Sunday, June 10th during the early morning hours, around 25 cycle-minded souls assembled while the city was still deep asleep. After regrouping at TIDEL, Guindy and Koyambedu the team was complete and was pedaling steadily along the 100ft road towards the Norther outskirts of the city. We escaped the noise and busyness of our traffic raped city roads near Kolathur where we jumped onto a sand track which took us along the large, scenic Retteri lake while the sun was rising in the East.
We hopped across NH5 into the paddy fields bidding farewell to the stressed city and welcoming the peacefulness of the countryside. My objective of any cycle trip is to escape the city and highways asap. We were soon riding on dirt tracks and little sand trails and soon.... out of roads. Google maps - Satellite View - although very much helpful in discovering new tracks and trails - sometimes can get you easily stuck on a newly build compound wall or overgrown track. We pushed our wheels forward for around 1km across barren lands onto the nearest tar road. Passing through some thorny bushes we soon had to fix a couple of punctures. No problemo - we never leave without a puncture kit and hand pump and many helping hands in CTC.
Once back on the little tar roads we proceeded further North at a good pace towards our destination. After a short tea break, we drove through scenic bright green rice plantations stretching to the horizon, alongside dams and lakes and small little villages where the locals were eye struck in seeing a large group of city folks passing by on their geared cycles. These trips are like time travel, escaping modern life in concrete, artificial metros, disconnected from nature and bringing back good old memories from my bullet rides through the Indian country side more then a decade ago. As the odo meter increased and our stomachs got emptier and it was time to halt for breakfast in the little town of Vichoor.
Freshly steamed idly's with sambar got our team back rolling at full throttle. As time progressed from late morning hours and the sun climb higher so did the temperature rise. Rule number one in CTC is to keep your body temperature stable at all times. On treks you jump into the nearest pool. On cycle trips? You look around for the nearest lake, well or pump in the fields. In this case the team got tipped off by a local villager on the vicinity of a fresh water lake where the kids typically take a dip. 10 minutes later and body temperature was back under control... It's amazing what impact cool water has on living beings in a tropical location - it's like red bull giving you wings again to continue the journey.
After the refreshing dip and fixing a second batch of punctures we were ready to move ahead. The journey continued to be utmost scenic rolling across little winding roads amid fresh pastures of newly planted rice fields. Cycling can be surprisingly effortless on a good set of wheels. Especially the lightweight imported aluminium frames are a breeze. However the slightest uphill or head wind can soon make you push hard on your pedals. The laws of wheel dynamics are quite different from those on foot while trekking. A little while later we crossed the dry river bed of the Kortaillai river - easily 100m wide - draining water from Poondy lake into the Bay of Bengal near Ennore Port.
The team proceeded further North - fragmented now as some had stayed behind to fix punctures while the main group went ahead giving instructions to those following to catch up. We joined back on SH104 carrying more heavy traffic and taking us to Minjur and Ponneri where we exchanged the highway back again for peaceful little countryside roads. After emptying a lemon juice shop we crossed the railway track and were soon driving along the Arani river draining the Southern parts of Nagari and Nagala ranges and Pichatur dam into the Southern tip of Pulicat lake. Daytime temperatures kept rising as the clock kept ticking forward. The team was scanning the horizon once again for the liquid of life. YES!!! THERE we saw a pump splashing white water into the paddy fields. Our steering wheel automatically took a sharp right into the fields and we were soon again seen in full body temperature control mode.
The team was still fragmented in 3 subgroups with those in the back trying to catch up with the front group. A few fast riders and our backup car had gone ahead and was taking a power nap near Pulicat town where we decided to regroup. Yet another power-break near a small town where we gulped down icy cool drinks to resist the summer heat. The weather was favoring us this weekend - the sky was overcast which shielded us from direct sun rays. Just 5km from Pulicat we got onto the state highway again and soon the entire team regrouped to have lunch around 2pm. Pulicat being a small fishing hamlet we just found one little road side hotel which had already sold out its parotta's and we had to satisfy ourselves with omelettes.
After refilling our tummy's we drove over the bridge connecting the island to the mainland and to take a glimpse at Pulicat lake. Due to a recent accident with a boat and people drowning it was not permitted to take tourists on a boat ride anymore. So we consolidated ourselves with a quick group snap before starting our return journey. We had completed around 70km so far and a few cyclists were quite exhausted - they decided to pack up their wheels on a bus and head home early. The remaining group was pushing hard again on the pedals as they had a long way to go with only few hours of daylight left.
Cycling in the late afternoon/early evening hours is always my favorite time - the sun slowly setting down, you can sense the peacefulness around, the air cools down and at the same time with the kilometers increasing the legs get heavier and the butt gets sore. Darkness set in as we were entering the city suburbs just in time as we were trying hard to manage riding in the dark with the few lights available on our cycles. At the same time we were entering back into the traffic, into the noise, into the pollution, into the radiating heat of our artificial, concrete modern day habitats, leaving the peacefulness and freshness of mother nature back behind us. We were bidding goodbye once again - till the next weekend!
Upon arrival we clocked 130km that day.
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