We headed north from Munnar and stopped in the small town of Marayoor. On the way we passed through a protected sandalwood forest. We saw monkeys along the roadside and were lucky to see an endangered giant squirrel and a large deer.
We took a short ride out from here to see something called dolmens. They are ancient man made structures that are believed to be burial chambers but they don’t really know for sure. They’re made from four large stone slabs for the walls and one for the roof.
On the way back to town we made an impromptu stop at a karate studio. We were treated like royalty and were entertained by the young students practice fighting.
We then headed down through the Chinnar wildlife sanctuary to the sweltering hot lowlands. The scenery was great through the park and we saw more monkeys,and although cars warned us of elephants ahead, we didn’t see any of the park’s wild elephants.
It took us two days to ride across the lowlands and get to the next section of the Ghats. This time we decided not to ride our bikes up to the hillstation of Coonoor, but get a bus instead. We loaded our bikes onto the roof and relaxed on the 35km bus ride up to the town at 1500m. The bus only cost $2 for both of us and the bikes, it would have cost us more in tea if we had ridden up!
As usual our timing was impeccable and we arrived just in time for a massive Hindu festival. The streets were heaving with people and all manner of stalls, selling food, inflatable paraphernalia, and small dogs with bobbing heads. There were mechanical parade floats ( godzilla, shiva, and two large bulls) and a music/dance stage that had huge crowds watching a variety of musical and dance performances.
We saw a parade led by a man with a long spear through both cheeks, the spear was so long he had to turn sideways to pass the traffic on the road. At the back another man was pulling a cart with hooks through the skin on his back. They were accompanied by a band and dancing dignitaries.
We spent a day exploring the hills around here. Like Munnar, the hills are covered with tea plantations. We went to a tea factory and had a guided tour to see what happens after the tea is picked. It was interesting to see the process the tea goes through.
From Coonoor we rode up to the highest point on our tour, Ooty. This town sits at 2240m. We spent four nights in Ooty and enjoyed the cool climate but the town itself was nothing special. We went to a heritage cinema to see the Jungle book and were surprised that it only cost $1 for both of us. We also continue to indulge ourselves in the local homemade chocolate.
We had read about the road down from Ooty being dangerous and steep with 36 hairpin bends. So after checking our brakes we set off for the long descent. We made it to the bottom with no problems. However the road then enters a national park and we were soon stopped at a checkpoint and told cycles were not allowed through the park and we would have to get a taxi 6km to the next village and ride from there. This was because and elephant had killed a cyclist at some point and now none are allowed through.
So after much hassle we finally got to the next village where we set off on the bikes once again, only to get stopped at another checkpoint entering Karnataka. This time we were told we had to get a truck 20km to the park boundary. Luckily the nice guy at the checkpoint stopped an empty truck and helped us load our bikes and us into the back and away we went.
We are now halfway through our time here in India and have ridden 1800km and we still have a long way until we reach Goa.