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On the Spice Country trail

On July 24/25th, we headed out to Coorg and Wayanad with MuddyBoots (a new adventure company) for a spice country cycling trail. Here is an account of the trip.

The mission
To cycle through Coorg and Kerala : around 200 kms of country roads through spice plantations, forests, hills and some amazingly beautiful scenery. This was designed to be a 3 day spice trail but a couple of us had to get back on Sunday so we opted for 2 days and sadly had to miss out on the last day. But even the 2 days were spectacular…

The men behind the mission
The organizers : Muddy Boots : Pradeep, Roby and Ram were amazing : they know the Wayanad area like the back of their hands and did a great job in finding some nice off roads that we would never really use if we had gone as tourists. On the cycle we got to see much more of Wayanad – particularly villages and towns that we had never seen before. I loved the green and verdant countryside stopping often to take pictures : I couldn’t really resist capturing the breath-taking scenery. Roby kept me company for a large part of the second day’s stretch since I was quite distracted by the sights around while the rest seemed to be racing ahead. And I still haven’t mastered the art (like Dinesh) of taking pictures while cycling, so I had to dismount every time I wanted to take a picture.

The gang
Manjula : super biker, traveler, photographer, runner, and entrepreneur
Dinesh : another soul with adventure in his blood and also one of the founders of Wildcraft
Seema : superwoman : she’s scaled mountains, trekked in remote corners of India and can also kick anyone’s ass walking, cycling, running, climbing
And me :-p

The “relatively flat roads” of Wayanad!

Right at the very beginning, Pradeep described the route as comprising of relatively flat roads. I made him change the description to “undulating roads” after our two days there!

Word of caution: there are no flat roads either in Coorg or Wayanad!

On day 1, early morning, we were transported to Hunsur and after breakfast, we geared up for the first stretch of cycling at around 1130 am. The cycles : Trek 3700s came in a tempo from across the border in Kerala. Helmets, gloves and water bottles fixed : we set off : Pradeep and Roby of MuddyBoots joining us for the stretch from Panchavalli to Gonigoppal. We had two back-up vehicles with our luggage and food. And a bike doctor, Baba who made sure everything was in order.

The weather was pretty nice and we navigated through pleasant country roads to reach Gonigoppal (around 25 kms stretch) where we had lunch.

After lunch, the bikes were transported by a tempo to another place which was around 10-12 kms away. From here (amidst coffee plantations) we started off again. The after lunch stretch was quite different : we entered forests in Kodagu and then encountered a really bad stretch of road where thankfully the potholes had been filled up but it was still rather bumpy. And then another forest area and a forest check post at Tholpetty and then on to Kutta.

It took me some getting used to the mountain bike : since I ride a hybrid now : I am not used to putting so much effort into pedalling!

After Kutta, as we crossed into Kerala, the roads actually got better and smoother. Our last stretch for the day : around 20 kms in the forest was the best : smooth roads and a lot of downhills and a slight drizzle made it a joy to ride.

We finally reached our destination : a homestay in Thirunelli at around 6 pm. The drizzle had gotten slightly harder so we all got a little drenched but it was a nice note on which we ended the day. A total of around 60 kms was what we clocked. And to end a great day we had some delicious Kerala food for dinner.

The next day we were up early and ready before 7 am. First stop was the Thirunelli temple : unfortunately Seema from our group was not allowed in as she was mistaken for a foreigner. The bikes were all checked again by Baba and we set off again. The first stretch was through very muddy village roads with ponds, banana plantations, streams, hills all around : it was beautiful to say the least. I got down several times from the bike to take pictures.

From here, we had a couple of steep uphills to conquer. Nandi Hills suddenly seemed easy in comparison! It was tiring to say the least but Roby kept me company : he had to look out for the slowest in the gang 🙂

Pradeep had promised reasonably flat roads after this uphill stretch so I dreamt of some nice flat country roads. Alas, it was not to be! After this steep uphill, we had an even tougher climb on the route to lunch.

We had packed lunch that day and we found a school compound and rested there for a while. After that, it was off to our next destination : Sultan Bathery. The road was awesome (the quality, not the incline!) but the weather had gotten hotter. And not only that : it was a long slow incline nearly all the way for around a 25 kms stretch. Lunch well digested we stopped on the way to sight a wild tusker somewhere off the main road.

This was a tough stretch. Finally reached around 330-4 pm. The rest who were already there went off to see Edakkal caves. Instead of waiting for them to get back I started off towards our last halt for the day.

This was my best stretch : it was through small towns and then plantations in the shadow of the hills. I pedaled furiously as I wanted to get to the homestay before sundown.

Photo courtesy: Pradeep

We had been told that this was one beautiful location. And I’m glad I got there a little early. I overshot the deviation to the homestay and reached Meppadi when Pradeep called me back. The homestay was at Chundale and I returned the 1-2 kms I had overshot!

From the main road, following some narrow bumpy stretches we finally arrived at the homestay and as promised it was a really scenic place. It was perched on a hillside with direct view of a waterfall and the Chembra range. Below you could see a river meandering through the valley. I was tempted to stay another day but we had work in Bangalore that meant we had to head back..

Dinner was Kerala delicacies again : tapioca and green chillies chutney and fish : curry and fry. After having two rounds of dinner, we finally said our goodbyes and left the gang and headed to the bus stop.

The verdict
Kerala in this weather is fantastic. We didn’t get much rain but the surroundings are green and lush making it an extremely scenic time of the year.

The cycling was tough but the good food made up for all the effort. I’d recommend this to:
1) Those of you who enjoy cycling and have been doing it regularly
2) Are cycling regularly and want a challenging ride through some really scenic countryside
3) Those who consider adventure as a good holiday!
4) Want to enjoy great Kerala food
5) Experience the green outdoors, the amazing scenery, the varied trails, and just being out in nature!

The next trip from Spice Trail

Muddy Boots is launching more Spice Country Trail trips. So if you’ve been suitably excited by my experience, then do get in touch with Pradeep and gang!

2 day cycling on 29-30 Aug
2 day cycling on 5-6 Oct
3 day cycling on 19-21 Oct


Places are limited to the first 6, so please email, or call Pradeep at 99005 68784.
Taste of an earlier trip

~ More pics from the Spice Country Trail


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