South India has one of the Best motorcycle routes one should ever explore, the most important routes are Bangalore to Ooty, Chennai to Goa, Kochi to Goa, Kerala, Hampi, and so many other destinations. One of the unexplored places in Valparai, Valparai was on my Travel list for almost 2 years because of its uniqueness like 40 hairpin bends, most density of Elephants in South India, and Lion-tailed Macaques which is found in some parts of Western Ghats. It was a 3-day trip we planned for. To make this trip more memorable we planned to explore a new route to Valparai.
Usually, most of the riders driving from Bangalore to Valparai take either the Salem-Coimbatore route or Satyamangalam – Pollachi route. We decided to take the Sathyamangalam route but not from Kanakapura-Chamarajanagar, but an unexplored route that diverts from Kollegala and enters into Hasanur Ghat, which goes deep into the forest of Sathyamangala tiger reserve.
We left Bangalore around 5.00 in the morning & hit Bangalore-Mysore highway, we were cruising at the speed of 80-90kmph and reached Maddur at 6.30, we took diversion in Maddur towards Malavalli and road was in bad condition till u reach Malavalli. After u crossing Malavalli NH 209 begins which is in excellent condition, we reached Kollegal at 8.00 am and had breakfast at Shetty Hotel.
After Kollegal we didn’t take the regular Chamaraja Nagar- Sathyamangala road, but we took a diversion towards Ramapura and then towards Hasanur Ghat. After we took diversion the roads took you to some villages of Chamarajanagar dist, Till Karnataka border road was in worst condition, but once u enter TamilNadu border at Germalam village the roads become smooth and nice.
Hasanur ghat road is usually used by localities for their daily Movement and most of them won’t use this road after Dusk, because Elephants movement is very common in this road. After crossing the TN border we could not see any vehicle till we reach Dhimbam, Dhimbam is the border town for Karnataka –TN states in NH 209. One should not the chance to taste the Tea at Dhimbam, After having Tea and some Hot Bajjis we started our ride towards Sathyamangalam town, to reach Sathyamangala village from Dhimbam u need to descend 29 Hairpin bends which is told be one of the most difficult/dangerous ghat road in southern India.
Accidents/Breakdowns are very common on this road. That’s why most of the travelers who travel from the TN side will take the blessing s of the “Bannari Amman” temple at Sathyamangal town which is at the foothills of Dhimbam Ghat.
We were driving very cautiously in the ghat road, suddenly while crossing the 5th hairpin bend my bike clutch cable got cut, somehow I managed to reach the safe place to park the bike. Thank god, nothing happened, coz a heavy truck was just behind me……
Since we got all the spare parts, within 15min of time we fixed the Clutch cable and started our journey towards Sathyamangala, after competing with 29 hairpin bends we reached Bannari temple at 10.30 am. We took blessing at Bannari Amman temple and started our ride towards Pollachi, summer in Tamil Nadu is too hot. We were started to take a break for every 45min and searching for cold drinks...
After riding under a burning sun we reached Pollachi at 2.00noon, from there the real fun begins. Soon after Pollachi, we hit the road towards Valparai which is 65km. We started ascending towards Valparai, before the ghat road starts in the beginning itself we get “Aliyar Dam”, the view is just magnificent. After that will get Monkey Falls because u will find a hell lot of monkeys there. Then Loams viewpoint which is on 9th Hairpin Bend. Valparai goes between two reserve forests are “Indira Gandhi National Park” and “Aliyar Reserve Forest”. One should experience the ride of 40 hairpin bend, it's truly amazing. We reached Valparai at 5.30 pm and called the day off.
Bangalore to Valparai Route: Bangalore-Maddur-Kollegal-Hasanur Ghat-Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve-Pollachi-Valparai
Hairpin Bends: Dhimbam Ghats - 29 + Valparai - 40 = 69 hairpin bends
Time: 5am to 5.30pm
Valparai is a small town and the people are very humble. We stayed at Hotel Green hill, which is decent & within Budget. They charge some Rs1500 for 3 people for 1 night. Since Valparai is a Hill Station most of the shops & Restaurants’ closed by 8-9 pm. Instead of having it at big hotels, I decided to try street food. Street food in Tamil Nadu is awesome; in valparai, once you enter the market road u will get plenty of street foods. We had nice Idli, Vada, Aapam & Kuthu Parota... I loved it.
The moment we reached the hotel, it started raining. I thought it will be great if it rains in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve also, since we are doing “Valparai-Chalakudy” Road via “Athirapally Falls”. This road is said to be one of the greatest circuits in Southern India Motorcycle Tour.
