FMLM – Boys on Bikes to Yercaud – By Abhisheka Jhunjhunwala

This week’s FMLM is about three bikers who took a seemingly simple bike ride to Yercaud (Tamil Nadu) but the ‘travel fairy’ kept playing tricks on them. From rains to tyre punctures, the trio braved all odds and made themselves some beautiful memories – all while sharing laughs and enjoying a camaraderie like most bikers do.

This was my last bike ride from Pondicherry as I was soon moving to Delhi for my new job. 

Our round trip was approximately 550 kilometers long and I was eagerly looking forward to the experience. So, on the D-Day, my friend Nirav and I set out from Pondicherry on our motorbikes early in the morning. 

We were heading to Salem, a bustling town in Tamil Nadu which is at the foothills of Shevaroy Hills. Another friend, Pavak was expected to join us there from Bangalore. The plan was for the three of us to ride uphill to Yercaud together.

The day started out well and we were doing good time. Amazing roads and endless landscapes kept our spirits up. However, just as we got onto the Golden Quadrilateral road from Villupuram, my bike began to wobble and I noticed the puncture in my back tyre. 

Luckily for me, there was a petrol bunk right off the road and I pushed the bike there to get it repaired. My friend Nirav, true to his group-riding instincts, had already raced ahead by then. After he realised, I was nowhere in sight he called my mobile and backtracked to where I was.

It wasn’t just a simple puncture that could “Indian Jugaad” could mend. The puncture repair man told me that the tube had to be changed! So much for planning, right? Well, it was only about 8 a.m. them and no shops in Villupuram were open. 

So, we decided to use this forced break to have a sumptuous breakfast at a nearby stall. We texted Pavak that we were running late and after breakfast waited outside the tyre shop until 9 p.m. Lady luck seemed to be on our side for the tyre shopkeeper had one last piece of the rear tube for the bullet. We thanked him profusely and returned to my bike, got it fixed and started on our ride back together.

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But the adventure wasn’t over yet. As we neared Ulundurpet, we noticed the sky begin to change colours. It was as if there was a dark cloud gathering up there and the regular clouds weren’t invited! Neither of us had planned for rains – much less, we didn’t even expect it. Already running late, we had no choice but to keep riding. And sure enough, we were hit by torrential rains just as we crossed the town and it slowed us down even more. To top it, the road was under repair, making our ride all the more difficult and slower. We stopped somewhere on the way for a hot cup of tea and the tea kadai owner was perplexed to see two guys drenched to the bone and riding bikes despite it.

Thankfully, the rain abated as we neared Salem. And once we were in the city, it stopped completely. The city was bone dry. We soon caught up with Pavak at the foothills and found him lazing on a bench with some monkeys jumping around nearby. He had been napping there for more than an hour and burst into laughter seeing us take off our wet clothes. After a short break, we rode up the hill to Yercaud. The ride was beautiful and we rode through clouds and light drizzle which slowly turned heavier. By the time we reached the top, we noticed that Yercaud was drenched and more rain was expected.

We unloaded our bags in a hotel Nirav had booked and then set out to explore the place. Yercaud is named after the lake (Yeri) in the centre of the town, and the forest (Kaadu) surrounding it. Although we didn’t go boating, we stopped by the lake and wolfed down hot, roasted ears of corn. Still hungry, we rode around and found a decent looking resort where we ordered a proper meal.

The weather started to go bad again. And as if that wasn’t enough of a dampener, there was power outage in the entire area too! Realising nature was playing with us, we decided to stay indoors. So, we bought ourselves some snacks and a bottle of whiskey, and headed back to the hotel. The hotel did not have power backup (no surprises there!). So, we sat out on the porch, opened the bottle and had long chat sessions on just about everything on this planet.

The next day was luckily bright and sunny, and we put some of our wet clothes out to dry. We then rode around Yercaud to look at the various tourist attractions. There was an echo point and a number of large, posh resorts. There is also a waterfall but we did not go there since we would have had to walk and were running out of time to start back for home.

Around midday we checked out of the hotel, filled up petrol and headed down the mountain. This turned out to be good fun. Pavak and I switched off our engines and rolled down the 30 kilometers (saving an entire litre of fuel in the process). We took turns leading and gaining momentum on the hairpin bends.

Once in Salem, we asked around for our way to the main highway and chanced upon an authentic biryani joint. The mutton biryani at this place was simply out of this world. Pavak actually ordered a second pot and needless to say, the contents of it disappeared in a trice!

With heavy stomachs we got back in the saddle and parted ways. Pavak headed back to Bangalore and we took the same road back.

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The weather gods probably took a liking to us for just we neared Ulundurpet, it started to rain again and did not stop for a good half hour. However, once it did, Nirav’s bike got punctured! It was almost 8 p.m. and I rushed ahead to find a mechanic. 

Thankfully, we were still in the good graces of someone up there as just near the outskirts of the town was a puncture repair shop. I took the handyman back to where Nirav was and he dismantled the tyre. Back at the shop, we found that his tyre-tube was in worse shape than mine had been, not to mention that the brake rubbers were completely burnt on the hub. The guy found a tube that matched the tyre and fixed it up. Luckily, this was the last snag and we had a smooth ride back to Pondicherry.

So, even though a good part of our ride was battling mother Nature or braving odds, it was an overall fun trip.

ROUTE MAP

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