Good to be back on the saddle after a while! ~50km ride to Kovalam and back on a very relaxed pace with folks from TFI Chennai.
If only chennai had some better weather!
Good to be back on the saddle after a while! ~50km ride to Kovalam and back on a very relaxed pace with folks from TFI Chennai.
If only chennai had some better weather!
Day One 27th January, 2012
Dharamshala – Shahpur – Lunj – Masroor Rock Temples – Nagrota suriyan (Distance 85 kms)
Day Two 28th January, 2012
Nagrota suriyan – Ranital – Baroh – Nangni – Jaisinghpur – Andretta – Baijnath – Bir (103 kms)
Day Three 29th January, 2012
Bir – Baijnath – Palampur – Dharamshala (73 kms)
One year into Biking and today I’ve learnt the three gospels of riding at unearthly hours the hard way!
I badly wanted to get myself a better helmet and decided to head to the Hypercity mall which supposedly stocked real cool biking stuff. Having got real good reviews, I decided to head to this place after the Walkathon meet yesterday. The store did have most of the stuff that you’d need but as luck would have it, they’d just exhausted their helmets stock! I did manage to talk one of the sales guy into looking for one in the stocks room but decided not to purchase it for want of a better one. Strayed round the place for sometime and finally picked up a tube sealant and a cool pair of gloves. Reached home at about 10:00pm and did some basic bike maintenance. The Sanghi ride was still ON despite none joining – I stay about 30kms away from the area where the real Biking ‘cult’ stays!
03:45hrs. I’m up and after a quick refresh hit the roads at about 04:10hrs. This was the first time I was heading on this road, this early in the morning. In about half an hour I reach the LB Nagar cross roads and all of a sudden the front tire gives in. That’s when I realise I wasn’t carrying the spare tube! Twenty minutes of some quick work [The Thumbs-up bottle strategy really works!] and the flat gets mended, just that the plastic tire lever breaks. I decide to move on despite being about half an hour behind schedule. But even before I reach Panama godown I have another flat! And now, I do not even have a proper repair kit to set things right. Sigh! I’m compelled to head back home pushing [for the most part of it], riding, inflating the tires[Some real good exercise for the hands!] and oh yeah dozing for half an hour on the roads! You never get these ricks when you desparately need them. Reach home at about 06:30pm and crash on the bed. One real bad way to start the day – lesson learnt though!
The Sanghi ride is still ON. But before that some serious tire maintenance to be done this week!
The road ahead seems to penetrate into infinity as the sky gets overcast. Sounds from the innumerable streams cascading from the towering ranges abutting the road on the left side, seem to be magically muted by the strong gusts of wind. There’s not a soul on the road kilometres ahead and kilometres behind. I stand upright on the pedals letting the rules of physics govern my motion. As I dissolve myself in the encapsulating ambience capturing every frame with my closed eyes, the stark phenomenon of passage of time becomes evident. One year back I was right here on this road in a cab. Today nothing has changed – Just that I’m on a two wheeled machine powered by just the mind and the legs.
19th Sep ’09 – Saturday
06:30hrs. The volvo comes to a halt at Jagtap Diary. Bani is right there waiting to receive the four of us from Hyd. Sumanth, Mohan, Sudhansu and I had left Hyd for Pune yesterday. We reach Bani’s house by about 06:45hrs. It’s close to 08:30hrs by the time we refresh, get the bikes set and have a sumptuous breakfast at Yogesh’s place. While I head to Dange chowk to meet Viral and Trupti, Bani and the remaining three head to Vishal nagar to get their bikes mended. We decide to meet at Tammana restaurant, Hinjewadi at 09:30hrs. A quick catch-up here and the ride begins. The target is to reach Roha by 19:00hrs. That translates to about 125kms of biking today and effectively my first century ride!
Ten minutes on the road is more than a glaring pre-cursor as to what we could expect for the next two days. Even before we could hit Pirangut, the gradient starts increasing. We stop over at a roadside shop for a quick refill of water and move ahead towards Mulshi dam taking a right at the Pirangut chowk. The landscape changes starkly as we head towards Paud. The air thins down and the effect shows on the lungs as cleaner air sinks in. The next eleven kilometres from Paud is more or less on flat terrain traversing through small towns and riding by the Mulla river. Bani catches up pretty quickly and we ride in tandem for quite some time. The best part of long distance bicycling is that you get to talk leisurely as you ride on.
