Saturday, December 27, 2008
Day Three: Green hills and Gatorade
When we left our homestay outside Madikeri, the sun was hardly strong enough to combat the cold and the valleys were foaming with mist, looking for all the world like God's pensieve – it was the time of morning that encouraged fanciful thoughts (another such time is when the night is no-city-within-a-hundred-miles dark and you are sitting at the edge of the light from the bonfire, especially if you have family members who are addicted to NGC programmes about marauding man-eaters).
Down to Gunikopal must have been a joy for the riders, dodgy roads notwithstanding. The scenery was stunning throughout, the route winding through coffee estates or forest, mostly, but the road was very bad in many places, so many riders spent a lot of time riding in the back of the Tempo. Overall it was a strange riding day.
Wynad has its own share of coffee estates and some of the roads looked so much like the ones we just covered in Coorg, that it felt like we were standing still. But the crossing into Kerala is not an imperceptible one, it's a whacking great checkpoint that we nearly drove through due to not paying any attention to the policemen. It was that sort of day.
We were not rewarded by the sight of elephants or bison or deer on the forest road. We heard a lot of birds and giant bamboos that knock in the wind, sounding eerily like a spa soundtrack. I regaled my companions with my theory that the Magic Beanstalk was based on this bamboo, since I've literally seen how fast they grow. There're several outside my window at home and they grow perceptibly, significantly taller each day. I'm not sure they believed me.
Anyway my Malayalam came in handy at the checkpoint and quite often in our subsequent quest for Sultan Bathery. This is familiar country in more ways than one. It's many years since I've driven to Kerala, but I know this route well. I know the colours – white jasmine, pink hibiscus and orange exora. I know the smells – crushed leaves and coconut. I know the dangers – I could write a long and colourful dissertation on Kerala's highways, but that's already been written several times, and continues to improved upon every time an out-of-state license plate escapes a deadly bus or truck by half a millimetre.
We stopped for a bite at Kattikulam, about 50 km from the destination, where our arrival, sojourn and departure were watched with avid interest by almost every local available. We either happened to hit upon the only dubious Kerala Paratha maker in Kerala or my memory of this meal on the road has been rendered rosy by nostalgia. I strongly feel it's the former.
Avinash was the Puncture Guy today (at least, among the ones on our watch). He seemed mighty cheerful about it, waving us onward the second time we saw him. There was a surprise break for watermelons courtesy of Dr. Arora and Mrs Katiyar who seemed to have an entire orchard of them in the car!
PS: Apologies for not replying to comments - it’s all I can do to hold a signal long enough to post. I have managed to read one or two. Anand, you can get a few details on Prashanth’s blog (URL alongside) and there should be something on the TFN website by now. You can also follow all our Twitter posts simply by searching under "tfn08".
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