Saturday, June 17, 2017

Monsoon Cycling in Coorg [Kodagu] - Virajapete to Madikeri

 In search of Monsoon went on Bicycle around Coorg [Kodagu], covering Talakaveri, Bhagamandala, Virajapete, Madikeri and a hike to Tadiyandamol [second highest peak of Karnataka] on 17th & 18th June 2017.  Cycling is always thrill and enjoyment especially in Monsoon.  I was eagerly waiting to enjoy this season; my last cycling journey was from Shivamogga to Malpe sometime in February 2017 of this year.  Again, accompanied with me, lovely friends Shanthi Prasad & Sudhakar.  If you read my journey, most of the times they were with me, I am always happy to do more and more with these wonderful guys.
Beautiful Trail on the way to Madikeri
I have chalked down the trail for two days including a Tadiyandamol trek, which is second highest peak in Karnataka.  I had been trekked this place two years back with lovely bunch of friends, however considering the distance in two days, decided to do this wonderful trek.

16.06.17 Night: Bengaluru – Virajapete by Multi-Axle Volvo

17.06.17: Start from Virajapete – Kadanga – Cheyyandane – Nalakhand Palace – Tadiyandamol [Night Halt]

18.06.17: Start from Tadiyandamol – Kakkabbe -  Napoklu – Bhagamandala – Talakaveri – Madikeri

We booked the Volvo bus which ends at Virajapete to avoid any luggage issues.  The bus was at 11.30 pm from Mysore Road Satellite Bus Stand.  Bus arrived on time, conductor – drivers were very co-operative, boarded our bikes and settled in our seats, journey went well.
Night Journey to Virajapete
As we expected the bus reached early morning at 4.45 am to Virajapete.  We had enough of time to get refreshed and start our ride.  Finished the morning core job at public toilet at Bus stand, had hot tea & biscuits in a petty shop.  Morning was pleasant atmosphere with cool breeze, understood in the last two days monsoon not showered.
Early Morning at Virajapete
Very soon we crossed the town and hit the Bhagamandala road.  Virajapete town hill was looking so beautiful from far, we stopped a while for morning warm up.  After short exercise to our body, continued our journey.
Outskirt of Virajapete
The trail was rolling and not much difficult, weather was very perfect for cycling.  Not taking risk, asked the localities about availability of breakfast, someone was suggested Kadambi. 
Break for Breakfast

Soon we reached the village, decided to take a break for breakfast.  Tiny village hotel served hot Dose + tea, continued our journey.
On the way to Tadiyandamol
Our target to reach by 11 am max to Thammayya house, which is the base point for Tadiyandamol trek.  We had enough of relax time, now Sudhakar & Shanthi Prasad were in mood to have the Jackfruit
Jack fruit attempt

