Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mesmerizing Munnar - Dangerously addictive

Munnar - another must see destination of "God's own country" is blessed with enchanting hills covered with coffee plantations, trees with beautiful flowers, cool climate and drivers dream roads.The place is so vast that even with the explosion of hotels and resorts in Munnar town, there are lots of calm and cool places which can be found easily if one ventures some 30 kilometers around Munnar.

The visit was planned quickly and was initiated by my friend Mr. Jay. So the trip members will be Jay and his wife Chi, my wife, kid and myself. A weekend was chosen and to get maximum out of this journey decided to take leave on Friday.

The upward journey
Come friday morning and we soon were packing our bags and were ready by 10.30am. Pretty early by our standards. But Mr. Jay had to attend to some official commitments which delayed the journey and we actually were sitting some one feet heigh from the neat NH 47, moving under our comfy seats of Jay's new Hyundai Getz, only by 3.00pm. The pretty hatch has everything in it needed for a good family outing. Our luggage for two days was easily packed into the boot, the cubby holes, bottle holders and trays adding to the utility space which was used to the maximum extent possible. The machine is power packed too with the aero dynamic design, low centre of gravity aiding for a stable and pretty relaxed highway cruising.

Our route plan was

Trivandrum -> Kollam -> Kayamkulam -> Alappuzha -> Ernakulam -> Vyttila -> Adimali -> Munnar.

After finding our way through the evening traffic at all major junctions managed to reach Vyttila by about 7pm, Still more than 150 kilometers to travel. Had a snack break after turning right from the NH 47. Decided to proceed with the journey eventhough that means we will be reaching our destination well past midnight. Confirmed with the resort staff about our check in time and off we go.
The ghat section after Adimaly came to our reach by 9.30pm. Had a quick dinner from a hotel at adivaram and off we go to the ghats. Night driving through ghats means there was no visibility towards the sides, only the roads were visible, the middle white lines serving as the pointer on where the turn is, traffic was very less. The machine was pulling really well and the passengers were not feeling any tiredness at all, thanks to the well laid out seat. Back seat comforts deserves a special mention here. This is even better than some sedans from the hyundai stable itself and maruthis premium hatches.

After an eventless drive, which I enjoyed to the core, reached the Sterling resorts. Crashed into the bed and off we go to the dream land.

Day 1 @ Munnar
Woke up early in the morning to have the first glimpse of the location where we are staying.

Opened the windows, wooow, a visual treat, see of yourself.

It was the time of blossoming of Neelakurinji. The fact that this flower blossoms only once in 13 years made this event something really special. One mountain is fully covered by this flower and it is a treat to watch this. On enquiry with the hotel staff got information that the neelakurinjimala is accessible only through transportation provided by the state owned vehicles, getting tickets for that is a 5hr job and the whole visit will take another 3 hours or so. Oops the whole day will be lost for this..

Suddenly Ms Chi came up with an alternate plan after searching the database which is an inbuilt feature of humans. There is another place near kanthalloor where we can sight neelakuriniji and the place is 60km away.. Everyone accepted to this idea. We all dressed up and got out of the resort.

This elephant (man made) adored the reception of the resort.

We were out in the munnar roads for the first time in day light. Each and every location we wanted to stop for a photo shoot.

The coffee plantations gave the mountain top some kind of greeenish patterns

See another set of patterns here

We moved forward and here comes another view, A huge rocky mountain was on one side of the road. Can't stop stopping here again for a photo shoot.
Me adoring a indian made SUV, loaded with rattles and mechanical problems, but is a dream to ride around

Our chottu is wondering why we came to this place.

Suddenly something happened to me and I started trying to trek up the rocks.

But only 2 or 3 steps and soon i came down faster than i climbed up

We were only 5 kms away from our starting point and it took more than 1 hr. If we go at this pace we will reach kanthaloor only in the evening. So decided that our next stop will be at kanthalloor only. So started a non stop drive resisting all the temptation to stop whenever we saw a scenic location. We could see the huge queue for visiting the kurinjimala. We are not here to stand in the queue and waste time, so we kept driving. The density of resorts were soon getting reduced and we could sense that we were in the outskirts of Munnar. The roads were not very good, but the scenary more than made up for it.

Neelakurinji Spotting
Soon we began seeing a special kind of flower by the road side. Stopped the vehicle to have a closer look. On enquiry with a local confirmed that it is indeed neelakurinji.. Here it is - the neelakuriniji.

