I was flying ! The cool wind was flowing through my hair and patting my face ! As the speed increased landscapes around became a blur, gentle sounds from nature became muffled and I had the widest smile possible ! I was flying ! A childhood dream was coming true !!
Well, atleast I felt I was flying ! I was actually riding my bicycle downhills on a mountain ! I was having the most wonderful experience !
When I was child I used to spread my hands, stand tip-toe on one foot and rotate so fast that I used to imagine I was flying (how many of you have done it ?!!) !! Sweet memories indeed ! But now I was flying, almost
I was on a 2-day cycling adventure trip @ Shevaroy Hills, Tamilnadu on July 7th & 8th ! The trip was organized by Chennai Trekking Club, CTC. When I saw the invite from CTC, I was in a dilemma – not on whether to go or not, but only how to go !! I wanted to ride my new MTB on the mountains and fulfill its life’s purpose !! I had some logistical issues to take care of, and I tried to find solutions for those after I registered for the trip ! The CTC organizers were very helpful and rerouted the drive to Yercaud so I could board at Tindivanam. Set the goal and the way will open up !!
The highway was empty and looked like the entire world was sleeping except a bunch of crazy cyclists who were traveling to a far-away mountain to cyle !
Cycles were loaded in a mini-lorry & cyclists were traveling in a van ! Mid-way, when the cyclists in the van were told by Prashanth that the mini-lorry driver & the navigators were dozing off while driving, the cyclists were instantly awake & started to pray for the safety of their shiny new bikes – atleast the ones who owned bikes ; renters went back to sleep peacefully !! Lesson : if you want a peaceful sleep reduce your possessions and assets to the bare minimum !!
After a short early morning break at Salem, the van took us uphill to Yercaud town. After refreshing, breakfast & unloading and check-up on cycles , we started cycling on the mountains !!
We started off on a small trial ride on an off- road led by Masanamuthu & Jagadish. Well, the trial surely was a taste of things to come, with it’s uphill and rocky roads ! And my cycle got it’s first puncture . The designated puncture master of the trip, Kumar declared that the tube has to be changed and my spare tube came in handy. While I tried to help, I realized they were experts and did not really need my intervention ! Hence, I used the time ‘effectively’ to click some pics of lovely flowers growing on a roadside garden !!
We regrouped and started our adventure. As we crossed the Yercaud main road again, people saw us with wonder as we all cycled in sync, with our helmets & backpacks, must have been quite a scene in style to look ! But within a few minutes after we crossed the town things seemed to go out of sync (& style ;( ) as we panted our way uphill and the group broke up into smaller units according to their own speed ! At many places I was cycling alone.
There was an occasional house, here or there, but mostly it was just trees all around. Some of the houses were bright & colourful, proabably to counter the usual coldness around !! As we cycled further, there was not a soul in sight ! Whenever there was a dilemma as to which route to take , while the organizers studied the GPS, the rest of the gang rested or made into a photo op !
After some discussions, it was decided to go to Karadiyur watch tower. There was a downhill ride and this is when I started feeling that I was flying ! It was exhilarating !!
But at the end of the downhill gradient, before we started on the next uphill, we took the most vital tea break ! A hot steaming cup of chaay is a true energizer ! What would India be without these little tea-shops dotting our landscape, whatever be the terrain ! There is an old joke, that Tenzing climbed Mt. Everest for the first time and he was greeted by a tea-waalah asking him “ Sir, want some Tea ?? ” . Though it is funny and a legendary joke, it is indicative of the ubiquitousness of the tea-shops !! In a CTC adventure trip these are integral pit-stops wherever they are available !!! If no tea-shops are visible for more than an hours trek/cycling, then it truly means we are away from civilization ; well-atleast till we encountered a chaiwaalah at the top of the peak )
Again we were on the roads, and again the group was getting broken up into smaller units ! We came upon a really rocky road and it was tempting to just stay there as the legs were begging for rest. But then the adventurer part of me wanted to go the extra distance to reach the watch tower. So I along with others took the rocky road. My Cannondale, being an MTB, was on familiar ground now . After testing its worth in rocky terrain, Shobana, myself and a few of us stopped, in what looked like a butterfly park ! The plants seemed to be attracting butterflies in droves. The butterflies were flitting around, seeming to sit here and there, but the moment I took the camera, seemed to fly away ! But I patiently waited enjoying the different coloured butterflies and a few did pose in the end for some good clicks !!
Meanwhile one of the team members who had gone ahead, came back to motivate us to ride upto the watch tower ! And we were glad we did ! The Karadiyur watch tower was at the edge of a cliff and offered a fantastic view of the forest below. We could see only the top of trees and this made the view even more greener ! The play of sunlight and shadows also created differing shades of green.
