Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kerala December 2011: Day Six

Early morning 6, I packed my bags, readied up the cycle. Again, it was humid and hot even at this time. It took me almost an hour before I got out of the city.
Kanyakumari: Far View of the temple
 But once I was on the National highway, I managed to keep a constant pace. Reaching Kanyakumari felt a lot more peaceful than yesterday’s ride. Anything would be easier than yesterdays, I kept telling myself all along.  I reached Kanyakumari quite easily. Since I was more worried about my bike than being interested in  Kanyakumari, I just took a quick tour around the beach, snapped a few pics.
My bus reservation was from Nagercoil, so after a quick lunch, I headed back for Nagercoil. It was 20 km from Kanyakumari, but I couldn’t understand how I had missed the scenic beauty here.

I rode as slow as possible, taking in as much of the surrounding as I could.
My dear cycle, Shreya
As I waited at the bus stand, I couldn't help but smile looking at my dear cycle. She had been faithful to me all along the way. Never once did I have any problem because of her. No flat tires over the 750km ride, no crankiness, nothing. What else could I ask for.
Finally took my off from Nagercoil for Chennai at 6 in the evening.

The Crux of the expedition, why did I title it 'The Pilgrimage'
Wikipedia defines pilgrimage as 'A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. typically, a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith.' 
Well, it was no different for me. I took up the challenge of doing this because I wanted to prove to myself that I can. Just like a pilgrimage, it often made me question my motivation and incentive all along the route. It often pushed me to the brink of giving up, but I held on. And when I reached back Chennai in one piece, without much damage to me or any damage to my cycle,  I knew I had succeeded, and i still cherish the journey and will keep doing so for the time to come. After all, I DID IT!

Kerala December 2011: Day Five

I woke up early in the morning at 4:45 and freshened up. Trivandrum was 170 km from here, but I had secret ambitions of making it to Kanyakumari today itself, if I reached Trivandrum before 12. Having had the special tea made by Uncle, he came to drop me off till he was sure I would not get lost in the town. From here I was to reach Changanacherry, and then take a route to get on to the NH47. But some misguiding and a wrong turn took me 10 km away from the actual route, and took another 10 km to get back on.
At the Coconut Vendor's open shop
Finally I found a board which said that Trivandrum was 150 km. it was 8 am already, and the roads did not really allow me to go faster than 20kmph. After lots and lots of tiring turns and uphills, I finally reached Kollam. I had covered almost a 110 km from my starting point, and had another 80 to go ahead. I had my brunch here at an 'Asian Cafe', two parottas and horrible tea and left. But moving ahead of Kollam wasn’t easy, it was already 11 by then. Never before I had faced stronger winds, and combined with constantly varying gradients, generally uphill, I was tired before I was within the 40 km of the city. I halted at a coconut vendor’s shop, relaxed for a while, and then moved on for the remaining journey.
The last part became tougher, with the winds building up, and still climbing. I cursed every downhill ride, because I knew, that once the fun was over, it’d be followed by another long and tiring climb.
Three in the afternoon, I finally reached the city, found a lodge and just crashed the moment I was allotted my room. I couldn’t sleep, the constant worrying about the cycle safety didn’t allow me to fall asleep. I went back, made sure the cycle was safely fastened to pillars, and came back. I fell asleep by 9 in the night.
So far, this day had taken the biggest toll on my health. My knees were feeling a bit weird by the time I had reached the lodge. I couldn’t stand for long without running out of breath, and was extremely drowsy. I had covered 190 km today, cycled on for marathonic 8hrs and 30 min, had spent the largest amount today on electrolytes, water and food so far in the entire journey. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the following day’s journey. I even looked around a bit to see if could go to Chennai from here directly, but ended up deciding against it in the end. I would finish this, no matter what.

Kerala December 2011: Day Four

On the way to Allepey
After a delayed start, I moved on towards my next destination, Allepey. A day of rest had charged me up, and the effects showed on the road. After the first 5 km within the city, I entered the national highway. Miles flew, before I realised, I had covered 40 km in less than 90 min! this won’t sound like much to a biker, or for that reason maybe even a cross-county cyclist. But for a hardtail MTB rider, this would definitely be stunning. I grew conscious after this realisation and it trickled down to the remaining journey. I reached Allepey in hardly two and a half hours. I reached the boat jetty, and was supposed to take a boat ride to Kottayam, from where I’d reach my destination in a kilometer or so. But the boat I planned to get on was cancelled, and the next boat wasn’t until next two hours, and it would take another two hours for the boat to reach Kottayam. I did not have the patience for all that, and so, decided to cycle instead.
Too much tempting to tread, isn't it?
So I cycled to Kumarkom, around 35 km from where I was. Reaching this place was difficult because of the road, which was difficult to find among the potholes. Reaching Kumarkom also opened my eyes to some saddening features of some of the less developed provinces of this state. I stopped once to get directions from a lady walking by, and she literally ran away, maybe fearing me to be a bad guy. Somewhere in the next village, again I had to stop for directions.

