Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 12 - Bangalore

Finally reached Bangalore. We had enough time and space to put the bikes together in tran itself. That was good. We got off at the main station and from there had a long ride back home. It was peak traffic time on weekday. But Rahul showed great navigation skill and we were able to do the whole ride by inner roads, away from bad traffic. I did have a fall on the way though, not bad, but just some combination of downhill and breaks. I was just so glad to finally reach his apartment and have the ride over with!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 11: Alappuzha - Ernakulam: 70km

The houseboat ride had still refreshed me enough that I could so the final stretch to Ernakulum. It was all on NH and we knew that there is going to be lot of traffic and pollution. No surprises there. Going was slow, but ok, we were covering the distance. We reached a place called Aarur, from there we were able to take a Kochi bypass in Ernakulum. That was good, my cold was bad, whole respiratory system was fried and I had to get this over with. Ernakulum city was worse than expected, really had traffic and it took us really long time to navigate the last 9 km to railway station. Someone I got there, still alive. Then it was long wait for the train. We spent the time at a restaurant, having lunch and then coffee etc.
On train, we decided to take the bikes with us. After bus's terrible experience, I did not want to leave the bikes anywhere else. So we paied Rs1000 and took the bikes with us. Vaibhav helped us take them apart and we could adjust them under the seats. Here again I saw another reason for this country's backwardness. People are just mean and greedy. There was an empty cupboard in train where bikes would had fitted. But the person managing it probably wanted money, so he won't let us put bike in there. He locked it and just would not listen. We also decided, whatever happens, we are not giving him money. Luckily folks on other seats were nice and adjusted with the bikes. Train ride was overnight and turned out to be ok. Away from pollution, my cold was little better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 10: Amritapuri - Alappuzha: 60km

I got up feeling much better. The medicine had worked to hide the symptoms. So we decided to ride. We started early, but we had to again go on highway which I know was not good for my respiratory system. Early morning helped, though not much. We reached Allepey in afternoon and had to find houseboat. I was not really into it, because taking a boat would also mean that we will again be starting Ernakulum ride in the afternoon. But it was not an option. So we took the boat and loaded all our stuff in it, including bikes. Boat was ok, at least it took us out in waters away from traffic. I wish it was away from pollution also, but there was lot of pollution of all diesel engines of the boats. It was still enjoyable, somewhat relaxing. The backwaters were definitely very beautiful.
I had a really bad night on the boat. It was A/C, and that's usually worst thing for my cold. I could not sleep much at night, and got up with headache and bad throat. I could not wait to get this over with.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 9: Varkala - Kollam - Amritapuri: 40km biking

We started really early, before dawn. The plan was to reach Kollam, and then from there take ferry to Amma ashram at Amritapuri. I had never seen ashram and wanted to see what its all about. The ride would have been great, but we did most of it in dark, at least the fun parts. We could feel that road is lined with ocean and backwaters, but could not see much. Still terrine was so much flatter now, it made for a good ride. Soon we had to join NH 47 though, and it was back to traffic. Good thing is that at least we were getting narial pani now. We also enjoyed some other fruit on the way.
There were some nice bridges over backwaters on the way. Ride to Kollam was ok, not as great of east coast ones due to traffic, but better than previous 2 rides because we started early. We reached Kollam well before time, around 8:00. We took a stop at Railway station to book some tickets and then headed off to take the ferry. I had proper cold by now, and could feel a fever coming. Due to whole NH traffic and pollution condition, I did not have much interesting in riding anymore. We had the option to go all the way to Alleppey in ferry. That will almost end our ride there. But I wanted to see Ashram, and I thought I will be ok if I can get away from pollution. So we stopped at Ashram.
Amma ashram was quite disappointing. It was nothing like what I had expected. It was small and crowded, and my cold did not help either. I got a dorm room, we could not get a place together. The room was terrible. Overall, the experience was not at all what I expected. I had a fever by now and it felt like I won't be able to ride to Alleppey tomorrow. If the ashram was nice, I might have wanted to stay there and take boat later. But it was not. So I took medicine and slept.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 8 - in varkala

