Saturday, October 19, 2013

A cycling tour to Nandi Hills - well almost (Oct 12, 2013)

Its been awful long time since I last blogged. I rather like being lazy these days than admonish myself. Just like the belly fat which keeps growing than diminish, I have lot of treks and cycle trips still to write about. Plus two running events. And countless half baked short stories and forgotten dreams. Sigh.

Veering from my tradition of maintaining chronological order of recording my weekend trips, I feel its rather better to write down whats fresh in mind and procrastinate (I thought spelling was procastinate :-/) previous ones further.

 The trip itself got almost cancelled. After discussions and mail chains, myself and two colleagues - Yashwanth and Manu were on board. Yashwanth had some pending work - so he wanted to cut down on distance. Without consulting Manu, we decided to go to Hesaraghatta instead. During lunch session, it became clear that Manu was on board for two main reasons - his cycle wasn't in very good shape and crazy Nandi hills climb. I wasn't fully recovered from recent illness and so was inclining towards Hesaraghatta. For a while it seemed the whole plan would be postponed. Thankfully/Luckily/Destiny/Entropy/Probability/Murphy's-law, we fixed on Nandi hills. Yashwanth would turn back halfway. Another colleague - Yatin would lend me his bicycle (Rockrider 5.1).

And so, on October 12th, Saturday (Jekyll and Hyde day of every week - I was born on a Saturday. If Oct 12 was Jekyll day, today Oct 19 is Hyde. After hair-cut, I wasn't happy with long hair dangling over forehead. I took to scissors myself and cut them too deep - looks awful. But also realized that I will go bald very soon) Manu joined me at 6:23 AM near Indiranagar BDA complex, after I had had my morning coffee and he had his breakfast - 23 minutes off from schedule. We were to join Yashwanth at Ganganagar (near Hebbal). Neither of us knew the route till there, I had a map with helpful landmarks from Yashwanth. Manu rather likes to explore. I spotted some landmarks, missed a few. But forgot the one golden rule given by Yashwanth to not cross a Masjid at Millers road and Nandhidurga road junction. Thankfully, we realized it at Cantonment railway station and did the U-turn - a waiting Yashwanth had called too at that moment. 

But more comedy was in store. At Mehkri circle, we nearly went straight towards Yeshwanthpur. We stopped after crossing the signal, consulted map, confirmed with a passerby and turned in the right direction to Hebbal. And this time, without calling Yashwanth, we started crossing flyovers looking for signs of Ganganagar to the left. We stopped before Hebbala flyover sensing another mistake. At the bus-stop, onlookers gave us customary curious/weird glances at our costume and bikes. I had a banana and some water before Yashwanth was able to finally join us at around 7:15AM.

We took the Hebbal flyover despite the restriction for cyclists (why?). Airport road is certainly good for biking, but not very good at the left side compared to middle and right. There is mud, small stones and glass pieces (presumably swept to left side after accidents). Add to that the pedestrians and bus stops, it is not entirely a smooth ride.

Having past experience, myself and Yashwanth were happy to ride together and let Manu be comfortable with his fast pace. We took short breaks here and there before stopping for breakfast (second one for Manu). The food was decent, but ideal place for bikers. I placed my cycle leaning against a pole (no stand) with theirs around mine. We sat at a table close to them, so no need to lock them. Plus restroom nearby to relieve ourselves. Too bad, I don't remember the name of hotel to mention here.

We bought a liter water to fill our bottles and added Electral to replenish the body with what we lose through sweat. Another short break or two, we reached Airport toll-booths around 9AM. Along the way, we got more stares - probably implying us to be mad - riding a geared cycle with helmet, shoes and strange costumes. Wherever I could, I would drive handsfree - two reasons - rest to aching elbows and the thrill it gives ;) Manu was waiting for us for the umpteenth time. Yashwanth decided to ride with us a little longer - 9:30 he said, but Manu disclosed later that he heard it as 10:30.

Ups and downs started around Devanahalli. At 9:20AM, Yashwanth decided he had enough and turned so that he can be back home by lunch time. I had to ride alone now, which with past experience wasn't deterring. Few cyclists started passing by me too. About 2km before we have to turn left from highway onto Nandi Hills road, a crazy slow and annoying climb starts. I had to go as low as 1x2 gear, wind trying to blow me away. The bum was starting to pain as well, had to shuffle left and right frequently. Cycling shorts and padding are required for long rides, but haven't got them :-/ Too lazy again to buy and maintain a cycle and accessories :P

As usual, Manu was waiting before the left turn. He asked if I needed rest before moving on. I said that we can rest later, both our memories deemed that the road is pretty much flat upto base of Nandi hills. How wrong were we!

It is a stretch of 10km on Nandi hills road upto a T-junction (Karahalli cross). It took about an hour. The slow low climb is rather annoying. Eyesight deems that one should be able to drive fairly well with 2x3 gear, but it proves otherwise. The thighs start to burn, going is slow, breathing is harder and I am not comfortable to push harder by leaving the seat and stretching the legs. Lots of break, bananas and Electral helped, but motivation and will to keep riding took a beating. I had no idea of the distance to Karahalli cross at the time, only vague recollection of some hills and resorts. Soul would pray that the next small crossing was  T-junction. Was relieved to know that I wasn't the only one wishing it as Manu informed me later.

After what seemed a never ending stretch, I was stopping the last time before the cross (I was sure this time) when Manu called, probably was worried if I would make it. As I slumped besides him, I remarked with surety that I won't be climbing all the way to Nandi peak. That he will have to join me on  his way down. Rest assured, I kept my promise :P

After a long break, refreshment in the form of dates, chocolate bar, Electral and stretching exercises, we started. If I had been alone, probably I would have turned back. Another 4km to Nandi base, but lot easier than the previous 12km stretch. Reached Nandi base at 11:30AM, sun baking down. After a snap, I asked Manu to start, having taken a decision that I would climb as far as I can without breaking down.

