Distance : 170km Total Elevation Gain : 5583m
Max. Elevation :1140m Min Elevation : 121m
Date Ridden : 02 May 2014
Traffic : General traffic, mixed, 2 way, lots of blind turns, Caution, keep your ears & eyes wide open. Road : Some of the smoothest roads I have ridden on except for an intermittent less than average 7k stretch near the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border.
Notes : Pack enough of food, supplies & anything else you might need, it is one long lonely ride.
Ok, spoilers alert, the route starts in Valparai runs through Sholayar dam & the catchment area, downstream to Kerala border where you register before entering the reserve forest and then on it’s one humid, lonely journey all the way to Athirappilly falls and back, through some dense evergreen forests and some pretty good chances that you will scare some wild animals or otherwise, depending on if you have wet your Lycra by then or not.. 😀 . Wayside shops are too few and far between.
Now for the story, the route starts out like a dream in Valparai with amazing views winding through the tea plantations towards the Sholayur Dam & Lake almost 20km later, passing through tiny villages and if you have chosen the right day bright but not a too hot sun, with some good rolling terrain to prime you up for the route ahead. Passing the dam you hit the Tamil Nadu check post quite soon and the roads after the dam are not too mention worthy for the next 10 – 12 km, that does in no way discount them for road bikes, just that you might not be able to test your speed skills. But the rest of the route after that is just a pure delight to ride.
Another 5 km down the check-post you enter Kerala the so called God’s own country and the western ghats, the evergreen forests on the west coast. You will have to register at the check-post and now this is where the fun starts. For one, it’s all downhill and the views are just irresistible, it might get a little humid and sweaty, that’s why you don’t stop, just enjoy wind on your face and on your body and keep going down the winding roads. And by the time you have reached the Water falls you would have lost a total elevation of 1200m and would have ridden 85km down hill. From here the lesser mortals can just pack up their bikes into cars and drive away and the others might consider some refueling for the ride back up to Valparai. and while you are there you might want to consider some rest with a view of the waterfalls because that one view is what’s going to keep you on your saddle for the next 85km of uphill grind.
The route will start easy and continue like that for some time but you will not know when the climb has hit you. But it creeps up on you and by the time you realise you have shifted to smallest ring and the largest cog it eases out a bit but that’s just a breather and it doesn’t really end. With the final kick in the tail right in the last 10km of the ride. Going uphill is when the humidity hits you and the thick canopy of the evergreen forests don’t help the cause either. A little distraction that might take your attention off your pain and focus on creeping you out might be the weird noises of crickets, other insects, monkeys, wild boar, bisons, elephants, Malabar flying squirrels and other wild beast. They will keep you company and might surprise you with a visit once in a while, motivating you to keep your guns firing. All I would suggest is just don’t pee your Lycra and stay there without raising an alarm and that too shall pass. 😛 In the humidity and the heat each time you climb a hairpin bend and the canopy clears out a bit, letting in some sunlight and a gentle cool breeze just brush you past, feeling like heaven. The route relents a bit just before the Kerala border and till Sholayar Dam downstream. The route taunts you one last time with one steep climb right after you spot the dam. Once you are done with that, the final 20km is quite gradual climb averaging 1 – 2% but after 150km, it feels a lot worse than 2% grade. But as the Velominati wold say Obey Rule #5: Harden The Fuck Up. And if you have gotten past this, get home and get yourself some well deserved Beer.
ps: Special thanks to Selvi E & Manoharan for being my backup crew without whose moral support this ride would have been almost been impossible.