Monsoon ride amidst apple orchards & tea gardens of Kerala
By Sarvesha Samaga
When a newspaper report about Apple farms at Kanthalloor near Munnar appeared, it was something of a surprise!! If a tiny village like Kanthalloor in Kerala can offer exotic wild fruits, magnificent views of Western Ghats, its green cover, flowing streams, animals in the wild, proximity to tea gardens of Munnar and most interestingly throw up the challenge of climbing the highest peak in the entire southern part of India, what more you can expect! Pack your bags and head straight to this ‘Gods own country’.
So did the 10 daredevil cyclists from Mangalore during this monsoon weekend on 23rd & 24th July 2016. Arriving by the Mangalore – Puducherry Express, the riders re-assembled their bicycle and started the ride from Palghat on their quest for glory on 23rd July 2016 at 5am. Passing through the towns of Pollachi & Udumalipettai in Tamil Nadu on the Pollachi-Udumalaipettai-Munnar road, the riders encountered strong head & tail winds with speeds up to 18 kmph near the wind farm area. By 10.30am, they had covered a distance of approximately 100 km.
After a quick lunch near the Tamil Nadu - Kerala border, the riders continued their journey climbing one mountain at a time, enjoying magnificent waterfalls, large lakes, dense forest, flora, fauna, wild boars, mountain goats and monkeys, before reaching Marayoor a tiny village known for its natural sandalwood forests & ancient dolmens dating back to the Stone & Iron Ages.
From Marayoor to Kanthalloor, the journey was only 15 km, but the path was entirely uphill & beyond any of the riders' imagination, the average gradient touching as high as 11~12% for quite long stretches. The riders started climbing this humungous staircase to the heaven one after another, chit-chatting, singing, whistling at will and reaching Anaimudi, the highest peak in south India, with an elevation of 2,695 metres, around 5pm. Riders headed straight into one of the local apple farms and got a scenic view the apple orchard, for which they all had travelled all this way!
The next day, the group rode all the way downhill to Munnar and to Ernakulam city, passing through tea plantations all the way, catching glimpses of wild elephants amidst thick plantations & green grass. It was time to say goodbye when riders boarded the train for return journey, thus ending one of the most adventurous rides of the calendar. And the statistics recorded in the cycling app Strava and GPS device Garmin said it all about the intensity of the ride - 314 km, 5,300 meters of elevation gain, 15 hours of riding time and expending 9,200 calories!
The majestic mountains, dense forests, sandalwood trees, flowing rivers, gorgeous waterfalls, beautiful tea gardens, courteous people, the culture, yummy & delicious food all have reinforced in each of the riders the fact that Kerala is truly a special place on earth and no wonder why it is called the ‘Gods own country’!