Monday, December 31, 2007

Le Tour de Coorg [ Acknowledgements ]

Thank you Harsha for all the preparation. The altitude, distance, time estimate excel sheet was simply meticulous. It has however taught us how to measure altitude gains along the routes. Thanks for all the tools. Thanks especially for the quick decisions... each one of them turned out to just right. God knows what would have happened if we had pushed to Bhagamandala on day 1, or to Cheyyandane on Day2 or stayed at Virajpet on Day 3.

Please convey my thanks to Premaji who suggested / arranged the visit to Chelavara.

Thanks also for having arranged for such a wonderful bike.

Thank you Manohar. You spread cheer, what ever you do. Keep it up. Thanks for all the beauty tips ;-) Sun screen lotion is a must have for all future trips. I have learned a lot about respecting, remembering 17 year old acquaintances and the power of feelings a reunion creates.

Thank you Priya for the bike. The Omega simply rocks, or rather it flies. It is the lightest and smoothest bike I have ridden till now. I am most certain that I would not have enjoyed the trip as much if I rode my top gear.

Thank you to all those who called or tried to call or messaged :-) Truck loads of thanks to folks at bikezone who gave timely advice, help and wishes. Your encouragement is what keeps me pedaling. Thank you so much.

Thanks to those anonymous people of Coorg for encouraging us all the way. Coffee, water and sugar... we are indebted to those families/hotels that gave us these whenever we needed them. But we are most grateful for all those lovely smiles.

Le Tour de Coorg - [ Day Four ]

[Note: Google Reader (or any other RSS/Atom reader) may not render bubbleshare images properly. Please visit the blog to see them]

Day four was supposed to be Jujubi - a walk in the park. A little downhill towards the Titimati, followed by a leisurely drive through the national forest, and zip through the highway to reach Mysore or Srirangapattana. Jump on a bus to Bengaluru We would be home by evening. Well, it could not have started better. A beautiful young lady walks up to me and inquires about our trip... listens patiently and wishes luck for future tour. As ever, I choked - kept the conversation to the topic and never asked for her number. Well, 3 days of drudgery on the saddle was worth every cent.

Gonikoppa to Titimati is just 9 Kms. Mostly flat or mild inclines. The digging disease of Bangalore had spread here also. Apparently they were laying OFC for Reliance. Gonikoppa will now be connected to the largest Optical Network of the country. Hurrah!! I do not mean to generalize. But people in this part of Coorg are not as friendly as in other parts. Most of smiles were returned back with cold stares. I was uncertain how to react. Perhaps this area is slightly backward than the rest of the Coorg - and hence saw us as out-siders' showing off. At Titimati, we had breakfast and proceeded towards the jungle. The road ahead is well paved, but very narrow. We had to move to the edge of the road whenever a bus had to pass in either direction. This being a popular road, there were many of them. I must mention that KSRTC drivers were very courteous towards us on road. Or perhaps the jazzy helmet did the trick. Once we entered the Rajiv Gandhi National Park the official forest zone starts. I kept my eyes open hoping to find an odd deer. But I was disappointed to see ample evidence of human habitation. More painful was to see the evidence of tourism - water bottles, snack covers, even playing cards all found on road side. It's surprising how much one can observe while on a bicycle. Over the last three days, it was the various hues of green, bright flowers, butterflies or an odd animal crap. But now, we were heading back to civilization... and I was not liking it.

Towards the end of the National park is the elephant zone. Here the forest officers take care of tamed elephants. There are about twenty of them... all of them are tuskers. Apparently they are used to move timber (as told by a police man). But isn't National Park an area where you can not cut trees? Where does the question of moving timber come from? Any way, we were lucky to hear them trumpet when were in the vicinity. Beyond that part the forest area was mostly filled with bamboo. I kept my eyes open now for an charging bull elephant and imagined myself running for life... just kidding. The end of the National Park, is also the end of Coorg. Le Tour de Coorg would enter Mysore now. 27 Kms from there we would reach Hunasoor.

Five Kms before Hunasoor, this road joins the highway from Kushalanagara - Periyapatna. I was delighted to be on a flat highway and quicly upped my speed to >25Kmph. But Highway gets boring too. I had some sigle speeders giving company till the Hunasoor by pass. The gentleman told me about the only big hotel and recommended to have lunch there. After lunch, the first doubts started entering our minds. Was it really worth it to drive another 50Kms on this monotonous road in this scorching heat? Could we not just stop a Bangalore bound bus and load the cycles on to them? Amidst all doubts, we started pedaling towards Mysore. The road was recently widened. This meant that all the trees on both side of the road had to fall leaving walkers and cyclists without any shade at all. I was hitting the wall many many times. But could not stop since there was no shade at all. At last, I found a bus stop by the side of a school. We slept for about half an hour. The more rest we took, the more we wanted. Our morale was weakening. A strong head wind added to our woes. We decided to pedal as much as possible and take the next decision then. Heat, wind and a battered morale meant that we made slow progress. An alternate plan emerged. Why not go to Srirangapattana and take a refreshing dip in Kaveri? All buses from Mysore had to pass through Srirangapattana any way.

