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THE HIDDEN PARADISE For two months, Poonkathirvelan and myself have been into discussion about an official CTC Biking , and that too starting from Chennai instead of using Lorries or transport vehicles . As we consider Bike as brilliant mode of transport , why need Heavy trucks for transport ? Soon we thought of Megamalai , which is not known to many people , though it’s a known rapture for bikers . I have been to this place with Peter when I joined CTC ,explored almost all estates and villages , beautiful ridges ,Periyar and Megamalai reserve . Kathir has also been to this place with his Black Destrier last year , so we had fixed the place and dates . Ofcourse it was a quick ,express trip as many office goers were in the list . Although our inner heart wants to explore more , the outer world succumbs us to office pressure. We had around 60+ registrations , shortlisted 20 bikers and pillions , photographers . It was indeed a great team , as each and everyone had previous experience with long distance endurance riding . We had clearly elucidated the fact that it is going to be highway riding till Theni , then we will explore the Hidden Paradise.

We had Venkat and Guna ji mentoring us , driving a car for supporting us all the way throughout the trip . They had reached Friday evening near Salem . Our route was different from the normal Theni route , we planned to stop at Salem , camp near Kathir’s house , as all the food and camping arrangements were made in advance over there . And from there we headed towards Dindigul – Theni – Megamalai . It was Friday evening , and suddenly I got a call from Embassy to get stamped on my official documents , so I had to hurry as I was leading the team . As Kathir was leading in front from the first meeting point (Tambaram Railway station ), I finished my work quickly and started towards the check point . It was raining heavily and all my things were drenched . I had asked Ajay to

get spare helmets and Sleeping mats for the Team . We both met the team around 7:00 pm instead of 6:00pm due to heavy rain and traffic . The bikers were heading towards Perungalatur , I shifted to Kathir’s bike , chucked the extra mats near the toll gate , and started sweeping . We had asked Arun(Doctor) to lead and Krishna to sweep along with us , as our first target was Salem , our role was to take care of the safety of the team and push the riding team . We were switching back and forth to check the head count and team energy . We had asked to assemble after crossing three toll points to have dinner . So all 14 bikers from Chennai assembled at a hotel after Tindivanam , had nice food . Dr.Arun took extra care to bring Chappati rolls and gave it to the team . He truly displayed the spirit of a team player and lead . Ofcourse it was seen while he is riding his Yamaha FZ also. We had settled our advance accounts with few people and quickly started heading towards Salem . After few hours of ride , we came across few cycles hanging outside a 9717 Fortuner and soon we overtook that car and stopped to see PETER who was heading his team of cyclists towards Yercaud hills . Kathir invited Peter to his home which was near Yercaud hills and Peter was happy to see a new campsite . Kathir ‘s place is surrounded by Shevaroy range which is a perfect place to camp at night . Soon we kidnapped Peter’s team and headed towards Salem , cutting NH7 ,20 km ahead near Athanur Post was our first camping spot . Guna and Venkat sir were waiting to welcome us and Kathir’s parents welcomed everyone. The village was quite flabbergasted to see the number of bikes ,cycles and Fortuner the beast. It was around 3:00 am in the morning , and we exchanged stories , had tea and asked everyone to have a nap as long ride was waiting to burn our asses next day . Soon Peter’s team shifted with their camping gears to the terrace , had a nice sleep (I suppose ). Our team members opened their sleeping bags , kept their gears outside and started to sleep . Venkat sir , Thiru , Guna ji ,Alex and myself had a chat and took our bikes to have a early morning ride to drink tea . We went to a nearby bakery , had tea , spoke for a while and soon it was 6:00 am. Time was flying!! Around 7:00 am , Peter woke up , tied his cycles over the top and back of the car and started heading towards Yercaud. Our guys woke up, packed things and started from Kathir’s place aroung 8:00 am. We refilled our tanks near Rasipuram diversion and started riding towards Dindigul .

We had breakfast near Cauvery dam . With a little dip and nice breakfast , people were laughing and sharing smiles . Amarnatth as usual had two-three bread packets and jam box in his hand and was eating ,eating ,eating!!! We had Chips , Bread , Jam and started riding .

