Road trip: Chennai – Munnar- Chennai (Day 1 – Valparai).

Okay! You know when you plan a trip for weeks and weeks and then its anticipation reaches fever-pitch. Well this one was definitely not it. But it came close to what I just described.

Start: Chennai.

Destination: Munnar.

Via: Valparai, Athirapally/ Vazhachal Forest zone (Chalakudy).

The 18th of August finally dawned.Woke up with such vigour! Had a quick wash and donned the many new things (the riding gear) this trip had compelled us to buy. The Riding Jacket and Pants, helmet, leather gloves for him and the elbow-guard and knee-guard for me. I so looked the rider that I was about to become! So did he. We left home at 6:30 am, not knowing what we were throwing ourselves into. Especially me!

We mounted some bags on our bike, The Beast (Mahindra Mojo 300) and the rest on me. We clicked the mandatory selfies and took off. So, pillion riding. I have heard quite a few horror stories (mostly from dear husband ) about the much dreaded pillion riding. Yet he was quite willing to put me through all of it and I unsuspectingly climbed onto the seat amid assurances that it will be absolutely fine! Lesson learnt. Never trust your husband!

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The Beast all loaded. Grrrhhh!!

We started off on the GST road in Chennai snaking our way through the traffic that was slowly building up. The wide variety of things that we zoomed past is just incredible. Ranging from vast swathes of green lands, meadows,lakes, schools, colleges, huge residential societies, huts and thatched roof houses, small eateries,  tea shops. Everything just appeared and disappeared within nanoseconds.We took a breather after about a 100 kilometres, just to breakfast. The stares and glares which I though we had gotten used to by now, kept coming! People are curious! Always!

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The super-awesome Salem-Coimbatore highway!

We then reached the Salem-Coimbatore highway. The roads were spectacular throughout the entire trip! We took a break every 100 kms or so just so that I don’t completely fall apart and insist on going back 😀 and it worked! I did not complain at all! So while we were cruising on the highway we saw something that made my hair stand on end. A guy was on his bike ( bicycle, I mean) laden with all the bags, chugging along the side of the road! I just stared in complete disbelief! He was on a long trip too. My husband held his thumb up to acknowledge him and he very sweetly returned the gesture! Another non-conformist! Just like us!

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Green, blue and grey!

When the faces of huge blue mountains and towering palm trees replete with coconuts both young and new, face you, know that you have entered Salem in Tamil-Nadu. Green and blue and grey were the colours of the day. The grey of the roads mixed with the green of the trees and shrubbery on either side of the road and the pristine blue of the sky made everything look other-worldly. We had to cut off from the highway towards Tirupur, the textile hub, to reach Pollachi. The arid weather and traffic in Tirupur sucked the fun out but once the huge windmills come into view that dot the entire land scape you forget about the weather and heat. It is definitely a sight to behold to see nature and a man made structure work hand in hand. Pollachi was the  last stop in the plains. Had a simple lunch in a modest lunch home. The mess owners wouldn’t believe us when we told them we travelled from Chennai on the bike. They were like, “Who would want to ride a bike this far? So long the journey is. You could have gotten a car instead!” If only we had gotten a rupee every time we have had to endure the car comment, we would enough money to buy one!

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The towering windmills.
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Almost hundreds of windmills dotting the landscape.
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The mountains bordering Pollachi.

Pollachi is the coconut capital of Tamil-Nadu. Tall and straight coconut trees laden with green and golden coloured coconuts soothed our eyes and prepared for what was about to come. Pollachi ended with our entry into the Anamalai hill ranges which houses the beautiful town of Valaparai. With Pollachi ended the “safety” of the urban net and started the forest, the buffer zones for all the wild animals ranging from elephants to tigers to monkeys (we encountered a monkey family whilst soaking in the views of the hills)  to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. We had to climb the mountain on one side and descend on the other, navigating 40 Hair pin bends. Now I did not really catch the gravity of the words when husband said 40 hair pin bends during the planning of the trip. But every time I saw a tablet that indicated which hair pin bend we were about to navigate, my heart leaped to my throat and my stomach churned in anticipation of the vehicle or wild animal we might encounter. Every time a leaf moved or a blade of grass swayed I wanted to run screaming back to Pollachi. Even when we spotted a family of Nilgiri Tahrs( a type of mountain goat, the wildest animal we encountered on the entire journey) I blatantly refused to get down and get a picture clicked because, a sequence from the Discovery channel, of tigers and leopards lurking close to herbivores to prey on them kept playing in my mind. *Shudders*

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The entry point to the Anamalai hills- The Aliyar dam.
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One of the many tablets letting us know the number of perilous bends we are about to cross.
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The sonorous greeting by the wild boars. *grunt grunt*
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The endangered ‘Nilgiri Tahr’.

Have to admit, there were times when I would doze off and bump my helmet to his while we were on the highway. But once we started ascending the Anamalai hills I was wide awake! It was just too beautiful to miss.  Almost halfway through the maze that nature and the Tamil-Nadu government have created, we stopped once for a cuppa “chaaya” or tea and once to capture the brilliance that engulfed us, on our camera. Rolling hills covered by the carpet of tea shrubs with just enough trees laid out in neat lines in-between to contain soil erosion, the virgin blue mountains stretching far as the eye can see. The country style houses cut through the green decadence that surrounded us. Then came the one thing which was missing, rains! Woah! And suddenly nature had shifted several gears to give us something truly special and magical. The raindrops dancing on the tea shrubs, the water droplets on the moss and lichen ridden trees painted a new picture altogether. It set our hearts fluttering! The rain clouds hovering above to shower the rest of their bounties! And oh! We were riding amongst these clouds!

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The little tea-shack.
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Steaming cups of lemon tea and masala tea.

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So finally after about 10 hours we left home and a ride of about 6o0 kilometres on the highways and hills, through the treacherous yet beautiful roads,we were able to reach the quaint little town of Valparai. Needless to say we were exhausted from all the manoeuvring of the curves and constant clicking of photographs; I just wanted to crash into bed! And that we did very shortly. With some effort we found our hotel, the Mynah lodge. Checked in, barged into our little room and washed up. The view from our window was gorgeous, considering our next hotel room did not even have a window! Had a light dinner of the best idlis and sambhar and then fell into the deepest slumber perfectly unaware of the next adventure that awaited us.

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Valparai
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The country style houses in Valparai.
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