It was the onset of the winter monsoons in Chennai. My phone rang on busy Tuesday. It was my friend Raj. “Are you free this weekend?” and my answer was doubtful. He told me about the two day ride to the Yelagiri, its mountain range quiet in the Vellore district, Tamilnadu. And this happens to be quiet near to Chennai. And I made up my mind that this is the plan for my weekend. After a lash of heavy rains across the city, it was calm. I was asked to fill the registration forms and it read – ride in the torrential rains of Tamilnadu. As I read further, the list of safety equipments ran on. On any bike trip it is important to dress up properly and carry the below necessities along –
· Comfortable pair of trousers, Jeans is the most advisable
· Elbow and knee guard or a biking jacket
· Pair of glove having knuckle protectors.
· Raincoat (as it was a rain ride)
As for the pillion, the gloves can be avoided. I did have the first three of the requirements but had no idea what to do for the elbow and knee guard. Later I found out that there were quiet some people who had to buy it. So we planned to meet up the day before the trip.
It was evening and I was waiting for all of them to turn up at the spot. Thanks to the change in weather, I was already suffering from cold and fever. While I was still waiting, I saw a few people staring at something on the sky. I turned to look what it was and saw a beautiful rainbow arched above, and its reflection formed another lighter version. Delighted at this rare sight in this crowded city, I continued waiting. Finally they turned up and we bought the stuff and I met some people with whom I was going to travel. That’s the beauty of traveling, you always get to meet new people and learn new things. When we parted ways the rains started pouring again. I was scurrying to find shelter and Raj said “This is how the whole trip is going to be.”
Next day, Raj came to pick me up at 5:30am. We were supposed to reach the meet spot at 6:00am. I was not even ready with my biking gears. After wasting time there getting myself ready just like a school girl, we started to the meeting point. I thought we will be the last ones to reach. When we stopped to fill out monster, we called up the organizers Sandhiya and we came to know that she had slept off. It was a good start. And we ended up first at the Toyota showroom near Koyambedu. After half an hour slowly we ganged up waiting for the organizers. I already knew Sandhiya, an amazing biker. Who says biking is just for guys? The other organizer arrived on his R15 wearing an orange rain coat. One just couldn’t miss out on that color. A doctor by profession and biker by passion – Arun Jayabalane. Who thought that doctors can actually be so cool? The only cool doctor whom I knew was from the band Euphoria.
After the headcount we started the journey. The climate was pleasant and breezy; thanks to the light showers we were receiving now and then. We made a pitstop at the Murugan idli shop, near Kanchipuram, to refuel ourselves with the daily dose of coffee. Having coffee is a ritual in Tamilnadu. In a day they simply have 5-8 cups of coffee. And without a coffee their meals don’t seem to end. After this fueling up and a few clicks, we embarked on our journey again. When I was peacefully enjoying the surroundings, I heard a whale calling. I looked around and realized that it was my tummy asking for food. No amount of coffee can replace food. We made stop at a tiny shop. It had our humble breakfast – idli, dosa and puri. What else do you need? We grabbed our plates and waited. Sandeep joined us on our table. His luck that the waiter just won’t serve what he asked for. After getting neglected for a while, we passed on what he asked for.
Our first stop was in Javadhu hills. It’s an extension of the Eastern Ghats. We were to see have lunch and visit the falls nearby. Vegetarians and non –vegetarians separated. On the way uphill, we were stopped as there were boulders which had fallen down that morning and they were getting blasted to clear the way. It seemed pretty much like the Roadrunner show dynamite. After blasting them the rubble had to be cleared. That halted us for quiet sometime. Photo session started and we got acquainted to each other. We saw a worm of an inch length. If you touch it, it curled itself into a tiny little ball. It would get camouflaged among the seeds. Amazing are the creations of nature. Raj was playing with it so that he could capture a video of it in motion. While sitting we heard a bus honking. The bus went past us and we were wondering how come they let the bus pass and not our bikes. When we went to see, we found that there was another bus standing on the other side of the boulders. People simply changed the bus and travelled to the other side. Simple enough! Finally the roads were clear enough for us to move. We reached our spot and it was lunch time.
