Precap : Last week ,as my wife Hetal was out of town , I was wondering what to do with the weekend. If I had stayed back in Mumbai I would have passed the weekend watching TV , movies , IPL and fiddling with the remote playing OONGLI TV.
Then I remembered a line in a recent hindi movie Karthik calling Karthik , where the heroine finds the hero who has run away and did not want to get traced. She finds him and when he asks how she managed to do it she replies “Google say bachke kahaan jaaoge.”
So I thought why not Google and see if I can find some short cycling trip [ the cycling fever is still on I guess J ] holiday to pass the weekend. Thus I found www.cyclingandmore.com [ CAM ] . They were organizing a 2 day trip from Bangalore. The best thing I liked about it initially was the fact that I did not have to take my cycle along , fix punctures etc.. [ I am mechanically challenged ] and can only add my bum to the saddle and ride . The cost was also very reasonable. Finally, after exchanging a few emails with Harsha I booked my to and fro flight tickets for Bangalore which again I was lucky to get at a good price [ total Rs. 4.5k ]
I landed at Bangalore on Friday early evening and caught up with an ex-colleague at his office. Post dinner, we reached the meeting point at the Hockey Stadium.
Here, I could feel the enthusiasm amongst those who had gathered for the ride and especially amongst the CAM clan. It was also the first time I was seeing cycles being boxed and the efficient manner in which the CAM team went about the same made me feel I had made the right choice.
Stage 1 – 45 km ride from Sulthan bathery to Meenmutty falls.
Itinerary for Stage 1 The route goes through the mudumalai forest check post with an array of trees on either side. The trail provides us with a sneak peek into Mudumalai forest range of Tamilnadu and ends at Meenmutty falls.
We were scheduled to reach our starting point at Sultan Bathery by early morning to freshen up [ a bath at Sultan ‘Bath’ery ! ] and start riding early to avoid the afternoon sun. But this was not to be. We reached around 10 am as we had to halt at the forest entrance for a considerable time.
We started with a Super b’fast of vada , idli and kaapi. Staying in Matunga , we end up having the same atleast once a week and relish the same everytime time.
Initial doubts or good omen : Valve leaking : Expert help from Mohan and ‘DC’ Manohar. : Post the breakfast the CAM team once again got into action , un-boxing and assembling the bikes. This was when I got the first look at my ride … a Meriba … It was unboxed and assembled with my moral support ! I was told that the valve of the back tyre was leaking and could get fixed either at a cycle shop or with a spare tube. This setoff a chain of thoughts in my mind and for a moment I was a doubting Thomas. But all such doubts put to rest immediately once Mohan and DCM got into action. A spare tube was available with Harsha and I was ready to ride.
My ride finally started around 11.30 am.
Started using all low gear combinations 2 x [ 7 , 6 , 5 , 4 , 3 ] and 1 x [ 4 , 3 , 2 ] which I had only once before tested in my first off-roader … This was the first time I was using these for a road ride … Generally while riding in Mumbai it is either 2 x 7 / 6 /5 …
Not many photos on day 1 only of signposts : I did not take many photos on day 1 as we were riding under the sun and I was not sure how they would come out. I also was enjoying the tough ride and the scenic roads … both at the same time …
Cycling and Mor[e] ! Stage 1 ended once we reached near Meenmutty falls . Here there was a small shop run by a lady who also sold Mor [ Chaas ]. Now ,I am not a great fan of Chaas although it is supposed to be a Kutchi drink. But this Masala Mor was so tasty and cooling that I ended up having 2 glasses [ Punjabi size ] . As each of the riders came in , they were greeted with Mor and finally I think we might have consumed atleast 2-3 bucketfulls.
The cycling was super and now with CAM [ Cycling and More ] , there was also a MOR frenzy.
Hogging Lunch : Therafter, after two full glasses of Mor , followed lunch which again was gulped down like a downhill ride… yummy biryani / raita / curd rice etc… went straight down from the plate to our carb starved tummies.
Meenmutty Falls : Trek and Mountain Biking : 2 in 1 : Just 5 minutes post lunch , I was feeling really full as I had felt I had gone a bit overboard with rice. Meenmutty falls was at a distance of around 1.9 kms from the main road. This part of the cycle was like a mountain biking ride being a kucchaa rastaa. After that from the entrance to the falls was another 1 1.5 km trek downhill .. though some treacherous steps … luckily there were plenty of ropes / bamboos put up for support … By time time I reached back up to the entrance , the carbs which were heavily loaded during lunch were totally consumed.
Evening ride to final destination for the day : Kalpetta : No shortcuts for me! This was supposed to be a 25 km ride and as per itinerary the 25 km route takes the riders through some exotic tea estates next to Chembra, the highest peak in Waynad, and Meppadi town.
