Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nagalapuram Trip, on Bicycle!

  Early morning in Chennai, 3:15 am, 6th June, 2011, hot and humid even now, but somehow bearable. The excitement about the trip made everything bearable. Backpack: ready, cycle: serviced and ready, equipment: ready, self: ready to be tested. Finally we were embarking on a trip that we (My friend Ajayteja, and me) had long fantasized, cycling all the way to Nagalapuram, camping there for  2 nights, trekking and coming back.

   4:30 am, and we were off. By 5:30 we had reached the far end of Poonamallee, and took our first stop there. It took a lot of referring to the GPS for first timers like us. But nonetheless, we were there. We had tea here and took off at about 5:45, with our electral packets loaded into the sipper bottles. and before long, we were on the state highway to Thiruvallur, which was to be our second stop.

   The road to Thiruvallur was really good, no potholes, and with excellent farms around, and beautiful scenery, and weather. But riding on this wasn't easy, especially with the wind totally against us. The wind limited our speeds to a little over 10 kmph. And at around 8:30, we were at Thiruvallur. We had cycled 45 km from our hostels to reach this place, and were already starting to feel high.

    After crossing the railway station and getting out of the city, we stopped on the outskirts of this town, at some small tea stall. Had tea and a few slices of bread, refilled our bottles, and were off by 9:00. Our next planned halt was to be at poondi, around 20 km from this place.

   Our path took an unexpected turn after Thiruvallur, when we branched off for Poondi onto the state highway 50. It just furthered our image of the Indian rural highways, pathetic, pitiable for vehicle travellers, but all the more fun for cyclists like us. It was all the more invigorating, as it was different from the mundane highway rides. We had to watch out for every pothole, every bump, and overtaking the villagers on bikes was even more fun! And the eyeballs we grabbed on the way, thanks to our bikes and our attire! As we reached the poondi village, beautiful farms started coming up. But the wind was still against us. We took a halt here for a few minutes.

And a picture, wallpaper material, isn't it?
Not for everyone! The place was really awesome, ideal place to set up a tent, and we even thought that on the way back, we'd have a night halt here.

    As we passed through the Poondi village, a local followed up to us and struck up a conversation. He took us to the Poondi reservoir and offered us lemonade.
    That's Teja, with the local, Mr. Suresh.
    After exchanging contacts, we furthered onto our trip, towards the next halt Uthukottai.

   On the way to Uthukottai, we stopped at some village midway and bought steel mugs, and maggi.
Reaching Uthukottai was a kind of a mini achievement for us as we had come across a milestone previously that placed Uthukottai at 57km. We had our breakfast here at a small dosa stall. The stall-owners were surprisingly friendly!  After refilling our bottles, we took off again. And we came by Palavakkam. This was the point where we crossed the state, into Andhra Pradesh, another woo-hoo moment for us!


 As we cycled on and on, as every pedal took us near to our destination, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the cadence. The wind, as if it had sworn to be against us all the time, continued it's fury against us. And 1.5km before the Nagalapuram town, we went off road. This was amongst the most fun part of our trip, as we cycled in the scorching sun, on and on, unsure of the path. All we knew was that we had to get to some village, and get further directions, till then just enjoy the road!

en route to the village


    And we reached a village, and after lots of twists and turns and ups and downs, and again a lot of asking and seeking, we finally met a guy who knew where we wanted to go. He took us to his home, offered us mangoes and chilled water. Chilled water was a luxury!! He set us on to the right track, and before long, we reached Tipikottai, the last Village before we got onto the hill. And as we climbed up the reservoir, our joy knew no bounds! We were finally there!