35 kilometers into the ride we approach the Mulshi dam at the place where the Mulla river originates. Bani had warned us of a steep uphill climb close to the Mulshi dam and even before we realise the killer climb loomed right ahead. An ascent of a kilometre or so brings the muscles into action. Sumanth, Mohan and I take a short break at the hairpin bend letting the body cool down. Couple of minutes spent here and we push ahead and take a left turn ahead only to find Sudhansu riding back just to check if all is fine with us! A bit ahead we take a brief stop at one of the hotels facing the reservoir, waiting for Mohan to join us. As we relax in the shade munching on jaggery bars, the body starts talking sweetly to the mind. And it’s just about 40kilometres into the ride.
At about 13:00hrs we reach a roadside restaurant for lunch. A heavy [and costly!] lunch here followed by a much needed half an hour break and we decide to move on towards Tamhini ghat. The section from Palase to the Tamhini village is interspersed with quite a few scenic viewpoints overseeing the Mulshi waters. The weather gets better and by the time we reach the Tamhini village diversion point a refreshing shower gives the body a cold shock wave. Further about 10kilometres ahead is the breathtaking Plus valley. A brief stop-over for a couple of photographs and then we head towards the Tamhini ghat. It’s about 17:00hrs. The road ahead seems to penetrate into infinity as the sky gets overcast. Sounds from the innumerable streams cascading from the towering ranges abutting the road on the left side, seem to be magically muted by the strong gusts of wind. There’s not a soul on the road kilometres ahead and kilometres behind. I stand upright on the pedals letting the rules of physics govern my motion. As I dissolve myself in the encapsulating ambience capturing every frame with my closed eyes, the stark phenomenon of passage of time becomes evident. One year back I was right here on this road in a cab. Today nothing has changed – Just that I’m on a two wheeled machine powered by just the mind and the legs. Tamhini ghat has always been on the radar of un-accomplished rides for almost a year now. Couple of months back I had to miss one of the planned rides because of work commitments and today as I ride on this heavenly road, I’m speechless. For a couple of moments, all pain vanishes and what I get to experience is something which I guess would remain etched in memories for a long time to come.
Bani and I pullover to the side as Sudhansu, Sumanth, Viral and Mohan zip past us at the beginning of the ghat section. Dusk was setting in and we decide to sweep the team. 9 kilometres of complete downhill on the ghats can be real risky with vehicles spitting in at break neck speeds. We stop for some tea at the end of the ghat section and then proceed towards Vile. The next major town would be Kolad where we would be hitting the NH17. My body starts giving in at about 85kilometres into the ride. I’m compelled to stop intermittently to avoid impulsive heart beat surges. I take it easy for a while intently listening to telling signs and keep moving in a slow pace. There’s just one motivation to move on – to see to it that my first century ride does not turn out to be disappointing. At about 95kilometres I suddenly seem to get energy out of the blue to move on ahead. I take it in stride and gracefully ride ahead of the team. I’d forgotten to take my cyclo-computer for this ride, but the road markings out there were quite reliable and based on a rough estimates I should have completed my first century ride at Sutarwadi. I stop by the ‘Empower adventure training camp’ for sometime for rest of the folks to join me and once everyone’s in, we ride on towards Kolad.
As dusk sets in, things get easier. With LED headlamps and rear flicker lamps navigating through the roads gets all the more interesting. The beauty being we’re compelled to ride together and match the pace of the slowest member of the team. As we reach the NH17, navigating on the roads gets a bit dicey. At about 19:30hrs we hit Kolad. Viral suddenly seems to be smitten by the night queen and he powers down the road like never before. The remaining five of us ride in tandem. At about 20:00hrs we finally reach our chalked out destination at Roha– Hotel Dwarka. A staggered dinner at Navaratna hotel, thanks to the pathetic service and we crash in the lodge. A hot water bath [Geysers here are powered by LPG!] does the trick and even before I realise I’m in dreamland.
20th Sep ’09 – Sunday
05:45hrs. As I wake after seven hours of decent sleep, I test to see if my ass still pains. Surprisingly it doesn’t! The elation only lasts till the moment I jump onto the saddle after checking out from the place. There seems to be no cure for it and the ride has to go on. Today is going to be one long day. The plan was to head to Korlai fort [About 40km from here], spend about an hours time there, head back to Roha by noon, have lunch here, then proceed towards Kolad, Vile and then finally scale up the Tamhini ghat at night and camp at the start of the Ghat. That totals to about 120+ kms of ride and 9kms of ghat climb at the end.