I had started around 5.10 pm and hoped to reach our hotel in Kalpetta in max 75-90 minutes. Was enjoying the ride through the tea estates , took some photos … but as is usual with me , when I have to follow many directions , I missed a key turn [ maintained some consistency there ] and rode for an hour extra [ maybe 10 – 12 kms ] . I did not realize the same till I reached the hotel and saw many riders before whom I had started and a few whom I had passed enroute.
Green company : When I was riding thru one of the tea estates , I realized on looking at the pedal that I has company. Do not know for how long. But the grasshopper remained with my throughout till the time I reached our hotel at Kalpetta. Maybe , it was attracted by the green colour on the cycle. It seemed to have moved on to greener pastures when I checked next day in the morning.
Always 5 – 7 kms : On the way after more than an hour of riding and passing a stone which said 7 kms to Kalpetta , I was asking locals every 10 – 15 minutes whether the road I was on goes to Kalpetta. All said yes but none told me I had missed the shorter turn at the 7 km milestone much earlier. The distance always seemed to remain 5 – 7 kms [ just like the estimated time remaining when downloading certain files doesn’t change for a long time] . With some good luck I got the next right turn. By this time it was getting dark and I was riding alone. After a tough upward climb , I stopped by a shop as I was out of water … bought a litre of water and also drank 200 ml coca cola. I asked the shop keeper how much distance to go and was horrified to hear another 5-7 kms I then asked him was it mostly downhill. He said mostly down and around 2 kms up.
End is near : These are dreaded words or thoughts. Not if you are into distance running or cycling. These then make you feel happy and give you a runners / cyclists high !!!. Luckily, the ride turned out to be mostly downhill and much lesser than the usual 5-7 kms. I was riding in darkness now with only the lights from vehicles behind me guiding me. I was using same to estimate distance from edge of road. It was the most amazing ride since I was rising on pure gut instinct and luck. To my surprise in another 5-10 minutes, on inquiring again with a family in a good old Maruti 800 , I was told I was only 500 metres away from the hotel and was happy that the end was finally near.
Day ended with dinner and some IPL action.
Day 2 : Riding in the mist
Itinerary for day 2 – The ride on Day 2 starts at 6a.m, with the riders passing through the misty roads and reaching Vythri. The trail then passes through the eastern side of Chembra peak, along serpentine roads and lush green tea plantations leading the riders to Suchipara falls, an ideal place to end the ride.
Surprisingly, all were up early after a grueling ride under the sun day 1.Was it the infectious enthusiasm of CAM clan at work here.
I was more confident of my riding abilities today so took more pictures .. many while riding … even tried taking a few videos . Do not know if they will work properly after uploading. The ride in the mist was superb.
Tea stall owner ki chal padi : The tea stall owner opp our hotel at Kalpetta would be one happy person to get so many aliens [ who else would get up early on a Sunday morning , dress in shorts / bright tees with helmets / gloves ] ordering chai and coffee…. and then disappear into the mist on their rides
CSK in RCB camp : I was wearing a bright yellow CSK Tshirt in RCB camp !
After a brief ride , we had another super b’fast at Vythri.
Beautiful and testing ride to Soochipara More lower combinations tested [ 2 x 2 ] , 1 x [ 2 , 1 ]
Passed through amazing scenery … tea estates … gr8 downhill rides … killer last few hundred metres on way to soochipara stop , walked last 100-200 metres and to end a thoroughly enjoyable ride did not get lost even once.
Nearly 4.5 kms before Soochipara , a few of us had stopped for further card loading and some super tasting fresh fruit juice.
Then again after a 1 km walk to the falls , I mustered enough courage for a first time dip directly below a waterfall. Cool natural water on a hot day is the best butt relaxant after some long hours on the saddle.
Thus ended my first 2 day cycling trip. Hopefully, it would not be one of those Once in a Blue Moon Kabhi Kabhi things.
What did I experience : Cyclists high , great teamwork , superb scenery , amazing brightly colored houses , curious gazes from passersby , cute and very cheerful kids [ some who ran alongside you ] and clapped / cheered you on / clapped your hand making one feel on top of the world / new friendships . Also I now have some cycling bragging rights after this trip in my running group J
Giving below the link to photos taken from my phone [ do not know the model but Priyanka Chopra modeled for same ! ]. and some other photos taken by fellow riders through proper cameras [ difference is obvious ].
So long and happy riding to the CAM clan and many thanks for accommodating this Mumbiker.
Yeh Dil Maange Mor!!!
P.S.: Manohar , would you still like to associate DC in your name with Deccan Chargers after y’days match ;-)