We found many trees, unfortunately could not able to get a tasty fruit.  But nature had not disappointed us, they found enough of Guava fruits. They were crazy, filled our pocket and backpack.
Unlimited Guava Fruits
We took a deviation towards Nalakhanda Palace road before Kakkabbe.  Passing through coffee estate continued our journey.  Thank you to local people for making us to awareness about herd of wild Elephant movement around this place.  We understood there were 8 elephants & 2 calf.
On the way to Nalakhanda Palace
Nalakhand Palace is on the way to Tadiyandamol peak, decided to explore a while this palace. Guide – cum – Security guard explained about the palace.  Even though it looks very small, however it is very interesting palace.
Nalakhand Palace
Now the most difficult journey started for the day. The trail become so tough, many places we could not able to ride it.  
Tough Trail
It was not so easy to ride off road with steep trail, we had to stop in many places. Either we stopped for photography or tiredness, reached the Thammayya house.
Sweet Thammayya Home - Night Camping
Smiling face, Thammayya welcomed us, explained about our trek plan and stay at his home.  He is very nice guy who provide a stay and basic tasty food on demand.  Parked our bikes at his home and continued the trekking towards peak.
Beginning of the Trek
The Tadiyandamol is peak around 4 KMs from his house.  Appreciate Forest department for initiating a check-post at base point.  They charging entrance fee Rs.20/- each, I think this is the lowest fees across Karnataka as of now.  
Beautiful Valley
One more interesting and admirable thing is, keeping Rs.50/- each for plastic bottle who carry to trek and amount will be refundable once they bring it back and shown to officials.  I personally recommend not to allow any plastic bottles and other stuffs beyond the check-post point.
Tadiyandamol Valley
Paid the fees and finished the entry permission formalities, continued our trek. The weather slowly turning into rainy, the clouds & mist covering the valley.  Thank you so much to Sudhakar for bringing tasty homemade food for lunch, Chapati, Curd, Chatney, Onion and Pickle. We decided to stop for lunch before rain hit, near big rock [common place of camping for trekker] had yummy lunch.
Yummy Lunch
After a small relax, continued our journey towards peak. The weather was completely turned into mist and rain.  
Relax Time
The valley was hide and seek in the mist, drizzling added more cool in the atmosphere.  Soon we entered in the forest range from open grassland.  Tadiyandamol trek is 95% in grassland, only at one stretch we pass through forest.
In mid of Forest
How can be a trek without Leech bite, yes, we all had first Leach bite of this monsoon. Hope leeches like my blood more, I am the person got highest bites.  We were about to reach the peak, the rain started pouring heavily, the valley was completely misty.  Taking short breaks at last we conquered the Tadiyandamol peak.
On the Peak
The rain and mist was not shown mercy on us to enjoy the valley, this was my second time upset for not seeing the valley.  The last attempt went vein in misty & rain, this was not so different.  We waited for a while to get a valley vision, but could not. Started descending towards our camping site, rain followed us till the base point.
Relax on peak
We settled our luggage at Thammayya sweet home. We were lucky, only three of us in entire big house. I am in love this place, an old home really gives lot of peace and joy to me.  Tiered bodies wanted hot bath badly. We engaged to light the fire and have a hot bath. Enjoyed entire big HANDE [big pot] of hot water bath.
Hot Water Ready
The day was very relaxed, we did around 30 KMs cycling and 8 KMs trek. Thammayya called us for dinner at 8pm. Hot delicious Anna, Sambar, Happala, Pickle filled our stomach. We can’t gauge their love and affection which shown to us. Thanked them for serving tasty food and retired for the day.

We all thought, the day will be a long journey. The distance need to cover around 100+ KMs tough trail of Talakaveri and Madikeri. Got up early and finished the morning core job. Now the time adieu to Thammayya family, again thanked him for giving such a wonderful hospitality.
Sweet Thammayya Family
One of my close childhood friend Bandeppa is settled at Napoklu.  Many time I expressed to visit his home while I was trekking in Coorg, unfortunately could not.  Thought, this time I must visit his home since it is on the way to Bhagamandala.  I called him and expressed about my visit with friends, so greeting invited us.
Off Roading
We struggled lot while ascending the Palace to Thammayya house, downhill was also not so easy.  Taken extra precaution while descending towards Palace. Very soon we hit the Bhagamandala road junction, continued our journey towards Napoklu passing through Kakkabbe.
Difficult Stretch
The distance is around 12 KMS from Kakkabbe, my friend was constantly in touch with me to know about our journey. I had been to his home twice before this, so taking assistance reached at 8.30 am. He greeted with smiling face and exchanged the old golden memories.  Breakfast started with sweet KESARIBAATH and finished with hot POORI and Daal. After spending more time, decided to adieu to my friend. Thanked him for inviting us and serving delicious breakfast.
My  Beloved Friend
Our journey was continued towards Bhagamandala. Considering the distance, decided to avoid the unnecessary breaks. The weather was again turned into drizzling. 
On the way to Bhagamandala
 Most of the trail was rolling one, soon reached the Bhagamandala.

