Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Grand Odyssey - 13, 14 Oct 2012

After being able to complete only about 100 KM riding during Cruise to Coast, I tried few things to improve my efficiency: no shoulder bag and no camera - energy bar, fruit drink (not sure), a guava, seedless dates and other essentials went into shorts pockets and the specially made cycling jersey I bought from CAM.

Our base was at Kuppalli - where famous poet Kuvempu was born. Like Cruise to Coast, it was good to be accompanied by my colleagues Yashwanth, Mitesh and Praveen. And improvising from that experience, Yashwanth and Mitesh teamed up while Praveen and I tried to be together as much as possible. 

Monsoon had painted the landscape green, but it was a hot October weekend we ended up with. It feels all the more pleasant to recall that I did around 130 KM of cycling. Physically taking action to lighten my load and reduce distraction improved my mental strength and concentration too. I drove slowly (compared to fast pace of Mitesh and Yashwanth) but steadily, counting numbers and pushing just a bit farther on uphills rather than stopping to take a breather. I caught up with the duo when I finally stopped for the first break (for tender coconut) and then was inclined to keep pushing ahead of them (instead of stopping by a pleasant river bridge with hills in the distance).

It turned more challenging after that with series of uphills. Again, I pushed as much as possible to keep moving but stopping often as it became too difficult. And then took a long break waiting for my colleagues to catch up with me at a junction from where we had to take a left turn (with pretty bad roads ahead). I definitely remember relishing an energy bar while waiting.

The next stretch was close to a nightmare with bad roads. I ended up with flat tire as I was nearing a village (Note: I was renting a bike from CAM). I waited in the hope that first canter (support vehicle in case someone is tired and needs  lift, also carries food/water/extra rented cycles, etc) was behind me (else I would have had to wait a long time for the second one) - as well as came to know from villagers that a mending shop was about a kilometer ahead. This turned out to be blessing in disguise as the replacement was a Schwinn branded bike in better shape than the one I was riding. Though it wasn't suited for my height, it was definitely better experience.

Then sometime later, with Sun scorching us, we reached Mani dam (after a bit of circuitous path). So many fast riders were already relaxing under the shade, having informed that we won't be allowed to on concrete structures (words fail me) of the dam. We were able to dip our feet on fringe waters where some meter marking pillars were placed  at different depths. When I brought out my guava to eat, someone remarked that he would like some of that ;)

We had lunch and rested a while (Mitesh literally slept). We were to take a longer route back to Kuppalli which turned out really really long than expected. Praveen's heavier cycle (definitely not suited for such long rides) hampered him a lot and took to photography (especially birds and half a snake).

Morning ride - Blue, Afternoon - something close to upper Gray route (snapshot from Google Maps)

Yashwanth and I now tried to keep company, and can't recall but I think Mitesh was with us for a while that afternoon ride. We had to ask plenty of times to be sure, as most villagers insisted that we take the morning route back to Thirthalli and from there to Kuppalli :P

We took lot many breaks and some stretch of roads were bad again. One of the breaks was a bakery, where we again inquired about the route and another at some junction (might be the road turning back towards Thirthalli in map above) where one of the organizer caught up with us (I got out the seedless dates - much needed and shared).

After about ~90 KM for the day, Yashwanth and I called it quits and got into bus. I was certainly pleased with how much I could ride (~160 KM in single day I did later that year - a ride to Mysore, would just about triumph this one with the uphills and heat). Some awesome riders did it all the way back to Kuppalli - hats off to them.

It was pretty dark by the time we reached the home stay. For dinner, we walked some distance (armed with torches) to a hotel? Again, don't recall specifics, but it was eventful one. Sort of remember something about elephant menace and some encounter with electrified farm fences.

The planned route for second day had to be changed to avoid cycling to Thirthalli again. Instead, we went opposite direction to Koppa and then onward to Balehonnur (about 50 KM in all). But first, after breakfast and packing up, we visited Kuvempu's burial site - Kavishaila. It is atop a small hill, with megalithic rocks arranged to resemble Stonehenge. The climb was too steep, some dragged their bikes, while others (again pleasant to recall that I pushed myself to take breaks and peddle rather than drag) rode it to the top. The effort gone into the burial site made a lasting impression.

The roads were good throughout, unlike bad patches the previous day. All the pushing beyond normal endurance began show and I wasn't as persistent or efficient. Still, I was single minded enough to ride as long as possible. Around Koppa, the support vehicle watched and guided us towards the right turn.

After that, it was rolling hills for long distance. The one big stretch (2+ KM) of downhill was one for nostalgia. The empty roads, wind rushing, hands free (for sometime) - peak of cycling magic. Like all good things, it had to end and riding became progressively harder as the Sun beat harshly again - roads shimmered too. Even relatively flat uphill was daunting. Remember seeing tea plantations on the way. It ended finally with giving just few kilometers short of destination. Nonetheless, one of the best trip - more because of the distance I could ride than weather, road and scenery. 

Photo Credits: Praveen, Yashwanth & Mitesh

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