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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Stepped Shivgange - 26 July 2015

Yet another trek full of steps (with railing supported final stretch) and temples. But there ends the comparison with Ramdevara Betta. The sheer number of pilgrims, vending stalls, beggars and monkeys at Shivgange was astounding.

After very long time, it was good to meet Chaitanya, who was the organizer at my very first trek with BTC. We gathered at Majestic before catching a Tumkur bus (the conductor having accepted to drop us near Dobbaspet).

After about an hour of travel, we got down at Dobbaspet. A warm up walk ensued as we didn't know that the bus was going under the flyover. We then had spicy but tasty breakfast at the usual BTC hotel (for treks around Tumkur) and packed variety rice for lunch. Twelve of us then adjusted in a share auto to reach base of Shivgange hill, about 6 kilometers from there.

Cloudy sky, especially the ones hanging around the peak proved irresistible throughout the day. I clicked about 450 photos! After the customary introduction session (good to see familiar faces from previous treks) we started our stepped trek.

Temples and statues were well built. The initial steps were sheltered and some them inscribed, but our ascent was punctuated by raucous monkeys running wild atop. Vendors kept slingshots and sticks to keep them at bay and I guess monkeys too had learned their lessons long back and turned their attention to unsuspecting pilgrims and trekkers.

Though it was easy going, the path wound around the hill and steps were boring to say the least. A little bit of humidity made it uncomfortable at times. We took break now and then, buying snacks to munch (spiced nellikai, kachcha mango, etc) and I continued to take snaps (weird ones as others named it)

The main attraction for pilgrims is a temple built on/around a water spring from rocks (similar perhaps to Namada Chilume and Antaragange). Some of us visited it while others chilled near a cliff edge with boundary walls built). We continued onwards after the break, coming across more pilgrims climbing up and those returning. And of course, more vending stalls and ever present monkeys.

Just before the final steep railing supported climb, we stopped by yet another temple for an extended snack cum break. We treated ourselves to butter milk, lime juice, cucumber and other snacks.

The final stepped climb was slow and steady. Just wide enough only for two persons side by side. There were plenty of us climbing and many were returning too. For most part, we had to climb clutching the railings. I suppose some would get a sense of Vertigo looking back down.

The peak had yet another Nandi statue (with its own set of steps) and temple on the wider area. One end of the peak had railing support and a tall cylindrical pillar. Two smart people tried to play sport by throwing a mango juice bottle back and forth over a monkey's reach. One of them missed the throw and the monkey gleefully scampered away with the bottle (and out of reach of other monkeys - it somehow managed to smash/dent the bottle, spill the juice on rocks and then gulp)

We spent an insane amount trying to get our perfect profile pic from edge of the peak, avoiding the railing, etc. And then reluctantly followed Chaitanya over to other side of the peak, which was relatively calmer and less crowded and monkey free until we reached, snapped more pics and then gave our relatively tired body a rest on the rocks.

After we had our fill of the peak, we reached the temple housing the water source to have our lunch in the sheltered veranda. The waiting line had swelled, so it was good that those who wanted to visit had done it earlier in the morning itself. We had to be alert for monkey attack and people nearby helped to keep them at bay. We had cane juice to top off our spending at the stalls before reaching the base. 

As we had finished it pretty fast (not withstanding the leisurely breaks), majority voted to take a bus back to Bangalore instead of catching train. Yet again, we cramped ourselves in a single auto to Tumkur highway. Just in time as it turned out, a slight drizzle caught us but we could make out that much more poured around the peak.

We had to spread out in the bus to be seated and as such couldn't have feedback in the bus. So, we gathered again inside Majestic for the feedback (mostly positive, crowd at Shivgange can't be helped) and then like the past two treks of mine, we signed off by having tea/coffee.

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