Soon Rajavel’s chain sprocket became loose , so we fixed it and started riding . The team was jam packed with energy and enthusiasm . The Dindigul- Karur stretch was the most amazing part of the ride as the wind was so heavy to blow our bikes away. Most of the bikers were maintaining their average speed around 90km/hr in this stretch and were in totally aerodynamic position , bending towards the tank and pillion doing the same cutting the wind and riding . Few riders were experimenting their body position by sidelining , bending back , totally inline with the vehicle and it was cool to see people non-stop riding even through gushy winds and heavy rains . We reached Dindigul around afternoon and Surya and Devi joined from there . Near Dindigul Junction , the team was having Nongu and Panagal, drinking and drinking !!

Soon we started towards Theni . I was shocked to see Amarnath completing 15 Nongu at a single go . Surya’s bullet was making toubles , so we planned to stop his bike at Batlagundu . I was in the car along with Guna settling accounts . After parking Surya’s vehicle ,we headed to a place near Theni to have lunch and everyone had meals , filled their tummies and was sleepy .

Having a refreshing Beeda and Banana , and the thought of the weather , rejuvenated everyone’s

mind and Bike as well . So , Bikers fuelled their machines and headed towards Megamalai . While nearing the checkpost , we noticed grapes garden , tomato garden .

It was such a beauty and was made in an organised manner . Everyone wanted to taste the real juice of the grape , so quickly spoke with the workers and had the taste of it . It was about to rain and we crossed the checkpost . We clearly told all the bikers that from the Checkpost the roads are not at all present , it will be fully offroading , so bewareeeeeee  We started riding up hill and the temperature started to drop . Mists started to come , it was foggy and drizzling . A perfect weather for a hardcore biker! After riding 40+ km we got a panoramic view of the village and it started raining. It was full off-roading and there was a riding challenge going on between Vijay Gopi and Kathir . Both were riding at 60km/hr at those roads as if they were having a dirt bike race . Both stopped nearby a dam and waited for us, we had a quick snap . Everyone were jumping and posing for the camera. Soon we reached Megamalai Estate , and it was a real heaven. Literally NO WORDS TO EXPRESS ! Scorching sun , humid climate , heavy winds filled with dust in the city and such a change over in this place . A serene , lush green and pleasant landscape was in front our eyes . It was around 5:00 pm and we started having tea near Mathaa canteen . We had to find a nice camping site , so Guna and myself went in car to High Wavys , to see the IP House . Guna drove the car like a professional all terrain vehicle rider with such a great steering control . It was so foggy that we couldn’t even spot what is in front of us . We were driving slowly and it took 35 min to reach the village at night. We spoke with the guys near the High Wavys Canteen , and they had given a teacher’s number to contact , who was not in town . We had brought Food for Briyani and whatever happens we wanted to cook that all night even it rains . So we were looking for firewood. There was a lone , haunted house filled with mist . Dogs barked , winds were blowing , sudden drizzles , Dark skies , I stepped down from the car and moved towards the house . Ssshhhhhhhhhh! Suddenly one dog ran away , Phew !! I saw a bunch of dry firewood laying down outside of the house . But our priority was camping site , so soon we went to the guest house , and spoke with the guy . But we weren’t interested in the guest house type room , so he told us to go back and camp at the place

where we had tea as he was his brother . So we started heading Back. It was freezing cold and the car had a cozy interior maintaining a nice temperature to warm our bodies !

Once we reached back , we saw people settled near the tea shop itself . Thanks to Kathir, Suresh and Venkat sir for arranging the same . Though we also had planned of the same place , it was all set . So next up was BRIYANI . The Maatha Canteen Thaatha was so kind to provide utensils, firewood and kitchen to cook . Guna ji, our cooking lead , Briyani specialist was planning to make both Veg and Non-Veg briyani for 35 members . For the first time , we cooked Briyani for 35 members in a huge Vessel. Volunteers lined up cutting vegetables , Soaking meal maker , frying onions , soaking rice , keeping masala packets aside ! Till 11:30 pm we were cooking and it was made with care so that everyone fill their stomach to continue their ride tomorrow. Arun helped with mixing , amaranth with fire and Guna mentoring everyone . Suresh , Murali , Rajavel and co helped in cutting the vegetables. At 00:00 am we had an awesome briyani and went to sleep in the adjacent room which was provided by the Tea shop guy. It was damn cold and even a little bit opening in the entrance door made people shiver and bite their teeth . Everyone were well equipped with their jackets, ,mats and sleeping bags .