Amidst all these, within 10 Kms to Ilivala, H's rear tire went flat. We were lucky to catch a tempo to transport the bike to Ilivala to get the puncture fixed. M and me rided strongly towards Ilivala. This time, the anxiety of home coming over powered all thoughts of giving up. The Sun had started to descend and a warm breeze blew across us. M pointed out Chamundi Hills and Lalitha Mahal on our right. The final stretch to Ilivala is a kilometer long downhill. Boy it felt wonderful to feel the wind. H welcomed us to Ilivala and treated us with ice-cream and soda. The tour was officially over. We would then get another tempo and transport the bikes to Srirangapattana and pay a visit to Sri Ranganatha - Lord Vishnu sleeping on Vasuki. But as plans are made... they promptly fail. Transport was only a distant dream. Plan B was to re-start the tour and pedal to Mysore - 15 Kms away. Thats what we did. H knew the back roads of Mysore as good as Bengaluru. We reached Mysore KSTRC bus-stand by 8:00 PM. And now, the tour was over again. We managed 3 seats in a Volvo bus and next thing I remember is getting off at Bengaluru.

Harsha's Photos on flickr:

For the Cyclists:
Route: Gonikoppa - Titimati - Ane Honchoor - Hunasoor - Elivala - Mysore
Distance: 104 Kms
Max Speed: 44 Kmph
Start Time: 06:30 AM
End Time: 07:30 PM (approx)

Food: Morning coffee right in front of the lodge. The last coffee that we would have in Coorg - almost the best.

Breakfast at Hotel Swagat - Titimati. Dosa was served only with previous day's tomato curry. Nicely roasted dosa in coconut oil. We split one big puttu into three and devoured them with ample sugar. Puttu is basically a malayali dish. It is rice dough baked with layers of grated coconut. By itself, it's dry and tasteless. But with sugar, it very very tasty.

Tender Coconut at the Mysore Road Junction.

Lunch at Hotel Devi Prasad, Hunasoor. Devi Prasad is the only big veggie hotel in the entire Hunasoor. It is world famous there. Plate meals is served on plantain leaf. Only one chapati - extra chapati, extra mulah. Raddish sambar, spicy rasam and curd rice makes it a full 3 course meal. Wheat payasa for dessert. There are other sabjis. None of them made any mark either on the tongue or the mind. Extra hot weather made us long for an extra dessert - Ice Creams.

Some 10 Kms before Ilivala - grapes, bananas and Tea.

Snacks are Ilivala included Cornetto, coffee, sprite - multiples of each of them ;-) Mysore ring road is thronged with Iyengar's Bakeries. How can one go past without having a veg puff or two.

Travel: There are lot of Volvo buses that ply between Mysore and Bangalore. Buses from Madikeri, Virajpet or else where have to pass through Mysore to reach Bangalore. There would be some people getting off at Mysore. Hence there would be some seats available in each one of them. However, there is absolutely no order at the station. The Volvo booking center has no idea how many seats would be free in the arriving buses. So, they can not issue tickets. Given that each bus is a new attempt, people never form any queue. Volvo fare per person : Rs 190/- Cycle : Rs 15/- Shamelessness Tax: Rs50/-

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Le Tour de Coorg - [ Day Three ]

[Note: Google Reader (or any other RSS/Atom reader) may not render bubbleshare images properly. Please visit the blog to see them]

Day three started off very early. Over the three days I had observed the different sounds during the day. The earliest birds are the crows. They wake up much before us or any other birds. As the day progresses, the mynahs, cuckkoos and other birds join in and start an orchestra. The crows (who are the early birds that got the worm) now cool off. Later the parrots come and go in groups... they make a lot of sound that does not make sense at all. They are like the hard rock band of the bird kingdom. Each one sings to its own pleasure. They are always on the move. Once they are gone, you can again listen to orchestra - all day long till sunset. This steady state is disturbed only by an odd crow that found some left over lunch somewhere. At sunset, there is frenzied activity - much like our peak hour traffic. Every bird wants to get to some where. the honking, the vexing generate a lovely crescendo. Within minutes, its all over. Once the cukkoos, mynahs, sparrows and wagtails retire to their cozy nests, the night is taken over by the insects. The pleasant bliss of the bird concert is replaced by chilling uneasiness of the crickets. They are monotonous and together with darkness, they are very effective in developing a scary environment.