After the lunch we went to check out the Beemanmadavu falls. But our luck, the falls were closed as some people were drowned due the heavy currents as a result of the heavy rains we received the previous week. After a lot was begging and pleading all we received was some cucumber (I don’t remember what we ate exactly. Please change). After getting disappointed there, we moved towards the streams. I was highly drowsy. I was so excited about the trip that I didn’t sleep the previous night and it was showing up. That’s what comes outa being a nocturnal. I was dozing off now and then. Finally when we reached the spot we saw a lush green surrounding and a stream flowing by. On the corner of the road was a huge tree. Perfect spot to ease out a bit. I was busy clicking selfies when I heard guys going into the water. They screams and laughing on how cold the water. Soon Sandhiya joined them. I was so tempted to go into the waters but I stopped myself coz of the cold and fever I had the previous day. But I thought to myself that I have 2 doctors around and there are medicines discovered for sniffles, enough a license to fall sick. “Wait guys I am coming!” I screamed and went inside. It was super cold. My teeth were clattering but I dint stop posing for my shutterbugs.
After this refreshment we started back to the Javadhu hills for tea and snacks. It’s bliss to have ginger tea at cold times. I was famished and as soon as I saw hot medu vadas I just jumped on it. I had no counts of how many I had. Who cares about dieting when good food is being served?
In cold something that bothers us ladies is going to the loo quiet often. It’s always a big trouble to find clean spaces to answer the natures call. It was already dark and we had to find toilet. No public toilet was open at that hour. We kept searching and ended up in a tiny shop where the owner was kind enough to let us use the washroom. When hungry, the one who gives food is the God. But when you wana pee, the one who offers a clean bathroom is God. After finishing our business it was tea time for me. I was dreaming of a sip of ginger tea but alas only normal tea was available. Well, something is better than nothing. I ended up having 2 cups of tea.
That’s when I came to know that it was Arun’s birthday. We were supposed to stay at an NGO called SODEWS (Society for Development of Economically Weaker Sections). It is an NGO that caters to the need of children’s education based upon the rule of free education for children below 14. They provide premises to 106 children for living and they send them to the nearest schools. They facilitate in the overall growth of these children.
The guys went to buy cakes for the kids. We were waiting and were talking randomly. They came with 2 huge boxes of cakes cut into pieces. One box was handed over to me and the other one to Apoorva, the other doctor I was talking about. We both were the only pillions, thus this humungous responsibility. And this came with a standing instruction – “We are keeping an eye on both of you to make sure you are not eating any of it… :p”
I was struggling to keep the cake intact. I guess I was too sleepy and was seeing things in the dark. I saw a man walking by and that happened twice. It seemed like the same person crossing us twice. Darkness plays with your head times. And Raj made sure to add spooks to it. But there is no need to feel scared with good company. India is marked unsafe for female travelers but if you ask me, no place in this world comes with its safety tag. If something has to happen it can happen at any part of the world. One needs to be wise in choosing their travel companions and work on their instincts.
We waited at one of the last forks of the day and someone came to show us the way to our destination. We had to do a bit off roading in the muddy outskirts of the nearest town, ‘Vaniyambadi’. Without skidding or falling we made it to the destination. We were swarmed by a bunch of kids who were readily helping us out to the premises. Sandhiya and I changed into dry clothes and went to the birthday celebrations. The kids were so enthusiastic and they already knew Arun. They seemed to be very fond of their anna but were prompt enough to tell his age as 47 when asked. We told them about us and what we do. Kids have innocent hearts and they get attached so soon. There was one girl called Revathi. I can’t forget her name coz she has the same name as my sisters. And somehow we gelled pretty well instantly.
