Sandeep 's World >> Travelogues >> Kozhikode


My first long ride to Kozhikode in April 2002

The wind blowing on the face @ full throttle was too much of an adrenalin rush and I got addicted within a few months of buying my CBZ. Our gang had already gone for a bike trip to Nandi Hills, but the 60kms to Nandi hills was nothing compared to what was being planned. With the 'Vishu' (a major festival in Kerala which falls in mid April) approaching, I had two weeks leave to be at Kozhikode (Calicut), our home town, and Ashi agreed to make this 354kms distance together in my CBZ. We had got enough warnings before the trip - about the trucks who care the least about two-wheelers, about the blinding headlights @ night, about the wild tuskers at Bandipur and all those you can imagine. We had our share of scares too ... but none of them big enough not to go!

The plan was to leave office as early as we can on a friday evening. We wanted to start by atleast 5, so that we get some day light to make it to Mysuru / Mysore. At Mysuru, we could take a break and continue next day in broad day light. Breaking the journey in to two days should make the journey less tiring and provide us with enough rest in between. Now, wasnt that a nice and simple plan? So we thought!

Fridays are usually the most difficult days to get out of office and an early start to the weekend is usually not so easy. By the time we were out of the office and enetered Mysuru road, it was 7PM. Ashi, being an expert driver and more familiar with Bangalore / Bengaluru roads, took the mantle of taking us to the Mysuru road and the bulk of driving in the night. Once we entered the highway, what awaited us was bright, blinding head lights and trucks / buses / cars coming to the wrong side for overtaking[1], caring least about two kids on a motorcycle!

Welcome to the real world ... none of the warnings we heard prepared us for this. Every time a pair of headlights come towards our side of the road, the bike was forced to go out of the road. This was a very dangerous thing to do, especially when the edges on the road is raised from the outside. But, when the lights are coming as if to knock us out of the road, it was better to get out on our own! Though, I was eager to drive, I decided to leave it to the expert and learn watching from behind :)

I cannot over emphasise the perils of driving in the night, especially in a 2-wheeler on a single-lane road[2] - the going was indeed tough. Ashi managed it reasonably well and for most durations hid ourselves behind big vehicles going towards Mysuru. I knew that there were towns like Kengeri, Bidadi, Ramanagar / Ramanagaram, Channapatna ... etc on the way. But, all we saw was the head lights ... for almost two hours.

This went on till we got to Maddur, about 80kms from Bengaluru. Ashi told that the place is famous for 'Maddur Vada's, but we hardly saw any 'Vada's in this night. Anyways we stopped at a decent looking road side restaurant for dinner. Ashi's helmet-visor was already loaded with dead insects and cleaning it took some time. We had only one helmet[3] and the driver was supposed to use it. That would mean that I would use it after dinner!

I was a little lucky with the traffic, since it was much lesser compared to what we faced till now. So, the wind blowing strongly on the face and the adrenalin rush was back. This was more like the ride I wanted! Only couple of times we encountered headlights on our side and I slowed down as much as I could, before taking the bike out of the road. Mandya and Srirangapatna were already sleepy and we covered the distances quickly.

By about 10.30 we were in Mysuru city. We hardly knew which way to head within the city, but kept riding ahead until we reached next to couple of lodges. A reasonable looking lodge was picked up and we checked in. With the town already sleepy, there were hardly any room for adventures. So, the lights were off quickly and we slipped in to a good sleep, strewn with dreams involving the roar of the engine, dazzling lights and dodging huge trucks!

Me @ Gundulpet
Taking a break @ Gundulpet

An early morning start made a lot of sense, the next day, since we wanted to hit the Bandipur sanctuary with the chirrup of the birds, before the sun was too bright. We did start by about 6 and realized that sunlight did make a lot of difference. It was a breeze till Gundulpet, about 60kms from Mysuru. At Mysuru, we had to ask a few people before finally getting into the Gundulpet / Ooty / Kozhikode road, the NH212. Gundulpet is practically the last town within Karnataka, were we got water and some snacks to refresh ourselves.