We battled thick fog and bad roads for over an hour. To sun rising across the fields and melting the fog was a sight worth waking up early for. The road turned from bad to worse. On the previous days, tough climbs were always rewarded with cool breeze on the top, and an exhilarating descent. But today, the descents had to be as slow and treacherous as the climb. It road became irritating and slowed our progress very very slow. We had taken 2 hours to reach Ballamavute which was a paltry 13 Kms from start. Everyone we met on the road had their own estimate on how long the road was in this state. Irrespective the road condition, the coffee estates were pleasing to the eyes and chirping of the birds were music to the ears. A couple of kilometers after Ballamavute is Hotel Priya where we had breakfast.

Infact, a few Kms after Ballamavute the road gets better. We could see that some work was in progress. There is a fork in the road. Left goes to Napoklu and right to Kakkabbe. The right is the raod less taken by buses and hence it is less spoiled. The journey to Kakkabbe was mostly downhill interleaved by gentle inclines. I made quick descents and spent more time talking to locals. Topics ranged from climate, politics, tourism to general geography. People are very friendly and always volunteer with information. They are always intrigued by the GPS receiver and become happy when I enter their village's name into it. Holiday season was in its full swing. We saw a huge group of foreign tourists checking out of Honey valley estate. After Kakkabbe and Kakkabbe comes Cherambane followed by Cheyyandane. This is where our featured adventure of the day awaited us.

H had already arranged for a pickup to take us to Chelavara falls and beyond it to see the view point. Chelavara falls is a little known falls hidden among the many coffee estates of Coorg. It is now accessible easily only to the home-stay guests in those estates. It is better to keep it that way. If it attracts a larger crowd, it will also become as dirty as Abbey falls. Our ride was a Mahindra pickup. Only one person can sit with the driver. Remaining two had to had to manage standing/sitting behind in the goods area. A 3 Kms ride on an extremely bumpy road will lead us to the Falls. The road disappears ahead and morphs into a jeep track... which promptly worsens into a just a series of rocks. The gradient also kicks up viciously. If any body saw this terrain without the pickup, they would not believe that it is indeed motorable. The driver told me that He had driven a Scorpio (without a 4 wheel drive) up last season. Can you even imagine how the road (?) would look like during rains? Another 3-4 Kms beyond the falls is a high point from where we can see as far as Kerala on one side, Tadiandamol on the other, and a magnificent view of the entire Brahmagiri range. After a quick photo session at a vantage point, we made our way down to the falls.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Cheap Vegas Hotels
We spent an hour at the falls. And all the time, we were the only people there. Its as if it were our own private falls. Even though, the pond size was not more than a 30-40 site, I did not want to try swimming... especially after I realized that I could not touch the bottom even after I was chest deep. But we throughly enjoyed the refreshingly cold water... We did not want to leave the place. But we were reminded about the rest of the journey we had to cover on cycles to reach a city where we could find a lodge ;-) Reluctantly, we got out of the water and headed towards the jeep.

On the way back to the main road, we got to taste Coorgi Hospitality first hand. M had visited this ancestral house with his neighbor (in Arsikere) during his childhood days 17 years ago. His neighbor (Latha aunty, as he calls her) no longer lives here. Its only her brother who lives with his family here. Still he recognized M and insisted all of us come up and have a lunch. The lady of the house served us sweet juice of a fruit that is a cusp between orange and a lemon. Home grown and native to Coorg only. I only had to hint that we left our water bottles at the base camp... She prepared 2 litres more juice and gave us in a huge maza bottle. Within minutes, M exchanged numbers and promised to keep regular contact with them. They had by then called folks in Gonikoppa and offered to arrange for our night stay and food. They made it really hard to politely turn down such offers. After almost an hour od catching up with old memories M finally got ready to leave. Back at Cheyyandane, we were shocked to hear that our little trip up the hill would cost us Rs 600/-. There is no haggling after the tour ;-) so we paid up and pedaled ahead burying the agony deep inside. It was only 3 Kms later when H brought up the topic that all of us vented out our displeasure.

We should have lunch at Cheyandane. Coz miles and miles after Cheyyandane, till Virajpete, we would not find any veggie restaurant. Towns and villages came and went... Karanga, Kadanga, Kadanoor and so on. The terrain had become much more easier than the previous two days. With 6 Kms to Virajpet H's brake just broke. Yes, it just broke into pieces. While he was repairing his brakes, another nice gentle man came up to us and offered NelliKai (amla). He insisted. He took me to his home and gave me a handful of them. On the way he introduced me to his neighbors as "Kids from Bengaluru who came cycling". I kept wondering why. Later he revealed that he has a son working in Toyota Kirloskar Factory in Bengaluru. Probably it was his way of feeling close to his son. He inquired about our future route. Like a father, he cautioned us not to cross the Forest area at night. "Pass that stretch in day time only" He said. and here we were 10 minutes ago second guessing his insisting that I come home. My faith in future of humanity just grew many fold... Long live such people.

