Bike Tour de Wilder Kerala

This was one-of-a-kind bike ride of my life time. I'm sure I'll never have such an experience again. Thanks to my friend, Pram for being so patient and bearing with all the pains and discomfort of a 21 hour long non-stop bike ride. I mean, I really owe this to her considering the fact that she was no young girl to have endured such a thing. For your information, my friend is a 31 year old lady but surprisingly more energetic and enthusiastic than any young las!

She has been my chat friend for an year and when she expressed her desire to visit Kerala I couldn't be any lesser than being her most reliable host to the 'God's Own Country'. I promised her a bike tour along the paddy fields and the green country sides of Kerala and a weekend tent-stay in a wild life sanctuary. I booked the tents and she came down on a Friday morning for our most anticipated 'Bike tour de Kerala'.

We started at 3.30 in the morning on a Saturday. It really wasn't a good time for a stunt such as we planned 'coz it was the rainy season in Kerala. But we got hold of a couple of rain jackets and decided against all good advices to brave the rains. The ride through the thick sheets of heavenly pour was more enjoyable than we expected, though I could never afford to make the speedometer needle cross the 30-40 km/hr mark on the slippery roads. We took a couple of breaks and except that we rode continuously for about 3 and half hours until we reached a place called Pathanamthitta. We took a brief 15 minutes break there and continued our ride soon as the sky showed signs of clearing up. The ride through the zig-zag roads through the hilly towns of Pathanamthitta, Kottarakara, Kottayam etc. is an experience to cherish.

Our plan was to reach Palakkad by around 12'o clock in the noon from where we'd have to take a detour through the woods to reach the wild life sanctuary where we had our tents booked. We reached Chalakkudi by around 10 and this is where the whole trip changed into a crazy, freaky bike ride through the mist laden Ghats. It was only another 100 km to Palakkad and we needed to reach the sanctuary only by around 1.30. I don't know what went into my head but I asked her if it'd be alright for her if I abandon the usual highway to Palakkad and instead take a detour and travel along the Chalakkudi river, climb the Ghats, visit the Aathirapally Waterfalls and then reach the Parambikulam Wild Life Sanctuary directly through the woods! The good game she was, she immediately agreed to my plan and what followed was the craziest of bike rides I can ever imagine.

The narrow roads proved to be unending and it took us another 2 and odd hours to reach Aathirapally Waterfalls. Stopping there to take a good look at the much famed and majestic waterfalls that looked like over flowing the edges of the Ghats, we got past a forest check point. The officer there said it'll take us at least another 5 hours to cross the woods and warned us about wild animals crossing the road. Instead of getting scared, we were more thrilled at the unexpected turn of events.

The Ghat roads, as usual was treacherous but it was worth all our risk 'coz, never could we have imagined a ride through such deep woods, through the mist and 1000's to feet to fall at our one side. Unlike we expected, the deeper woods were not as much un-inhibited. We did come across a forest guard's cottage, a little hamlet and rustic little huts here and there. But yes. Not many two legged creatures were walking around. We saw a little waterfall and something that looked like a water reservoir on our way. Riding steadily for another few hours we reached a little village called Sholayar built around the Sholayar dam. The place was abundant with nature's green gift. The ride through the tea plantations and little other villages was real fun except for the leeches that got into our trousers and God knows where else!

It'd have been 6 in the evening when we stopped at a wayside tea stall for refreshment. I lit up a cigarette and savoured on the hot cup of tea when I realised that my money purse in my back pocket was missing! I panicked 'coz loosing the purse means loosing my ATM card and my driving licence which would be nothing but disastrous. I asked Pram to take rest at the verandah of a nearby phone booth while I rode back to Sholayar where we took our last break. Luckily enough, I found my purse inside the abandoned push-cart where I left it. I rode back to the tea stall where I found Pram comfortably lying stretched on the verandah of the phone booth and having a little chat with a village lady. I wondered in what language they conversed, 'coz Pram didn't speak the native language and the village lady (obviously) didn't know to utter even a word in English. Women do have their ways, don't they?

Anyways, we resumed our ride and after compromising around 42 (I lost count after a few!) hairpin bends, we reached Pollachi by around 10 at night. We had our dinner and looked for a place to rest our tired bones but in vain. None of the hotels were ready to give us a room for 'moralistic reasons' (OMG!). The people looked at us suspiciously as if we were some run away couples! But (obviously) they couldn't bet on the idea looking at the kind of dress we had on us - rain jacket and weather beaten and all - and the fact that we looked more like a younger brother with an adventurous freaky sister! Well, well... It's useless to complain about such things...