The main specialty of this road is, it is 88km in distance from Valparai to Chalakudy which goes into the thickest forest of Western Ghats. In this entire stretch, there are no human settlements till you reach Vazakhal falls. After Malakkpara check-post we hardly find any human settlements. So u understand how dense & wild it is... And this circuit is having the highest density of Wild Elephants in South India. Keeping all this in mind we slept after listening to some old Tamil songs, which I love most because of its melody…
We woke up at 7.00 am & had breakfast at valparai hotel. They serve some Authentic South Indian cuisine. We were out of Valparai town within a few min. After driving some 5km we entered some village where they stopped us and told last night a group of some 15-20 Elephants have camped in adjacent Tea estate and since it is early morning they might have not back to forest so please wait. But we were very eager to encounter Wilderness, we decided to ride further. After riding some 2 km tea estates welcomed us and we saw a lot of Elephant Dung & the havoc it has created last night. The farmers are so annoyed that it has destructed all their efforts within one night. By looking into their eyes we decided not to take any photographs, it may look strange to them. We reached “Upper Sholayar Dam” which is 18km from Valparai, it is the main source of drinking water. From there it is 7km we reached Kerala Border, it is Malakkapara check post. Guys have traveled most of the extreme places in South India even in core Naxal area & Deep forest, but the way Malakkapara check post police has checked our luggage, documents & plastic things I never saw, for 15mins they have checked us thoroughly & taken the count of plastic water bottles which we are carrying & told us that don’t through this anywhere in the middle of the forest, u will get another check post at Vazakhal where u need to throw this at the bin. I loved the way Kerala Govt has taken initiative, even have seen the same in Wayanad also. And the forest officer told us that since you are the first person to cross this checkpoint today, either u can wait till any 4 wheel vehicle will come & follow them till Vazakhal post, since most of the wild elephants will be on-road may or may not be, be careful. But we decided to ride on our own.
And yes This stretch will be closed from 6 pm to 6 am….
The movement we started our ride towards Chalakudy from Malakkapara checkpost was awesome deep/Thickest & very wild forest which I never seen in my entire life. The forest is so dense & thick that we were riding with headlights on even it was a morning. We were able to see a hell lot of Elephant dung & the foot mark on the roadside throughout the drive, not even a sign of a single soul/vehicle from the opposite side & nobody has chased us also. Despite Bulls Thump sound we were hearing the sounds of some nasty insects which makes continuous sound in jungles(I don’t the exact name of that insects, I thought it is Cricket). After riding for some 30km we found a pond which is a fun place for Elephants, finally after driving for 4hrs from Valparai we reached Vazakhla falls & then Athirapally falls. Both the falls are too crowded & we head towards Coimbatore.
After driving from lush green forest driving in plains is a pain. Reached Palakkad by noon & Had lunch at some Dhaba, from Palakkad to Mettupalyam via Coimbatore is a nightmare. They call it Highway, but it is too much crowded with trucks & Buses. Palakkad to Mettupalayam is about some 80km, but we took 3hrs to reach Mettupalyam. Reached at 6.30 pm,
From Mettupalayam to Coonoor is 36km with 14 hairpin bends, since it was evening and lots of trucks & buses from Ooty & Coonoor is descending to Coimbatore it was heavy traffic. While crossing the 3rd hairpin bend we saw “Nilgiri Thar” and passed us in a flash. Finally reached Coonor at 8.30 pm and called the day end.
Valparai – Athirapally Falls – Coimbatore – Ooty Route:
From Valparai – Sholayar dam- Athirapally-Palakkad-Coimbatore-Mettupalyam-Coonor-Ooty = 325km with some 20 hairpin bends…
Day 3: After exploring some offbeat trails in Southern India Motorcycle Trip, we started our journey towards Bangalore. After breakfast, we hit the road towards Hullathy falls. From Ooty to Madhumalai we took the Hulathy falls road, which is full of sharp hairpin bends and wild animals crossing zone from Nilgiris to Bandipur forest. After navigating through hairpin bends we finally reached Madhumalai, had a cup of good Nilgiri tea, and head towards Bandipur Tiger Reserve. After riding for a few km we saw a Giant Tusker coming our way in the middle of the road, Goosebumps. We patiently waited for 5 mins so that it can cross the road and then we started our journey towards Bangalore. For the first time, we witnessed a wild Tusker and it's one of the best experiences on this entire trip. By early evening we reached Bangalore and had a wonderful experience on this 3 days, 3 states motorcycle adventure in Southern India.
Route: Coonor – Ooty –Hulathy Falls – Madhumalai – Bandipur-Gundlupet – Mysore – Bangalore