Cheers #21


It was an itch that first started in 2007. Err, went through my emails and realized this itch was in 2006. I was going through a phase at that time and wanted to be on the road.. like forever. But then I had to be happy with a ride to Kerala for Christmas and back in Chennai for New year.

Forwarding to 2020 With the pandemic hitting sky high, I had that similar itch. To just get away, to slip away from underneath the sheets… but then life has ways of pulling you back.

Well, it didn’t put my ride plans to waste. The plan was fairly simple. Ride to Kanyakumari for the sunset on the 31st, wake up on the 1st to see the sunrise. Easy peasy.

Posted this ride plan on the MB group and surprisingly had takers for the plan. Well, more the merrier and the plan now started to take shape.

Of all my years of touring, there are a few places that though are at arm’s length, I haven’t been able to ride to them. The nearest in the southern side was Dhanushkodi and Kanyakumari, while up on the western side, it was Goa.

The New year ride plan had to have a meaning and waking up on the 1st with a hangover wasn’t my choice. So Goa was ruled out and the plans finalized on Dhanushkodi and Kanyakumari.

What was the actual plan, no one knew. But come 30th, 3 enfields saddled up on the ECR, ready to ride.

Starting exactly 1 hour past schedule, or right on time per MST ( depends on which way you look at it), Gokul, Coil and myself took off after a cuppa chai. The plan was to get to Dhanushkodi for the night, stay somewhere close by, enjoy the sights and sounds and take it all in.

Steady speeds along the lovely ECR saw us cross Pondy under 2 hours. Our stomachs were growling now and as we pulled into one of Cuddalore’s oldest restaurants, the taste of good food and warm water brought us much joy.

Gokul and Coil were busy deciding which route to take and when there are confusions, one ends up making mistakes. There was butter smooth ECR on one side, but we chose the ‘under construction’ highway because someone up there in Google thought they knew better.

From darting across potholes to escaping crater sized ditches, we were on roads that spelt one thing – Slow down.

And, slow down we did. From a mind fender bender on Coil’s bike, to spending 6 hours in a workshop at Kumbakonam, the entire plan slowed down.

But not all was lost. We struck some brilliant conversations with people who came to the workshop, experienced a bit of the rains and managed to get some rest as well.

Hitting the roads again and expecting open wide highways, we were back on narrow state highways, this time riddled with speed breakers. It was all about the experience, so took it all in and kept on riding.

Stopping by a village to fuel up, three young lads came up to me to strike a conversation. Something about my riding attire made them think I was a cop. Like really? It was quite hilarious when I told them I wanted to take their picture – they darted for their lives.

After much cajoling, they finally agreed to pose for a picture. Innocence at its best really. Simplicity in their lifestyle and outlook is what I thought of the whole experience.

Moving on further, we had to do two things. Pick up some alcohol and have chai. And true to our wishlist, we parked at a fancy chai shop that had Tasmac right opposite it. Talk about wishes being answered.

We had about 250 odd kms to get to Rameshwaram. And that wasn’t happening. The clock struck 10 minutes past 8 and we had two ways to look at things – Keep riding. Or keep talking.

Choosing the former, we kept going through those dark curvy roads that now started to glisten with the onset of rains. From a mild drizzle to a steady drizzle, it just kept on and on.

This ride was becoming interesting by the second.

A couple of times the rains were quite heavy that we had to pull into a bus stand with our bikes to wait it out. It was day 1 of the ride and we just weren’t in the mood to get all drenched.

The clock was inching towards the 10 PM mark and it meant that dinner had to be sorted out. Else we were going to be super cranky.

Found a small joint somewhere along the edge of the ECR and ate to our hearts content. We had quite a bit of carbo intake and as the rains continued its jolly pace, we hit the roads again – This time on the ECR and not any narrow state roads.

The experience was quite beautiful. The cool of the night, the rain slowly finding its way past my jacket, my tshirt and into my skin, Irene holding that 90-100 kmph mark and my mind finding solace through it all.

Crib as I may ,this is what i live for, right? The adventure of it all. The fact of not knowing what to expect anywhere or anytime.

The night grew colder, bones grew tighter and then Gokul saw a brightly lit place and pulled over. For what? We thought chai.. until he asked us to read the neon lighting that said ‘boarding and lodging’.

Reluctant on the outside, relieved on the inside, we made some inquiries and there was a room available and the parking seemed safe too. Day 1 was coming to a close, but we were nowhere near where we wanted to be. But we had an adventure that gave us plenty to laugh about and talk about.