It was then that I noticed the little bubbles sprouting on Pram's face. I asked her whether she was ok? She said she's just fine except for the fatigue of the ride. But she had a slight temperature too. I doubted it to be Chickenpox but she said it was nothing but because of the heat. Anyways, since we were not getting any accommodation at Pollachi the next place where we could possibly find accommodation was Palakkad, which was another 50 km away. She said she had enough energy left in her to reach Palakkad. And so we rode to Palakkad with a tired, worn out and a 60+ kg Pram sleeping over my back (Ouch, my back!).

We reached Palakkad at half past 12 and luckily we got a room in a highway luxury lodge (Thank God, Pram had enough money with her!). We got into the room, took turns under the shower and slammed on the bed only to wake up by 11 in the morning. By that time, I confirmed that Pram was suffering from Chickenpox 'coz she had the bubbles all over her. What a scare, isn't it? Well, it was. But I had to do what needed to be done. I went around and got a taxi cab for her to travel back to Trivandrum.

The ride back to Trivandrum was one of the most wettest journey I ever had. I followed her, keeping pace with the cab and was riding in the rain for almost 3 and half hours! We finally reached home by 1.30 at night.

Now, isn't that "A  bike ride to remember"?

Trip Fact-file:

Total distance covered: 800 km (Approx.)
Total time taken: Trivandrum to Palakkad via. the Ghats (21 hrs.) + Palakkad to Trivandrum (6 1/2 hrs.) = 27 1/2 hours (Approximate running hours)

Along the dark winding roads to Peerumedu

"150 and odd kms from Trivandrum", "3200 ft above sea level", "Western Ghats", "hill station surrounded by tea plantations, open grass lands and pine forests…" Well, these were the details that I got when I looked up 'Peerumedu' in Google. And that was good enough to send the adrenalin rush in my blood. The long winding Ghat roads once again beckoned my free spirit…

Day 1:

My journey this time started at rather an odd time – 4 in the evening, to be precise. But every minute of the journey was fearfully adventurous and thrilling.

A wrong time to romance the Ghat roads because the heavy rains had wrecked havoc on the roads. I had to ride through puddles and slippery grounds with more than a thousand feet to fall if I made one wrong turn.

Secondly, I was completely unaware of the things that were expecting me at the bends of the Western Ghats. Sounds exciting? Scary? Well, read on to know more about the fun and adventure I had on my way to Peerumedu.

The ride till a town by the name of Pathanamthitta, 100 kms from where I started had nothing that I could brag about. It was the usual smooth ride with the cool evening breeze on my face and occasional stops at the road side tea stalls. I had a light snack at Pathanamthitta and then on started my freaky adventure ride.

It was a quarter to 8 and it started pouring heavily and I had my pull-over to keep myself from getting wet. But the ride was not easy as I had to churn my wheels through the puddles and keep my balance on the slippery roads. For the next hour and a half the speedometer needle never crossed 30-40 km/hr.

It was half past 9 when I realized that I had already started climbing. There was not a trace of civilization around me. On the one side was the muddy walls of the Ghats and on the other side was more than 1000 ft. There were not the street lamps unlike the urban roads. What more? I was being continuously swept by the blinding, bone chilling mist. I could say I was tearing through the mist but at a speed as slow as 20-25km/hr. All of a sudden there seemed something like a flicker at a distance and I discovered it to be a junction of roads and people curled up in blankets and huddled around a bonfire. I wouldn't recognize that place if I go there again in broad day light. My hands had become stiff because of the cold and I stopped by to take a break. People there looked at me rather quizzically and one of them asked me where I was heading to? The Good Samaritan tried to convince me that the ride further would be too dangerous as more than the mist there could be wild animals crossing the road. He might have well exaggerated that and I decided to take the risk. It took me another 40 minutes or so to cover the rest of the 15 kms and finally I stood in front of the plantation guest house where I had booked a room.