Manu is all excited for 8km climb, I am just relieved to ride so far

My bottle was empty, so got a new one. Mixed two Electrals (I would regret later in two ways). Rested for a few minutes. Saw other cyclists coming down the hill. I was probably the last cyclist to climb that day, or atleast until it had cooled down in the evening. I started climbing and no more than few meters later, I was on 1x1 gear. The lowest possible. I wished there was some magic gear even lower. Passerby's - on motorcycle, car, auto, bus alike - literally started laughing. I have a strong feeling that one expletive (to the effect that bum will burn) was directed towards me. There were some awed faces too, or so I liked to imagine.

My breaks were every hundred meters or so. Initially I did not have any target in mind, just to try as much as I can climb. The heat was nauseating, the air humid and the climb terrifying. Like on previous rides, I wondered what is it that I was doing here. I kept going though, stopping every minute(s) or so, looking to the left sometimes to enjoy the greenery. All the while failing more often than not to ignore people watching as they zoomed passed in both directions.

After 2km mark, I decided two things - reach atleast halfway or ride until 12:30PM and count atleast to 50 between breaks. Both decision proved useful. Target gave me purpose and extra motivation, counting helped to keep going a bit further between breaks than I was doing before. It also helped that a bit of breeze started as I climbed higher. Breaks became longer and at 4km mark, I allowed myself the longest break yet. A vendor was selling tender coconut under tamarind trees - but I had taken enough of salty Electral water on the way up. I happened to remember the spot from Horagina Betta trek too (a hill part of Nandi hills range)

I stopped at a spot after the bend, under shade and had my third banana of the day. I was hoping that Manu would be coming anytime soon, but realized that it was not likely. I started as soon as I felt bored. My hope went as high as 6km mark. Though there were breaks, I reached the 5km mark soon, helped by two down slopes. A bit further, and I stopped again, determined to wait until Manu came down. After sometime, I saw that around the corner I had stopped was the start of a crazy hairpin bend. I decided to climb atleast one such bend. I stopped after doing half of it and this time I stopped for good. I didn't feel it worth to climb down and drag. It was around 12:45PM, I had done further than I set my sights for. I called Manu but he didn't pick. Soon after he called back and said that downhill was scary. I informed my position and said that I would wait. 

And then Yashwanth called. Said he reached by 11:45AM itself. Ride back for him was easier than he had anticipated. I gave our status and by then Manu came. I asked him to stop while I finished the call. I asked Manu to lead again as I am not very comfortable to ride at high speed down the slope. The two uphills until 4km mark weren't difficult, more to do with the momentum of riding downhill just before they started. Along some of the straight stretches, handsfree riding was well worth the climbing pain. Too bad, I had only 5km compared to Manu's 8kms.

Too lengthy this blog post has become! I thought I would finish it in an hour or two :-/ I am cutting down on details of return back. Not many interesting things anyway. We had lunch (bad this time, but hunger made it bearable) at the base. After a prolonged break and some reflections on the day so far, we started back at 2PM. I remember remarking to Manu - starting way back after lunch is bad in two ways (lots of two's in this post eh? :D ) - stomach is full and body is tired after morning ride. Should have added the heat wayback.

The ride till Nandi road - highway junction was easy now - having done all the climbing in the morning. Continuous riding helped to keep going past the few uphills and slow climbs. At the turn, I finally had tender coconut at the place we had promised a vendor that we will have one on the way back. The smile on his face was so good to see, I felt happy.

For an hour or so, we kept going at a good pace. I had Manu in view for longer durations than was the case in morning. Clouds more often than not hid the sun. But it was humid and the wind had decided to blow in the opposite direction again. As we neared airport, I started taking short breaks, wondering when Manu would stop. Clouds disappeared, sun baked down hard, slow climbing started and I wished the universe to have mercy on me. Weren't any place with shade to stop either.

I started having thoughts of taking ride on airport bus. It would take me very close to Yatin's house too. At 3:30PM, the battered body sighed with relief as Manu was waiting in the shade under unused airport toll booth. Only Electral filled salty water at this break, stomach was too full and felt first signs of trouble - bananas, bad fried tomato rice and Electral, add to that I had stomach upset the previous Tuesday and followed by cold. Too much strain on body, I am still having bad dry cough :D

To get on with trying to finish the post, we started again. The going became easier now, as Yashwanth had also experienced. Only difference was that we were battered and so tougher. But kept going we did, very few short breaks - aided by few traffic stops too. We just wanted to end it all by reaching home and embracing the comfort of bed. And so we kept riding on and on. The distance again in the dark as old and new milestones did their best to discourage us with contrasting numbers. Reaching Hebbal flyover gave us the proper remaining distance. After crossing the flyover, had sugarcane juice and started the pedaling again after bidding goodbyes as I told Manu to not wait any further for me. As it happened though, we were together for pretty much all the way until we crossed RMZ millenia near Ulsoor lake.

I took a right towards CMH road, while Manu continued towards Old Madras road. I called up Yatin to check if he was home so that I can return the cycle. Lifting it three floors to my room through uncomfortable stairway bends for the second time in two days was a bad option compared to going on further 4-5kms with a tired body. And so, at 6:15PM, in less than 12 hours, I completed my 130+km satisfying cycling.

PS 1:
 Apparently second Saturday of October is Cyclists Day - didn't know then.

PS 2:
2 is my lucky number :P

PS 3:
 Had to go three times to toilet, the last one after 12AM and only then I could sleep peacefully.


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