10.000+ km in South India with an Enfield Bullet diesel — Trip 1 and 2
Trip 1: 2750km in nine days driving and one day resting in South India on a Bullet Enfield Diesel; makes an average of about 300km a day.
This was my journey: start from Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh), Bangalore, Mysore, Ooty, Munnar, Cherai Beach, Varkala, Ponmudi, Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Nagappattinam, Mamallapuram and back to Puttaparthi
Day 1: from Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh) to Gudalur (Tamil Nadu, 20km before Ooty) via Bangalore and Mysore.
It is my first time through Bangalore with a motorbike and I am a bit nervous. It’s a Muslim festival day, some roads are closed and I get a bit lost for half an hour.
The bike goes well and I like going fast over the speed breakers. It is around 5:30 pm when I arrive in Gudalur and my longest distance in a day on the Bullet with about 400 km.
I decide to do the toughest part of the Nilgiri Hills climb on the next day. Also I prefer to stay in a smaller town, because there is less noise and pollution.
In the evening I realize that the fixation straps of the saddle bag are broken; from now on I will behave and go slow up the speed breakers.
Day 2: from Gudalur (Tamil Nadu) to Kalianappandal via Coimbatore.
I have the straps of the saddlebag repaired and leave after some idlis and a chai.
As I don’t know how the diesel Bullet will be in the Hills I decide to go slow uphill; after few kilometers I realize that I can’t go faster anyway! Sometime I use the second gear but most of the time the first gear.
In two places even the first gear is not enough, so while still on the bike I paddle with my feet on the asphalt to reach the top. I laughed so much you would not believe.
When I reach Pykhara Lake I thought that was it, the bike seemed exhausted and powerless and I already imagine a longer vacation in Ooty and a return by bus. I have a break to let the engine and my legs cool down and miracle the bike seems to go well after that.
After Ooty, there are lots of diversions to reach Coonoor and Coimbatore because of the recent rainfalls and landslides.
At Coimbatore I go the wrong direction; realizing that the sun was in my back instead of my right shoulder for a bit too long, I ask few villagers and indeed I am on the way to Erode to the East. I take some small roads and reach Kalianappandal South of Coimbatore only by night.
I am very tired. I have an ice cream and go straight to bed.
Day 3: from Kalianappandal (Tamil Nadu) to Cherai Beach (Kerala, North of Ernakulum) via Munnar.
I leave before sunrise, as I do most days.
The ride up to Maraiyur is fantastic. I stop every few kilometers to listen to the birds and breathe the magnificent views. The bike works fine and I am very happy to have taken the decision to do this trip. Often on this journey, I have tears of gratitude experiencing so much beauty. From Munnar down into the Kerala region is very green but I don’t enjoy it so much; lots of construction and traffic. I have no idea where to spend the night, but decide to go North of Kochi with an option to go North towards Gokarna or maybe South towards Kanyakumari on the next day.
As usual I ask Bhagawan to guide me and so I arrive in Cherai Beach. I have never heard of Cherai before; sweet little beach and a great place to do pictures.
I have a little room (150 rps only) in a very friendly family house next to the beach.
My bum hurts, I am not used to driving a bike for long. I wash my clothes and go to bed after dinner.
Day 4 and 5: from Cherai Beach to Varkala via Kochi, Sabarimala, Pathanamthuta and Alleppey.
My bum has recovered and I decide to go towards the South of India.
I don’t stay long on the main road and go through little villages along the coast and inland.
I arrive in Varkala in the afternoon and find a very nice penthouse room at low season rate (350 rps only).
I was in Varkala 10 years ago, what a change, but in a good way. I like it and decide to stay here for an extra day. It is just before the tourist rush of Christmas and the local people are not so stressed.
Day 6: from Varkala to Kanyakumari via Ponmudi.
While leaving Varkala, I see a signboard "Visit Ponmudi Hills". Never heard of Ponmudi before, but I decide to go...
Ponmudi is sweet; very few persons seem to go there, probably too much of a transportation hassle for such a little place. The ride in the hills was fun.
And then finally I reach Kanyakumari just before sunset.