The alcohol we picked up gave us good warmth and as we snored away for the night, the feeling of happiness was brilliant.

Day 2

The plan was well though of the previous night. Checkout by 8, keep riding to Dhanushkodi and then to KK. Everything went to plan, except that at 8, the rains started.

No point in wearing any dry clothes for today, we were going to get wet anyways.

The skies took a break for a bit and we made a head-start. The roads this time were a brilliant display of black tarmac laid in the middle of green fields on either side. The words from Pink Floyd’s – Wish you were here was stuck in my head as we rode through. The skies were bursting at its seams, but with some heavenly mercy, it didn’t burst.

We munched up the miles rather quickly until the stone showed Dhanushkodi 65 kms. We were at the outskirts of Rameshwaram and the first order of the day was breakfast.

Ive learnt to follow this simple thumb rule – Pull over at the first proper restaurant/hotel/chai shop and all thine wishes will be granted.

and we did. A chai shop that doubles as a restaurant and vice versa. Fresh idli’s, pepper laden bull eye’s for me and a cuppa black tea later, we were happy as a kite. The thought of the alluring sea breeze, the excitement of seeing the Pamban bridge, riding on the roads to Dhanushkodi, seeing the ruins and experiencing the feeling of the deserted town was growing inside of me.

The Pamban bridge is a work of art. A railway bridge built in 1914, this bridge connects India and the Rameshwaram Island. I was this many years old when i learnt this as Gokul explained the history of the bridge.

The feeling of riding on the bridge with the sea ravaging below is a feeling that cannot be explained in words. This was a sight to see.

There was signs saying no stopping on the bridge, but there were people doing it anyway and cops also understand why. The sight is marvelous and after traveling so long, one just wants to stop and absorb the beauty of engineering, the power of nature and the serenity of peace as you overlook the sight.

As we clicked our pictures and added to the memory train, we had to make sure we held on to our devices tight. The breeze and the wind were in top order and a slip between the cup and lip meant – no iPhone after this :))

Pictures done, it was time to move on towards Dhanushkodi. The one location that I missed riding to with the Madrasbulls way back in 2008 I think and the one location that had been on my mind ever since.

Through narrow roads and winding turns and then onto a straight stretch, the air was different. The roads cleared up after a brief police check, we were cruising along.

Then it hit. The first rain drop. The skies were holding it up so long, but at some point, it had to tear at the seams. And it was slowly tearing.

We were on the straight stretch. The roads are built so beautifully all the way to the land’s end and the feeling of riding through is truly fantastic.

There were barricades pulled up near the Ashoka statue and were advised not to take our motorcycles in there. By this time, the warring in the heavens increased and the skies were starting to unleash their fury into the raging sea below.

Gokul’s bike

People started scurrying back to their parked cars and vans while three bikers just stood there, enjoying the onslaught of the rains, the beauty of standing at the Land’s edge of a continent while the sea bed below us raged in its might.

The feeling is unreal. The skies were dark as the night, though it was just about noon. The sun had no chance to say anything in this entire chain of events.

Standing there, getting drenched, I had to celebrate the woman who has been with me for the last 23000 kms, helped me go places that was only a dream and experience a slice of life that I will always treasure.

Happy Birthday #irene.

And there was no better place to click her picture than here.

So. birthday celebrations done. Dhanushkodi done. We were back at a chaishop thanks to the skies fury. Sipping on a drink that tasted more coffee than black tea, we had our final plans laid out – Stay at Rameshwaram, celebrate new year, watch the sunrise at Dhanushkodi for New year’s and that was it.

And, best laid plans are always subject to change. It did. We started talking to a group from Calcutta who were on a 15 day roadtrip. From Calcutta to Kanyakumari – to Ooty – Kerala – and back to the land of joy. They were there, getting soaked and enjoying the experience while 3 lazy asses were calling it a day.

Out comes new plans. Ride to Kanyakumari, come hell or highwater.

Draining the water from our boots and putting on our gear, we had that grin on our faces that only spelt one word – Rainride !!

I remember back in 2007,2008, 2009 we used to ride to the western ghats of the country waiting to get drenched and ride through the NE monsoon.. and here we were 12 years later having torrential rains and was about to slip up on the chance of happiness. Thank goodness for those riders from Cal 🙂

As the clock moved past 2 PM, we were on our way towards Kanyakumari. The rains were steady in their pace and so were our motorcycles. We had around 350 kms to belt and aimed to be there by about 8 PM if things went to plan.

