Bliss in the Hills – 2015

Prologue :

Since PBP (Paris Brest Paris, a 1200km endurance cycling event to be finished in 90 hours and it is kind of world cup for randonnuers ) is finished, my excitement of participating in a 1200 brevet is increased exponentially.

I have seen a randonnuering friend here in Chennai who rode 200kms the previous night and is all set to ride a 300 km brevet in the dawn,as practice for PBP. I was like a just born in the world of randonnuering then. The dedication in his practise made me fall in love with randonnuering right away.

A month later in August, PBP was held and finished in a grand manner. Tracking the riders from Chennai, following the updates, seeing the pictures from France, I got addicted to PBP. A rider from Chennai, Ashwin Govindswamy has finished PBP within 77 hours. That fuelled my spirit further and randonnuering became part of my blood and breath .Since then, I was desperate to participate in a very long brevet.

Signing up forBITH, Reaching the Garden city and start :

Just like a boy who enjoys looking at every girl in college during teens, I started to like and send request for joining many randonnuring pages in facebook, Bangalore Brevets being one of them. In the course of finishing SR,I came to know that events in Bangalore were one of the toughest due to rolling terrain and climbs. So I wanted to take up the challenge of riding atleast a brevet there. One day, I came across this event in their fb page and signed up right away to fulfill the desire of taking part in a 1200 brevet and also a brevet in Bangalore.

Being a very lazy rider, I knew I was not very fit and knew very well that I still don’t have the experience of riding such a length within the time, yet I want to take a chance and see the power of enthusiasm, which made me sign up for the grand brevet. Also, in some corner of my heart I wanted to prove that love on randonnuering and mental strength is enough to finish a 1200 km brevet and fitness can be secondary ! ( I was proved wrong later )

I was skeptical about many things, proving my point about fitness being the first and then food, sleep management, unexpected bicycle problems, wild animal encounters, forest night rides etc.I didn’t want to take any chance with bicycle, so got it overhauled , chaged chain, rear sprocket, bearing balls and was all set for the ride.I wanted to get a Brooks saddle before the event to prevent saddle sore, but I couldn’t afford one it as the Treasure chest was almost empty due to two outstation brevets, in same month. Also a chat with Mohan and Opendro changed my thinking and made me go with my stock saddle.

My only practise was riding a 600 BRM in Hyderabad and then a 400 BRM in Mumbai before the event. Since, both were rolling terrains and having finished both of them my confidence levels for participating in BITH are boosted.

I got a huge support from my family, friend and friends from randonnuering world who knew that I’m attempting BITH, which made me confidently board a volvo bus to Bangalore. In Bangalore, I started looking for a hotel near start point, but then I saw posters of paying guest hostels and settled in one at Madiwala.

As usual, I had a sumptuous rice filled lunch for a heavy carb loading before the event. I slowly pedalled to start point near silk board and I was the first one to reach there. This start point is unusual from the other brevets I have seen, where there used to be lot of organisers, brevet cards , banannas and lot of noise ! It was utterly opposite here with just one of the organizer and I wondered if anyone will show up .

Soon some organizers and other riders showed up. I could sense that everyone filled with some sort of unknown feeling. Not sure if it is pride to be at start or tense to go into the wild like me or excitement to finish the ride very quick !

I was happy to see Mohan, who was from Bangalore and we rode along in a 600 brevet at Hyderabad. I was eager to meet Opendro and Chiddu.While reading about brevets in bangalore I came across their blogs and wanted to see them in person.

I was not sure Opendro, was name of a magazine (which, I confused with over drive) or some product and was surprised to know that it is name of a person. Also his blog about the BITH held last year was very detailed which was my only reference and confidence about the route and how it going to be. Also I was privileged to meet Ashok Thiruvengadam, PBP finisher, whose picture will somehow pop up on my facebook wall everyday and Manjula Sridhar, I read her blogs and was happy to see her in person.