On the reservoir boundary
The reservoir

    Our next aim here was to find a place to hide our cycles, as we planned to trek on later. We found a place at some  15ft above the ground, some flat place with a good strong branch above. After tying our cycles to the branch and covering it with a lot of leaves and stuff, we headed inside the forest.
    We walked on till the first pool, found a clear place nearby, and set up the tent. We lit up a small fire, and put the maggi for cooking and lazed in the pool. And Teja sure did exhibit some skill as we tried to lit the fire, scrapping out pulp from dried wood using his swiss knife. Lazing in the pool, we almost fell asleep, but the smell of cooked maggi is too much inviting to not eat it off. Once we were done with eating, we got back to the tent and started clearing around, and it started to drizzle. And boy, was that awesome! In the jungle already, raining, and time to spend some time in the tent! It couldn't get better!

    First disappointment came along. The tent wasn't waterproof. Within minutes of raining, our stuff was almost starting to float inside. And then, we took the most upsetting decision of the trip, of getting back. Technically it was the best we could do, but the excitement was gone. The trek was ruined. We hastily packed all our stuff back inside, folded back the tent in the heavy rain, trekked back all the way back to the reservoir, got the cycles down.

   And then the best, let me emphasize on this word, BEST part of the entire trip followed. We cycled down back to Tipikottai, in that heavy rain, on a river bed road, bad mud, racing all the way down. Our cycles jumped as high as 2ft high, which was in no way any less than a thrill for novice cyclists like us! And our cycles were faithful to us all the while, not one puncture, no wheel bend, the gears changing smoothly as ever, and the shock absorbers proving their worth! In short, LOVELY!!

   We got inside Tipikottai and arrived at a reasonably dense locality. We stopped by some snack stall, and as we ordered, we asked for a place to spend the night. It was already dark, and raining, so we couldn't have gone far as well. After a lot of asking around, we finally got a place in the verandah of locked hut. The place was hardly 4m by 2m, and we set up our tent, parked the cycles, and spent the night here. In the tent we tried to have some dinner, the packaged stuff that we had brought along, but we were too exhausted to eat. Just had some plum cake, set the alarms and "crashed".

All in all, it was 105 km cycling plus 5 km trek. This was Day One.

 Day Two

   Day two begun at 4:45 in the morning, actually 3:15 again, but snoozing took us all the way. Even the hard floor we slept on last night felt a very comfortable bed. We woke up all shaken up, because we had not slept well, and we hadn't had a proper dinner. After folding the tent back, watering off the mud from the gears, taking some glucose, we left that place. It was drizzling, but the wind was not against us now. We came back till Uthukottai, stopping frequently in between. The ride back was scenic, but we did not have all the energy to enjoy it much.

    And then we took a lift in a tempo till Poondi, where we called up our local contact, Suresh. We had some breakfast, coffee at his home, and took off again in an hour. But now we were all charged up. The village kids sure did go crazy on our bikes.

     The rest of the ride back was easy. As we passed every landmark that we had come across previously, our enthusiasm grew, we pedaled faster and faster. Finally we reached Chennai, the change was imminent. It was one in the afternoon,  and the traffic was bad. It was 2:30, finally, when we dropped dead in our hostel rooms. And we did not wake up before 8 in the evening.
Total distance covered in 2 days: 200 km on cycle + 5 km trekking.

    Last word, if you enjoy physically challenging feats, this is one good opportunity!


  1. Wow! Awesome! It would have drained you out physically!!

  2. believe me ... it was not as simple as it looks in the blog :P

  3. @vasant: it did! need one full day to relax & recover!

  4. Whoa!!! Next time, i'm in!! Dont have a cycle tho. Will my bullet do :P

  5. should do :P
    but carry some of our luggage though :P

  6. Awesome man ! These will surely account for the few things you remember about college. Would love to join you guys sometime.

  7. nice post...
    more pics!
    hows your beloved cycle btw :P

  8. lots of mud on the gears, a bit noisy, and a flat tire, but all good! :P

  9. 2 days 200 km !! way to go dude !! must've been one hell of an experience !!! :D

  10. Blog's the testimony to that ;)

  11. Nagalapuram is a wonderful place for trekking. Thanks for this informative post in this blog. Well written about your trip. This blog really helps me to plan for my trip to this place. Make your trip to this place by booking your bus ticket in Hebron Travels.