We checkout at about 06:45hrs and ride ahead towards Korlai. The roads to start off seem to be pretty flat [Rather Pune flats, as Bani calls them]. Yesterdays’ sound sleep seems to have rejuvenated the muscles. I feel real fresh and but for the ass pain everything seems to be perfectly fine. I cruise ahead and go with the swing. Climbs with increasing yet manageable gradients soon pitch in making the ride all the more interesting. About 20kms from Roha, there’s this small dockyard where iron-ore is brought in to the hinterland. We stop here for sometime and then move on.
About ten kilometres ahead we come across a small village. A much needed heavy breakfast [Lip smacking Sheera, peppy hot Vada-Pav and crunchy toasts] at Pooja’s hotel and we move on towards Korlai. At about 10:45hrs we reach the Korlai diversion and ride into the village. The poor villagers are taken back with the sight of six nuts blistering through their streets on bicycles. Bani leads us through the village and then finally after some decent off-roading we reach the Korlai lighthouse. I stop a bit ahead, bank my bike on the rock and conk off for about twenty minutes blissfully sinking in the Arabian sea. The humid air and the cold breeze wafting across your body as you lie there staring into the open sea, with a bicycle beside you that’s got you 160kms from the mainland – Now that’s called living life!
After a five minute snooze, I head towards the Korlai fort where the remaining five folks had already scaled up the fort. The caretaker directs me up the fort and I wait for the team to complete their exploratory mission at the entrance of it. In a couple of minutes as the five get down, Bani reveals that there’s a change in plan. We’d be heading to Kashid beach instead of getting back to Roha and then hit back to Pune the next day. The plan sounded pretty interesting and I was instantly game! Sudhansu and Bani decided to head back to Roha to collect our luggage while Sumanth, Viral, Mohan and I relaxed by the Arabian sea. At about 12:30hrs we head back to Korlai and then to Borili for lunch. With no options left, we had to satisfy our tummies with the veg thali available in the only restaurant at Borili and head back to Korlai and wait here for Bani and Sudhansu to return. Once they return, we decide to find a means of transport back to Pune tomorrow and an accommodation for tonight. At Borili, we manage to hire a tempo for 2grand and accommodation at the same place where we had lunch. Everything in place we decide to head towards Kashid beach and get back tonite to the lodge. Kashid beach is about 15kms from Borili. The roads are mostly flat but for the last section which is a spine thrilling down slope with a spledid hairpin bend. [Viral seems to have had a near miss smooch from a vehicle coming from the opposite direction!].
The Kashid beach is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to till date – Amazingly clean, Happening crowd and sparsely visited! After a bout of yummy maggi and some real hot tea we decide to head back to Borili. It’s already 19:00hrs and the road is pitch dark. An unwritten understanding passes on that we’re to move together all together for the whole stretch. Bani leads and I sweep. That 15kms is one of the best team rides I’ve ever done till now. All the way through, uphill or downhill, riding in synchronism in darkness – I would call it the real icing on the cake! We reach Borili at about 20:00hrs, have an ‘unhealthy’ oily food at the Chinese stall and retire to our rooms. Sudhansu comes up with an idea to head to the Korlai fort again the next morning and most of us immediately are game.
21st Sep ’09 – Monday:
05:30hrs. There’s not much to ride today – Just about 10kms probably. We head to the Korlai fort at about 06:00hrs. Viral and Mohan manage to capture some amazing sunrise shots and I get to explore the fort which I missed on yesterday. By about 07:30hrs all of us are back in the lodge. The Tempo lad whom we’d engaged yesterday turns up pretty much on time and at about 08:30hrs we head back towards Pune. A short pit stop at the same Pooja restaurant for breakfast and we’re all set for another ass paining ride back to Pune. We stop by Sudhagad – Pali for respite and then head towards Wakad. With this the Korlai ride comes to an end. A quick catch-up with Trupti, Rahul and Reetika and we head towards Brehman circle for the bus to Hyd.
This has been one interesting long ride! With a special thanks to Yogesh and Trupti for lending their bikes and of course Bani for mapping the whole ride out!
The atlas cycle in front of me squeaks as the rider careens into one of the construction sites of the Aliens group. As I follow in tandem, I’m swept over by the cheers of the construction workers standing by the gates to welcome us into the rest station. Thumping music pulsates the 100+ crowd and the support they were profusely displaying for the cause was quite evidently portrayed in their charismatic faces. Each one ebulliently clapping and swaying as if they’re inviting the unbeatable winner of the Tour de France in regal honors! I’m at a loss of words to portray those emotions. These people just made my day and not to mention, that of the 150+ other riders.
