The Blue Mountain Bicycle tour ended on Saturday 22 Dec 2012. Around 10 riders rode through the scenic lush green tea estates in and around the misty mountains of western ghats.
The tour covered an approximate distance of 600 km in 8 days with a rest day in between.
Each rider had the option of joining either Group A or Group B - based on the distance/elevation decided for that day. All riders had dedicated support crew/vehicles.
Special thanks to Wheelsports ( Mr.Venkatesh Sivarama ) for supporting us in making this tour a grand success. On behalf of all the riders a heartfelt thanks to our support staff Deepak Sondur and Sharat Chandra for helping us all along the tour by driving the cars with snacks,water & accessories. Also they took some amazing snaps of tour riders.
And finally a big thanks to Arvind Ganesh and Venkatesh Murugesan for providing the Sea Sucker and Saris racks to carry our bikes. Thanks to Tour Director/Rider/Sprinter/Climber *whatever* :-) Balu for all the planning and background work.
I need to mention that the Sea Sucker racks from HappyEarth proved to be the best equipment we carried for the tour. This simple to use and easy to handle bike racks use vacuum mounts ( cups ) and they hold very well to metal or glass surface. These racks works on any cars unlike brands which can either fit for Hatchback or Sedan or Jeeps. I would highly recommend these racks to anybody taking different cars for cycling trips.
DAY #1 : Bangalore to Srirangapatna
0n 15th Dec 2012, 6 riders met at WheelSports and started the ride via the SH17 to Srirangapatna. I joined Siddharth Kansal who was riding strong at 35kph pace and it was looking like we were about to reach the destination in just 4+ hours. As this was a long tour we wanted to save our legs for the next few days and decided to take it easy atleast on the very first day. We took a 45 min break at Mandya waiting till all rider's gathered for juice/coffee. We stopped at Arpitha Farm house Srirangapatna. 2 more riders Sandeep and Hema along with our support staff Deepak and Sharath joined us at Arpritha Guest House by evening.
DAY #2 : Srirangapatna to Masinagudi ( Bandipur climb )
Thanks to Anil and Bharat ( SKCT rider ) for joining us on the 2nd day ride. We started riding from Srirangapatna towards Masinagudi. The rider's were riding at their own pace through Mysore and Nanjangud till all of us reached Gundlupet CCD. Siddharth and Bharat were looking very strong during the Bandipur climbs. At times they would do bunny hops and accelerate. Some of us chased them and finished the Bandipur climb quickly. Around evening Mark Anderson and Sudha arrived and we all had a good time eating our dinner around the campfire. The entire team stayed at Tamarind tree resort with nice cottages spread across the foothills of Nilgiris.
While Group A riders did the Kalahatty a steep but short climb, Group B riders did the Gudalur which is less steeper but a longer climb. I was part of Group A climbing the famous kalahatty climb to reach Ooty. Even before we reach the 36 hairpin bends, there were few steep sections to be handled. Curve after curve it seemed a never ending climb. The numbers demotivate a first time climber as it takes several curves to just reach the next hairpin bend. The last few hairpin bends were quite lengthy and steeper. They say that a sub2 hour timing for kalahatty is pretty decent. All i had was 2 small bananas and 1 liter of Gatorade as we had decided earlier that the entire support system ( 2 cars/2 crew ) will be for Group B riders climbing Gudalur.
Siddharth finished first with a time of 1:18 min, Mark was next and I finished third with a time of 1:41 min. Minutes later Balu arrived. After sipping coffee and having some chickis all 4 of us started riding towards coonor. I need to mention here that Vinay who joined us for the kalahatty climb completed the entire climb and ride to coonoor on his MTB.
We reached Coonor early. Mark Anderson treated us to an awesome lunch at 180Mciver, a 115 year old colonial hotel. Around evening the Group B riders and support staff arrived at Coonoor.
The entire team stayed at Salvation Army, the best budget hotel that is not just affordable but also ideal for teetotalers. This hotel is a Non profit organization that is into charity. The food served particularly during dinner is heavy in terms of number of items and tasty.Before dinner some of us explored the town and also brought some home made chocolates for next day's ride.
Leaving Masinagudi, with all bags packed into Support Vehicles.
On Day4, Group A and Group B riders got seperated after the initial few kms. The Group B rider's went on to Kodanad view point via Kothagiri. The Group A rider's enjoyed a high speed descent of Mettupalyam and started to climb back to coonor. This was a true sufferfest as the legs were already tired from 3 days of riding and climbing. Once the climbs got over, the riders took a short break and moved towards Kothagiri for lunch. Post lunch it was a downhill ride towards Coonor.
As usual the Group B riders arrived by evening and i heard that they too had a nice ride. They got to see the awesome Kodanad view point and also had wonderful lunch at a tourist bunglow.