We cannot say that it is a beautiful flower, but the fact that it blossoms only once in 13 years and that the whole of kurinimala is covered with this flower makes it an attraction. Another set which we found near the wayside.

Soon we reached a place from where we have to trek to reach a small hill where there are plenty of Neelakurinjis. It was quite a small trek, at the end of which we spotted the Neelakurinjis.

To be frank it was not something which really excited us, we had seen many more scenic places enroute. So decided to return to Munnar exploring other scenic spots on the area.
Stopped for another foto stop.

A mule which we found on the way.

Mr. Jay who was Getzed 4 months ago.

Again started our journey. The roads were through thick dense forests.

We reached Marayoor which is famous for the sandalwood scandal. Filled our tummy with what was available from the only shop of the area and again proceeded with the journey.

We found this school enroute.

Stopped on seeing a vast barren land over the rocks.

Enquired with one of the rare spotting of a human being and gave info that it is the Muniyara para. There is some ethic behind this Muniyara para. Whatever it may be this place is simply awesome. The whole trip seemed worthy, just because we could be here.

Mr. Jay climbing down from inifinity

See the vastness of the place.

Me on top of the world

Spent a good 1 hour there, trekking here and there, lying down on the rock, playing with a ball, posing for photos all the while keeping our mouths engaged, sharing gossips, gossips and more gossips. The twisties where again being covered as Mr. Sun was slowly finishing off his job for the day.

Stopped for another photstop before the lighting source leave office.

Mrs and Mr. Jay went for a stroll.

We still has to travel 30kms more to reach Munnar.

These trees with red flowers was a treat to watch.

Camera skills tested by way of zooming some small flowers which we found on this area.

A waterfall which was visible from this place.

Soon we could see Mr.Sun leaving the office. We too soon reached back our resort. The resort has some stuff to keep us engaged like table tennis, carrom, pool area etc.. Ventured into the game stuff, had dinner and thats the end of day 1 @ munnar. We explored only the outskirts of Munnar, but it was definitely worth it.

Day 2 - Plans for local picnic spots and return by noon.

Checked out of the resort and then we proceeded to Echo point. Before reaching echo point itself we needed to stop because of these tall trees which adored both sides of the road.

Began making loud noises from this point and waited for the echo. Indeed we could here the echo after a small gap of time. Excited we began to make different kinds of sounds, starting from a puppy's squeak to a dog's bark, from a howl to growl, My kid soon began to enjoy this. Ventured deep into the woods and found out that this place is really beautiful. Spend about an hour or so here.

Went to echo point only to see that the place is heavily crowded. Just took some snaps there. These carrots were for sale at echo point.

Next place to visit was the Mattupetty dam.. It began to drizzle by the time we reached mattupetty dam.

It was already quite cloudy.
matupetty dam

But this atmosphere presented another view of the dam and the water in the reservoir.

Time was already nearing 2 pm when we completed exploring mattupetty. So now we had time for lunch and then we have to return to our dens.

Went to a hotel and by the time lunch was finished it was 4pm. Started our journey back. But there was a heavy traffic jam. During once such block took a snap of this waterfall on the way.

Somehow reached ernakulam by 8pm. Had dinner there and started again at 9pm from Ekm.

The highways will get less dense after 9pm and roads are smooth means we were covering distances in pretty quick time and by about 11.45 reached back home. Noise levels during return trip were less owing to the fact that occupants were busy dreaming about the trip in a sleep mode.

Overall it was a great trip indeed with our decision to explore not so common places (read less crowded) yielding good results.

Good company + good place - a right mix for a trip to remember, something to cherish for years to come amidst our busy schedules..........

Friday, July 24, 2009

Destination - unplanned, but Destiny - Sabarimala (An offseason pilgrimage)

Silver bullets - the bullet riding club which has its roots in Trivandrum were up in arms again. This time it was for republic day ride since the ride happened on a republic day.

Destination - Nothing specific, but ride through the eastern ghats of Kerala upward till 1pm and return ride after that.

Riders : -

jay in his ironbull (500cc Turbocharged CI),
raghu in his Leh ed 350cc
anil in his performance boosted machismo,
Dr. in a 350cc CI
newbie in his Thunderbird
and myself in a AVL 350 machismo

The ride started at sharp 5:30am. The meet up point was near MG college, Kesavadasapuram, Thiruvananthapuram.

The riders ready for the journey ahead

The Main Central road with all those twisties and beautifully laid tarmac was thumping to the tunes of our bulls, the ironbull's goldie pumped up by the 500cc CI engine was giving the maximum contribution to the rising decibel levels.