A kilometer on the same road, we get the Madikeri-Virajpet road. This is a state highway and hence has nice asphalt. Although the road has its own share of ups and downs, it is nothing compared to what we had pedaled past in the last couple of days. At Virajpet, we had a quick snack and by 5PM we were on our way to Gonikoppa. The route was mostly flat. Both sides of the road were paddy fields. The sun was setting on my right. The scene has to seen to be believed. For brief moments, it was nothing short of the evening scenes in the flat stages of THE tour. Unfortunately, I had run short of batteries (that is one downside of too many gadgets). I will have to wait for H's photos to be uploaded. A couple of Kms before Gonikoppa H shopped for some exotic/artistic candles. We reached Gonikoppa town by night fall. Checked in to a hotel. Washed up, dined, chatted with family and crashed. We had just one more day of cycling ahead of us. It was a nice feeling.

Harsha's Photos on flickr:

For the Cyclists:
Route: Bhagamandala - Ballamavute - Nelaje - Kakkabbe - Cheyyandane - Karada - Kadanga - Madikeri Rd Jn - Virajpete - Gonikoppa
Distance: 82 Kms
Max Speed: 45.1 Kmph
Start Time: 06:00 AM
End Time: 07:30 PM (approx)
Road Condition: From Bhagamandala to Nelaje (approx 20Kms) the road is in horrible condition. At places we had search for even 6 inches wide asphalt to ride on.

Hotel Nandanavana is one of the first hotel one sees when he enters Gonikoppa from Virajpet side. Rs 400/- per room including extra bed. Limitted hot water - only from 6:30 in the morning. No restaurant attached. Ample parking space. Moderately recommended (for lack of better alternatives).

We had a coffee each at Santhosh Hotel. It was the only joint open so early in the morning.

Next stop for food was at Ballamavute - Hotel Priya. We had poori with chutney. The chutney was extremely super dooper spicy. We cooled it off with Idli + sugar. Tea was very pleasing as well. All in all just Rs 54/- for a very satisfying break fast.

Somebody told that Kadanga is a good place for food. Unfortunately we forgot mention that we were veggies. Kadanga does not even have one veggie restaurant. People laugh at you if you inquire for one. We had to be content with bananas and biscuits while M stuffed a boiled egg down his bowel.

Evening snacks at Virajpete. Some Kamath cafe on the Madikeri road. Plain dosa and Coffee.

Dinner at Gonikoppal needed to be an early one. The town closes down very soon. There are two good veggie restaurants. We went to the Kamath's place run by a Udupi guy. Apparently he was over whelmed with the crowd that day and hence the service was a bit slow. We had Masala Dosa, Onion Utthapam, Gobi manchurien and the mandatory curd rice. Ice-cream for dessert.

Le Tour de Coorg - [ Day Two ]

[Note: Google Reader (or any other RSS/Atom reader) may not render bubbleshare images properly. Please visit the blog to see them]

Madikeri is a hilly city. duh!! to get out of Madikeri, one has to climd steep climbs and immediately descend (equally steep) on the other side. Finding our way was easy. There was a continuous stream of Oil Tankers coming into the city from Mangalore. We should go towards mangalore until we find a fork. Once we had climbed up the steep gradients, we had the beautiful view of the valley below. Bhagamandala is at much lower altitude than Madikeri. But that clearly does not meant that the route was all downhill. We found that out very soon. We kept climbing up and down the coffee estates - every time hoping this would be the last climb before Bhagamandala.

The road was in a very good condition and there were kilometer markings all though out. The next day would be the annual Coorg Marathon. Locals believe that this is how a marathon should be. Not running on boring flat lands like the one in Bangalore previous week. We kept passing through one small village after another. At each bus-stop we could see school and college students lined up - curious eyes shifting from helmet, to gears, the outfit and then eye-contact, that is when boys look away and girls start giggling. We replenished ourselves from time to time with the groundnut laddus until we reached Chettimane where we had nice bananas. That would see us through till Bhagamandala. My camera was nicely tucked inside my luggage and hence not many photos taken on Day Two. Our plan for the day was to reach Cheyyandane by evening. This plan was based on the assumption that Madikeri to Bhagamandala was all down hill and can be covered in 2 hours. As we had just learnt, altitude readings can be deceptive. All the stoppings and the climbs, and H's niggle at the knee made us take four and half hours to reach the KSTDC hotel at Bhagamandala. The facilities at KSTDC encouraged us to change our plan to halt there for the night. This gave us the freedom to climb 7Kms of Talacauvery at our own pace. We had a late breakfast of Idli and Vada . We took only essentials to Talacauvery. The caretakers of KSTDC hotel were generous enough to let us park our luggage there. We took the cameras, chocolates and electral/water only.