August 15th ’09
Abhi is right at my door at 04:45hrs. He’d badly wanted to upgrade his Ubuntu OS and didn’t want to procrastinate it any more. We set up the downloads and leave for the Vidyanagar station at 05:10hrs. The mmts to Hitec city was at 05:19 hrs and it was almost evident that I’d miss it. He offers to drop me at the Novotel Hotel where the Freedom ride ’09 was to be started. and finally reach it at about 06:00am. The registration formalities begin as the riders dribble in along with their chic bikes [A few going upto 2 Lacs!]. We complete the registration of our team as Ram and Revathi ride in. I’d checked in my bike at Banjara hills the previous day to avoid riding the additional 30kms early in the morning. As the bike is checked out, I notice a flat in my front tier. Abhay and Deenanath pitch in with a few contacts and finally Venki comes to the rescue with his toolkit and the issue is quickly resolved. The human wave is flagged off right on time post the Flag hoist at 7:15hrs. The 62kms ride begins. My first ever long ride post the chestburn. If completed, this would be the first non-stop continuos ride without long breaks. I’m much wiser now with the Carb. loading for the whole last week and the early morning replenishment of banana shake. Besides, the plan mentioned thast replenishments would be available en-route as and when required.
We exit the city contours through the BHEL road. Amazing weather sets the pulse on and we start averaging about 20kmph. Riding through the service lanes on the roads ablely guided by the ever cheerful volunteers at vital junctions, we cross ICRISAT and a few kilometers ahead turn left to head towards Shankarapalli through Banur. Mobile replenishment stations and equally spaced out rest stations make riding an absolute cake walk! We take a three minute break at ICFAI Business School at about 40kms and get back to jackhammering the pedals.
A few kms before we hit the Mumbai road, we’re invited by resplendent green farms on both sides of the road. Nature starts tantalizing us with a light drizzle and swift gusts of wind. As I glide through the roads completely mesmerised by the smell of the soil and the pastoral surroundings, flashes of reports from the newspapers wade by. Its the mid of August and monsoon has not as yet set in most parts of the country. Several states have been almost declared drought hit. Latest IMD forecasts do not seem to be positive either. Agricultural situation seems to be quite precarious. Power cuts would soon be the next tarot cards with the Government. The Central bank would be chipping in soon to check on the inflation. Govenrnment seems to be gearing up its water reserve measures. All this amidst a supposedly mid-Monsoon phase. This summer seems to be one dicey season. Where are we headed to?
63 years of independence. What independence are we celebrating when the future itself does not seem to be rosy? Every second person on the road today has his own vehicle. Every chap who graduates from the 12th grade dreams of having a bike of his own. Every other person who enters the corporate mainstream signs in papers for the latest brand car. Public transport is rarely used by the so called elite class. Travelling in metro rails and state government buses is considered to be portraying a low status in the society. Most evident reasoning given – ‘Waste of time, Dude’, ‘Insufficient buses!’, ‘Lack of connectivity’. ‘Pollution’. People get a life. It’s all about setting your priorities right. Your work will not be hampered if you reach couple of minutes late! If time is the issue – Start early. Wake up early. Bad traffic ? – Mate, the traffic is because YOU are creating it. You’re just adding on to the stack of multitude issues!
A set of kids ebulliently waving flags by the road get my thoughts back. We soon hit the Mumbai road and head towards the Kothaguda Junction. Five more minutes and we’ve given a royal entry into the Novotel hotel. 11:05hrs. Other riders soon start swarming in and we head to one of the conference rooms. Couple of interesting events by kids from a dance school help sink in the post ride pains. A touching oration of the Vandemataram song by a Akshaya Akruthi special kid and a sumptuous lunch brings the first edition of the Freedom ride ’09 to an end.
As I request the organisers to deliver my bike at Banjara hills and walk out of the gates of the Novotel hotel, I sink back in thoughts on how much passion for Biking changes the way we think. Earlier this year i’d been for the Enduro3 race and to say they’ve been orgainising the event for the past eight or so years is a shame on their part. This debut ride organised by these folks passionate about biking was one of the best ever organised events I’ve been to! Right from the initiation to the end of the event every aspect – Timely availability of replenishments, Spacing out of volunteers, Medical support, SAG wagons, Rest stations, Mobile support etc was taken under consideration. To say they’ve set a benchmark in organising events would be an insult! Kudos to the amazing team of volunteers and Organisers. Eagerly looking forward to the Tour de Republic ride!
Registered Riders: 179
Cause: Proceeds from this event would be routed to underpreviledged children to fund their education
Organised by: Atlanta Foundation
Further details: Freedom ride ’09 Website