We were on the ECR (East coast road) and had to connect to the GST ( Grand southern trunk) road to get to Kanyakumari.

The ECR is a well laid 2 lane state highway in most parts of the south but it passes through multiple small towns and villages. So its a whole different experience as compared to the GST which is a national highway.

Belting down the miles, we were passing through multiple small towns and places that have so much cultural heritage. It is great to see the way how cultures, building patterns, clothing behaviors change from location to location.

The New year festivities were on in most places. People doing last minute shopping, everyone running to be at home during this time, and we were asking people how to get to Kanyakumari.

Through narrow roads to pitch dark roads in belting rains, we were making progress, but not as fast as we expected. The clock was ticking but we were determined.

Finally, onto the GST, we were thrilled to see the wide open roads, but some of the potholes were bla !! Sigh.

The rains were now getting harder. We had about 150 kms to go, but neither the rains, nor the bikes nor our souls were ready to call it a day. Memories of riding behind KSRTC buses all came rushing back as we followed a bus that was ploughing though. #irene was in high spirits and it was brilliant just being able to tear through the roads like that.

We were soaked to the bone. Every bit of us were soaked, including our motorcycles.

Ahoy Tirunelveli – the land of the halwa. We passed by the GRT regency there with Gokul pointing his fingers toward the hotel.

Riding ahead, we came to Palayamkottai junction. We needed chai. We’ve been on the roads for close to 2 hours and cold.

As we parked, Gokul threw his hands up in the air saying he was done. Say what ? This is Gokul – the man who never says no. He was saying he’s tired? I couldn’t believe my ears. For those who have ridden with him, you’ll understand the shock I went through.

Deciding to chat over chai, the first cup went in like cold water. Only the second cuppa chai felt warm in our lips and normalcy prevailed.

Gokul still stuck to his stand and thats when the next best plan came into place.

It was New year’s eve at 8 PM. We had about 80 Kms to KK and it was pouring. This was to be a night to remember. Not to push the limits.

Going by the same agenda. Lets find the first place we see and pull over.

Since our eyes first fell on GRT, I was curious to see if GRT was close by where we was. Google said 45 kms. But the locals said, there was one nearby in 1 KM. Hurrah !!

Chai done, we were on our way to GRT Regency. From checking in to a lodge the previous night, we were all set to pull into a proper hotel tonight.

Found the place and and pulled over in true biker style. Parked #irene at a spot much to the irritation of the security guard, I walked up to strike a deal for 3 wet and dripping bikers at a swanky hotel. This was going to be fun.

Customer is king and when the king pays, everyone listens. The guy at the front office was initially very apprehensive, but upon talking a bit more, he went down on his prices and became quite friendly. Offered us basement parking for our motorcycles, a bit of a discount and tonight was going to be a night of memories.

It was new year’s eve. Every year I have gone to church as part of the watch-night service, something i learnt from my mother. But in 2020 with everything being virtual, I could still do the service, yet be in Antarctica.

Using the hotel decor as our hanging stand, the clean room soon became a bikers room. Jackets, riding pants, riding shoes all neatly stacked, we were busy evaluating what to do next.

Drinks and dinner was the agenda. With the bars closing in at 10, we had little time. I wasn’t going to drink tonight, I had church to get to. But the bacardi came in handy for the boys.

Showered and cleaned up like a good boy, me and mine tuned in online to church’s live stream. What a year it has been. A pandemic yes, but a year of miracles, yes. So many things to be thankful for. This moment, this feeling was like no other.

As the clock struck 12 and the New year started, there was such a feeling of peace. A feeling of freedom, hope and blessing. The year ahead was going to be interesting and my bones felt it.

The boys were already past Jupiter, but before that they ordered dinner for me. Biriyani. This was perfect.

Sitting cross legged on the floor outside the room, eating that yummy plate of biriyani and reminiscing memories and making new ones, life seemed absolutely at peace. God’s grace and timing could not be more perfect than this.

In all my 38 years, I have had several journeys, but this was the mother of it all. There will never be anything else to top it and once you hit the top, there ain’t no going back.

Cheers to #21, cheers to good times.

Day 3

We missed the sunrise at Kanyakumari, but didnt miss a chance to see the sun rising from Palayamkottai.

Waking up early, we had a busy day today. We had to get to KK and then ride back to either Trichy or Madurai or wherever the road led us. It was the first day of the New year and we were off to a brilliant start – Breakfast.