I was here years ago and it looks like ten times more shops and hotels. For me a sad city, filled with "one day" visitors but still, a grandiose view at the Vivekananda Rock!
Day 7: from Kanyakumari to Rameswaram via Tuticorin and a little visit at Dhanushkodi, the closest point to Sri Lanka.
Beautiful weather, no traffic, a new road and a very relaxing drive.
I would love to spend the night in Dhanushkodi but there are no rooms there, so I drive back to Rameswaram.
Day 8: from Rameswaram to Nagappattinam
Again a very beautiful road and no traffic, cool! Only one problem, goats everywhere; no speed breaker needed, they do the job very well.
I stop for a chai on the side of the road and I am quickly surrounded by lots of sweet kids. They take me to their village. There, I am offered 2 coconuts to drink and to eat by a fisherman and I bit later I am presented with two women and the villagers asked me if I had like to marry one! They tell me that I was only the second foreigner to come to their village in the last 10 years!
Today I also saw this enormous cobra crossing the road while I was driving at around 60 km/h; I only missed it by a bit because my head was more in the landscape than the road at that moment.
I saw 2 dead women in their 30s on the side of the road; I guess they have been hit by a passing truck or bus. It must have been a minute before I passed with the bike. Sad. I did not stop as I could see lots of villages people running towards the accident place.
I spend the night at the Golden Sand Hotel; nice old style single room (95 rps only). If you like to see the golden sand, the beach is at 1 km!
Day 9: from Nagappattinam to Mamallapuram via Pondicherry along the coast of Tamil Nadu.
Coming into Cudalore, I cannot recognize a big long hole in the road and with about 55-60 km/h, it hurts. No time to brake, I make a big jump and both fixation straps of the saddlebag break again and I almost fall of the bike.
There is a lot of traffic and driving feels very dangerous around Pondicherry. Not cool and I am bit stressed.
I think to stay in Auroville for the night but the inner voice tells me to drive up to Mamallapuram. That part of the road is very nice...
Mamallapuram! My most unpleasant stay during those 10 first days: dirty and dusty, my worst food of the trip (dinner and breakfast), dozens of locals using the beach as a toilet in the morning and waste water going into the sea via the beach?!
One fisherman asked me money because I made a picture of him and he was quite serious in his words?! I know he was not offended; he just tried his luck for a bonus.
There are few exclusive beach resort around Mamallapuram and I could imagine that it may have triggered some local people, to know that some guests can afford 5000+ rupees for a night.
This is only my personal experience and thoughts anyway!
Certainly fantastic stone carving and a great place to do sunrise photography, but I guess I would try a place further north next time I am in this region.
Day 10: from Mamallapuram to Puttaparthi via Vellore, Chittoor and Madanapalle.
I like Andhra Pradesh a lot and I am happy to go back to Puttaparthi.
I have few weeks rest and I leave again for the second part of my bike journey through South India.
Part 2 of the journey: start from Puttaparthi, Tiruvannamalai, Chennai, Pulicat, Ongole, Bhimawaram, Vishakhapatnam, Malakangiri (Orissa), Khammam, Mahbunagar, Hampi (resting day) and back to Puttaparthi.
Day 11: from Puttaparthi to Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu) via Horseley Hills.
I know this road well but I have never been in Horseley Hills. Cool little place.
The bike was serviced before departure but the gear change seems a bit harder today? after few more kilometers comes the answer: the clutch cable brakes. I am not too worried because actually the problem is only really when I have to stop. I pass through few villages until I see a mechanic workshop at the entrance of Madanapalle and then I just stall the engine and ask for help. New cable and repair cost, 120 rps.
It rains a bit just before Tiruvannamalai. I have some nice sunset pictures just before, cool!
Tiruvannamalai is fully packed with foreigners and I have to spend the night at some friends house. Usually I stay at the Sheshadri Ashram or at Tasty Café (great food too!)
Day 12: from Tiruvannamalai to Pulicat via Gingee and Chennai.