Crossing the bridge towards Kumarkom
I stopped a mother and a daughter, and the mother pushed her daughter away and rudely gestured me to get lost. I had similar experiences with the males as well, but somehow managed even though my GPS was malfunctioning. Kumarkom and then Kottayam. By the time I reached, I was exhausted and after all these days, totally tanned!
The house I stayed here in has to be the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen! Normally I do not use such adjectives for architectural feats, but this was different from anything I had seen before. Housed right in front of a paddy field, the home was compounded by four walls made of stones. The building was a single floored structure, with the construction along two adjacent sides of the compound walls. The rest of the portion was all gravel, with a well centered in the compound. There were two entrances, with some vegetable farms around outside the compound walls. The entire building was white, with white marble corridors. Entering the compound immediately soothed your mind, and you felt peace, the kind of which makes you want to retire and settle somewhere in a similar establishment.
I had the traditional Keralite red rice for lunch, along with some other  curries.
Mr. George Podipora, and aunty, whom I stayed along with were wonderful hosts, I immensely enjoyed their company.  In the evening, uncle took me out to show his fields.
The day ended with almost 6 hrs of cycling and I had covered nearly a 130 km.

Day Five: Kottayam to Trivandrum; The day of extremes

Kerala December 2011: Day Three

Kochi Chalo!
After a heavy breakfast in Ponnani, I headed towards Kochi. It was sultry in the morning, and was a bit warm. The roads in the beginning weren’t exactly what you’d call expressways. Cramps from my yesterday's  feat humbled as I warmed up. The distance today was only 115 km, and I did not want to take up more than four and a half hours for this (Though I had begun with an ambitious 4 hrs.) The backache from yesterday hadn’t exactly faded, but it regained its composure after the first hour. I stopped 4 times in the first 80 km, and those 80 seemed more than 150. The scorching sun over and above the fatigue from the last two days was already taking a toll on me. A jeera soda on the way eased much of the pain, but the guy told me that Kochi was 100km. Rubbish, I knew he was incorrect, but it was already 11 in the morning and temperatures were just going up, and even 50 km would look insurmountable.
The Varapuzha Bridge
After another two hours or so, I reached Varapuzha toll, which I thought to be on the outskirts of Kochi, but the package has its own set of surprises you. Once I got in, I reached a junction. It was almost 2 now, and I was totally drained out. I was a bit lost too, not knowing where to go, so I just stationed myself temporarily in shade somewhere nearby. I finished off whatever dates I was carrying along with me, and finally decided to use my GPS.
There are some moments in life, when you feel accomplished, satisfied, thinking that your goal is a whisker away (a km away in my case), when you are jolted into reality by a rude margin. 19 km, read my GPS! I don’t know whom I was cursing, the internet? Or the roads? Google maps? Anything that confronted me passed by tainted by plethora of imprecations.
You call these dangerous?
And then the traffic. I tell you, if there is anything that can eclipse the haphazardness of the Chennai auto-drivers, it has to be the bus drivers in Kochi; twice they forced me onto the footpaths, and countless times forced me to screeching halts. And building up momentum on the cycle after you are exhausted is frustrating. It was 3:30 by the time I finally reached my destination. Worn out and frustrated, a day’s stay was in order.

The true color or Danger

There is one thing annoying about the highways in Kerala, there are no milestones for the big cities!
There will be milestones for the the smallest of the colonies, but none for what lies ahead. I didn’t see a board for Kochi till I had reached there.
5hrs and 30 min, an hour more against my target, 125 Km, the day finally came to an end.