I love the biker life, the contrast of what we experience on the road. Just 24 hours ago, we sat in a chai shop/tiffin center. And today we were at a 5 star restaurant.

Breakfast done, we had to get out soon. In the meantime, Chris from https://chriscross.in/ was in the area and what better thing to do than catch up.

Checked out and ready to ride, we soon met up and as he gave us tempting plans to visit some places in and around Tirunelveli, we stuck to our initial plan. KK and then manappad and then no idea.

Gokul had been going on and on about riding to Manappad – a small hamlet that overlooked the coast, so that was becoming an interesting place to visit.

We were here. Another location that eluded me for the last 15 years of my touring and I finally made it here. I was absorbing the beauty of the place. We were at the edge of the country, the continent where all the three great oceans met – The Indian ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea.

The roads to KK were smooth and the views were absolutely beautiful. Passing through windmills all along the roads, we were belting the roads at an average of 110 kmph.

To me, this was a personal feat. To #irene, a whole new experience.

Since it was the first and with Covid-19, there was a curfew for tourists who wanted to visit the beach. We just rode by until we came across a parking spot where there was a small trail that led into the beach.

Curious as we were, we walked down.. but was stopped by a cop. After telling him we rode down from Chennai to be here, he just smiled and said – i didnt see you, neither did you see me. Take the picture and get out in 5 minutes.

Overjoyed, we went for it. Coil had to pick up some of the sea water for his mother and I went about my selfies. I wish I had the company, but I know deep inside in due time, I will.

When in KK, eat an ice cream, cos its New year’s no?

KK done, we were off to our next stop. Manappad.

Getting back on to the ECR and winding roads, we soon passed by Kudankulam – where a nuclear reactor is at. Riding on and experiencing nature for its beauty and splendor, life was at its peaceful best.

Our pee breaks were at the most exquisitely beautiful places. Much to the eyebrows that go up, the experience is out of the world.

Gokul and I were making sure every bit of the rubber in our tyres met the road and we loved it.

We were at Manappad and by the looks of it, the church services were in full swing, thanks to 1st Jan. Though a small hamlet, Manappad has a lot of history and christian faith. More info here

Manappad also done, it was time to get some food into the tummy. For some reason, was feeling hungry than usual.

After a bit of a search, found a really nice joint at Tiruchendur. Yumm parottas and eggs to make the tummy happy and we were headed off again. This time, destination Trichy.

As we passed through small towns, we rode right into Madurai. Interestingly this was the first time I’m seeing the place and it was crowded. Kept riding ahead and as the cool of the evening set in, our motorcycles started getting faster.

We were soon in Trichy and met up with Pakki, one of the club boys. We had to find a place to stay and same thumb rule – pulled into a nice swanky place for the night. We werent able to catch up with Simmy, yet, but that was scheduled for next morning.

Dinner was the first thing on our minds and we heard there was a road side joint that was really good. Surprised again at our contrasting food joints on a ride, this time the food was finger licking good.

Checked in and the beds were a zillion times better than the GRT ones. Hard mattresses that felt so good to rest and with text messages that put a smile to one’s face, it was time to hit the sack.

Day 4

Rise and shine beauties ! Simmy was here. It was such a joy meeting the dude after so many years.

During our rain ride years, Trichy used to a pit stop always. This ride seemed to bring in all the flavours from so many years together.

When you meet Simmy, life turns king size. He took us around town on his interceptor to one of Trichy’s oldest restaurants for some yummy lip smacking, ghee all over breakfast.

One thing was certain. After this, we werent going to saddle up. We were going straight back to bed.

The only agenda was ride back to Chennai and so we were taking it nice and easy. Trichy to Chennai is a 300km stretch and could be done in about 5 hours. Give or take. So after breakfast, chit chat and a lot of laughs, we curled back in bed, sharing some nice conversation knowing each of us better.

This ride had all the right elements and once again reminded how traveling brings people closer.

By lunchtime, we were back on our feet, saddling up and getting ready to return back to base.

The roads were fairly empty and our motorcycles were having the time of their lives enjoying the daylight, the open roads and strong winds.

Smooth riding saw us meet up just after vandalur for that last picture together and goodbyes.

4 days on the road, so many memories made, so many joys shared and so many adventures to talk about and laugh about.

Praise God for his continual grace upon each of us as we enjoyed this road trip. From me and mine, to you and yours – Cheers #21

More pictures here : https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0e5nhQSTuyD73p

Mustang

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