We were served with huge quantity of mixed rice for dinner. I was rather sleepy than hungry. I was just waiting for the dinner to get over so that I could sleep. As soon as the dinner got over all sat and started talking. And I was like ‘do I really need to participate? I wana sleep.’ Raj noticed this expression on my face and just asked if I wana sleep. I went in promptly. On one side Sandhiya was on a call. I didn’t care about anything. I just took a mat and a bed spread, used my bad as a pillow and in within seconds I was sleeping. I got up around 4:30 am. I felt I will be the only one who is up. But when I peeped outside there were two more people up.
Bharani sir and Lokesh were up since sometime now. When enquired I came to know that they were not able to sleep coz of the super snore sound. And I asked where? I didn’t hear anything. When I listened closely I heard it from inside. Charles, Apoorva’s friend, had been snoring loudly the whole night it seems. Well somebody did have a good night’s sleep.
Soon Leel Prasad got up and sun started spreading its rays. Mahilan also got up and we decided to take a stride along the foot of the hill. We asked around and came to know that there is a temple on the hill and it has a falls up in the hills. We decided to make a go as we didn’t see on yesterday. We kept walking and slowly heard the noise of water. We kept following noise and reached a stream. The climb looked a bit steep ahead. I hesitated to make a move at first but again temptation took over me. I weighed the options and it was feasible to make the climb. I lifted my tiny feet and with the help of my fellow mates I finally made it to the large rock face which had the tiny temple. Mahilan kept complaining that he didn’t bring his camera. All we had was phones and a GoPro. That seemed more than enough at the moment. The sun had already risen but it was so cloudy that we couldn’t feel the heat at all. Drank the flowing water, washed face and enjoyed a lot at the spot. There was a particular rock face far on the other side. The rays touched it in such a fashion that it looked nothing less than Kilimanjaro. It reminded me of the movie Lion King. It’s one of my favorite even today. I am particularly fond of the places it shows. I was beaming with joy to be in one such place.
We realized that all others would be up by now and they would kill us for enjoying leaving them behind. We were manufacturing excuses to keep them while walking down. I was walking too carefully. We reached the stream and Leel whooped “Success” and I fell down on my butt. Similarly sometime back when he had screamed Lokesh fell. I guess it has something to do with him screaming.
We rushed to the premises just to find all of them searching for us. They already had tea and were getting ready to make a move. I was again looking for my ginger tea but ended up with a normal tea again. I got ready in a jiffy as I had kept my bags packed last night itself. There was someone who was still not out of the bed. Sandeep was the last one to wake up. We all went around checking out the place and houses where these kids lived. There was a German lady who was their sports instructor. She had a unicycle. On our request she showed how she rode it. She was doing it beautifully. Our guys made a try. It takes lot of observation and practice to ride it. I stood behind as I know my riding skills very well.
Sandhiya asked her to show her dread locks which she had neatly covered with a dread lock bag. She had made the locks when she was 17. And they were quiet long by now. We showed her our monsters and she wished to learn someday soon.
After bidding them farewell and making promises to come back soon we left for Yelagiri. From the country side we went on with the journey and were among the hills. Due to the rainfall all the streams were full and every 5 mins we saw some falls.
Finally we were on the road to Yelagiri. This Ghat road had 10 hair pin bends. We stopped on every curve to click some spectacular shots. Mahilan was super excited and clicked some exotic shots. It was almost noon by the time we reached the top. All were hungry. We found a tiny shop. All went and started ordering and cooking by themselves. This is a liberty a tourist will never understand. We had our breakfast and formally introduced ourselves. It was tea time again and finally I got my cup of ginger tea. Arun said “Please give her a cup of ginger tea or else she will say that organizers didn’t even get her a ginger tea.”
We finished our lunch as well and started back home. It was very misty and we could see the clouds floating below us. This is where you actually live and breathe. We bid adieu to the hills went towards home. After a long non-stop ride we stopped at Ambur. This place is known for its biryani. We halted at the Ambur Star Biryani. We had a sumptuous meal and went looking for coffee which was not before the same murugan idli that we saw yesterday. After a lot of twists and bends and badam milk we reached Chennai in heavy rains.
We can either spend money on weekends and buy stuff or spend time and gain experiences. Choice is yours.