Rolling mountains that make a perfect backdrop, tea estates that drape the landscape, greenery that soothes your eye, water falls that bring Mother Earth’s purity to the fore and roads that are pothole free!!
The ride was arranged by CAM, a group I have now become a fan of. This was my 3rd ride with them, the first two being to Coorg and Kudremukh. Their cost is reasonable and they are very good at organizing a cycling (and more, actually) event. More than anything, they are good friends too. As soon as I came to know that they were organizing their 6th event in Wayanad, I jumped in. Also, I managed to convince a few colleagues (Saurabh and Yoann, a French expat) and a friend, Sharath to ride with me.
Day minus 23
On Mar 18, I received an email from CAM about their next ride. After having missed Agumbe and Mandalpatti rides, I was not going to miss this one. I registered immediately and forwarded the email to Yoann, Saurabh and Sharath. They did too! Also, I came to know that Sathish, Vishy, Vishwas and quite a few others would be riding too.
As usual, ground zero was the Hockey stadium@ Shanthi nagar. All of us 35+ riders gathered there, exchanged a few hello’s and our riding experiences in the last few days, quickly dismantled our bikes, packed them into boxes and loaded them into a truck. Then we hopped onto the SRS bus. The time was 12.00 AM.
Day one (April 10)
Day 1 began a bit too early for me. I woke up around 5 am in the bus and then struggled to sleep thereafter. It was a misty morning and tree after tree passed us…
We had a long wait at the checkpost before entering Kerala from Karnataka. We also ran into issues with the checkpost staff as our truck had a lot of boxes with cycles in them. But Harsha and Vikrant quickly sorted all issues out and we headed towards our rented rooms in Sulthan Bathery.
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After quickly freshening up, we slipped into our riding clothes, had a simple IVC (idly, vada, coffee) breakfast and headed off to assemble our bikes. The only grumble I have is… by the time we were done with all this, it was 10.45. And it was hot!!! I wished CAM had arranged for cycle racks instead of the dismantling / assembling stuff. (apart from the delay in starts on day 1, I am absolutely satisfied with CAM and would recommend them to everyone and anyone. IMHO, though there are a few things that can be improved, they are the best cycle related travel folks in Bangalore today).
The route for the day was:
Sulthan Bathery (0 Km) -> Pattuvayal (19 Km) -> Ambalamoola (24 Km) -> Kayyonni (35 Km) -> Meenmutty falls (45 Km, lunch stop) -> Meppadi (63 Km) -> Kalpetta (75 Km)
The sun was beating hard on us. Yoann and I were riding together (Sharath and Saurabh rode in another group ) and were stopping frequently for water, electral and stuff. The heat got to us, nevertheless, it was fun riding. I was riding after a month almost and I loved being on the saddle again!
With Pattuvayal nearing, we were at now entering Tamil Nadu. At this point, you need to turn right almost 120 degrees. You miss this and you will go riding into Tamil Nadu. We took the turn and rode back into God’s own country. It was slightly uphill now. Yoann looked very tired, but managed to keep going. Arjit rode with me for some time and he appeared to be riding strongly. I was surprised to know his age. (of course, I will not disclose it here). The sun in all its fury made us feel like we were bicycling up a steep mountain. My shirt was soaked with sweat. Carrying a DSLR camera on my shoulders certainly didn’t appear to be a sane idea.
But the countryside was beautiful! Very calm, peaceful and slow! And green! I just loved it!!! Thoughts of setting up a 2nd home in such a place crossed my mind several times.
There were a couple of small but beautiful churches that crossed us. These reminded me of my Gudalur days as a kid, staying with my aunt, who worked there as a Tahsildar.That is also probably one reason why I can manage a decent conversation in Malayalam.
All through the ride, I kept asking the locals for directions.
“Chettaa, Kayyonni ivada irunnu ethara dooram ariyo?” (Elder bro, how far is Kayyonni from here?)