Me @ Bandipur
Entering Bandipur Sanctuary limits

We knew Gundulpet town very well, since this is where the overnight buses plying between Bengaluru and Kozhikode stop @ the night. At Gundulpet, the Ooty road goes straight ahead and the road to Kozhikode (NH212) turns to the right. After a few kms (abt 20) through a narrow, pothole infested roads from Gundulpet, we entered the Bandipur sanctuary limits. The entrance to the sanctuary is on the Ooty road, but the Kozhikode road also passes through the sanctuary limits.

Ashi @ Bandipur
Ashi on the road - Bandipur sanctuary

It was a treat riding though the pristine and serene backdrops of Bandipur Wild life sanctuary. Soon, the helmet was out in the hand and the camera kept clicking. The road passes throught the sanctuary for more than 30 kms. The decision to hit the sanctuary early in the morning proved quite good in the end. The ambience was beautiful, with the sounds of birds and trees lining both sides of the narrow road. The only negative is the condition of the road, which too was acceptable, considering that this is within a wildlife sanctuary. We didnt have any animal sightings, either.

Kerala - Karnataka border
Welcome to Kerala state

The state border is also within the sanctuary limits and we stopped at the bridge leading to Wayanad district in Kerala for that mandatory photo session. Only a few kms and minutes into Kerala, we realized that the helmet was forgotten. Riding back to the border, we spotted the helmet perched @ the railings on the bridge!

The wildlife sanctuary towards the Kerala side is called Wayanad or Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a much greener stretch compared to the one in Karnataka. It is a lot smaller in area too. A few kms into Kerala, the human settlements started again. The first major landmark was the Muthanga sanctuary office itself, followed by the sales tax checkpost. Another few kms took us to the Sulthan Bathery town, were we had breakfast. In between, my parents called to find out if I reached Kozhikode and came to know that we were coming in the bike. This naturally resulted in quite a lot of 'why's and other questions. I just hoped that they'll be OK once I reach home safe!

Ashi among tea plantations
Tea plantations @ Wayanad

Wayanad is a beautiful piece of land, with its fair share of twists, turns, hills and greenery. It is usually cool and cozy, but, at the peak of summer, the heat got to it too. We stopped in between @ a town called Muttil, were Ashi wanted to meet some of his relatives. We forgot our helmet here too, but remembered it fast enough to avoid a long ride back :) Apart from this, we had no plans to visit any other places. With the heat, frequent turns and no major landmarks, the drive became almost dull. The only interesting thing was the tea plantations we saw near Chundale town, a few kms before Kalpetta. Ofcourse, we did have our photo sessions posing among the tea plantations!

Wayanad pass
At a view point near the beginning of the ghats

Soon after Kalpetta, was Vythiri and the famous chained tree. A little more ahead of that, the ghat roads began! This is the section of road along the hills connecting the eastern side of Kozhikode district (@ near sea level) to the hilly reaches of Wayanad @ the edge of Mysuru plateau. It meanders through a face of the hill for about 10kms and has nine hairpin bends. The legend says that a tribal who showed this road to the British was killed by them and later turned into a spirit. After having its revenge, the spirit was finally chained at a tree. The chained tree near Vythiri is said to be the remains of this.

We were both eager to drive @ the ghat road. Since, Ashi was riding through most of Wayanad, I took over @ what looked like half way down the ghats. Riding a motor bike on a meandering road is not as difficult as driving the heavier vehicles. But, its surely a lot more fun :) We had a few breaks and photo sessions here. Later, Ashi complained that the hand over point turned out to be more than half way and I had to promise that I'll give him a bigger share on our way back :)

Wayanad pass
Venturing into the wilderness - half way down the ghats

Once, down the ghats, we were @ level roads and it was just a matter of time. One problem I faced was that my ears went almost deaf after the descend. This happens due to the pressure distance, caused by the rather big change in altitude. Coupled with the heat and traffic, this was quite annoying. I kind of became impatient to reach home and the speed went up. Another guy on a 'Passion, trying to overtake us peaved me a too. Once we were ahead of him, I just wanted to make sure that he would never see us again!

By noon, I dropped Ashi @ his home and headed to mine. I had taken Ashi's helmet with me to make sure that I have something to face my parents. It was going to be an eventful beginning to an exciting two week's stay at home.