The time was around 2.00 pm, Sudhakar bike had some issues and expressed not to take a risk to ride to Talakaveri. I and Shanthi Prasad accepted his request, we both continued our journey towards Talakaveri. Yes, indeed it is continuous steep 8KMs long journey from Bhagamandala, took both as a challenge to ride non-stop.
Bhagamandala Temple
Initial 4KMs journey is manageable, the rest is tough.  Taking small breaks for photography, continued tireless Talakaveri journey. We about to reach the peak, the atmosphere become misty.  
On the way to Talakaveri
Visibility was very poor, we feeling like reaching heaven.  Reached the Talakaveri taking 1 hour 25 minutes, relaxed for sometimes and started descending journey. 
Reached the Bhagamandala very soon, Sudhakar was waiting for us.  Now the time to fill our stomach with lunch. Hot delicious food filled and relaxed for sometimes.
Pose to Kaveri Holy River Origin Place - Talakaveri
Bhagamandala to Madikeri distance is around 39 KMs, keeping the target continued our journey.  Now we started to feel the monsoon rain.  The entire range was raining heavily, continued enjoying the journey. Trail was mix of ups and down rolling one, soon reached Betageri.
Monsoon Ride Touch
The last 10KMs will be toughest one, so we took a long break. Sky was completely dark, Shanthi Prasad alone had the torch, asked him to lead us.  Our journey was continued in the dark.  The rain was pouring with breaks, finally we hit the tough last mile of journey. Taking small breaks, reached the Madikeri town around 8.30 pm.
Somewhere in dense forest
Enquired about some good hotel for dinner, localities suggested Ambika hotel which near Bus Stand. Finished our dinner and waited for bus.  Return journey schedule was around 11.30pm which start from Madikeri. We were lucky, the driver-conductor were cool, loaded our bikes, relaxed in the seat. The journey went well with mesmerizing our wonderful journey.

Overall ride was around 135 KMs including 8 KMs trek to Tadiyandamol.  This was our first cycling trip which including a trek.  Thank you so much to Shanthi Prasad and Sudhakar joining with beautiful ride.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bengaluru - Kodaikanal Bike Trip

Always wanted camp in the wilderness pitching tent; wanted to stop a ride before the dark; unplanned camping stop, without proper pre-planned trip; yes!!! It's all happened in three days long bike ride during Kodaikanal on 29th April 2017 to 1st May 2017.

We the friends decided Kodaikanal sometime in mid of April on two bikes, Royal Enfield & Honda Unicorn. My friend Suresh brought new Honda last month, so he joined with us. Shanthi Prasad is pillion to Suresh and myself to Sudhakar.

We have chosen the below route:
Bengaluru – Salem – Dharmapuri – Dindigal – Thandikudi – Kodaikanal – Kookal Lake [Night Halt]

Kookal Lake – Kodaikanal – Melpallam [Night Halt]

Melpallam – Palani – Erode – Bhavani – Mettur – Rayakottai – Hosur – Bengaluru

Shanthi Prasad & Sudhakar came to my room previous night. We got ready by 3 am, Suresh also on time to reach my room. We had hot tea and biscuits as early morning boost; tied both luggage to bullet carrier; started the journey towards Kodai.
Sun rise Day - 1
Early morning empty roads has its own beauty, taking Electronic City flyover reached Hosur.  There was little traffic near RTO Check post, continued our journey without break. Crossed Hosur headed towards Krishnagiri, vehicle volume got increased on the road. Suddenly we were in traffic jam, thought some vehicle breakdown or accident happened. But the situation was different, it was toll plaza jam. We can’t believe the traffic & vehicles, it took almost 20 minutes come out.
Our journey was continued towards Salem, decided to give a stop for breakfast. After Salem roads were little empty, gave a stop road side hotel for breakfast.  Sometime we end up with tasty food on roadside where we never expected, small hotel served yummy variety of breakfast. 
Yummy Breakfast point - road side near Salem
Since the morning this was our first official break, spent good time and continued our journey.

