With tourist spots opening up, riders are back in action, opting for short rides and even overnight stays
“It felt so refreshing…” says M Jay, founder of Havoc Angels Motorcycle Club, a pan-India club for superbikes. Last weekend 30 members of the club rode to picturesque Thenmala in Kollam district. “The trip was for the Travancore chapter of the club, comprising riders from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts. We haven’t met each for so long and had so much fun catching up. When we used to hold rides during the pre-COVID days, there were times when some of the members had to be coaxed to join the trip. But when this was announced, all of us were raring to go,” says Jay. It was a breakfast ride, with the riders starting by day break, reaching the destination for breakfast and heading back home soon after that.
With Kerala opening up several activities outside containment zones, the biker population is back in action. Biker clubs across the state have kickstarted their rides, especially on weekends. While a majority of them stick to day rides, which start at dawn and end by noon, a few others are opting for overnight stay as well.
“It was frustrating to sit at home, not being able to enjoy a ride since April. Not being on the road for so many months was bad for our vehicles as well,” says Advaith Bhaskaran, founder of Super Bikes in Kerala, which has over 400 riders as members. He adds, “Our riders now regularly organise two or three weekly breakfast rides. While those in northern districts travel to Kozhikode, the members in the central districts of the State organise trips to tourist locations such as Athirapilly. Riders in the southern districts recently gathered at Varkala. This is in addition to a trip we had to Vattavada [in Idukki]. Later this month, 35 members are riding to Wayanad. A few couples have also registered,” says 24-year-old Advaith.
Munnar, Thekkady and Wayanad have been the sought-after spots for overnight stays, as the travellers get to enjoy misty terrains, forest cover and winding roads. Devadas MV, founder of Teakland Riders from Nilambur in Malappuram district, talks about how his team beat the lockdown blues with a trip to Wayanad last month. Thirty-four of them, camped in tents and had a sunrise trek as well, alongside celebrating the first anniversary of the club. On October 31, they travelled to Suryanelli in Idukki district for yet another camping experience.
“This is in addition to the breakfast rides on Sundays in which only those who stay in and around Nilambur participate. We kicked that off in October and have held eight such rides so far. We go to elevated spots to catch the sunrise after which we head to scenic spots nearby, which include Vattamala viewpoint, Karuvarakundu, Kakkadampoyil, Nedumkayam forest and Banglavukunnu skywalk, among others,” says Devadas. The club has 134 members, covering the districts of Malappuram, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
Members of Spice Coast Harley Davidson (HD), the Kochi chapter of Harley Owners Group (HOG) have also started group rides. “We go for rides mostly on Sundays, that too in small groups. Mostly, we cover places in and around Kochi. They are unofficial trips though. Some members have travelled to Munnar and Thekkady as well. I also hit the highway at night,” says Sony Mathew, one of the few women Harley owners in the State.
The rides adhere to COVID-19 protocol. “We ensure that none of the members come from containment zones. In fact, although we had 30 registrations for our Suryanelli trip, some of them couldn’t make it as they were staying in containment zones. Only 16 of us could be part of the journey,” says Devadas.
For the women
- Appooppanthaadi, an all-women travel group, is starting its travel packages with a trip to Thekkady and Sathram on November 7. “We had scheduled six long trips till May, including those to Tawang, Kashmir and Bhutan. All of them had to be cancelled. When the government decided to open up tourist places with restrictions in place, we decided to start the trips,” says Sajna Ali, founder of the group.
- She adds that since budget trips with large groups are not possible for the time being, the forthcoming packages are for a group of 10-14 people. “Uncertainty is still there because if the place we are planning to visit is declared a containment zone, we will have to call off the trip. Even otherwise the participants have many questions about the trips, especially regarding their safety. After all, it is about stepping out of their comfort zones. And when it comes travel, there are bound to be a lot of challenges. However, we are going ahead in confirmation with all the guidelines,” says Sajna.
- Only those in the age group of 11 to 64 are allowed. The group has already announced trips to Ramakkalmedu in Idukki, 900 Kandi in Wayanad and Grand Canyon Gateways at Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh. Formed in 2016, Appooppanthaadi has so far conducted over 245 trips. For details, check the Facebook page, Appooppanthaadi.
It has now become mandatory to carry masks, sanitisers and thermal scanners. They try to avoid stopovers at crowded places, and, if possible, carry packed food with them. “We have to take permission of the police officials of the place where we are travelling to. If we have a stopover, we have to inform the concerned police station as well. With the prohibitory orders under Section 144 still in force, it is difficult to get permission. In some cases, we had to inform officials of the local self- government bodies, especially if we are travelling to less-explored tourist locations. Sometimes local residents object to the arrival of a group of motorcyclists,” says Brooto Joseph, secretary of Dream Riders Kerala that has bikers from across Kerala as its members.
After the restrictions were eased, they went on a group trip to Munnar. “There were 80 of us, including women bikers, divided into groups of 20 riders each. We stayed in three homestays. Our next trip is to Wayanad. In the current scenario we can’t plan trips in advance because there might be cancellations if new containment zones spring up somewhere,” Brooto says.
Nevertheless, nothing can stop these adrenaline junkies from going for a ride. “Our chapters in north India started short rides long back and the riders in Kerala were waiting for restrictions to be lifted. This has been a long wait,” concludes Jay.