Like most of India, the west coast too, is blessed with ample rainfall turning the entire land into a verdant green which is a sight for sore-eyed city dwellers. Keeping aside the regular tourist destinations in places like Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, we (MotorScribes) mapped out a totally different 10 day drive, the Thunder Run with Mahindra Adventure – our vehicle partner and Hindustan University – our knowledge partner. So with 5 Mahindra Adventure Scorpios we decided to drive to Goa from Kanyakumari taking the coastal road. A slight detour to hilly Wayanad was planned to experience the magic of monsoons up there. After a night halt at Kanyakumari, we were all raring to go with our tanked-up vehicles all ready for the thrilling journey ahead!
We began our day by witnessing the fabulous sunrise at 6am on the beach, right across from the Vivekananda Rock standing immortal in the ocean. Buoyed up by the magnificent sight, we geared up for the first 280 kms leg of our drive, from Tamil Nadu to Kumarakom in Kerala.
Our cavalcade of 5 Mahindra Scorpios made a gleaming sight in the morning light on the scenic coastal roads we took before reaching Varkala. Imagination ruled, when we found ourselves treading water…well, very nearly, with the backwaters on our right and the mighty Arabian Sea on our left; and all we were left with was a tiny sliver of a road to traverse on! The Mahindra Scorpios passed the test with flying colours of sailing over the few broken stretches of road that we chanced upon. The participants were glad to have these capable machines as their companions for the long drive ahead!
Our hungry group took a lunch break near the sleepy backwaters of a town called Edava. What we hadn’t expected to get was some lip-smacking beef-chilli fry, so tasty, that our two participants from Kerala, Abhijith and Sheizmon (both currently studying at Hindustan University), promptly declared it being worthy of five stars!
The Abad Whispering Palms Resort in Kumarakom was our final rest stop for tonite and we got on our way towards it right after lunch. The Thunder Run lived up to its name, with us encountering a great deal of it with heavy rains enroute. It was an absolutely delightful experience, which all of us enjoyed tremendously, though the rain did slow us down a bit. Zipping along quaint, little towns and charming roads, we reached Kumarakom at about 8pm.
When your resort’s located right on the banks of Lake Vembanad, and the only way to reach there is through tiny lanes hardly big enough for a Scorpio, it calls for another adventure! With almost zero visibility due to the heavy downpour, we made our way to the resort by dinner time with prayers on our lips and luck on our side! We were glad that we didn’t have to swim our way there, when one slight wrong turn of the wheel would have literally taken us directly into the lake waters on our right! 13 hours of driving clocked on Day 1 called for some serious rest, as we had 9 more days to go. So it was with a sigh of relief that we turned in that night.
We deserved a day off after our long stint from K to K! So we started out for the boat jetty at the other side of the lake. After a thoroughly enjoyable ride over tiny Kerala roads and bridges, we had, what was the most fun part, a ride on the Lake Vembanad in the famous Kerala
When in Kerala, a must-do is a leisurely cruise down the backwaters… That’s what we exactly did the whole day, lazing around, admiring the fantastic views every turn of the diesel-powered boat opened up before our thrilled eyes! A veritable palace on water, our houseboat had three bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. The expert chef cooked up an absolute storm on board and served us lip-smacking Chicken Curry, Kerala ishtyle along with some crispy fried river fish! Heaven!
Our truly laid-back day got over at around 5 in the evening, with everyone grumbling about having to go back. But go back we did, to our resort, as we were to start as early as 5 am the next morning.
Towards Camp Kannur…
Our itinerary for the next day was to drive our fleet of Mahindra Adventure Scorpios, again from point K to K…this time K being Kannur, 325 kms away. Flagging off to the scenic sunrise, we made our way over relatively free roads due to the early hour. Sticking to the coast, we were greeted by the view of swaying palm trees and storybook villages. Not going above 50 kmph due to the tiny roads, we made our way through Chertala, Kochi, Paravoor, Kozhikode, Mahe (Puducherry), Thalaserry and finally reached Kannur in 12 hours.
Tired, to say the least, we checked early evening into the Kairali Heritage Resort situated on the banks of the river, with nothing more on our mind than relaxing a bit. Our vehicles, the stellar Scorpios have been giving us an effortlessly muscular performance all the way. Over the hundreds of kilometres already driven, almost all the Mahindra Adventure Scorpios have clocked in an impressive average of 15.2 kmpl. This efficient power-packed car has managed to already convince some of the participants to become an owner of one in the future!
The next morning saw us ready for some sight-seeing around Kannur, a drive on the beach and then off to the Lakkidi Village Resort in Wayanad. We took some time off to walk around St Angelo Fort, a little outside Kannur. This Portuguese-built quaint fort is surprisingly well-maintained. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea, this sea-fort boasts of Portuguese, Dutch and English architecture. Considered to be of historical importance due to its strategic location at Mapila Bay on the Malabar Coast, this fort is one of the earliest ones built by the Portuguese.
Bashin’ on the Beach…
Muzhappilangad Drive-In Beach was our next destination. This pristine 4 kilometre long beach is one of the few drive-in beaches of India. What’s more, it’s rated as one of the best the world over! Our Mahindra Scorpios had a whale of a time in the water with all of us going absolutely and wildly click-happy! With more than a 1000 photographs capturing lifetime memories under our belt, we were happy that our fleet of Scorpios driving by was even the centre of attention for some fans. Fun, fun, fun!
That’s what all of us on the Thunder Run had, on the beach. After some quality time spent beach-bashing, quite reluctantly, at dusk we started out for the hills of Wayanad. Our Mahindra Scorpios powered their way up the long winding mountain ghats on the 2.2-litre mHawk engine. Powerful and effortless, the drive up from the coast into the hills is a magical experience. But soon enough, brilliant roads were to give way to the open jungle. Surprise, Surprise!!
Day 4 saw our fleet was back on the road. For a classic off-road experience, here we were going hand-in-glove with a convoy of Bangalore Jeepers. Skirting our way through tea estates outside Wayanad, we were being led by the very capable Jeep Captain, Shibu Varghese. At the end of the motor able road and deep into the plantation we went, literally at a snail’s pace, shifting into four-wheel-low. Cutting through the dense forest, our Scorpios performed effortlessly, making way in the dirt and muck. Even though we felt they could have done much better, we did not want to risk damaging them and parked them near the plantation manager’s hut.
We piled onto the Jeepers from Bangalore to enjoy the rest of the off-road experience. They were definitely better prepared than us, right down to their taped up gumboots! The fact that we’d found funny proved to be a blessing for them in a leech-infested forest. Amit Shelar, one of our participants, fell prey to six vicious bites (he still has scars which tell his story!) I got four kisses, whereas the others got lucky with just one or two. Despite the fact that we were able to donate our blood generously in the middle of nowhere, overall we had a great time!
We also had the experience of a lifetime on our jungle walk. Crossing gurgling streams with just rickety bridges for support, climbing hills and drenching ourselves in a sudden downpour! Nature was our companion and our eyes couldn’t soak in enough of our beautiful surroundings. Our cameras tried hard to capture the never-ending beauty that has been around since time immemorial! Finally coming back to our trusted Scorpios, we headed back to civilisation and a proper bed. Next day we were to head to the coast of Malpe in Karnataka. So it was goodbye to hilly, beautiful Wayanad!
Down the twisting, smooth hill road back to coastal Thaliparamba was a great and fast drive with mostly empty roads all of the way. Unfortunately, our speed diminished on hitting the coast because of the busy thoroughfare of bikes and people walking on the roads. Despite our slow and tedious journey, we reached our destination of Malpe before sunset.
Quaint, sleepy, beach town… That’s how Malpe, in Karnataka, can be aptly described. Our hotel being bang on the beach gave us fantastic views from all our rooms. And our arrival before schedule gave us some free time to indulge in the local cuisine on the beachside road stalls. A fish-lover’s haven, you will be served the fresh catch-of-the-day here! Even though it is so close to Goa, this town isn’t a typical touristy destination, (I think we were the only tourists around), it surely is a hidden gem. All of us would surely want to visit this place again soon (who can forget the delicious prawns?!).
Go Goa Gone…
Though originally we’d planned on starting early from Malpe, we decided to prolong our departure by a few hours. We spent the early part of Day 7 on the beaches of Malpe, taking pictures and selfies… The place had simply mesmerised us. Finally climbing into our Mahindra Adventure Scorpios, we headed to our final destination, 340 kms away, Goa!
The good Karnataka roads saw us making better progress than in Kerala. Speeding up our fleet, we renters Goa before 4 pm. But before going towards our hotel for the night in Arossim, we headed to Cabo de Rama in South Goa. The stupendous view of the cliffs and the sea provided the perfect conclusion to our Thunder Run! Though the drive officially has come to an end, we had another day in Goa. Day 8. But then, some secrets about Goa are better untold!
Thunder Run 2016 Photo Gallery:
Pics via MotorScribes.com