On May 5th, 2022, I packed up and headed south after spending a while in Goa. My friends had already boarded the train to Mookambika Road. They are one of the most amazing bunch of people I have met, and we all met during a trek – The Agastyarkudam Trek. I was to meet them at Mookambika. I had other plans, but eventually, the heat wave hit, and I decided to join them because heading further north was going to get unbearable.
I rode and reached Mookambika by noon. I found the first restaurant I saw and had Kerala rice for the first time in a month. Boy! That felt good. I later checked into a small hotel and arranged for my friends to stay for later. There weren’t many places to visit during the day, except for the temple. So, I laid low and worked a bit.
The next morning at 3 AM, I was greeted by @Silsila and others. They had quite a long journey on the train. I hugged them tight, finally seeing familiar faces after a while. After getting freshened up and talking a bit, we all headed out to the temple by 6 AM. After lurking around a bit for a good time, by 9 AM, we moved on to having a small breakfast. We waited for the Jeep driver who was going to take us to the Kodajadri peak.
So, the plan was this: We all head to Kodajadri by Jeep. There are a couple of temples a few hundred meters before the peak, and we walk the rest of the way to the top. After spending some time there, we are going to head down and stay the night at the PWD guest house, which is adjacent to the two temples. Yep! We were going to stay on top of the peak, in the middle of the forest. And the next day morning, we are going to pack up the bags and walk down through a trek path. We were hoping to reach civilization by noon.
The Jeep ride was joyful; it’s been a while since we all have traveled anywhere together. We were talking and joking around. There was not even a moment that we were not laughing. On the way, we had a really good homemade lunch – rice porridge from a local shop. It was quite yummy, and we were really hungry after all. In between was a police checkpoint, where they count all the plastic – bottles, covers, everything we have and gives us a receipt for a deposit. We will get the deposit back when we come back with the things we went with. We soon started to climb the mountain in the jeep. We stopped to take pictures in between at a very scenic spot; turns out that’s where the trial path of our trek was going to begin the next day. After reaching the top, we kept our bags outside the PWD guest house to climb the rest of the way.
The place was buzzing with people, and we climbed towards ‘Sarwanjana Peedam.’ The legend has it that Shankaracharya meditated at this peak and got enlightenment. There stands a granite monument that he used. We walked towards it as the fog fell upon us. We walked towards the top beside a huge ledge… Nothing on one side but clouds. It was quite a mystic feeling up there. We ended up spending until evening there. Finally, people started leaving by 4:30, and it was getting cold and dark; the fog was thickening. By 6 PM, we turned around to the PWD guest house.
What happened then should be a post of its own. Hear me out; there are two temples there. One is maintained by this pundit who is quite greedy and egoistic. He was not allowing us to stay there because we didn’t go through him. Basically, he didn’t get his cut. We went directly to the PWD, and we were staying there while the renovations were going on. We also made arrangements with the caretaker of the guest house. It took a lot of going back and forth to sort the issue out. By 8:30 PM, we got our dinner. I have never seen an upma that’s running with water. Anyway, for the lack of a better alternative, we had it. The sleeping arrangement was quite nice. We had a huge room with lots of beds; we just pulled them all together, lay down in a line, and talked and laughed ourselves to sleep. In between, we opened a window to see the view, and all we saw was fog; visibility was a meter or something.
We all woke up by 5:30 and started to walk up again. To go to ‘Sarwanjana Peedam,’ you must go to the right after climbing a bit. We went left to the sunrise point. As we walked up, it was still getting dark. We saw the breaking sun a bit away after a while, in the clouds, like a faint orange ball. We climbed a bit more. Bro! What we saw was nothing but a dream! My words can’t convey what we experienced. To some extent, maybe the pictures can. But even then… we sat there, with ‘Khwaab’ playing in the background. We just sat there, taking it all in, not wanting the moment to ever end.
After spending until 8:00 AM there, we started our way back to the guest house to pack and leave. The place was starting to see visitors again. We packed our bags and chilled a bit before starting our walk back. We hitched a ride with a guy in a jeep who was going downhill for a kilometer, from which the trek path started.
After reaching there, we started our way down. It was quite downhill. Unfortunately, @Silsila forgot something at the top and went back, leading us to wait for a bit. While waiting, @Mithun went further down the hill, and we could clearly see him as he stopped suddenly and looked at us. I and @Bajpan stood up promptly feeling that something was wrong. We slowly went towards him to see a herd of wild Indian Gaur. People often confuse them with wild buffalo, but wild buffaloes do not exist in South India, as far as I’m aware. We froze. We were figuring out where to run; there was no vegetation anywhere around, and they were just 150 meters downhill. We were genuinely scared for our lives.
We waited, and the friends above who didn’t know what was happening were making a lot of noise. After feeling that people were around, the herd wanted to leave. And they just did that; they ran to the right, climbing a small hill, most of it was hidden behind vegetation. But then I saw it. One of the biggest ones stopped and turned and looked straight at us as the others ran behind it. I felt like it was looking into our souls. It was exactly like you saw in Animal Planet, It looked at us for a good few seconds before leaving with its herd.
We stopped for a while and walked down as @Silsila and others joined us again. We went the way the animals left and then came a big hill. It was so hard as we stopped every 50 meters to take a breath. And the sun was scorching. Remember that there was a heat wave in the region then? We climbed down the hill, and soon, the bald hill turned into a thick forest. But with it came the leeches, and we were practically running down to escape them. And we did.