We visited Vinay's friend's shop ( Celebrations ) and brought chocolaes and tea powder. Post dinner, I took out the car to Ooty, to drop Vinay who had actually joined us only for 4 days. Sandeep, Deepak and My wife also joined me in bidding him farewell.
Group A riders climbing MettuPalyam ride pic#1
Most of us woke up late. There were lot of monkeys around Salvation Army and we were watching and feeding them bananas. Pre Lunch the support crew went for a cycle ride and it was so nice to see Deepak Sondur and Sharath ride towards Ooty along with Shyam. Lunch was again a treat from Mark and this time it was at the Taj. We also spent quality time with Mark Anderson in a local GYM where he provided us tips/guidelines about strength training as part of cross training.
Our support crew member Deepak proved that he had the best cooking skills too.
Both the Group A and Group B riders started together as the route was same for both. Slowly the gap between each rider increased. This was the most scenic ride compared to other rides so far. Till Manjoor I was with other Group A riders ie Mark, Balu and Sid.Once the pace increased i couldn't close the gap. I got dropped and it was a solo ride.
The ride to silent valley was really SILENT.At times it was scary. I started hitting the bad roads and with absolute silence around even the crush of a dry twig made me alert. During the ride i turned to my left and i saw a sambhar standing and watching me. There was lot of shade in some sections of the road and those sections were really dark and scary. For some reason I was not comfortable riding alone. For a long time i didn't see anybody passing me from either side. I somehow felt i might be in a wrong route. To be on a safer side i turned back and rode few km. Once i passed the tea estate i spoke to few localites who said there was nothing to worry and that i was on the right track. I started to climb the hills again and this time when i hit the same section of bad road I was riding fast. I got to see 2 roads and i took the right one that goes to Upper Bhavani.
This road was full of small gravels and i was making a lot of noise going downhill and all of sudden i had a flat in my rear tire. I stopped and got down. Though i can manage to use a spare tube quickly I went back to road where the 2 roads originated. I removed my shoes and tried calling the support crew as i didn't wanted to be alone. There was no signal.While i was fixing my flat, fortunately Deepak arrived in his Bolero to help me. The flat was fixed in minutes and i was ready to ride.
I saw Mark riding back. Mark, Sid and Balu took the left road instead of right and had almost gone to Kerala:-) So they had to come back and take the right one to silent valley. Having to deal with bad roads towards silent valley again Mark lost interest and wanted to ride back to coonoor by noon. By this time Sandeep and Shyam also joined me and we rode till Upper Bhavani . All of us had lunch together that was brought by one of our support crew.
I was amazed by the lake, dam and the overall landscape and i felt blessed to be in front of this paradise. The mood swings due to bad patchy road and the flat tire vanished. Very soon the Group B riders and support crew too joined us for lunch and photo session.
I didn't wanted to return on bad roads again. And hence used the support car to reach a point beyond bad roads to start my ride. Once i got down from car, cursing myself for missing the return ride i was riding at high speed and with just 3km to coonor i got fooled by a signboard and went straight instead of taking a left. This was an amazing descent and Sid followed me blindly. It got dark before we even realized that we were on a wrong route ( Coimbotore ? ) but we didn't contact the support crew as we wanted to climb more and ride more :-) We reached the hotel back by 7:30 PM.
On the way to Upper Bhavani
Day 7 : Coonoor to Mudumalai ( Ooty climb and Gudalur downhill )
This was our last day at Coonor and thus all the packing was supposed to be done before our ride. The climb to ooty was not as challenging as other climbs that we did so far.
REMO @ Salvation Army
The stay at this resort will be remembered for a long time as this was the place where a wild elephant had come out of forest in the night to eat the grains in the paddy fields.We witnessed how the local folks burst crackers and shouted loudly to shoo away the elephant. Most of the folks had torches and we could see the Tusker clearly in the dark.Though the tusker had gone back to the jungle it had come again and this time it was so close to our resort that we all had to be extra cautious. True to it's name - wilderness resort was wild in nature with unpredictable tuskers around.
Day8 : Mudumalai to Gundlupet ( Bangalore )
Mark and Sudha left the resort early morning in one of our support car with Sharath and Shyam. This being the last day of the tour and somehow not liking the idea of changing the cycling attire at Gundlupet coffee day, I decided that I will not ride my cycle. I had already clocked 575km so far and was overall happy about the entire tour. Only 3 rider's - Balu Sid and Uday decided to ride. All the 3 riders and the rest of us reached the Gundlupet coffee and had some snacks to reunite again for lunch at Kamat hotel on Nanjangud road. Vinay who had returned to Bangalore on the 4th day of the tour, had come to mysore and thus joined us at Kamat for lunch. I drove to Bangalore with Sandeep and Hema. Balu, Sid, Uday boarded Deepak's Bolero to reach Bangalore.
1) After all these climbs i need to check if my nandi climb improves :-)
2) My wife lost 3 kgs without doing major climbs :-)
3) Met wonderful people and hope the new found friendship continues for a long time.
See you at the next edition :-)