“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Solo Ride

It had been quite some time since I went for a long ride in my bike. Those who are not familiar with long distance motorcycling would not know the pleasure, the sense of elation that riding a bike gives, whether on express highways or mountainous roads. Unlike in a car where you are boxed in and without the direct experience of the surroundings that you pass by, a ride in a bike, despite its comparative lack of comfort, is an exhilarating experience.

Last Saturday I went to Kodaikanal on a solo ride on my bike. The destination was not Kodaikanal per se, but a village called Mannavannur about 32 km further from Kodai. Other than the solo ride, the objective was to scout for some land for our Nature Conservation NGO. We are looking for suitable locations in different parts of the Western Ghats to establish Field Stations to conduct studies, monitor the forest area etc. We already have started working at Attappadi and in Peppara Sanctuary in Kerala. Being partial to cold weather, Kodai was a choice.

I started off at around 1500 hrs from Trivandrum, rode to Madurai via Nagercoil, over a distance of about 330 kms. Reached Madurai in about 6 ½ hours, met up with the other two friends who had come in a 4 wheel drive and went to Mannavannur on the next day, which is nearly 200 km from Madurai. Over the next three days we went around looking for suitable plots. The land is too expensive, quoted at Rs.5,00,000/- per acre. But more than that what was most despairing and shocking is what Tamil Nadu has done to its forests.

What seems as forests are not natural; they are just plantations of Eucalyptus and Wattle. These once grasslands and natural forests which had served as the source and catchment area for rivers have been now sucked dry. The only shrubs that you find in these forests are the exotic weeds such as Lantana and Eupatorium. Almost all mountains are covered with it; the rest have vegetable cultivation. There are hardly 7 or 8 species of birds in common sight. The only wild mammals are the Gaur ( Bison), Wild Boars or a few Sambar deers that stray into the farm lands. The landscape is a cold desert, green in colour. I pity those tourists who throng to Kodaikanal. The government has retained small patches of natural vegetation in the key tourist areas. Anyway, what do the tourists care?

Our contacts at Palni Hills Conservation Council, an organization which has been working on conservation of Kodai and surrounding areas told us of the disturbing situation. The Government is hardly interested in conservation and look upon forest land as only a revenue generating resource.

Three days later I rode back, not even stopping at Kodaikanal. I took a different route –via Betelgundu, Perayur, Rajapalayam, Shenkottai. It is shorter and much more scenic than the Express Highway from Nagercoil to Madurai. I took exactly 12hours – which includes 1 ½ hours of butt (bum) breaks.

Riding bike with time constraint means less photos. Yet I took a few, just to note the different landscapes – the highly windy, dry route through Nagercoil – Tirunelveli; the monoculture- cursed mountains of Palni Hills, the rich farmlands beneath the shadow of Western Ghats – and then Kerala.

As I paused at the bottom of the Ariankavu Pass that separates Kerala and Tamil Nadu, a few drops on rain fell on me. Malayalees take their land for granted. I don’t think there is any other part of the country as endowed with natural beauty as Kerala. Yet we continue to destroy and plunder it, in the name of tourism and development.

6 -lane Express Highway

Old railway line near Ariyankavu, Kerala

Farmlands en route Rajapalayam




Sheep Research Farm, Mannavannur 

A respite 

Kerala! Near Ariyankavu

Common House Sparrow - nearing extinction

Forests of Tamil Nadu! 

Klavara Village - the mountain sides are full of Eucalyptus and Wattle
A Dog &  a Doc ( Dr Sreenivasan, my friend) 


Looking for Land

Jungle Crow
********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum , 23.06.2011


  1. Glad to see you back.Will come back later to read the post.

  2. You rocks ! It's really lot of travel,esp on a bike..

    The sense of elation while riding a bike,I can agree with you,since I, for once did it from Vasco-da-Gama (goa) to panjim.I understand now that it was my life time opportunity.

    On the forests of kodai or elsewhere, for a malayalee,we just can't tolerate.They may elaborate you as if we have not seen one..but that's it.pity.

    Thanks for the post !

  3. WOWOWO now thats what i like long rides, i have done a few in india, then i imorted a enfield to uk and have gone to scotland-wales etc for drives ... you said it right only the ones who ride know the pleasure...

    the pic's in the post are beautiful ... and 5lkh for a acre thats cheap , in punjab u will have to pay croressss..

    thanks for sharing..


  4. Aaah, lucky you!! That would have been one heck of a ride :) Solo? Hmmmm...more the fun.

    Yes, Keralites take their land for granted; the little Kerala I have seen has always surprised me - the nature, the rich vegetation; yet people dont seem to realize what treasure they hold.

    anyone for that matter; we dont realize it. Kodai? I thought Kodai has become a slave to tourism; I didnt like all that commercialization and thus the death of forests. Its sad...

    Pictures are super awesome! I especially like that railway line on the bridge; seen it in many movies and it awes me.

  5. Good to see you here,Balan. I was in the middle of the change of job.

    I had always wanted to make some such trips.I dont know how and when.Full of unexpected and unanticipated issues.

    Beautiful pictures.

  6. Goodness gracious!

    On a bike? this far? During Monsoons? On these roads?

    My jaws are still wide open!

  7. Mr B - solo ride in the monsoon..you making me envious .. Kodai is another hole which makes money..the rich green gave way to the dry brownish green of the eucalyptus long time back.. on the other side of the Ghats, in nammude keralam, things are on a whole different level.. hope it stays green like this always :)

  8. Am i envious or am i envious .This is something that i really need right now .A break from my usual routine.I can handle a scooter easily ( i used to ten years back) but bike ,i don't know.Glad you had such a nice time.The pictures are beautiful.

  9. Nice to see you are having a good time Balan Sir! Thanks for the pictures too.

    You are part of the puzzle I have put together recently. Please check out my last two posts at NRIGirl

    Thank you!

  10. Hi Balachandran V, Nice blog you got here! try visit my new post: Blog SEO Tutorial: How to Choose the Best Title For Post. I hope you will learn something from it. Have a great day!

  11. Your photo of "Kerala near Aryankavu", tells the story of how fortunate Keralites are.The green transformation that sets in front when one enter the state borders from any which way!
    Remember that goon we had as Chief minister the dead and gone 'Karunakaran' wanted to plunder "eravikulam" and make the remaining rivers and streams of Kerala dry.

    And "eco tourism' that is a misnomer.Using that phrase means that there can be tourism which degrades ecology and nature and they are allowed. isn't it?
    There can only be tourism or any acts of man that are compliant with nature else there can only be oblivion.

  12. Very nice picks Balanji, I loved all the flowers. I am sure it must have been an amazing experience riding the the bike ... "Solo Rider"

  13. There is a documentary film by Gaurav Jani called 'Riding Solo'. It is about his motorcycle journey from Mumbai to one of the remotest places in the world, the Changthang Plateau in Ladakh, bordering China. Jani was a one-man camera crew unit who loaded his Royal Enfield Bullet 350CC Motorcycle (Loner) with 300 kilograms (660 lb) of equipment/supplies and set off on a journey to one of the world's most difficult terrains. I am sure you'd love to see that. This was one of the film's screened in Vatavaran.

  14. @kalpana: Yes, I have a copy of Gaurav Jani's docu with me.


Leave a word, please!