Good morning Arunachala
Today I feel to drive at around 50 km/h only up to Chennai. I pass through a deserted Chennai (it was Pongal!) and then feel to continue further. I look at the map and go towards “Pulicat”. It is already late and I drive around 75 km/h to try to reach Pulicat before night.
In Pulicat I ask for a room and I am told “no room in Pulicat, you must drive back 20 km”.
I feel that I will stay here for the night, so I sit down for a chai and hope for a little miracle!
After few minutes a man comes and says to me “you can stay at my house!” wow cool!
I go with him but he then tells me then that it is not possible (I guess his wife said so, it was a Muslim family with lots of kids, not easy!).
I wait again and he comes back to tell me that he has a house for me for the night. Unbelievable.
I had a nice fisherman house just for me, but I had to promise him that I would leave next day. Okay.
That was cool Bhagawan! Thank you.
Dasy 13: from Pulicat (Tamil Nadu) to Ongole (Andhra Pradesh) via Nellore
I try to go to the coast and I arrive at a place called Krishnanagar (not too sure anymore?). That is the most astonishing place I have seen in India. Lots of trucks, a new railway track and a big road leading to an enormous industrial complex. Security control everywhere; I wondered later how I could have come so close anyway. When they finally stopped me, they escorted me back for few kilometers.
That was somewhere south of Nellore. I expected some idyllic spot like Pulicat…
Later I have an other try towards the coast and that was really very nice; great pictures and cool adventure with a shortcut through some sandy landscape for about 10 km guided by a little boy on my back seat.
Day 14: from Ongole to Bhimawaram in the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.
The Highway passes through Vijayawada. To avoid the highway road and to have more chances of nice views I go along the coast and pass the Krishna river at Repalle. The bridge is not on the map, so I was very surprise and happy with that choice of route.
Day 15: from Bhimavaram to Vishakhapatnam.
Not too much to report. I did a lot of highway driving and it is good because I decided on that evening for something a bit more challenging for the next days.
Today was the first time that suddenly I felt really tired during the day; I took the first road left out of the highway and went for a nap on my yoga mat under a tree far from road and villages. Almost an hour later, I woke up with a group of kids around me looking at me in silence. India is so sweet!
One thing to know: I could not find a place to stay at Vishakhapatnam beach; no hotel allowed foreigners, so I had to find a room in the city.
Something else quite cool; Highways are (still) free for 2 wheelers.
Day 16: from Vishakhapatnam to Malakangiri (Orissa)
I have absolutely no idea what to expect but after few kilometers backwards on the highway I go inland towards Anakapalle, then Paderu, Jalaput Reservoir, Jeypore and finally Malakangiri in Orissa.
That was a great idea: lots of tribal villages, hills up to 1000m alt, a beautiful landscape and plenty of surprises.
Some parts of the road are in a catastrophic condition and I expected a puncher any moment, but Grace was with me and I must say, this was the best part of the journey yet!
It is a very difficult journey if you try by bus or even a car. I drove quite fast because I guessed I will only find a bed in Malakangiri (I arrived at 6 pm); and indeed there is only one hotel (actually there are two!) there and they told me that they see maybe one foreigner every 6 months.
All the people are very friendly and no one tried to cheat me; unbelievable actually. The hotel room was 90 rps only! They could have asked much more but they just don’t think this way. The hotel staff woke me up at 10 pm and asked for the lock of the Bullet because they said they would put the bike in the reception hall for the night! Great service too!
I hope to go back in this region one day…
Day 17: from Malakangiri to Khammam in Andhra Pradesh.
A very tough day!
The road is a bit better than the day before but I think I decided to do too many kilometers in a day in those though road condition.
I have a big surprise around lunch time; the crossing of the Sabari river. I arrive at the river side and there is no bridge! I ask someone and he points towards the other side of the river; I see a tiny boat with no engine!
The Bullet with luggage is over 200 kg and I guess trouble!
But no, they put the Bullet on the boat over a wooden ramp and voila I was in Konta and back in Andhra Pradesh for 15 rps.
A bit later I cross the Bogawari river and reach Borganipad and I have my first puncher; not possible to be luckier, it happened next to a puncher repair service. I had to wait for the man to finish his lunch and then he did the job. 50 rps and vroom, full throttle, I am very late and I like to reach Khammam before night.