Rajeev, Ajay, Vishal
Rajeev, Ajay & Vishal during their trip to Kozhikode

Ashi, Ajay, Vishal
Ashi, Ajay & Vishal @ Gundulpet

The return trip was scheduled two week's later on a 'Vishu' day. The good news was that we had company. Ashi returned to Bengaluru, by bus, in the same weekend we came, only to return the following weekend after a similar adventure. He came back with Ajay, Vishal and Rajeev, riding a Fiero and Callibre. All these bikes and people were geared to return along with us, making it a 3-bike 5-people ride.

Though, my parents didnt make a big deal out of our bike trip, I did get heavy doses of advice from some other family members, especially one of my uncles. He had told that if I ever come back in a bike, 'the bike will stay in Kozhikode'! All of us, had got similar doses from people to never repeat such an adventure. Nevertheless we were all allowed to drive back to Bengaluru for another fun trip :) - we just had to be 'careful'.

I had a few visitors for 'Vishu' and could not have started until after noon. In order to not delay the entire group, me and Ashi asked the rest of the gang to proceed. Rajeev had plans to visit his uncle @ Kalpetta and we promised to catch up with them by then. As planned, the rest of the gang started by around 1 and it was almost an hour later that I reached Ashi's house to pick him up.

I was more than happy to compensate for the delay - by going full throttle! We zoomed past the crowded Eranhipalam, Malaparamba, Karanthur, Kundamangalam and Koduvally to reach Thamarassery in abt half an hours time. But, the most interesting moment came @ a bridge in Eengapuzha. There, in spite of seeing a jeep coming from the opposite side, I decided that there was enough space to overtake a car. Somehow, Ashi didnt see the jeep coming until the last minute and when he did, I heard a loud scream. This was soon followed by a request to 'stop the bike' and a refusal to agree that I indeed saw the jeep coming! Well ... I was finally convinced that the bridge has to be renamed 'Ashippaalam', 'paalam' being the Malayalam word for bridge.

We were soon at the ghats and I continued riding for some more time. After the 1st hair pin bend, I took a very slanted turn and Ashi's feet almost touched the ground. That was it! I had to relinquish the driver's seat, helmet and my right to speak! Nevermind, I had anyway promised to give a bigger share of riding in the ghats to him.

Anyways, just before Kalpetta, we met the rest of the gang. We initially thought that they already visited Rajeev's uncle's place, but it was not so. Finally, the reason behind our catch up from almost an hour behind was traced to my 'rash' drive. This was followed by everybody severely admonishing me and I declaring that I am not driving any more! I am sure this was all plotted by Ashi to make sure that he gets the majority of the ride!

After visiting Rajiv's uncle's house, we were back on the highway by abt 3.30. Cruising through the roads in Wayanad, we stopped for a tea-cum-pazhampori ('Pazhampori' is Banana fritters, a popular snack in Kerala) break and reached the wildlife sanctuary by about 4.30. There was a small competition developing between Ashish and Vishal, who was riding alone in his Callibre. Ajay and Rajiv were the most careful and this kept the Fiero behind us. Vishal insisted on riding alone from the beginning, since his bike had the least pickup. Then he raced ahead of us once and Ashi got ahead of him too. Vishal went ahead once again and Ashi had a wicked smile while chasing him.

We already crossed the border and were riding along the narrow stretch of road through Bandipur sanctuary limits. Vishal was going at full throttle now, speeding out of the blind curves. We saw him taking one of the S-curves at close to top speed and going in to the next turn without breaking. But, when we came out of the turn there was no sign of the Callibre. Could he have gotten so far ahead??? No he didnt ... we saw some movement near a roadside tree and there he was ... rising from the ruins of his bike!

The bike had hit a tree and its front, headlight and meter console, was broken. Vishal's forearm looked twisted - sure signs of a fracture - and there was blooding too. To Vishal's credit, he didnt show the pain outside, but he knew quite well that it was a fracture. He couldnt continue driving and we had to look for ways to take him to the next town, Gundulpet. There was an ambassador car coming along and they agreed to take Vishal with them. Rajeev got into the car along with Vishal and Ashi followed them in the CBZ. Only later, they realized that the car had a few drunkard revellers ... but it didnt matter as they took Vishal to Gundulpet without any trouble.