Reading till here, those who are not associated with randonnuering can get a sense that ,it is not only about cycling but about lot many other things like people, new meetings, their writings,new places etc.

As soon as Chiddu arrived at start point , Brevet cards were distributed, bikes were inspected and after a small briefing the ride was started twenty minutes later than scheduled, among the cheers and wishes from the supporters gathered.

A person by name, Anil Kadsur is riding a fixie. Fixed gear cycle is one in which one has to pedal as long as the cycle moves and legs cannot rest. Riding it is considered as challenge and usually people who are riding it deserves a lot of respect.

To Belur ( 1st CP)

As I was not completely aware of the route for getting out of city, I followed the wheels of Mohan. It was fun manoeuvring through traffic in which many cars were struck and we were moving at a decent speed. Traffic accompanied us a little beyond till Yeshwantpur. The roads were all ours as soon as we crossed Nelamangala to join the Mangalore Highway.

Silvester , a PBP finisher and Ramesh Palani ,also from Chennai and a PBP participant were also riding along. All four of us are on MTB’s. Except Mohan, rest of us are riding with slick tires. While following PBP, I wondered if I can see any PBP rider at all, but now I was overjoyed as I am riding along with them.

I asked Silvester many questions about PBP, for which he answered very patiently. After 40-45Kms of ride, my sipper got emptied. I didn’t want to miss the group as we are going at a decent speed, but riding without water is a suicide attempt. So, I stopped for water at a bakery, refilled sipper, brought a spare bottle and was back on saddle very soon. It started to drizzle as soon as I started.

After few Km’s (around 70 km) I saw that rest of group stopped at a hotel for a quick food stop. I too joined them, and refilled hungry stomach. We planned here to ride together till the end of ride. We stopped at Mayura hotel around 115 kms from start point for Dinner. After few stretches, curd rice and lemon juice we were back on saddle.

I was little sad that, I missed greenery along the route. It was unusual, but I was surprised to see myself riding ahead of group. I always find myself among the last set of riders usually. I stopped a couple of times for group to catch up and Mohan advised me not to stop, unless I’m tired. Those words acted as some magic and from there I just sprinted. I read account of fastest PBP rider a day ago and it too helped me maintain a good speed, tail wind also helped me. It was very pleasant initially, but then the deep silence of the night turned scary which prompted me to turn on music, which increased my speed. I stopped in between for refilling water and caught up with group again, but then I went ahead again. Around 20 Kms ahead of Hassan, an auto driver warned me, to be careful as it is going to be forest ahead. As soon as he left, the batteries of my light were drained and I was left in pitch dark. I changed the batteries soon and started to ride again. I reached Hassan around 1 am and was waiting for the group.

We took a very small detour, as we missed a turn and were back on path quickly. After a small halt at a tea shop and riding through fog filled roads, we reached Belur at 3.15 am. It is entirely silent and one can sense a nice smell from fields and trees, some I hope were eucalyptus. I can feel the cold already, but being on saddle helped me maintain warmth. We saw Chiddu at Control who took our picture and we moved on without taking rest. A mental hurdle which I couldn’t jump over, something that didn’t go according to my plan, I wanted to rest here for a while, but had to move as group is starting. Sleep started to hit me right away
.
To Madikeri – 2nd CP :

After sometime, we stopped at a temple, where Opendro and his team were resting. I will be extremely thankful to Ramesh Palani, for feeding us with his home made Chapathis. We then caught up with other riders and rode till Ballupet on a extremely bad and pot hole filled roads. Sad that Mohan slipped at place, but luckily nothing happened. Everyone stopped for a quick coffee and snack break at a roadside tea shop, but it turned out to be a pretty long break.

Our group started ahead and from here, the bliss started for me. When fog started to disappear , greenery showed up . It appeared like we are making way through green blankets. Coffee plantations appeared both sides. I couldn’t notice anything apart from green. I felt the essence of Coorg (Kodagu). We passed through a series of small towns Kodlipet, Sanivara santé and Somvarpet to start climbing for Madikeri.