Lunch followed by rest and we were ready to ride on !! There was uphill for sometime and we struggled to cycle in the steep gradient. During a break the local children made me their official photographer, and wanted to see the pictures instantly the moment I clicked ! Such joy in their faces on being photographed !!
We further trudged on to Kaveri peak. The sun was slowly setting and the hills were turning into different tints of blue ! The crickets were coming out and the rest of the hill seemed to quieten down. After some clicks, we proceeded . The terrain was steeper and challenging. Crossing a few metres seemed like an ‘uphill task’ (pun intended !!) !! At one point, some of the successful cyclists to reach the peak came back and the rest of us could not reach the peak as we needed more stamina for that. Maybe next time !! The cycles were loaded in the mini lorry and we got into the van and drove towards the campground for the night.
It was completely dark when we reached the campsite on top of the hill at Servarayan Temple. But the moment I got out of the van was when I felt totally blacked out – by the bone chilling cold ! The day had been pleasant, but the night was in stark contrast. And I was totally unprepared for such cold weather. After covering myself in a shawl, I ventured out again to see the view from the top. It looked like the festival of lights below ! The City of Steel, Salem, was lit up by the millions of everyday lights ! I wondered how the scene would change if there was a power cut. Maybe complete darkness ? Or maybe not, with all the batteries coming to life !
Arun and his team had driven to Yercaud by car and had the tents and food preparations started ! I was overcome by fatigue and shivering. All I remember is, Sandhiya giving me a cup of hot soup which revived me a little. Ananya, suggested we go back to the van. The closed van was a saviour from the cold winds. Later we were called for an intro session. CTC official intros typically happens at the day, by which time many of the co-trekkers would have already become friends !! So there was really no ice to break in these intro sessions ! Instead there was a lot of good-humoured talk as each told a little more about themselves ! Sometimes, people have to be reminded to stop talking as they could go on and on ! But today the cold winds took on the role of silencer !
Atlast food was ready, and after a quick dinner, we ladies were given a tent that would keep out the chillness. Once inside the tent, I felt the wind would transport the tent and its inhabitants over the mountains and down to the valley !! But sleep overtook me and I did not care whether the tent was intact or not , all I wanted to was sleep.
The next morning dawned more pleasantly and the surroundings were actually visible to us now. The Servarayan temple, from which the hills get their name, was just a few yards away.The camp ground was part of the temple, where fairs would be conducted. There was a merry-go-round and a tea-stall (ya, didn’t I predict earlier itself ) . After exploring the place, it was time for morning breakfast of tea & hot bhajjis !! Not an ideal breakfast, but that was the only thing available and it was perfect for the cold weather !
After refreshing, getting ready and photo sessions, we were ready for the long downhill ride !! I was actually looking forward to breeze through Shevaroy hills as we were on top of one of the peaks probably.
The fresh morning mountain air rejuvenated my tired bones & muscles and I felt totally alive again ! Everyone seemed happy ! We cycled down, nay rolled-down, the ghat roads until we reached Yercaud town. A small break later we were onto our next destination to Pagoda Point. I wanted to get some homemade chocolates for kids, but all I could find was signboards announcing ‘homemade chocolates’ but never found any place actually selling those !! Yercaud town was crowded with weekend tourists (ya, we are not tourists but adventurers, so we dont come in that count ) . The route to Pagoda point was scenic. Again we did not go upto the point as it was overcrowded and we decided to go down to Kuppanur.
After cycling for a long time, we came to a village with a big well ! It gave us much needed water and splashing the cold well water on the face was refreshing ! There was a Primary Health Center and it had the cleanest restroom I had seen in 2 days !!
We restarted and were faced with more uphill rides. Sometimes I could not spot anyone from my group ! But at some points the localites, especially the children would rightly assume that I am part of that helmetted group and give info on the direction they took ! Live, friendly navigators At one point we were exhausted. After more uphills and downhills and some rescue by car, we finally reached Kuppanur, the plains at the foothills.
After loading of cycles & goodbyes to the other groups going to Salem & chennai by car, we started our return trip. But the fun was not yet over, as the drive was passed by singing songs non-stop for 3 hours by Shobana, Sandhiya, Ananya, Muthu, Arvind& myself. Each one had their own special genre – but the common thread was Sandhiya exhaustive lyrics database !! A fun and nice team of people !
Tour de Shevaroy was indeed a very memorable trip that was adventurous !
P.S : I was narrating the trip happenings to my kids the next day, while watching Tour de France live on TV. They were wonderstruck by my experience and now think that their Mom is in the league of Tour de France and the little one actually asked when I’ll be going to Tour de France !!!! Well, I am not going to break their belief about their Mom’s capability anytime soon ) They will one day be big enough to accompany me on cycle treks and find out how I struggle uphill ) !!