After a hot shower, they served me with hot soup and a hearty dinner and returning to my room which I should say was cozy, I did the next best thing possible – take two shots of vodka with orange juice and snuggle under the blanket and slip into a long, peaceful sleep.
The Estate Guest House where I stayed
Day 2:

The room boy came knocking at my door at 8 in the morning with a cup of steaming tea. The tea was from their own plantation and was one of the best teas I had tasted till date. After lazying around in the lawns for a while I took a shower, had my breakfast and put the batteries in my camera and set out to explore the land.

It was a sunny morning and there was dew at the edges of the grass blades reminding me of the freeze of the night. The landscape was simply awe inspiring – the trailing hills on one side, the green-green tea and cardamom plantations on the other and the pine trees on the hills giving it a shade of brown and green here and there. Standing at the top of one of the hills the white clouds seemed at my hand's reach. The combination of the cool breeze and the warm sun is an exhilarating experience.

Ambling along the plantations I saw women at work - plucking the cardamom and carrying it to the godown later in the noon. Walking further I came across a water fall, a wooden bridge made across a stream and little wild flowers in purple and pink and yellow, spread unevenly around me.

I later on learned that the place I stayed was called Kuttikanam which is 2 kms away from Peerumedu. Peerumedu or Peeru Hills takes its name from Peer Mohammed, a Sufi saint who was a close associate of the erstwhile Travancore royal family. This is a favorite haunt for trekkers and picnickers. The mausoleum of the saint, the summer palace of the royal family and the residence of the Diwan situated nearby are all worth a visit. The summer residence of the royal family, now converted into the government guesthouses under the Department of Tourism, offers comfortable accommodation.

The fabled Mangala Devi temple and the majestic British church of Pallikunnu are just a hop away.

5 kms from Peerumedu is Grampi, also known as Parunthupara (eagle rock) and it gives a panoramic view from its peak. Rocky plains, lush green hillsides, forests, trekking trails and picturesque view lent charm to this destination. The road to Grampi is flanked by unending stretches of cardamom, tea and coffee plantations.

4 km from Peerumedu is this rolling hills called Thrissanku. The lovely landscape and the gentle breeze make this an ideal spot for long walks. The hills offer a breathtaking view of the sunrise and sunset.

I learned from the reception of my lodging house that the Thekkady Wild Life Sanctuary is just another 30 kms from here. Also 25 kms away is Vaagamon which is another hill station of tourist attraction.

After a generous lunch I set out for Thekkady. It'd be another full length article if I have to write about Thekkady. Besides I couldn't take much pics. in Thekkady as my Camera without a warning stopped functioning (some minor trouble). Anyways... I didn't have time enough to explore the land too. So after ambling around in there for a while, I returned to my room by about 4.30 in the evening.

Having said all that I'd say, Peerumedu is more an ideal place for honeymooners and people like me who want to spend a quite and peaceful weekend. Well, the ride to this place could be adventurous with all those hairpin bends spiraling along the Ghat road. But if it's an activity filled weekend that you are seeking you need to go that extra 30 kms to Thekkady. Peerumedu is a place to lay back and marvel at those pearly waterfalls, green-painted grasslands, shimmering brooks, crystalline water springs and mist-cloaked hilltops.

For shoppers you can get your hands at things like 'pure-wild-honey', aromatic herbal oils, tea leaves, coffee beans or cardamom packed fresh from the garden and other things. The accommodation here would cost you anything from Rs. 600 for a cottage stay to Rs. 3000 to Rs. 10,000 for a luxury stay. As for food, you can taste the best of spicy non-vegetarian dishes if you can get into one of the local restaurants by the road side.

Bus services at regular interval are available from Kottayam and that's the only means of public transport available to this place. The best option would be to travel in your own vehicle.

The ride back:

I pulled the throttle of my bike for my trip back at 5.30 in the evening. If it took me 6 and half hours to reach here, it took me only 4 and odd hours to reach back. The ride back through the winding roads through the lush green plantations was a thrill of a different kind which is very unlikely the thrill I had at riding through the sheets of mist in the dark.

Relating my adventure to one of my friends back home, he had just this to say – "I'm happy you lived to tell the tale!".

The man made pond in the estate where I stayed.

A tree hut in the estate.

Inside the tree hut.


Original post:

Peerumedu Factfile:
Altitude: About 3200 ft above sea level
Nearest airport/railway station: Kottayam (85 kms)
Accommodation: Cheap and mid-range lodges and guest houses to Plantation houses and luxuary hotels

For more details, visit: