This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

Rose Mala bullet ride

It had been a while since I had taken my Enfield Bullet out on a long ride. And when I came to know about a Monsoon Expedition being organized by the Kottayam Bullet Cavaliers, I jumped at the chance. The destination of the tour was ‘Rose Mala’, a hilly terrain located in the forest about 12 kilometers away from Aryankavu in Kollam district. While some hold the view that the place is known as ‘Rose’ mala because the range of hills in that area resembles the petals of a rose flower, others opine that the village came to be called after ‘Roselin’, wife of the British Planter who founded the Estate. “A total distance of 300 kilometers would be covered including an off-road stretch of 12 kilometers”, the organizers said. 

I woke up during the wee hours of the morning and it helped me complete my morning routines rather early. Without disturbing my 11-month old child, I managed to silently push my Enfield Bullet up to the road and started off towards the predetermined spot on the Manarcadu – Ettumanoor Road. I reached there in time to find that Jerry, one of my colleagues had already arrived; the other members of the expedition team were on their way. It began to drizzle slowly. 

When all the 26 participants arrived, the instructor briefed us on the ride. The rain now became stronger and we placed our mobile phones and wallets in zip lock bags. Those of us who had brought luggage kept them in the vehicle of ‘mechanical supporting team’. We dared to start off our monsoon ride. 

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

It was a scenic ride through Manimala. One side of the road was full of green rubber trees which stood drenched in the rain and on the other side was the swollen up River Manimala. We took a pit stop at a tea-stall on the way. The hot cup was really comfortable to our chilled palms. Those of us who were averse to drinking tea chose to smoke cigarettes.

We then took a break for our breakfast from New Thanima Restaurant near the Private Bus Station at Pathanamthitta. Most of us opted for Parathas, the much-favoured dish of Malayalees, along with Beef curry. Soon, we resumed our ride with renewed vigor. The rumblings of the long bike trail and that too with headlamps switched on was a surprising ‘event’ to many onlookers. Some of them waved, others passed remarks. Some speed freaks were trying to chase us on their bikes. Yet some others were clicking photographs of the bike trail and this sight so elated us that we felt as kings riding in royal chariots. 

When we crossed Punalur town and reached the railway bridge my glance fell at the house on the right side of the road. It was previously my cousin’s home where we had spent many childhood days together. The memories of our gazing at the whistling trains speeding away remain fresh in my mind. Leaving behind the busy traffic of Punalur town we revved up easily.

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered
A halt at the 13 Kannara Bridge. Photo: Onmanorama

We halted for a while near the ‘13 Kannara’ Bridge at Kazhathuruthy on the Kollam – Sengottai route for photo-clicks. Built by the British rulers more than 100 years ago, the Bridge is not operational now. Work for conversion of the metre-gauge into broad gauge line is in full swing. Travelers stop at this place and climb the steps up to the bridge in order to click photographs. Then we proceeded to Thenmala. We reached the KTDC Hotel at Palaruvi and after a sumptuous lunch, we took rest for a short while. 

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

At 2 pm, we headed towards Rose Mala. We reached Aryankavu on the Kollam – Sengottai route and from there, towards the right, Rosemala was 12 kilometers away. The KSRTC has been operating buses from here to Rosemala village. After refueling our bikes at a nearby place, we entered the forested part of our journey. Initially, it was tarred road and the journey was quite satisfactory. But the tarred portion was only about a kilometer long and the road ahead lay in poor condition. Steep road with scattered rubble and broken concrete made the journey really dangerous. Rain made the situation worse. Many a time, braking was ineffective on the sloppy and slippery road. We could ride at the first and second gears only.  Of course, this off-road experience increased our level of patience. We could see many youngsters riding well. Some of them were falling too. Truly speaking, we could not enjoy the scenic beauty of nature there because of our undivided attention on the road.

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

Then there came a gutter across the road, which was full of stones. Due to rains, the gutter was full of water too. We somehow managed to cross the gutter without harm. As we went forward, there appeared a bifurcation – the road towards left leads to Raja Coupe which is known for its orange farms and that towards the right to Rose Mala. After crossing one more gutter on the way we reached the Forest Department office. Here all of us had to give in writing the particulars such as our names, vehicle numbers, mobile phone numbers and the arrival time. Rose Mala village was at a distance of about 2 kilometers from here. 

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

Rose Mala is a peaceful village with a small junction having 2 or 3 shops, a few houses located widely apart. There is a watch tower and we were moving towards it. As soon we approached the villagers, they readily pointed towards the watchtower even without waiting to hear our inquiry. We parked our bikes beside the road near the tower.

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

As per the procedure, we bought our ticket for admission into the tower. It was now more exhilarating than the ride. Climbing up the rock was really tough. But once we reached the top we felt relieved. The cool breeze calmed our jittery nerves. We got a wonderful panoramic view of the countryside. The Thenmala Dam Reservoir located beneath was a sight to behold. Hill ranges appeared like rose flower petals. All of us were busy running about to take selfies and group photographs. Surprisingly, the Idea SIM was active in that remote area. My dear ones at home were immediately informed that we were safe in this part of the world. After some time it began to rain and all of us soon got down and took shelter beneath the tower. There we met Babu, the watchman, and his 10-year-old son.

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

Babu talked very enthusiastically about the hills and the animals in that area. He claimed that there are already 8 tigers now and as soon as its strength increases by 5 more that area would be declared as a Tiger Reserve. He also described the eating manners of the wild animals.  We now didn’t feel like spending more time at that place. It was necessary to get back before the dusk fell. The thought of traveling all the way we had come up was causing uneasiness. More important, we had to reach KTDC Hotel spot before the tigers and elephants come out for their nightly walk. It began to drizzle a bit. We saddled up without losing any more time and started on our return journey. As we reached in front of the Forest Department office the officials waved and we waved back. On the way, we saw a KSRTC bus coming up. KSRTC and the staff in the bus really deserve accolades for their rather difficult, unprofitable service in the area.

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

We reached back KTDC by 6 pm and partook tea and snacks there. The members of the expedition team now made use of the opportunity to get acquainted with each other. Again we clicked a group photograph. We then soon resumed our return journey. When we reached home by around 10 pm in the night, memories of the beauty and chill of Rose Mala remained fresh in our minds.

If you are ready to bear a bit of hardship the off-road tour to Rose Mala is absolutely fantastic. It is a good place for a one-day tour to enjoy the idyllic beauty and tranquility of the forested hills. Yes, relax and unwind!

This monsoon ride to Rose Mala is not meant for the lily-livered

Need to know information

Do not expect mobile phone connectivity.

Rose Mala is not a tourist center. The villagers are very hospitable. Take care not to cause disturbance to them.

Vehicles like bikes and SUVs are more suitable for the off-road journey. KSRTC bus service is available from Punalur in the morning and evening.

Visitors should come out of the forest area before the dusk falls.

Accommodation facilities are limited. Kindly contact the Forest Office.

To read the original in Malayalam click here

Also read: Travel | Beyond Kerala | Destinations in Kerala

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