We rushed down and ended up at Hidlumune waterfalls. We already had plans for us to take a dip. It is more or less customary for us to take a dip in any waterfall we end up in. During the Agastyarkudam trek, we took dips in waterfalls/streams five times.
After a while, we continued again, more like a kilometer downstream, and ended up back in civilization. What we saw was the forest suddenly turning into a small rice paddy. A few more meters ahead was the forest checkpoint. Reminiscent of the night before, the officers were uncooperative, to say the least. They were not ready to give us the deposit back that we played the day before. The argument was that we were exiting through another point and we won’t get it back here. Thankfully Silsila spent 15 years in Banglore, so she knew Kannada well. After almost 20 minutes of argument, they gave us our money back. And when we thought the walking was over, it was just the beginning. Although we were on concrete roads, the place was very reminiscent of 90s Kerala. The entire front courtyard of the houses, which were very few, was plastered with cow dung. We walked more than 5 km before we even saw another human. We ended up finding a jeep back to the main road. We ate dosa from a hotel nearby and boarded a bus back to Mookambika. My friends had to leave by midnight to board the train back home. And I was planning to head to Bangalore by 3 AM. @Silsila arranged for me a room to stay the night, ultra-cheap. Before we parted ways, we went to the temple one more time. We had laughs and hugged one last time before they left to catch the bus to Mookambika Road.
And there I was, alone again, just my Astrid to keep me company. As usual, I packed everything before I slept; it was morning, and it was time to ride again.
While I started writing this series, I didn’t know how many parts this blog was going to have or how long it was going to take. But I guess this is going to be the last one. After being on the road for almost 4 weeks, I wanted to go back home. Not by choice, though; it was getting incredibly difficult because of the heat. I decided to hit Bangalore on my way back. The idea was to stay with my long-term friend and mentor, @ArunBasilLal. He has been staying in Bangalore for a while now. I called him up a couple of days ahead and set up the date. The ride to Bangalore was challenging, to say the least. I was riding through forest roads, with incoming vehicles with their bright headlights on. India is not known for its good road culture, and while riding, we have to account for that. The only way to deal with bright headlights in India is to bring headlights back. And I had a mighty 60W of auxiliary LEDs doing just that for me when the time came. Then I turned into another road; the map said it was a state highway, but it wasn’t that wide—hardly wide enough for two cars and no medians. Although there was zero traffic. I traveled 20 km before I saw a vehicle. Something else happened; I was riding on this road, and suddenly I couldn’t see anything ahead. Turns out, I was about to go into a curve, and there was enough fog so that I couldn’t see anything. I was breaking slowly to check the map. As I came into the curve, a big fat rabbit as big as a dog jumped into the road… I braked as hard as I could, and I would have hit it if I hadn’t started the braking early because of the curve. It was a long ride, I stopped in between to get coffee and breakfast. It was a surprisingly busy canteen. I managed to reach @ArunBasilLal‘s place by 2 PM.
The place was not exactly inside Banglore. It was outside the city, near the airport and we could see the whole of the airport from his balcony. It was an amazing couple of days. He along with his friend cooked for me and we talked a lot about tech, which I never got to during the trip. I also did a lot of plane-watching while I was there. Everything was great until the next day when it was time to ride into the city. That’s when everything that could go wrong in a trip like this went wrong. I was cleaning the chain before heading out. And I lost the tip of my right-hand thumb in between the chain. Yep. That very thing that happens to almost every rider, that one came for me that day. @ArunBasilLal quickly went to get the car and we drove to a hospital nearby. I got two injections on my hip right away. A pain killer and an antibiotic. A doctor later cleaned up my wound. Calling it a wound might be an understatement. I lost probably what’s 80% of my nails. We got back from the hospital by 3 PM. Although, for me, it felt like it was just an hour since I was on the strong pain med. I ended up staying one more day with @ArunBasilLal. I can’t thank him enough for the support and im quite grateful that it didn’t happen elsewhere where there was no one to support me or even help me get to a hospital. We ended up joking about the whole thing, “It’s a right of passage for a rider”.
That day went by and I was again ready to head into the city the next day. Even though he asked me to stay a couple more days, I was not ready to let an incident like this hold me back. Last time in Gokarna, I took what happened to my motorcycle to my heart and it came between the things I wanted to do. Not this time. I rode into the city. Quite painfully I must say. I couldn’t ride above 50kmph as the wind hurt my thumb, and sometimes, it would unknowingly hit the brake lever and smoke would come out of my ears, But I pushed through. I spent another few days in the city, Enjoyed the fine beer and met with a few friends, went for an IMAX showing of Dr. Strange ( my last Marvel theater experience.), and had amazing food. I also went to a clinic every couple of days to get my thumb cleaned up. And every time I came out with tears in my eyes. There were no more painkiller injections while he cleaned it up. After almost a week of getting to Banglore, I finally got on with my way back to Kerala. At 3.30 AM, while there was a slight rain, and the city was finally sleeping, I was crossing it. Finally getting on to the 544. It was one of the most satisfying rides I have ever had. I pushed my bike to the limit that day. 547kms with only one hour single breakfast break in between. and in just 7 hours total. I reached Thrissur by 11 AM. I went out with David, Richards & Deno until evening. Before I finally head home by night.
And with that, a 33 day-long journey came to an end. Like you see on Instagram these days – Shubham.