The climb to Talacauvery is not as dreadful as it seems. Yes, it is a 440 mt climb in 7Kms. But the first three kilometers only has mild gradient. The road condition is excellent. Hence it does not drain you. But as I climbed, I started planning my ascent. There were people standing at vantage points taking photographs. Perhaps being among the hills for the whole day had made us immune to these sceneries ;-) There was a dude trying to do a rock-climbing stunt without any safety equipment... I could only smile at his foolishness and moved on. Some people were more friendly. They were encouraging and offering water. I politely refused. With about 3Kms to go, I was still feeling strong and going a steady pace of 5 minutes every kilometer. That is when the thoughts of climbing peak non-stop crept into my mind. Some where around this point, there is a 50 meter stretch of down hill. Yes, you read it right - down hill. I quickly gulped two sips of electral and noticed that I was still in F3R2. At two Kms to go I shifted to F2. Riding became slightly easier. The final kilometer is when the gradient steps up viciously. There are no trees there to add to the misery. Halfway through the last thousand meters, I shifted to easiest gear F1. That was the maximum the bike could help me. As I approached the summit, I had to get off my saddle. With tourist vehicles parked on either side and people walking on the roads... I had to whistle (the cycle had no bell) to get them clear the road. When I reached the top, I was ecstatic. Non-stop in 36 minutes was possible. There is a police outpost on top of Talacauvery. I struck conversation with the ASI and requested permission to rest inside. He gladly obliged. I hurriedly finished all the electral that I had got. As I waited for my friends, ASI Krishna told me that he was expecting ADG Mahapatra that day. As we both waited anxiously sun was beating down mercilessly on us. There was absolutely no shade in sight. I suddenly realized that I had all the eatables. H and M had only water. Even M's purse was in this bag. Oops what had I done? For 10 minutes, I even considered going down to meet them. Then I realized that H had money with him and both H and M are very resourceful. Had they needed me, they would have sent a word.

ADG had come and gone by the time my friends arrived. We quickly visited all the deities and climbed Brahmagiri. From the top of Brahmagiri, you can see all the way to Kerala. It pains to see the windmills stopped spinning because of lack of maintenance. People are a nuisance every where. The clear pristine air was being polluted with cigarette smoke by knuckle heads.

The downhill ride was fast and cautious. Unlike, other downhills, there would be a high probability of vehicles coming up hill who had to be given preference on road. But we were right up there with the other motorists with respect to speed. 7 Kms - <15 style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">

Harsha's Photos on flickr:

For the Cyclists:
Route: Madikeri - Talattmane - Cherambane - Chettimane - Bhagamandala - Talacauvery - Bhagamandala
Distance: 55 Kms
Max Speed: 44.7 Kmph
Start Time: 06:30 AM
End Time: 03:30 PM (approx)

Acco: The KSTDC hotel is the last hotel on route to Talacauveri. It is right next to Police Station. Can't miss it. They take bookings from any KSTDC branch viz Mysore or Bengaluru. Check-in times are noon to noon. There are 3-4 huge dorms - each with >50 beds. So theoretically you can find acco any time of the year. Restaurant is attached. Toilets are clean. Running hot water as long as there is power. At Rs 100/- per person - the dorm accommodation is a steal. The downside is that the dorm lacks a locker room.

There are other lodges in the town. But none of them looked sophisticated.

Food: A late breakfast: KSTDC, Bhagamandala restaurant had a simple menu. Only Idli Vada for breakfast. Perhaps, even if there were other dishes, we would have taken these only. The sambar was excellent. Waiters were generous and courteous in refills. Coffee is not as good as in other parts of Coorg. Price is reasonable.

On top of Talacauvery, we had butter milk. Extremely refreshing. The fact that is served in plastic cups is disappointing. Plastic indeed has deep penetration. We replenished our energy levels with dates and chocolates. Hot Hot ambodE made us more hungry.

Lunch at KSTDC was simple. Chapati, couple of sabjis (nondescript in nature), sambar, rasam and curd. The best part of food is that it is available way after lunch hours (even at 3:00 PM). We bought some puri for afternoon snacks to be eaten on banks of the river. We bought some more murukku and groundnut laddus for the next day.