This left two of us - me and Ajay - with the job of transporting the remaining two bikes: Ajay's Fiero and Vishal's broken Callibre. I picked up the Callibre and managed to start it without much trouble. The only problem was that the handle was bent. So, we drove along slowly. A little later, it was dark and Ajay showed me some light by riding the Fiero next to me. Finally, by about 7, we were @ Gundulpet.

Vishal had already gone to a small hospital @ Gundulpet and the doctor there seemed to suggest 'twisting back' his fractured forearm into a 'proper shape' and Vishal wanted to flee ... and try his luck in Mysuru. We looked around for a taxi and a driver in Gundulpet and found one after searching almost every little street in Gundulpet. But, there was too much of a delay and finally the driver and the sumo came. The problem was that the driver looked like a school-going kid - not more than 15 yrs old. Also, sensing the situation's urgency, they started quoting exorbitant rates. No way we could have allowed him to take the wheels.

Vishal was already feeling the pain and finally, Ajay took Vishal in his bike and headed to Mysuru. The rest of us were expected to ship the Callibre into a bus heading to Bengaluru and then make it to Mysuru. We had called up one of the transport service, running overnight bus going to Bengaluru from Kozhikode and arranged to transport the bike. The bus would reach Gundulpet only after midnight and we took a room to spend the night. The night was going to be long and we had to survive it.

At abt 1'O clock in the night, we headed back to the bus stop and started waiting @ the hotel where the bus should stop. It did come in by abt 1.30 and we packed the Callibre into the bus's luggage chamber. Damn ... it was indeed a heavy thing to lift! They would dumb the bike @ their office in Tippasandra. Luckily, Vishal / Ashi / Rajeev / Ajay's house was near Tippasandra and it was most convenient for us.

Early in the morning, at abt 5'O clock, all three of us - Ashi, Rajeev and myself; a total of more than 250kgs - hopped on to the CBZ and headed towards Mysuru. It was still dark and we wanted that cover to avoid getting caught for overloading. It was mostly a smooth ride, except for the scare caused by a bullock cart coming on the wrong side of the road. Finally, we reached near Mysuru in abt an hour. Vishal was in an hospital along the Mysuru - Ooty road at the outskirts of Mysuru. He was given some first aid and was promptly sent to Bengaluru in a taxi. Ajay accompanied him and left his Fiero in the hospital premises. Rajeev collected the Fiero and the three of us headed to Bengaluru.

We had a light breakfast @ a small tea shop just after Mysuru and soon hit the Mysuru - Bengaluru road. The traffic was a lot less now. Anyway, sunlight was a big factor which could make a lot of difference. It was a comfortable ride all the way till Bengaluru and we were at our offices before noon.

This was my first long bike trip and a precursor for many more to come. Undoubtedly, this was also my most eventful bike trip as well. The memories of this trip took a lot of time to fade, so did Vishal's wounds. Infact, he didnt tell his parents about the accident for a long time. The trip log stayed here with just a few pictures, since I could not have completed it until the secrets were made public :) The truth eventually came out in two versions, the first one was told by Vishal himself and was laced with 'creativity' and imagination'. The 2nd one was indeed the truth and Vishal was forced to spill it after he went to a bone-speicalist with his father :)

As a side note, Vishal's Callibre was involved in another accident and he soon sold it off. He later got himself a dilapidated bullet, which was termed 'an engineering disaster' by Pappan, another friend of ours :) Ofcourse, Vishal fervently rejects both adjectives / epithets for his bike and claims that it 'performs superbly'. Ultimately, its not the machine, but the heart of the rider that matters, isnt it? From what I know, he had been regularly going on road trips whenever his bullet's health allowed him to and the pillion seat was occupied. Let me dedicate this trip log to his resilience and spirit, wishing him many more of those safe and wonderful journeys!

References:
  1. Mysore road was only a single-lane road with no divider, during those times. Nowadays, its practically no-risk to drive in the night.
  2. I wrote this trip log a lot later, in Jan 2009, and is pretty confident driving anything in any conditions, but I will never recommend night driving on highways for in-experienced.
  3. We got only one due to ignorance. I believe that Helmets are a must for motor cycling and other motor cycling gears are also recommended. I used a helmet and proper motorcycling gear (jacket, gloves, knee cap ... etc) for all subsequent trips.



© 2017 Sandeep Unnimadhavan