Kerala December 2011: Day Two

The crash yesterday was more potent than it seemed. His hand swelled up in the morning and the vision was still blurry. And with 5 more days to go, it would be difficult. So he decided to go back to Chennai, and I decided to keep going.
Our second halt was supposed to be at Munnar, which was around 160 km from here, but we had underestimated the rigours of uphill cycling. And Ooty had given us just the nudge to forget Munnar, if we planned to pedal there. So the route was changed, and now it was Ponnani instead.
Road to palakkad
7:30 in the morning, I began cycling, solo towards my next destination.
The highway was awesome! It was mostly flat, and as I moved towards Palakkad, the scenery started improving as well. My excitement knew no bounds when I entered Kerala. I began hooting the moment I crossed the checkpost into Kerala, but had to shut up soon because the stares from the truckers made me feel like a fool. 
Just inside Kerala
I reached Palakkad in about 90 min, and had covered around 50 km. This was by far, one of my fastest escapades. I stopped here to fill up my bottles, and picked up some dry fruits for the way ahead. I met with similar reactions here, bike or a cycle? Is he crazy? Why does he want to cycle so much? And when they learnt that I was going to go all the way to Ponnani, they gave up on me, but nonetheless, wished me luck and went off. Often, auto-rickshaws, bikers tagged along, wanting to know where I was headed. I took my second halt at Ottamalam, had lunch here and moved on.
The all equipped dashboard ;)
The ride after this point started getting tougher. Bad, dusty roads, lots of slopes, hillocks and cattle! Your motivation while going uphill is the downhill ride that follows it, but that is interrupted by the livestock! And then I took a turn at Patambi, and didn’t realise that it was the wrong way until I had covered some 7 km, so had to turn back, get back all the way on the potholed road and reach the correction junction. This was not it, I got lot of directions from here, different people asking me to head in different directions. Giving up hope, I had to call up my friend here, and he advised me to follow the buses to Edappal, some 22 km, and from there Ponnani would be just 9 km. It was around 1 pm in the afternoon, and these distances didn’t seem very comforting, knowing the terrain was hilly. Finally, 4:30 in the evening, I reached his home.
He has the most beautiful of homes that I’ve ever seen, house surrounded by lots of trees, in a very serene and an isolated locality. And Ponnani felt a bit underrated, I wondered why it did not feature on the places worth visiting on the net. We went to the beach, had Saudi Cuisine in the evening and crashed. It was a challenging day, particularly in the 25 km. I had broken all of my previous records today, had covered 165 km, ride time of 6 hr 30 min. My back ached from the weight of my backpack, but the satisfaction was enormous.

Kerala December 2011: Day One

When I woke up in the morning, the bus was somewhere near Mettupalayam. And the bus was going uphill. It was a really slow ride, and we wondered, if the bus were to take so long, when would we reach Munnar on a cycle? Finally the bus stopped, and we put our cycles back together. Ooty, or Udagamandalam on the boards there, was cold. Luckily we’d brought our jackets and were already wearing two layers inside.
Teja in Gear!

The first 2 km were totally uphill. We were already panting by the time we reached up one peak. We stopped here, loaded our bottles with electral, stuffed our ears with cotton, covered our mouths, put on the goggles and began the downhill ride.
The tip of the uphill ride

Swoosh!! The ride that followed had to be the best possible ride ever! Averaging at more than 40 Kmph, and touching 55 every now and then, we left all the motored vehicle drivers stunned. None of them were spared, all of them had to face the humiliation of being overtaken by cyclists. We stopped at Coonor, about 20 km from ooty, and we came that distance in less than 30 min. After an awesome authentic south Indian breakfast, we started off again.
The typical south Indian breakfast

The joy of riding downhill was so much, that we forgot, or should I say ignored to look around and appreciate the hilly beauty. You never start pedalling from the top gear, but here it felt the chain was always derailed! Not once there was a need to put an effort from our side!
The side of the road cleared all of a sudden and the view that it brought out was breathtaking.
The momentary distraction: Root of the first setback

First setback came along. Ajay’s bike slipped over from the edge of the road and he somehow managed to tear off the rear of his jacket, bruise his left ear and get a cut on the left temple. It’s difficult to picture how he’d have crashed, but the first time I saw him, blood was oozing all over from his temple onto his jacket. And his ear didn’t look any different from an over-fried bajji. It was a bad fall, imagine the Kinetic energy of a 80 kg object moving at 40kmph, being absorbed in just one impulse by the body. Ouch.

His vision after the fall was a bit blurry, so we had to slow down.
Till we reached the foothills, life couldn’t have been better. But reality struck us hard when we came down on the flat roads once again. Heat was high, the road was bad, and it was dusty, very dusty!
Ajay’s cycle wheel was wobbling after the fall, so we stopped at every cycle or motor repair shop on the way. But none of them had any clue on how to work on the imported bikes. We had no other option, so we kept trudging along.
The outskirts of Coimbatore were worse than a barren village in Rajasthan. Sand, dust storms, traffic, and the weariness from the journey concocted a really bad image about this place. We hadn’t had lunch, so located a KFC, and relaxed there for almost an hour. Once our tummies were full, we got a place to stay, and began planning tomorrow.
We had covered 95 km today, in about 5 hrs.

