Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Excellent Write up from Chandru Raghu and Alagarsamy:

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Write up from Chandru Raghu:

I was in Bangalore when I saw mail for cycling trip in borders of three states (TN, KA & KL) along with a short trek to Chembara, the route which I have already done a solo, bike trip (Gundlupet, Kalpetta, Gudalur, Ooty, Kotagiri & Metupalayam) this route goes through reserve forest making it a favorite destination for such trips (Bandipur, Muthanga, Wayanadu, Mudumalai, Mukurthi). I was feeling skeptical if I'd be able to successfully do cycling in this ghat section for its steep ascend, but I wanted to trek Chembara for a long time, at 1st I thought I'll do the trek alone but organizer Prem told it is not possible so I joined with "come what may attitude" (enna dhan nadakum nadkatumea) The day came and I was all prepared for the trip, met with fellow travelers at central railway station with so many new faces to me I all got introduced myself to few at 1st, since we were 30+ in total got our-self allocated in different coaches (S3,4,8,13), mail chain was started for taking dinner count (Chicken Biriyani) most non-veg didn't have dinner for this reason :)
Soon went to sleep by 10:30pm only to woke up @ Bangalore station, there was lot of noise disturbance at this station, nearing Mysore we shared Madhur Vada, Masala Dosa not as breakfast but to kill time :P, after reaching Mysore we all hurried towards breakfast point (a roadside shop) offering us hot Idli, poori the business today for this shop was a great start, we almost emptied their ration :) meanwhile Prem found us a truck to transport till Gundlupet, everyone hoped on it reaching Gundlupet around11:00am where we met up with rest of the group from Coimbatore with cycles (rent and own)

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Day -1 (Gundlupet - Vazhioram)
I choose my cycle for the ride and everyone started our ride towards checkpoint (1st group point), I'd have driven just 100mt by then the gear broke off, yeah it just broke such is the condition of the rented bicycles, my bad luck so loaded it back in the truck and got inside backup vehicle (VW Jeta) Another 200mt Priya was not feeling good, soon I took her cycle and rode, it was hot day making it sweaty and unconfortable ride with slight ascent. With much strugle pedaled for 2hrs with a stop in-between to get hydrated with watermelon, from checkpost till reaching shop (nair kadai) I took some rest in the car and was also taking some panning shots, the shop had just few parottas left with hot channa which we all shared and got emptied ASAP after which we had lemon soda, coke & maaza. Soon we moved further when Lakshmi Narayan (Lucky) needed a swap, I took over and started pedaling, this cycle was good physically but an MTB which was quite heavy and doesn't move fast even if you put in a great effort, even on a downhill ride it moves slowly, really had a tough time pedalling this one, but somehow managed to pedal till Sulthan Bathery, where I met up with fast riders who owned their cycles, managed to swap mine with Yoganad (Yogi), Yogi is having a roadbike (thin cycle), this gave me some confidence for me to pedal again.

I pedaled for few KM after which it was all descent for some 6-8km which I zipped past cutting the wind and I felt so energetic and it was simply superb (I don't know how to put this in words) just overtook a pulsar which should have been crossing 60km speed, after this downhill what follows is ascent, I turned back to check if I'm in the right path since I didn't find anyone behind for a long time, I waited for a while and found Magesh coming.. he too was having the same doubt, we both waited, slowly Yogi came and called me to swap again for he had had enough with that MTB I swapped (he had got fed up with that :P) [appo na evulavu kashtapatrupean] I gave him back his cycle and started pedaling that hopeless cycle only to be left behind (but for good - you'll see later why), as I pedaled it got dark and started to drizzle with no one with me I pedaled alone in silence, in time Jagadeesh & Susan caught up, in time they too dissapeared, I stopped at a shop waiting for the sweeping truck to load the cycle since it is risky to pedal at night with no lights, after a while truck came and I got in, by now I came to know whoever have gone before me have pedaled further the actual stop point of the day (good thing for me due to this cycle) after a search mission by Barani (car) everyone were in one place (Vazhioram Sudarsana Heritage).

Good and neat dormitory, we all had a nice hot water bath followed by hot food before hitting the bed while some played cards for a while.