Dinner was again kept simple - because, anything complex was not available. As the caretaker admitted himself, all curries have the same base. For Channa masala, you put channa. For Green Peas, you put peas. One can only imagine how Gobi masala would be if we had ordered. Hence we ate chapatis with Green Peas and mixed veg masala. Cooled off the spices with generous servings of curdrice. Curd rise was served with large amount of onions - strange. No ice cream or desserts.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Le Tour de Coorg - [Day One]

Day One:

We had planned to start at 0530. It was already 0630 by the time we got our cycles into shape and tied all luggages properly. I tried to get some money. The State Bank ATM promptly drew a blank screen citing a "Temporary Problem". Why can't they admit that they don't have money? The Corporation Bank ATM was more generous. 0645 was our official start of the tour. We would be on road for the next 4 days as long as day light lasted. A few minutes later we arrive the fork at Manjarabad Fort. Right (down) goes to Mangalore. Left (Up) goers to Kodlipet. It was the day of Bakrid. So, no schools would be open. Children were running out of their homes shouting "Cycallu Cycallu..." Obviously they were more interested in seeing our attire - the helmets, the sporty shorts and of course a geared cycle. Each one of them has a story based on his interpretation. I over heard one kid explaining to another that we were on a racing. Others were just happy clapping at us. I was never hesitant to throw in a smile and a friendly wave. Some shy away, some wave back.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Cheap Hotels Vegas

A thousand splendid trees... each reduced a thousand worthless pieces of log. This is the story of the entire stretch of road till Kodlipete. On either side of the road, logs lay spread out like dead bodies in a war zone. In this war there will be no winner. The cost of development has to be borne by the generations to come.

Few more kilometers of pedaling, few more pastures, a couple of more bridges and we reached Kodlipet. Ride till here was mostly flat, downhill or mid incline. No huffing and puffing. Shukravarasanthe, Shanivarasanthe and Somavarapete - mean Friday market, Saturday market and Monday market. On Sunday the market congregates at Kodlipete. The merchants could sell their wares while being on the move through out the week. We pedaled through the same route to reach Somawarapete by noon. The climb to Somawarpet was tough. Very tough at some stretches. Till now, we did not pass thru any town that had a decent medical stores. We did not have any ORS packets. Result was dehydration and cramps and very slow progress. At Sowarpet we bought packets of Electral (most famous ORS in India). The thirst and the cramps were gone in a jiffy. However, we still had one more massive climb ahead of us in the day.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Cheap Hotels Vegas

Somawarapet to Madapura is downhill. Very very downhill. While zipping through these sections, we get very little time to look around. Eyes on the road, hands on the break and the mind thinking about the next climb. On either side of the road were coffee estates. Some private, and some owed by Tata Coffee. One can clearly make out the difference between the two. The Tata estates are managed and maintained professionally. The hedges are neatly trimmed. The workers wear helmets and sunshades. There is uniformity in the extent to which pepper creepers climb up the Silver Oak trees. All in all, they look more like a aesthetic botanical park than coffee estate. Later, steeper downhill sections followed. If lucky, you will get a decent vehicle to break the wind for you and you can just follow the tail lights to know when to brake. Thats exactly what I did... max speed 48 Kmph. At the bottom of the descent is Madapura which has a fabulous bridge. At Madapura, we had light snacks and moved on without much rest.

Beyond Madapura was our next big climb of the day. Two climbs in a single day is not a good idea. But, such lessons are best learnt by experience. We would soon find out. The gradient kicks up quite viciously after Hattihole towards Makkandur. Slowly and very unsteadily we made progress. When you are that tired, you would not have energy to take photos. We made mental note of the wonderful sunset and just marched ahead. At Makkandur we realized that our altitude calculations were flawed. Madikeri city may be at a lower altitude (lower than Makkandoor). But to get there, we needed to still climb further. Try explaining this error to my legs that have already given their 110% all through out the day. There was no other choice, we had to pedal further - now even more slowly. The sun had set and beautiful moon had taken the mantle of lighting the mountains. Is it my fault if I remember the babbar sher? "re chaand tu bhi gazad dha tha hi... bacchpan mein mama aur javani mein yaar nazar aata hi" [there is no good translation that can carry the meaning as effectively]. Any way, out came the torches and we slowly made our way to the top of the peak. We were too tired to celebrate also. The descent into Madikeri city was quick. I again tailed a Maruti Car - But this time it was to take advantage of its light. Its a weird feeling to ride in the city after 100 Kms in the woods. I almost ran past a red light right under the nose of two policemen. Finding accomodation/food was no problem at all. A quick dinner was followed by the most well deserved sleep of our life.

