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.

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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.

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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.


Shubha said...

hahaha... so which one of you found out it was only 20 mins of hot water???
good pictures esp the downhills ones...

Sudhindra said...

It is heart wrenching to see the trees cut down....why were they cut?to widen the road?I was wondering how I would have fared on this trip considering pretty fit guys like you had a tough time :-)...Looking forward to the remaining parts....

Gauthaman said...

Nice naration of the meaning behind Sukhruvarsanthe, Sanvarsanthe and Somwarpete. Believe this thought did not dwell upon me, inspite of touring this section.

An important thing was found missing in your Khana-ki-Khasana list... Tender Cocunut... How can you forget that... I would have had atleast 35 tender cocunuts in my Tour2Chikmaggalur trip. ;-)

Gauthaman said...

Ha Ha... The original plan was to reach Bhagamandala on first day and stay at Bhagmanadala. If you had forced your legs anymore beyond Madikeri... they would have swollen dispropotionately.
But to reach Madikeri is a great effort. Last time all we could do was reach Madapura at the close of first day.

Anxious to read day 2,3,4 stories!