During my solitary travels, two theories were proved right - the first is that only one travel is possible on a road. The sights will be different during the second trip. And another discovery is that travelling in a car and bike are two vastly separate experiences. While a car journey is like watching through a telelens, a bike trip helps you to view the world through a wider lens. The world seems bigger, liberated as you breathe in the fresher air around you. Let us go into the theory of sights first.
Pallivasal, which has Kerala’s first Hydropower plant project was our first stop. In 1940, it was King Sri Chithira Thirunal who commissioned this project to bring electricity to Thiruvanthapuram. There is a village called Sri Chithira Puram in memory of this project.
Pallivasal in theory can be called the doorway of Munnar. Even for workers. The tea plantation board reads it as Pullivasal though! My friend Christo Joseph told me an interesting story behind it. Pulli denoted attendance and Vasal, door. Apparently, this was where the workers were required to mark their attendance before starting work. We rode around the Penstock (A penstock is a sluice or gate or intake structure that controls water flow, or an enclosed pipe that delivers water to hydro turbines and sewerage systems) pipes in the morning. There is a windscreen over the Meteor (a brand of bike) that helps to wipe away the chilling wind, making the bike ride easier. When we pushed through the narrow roads towards the hills, the scenery was getting better. And then our Meteor journeyed through the narrow roads near the penstock pipes leading to the hills. We came across the iron gates there. Photography required permission. If you are taking a bike ride to Munnar, make sure you explore these unknown little roads. You get to see Munnar through a different dimension.
We can see a collection of birds having a session in the hills. And yes, you can get a bird’s eye view of the penstock pipes from there. Do make sure to take some pictures here. These are experiences only a biker can cherish.
Now let us explore this little-known gem in Munnar. We could set the location through the Royal Enfield app - Attukadu waterfalls. When you reach the area, the digital display in your Meteor will show a right arrow mark taking you to the main road. From there Pallivasal is down the road from the main town.
Tourists are gazing adoringly at the waterfalls that fall adjacent to the tea estate road. Though it's advisable to not go too near the waterfalls. You can watch the Attukadu waterfalls from the road but cannot go into its interiors. As you ride further towards the slopes, you can see a river that caresses through little rocks and the bridge that stands above it. A small house swathed in elaichi plants stands on the water’s edge and we realise that it is a quaint little café. Try relishing a cup of lemon tea staring at the quiet nature around you. If you are staying at Pallivasal, you can try a morning trip to Attukadu.
Despite the cold winds, Munnar seemed to be warming up to the stream of visitors who have not stopped coming post lockdown. The Grandiose garden near the KSRTC Bus depot can be seen clearly from the Muthirapuzhayar. It's relatively clean and KSRTC has arranged sleeper buses. Meteor got instructions to turn towards the right from there. So, what about Munnar? Not really! We can turn to Lakshmi Estate and reach Adimali.
Back to our first theory
It was this Meteor which first tested the Fasttrack. Then we were travelling to Athirapally. And today we are travelling through the isolated roads of Estate. From Munnar to the Kannan Devan Company-owned Lakshmi Estate to Anakkulam. Since it was a Cruiser bike, riding a pillion was comfortable. And this was our third ride through this path. But for some reason, the roads seem unfamiliar, maybe because we came on a bike. Just as we should only take one dip in the river, we should only ride through a road only once.
Leaving the map behind
“There is only one road sir, no need to get confused,” –our subconscious mind seems to be telling us. And the roads were not entirely in great condition. Since we are riding through the Estate road, one cannot hope to get any food or drinks on the way. And it is very chilly. So much so that we realised that time had lost all meaning. Cattle were grazing around. There are villages like Ottapara, Lakshmi, Viripara in the estate stretched over 750 acres of land, besides the various forests encasing them. The roads are not steep, it is verdant on the sides. We could see some ancient varieties of plants by the riverside, which we had not noticed during our first visit.
En route to the tea estates, there is an area that contains Wild Cardamom plantations. It’s very dense and we can enjoy the cool breeze emanated from the giant trees around. The mist seemed to have transformed the green of the leaves into black and white hues. The stretch before reaching Viripara is charming. Now you look at the first picture. Now we are going down the hairpin bends, the Meteor in second gear, gently passing the tiny town called Viripara towards Mangulam. That is when we realised how difficult the ride back to the mountains was. And some part of the roads was still being tarred.
From Mangulam to Anakkulam, the hairpin bend continued. Don’t you remember the village where elephants would regularly bathe in the river? That is how it got its name. But of course today the village has more population, though the motorways are still off-road. When you reach the end of Karinthiyar and find the whole experience overwhelming you can call that Anakkulam as well. Beyond the river, you can see dense forests, a collective of forests there, from Tamilnadu’s Valparai to Kerala’s Kuttampuzha. A lot of tourists wait in their cars to sight elephants these days.
Interestingly the grasslands where elephants used to graze have been turned into a cricket ground where locals play. Reminds you of those local cricket team grounds. Where can you find such a perfect pitch? You can watch the sixes pouring near the stream. If lucky you can even catch the elephants taking a dip in the pond. Though it is still a mystery as to why Elephants visit here. By evening we were on our way back.
When the private bus travellers told us that Elephants were on the Machiplavu-Peechadu route, the LED rig in Meteor leapt to life. And for some eerie reason, the wild cardamom plantations and the pathway gave the impression of Elephants looming in the dark. We could accelerate the speed of Meteor only after we reached Adimali. And once we passed the Neryamangalam bridge the cruising bike started showing its true colours and then there was no stopping it. Photographer Lenin Kottappuram who was my bike companion gave the thumbs-up sign and we sped towards Ernakulam without setting the route map.
PS: There are homestays at Anakkulam. During the Lakshmi Estate stay make sure to carry food. Do not flitter. Carry a raincoat. Tank up at Munnar. BSNL is available everywhere.