Harsha's Photos on flickr:

For the cyclists:
Route: Sakaleshpur - Shukravarasanthe - Kodlipete - Shanivarasanthe - Honnammana Kere - Somavarapete - Madapura - Hattihole - Makkandoor - Madikeri
Distance: 108 Kms
Max Speed: 48 Kmph
Start Time: 06:45 AM
End Time: 07:00 PM (approx)

Early morning Tea and Bun in the hotel in front of Vasavi Lodge. The first tea of the day always pumps you up. Gets you ready to for the long day ahead. The Bun is meant to keep the growling noise inside the tummy away for at least until we can find proper breakfast. We could not find bananas anywhere yet.

Breakfast at Shukravarasanthe: Idli + Chutney. The chutney (perhaps coconut) was bland and yet interesting. The fact that we were served by a very friendly lady made the breakfast more satisfying. We also had pulav with raitha and the same chutney.

Somewhere between Kodlipete and Shanivarsanthe we had the coffee. The taste seemed to declare that we were in the heart land of coffee production. Such was the taste that we almost wanted a refill.

Lunch at Somawarpete was again in an anonymous hotel and nondescript in nature. The only thing that was worth mentioning is the channa sabji - a simple recipe of channa, onion, green chilies and tadka. We had generous servings of the same.

Evening snacks at Madapura consisted of oily veg-puffs and another cup of typical tasty Coorg coffee. We also picked up a packet of groundnut laddus for the road. These are meant to be great for munching in addition to being a good source of energy.

Dinner at Madikeri at Hotel Popular Woodlands (?). Roti Curry and curd rice. We topped that with a choco-bar dessert.

Acco: Hotel Popular WoodLands (?). I am not sure of the name. It is next to the conspicuously huge shoe store. The shoe store is disproportionately huge for a small city like Madikeri. Any way, Room rent : Rs 650/- per night. Hot water was promised for 2 hours in the morning. In reality, it was only for 20 minutes. Ample parking space. Moderately recommended.

Transport: Madikeri is well connected to Bangalore. From early morning to 2 PM there are regular KSTRC buses of all kinds (Volvo, Rajahamsa... to red bus) leaving at regular intervals. After 2 PM, the next bus is at night only.

Le Tour de Coorg - [Day Zero]

Harsha and Manohar are long time friends. I met them at bikezone. The idea of this TDC (Tour de Coorg) was proposed by Harsha some time in October. Lot of preparation went in to this which is fairly documented by Harsha here. Various people are interested in various aspects of the trip... Some look only at photos, Some are bothered about what restaurants are there along the road, some are worried about accommodation and transport links, some others are just read because they are my friends ;-) I have tried to organise this tell-tale in such a way that each person can quickly get what he wants.

Day Zero:
A depression in Bay of Bengal meant that we would have a wet beginning to the tour. I was dripping wet by the time I reached KSRTC bus-stand. I reached there on time, but without - the cyclo computer, money, gloves and many other essentials. The rain had worked my brain to ignore all reminders. Damn!! M and H quickly reached and with in no time all eyes at the bus stand were on 3 young lads wearing jazzy helmets and pushing cycles whose handles have been turned at an uncomfortable angles. "Sportsa?", "Ellinda Bartirodu?" (where are you coming from?) were commonly asked questions. Over the next four days, we would answer the same questions at least a thousand times over. It never seemed irritating or boring though. Bicycles have a fixed luggage fee. So, no scope for haggling. Or, that's what we thought. With lot of difficulty, we got all the three cycles into the same dikki. The rain, expectedly, had completely derailed Bangalore traffic. It was 7:00PM by the time we even got out of the Majestic area. Ola, the bus has a TV. And the show today was DDLJ. Well, you can not flip the channels on a bus. I *had* to watch it. Few minutes into the movie, I started liking it. The rain dance, the 'falling' in love... etc... etc... It was intermission time, and we were still on Raj Kumar Road. Once we were out of Bangalore, the bus picked up good speed. Rest of the journey can be summerized in 'boring - dinner - boring - sleeping - Hassan'. 1 AM at Hassan, we got our cycles back. Now we waited for some transport to Sakaleshpur which is approx 40Kms from there. That was plan A. Plan B was to ride till Hassan bypass and get a lorry. Plan C was to get a lodge at Hassan and start tour from Hassan en-route to Arakalagoud to reach Kodlipete. Minutes before the Plan B deadline, a Sakaleshpur bus arrived and we got busy loading our bicycles on top of the bus. Three quarters an hour later we undid the effort at Sakaleshpur. Checked in to a dingy lodge. Secured the bikes and crashed immediately.

