates and pressure plates and springs been damaged and everything needs to be replaced. We were not sure, whether his take on the Bull was right, and so we thanked him and drove to Pollachi to get a second opinion before opening up the Bull and trying to fix him.

By the grace of God, we ended up with a mechanic, who knew the Bulls well and the icing on the whole thing was, he was free to work on the Bull. Got all the parts including new clutch plates and sat watching the guy repair the Bull and nodded in understanding every time he showed us why some part was being replaced. Three hours of unexpected stop at Pollachi and running almost 6 hours late from our initial plans, by around 3 in the evening, we set off from Pollachi to Udumalpet and from there through the wind mill farms to Anamalais.

The road from Pollachi to Udumalet was rich in agriculture, there were hectares and hectares of coconut and other fruits. While most of the land in my state was turned to home stays, the people in TN still tended their kitchen garden and agriculture and were not keen on making the easy dough. With thoughts about the growing food scarcity, I didn't know, when the coconut palms gave way to dry shrubby forest. The Anamalais forest range had began and this was a jungle which resembled the ones shown on TV. Not really green, like the jungles of Kerala, dry and brown in colour; plain as well unlike the ghat jungle we traveled yesterday. Anamalais had a spectacle waiting for us, a huge group of wild boars and we spotted them at a distance. Stopped the bikes and slowly got near them and watched them go about their business for some time. That is when, one of them lifted its head and saw the intruders standing, with two thumps the group ran away and in seconds nothing else remained, except the long vacant road.

With the new clutch plates and parts, the Bull had a new life and was racing all the time. The pack-horse had a tough time catching up on many a curve. Stopped in between at a cliff for a smoke and looking down at the thick forest down and the multitude of forms of life it is supporting, we had a chill down the spine when that eerie cry was heard. Must have been some wild animal, but not sure what really it was. It was getting dark and the jungle seemed to fill with life. The guards at the checkpost had warned us against stopping after dark and we slowly made the climb from the Anamalais to the Chinnar division in Kerala.

Our headlights searching for the road in front, with the fog settling in, a drizzle to tag along, the drive was not the easiest and it was made harder with the few cars which came towards us. People un-aware about dipping the headlights and clueless about the basics of riding on ghat roads, never bothered about the three guys coming up from below through the fog. On one such turning, we thought the road was up ahead because of the rogue extra bright head light of a car and nearly missed a turn and had to brake in at the last moment to avoid a collision with the source of the light. The back tyres gave way, the back dragged to the side and both the mahouts just left the Bull alone and didn't try anything smart. Avoiding a near definite fall, and only a small burn on my right calf muscle from the Bull's silencer and a million abuses later, we continued on with the climb.

It was nothing short of a surprise, when we saw the white fiesta, parked in front of the 'home-stay' where we always stays during our Munnar visits. KL 53 - 33, the number just brought in a sense of home coming and this was the culprit behind our many road trips being not on bikes. Zayed was so very jobless at Cochin and he knew, we would camp at Munnar that night, so he made the climb from this side of the hill along with another friend from college, so that all of us could spend the night together and have a blast.

I couldn't end the day without a shower and the geyser was not working. Didn't feel like troubling the owner of the home-stay who been always extra nice with us and I stood under the cold shower to wash of the dirt, heat and oil from the day. With teeth stammering, I was a much relieved man when I walked out of the bathroom clad in my long black sweater and Vimal greeted me with a shot of coke and rum. It was a welcome drink and many more followed. Remember taking a walk to Munnar town, semi naked in only my boxers and not bothering the cold and then in some un-known hour of early dawn, I settled under the quill in between Rohit and Manoj, with a smile about the day well spend. Had moments of being on the edge and moments of bliss, in short another day worth living again :)

2 comments:

  1. "Memories come , coming back like an awesome deluge, ,never ending gush"
    This was what I felt when I finished reading your post. The first part of, the temptress of a breakfast, and the last about walking rain drenched in the chill of Munnar and washing down a glass of rum.

    How often on such journeys have we stopped by at the unobtrusive little eateries in the hills, and indulged in food that resembles the heavenly cuisine mom makes back home!

    Good to see that people still take the same road and relish the little things in life.

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  2. Anil @ there are only some special roads to bliss and we following the same trail.. and the little eateries every where, oh my.... i even thought about applying for the post of Estate Managers at couple of Tata tea factories.. But seems I am not qualified enuf for that... alas..

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