“Koreya dooram aanu”. (quite a distance)
Ah! No one gave us the right answer. Some said 2 Kms when actually it was 10 away. Some said a bit too far. Some said long time away. Distance is never measured in kms in these parts I guess. Also, most locals had never heard of Meenmutty falls. That goes well with my theory that people underestimate their own local neighborhoods and never visit them, while paying huge sums to visit similar places elsewhere.
Okay. At Kayyonni, we stopped at a small tea shop, had tea / lime soda / etc. And asked for direction. 2Kms away, said the guy. I told our folks to assume that to be more like 12 Kms! I actually was right. Meenmutty was 10Km away from the place!!
The landscape on the last few Kms to Meenmutty was amazing. Tea estates and mountains romancing each other! Yoann appeared to be okay, thought it was his first long ride and he was cycling after a long, long time. And then, there was Sathish with me, who is an amazingly strong rider in a thin frame. He was the only guy who rode upto Mandalpatti peak during the last CAM ride I think. This time, he was wearing a black full sleeve jersey, which I guess would have cooked him alive had he stayed in the sun for few more hours.
We reached Meenmutty around 2pm given our late start.
Drank tons of butter milk (Felt so good drinking it. Little things in life sometimes make us so happy!), lime soda, coke, bananas, etc. Also, soon, the CAM arranged lunch came.
We had a quick lunch at the home behind the shop. (The lady let us use their place. The water from their well was amazingly cold, refreshing and sweet in taste). I should say, the lunch was… hmm.. yummy! Even Yoann liked it a lot. Well done CAM!
By now, we had ridden 45 Km in scorching heat. Many were tired. The next plan was to do an off-road trail, reach the gate of Meenmutty and then trek down to the water fall…. 2km in all.
Many were tired and opted to stay back or cycle 30Km to the destination at Kalpetta. Sathish, Yoann, few others and I decided to hit the water fall.
We had a ball of a time! The roads were, well, non-existent and made for an amazing ride uphill / downhill. Also, the trek down to the fall was an amazing thing. At certain places, there was support in the form of a rope to hold onto for support. But most other places, we were on our own, looking down at a steep descent. It was fun!
The Meenmutty water fall is the largest fall in Wayanad, 2nd largest in Kerala and has a height of 300m. But water was just trickling by. I was told that many estates that had sprung up upstream had dammed the water and had brought down the intensity of the fall. A pity! But we managed to get into the water and have fun!
And our steep climb awaited us! Puffing and panting, Sathish, Yoann and I made our way back with few other riders to the small shop where Vikrant and few other volunteers patiently waited on us.
We had a quick cup of tea. Then began our last leg of the day. 30 Km cycling towards Kalpetta. This time, it was easy with the sun down @ 5.45pm. But it got dark pretty soon and we were riding on dark roads without lights. A pretty risky thing. But we managed it by riding slow. By around 7, I reached Chandragiri inn at Kalpetta. A very nice hotel for such a place! CAM really did a nice job in finding this hotel. Yoann, Sharath and I were room mates.
After a hot water bath followed by a chilling cold water bath (strange?), I was ready for dinner. We wanted non-veg. So we skipped the CAM arranged dinner and went to a hotel called Woodlands and ordered for Malabar fish curry, chicken curry, curd rice and Basmati white rice! We waited, waited and waited some more. No signs of the food arriving. I just lost my patience and told him in broken malayalam that if the food didn’t turn up in 2 minutes, we would leave the place.
The food came in 5 mins. My hunger stricken stomach was overjoyed at seeing the food. I was still angry with the delay. Sharath was more angry than I was! But once we started eating the food, all our anger flew away!
The food was mind blowingly awesome!!! In all these years, I had never tasted such good fish and chicken curry!!! If you happen to be in Kalpetta, DO NOT MISS WOODLANDS FOOD!! Period!
Once dinner was done, we were too tired to do anything else but sleep! And we promptly did that after setting our alarm at 5am.
75Kms only, but the sun made us feel it was a 150km ride. Also the trek to the fall and bathing there also added to the effort. After a day full of hard labor, sleep was easy to come by! We slept peacefully!
Day 2 awaited us. 45Km of cycling. A trek down to yet another water fall. And then back to Bangalore. Of course, that will have to be a new post given the length of this one already!