The Pilgrimage

The journey had been planned, though not very meticulously.  A rough route had been decided. Bookings were made just a day before, with no idea whether our cycles were going to be allowed to be taken as luggage or not. Cycles had been serviced; we took spares with us; 
The essential was with us in abundance, motivation.
We reached the Koyambedu Bus Terminus almost an hour before time. We still had to confirm the luggage. The person in charge told us that we would have to talk to the bus driver, and it was his prerogative. We waited. Other travellers flocked our waiting area asking about our cycles, mostly clearing their doubts over whether these were really cycles or motor cycles. The bottles, after all, made them look like fuel tanks on a moped. The bus was delayed, by another half an hour. Our anxiety accrued. Our entire trip depended on this one decision of the driver. What if he just denied?
Finally the bus arrived, and I made it to the drivers cabin even before he could switch off the engine. And before he could say anything, I was already blabbering over my demands, or petitions maybe. The guy was confused. By then, some other bus company people came up and offered me to have our cycles delivered separately in a luggage van. No way, that was too much disconcerting. We were taking no risks, and sending our sweethearts separately was in no way an option. The driver finally spoke, and did not speak something very comforting. He said there was no space in the luggage and that he couldn’t help. What?! We weren’t giving up so easily, luggage space? That could definitely be adjusted.
With my limited lexicon of the tamil language, I somehow managed to persuade the driver to show me the space available. It seemed tight, but could be worked out. He saw the bikes, and the first reaction was: ‘You call this small-u?? No way sir, not possible.’ By then, I had already dismantled my front wheel and had put already begun loading. Ajay was doing the same. When mine was inside, the driver gave similar concerns, how will the second fit? But by then the second was in as well.
Back inside as we reclined back on the chairs, we couldn’t help, but feel overjoyed. 500 bucks for two cycles. The bus started moving.
This is what it looked like after the luggage had been emptied
Finally a much fantasized journey was taking place.

Day One: Ooty to Coimbatore

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Upcoming Winter Tour of Kerala

Continuing on our quest for adventure!
Wish us luck!
The journey begins on the 7th of this month!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pallavaram, 13th August

Evening 5 o'clock, after the tiring waterpolo practice session in the morning.

Pretty awesome climb, always had to keep in my 1-1 to 1-3 gear combination. There's a broken temple up here along with some telecommunication tower, and a bunch of angry pigs. But a fun climb, better come here only on a good geared bike. No hawk, mach or the normal types.  And the hill is not to be under estimated.

And as usual, the best part of the climb always arrives after a good tiring climb, the downhill ride! Usual because some time back on the Nagala trip, we had a similar ride down the hill, on parts of the river bed and the wet muddy village roads. While going up, my speeds had been limited to a little over 6kmph, but I clocked speeds of upto 64 kmph on the way back! Once I almost lost control, resulting in an almost a 30 feet slide, but once again, my bike proved it's worth. And then i almost bumped into a few hill folk, but managed to sneak away before they could scream, "Are you crazy??". And the rest of the ride was just a boring high speed escapade, stunning a few pillion riders every now and then.
It's a good sunday morning ride, except for the fact that you'll have to endure some really nasty stench on the way up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


What I personally called, the 'rPhone'
       On 24th June, 2011, at the Kovalam Beach, while clicking the sunrise, the phone was lost to the sea because of sheer imbalance. The phone crashed on the rock, the battery came off and the main piece drifted off into the sea, only never to be found again.
       I stared at the spot where it seemed to have fallen, almost petrified, and the next moment I was frantically digging all around. No sign of the phone. Shit Happens. The next day I went there again and looked around, but seems my luck had run out it's course.
      It took me an hour to realize that something so unfortunate had occurred. The void that I felt for the next few days was profound. That night when I went to bed, I fumbled around for my phone in the dark, only to find it missing. Old habits. No phone, no alarm. duh.
      No ringtones, no messages or email alerts, no music, no camera. Life just felt so disoriented. The charger is still plugged in, the USB adapter cable still lies on my table. Pockets started feeling empty, waiting time at bus stops and stores all of a sudden became weird. The saviour to all awkward moments was gone..
      Now I am over the loss, but thou shalt be always remembered, as my first camera phone!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DSLR magic!

Photographing courtesies: Sumedha Pareek
Place: Kovalam
6 am, 24th June

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mahabalipuram 23rd june '11

     Early morning 4 and we were off. Back by 10 :30.
Statistics : 103 km overall
Total cycling time: 5 hrs

 The best part of the trip..
 Yep, we rode it up a 200 ft high hill, totally off road! on the rocks!


My dashboard :)