Food: Dinner at Hotel Mayura near Adichunchanagiri: Meals: puri, rice, sambar, curd, gulab-jamoon. We were hurried by the impatient driver and hence could not enjoy the food. The food does not leave any impression. Not too good, not too bad. At Rs 50/- per plate it is expensive for a road side night place.

Acco: Vasavi Lodge. Shady. Not recommended. Price Rs 425/- per night. In a small town like Sakaleshpur, it seemed expensive. But who has the energy to haggle at 2 in the morning.


  • Bengaluru to Hassan in Volvo. ~Rs 200/- per head + Rs 15/- per cycle + Rs 20 for Driver tips (shameless fellow). I am impressed with Volvo. The luggage space is huge and in spite of interior roads of Bangalore being so bad, absolutely no damage done to the cycles even after being placed one over another. Highly recommended if you do not care for the price ;-)
  • Hassan to Sakaleshpur in Red Bus: Rs 21/- per head + Rs 3/- per cycle + Rs 28 for conductor tips (more shameless fellow). Not all buses have a luggage carrier on top. Even if it has, you have to carry your own luggage ropes.
Subsequent days.... yet to come.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bangalore Running

Its running time again in Bangalore. 'Runners for Life' (RFL) (or its parent org - 'The Fuller Life') arranged the ultra-marathon on the outskirts of Bangalore. In a blatant show of strength, the KAF (Karnataka Athletics Federation) organized the Bangalore International Marathon on the same day. It was very easy for them to get a title sponsor quickly BSNL - India's largest telecom company. One Babu helping another Babu, I guess. Well, if you judge an event by its attendance, then KAF beat RFL fair and square. 150 participants for Full Marathon (including a substantial African contingent), 1000+ running the half marathon, and countless - really countless running the celebrity charity run of 5Kms, a wheel chair event, a senior citizen event and lots of flags. As if to re-assure themselves, it was announced time and again on the loud speaker that BSNL Bangalore International Marathon was a huge success.

In contrast, I will not even mention the numbers at the Ultra. The route of ultra-marathon in a 6.5 Kms laps around a private resort at Hesaraghatta. Yes, It is unthinkable to even ask Bangalore Police to lease the city's roads for ~8 hours. Still, the build up to the event was amazing. the schedule was announced an year in advance. An entry fees of Rs 1000/- meant that only serious folks enlisted. All of them pleasantly surprised on Thursday evening when each one of the runners received a branded running T-Shirt (MRP: Rs 800/-), a running water bottle (branded), and the entire rules brochure as part of the - runners kit. People were happy customers even before the run started :-)

Unlike, the ultra, the international marathon came cheaper. A flat Rs 100/- entry fees for all the disciplines and even free for special categories. Unsure of my fitness level this year (and looking at the entry fees), I chose KAF over RFL. I signed up for the 1/2 marathon - 21 odd Kms. This year's additional attraction at the marathon are - cheer girls and a live band playing jazz and starting on time. The race itself was found wanting in terms of organization. Even though the the Traffic Police tried their best, the unruly traffic of Bangalore got better of them at times. Water dried up at water points. Cheering crowd was hardly there (perhaps due to lacking publicity). Toilets were conveniently forgotten. The cavalcade of runners passed through Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha, GPO, Cubbon Road, Ulsoor Lake, Old Madaras Road up until Byappana Halli Junction and back the same route. While I was some where between the 8Km and 9Km mark, the leaders of the half marathon category zipped past me. Damn! they are fast. It was heartening to see that there were more Indians in the leading pack. 'Refreshment Points' ahead served oranges, biscuits and lime. Oranges are real energy boosters. Any way, at the end of a grueling 1 hour and 46 minutes, I was back at Kanteerava Stadium behind 98 runners. Perhaps being lighter helps.

Few things at the marathon left a lingering bad taste. On the loud speaker, it was being announced that running shoes belonging to an Ethiopian rider went missing (read: stolen). How can Bengaluru attract world class runners to such events if Bengalurinavaru behave so cheaply? Secondly, after about 2.5 hours of start of Half marathon, the full marathon leader entered the stadium. There was this joker running half marathon (behind about 200 guys) who got all inspired to chase the Full Marathoner. While the victory tape was held out for the full marathoner, this half-wit raises both his hands and cuts the ribbon as if he had won the event. The Kenyan had to follow the idiot's footsteps albeit Rs 2 Lakhs richer. The jack ass seemed like an IT dude. Just in case, he is reading it - "Shame on you!!". This is the reason, you will not see the Full Marathon finish in any media - print or TV. The people coming to sporting events must first be sportsmen in mind and only later in body.

PS: I was on TV9 News twice in the morning... As the day progressed, they concentrated on the finish and not on the race itself.