[Written by Anand]
It was a break from the ridiculous honking, noisy, petrol exhaust-filled, argument-shouts-filled, city. The trip was a long one and hurt the muscles, but once we passed Sholinganallur, and went off the main road, the pain was just a minor mosquito bite. Was drowned in the lot more calmer paddy field surrounded, almost rarely seen motor-vehicle, ambiance. I started of at 3:30 worried that i would be late, forgot to pack/take my water bottle. Went to the Bus stand, where i was supposed to meet vijay(who neither showed up nor picked up the phone). So there i went on, not being sure where exactly Tidel park is, but asking my way only to discover that, it's the same as Madhya kailash route and just a right turn and a km after that. Anyway was there by 4:15 am wondering why only one person is there after a couple of minutes couple more people joined us (Subhodh, barathi and punitha). Now by this time i call up vijay again and he says he was delayed at office, due to some work and is on the way now. I say we are leaving now he says ok. keep me updated on which turn you take at sholinganallur signal. We (about 25-30 of us ) start riding, there comes an auto loaded with a cycle, Malvika gets off,pays the driver, says her car broke down and joins us.
With that we are off. it's breezy, while it's not killing head wind, it's pretty strong wind (cross breeze, to be precise) but troubling us nevertheless. On the other hand, it's a cool climate and the breeze means almost all sweat evaporates right away, cooling the body immediately. Moral?? Ride as fast as you can for the next couple of hours and don't stop or ride too hard. Choose the speed/cadence to be good enough to keep going till the next stop point sholinganallur signal. Because if you stop, your body is going to cool down pretty quick and you're gonna have trouble warming up again. Ofcourse all of this is very clear now only in retrospective. At that moment, i was a dull-headed fool and decided to exercise my respiration and see how hard i can push/ride before i have to slow down. So indeed repeated this cycle of riding hard/fast as possible then slowing down a couple of times. Of course, eventually, it got me winded enough to have to stop and eat some of the dry grapes i was carrying. But managed to not delay the group and the pretense of having to call up vijay was a very useful one :-).
Anyways, we rode on in about 5- 7 split groups and reached sholinganallur signal and stopped for a water/tea/whatever break. Once again a call to vijay and he says, he's on the way near the toll. Finally he catches up with us at the signal. A group picture. Basic introductions to Shumon, subhodh and suchitra. Say hi to shon(from the nagala trek). Get the helmet from vijay.
So far we have been on the main road and were surrounded by buildings. Now we take a right turn and that brings us right into the head winds. The troublesome pain begins, but on the reward part, the more we rode, the more the scenery changes to fresh(read plain) no concrete jungle plains. So that kept us going till we came across a point to meet a lake. (Later from the app based map, it turns out to be sithalapakkam lake)
Can't figure out a path around the lake, so decide to backtrack and detour a little. carry the cycles across a recently ploughed field(so not ride-able and dead crop stems sticking all over too.) Cross the field to find a well and a water lorry sucking water out of it to be supplied to the city folks. Was a sobering sight. Now we hit our first trouble with tires. Malvika runs out of air. and we end up pumping it up. Have a little trouble with the nozzle being a different type, but manage to get it working and ride along. then we arrive at another rise and a path that goes around the border of the lake, with a view of the lake.
There we were riding high-end bikes on othayadi pathai's that have never seen anything more than a few basic Hercules/hero models. Certainly caused a stir/raised a few eye-brows among the local dwellers.
Some more pictures on the bank of the lake, luckily for us we have a great cloud cover, some of us were worried about getting soaked if it rains, while the crazy(actually we are like wonko the sane from HHGTTG ) among us wanted it to rain :-). Unfortunately we did not have Thor or Rob McKenna with us so we never had rain :-( ..
Now after some distance around the lake we got off the lake bank and started moving into a village trail. At this point we were beginning to look for a place to stop, take a dip, perhaps get breakfast etc... But there starts the adventure, we had to find a cool, shady, water sourced, place. And we were not sure of a clear trail, here began the search and the puncture fest. The first one i remember was shumon's. We(shumon, me and shon) were a little ahead of the group, scouting new paths and had a small stop to catch up with the group. Soon there it was the first puncture. Some 10-15 mins of work(pumping, identifying the puncture, deflating the tube, applying glue and the patch. flattening it,pumping it back up) later, we found that there was another puncture just next to the old one and we had missed it. Some 10-15 mins more gone. We get off and go and find a well around which to sit down and take a little rest. Of course am hungry as usual :-P and start eating the dry grapes. within minutes 250 g of dried grapes disappears. Some of us have a dip, the couple of swimmers have a short swim, we fix quite a few more punctures. And poof an hour or so has flown by making a whooshing sound as it passed.
At this point it's around midway between 9 &10 and some of the crowd want to go back. Some stuff to do, some tired etc.. (Really, stuff to do back in that ugly, noisy, polluted city ??? of course, i only think to myself and not say aloud. ) So we turn back part of the crowd turns to take the shortest route(1hr) back, while the rest, go on a little more exploring.
So there we go, exploring the area(lots of new buildings aka concrete jungles coming up) with no plan, so we basically ride amidst the villagers for some time, fix a couple more punctures and decide to turn back. Thanks to GPS and Peter's navigational skills we find a way towards some habitation ride in find a village, have a stop for water break at a shop. Finish off water, and start back towards sholinganallur. At this point karthik has had too many punctures and decides to give up fixing it at all. So he keeps riding with a flat back tire. Am amazed, i haven't had a single puncture and for sometime wonder whether my bike tire is better than the costlier ones, and finally conclude, it has to do with riding style.
Ofcourse, the path we took was pretty rough and off-road for all of us, but i was not new to those. Especially, given the only ups and downs were the lake bank, it was same as the route for my grandpa's coconut plantation. So concluded, i was perhaps just more careful of my tires than others. Anyway, we start off riding back and a lot more split up this time. Some of us are very behind, and we kinda split up . With shumon's house being nearby. He and vijay sweeping the tail, me riding as usual in the middle. Peter ofcourse leading us all way ahead, we reached sholinganallur junction/signal quite soon.
Wait for the rest of the parties to catch up and have breakfast/brunch, Peter rides back to bring karthik back. Somehow vijay has taken a different route, and the sweeping/last party end up taking a longer route.
So there we are back on the way towards the city, i was riding in a daze, half reluctant to get back to the city. And here's where we began to split up, some leaving early to get back to do some stuff/work. Some taking a different route to see a friend etc.... So I trudge along and finally reach home around 12:30ish.. Drop messages, check with a few people, have lunch and drop off to sleep dreaming of a idyllic life from a movie set in mid 1700 England :-).
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Peter Van Geit
Dare to create your own path rather than follow existing trails