Exploring India on a Royal Enfield motorcycle- part 2 continued:
Alleppey to Thekkady - today we head inland from the coast to find some mountains. Eating breakfast we looked out of the window to the rear of the premises to find the Indian version of a motorcycle CBT. Some poles placed in the ground and some tentative weaving by new riders helping them prepare for their venture out on to the Indian highway. Not only were there virgin bikers but also learner car drivers practising their reversing in to bays marked again with poles pushed in to the ground. Amongst this were a group of boys playing a game of rounders. Chaos but there must be some order to it all!!
Leaving town this morning was as usual hectic and it appears that there is no need to stop for a red light at a railway crossing until the barriers come down. If you do then you get gesticulated at in a friendly manner to encourage you to carry on. The other drivers are only trying to be helpful. Petrol tanks fuelled up we then had to cross the main road to travel back in the direction we had travelled from. When you’ve got a space in the traffic on your right pull out and don’t worry about the stream of traffic on your left. Once you’ve moved off you’ll find a gap to filter in to and you’ll just blend in with the rest.
We crossed some flat plains that were mainly arable areas before heading to the mountains and seeing the first of the tea plantations. Some of the roads were good and some were not so good, but it was a pleasant ride across the mountains and the temperature did drop a little as you ascended.
Arriving at Greenwoods Leisure Resort we were given a customary welcome of a string of cadomen seeds placed around the neck and applying tilak on the forehead. Just the one problem this evening at this splendid hotel and that is no alcohol tonight as it does not have a bar. Alcohol is regulated by the government and in certain areas can only be bought from licensed liquor stores after you have been authorised to purchase the same in an effort to cut down alcohol abuse. The lovely food did make up for it, despite the Indian gentlemen on the next table making a fuss and sending his meal back whilst the staff entertained his two unruly toddlers whilst mum and dad were on their mobile phones.
Thekkady to Munnar
Riding higher in to the mountains of the Western Ghats we have some nice well surfaced roads through the Indian jungle. Plenty of lush vegetation and monkeys have been spotted whilst en route.
The mudguard bolts on one of the Enfields have decided to shake themselves loose but it took four to fix the problem - one to do the work and four to watch - a bit like British council workers - must be another legacy we left.
Further on up in to the tea plantations they are creating a super highway. The road has gone from a single track mountain road to a two lane carriageway. The only problem is that they are still building it. Nothing to worry about because you just have to dodge the excavators, lorries, rutted roads, loose gravel, etc., etc. But this is India. No health and safety here as we experienced a little later in the journey where there were men up on the mountainside knocking loose rocks off, but they did have a rope to hold on to. Halted on our journey whilst they cleared the road take off even on this mountain road was like a formula one grande prix start.
All in all a good days riding despite some of the roads. We are staying for two days at The Silver Tips - a themed Bollywood Hotel.
Staying at the same hotel tonight we have a ride out to the Eravikulum National Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Some beautiful scenery riding through the tea plantations and some beautiful colours on the vegetation. Cool up on the hills but very hot again in the bottom of the valley. Quite a few monkeys were spotted today and one snake slithering off the road in to a nearby hiding place.
Today we rode from Munnar to Kodaikanal. We climb down the mountain from Munnar using the stretch of road that is a continual length of roadworks that we passed on the way up. We then rode along the base of the valley where temperatures were in excess of 30 degrees before heading in to the southern part of the Ghat Mountains. We also changed provinces crossing from the Kerala Province in to the Tamil Province. It appears that the roadworks here have been completed and the road across the mountains was like an Alpine road with good road surfaces and plenty of hairpin bends. Could have done with a bit more power than the Enfield gives on these sort of roads. A little later on we manage to creep up towards sixty miles per hour for the first time in the trip with roads a lot wider and smoother. We then headed back in to the mountains to climb up to Kodaikanal sitting at 6998 feet. So they say it was an old American mountain station and it has been left with a legacy of mercury poisoning as a thermometer factory was based here, and like everything else, things were just dumped here and mercury found its way in to the watercourse. Some splendid scenery whilst climbing and our journey was only halted by a troop of monkeys that decided to slow the traffic by playing in the roadway. A heavy thunderstorm accompanied by the customary power cut and plenty of rain in the evening accounts for the lush jungle type vegetation that we have passed through today.
A long day in the saddle with 250 kilometres to travel - the longest day of the trip and these Enfield saddles aren’t the most comfortable. From Kodaikanal we travel to Ooty, another mountain station based at 7350 feet a glove sea level.
A great day started off traversing some more mountain scenery. Narrow roads and twisty bends. Superb views over the plain below and an altercation with a monkey trying to gain access to my tank bag.
Dropping down off the mountains it was again very hot on the plain but with good roads we were able to keep,a breeze going through the jackets. Finishing off we climbed again to Ooty, our destination for the night. Climbing the mountain road was a bit like the whacky races. Plenty of traffic and plenty of overtaking Indian style. An exhilarating ride to day the least. On one hairpin we were faced with an oncoming bus followed by another one. We passed the first one but the second one had to stop on our side of the road facing us because of the traffic ahead of him. He just beckoned us to go up his nearside and overtake the traffic behind him on the nearside before returning to our side of the road. Anything goes because this is India.
Motorcycle is the main form of transport in India and riding with helmets, jackets and gloves is the exception here. The biggest bikes are generally the 350cc Enfields but we have seen a couple of Triumphs and a Harley Davidson or two. When stopped for a break earlier we saw the milkman and three generations of one family all on one motorcycle. Nothing better than taking the mother in law out on the bike for a Sunday afternoon ride!!