The next day morning , Venkat sir , Kathir and Suresh cleaned up the room . Though they needed help from volunteers ,they led in front and made the room look neat and tidy . Everyone had their morning tea and a warm-up ride along the village . After assembling and packing things up , we headed towards Mannalar and Vennier estates . There umpteen number of waterfalls along the way and was a perfect off-roading ride .

I was taking videos and photographs of riders enjoying the chill weather , enigmatic ride along with breath taking views .

Ofcourse it was filled with mist :P . We were heading towards Mannalar Lake and realized that Thiru and Vijay had missed the team somehow . They had gone for earlymorning photo shoot of the village . We tried to contact them but could not reach as the signals were weak . We proceeded towards the estate , Kathir had a chill dip in the lake and came out freezing and shivering . Again started the ride . Crossed dams ,waterfalls , bumps , corners , bends , tea shops , lakes , ridges , estates ‌‌. Riding , riding , riding .

We stopped at a lake for a dip and soon everyone dived ! The people were real crazy , as it was raining heavily and freezing cold , still people loved to dive in the chill lake .

After the final dip , we headed back to the Megamalai Tea estate where we met Thiru and Vijay who were documenting the estates . They were quite sad to miss the team although was happy on the other side to have a nice , pleasant photo shoot of the place which every photographer would love to have ď Š Soon we packed things ,settled accounts , had tea again , started heading towards Theni around afternoon . While returning , I was staggered to see the views of Palani-Kodaikanal range and Cumbum Valley, It was such a beauty . I was taking a nice video of those ranges which was stretching

all the way till Dindigul line . After reaching Dindigul , we settled the accounts , reimbursed the excess amount and asked the team about the route . Few were interested in going via Trichy , so I had asked Chandru to lead the team going to Trichy and we 6 biker along with Pillions were heading via Salem Route , as we had to pick up Karthikeyan’s bullet . The team spilt and were headed towards home . Dindigul- Karur stretch was again more actionpacked as everyone were maintaining average speed of 110 km/hr . Dr.Arun ,Kathir , Ajay , Krishna ,Thiru and Kumaravel were riding constantly till Salem and it was awesome to see all those bikers with riding gears , cutting through the winds and moving along with it .

For a moment , I thought I was in some movie chasing a guy with a team of bikers !! We filled in Petrol near Karur and reached Kathir’s place where hot mushroom fry and chilly chicken was ready. Guna was welcoming us  as usual with his swift leading in front . After having snacks, immediately we started towards Dinner point . We had a nice sumptuous dinner at nearby Mess and started proceeding towards Chennai . The 6 riders + Guna ji in car , were moving swiftly and crossed tolls . Until 3:00 am we were riding non-stop . We wanted to have a power nap as 2-4 am is a crucial time for riders , we immediately spread on tarp near an arch situated along the highway and everyone slept on it . Exactly after 30 min , Sindhu woke all of us ,and everyone started riding again . Dr. Arun and Kumaravel went in front as they had emergency office work . Guna ji had to be in Chennai at 6:00 am so he was driving his car , swiftly cutting , moving ahead of all heavy vehicles leading in front . Once we reached Guduvanchery , there was heavy number of vehicles , generating smoke and triggering the dust particles from the road . Lorries , Lorries ,Lorries ! After crossing the hectic route , we reached Tambaram at 6:00 am . Soon Guna ji switched onto R15 and rapidly headed towards attending his interesting classes :P . Krishna with his R15 was sweeping

sincerely and did a great ride . Without the moral support of Gunaji and Venkat sir , this bike trip would not have been possible . We got messages and calls from all bikers that everyone had reached ,and soon we reached our homes at 7:30 am filled with memories , dreams and adventures !!!It was a blissful 1200 km ride , completed in a two day express ride ď Š DREAM ! DISCOVER ! EXPLORE !

By Vishal

The hidden paradise  

Biking Trip Near Western Ghats