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"?
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)