India is no doubt the home of the magnificent Himalayas with some of the most arduous trekking and biking trails in the world. And while the most popular routes are in the northern mountains, many, like Neville Bilimoria, ardent marathoner, biker and member of Chennai Trekking Club, agree that “there is so much unexplored opportunity in the south” as it changes into a more fun-filled experience than the endurance-heavy routes of the north. We give you our pick of unique paths across the Deccan Plateau.
Santosh Kumar of Get Off Ur Ass, a Bangalore-based trekking group, agrees that plenty of trails are available but points out that most of them are not easily accessible because they are in reserved forests and require permits to enter. Kumar shares that “the forest department (aranya.gov.in) in Karnataka has opened up some trails in reserved areas (BR Hills and Coorg) recently and they are very helpful with logistics.” Kumar specialises in customised adventure-based trips.
70 kilometres from Bangalore, this is one of the largest monoliths in Asia and rises to 1,226 metres above sea level to form a part of the Deccan Plateau. This unique trek begins at a moderate level before taking a steep turn as you close-in on the 4,000-feet high peak and spans four hours.
Rs. 1,250 upwards. Details: escape2explore.com
This route takes you through the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, covering 65 kilometres. A hard-core trek between these two places will take experienced trekkers about four days as they swim through lakes, climb rock faces and pass through natural grazing lands. 455 kilometres from Bangalore and equidistant from Chennai, its closest airport is Coimbatore (104 kilometres). It is best attempted during the summer (March to June).
Contact Ajit Sigamani at 09791158888 for further information
Horsley Hills, AP
At 1,265 metres above sea level, the winding, scenic road trip up to this hill station is almost equidistant from Bangalore and Tirupathi, at approximately 140 kilometers away. Two routes from Bangalore are similar, with the option of changing at Rayalpadu in one and Gownipally at the other. Most bikers suggest the second, as it is the shortest and more scenic. Trekking is popular in its surrounding forests. March to June and September to October are the ideal times to visit.
Details: 08571 226967 / aptdc.gov.in
South India Long Trail
Classic Bike Adventure conducts a tour that covers 2,000 kilometers of the south on 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet Motorcycles. From the beaches of Goa and plantations in Coorg to the Nilgiris, right up to Doddabeta peak, it winds through the Deccan across Mysore and Halebid. The next trip is in November.
Rs. 40,000 up. Details: classic-bike-india.com
“If you are a novice to trekking, it would be best for you to go through a club or organised group that can guide you more personally. For a first time trekker or biker to try a serious route alone is just plain stupidity,” warns Ajit Sigamani of The Wolf Pack India, an invite-only group that treks and bikes through the south. “Also, always let people at base know where you are going, what route you are taking and when to expect you back by,” he shares as he gives us a list of essentials every trekker must carry.
Good, sturdy trekking shoes, Ziplock bags for anything that shouldn’t get wet, A functional, light-weight backpack, Minimum tees and shorts, A first-aid kit, Emergency rations and food, A water bottle, A whistle, A utility knife, A foam sleeping roll and a poncho
Neville J Bilimoria says that biking in the south is more about the scenic beauty of the trails than a test of endurance – “something that the whole family or a group of friends can attempt without too much difficulty”. His pick of the top four biking routes in the south:
1. Mettupalyam to Ooty and then onto Doddabeta at 8,650 feet – good training for endurance bikers.
2. Yercaud – for a mountain ride experience.
3. Kolli Hills – because it has 70 hairpin bends!
4. Kodaikanal – it is one of the most picturesque rides.
Bilimoria and his team at the Chennai Trekking Club, that organises treks and rides almost every month, are planning a Training Camp in the Nilgiris, tentatively scheduled for November this year. The camp will train riders on various professional parameters and endurance testing. Details: 044 28227222