Till here the terrain was manageable for me and I maintained a decent speed, but from here the gradient was higher and climbs appeared to be tougher. I’m being bathed in sweat. At many palces, I was reluctant to ride in lower (easy gears), which also made me exhaust a lot. After many small stops, very minute power naps, we reached Madikeri.

The entire route was surrounded by hills, I was very sad that my first visit to such a beautiful place is in a brevet, which didn’t allow me to enjoy the nature to the fullest.

Ramesh palani’s front derailleur got damaged and he was struck on larger chain ring, riding with that is not easy, but he managed to continue, appreciate his power and attitude. It was so nice of Mohan and Silvester to wait for us at entrance of town. Madikeri welcomed us with nearly 45 degrees downhill slope. After lunch and power nap, we started again.

To Iritty – 3rd CP :-

It was a steep downhill ride with occasional climbs till Virajpet, where we stopped for a juice. Here, I was seriously hit by sleep deprivation, but didn’t want to waste time in day light, so started to ride for Iritty. It was a very steep downhill ride till Iritty through very dense plantations, where sun light hesitated to fall on roads. It would have been a beautiful ride on a normal day. I was sleep riding throughout the length, which made it a terrible ride. I missed hitting three four vehicles and was saved because of their loud honking. I washed my face many times but it was of no use and I continued. But, I was happy that I crossed yet another state on bicycle. I’m in Kerala now.

I was feeling alright as soon as I reached a place called, Kottupuzha. I got chance to ride with Opendro and team for a while here. It was rolling terrain and my quads has become sensitive for climbs, also I felt urge for using washroom, but didn’t want to stop as time is running out. At Iritty, the group decided to move in and I had no option except to follow. We started after an Ice cream and Juice refill.

To Periya Climb start-

The group was all set for an adventure of riding through forest during night and we started moving ahead asking for directions. Ashutosh, also joined us here. Silvester’s bicycle got a flat on the way and it was a blessing in disguise for me to catch up a little nap.

The gradient became higher and the climbs became strenuous. Whenever I turned back, it was just pitch black and darkness. I felt so proud and happy, that I’m riding in such extreme conditions. We took many breaks due to which the rythm of climbing is lost. Also we walked, when group became very exhausted.

All the way, the silhouettes of big leaves appeared as ears of elephant and I was too scared to move ahead alone. After what appeared to be an eternity, we reached the control at start of periya climb few minutes before the cut off time around 9.10 pm. I used washroom at the hotel and we had food whatever that is available. I have removed my wet jersey which was drenched with sweat, drizzle throughout and just put on light weight wind jacket. This helped me recover from shivering.

To Kalpetta :-

The hairpin bends were easy to climb, but then, the downhill pothole filled roads made our ride terrible. The time which is intended for making up time lost in climbs is now being wasted in riding carefully over the potholes. We stopped at many places and even slept on roads. At a place while waiting for Ashutosh, who was left behind, we were warned of elephant crossing by an auto passing by and were suggested to wait at next village.

The group moved very slowly, when we started again and we halted at a roadside tea stall. I had first sukku coffee in my life there (Black coffee). Being very hot it tasted amazing. Even after having two of them, I went into a deep sleep. I thought it was a fifteen minute nap, but everyone in group slept too, turning it into a 1.5 hour sleep. It was end of the brevet for me mentally as we have to ride another 30 odd kms with only few minutes left. I wore a boxer inside my cycling short, which caused a terrible chaffing . Even it slowed me down a lot.

When we set back to ride, I was terribly disappointed, yet moved ahead with some hope. I don’t remember what happened till Manthanvady, as I was sleep riding throughout, but it was all either climb or pothole downhill. We stopped for a tea/coffee break and moved ahead. We halted for a power nap even now. Silvester’s rear wheel had a problem and while they are at it, I had a nap once again.