How the sun was growing, the heat was feeling to our butts.  Hot winds were pushing back and our journey continued towards Kodai. Decided to take a break to fill our stomach with Icecream.
Breaking the Ice Cream
Shanthi Prasad was already chalked out about internal trail, turned our bikes towards beautiful scenic inner route of Thandikudi.
Road Leading towards Thandikudi (Inner road)
The valley was very scary, the roads were very narrow, vehicle movement was less, but you have to ride very patiently and carefully.  The journey was continued taking multiple breaks.  
Deep Valley
The weather suddenly got complete opposite, the cool winds were welcomed us in hill station of Kodai.
Lonely beautiful trail - Thandikudi
Our mission to reach the Kookal Lake was 5pm, considering the timelines took breaks.  We felt the traffic slowly mounting on the road, we were very close to Kodaikanal.  We can imagine how the tourist place more crowd during long weekends, yes this was also a long weekend of MAY DAY.
Slowly Traffic Mounting up
When we were very close to Kodai town the traffic become more.  The town was filled with tourist vehicles, it was looking like a Benglauru.  We thought not to explore much in the crowd, headed towards our camping Kookal lake.
Entering Kodaikanal
We badly needed to fill our empty stomach, found a descent hotel outskirt of the town.  Had yummy lunch and continued our journey.  The landscape of the route is very scenic with Pine forest.  The traffic was very less, the trail is wonderful.
Kookal Lake
Reached beautiful Kookal Lake around 5.30 pm.  Very thankful to our dearest friend Shanthi Prasad for making necessary arrangement to stay in the Forest Department premises of Kookal lake.  We all joined with one more group of Dinesh (Our trekking friend) who had taken care about necessary permission.
Beautiful Landscape near Camping Site Day - 1
The place itself is a heaven, it is surrounded by hills, beautiful landscape and a small lake.  Our day was very long, almost 14 hours long journey come to an end for the day.  Dumped our luggage, relaxed for the day.
Forest Office Campsite Day - 1
Dinner was prepared by stakeholders, finished and pitched our tent. The beauty of this journey was staying in the tent.  The night was chilled, just closed eyes thinking the next day journey.

Beautiful Sun rise at Kookal Village
When opened eyes, the birds whispering, cool breeze and silent valley gave lot of energy to our body. We witnessed beautiful sunrise in the valley.  Finished the morning core job and ready to pack up our tent and continue the journey.
Morning Breakfast Day - 2
Initial plan was to do a small trekking around the lake, visit a near waterfall and continue towards Palani.  Considering the time constrain, we all decided to skip the trek.  The breakfast got little late, filled our stomach with Savynoodles.  After a small photography session, headed back towards Kodai town.
Kookal Lake
We decided to do the day very relax ride since wanted to camp somewhere in wilderness for second day.  The body and mind was relaxed mode, on the way to Kodai had multiple breaks with Ice cream and snacks. 
View of Villages - Kodaikanal
Very disappoint thing was hell of traffic.  The Kodai was about 5-6 KMs, the vehicles were lined up like a rally.  Two wheeler somewhat managing the way and moving forward.  By great difficulty escaped from the jam and reached the town.
Horrible Traffic
No one was in mood to explore the town because of the crowd, however we just covered few places viz., Lake, Coakers Walk, Lake View Point & Poombarai village view.
Relax in mid of Pine Trees
Now our journey was continued towards Palani.  Again the hell of traffic, exit from the town was again the challenge one.  The vehicles were lined up almost 12-13 kms, which were entering into Kodai.  Not sure by what time they may reach to the town, we all were fed up with jam and came out from the town.  I decided not to visit any tourist place during long weekend.
The Kodai traffic will be remembered a lot for all of us, finished our lunch near deviation route of Palani.  The lunch was hot and tasty.  When we came out from the hotel, the weather was turned into drizzling.  Waited for some more time, there was no sign of stopping.  Wear our rain jackets and continued the journey in the rain.
Pose to on the way Palani
Kodai to Palani trail is more scenic and scary valley than the Dindigal.  You will pass through one side a deep valley and another side a hill.  Drizzling gave more beauty to atmosphere, taking some small breakups continued our journey.
Beautiful Wine bottles at Shop
Enjoying the valley we reached a small hotel.  The time was around 5pm, decided to camp somewhere around this, asked the permission to stay aside the shop, they had not agreed. We reached forest checkpost and asked for the permission to pitch our tent for the night.  Initially they did not agree, however we convinced them. Thankful to Dinesh again, who guided us to camp near Melpallam forest checkpost.
Day - 2 Camping in Wild
The sky was turning into dark, I and Suresh went down the valley to bring the dinner for all.  Only one hotel available where we can get the food.  The hotel was around 5 KMs from the checkpost towards Palani.  Brought parcel of the Kerala Paratha, Curry and other snacks.
Beautiful Palani Valley
There was a panic and twist in the night.  Forest department personnel shown one more location just back side of their quarters a small temple.  It was really perfect for camping, so we pitched our tent at temple premises and finished dinner around 8 pm.  About to retire for the day, four local people came to our place on bikes.  They were all drunken, we smelled they going to disturb us.  I and Suresh could able speak little Tamil, tried to convince them polite way.  Initially they were rood, later we succeed to convince them.  They went away saying “not  to pollute the temple premises”.  We all got a big relief, else we have to find other location for stay.

