When my friend Peter found out that I was going to be in Kerala, India, he told me about a road going through tea plantations that was in his Top 3 Motorbike Rides.
The idea is born
Hearing things like this, I usually lift an eyebrow but Peter is no ordinary man. He’s a guy that has travelled extensively and has a love for motorbikes. I took this tip from him seriously and encouraged the idea of renting motorbikes once we get to India.
Luckily, JC welcomed my idea with enthusiasm and as soon as we arrived in Kochi, we found i-One Two Wheelers, which is located not far from the main Fort Kochi roundabout. When the owner realised that we wanted to rent motorcycles, he told our rickshaw driver to follow him into a side street.
A few minutes later, we stopped in front of a pink house. Our guy turned into the backyard, leading us to a small barn. Then, with a nonchalant wave of his arms, he presented thirty Royal Enfield motorbikes, standing neatly in two rows, all in mint condition.
My jaw dropped and I felt like a kid in a candy shop.
I tried hiding my excitement but I couldn’t resist looking at JC with sparkles in my eyes. We took a couple of motorbikes on the road outside.
I mounted one of the Bullets and felt fear gripping my stomach. This is a beast!
The bike was huge. It felt extremely heavy. Don’t get me wrong. I write Suzuki Thunder 250 on a daily basis, which is not a small bike either, but these… Royal Enfields turned out to be a completely different story. Was I out of my depth?
JC noticed my hesitation but he’s not a person to worry too much. Especially, when it comes to my survival.
„Just go down the road. See how you like it.“
I started the bike. Still heavy. Heavy and loud.
I could barely reach the clutch lever. With my hand nearly in mid-air, I went up and down the road a few times.
After all, if you know how to ride, you know how ride, right?
I rode closer to where the group of men was standing and motioned to JC to come over.
„Well, I don’t know…“ I was overwhelmed. „I love the bike but I’m not sure how will I manage on real roads…“
JC was quiet, while I continued, „Maybe we should take just one motorbike…?“
„Are you sure?“ He asked.
„Let’s take two, then. It’s gonna be fun.“
And just like that, my fate was sealed.
I ended up riding a Royal Enfield Bullet in India, only two months after I leared how to ride a motorbike at all.
Did I mention that Royal Enfields are big?
Everything about them is bigger and more spaced out than in the motorbikes that I know.
The seat is wider, the handlebar is longer and the space between the handlebar and the levers is bigger too.
As a result, by the end of the day, I had a painful bruise in the middle of my left palm.
Really? How do you get a bruise there?
From stretching my fingers to reach the clutch lever. D’oh.
But first things first
We sent the rickshaw away and rented two motorbikes at once, as we wanted to set out early in the morning.
My mind was dead set on getting to the road Peter told me about. We calculated that we should get to Munnar in one day and stay there for the night. The next day would be full of riding, as after the tea plantations, we still had to get back to Kochi.
India is huge and although distances don’t look so bad on the map, we knew we would have to press hard if we were to make it on time for our boat trip in the backwaters of Kerala.
A very easy task, since I was in charge of the map. Reinforced by Uncle Google, I can navigate any path.
I noticed that the way back to Kochi was going to be a challenge but I didn’t want to put pressure on JC. So, I only told him where we were going, and not how long it was going to take us. He seemed to be satisfied with that and looked forward to the next day – when we would be able to set out for the amazing tea plantations of Kerala.
All the nightmare stories you’ve heard about the road traffic in India were true. Riding a motorbike next to trucks, which are passing you by at full speed without acknowledging your existence, can be quite intimidating. Suddenly, you realise that it’s not that difficult to end up on someone’s windshield…
We took the road number 49 from Kochi, which was to take us all the way to Munnar. However, we quickly realised that riding this road for the whole day would be a nightmare. Traffic, noise, pollution. You really are gambling with your life.
When we got to the first city, Muvattupuzha, I looked for a backroad to Munnar. Relying on Uncle Google’s knowledge, I found a faint vain going off the road 49. It was a road without a number, just a curved, white line between the roads 49 and 44, called Neriamangalam Painavu Road.
The road was easy to miss and JC went on without noticing it. Even though I wasn’t sure if it was the correct turn, I stopped my Beast and waited for JC to realise that I wasn’t following.
It didn’t take long until I saw him ride back. I motioned to the backroad, he nodded and we turned into a shady road that led us into the thick forests of India.
We found ourselves speeding through lush green hills with tall trees and tangled shrubs to both of our sides. The road hosted only us and no one else.
We went through sleepy villages with dogs that barely opened an eye upon hearing us. Meandering up and down the hills, we enjoyed views of the mountains with Periyar River flowing in the valley below.
I stopped every now and then to take a picture, thinking Ha! Wait until I tell you about this road, Peter! The place was so beautiful and serene that I couldn’t believe that he missed it.
In this fashion, through forests and hills and bridges, we got to the road number 185, which took us back to the road number 49. From there, we went all the way to Munnar, happy that we could enjoy something off the beaten track.
Settling in for the night
We got to Munnar after the sunset. A surprise awaited us there. It turned out that finding a place that was decent and well priced was not easy. Most of the places were fully booked or run-down or 5* with outrageous prices.
Tired from the road, we wanted to get something quickly. JC was already bent on staying in one of the hotels, which was dark and cold, but I felt that we could find something better.
My perseverance paid off. Although not too promising from the outside, the place I found had warm, clean, recently refurbished rooms and an owner eager to negotiate the price.
We lodged in at the SN Hotel and went on to explore the local cuisine in one of the restaurants along the Kochi – Dhenushkodi Road.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Have you been to Kerala? What places would you recommend as a complete must-see?