I am so exhausted when I reach Khammam and go straight to bed.
Day 18: Khammam to Mahbubnagar.
The craziest day of all!
I have a tendency to forget to fill up the tank, so I have tried to make it a habit to visit the petrol station first thing in the morning.
At 7:00 am the tank is full and I decide to go south towards Guntur.
At 7:15 am, there is a roadblock on a bridge in front of me and they all chant “Jay Telangana”. Police is everywhere and the tension is high. I see trucks with broken windscreens and some are holding stones in their hands.
I try my luck and drive my way to the edge of the barricade. I tell them “please, I am a foreigner and I had like to go to Puttaparthi – Sai Baba”. First angry looks but then, surprisingly one man said ”If you chant Jay Telangana, we let you through!” So I chanted “Jay Telangana, Jay…” They ask for my camera to make a picture. I was a bit worried but I felt I better do not play to smart here and gave them my camera. They took a picture of me and the crowd chanting “Jay Telangana”. And then they let me through. wow, that was really at the limit; fanatics can be really dangerous in India... and it could have turn really bad.
My joy is short lived; there is another roadblock maybe 10 km later. They are a lot more aggressive and I decide to wait almost half an hour before I try my way through. After I show them the pictures from the previous roadblock, they let me through again!
The petrol stations are all closed by now and you can only find diesel in one liter bottles in some little shops on the side of road for 70 to 100 rupees a liter; normally 35-38 rupees.
I pass 3 more roadblocks like that, but then I decide to change the trip direction and to go towards Karnataka and then the word “Hampi” came very clearly as a destination.
I take some small roads to avoid the roadblocks and arrive in Nalgonda District.
I go off road and reach two tribal villages; they invite me to a welcome alcoholic drink made of fermented rice or coconuts I guess (I never drink) and then the kids take me for a 1 km walk for a swim.
At 6:30 pm I reach Mahbubnagar close to Karnataka.
I am completely exhausted. No clothes washing tonight. A big ice cream and I disappear in my bed. I close the light in the room and surprise, the ceiling is covered in fluorescent stars. That was just 100% cool!
Day 19 and 20: from Mahbubnagar to Hampi (Karnataka)
Easy ride. The back brake has become very noisy and braking feels a bit weird?
The hardest part of the day is to find a reasonable room in Hampi. I am offered a horrible room for 500 rps and some a bit better for 1500 rps (recommended by the Lonely Planet). It is full season and the locals charge as much as possible.
Finally just before I decide to go to Hospet for the night, I find a brand new room with fantastic bathroom for only 400 rps.
A big problem in Hampi is the enormous quantity of mosquitoes. I have dinner at 6:00 pm and I disappear into my cozy room.
On day 20, I go to Hospet and I have this beautiful experience: I spend the morning at the motorbike workshop to have the back brake fixed. The repairs are slow to start and even slower in their progress; it's India and I have learned to just be and let things happen at God's speed.
Around lunch time, I ask innerly "why am I in this waiting position"... and then I feel to go to have something to eat... I leave the workshop and after a minute or so walk, I see a little boy holding his bicycle on his left side and looking at the coming traffic towards the right side. On his left is a truck and suddenly the truck moves backwards; the boy has no awareness of what is happening, his focus is on the coming traffic.
I grab the boy at one arm and the bike with the other and pull him to my side on the sidewalk... all happens so fast that I realized later that it was not me doing it. It was like 2 or 3 times faster than normal speed but I can't really explain it!?
The truck driver didn't stop because it was behind his angle of vision and I guess that the boy would be squeezed under his bike and the double wheels of the truck.
A man gave the boy a big slap behind the head and another person congratulated me with "You are a good man"
Later I cried in gratitude as I realized how my question had been answered, "Why am I in this waiting position?"...
Om Sai Ram
Day 21: Hampi to Puttaparthi
About 250 km only. Most of the road from Bellary to Ananatapur is in a very bad condition. It is maybe wiser to go via Gooty on the highway, but again, if you like to see nice things they are not often on the highways…