The day was very relaxed except the traffic irritation in Kodai town.

Morning was very pleasant, we had good sleep in the tents.  The day will be very long ride, we have to reach our home by end of the day.  Quickly finished our morning core jobs, packed our tents on the bike, set ready to enjoy the day.

We all decided to have breakfast in Palani which is around 40KMs.  The Palani ghat is very scary, one side a deep valley and another side the hill.  There is no wall or fence which protect for any accident.  We should be very careful while riding this ghat.
Mid of Palani - Kaodaikanal Ghat Road
Rolling ghat terrain enjoyed a lot, soon reached the outskirt of Palani city.  We found roadside mango shop, thought to fill our stomach as morning breakfast.  Tasted all types of the mangoes and tender coconut.  Now the journey was continued towards city.
Morning Breakfast of Day - 3 (Outskirt of Palani)
The sun slowly itching us, Suresh wanted to visit the Palani Muruga temple. On demand, we took a room in lodge to get refreshment.  We paid around Rs.250/- which is very economy.  One by one we took bath, kept our luggage and bikes under lodge custody.
Palani Muruga Temple on the Hill
The temple was hardly 1KM away from the lodge, we decided to go by walk.  The weather was completely opposite to Kodai, the sun was hashing very badly.
Muruga temple is situated on a small hill inside the Palani town. The premises was filled with devotees, the entire range is like an annual fest.  There are two ways to reach the temple on the hill, you can take the cable car or hike through steps.  Considering the crowd at Cable car, taken the step route.
Crown on the way to Temple
A small hike made all of us little tiered, considering the huge crowd paid our Darshana from outside.  Decided not to stand and queue, which would take minimum 3 – 4 hours.
The time was around 11.30 am, decided to finish the early lunch.  Found a decent hotel near the temple, filled our stomach with hot Dose and other delicious morning breakfast items.

Now the time was around 12.15, the initial plan was to cover Malai Mahadeshwara Hill.  The time was not much, decided to skip it and took the internal route towards Bengaluru.
Bhavani - Mettur inner road
The internal route was much better than the National Highway, passing the Erode reached the Mettur at 4 pm.  Taking many small breaks and enjoying the ride reached home safely at 10 pm.  Definitely I would like to add about Bullet which was gave lot of trouble till reach to home. 

Kodaikanal round trip was joyful ride with close friends.  We have enjoyed all three days; two days camping sites were awesome.  Thank you to all my dudes for making this wonderful unforgettable journey.
Team: Myself, Sudhakar, Suresh & Shanthi Prasad