Ooty! Our first long distance ride.

It was six months back when we took our first step in bike touring with a trip to Mekedatu. All plans for the next trip, remained just that - plans! We even made plans to ditch the bikes and go camping; hiring the necessary gears and all.  Even that didn't work out. But then came one weekend, when during our usual exchange of blah blahs, we realised, if we didn't go on a trip the next weekend, it would be months before we got another chance. Few weeks of waiting would mean month-end money pressures. Secondly, Robin was being sent to Australia on duty in May and that meant the keenest amongst us wouldn't be available for a trip next month. Ooty and Mysore as possible locations sprung up. Mysore seemed mundane while Ooty just the opposite. With just the weekend available to us, 650 km seemed to be too adventurous, even downright crazy. But we decided to do it anyway!

The next week was spent looking for places to stay in Ooty. Being an Easter weekend, accommodation was hard to come by. So the the day before the trip we decided to take our chances and look for accommodation once we get there. Vikram dropped out the last minute and this meant it would be just the four of us on two bikes.

Unni's brand new Bullet Classic was all set for its first long ride along with the not so new Pulsar, that made the Makedatu trip. At seven in the morning, we set off. We made the mistake of going via Kanakapura as the Mysore-Bangalore highway would have been faster and smoother. But all said and done we got a chance to explore a less travelled path bypassing Mysore (asking for directions at every intersection) via Kollegal, T Narsipur and Nanjangud to join the Ooty road. The roads on the Kollegal - T Narsipur stretch were mostly single or 1.5 lanes wide with some short stretches under repair. The temple at Nanjangud was coloured differently from any I had seen before and was strikingly beautiful. Ooty road was a breeze and we made for lost time by doing a nonstop ride upto Bandipur via Begur and Gundlupet.

Enroute to Ooty

Temple at Nanjangud

After Bandipur we had a choice of taking the route via Masinagudi or Gudalur. The former was shorter but had 36 hairpin bends. Unni's Bullet was on reserve and we chose the Masinagudi route as it had a petrol bunk    7km away.  So we made our way past a narrow bridge, towards Masinagudi. After filling up our bikes and quenching our thirst at an Essar Pump at Masinagudi, we set off for the final destination. Soon we reached the first of the 36 hairpin bends leading upto Ooty. Along the way was a view point, where we stopped for some pics and rest. Here Unni decided to take off his helmet and pass it to me. With the helmet in one hand and a camera in the other shooting a video of our climb, I forgot all about my brand new jacket which fell off my lap :(

Ride through Bandipur Reserve Forest

Exiting Karnataka

One of the few "wild" animals we spotted

The narrow bridge at the start of the Masinagudi route

Filling up at an Essar bunk

As we climbed higher the Bullet started to show signs of fatigue. It was huffing and puffing away in first gear. The poor thing could have done with some rest (as we would find out the next day). At about 5pm we were in Ooty and the chills validated it. We stopped for some tea and asked around for rooms. An initial negative response, gave way to a possibility of a single room. It turned out to be a neat place with a clean toilet and cable TV! All for Rs 2500. Although Robin felt we should look around for more places, I felt it would be too tiring and finding a similar place at that price would be difficult. Yes, it was a little luxurious (excepting having to share a bed meant for two) but it was clean and had hot water facility! We soon paid up and decided to change before going to grab bite and exploring Ooty. Kempa unwittingly had a cold (read ice cold) water bath as Unni who went in first and was a victim himself did not divulge that the geyser wasn't working! We had a good laugh :D.  It turned out that the Geyser had to be turned on from outside the room.

The first chills of Ooty were felt at this point

One of the 36 hairpin bends

We did not have a proper meal since breakfast at Kanakapura and we were famished. We gobbled some parotas and chicken curry (wasn't very good) and headed out to explore Ooty at night. I was on the look out for "Modern Stores" which I had read stocked good home made chocolates. Ooty at night wasn't all that great. We explored the railway station area, which just had some cheap looking stores selling dresses, wollens, shoes, jewelery and all sorts of things. But chocolates seemed to be elusive. I had read that Charing Cross had some good bakeries and we had passed by a signboard indicating the direction to that place. We decided to try our luck there. And it turned out this was the place we were looking for. Full of shops selling sweatshirts, tea, leather goods and yes chocolates! Soon we found "Modern Stores" (which turned to be a full fledged supermarket) and picked up chocolates and some chips for the night as the parotas had ruined our appetite. Something unique here was bottled water being stacked in shelves outside the store;  it was cooler outside than inside the store.We then got back to the room and crashed for the night.

Fountain at Charing cross

The first photo featuring all of us: (L to R) Unni, Kempraj, Robin, Anoop

Shopping at Charing cross

Outside Modern Stores (Water being chilled outside)

And thus we crashed for the night

The next morning we decided to explore Conoor before heading back home. The ride lead us through the beautiful Nilgiri range full of twisting roads. But we couldn't stop for anything except breakfast as we were unsure if we can get back home in time. Overnight rest seemed to have done the Bullet a lot of good as it stopped putting on any tantrums. After breakfast, we set off on the route we had come. We did explore the possibility of returning via Coimbatore but was shot down due to the uncertainties of the route. We stopped at Ooty to pick some chocolates for Unni, who didn't pick any the last night. The ride back was largely uneventful but for the Bullet's brakes smoking on the down hill ride due to all the stress applied to it. We decided to return via Mysore and made it there by lunch time. We feasted on Biryani and the tandoor fare at a hotel next to the palace. After a quick photo session at the palace, we were cruising on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. The Bullet gave us a scare by switching off for no apparent reason, but we got it started again and it didn't bother us further. We stopped midway at Madur for some Madur vadas and coffee and resumed our ride to Bangalore. After a bit of confusion at the outskirts of Bangalore about the best route to take, we made it back home, safe and sound, by 8:30pm.

Tea estates enroute to Conoor
Winding roads through the Nilgiris

Short clip of the downhill ride after exiting Ooty (return journey)

Feasting on the Tandoor platter at Mysore

A royal walk!

Mysore-Bangalore highway

653.7 km in two days!

Lesson learnt from this trip: Plan the route, stoppages, places to visit if there is a time constraint.

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