Coffee and Trails
By: Vineet Sharma
Location: Yercaud, Tamil Nadu – INDIA
Also featured in Issue #9 | May 2012
Summer – Time to teach mountain biking to school kids who have never experienced this sport before. I have travelled to many places in India for this work and I love it as it helps me to check out this wonderful country more and meet wonderful people.
This summer I got a chance to check out a small hill station “Yercaud” in the Southern India state Tamil Nadu. Before leaving I had imagined the place to be just hot and plain and full of thorns. But once I crossed Bangalore and entered Salem District my imagination was proven wrong when the scenery changed and Shevaroys range of hills were in visual!
Soon I was climbing up to Yercaud main town which comes after 20 hairpin bends uphill. As a popular tourist destination, Yercaud is also called as “Jewel of the South”. Scenically, Yercaud is as enchanting and picturesque as the hill stations on the Western ghats and I soon realized mountain biking here can be one of the most pleasurable ways to pass time. The place is full of Coffee and Black Pepper plantation, and that’s where I had my camp site.
The camp was located in NS estate just 100meters away from Karadiyur watch tower. This spot is very famous among the locals who visit there very often with their family members. From this watch tower you can check out the glowing town of Salem during night.
Without wasting time I unpacked and assembled my bike and was all set to ride around this estate full trails and jeep tracks. No sign of tarmac made me very happy and started the ride with a lose rocky downhill stretch. The N.S Estate was full of downhill trails or demanding climbs only! Snakes, Scorpions and sometimes big Chameleons can greet you during the ride.
The kids were pretty worked up at the end of the day and slept like a star fish. Surprisingly they were ready for the next day and were performing better. The only thing they hated were the climbs which sometimes were super steep and never ending.
After few days I also got a chance to cycle to the main town of Yercaud which was a joy cross country ride of 11 KM. You can so many riding options around the area…and I mean really sick trails everywhere. Unfortunately you cannot enter those trails as the estate owners are pretty strict about trespassing. Once you are caught – you will not be released until the owner of the other estate comes to the police station and apologize to the other owner in public. Keeping this in mind I tried to act bit smart and requested the guard to let me in for some-time. The curious guard started admiring my bike for couple of minutes and then asked me to walk away from the estate!! Feeling weird and insulted I carried on cycling to the town and back.
I did manage to locate few trails that go through the village areas and were fun to ride. Checking out surprised villagers who never saw mountain bikes zipping through their village was also a good experience. These people were pretty friendly and showed more places to ride and also warned about Bison’s! Yes sir..the place has lot of Bison’s and locals don’t dare to go close to these beasts. Not to mention I had become more active while riding around and scanning the farms and trails before entering them.
During my 3rd week, I became addicted to this place and every day was super fun riding around the coffee plantation and chewing black pepper. Yercaud is definitely fun to ride place. People from Bangalore can drive and reach here in around 4 hours. There are lot of guest houses and hotels in the main town of Yercaud and you have to take permission from the estate owners to ride offroad. Its worth it without any doubt!