The rhythmic ride along with a set of disciplined riders is another experience altogether. It is a treat to watch the guys ahead of us taking a curve one by one swaying one after the another just like the sync dancing.

The sun was slowly rising up, but our adrenalin was climbing up faster.

Kilimanoor, Ayoor, Anchal, Punalur (famous for its hanging bridge), Pathanapuram, Pathanamthitta flew past through our eyes.

A pit stop before pathanamthitta.

Newbie bid good bye to us from pathanamthitta as he was proceeding to his home. We continued to thump ahead.

Finally reached a point from where we the ghat section started. Filled up petrol to the brim as we don't know the route which are going to take.

Ironbull marching ahead after a heavy drink of petrol.

The rate of change of angles which our body was making with the ground was steadily increasing as we climbed up the ghats in zig zag motion. The boost in performance of Anil machismo was quite evident here. Iron bull could be heard atleast 2kms away, so people on the roadside could hear what is coming at them pretty early and were eagerly waiting for our arrival.

A pit stop in between the ghats for a regroup. This place is near Chittar of Pathanamthitta district.

Soon we reached a checkpost which is the entry point to the Moozhiyar Dam.

We knew that there is a road owned by forest department which if open was a riders paradise as it will take us through some of the major dams across the sabarigiri project including the Moozhiyar and through dense forest. Unfortunately for us, the road was closed and the forest department staff was completely against our journey through those woods as it was summer season and a slight spark will result in forest fire. Hence no one was permitted. There concern seemed to be geninue, so we decided to take another course.

Deciding on the way ahead.

Some of the shopwallahs here told that this route will lead to the road to sabarimala and that roads are in superb condition.

Decided to march ahead. Again superb roads, twisties, dense forest, cool climate see us riding through these tailor made roads for riders like us.

Reached Nilakkal siva temple. Stopped for another regroup.

Decided to continue our journey through these roads. This was the road leading to the famous Sabarimala Temple. The ride was happening just after the pilgrimage season was over. The roads were completely in repaired condition. Pilgrimage season was over means, there was zero traffic. Just the bulls and us and the twisties..What more can we ask for.

To have a glimpse of the experience which we had and to feel the sound of nature, blended with the thump of the bulls see this short video taken at the road to Pampa.

Click here to watch the video

Soon we reached "Chalakayam". This place is normally where parking space is allowed for pilgrims vehicles during peak season Sabarimala Pilgrimage. We are here during an offseason means, it is a completely different atmosphere here. We enjoyed the vast open roads.

Parked our bulls in the middle of the road, one among us was lying down on the middle of the road. Never had we seen chalakkayam in this mode.

The riders for this trip

The ironbull at Chalakkayam

click here to view a small video of our bulletting fun through chalakayam, Dr Gopu followed by myself.
After enjoying the cool breeze and lonely atmosphere at chalakkayam we proceeded to Pampa. Normally vehicles are not allowed beyond a certain point at Pampa, but now there was no soul here. Pampa was having a deserted look. Even the petrol bunk was closed.

Wreckage of an alto at Pampa

This is where the pilgrims take the holy dip. Enjoyed the pampa river without any human activity for the first time in life

We also ventured into the route which we normally take by foot towards the holy shrine, but only upto the point where the steps start.

Explored the location to the maximum possible. Time was around 1pm, but we were on hill top means, we were not feeling the heat at all. Since it was a one day ride, we had to reach back our homes today evening itself, so we decided to roll back, but this time in a different route.

We went through Erumely route, the normal route taken by pilgrims travelling to sabarimala from trivandrum. Found out a small hotel for filling our tummy in the name of Lunch.

Rode for a few kilometers after the lunch and found out a nice place amongst the woods to take a power nap.

There was a small tea stall near by.

Our weekly SB meeting venue was shifted to this place.

How a hardcore bulletteer takes a nap.

By about 3.30 we started our ride back. Soon we reached pathanamthitta. From there it was again the same route which we used for the upward journey. On reaching Punalur, Dr invited us to his home. His neighbours were soon wondering seeing all the heavily loaded rider maniacs thumping to his home. His mum and dad were superb hosts, had another round of yummy yummy snacks and again we hit the road, but this time aided with the beams provided by the headlights.

Night riding means our speeds dramatically decreased and we all rode back safely to our homes by 8;30 at night.

It was a surprise visit to Sabarimala. Could enjoy the scenic beauty of that place which otherwise we would not be able to do becoz of the heavy rush.

It was indeed another trip to remember !!!


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