When we started again the group dispersed and after riding few kilometres I was awake suddenly realizing that I’m riding alone. I saw green fields all around me. I remembered it is Kerala. I was more than happy, as most of Kerala has never ending green and sun has just started to come up. Blissed once again and I started to pedal little quicker, enjoying the route thoroughly.

I reached around 8.15 am to the control (seven hours late), where organizers have taken a resort for the riders.

Ride ended and began :

When I reached there, Mohan and Silvester are getting prepared to ride ahead. I was utterly confused as I was neither in a position to ride nor sleep. I took my time to decide. Before anything, I got refreshed with a hot water bath. Ravindra,( one of the organizer )asked me why I was not sleeping. I said I’m not sure. He then said that I wanted to ride and not rest, also he has narrated his past experiences and encouraged me to finish the route. Ramesh once again offered, homemade tamarind rice. I took some of the essentials and being not sure, where I will end up I even took a spare dress from the drop bag, left all wet clothes in drop bag again and went ahead at 11.30 am. I wanted to ride atleast till ooty.

Blissed again :

As soon as I started from Kalpetta to Gudalur, I noticed the beauty of tea fields spread across on both sides of roads. Every turn offered a beautiful view. It is a rolling terrain once again. My quads cried every time I climbed. I was riding very slowly and halting too frequently. I slept in many bus shelters. The beauty and tea fields on both sides were never ending. They were the only relief in this ride.

After sometime, Tamilnadu border board welcomed me. I was overjoyed once again to cross state border on bicycle. The terrain turned much more beautiful now. Even though it is mostly downhill till Gudalur, I struggled to ride. At a point before Pandalur, my body gave up completely and I couldn’t pedal any further. That was a sad moment, but I had to call off the ride.

I hiked up in a auto till Gudalur and got onto Mysore bus.Sadly it was more downhill ride as soon as the auto started. Luckily, the bus was empty. Conductor has noticed my sleep deprived eyes and asked me to sleep in three seater side. I woke up only when the bus reached Mysore.

I got a place to sleep in dormitory and I relaxed with a little pain of ending the ride this way.

To Bangalore and Beyond :

I have decided to ride till Bangalore next day. I started at 10.30 am after a relaxing hot water bath and my favourite set dosa breakfast. The ride was easy as the route was rolling down towards Bangalore. I was very happy to pass through many sugar cane fields and beautiful towns. I had many cucumbers on the way and enjoyed ride looking at beautiful wooden toys at Chennapattana. My plan was to reach Bangalore, before it gets dark. There was big traffic jam before Wonder la, which slowed me down. I reached Kengeri at 6 pm and was sad to know that bicycles were not allowed on NISE road. I used google map and rode along Dr Vishnu Vardhan road, which ends at Banshankari. I knew the route from there till silk board and reached the accommodation I took at beginning, which marked end of a beautiful bliss.

Next morning, I was eager to meet finishers and talk with them. I went to end point and joined organizers in welcoming them. Chiddu, reached first followed by Opendro and rest of six. It was a joyful occasion, even being there is bliss. After every brevet, I feel that I should never ride again, but seeing such moments will make me inspire and be back on saddle right away. I spoke with most of them and learnt many new things.

I started to Chennai in a Volvo right way and was back in the routine business, with my mind and heart lost somewhere in between Madikeri and Gudalur. I was not sure if it is the feeling that I have not completed or the beauty of places but it was just bliss and nothing else in my mind.

Signing off-

For map check out : http://ridewithgps.com/routes/10555502

Route :
Bangalore – Nelamangala –– Hassan – Belur – Belagodu – Balupet – Shanivarsanthe – Somwarpet – Madikeri – Murnad – Virajpet – Iritty – Periya – Mananthavadi – Panamaram – Kalpetta

– Meppadi – Gudalur – Naduvattam – Ooty – Doddabetta – Kotagiri – Metupalayam – Avinashi – Salem – Yercaud – tirupattur – Jolarpet – Yelagiri – Jolarpet – Tirupattur – Barghur – Krishnagiri – Hosur – Bangalore

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