Sunday, March 01, 2009

Athirapally-Valparai Bike Trip – Aug 17-18, 2008

Robert and I were planning for a bike trip for a very long time and finally it materialized in August, but Robert never knew what was in store for him.

As it had rained a few days back, we thought it would be a good idea to go to Athirapally and Valparai. Robert readily agreed as I had been on the same route a couple of times.

Day 1 was uneventful. Of course, we had a nice time traveling.

Day 2, we left our hotel at 8 a.m. Again, no need to mention how beautiful the forests are in those regions. Robert was really enjoying and he was quite surprised that there were hardly any people there. We took lot of photos on the way and we passed Upper Sholayar Reservoir where we saw a lone security. Just after 2 km after the reservoir, Lakshmi stopped all of a sudden.

“Vijay, what happened?”

“Don’t know, Roby, bike is not moving. Can you check?”

Robert got down and gave a look, “The bike’s rear brake has jammed, but no problem, Vijay. I’ll disconnect the brake and we can manage with the front brake alone. Get me the tool kit please.”

“Eh, tool kit? Sorry, Roby, I don’t have the tool kit.”

“WHAT???” Robert’s eyes became as wide as Lakshmi’s tyres. “Don’t tell me you came all the way here without a tool kit.”

“Sorry, Roby. I forgot to take the tool kit.”

With that, Robert lost all hope of a good trip and reaching Coimbatore that day. More than that, we didn’t see a single vehicle for the last 5 hours. Robert already decided that we will be stranded for hours. It was 1 p.m., cloudy, and starting to get dark.

It really was a critical situation we were in. With no people and vehicles around, we never knew when we can start again. Also, there was no reception on our mobiles. Both mobiles were as silent as a dead man. Finally, we decided that I will walk to the Upper Sholayar Reservoir and see if I can get any spanner and Robert will be waiting near the bike. And so, I left Robert and started walking. The walk was a long one with the forests giving all sorts of scary sounds. Finally, I reached the security.

He made no attempt to hide his suspicion and asked “What are you doing here?”

“Sir, our bike’s brake got jammed and I need a tool kit. Can you help me?”

“Tool kit? And here? Sorry, this is a reservoir, not a hardware shop.”

“But sir, there must be at least a spanner or something in the engine room.”

“May be or may not be, but you cannot go to the reservoir, entry is restricted. Moreover, the engine room is 4 km uphill and there is no one there. You can’t go alone all the way there.”

“Please sir. Help us. Let me try my luck. Otherwise, we will be stranded the whole night here. And my friend is alone waiting near the bike. Please.”

“Okay, you can go up. Here, take this umbrella. It might rain. It will take you 1 hour walk uphill to the engine room. And be careful, there might be elephants standing on the way. If you see any, run all the way down here.”

“Sure sir, thanks for the alert,” I said scarily.

“Take this,” saying he gave me a long stick which was taller than me.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“Well, there might be bears on the trees. If any bear tries to harm you, use this stick you chase it away.”

“WHAT??? You mean the animal which is black, hairy, and has strong claws?”

“Yes, and you start right away before it begins to rain and I change my mind.”

And so, with no other option, I started going up. The way was littered with fresh elephant dung. I was obviously not very comfortable going up, but with Robert waiting all alone, I had no other option than to go and fetch the tools if any. But I was badly missing my camera. The view from up there was simply amazing. I could see an elephant herd playing on the banks of the reservoir. I could see a butterfly with a brilliant colour and design. I could see a new flower. Everything so fresh and pure. Finally I reached a point where the route took a fork. I was standing there wondering which way to take. Just then, Lady Luck smiled on me. There came a car with the Kerala State Electricity Board logo with 4 men in it.

“This is government property. What are you doing here?”

I explained to them the situation.

“Are you crazy to come all the way alone here? There are leopards in this area. And you are telling your friend is also alone. Please get down before it gets dark.”

Again, I explained to them our situation and told that if they are not helping, then we have no other go than to spend the night there and become dinner for the leopards. Also, I asked them to check their car for any tools. And voila, they had a whole box of spanners. Even they were surprised that they had it. Finally, I hitched a ride with them to our bike and their spanner fit perfectly to dismantle the brake. And at last, after 3 hours, we were ready again. We thanked them and drove all the way back to the security and thanked him too and started off again. The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful except for the every-5th-minute cursing by Robert for my plan to get him along without a tool kit for the bike.

Distance: Approx 400 km

Route: Coimbatore=Palghat=Chalakudy=Athirapally=Sholayar=Valparai=Pollachi=Coimbatore.

Expenses: Rs.650/= per head including food, staying, and petrol for 2 days.


Athirapally-Valparai Bike Trip – Aug 17-18, 2008