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Day - 2 (Kalpeta - Chembara - Gudalur)
I decided not to cycle today, we checked out and started off after having coffee proceeing towards Kalpeta for breakfast (9km from here), some cycled till Kalpetta, got into (Hotel New Form) had puttu, poori, parotta, aapam with kadala curry, everyone had their share in everything.I came to know after having breakfast suru-surupu cyclist Vivek was missing who had zipped past without stopping at Kalpetta, again car went to search. Meanwhile vehile was being arranged to take us at the base of Chembara while we waited for almost an hour when we decided that few of us move to the base in out cycle truck until a vehicle is found in which rest of them can come, I hoped into the truck happily sitting at the edge of the vehile enjoying the ride through lush green scenery with tea estates either side. We reached at the base by 10:30am, paid 50rs each for forest entry fee, we know its going to take time for the rest of the goup to join us so we found some time to laze around taking pictures and also light ah oru kutti thookkam (Thookam un kangalai thazhuvattume), by noon rest of the group joined and we started to trek towards the Heart Shaped pond, it was again a sunny day with steep climb uphill through a very good trail, after a 2hr climb we reached the pond and relaxed for a while when the weather changed bringing a heavy downpour, soon I hurried downhill since I didn't have a rain cover for my camera, but by basic camera bag is rain proof giving the just needed protection for it.

Reached the base camp by 3:30pm and by 5:00pm we hit to a hotel @ Meppadi in two trucks got by Bharani (our support team - Thank you Bharai) where we had our late lunch (Veg & non-Veg) dosa, chappathi, gheerice, chicken, egg & beef (Sundar who feasted on beef like anything). Soon it was time to pedal again untill we cross Kerala checkpost Cherambadi (ofcourse I didn't pedal), from Cherambadi we got into bus till Gudalur (60km more) it was past 9 when we reached Gudalur. It Bharani who had booked us a dormitory a week ahead for this trip (kudos to you), only a few had dinner since most of us had a stumptous late lunch which still kept us hunger free. After getting settled it was time for a big camp fire where we planned to have self introduction session but due to space constraint we had it inside dormitory by pulling wach others leg and it was 1:00am when we hit the bed.

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Day 3- (Gudalur - Ooty - Kotagiri - Mettupalayam)
Dileep and Susan had left their bags in the hotel @ Meppadi luckily someone had got the business card of the hotel which helped in tracking.Jags, Bharani woke up early to bring back the bags, we all woke up by 7:00am or therafter had our coffee and got into a local bus heading towards Gudalur bustand. Today our plan was to take bus to Ooty and cycle from Pykara Lake till Mettupalayam, but from Gudalur bustand we couldn't find any bus to take in all of us,Vasanth, Yogi and Prassanna found us a small truck in which all 25 of us squeezed in with our bags, the journey was enjoyable as few sang all the way till Pykara. Magesh, Arun, Yasar singing kuthu paatu, Yoganand singing rap, few romantic songs by Priya and Bhavana.

By 12:00 noon we started cycling towards Ooty HPF, I was inside car reaching HPF by 2pm, I wanted to ride badly but definetly not that rented one. Here while I was waiting Thangavelu gave me his cycle (BIANCHI) to ride, from here myself, Anand, Magesh rode towards Kothagiri which is a steep climb for 6km, in-between it started to rain where we pulled over for a Tea and proceeded further 2km until a junction to the right which will take you to Dodabetta and left towards Kothagiri, Prem, Hari, Anshuman went to Doddabetta while we proceeded towards Kotagiri with steady downhill for 23km interspersed with small climbs, it was refreshing to drive this stretch with wonderfull vast valley both sides rain pouring, cold breeze blowing with nothing to protect me completly drenched, I was chattering my teeth and cold hands with my fingers going numb.
All you have to do is control the speed with brakes and maneuver at the curves. It was with great pleasure I drove this stretch (special thanks to Thangavelu).After reaching Kotagiri we stopped for a tea break with hot aloo bonda, 1st thing I did was to immerse my hand in a hot water mug. We waited at a bus stand for others to reach so I can give back the cycle to Thangavelu to ride the further downhill from Kotagiri to Mettupalayam, but since it was getting dark I gave it to Ravi who came 1st and then I got back into car. It became dark and soon Bharani got a call from Hari telling Venkat sir had an unfortunate fall, we quickly started and went to pick up Venkat and also provided lighting to our cyclist driving in dark without headlamp, soon we caught up with other cyclist and pulled over at "T" junction @ Mettupalayam where we had our quick dinner @ road side stall (hot omlet, half boil, biriyani, kalaki)

