Saturday, May 08, 2004

Chennai-Kochi-Chennai on Bullet

I own a Bullet Machismo that I bought some six months back. It is equipped with a newer version of the engine with a gearshift lever on the left side and rear wheel brake on the right side. Also, its got a front disc brake and gas-filled rear shock absorber.

I have had many trips till date. I would like to share my experience of this trip. I had to visit my uncle and cousin in Kochi and thus I had another opportunity of going on a long drive. Most may know about Kochi. But for the sake of the others, Kochi, formerly spelled as Cochin, is one of the twin cities, Ernakulam-Kochi and is based on the west coast of India in Kerala. The city is blessed with a natural harbour and is a base for Indian Navy.

While going to Kochi I followed the following route: Chennai - Villupuram - Thiruchirapalli - Dindigul - Teni - Munnar - Kochi. This route is very much enjoyable for riders of my kind since, after Teni, one starts traveling westward and the route passes through mountains. Enthusiastic bikers must have this ghat driving experience.

Odometer: 4309.0 km
I left IIT-M campus at 0610h. Had breakfast at Villupuram. Reached Thiruchi at 1300h and did the first petrol fill-up. I did not have lunch. Instead I relied upon soft drinks and biscuits that I was carrying with me. At 1515h I had some snacks at Dindigul and started towards Teni. I must have passed Teni at around 1730h. Then started one of the most exciting journeys towards Munnar. There I realised how much one can miss the judgment of the distances read from the map, which does not have a third dimension and also the paths are smoothened! It was already dark. This journey up to Munnar consisted of a 100 percent ghat road. But it was not a problem at all! I've always enjoyed ghat driving more than anything else. I reached Munnar at 2035h. I had covered 620 km since morning.

Had dinner and found that no hotel had a room suitable for me. Good hotels could provide me double rooms but at a cost of at least Rs 700. And I was not a typical tourist and wanted to stay only up to sunrise. At the same time for me the safety of my bike (and myself) was of prime importance. A lodge owner, who was also an MBA student, tried at various places in vain. When it was the time I started my bike in order to continue the remaining journey towards Kochi, one Mr. Gopi appeared and assured me of a double bedroom and safe parking at Rs 200. I could get hot water. A desperate need of that time! It was a new cottage with RCC construction. The facilities were at least as good as any other good hotel provides.

Odometer: 4932.9 km
Munnar is at an altitude of 4000 ft. And wherever I could see were tea gardens. I left Munnar at 0630h. On the way I stopped, took photographs, and enjoyed nature. It was a heavenly atmosphere. Also to my surprise, the ghat never ended almost up to Kochi. It was never a straight road. Had breakfast at Puthen Cruz at 1040h. It was 1215h when I entered the Naval Base in Kochi, where my cousin stays. The distance covered was 142 km from Munnar and 762 km from Chennai.

During my stay at Kochi, I drove a little. On 1st May we all went to Cherai Beach, some 25 km Northward from Ernakulam. It was a great time. I changed the route for the return journey, which became: Kochi - Trissur - Palakkad - Coimbtore - Salem - Kalakuruchi - Ulundarpet - Cuddlore - Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram - Chennai.

Odometer: 5184.0 km
The return journey was a journey of usual excitement. I crossed Salem at my usual pace. Then a special excitement was added when it started raining at 1500h in Magudanchavali some 75 km before Attur. But it stopped soon. I had a nice tea at this place. During this time it was as if the rain was following me. Had snacks at Attur, 1700h, then after covering only few kilometers it started raining heavily. It immediately came to my notice that the front, disc brake, became less effective as soon as the rain started. Although my jerkin was ok for a drizzle, I was not prepared for continuous rain. So not only had I to be careful but also had to break my journey. There was certainly a thought at the corner of my mind to drive up to Chennai if possible!

I then could find a lodge in Chinaa Salem and I call off the day. It was raining continuously. The lodge charges were Rs 50. Also there was an assurance of my bike's safety. This was the time I had to trust those people on the basis of my intuition. My bike was parked in a movie theatre, just near the chairs! That night I had dinner, though a light one, for just Rs 10! I had covered 444 km on this day.

Odometer: 5628.0 km
I woke up a little late. At 0915h I started driving, covered fifteen kilometers happily on dry road. And then, again the rain started, this time heavily. I reached Kalakuruchi and enquired for a raincoat. The boyish shop-owner peddled his bicycle in the rains and brought one, which I thought, was a nice one for Rs 160. Here started my continuous journey under rainwater pouring. Then I almost did not stop anywhere. I crossed NH 45, crossed Cuddlore, Pondicherry, and near Marapakkam I stopped for a while and had some snacks. Under rains I maintained a steady speed of around 55 kmph and never exceeded 60 kmph speed. Somewhere near Kalpakkam I found that it was not raining and the road was dry. It must have been around 1630h. This enabled some increase in my speed. Next brief stop was at Hotel Mamalla in Mahabalipuram. It was 1810h when I reached Cauvery Hostel, which was the final destination! In the day's journey I covered 289 km and a total 733 km from Kochi. Odometer: 5916.8 km

On the way, I filled petrol at Thiruchi, Munnar, Kotumangalam, Kochi, Selam - total (33.49 liter). The bike did well throughout, at 36 km/liter, although I expected more on the basis of the claims by M/s REL. Another thing, it is not that I did not foresee the possibility of rains. already had predicted on 25th April that there would be thunderstorms in and around Chennai. I decided to take a chance because I thought I could manage. And thanks to the Almighty, I indeed could do!

I have added some of the photos taken during the drive and during the stay in Kochi. There are many photos of the Machismo since 'she' was my only travel companion! This time I've used Canon Powershot S20 camera. You can watch the photos at
Mr. Gopi (Munnar) can be contacted at (04865) 209346.