Waited till our cycle truck came to load back the cycles and boarded our bus reserved exclusively for us, we soon changed to dry clothes and went to sleep after half hour chitchatting the cycling experience and reached Chennai @ 8:00am
Special Thanks to Prem, Vasanth, Raghu, Bharani & Venkat for organizing such a good cycling trip with loads of food options :) see you all soon

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Write up from Alagarsamy:

Cycling trip to Wayanad / Kalpatta / Ooty / Mettupalayam
Never imagined about riding a cycle in Wayanad, Ooty hills but it happened over the weekend, thanks to CTC for making this happen. Kudos to CTC organizers and volunteers for organizing events like this and making it great experience. The cycling team was awesome, very friendly, fun loving, caring for one another.  Before going into the details, I want to really appreciate CTC for its no alcohol and no littering policy in all CTC events. Though I have attended many CTC events like tree planting, beach cleaning, lake cleaning, trekking and this is the first cycling event for me, my friend Babu who inspired me to join the event.

Journey started from Chennai on Kaveri express train, volunteers’ packed veg and non-veg dinner for the team, reached Mysore. Breakfast was at the roadside food stall, and then climbed on to a truck which volunteers arranged to travel from Mysore to Gundalpet where the cycles and backup vehicles (a truck and a car) were waiting for us.

Before cycling, each one started checking the cycle condition, tire pressure, break condition. Few cycles started giving problem in the first few kilometres and they were loaded on the truck. Cycle expedition continued, eating from roadside shops / stalls continued. Entered into  Bindipur forest area through Karnataka forest check post. Initially we were spotting few deer, few of us spotted an elephant and another set of people spotted two elephants. In the forest area, stopped at the roadside shop for a break when it was already beyond lunch time. The lunch event took me back into the college days where friends eat together on the plate, here 34 of us were eating the parottas served on 8 plates. After lunch, continued cycling and exited the forest area through kerela forest check post. As time was progressing, cyclists were getting to know others slowly. While cycling through Wayanad, rain welcomed us around 6:30pmand we have happily cycled in the rain. First few cyclist reached Kalpetta then volunteers found a hotel for the stay in another town.  Good food, good stay, good card games ended the day.

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Second day morning, cycled for an hour to reach Kalpetta, had breakfast then started towards Chempara for trekking. As the road condition was not suitable for cycling, we had used alternate arrangements to reach the trekking spot. Forest department collected the entry fee per participant and in return one guard accompanied us during the trek. While climbing the mountain we were feeling the heat as it was around 2 pm, another natural event made the trekking a more memorable and pleasure, yes it started raining again and we continued the trekking in the rain. After trekking, returned for Madur for late lunch. Cycling started from Madur to Cheranpadi as our target for night stay was at Gudalur. By the time, we reached Cheranpadi, it is evening8:30pm and heard it is not safe to ride cycles at that time in the forest due to wild animal presence. So, loaded the cycles on the truck and reached Gudalur through alternate transport (Truck/car/bus). Camp fire, card games, ended the second day.

Third day morning, few of us went for walking inside tea plantations and enjoyed the nature for some time. Started cycling from Pykara (near Ooty), passed through Ooty town and Thotapetta. Then the interesting and exciting part of the journey started to enjoy the downhill journey, passed through Kothagiri, cycling and raining continued  together till Mettupalayam. All of us got into a bus at Mettupalayam to Chennai and picked up the cycle from loading points in the next few days. I used to be concerned about food and water quality and not dared to eat on roadside food stalls and drink tap waters. After gap of more than a decade, enjoyed the food on roadside eateries and tap wafers, bore-well waters, realizing now that the concerns were unnecessary.

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Few things which I would like to reiterate, while having fun we need to be safe
Ø  Ensure cycle is in good condition, check the breaks, tire grip, have toolkit handy
Ø  Wear helmet,  ride ONLY on the side of road,  limit the speed to the road condition
Ø  Have headlight and flashing tail lamps, light reflectors, if the ride continues after sunset
Thanks to
Ø  CTC for hosting this wonderful platform to bringing people together for nature expeditions, more importantly educating the members about treasuring the nature, such as not littering
Ø  Prem for the organizing the event and giving the opportunity
Ø  Venkat, Shyam, Jaga, Bharani, Vasant and other volunteers for your selfless services
Ø  Babu for sharing his prior experience and encouraging others to join
Ø  Cyclists for coming together for this great event and making it memorable
Ø  Car / truck riders boosting the confidence by providing safety net



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