Finally reached here after two days of really hard biking on rolling hills on kerala coast. It was totally unexpected. By end of yesterday I was completely exhausted and not enjoying it anymore. So we took a day break here. This place reminds me of Mindo in Ecuador. The place is very touristy. Not my type of place. The beach was beautiful though and we desperately needed the break. Thanks to Vaibhav's friends, we got a decent room, not over-priced, at a quiet place. Rahul took a Kerala massage here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 7: Kovalam - Varkala: 60km

I got up early as usual. Some of the tiredness was gone. Rahul and I decided to check out the beach. So we went to the beach and played in water for some time. Today we had to go up to Varkala, which was another 60km north. I did not really want to ride, especially since we were gong to leave in the afternoon in lot of sun. But I guess we had to. So we again started after 11:00, under full heat of sun. On top of that we were not going to take the beach road, but fact NH 47 traffic. I knew its not going to be good, but after yesterday, beach road option was also not looking great. I just hoped that we reach Varkala fast, and then able to start early in morning from there. At least that will take out the heat element from the ride. It was clear here that the fun riding part is over, it was only on the east coast.
As expected, we joined NH 47 and its traffic. The road was still up and down, though a bit less than yesterday. We were still going slow due to accumulated tiredness. At some point we left NH and went into side road to Varkala. On this road, traffic was less, still it was really hot, and I had going slow. I had to walk some of the hills as I had no energy. Finally we reached Varkala beach. We met Vaibhav's friend there and they suggested a really good quiet place to stay. I liked the place, and I wanted to take a day's break here. If we have to ride on NH at least we can make it a bit pleasant by started early morning.
The beach here was very good. Today I had no energy to do anything. So I just went to beach, sat there, then had a huge dinner and then slept. Saw a really good sunset on the beach where suns becomes smaller and smaller. We don't see that in Seattle ever due to all the mountains (and also its cloudy 277+ days)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 6: Kanyakumari - Kovalam: 120km+

We got up early to see the sunrise. It was a cloudy day, still we saw some sunrise. Then we went and saw other memorials in Kanyakumari. We could not go to the main attraction Vivekanand smarak as it took 3hrs to get there. I enjoyed the beach in morning and then later at the meeting of 3 seas. I am sure water of Indian ocean was bit colder than Bay of Bengal.
It was almost 11 by the time we started out for Kovalam. According to the plan we had 80+km to go. In the beginning, I saw first road-side nariyal pani. The road was still good.
It was hot, but I was expecting we take the beach road which will be flat. Little did I know what was in store. We somehow ended up on NH-47. There was moderate traffic, but it got worse as we got close to city. Nagercoil city was just terrible, traffic jam, not sure where what road is going. I thought if we took the beach road, we will be away from traffic. So we asked around and got up to the beach road. The road was much longer, but I expected us to make faster progress as we won't have to deal with traffic. Starting out it was good. It was along the oceam with glimses of backwaters. But soon that road just turned nasty. The road was completely potholed, and on top of that it was long rolling hills. This road was not flat at all. Add to that the heat of day and fatigue from dealing with all the traffic before. It made for a very unpleasant ride. It was clear that we were not going to make into Kovalam before dark. So we aimed at getting into Kerala at least. We had a very short bad lunch, and then just kept riding on. I was just really getting tired of the hills. Uphills were bad, but downhills were worse because the road was so bad, we could not go fast. It was scary at places. We just had to keep riding on. At one place, finally too tired, I asked where we were, and it turned out to be last town in Tamil Nadu. That was a bit heartening. We will be in Kerala soon. And we were, and it was quite clear. Its one long village, and constant noise of loud speakers playing bhajans never leaves you. The road was better now, but still all ups and downs which were really tiring. We reached the first town in Kerala - Poovar. Rahul and I wanted to stop here, I was clearly tired beyond fun. But Vaibhav wanted to push on to Kovalam which was another 20+ km. So we decided to push on. It was soon dark, and I had really slowed down. Somehow we managed to get into Kovalam. The beach is a long downhill and I had to walk it because I was just too tired to ride carefully. This ride was no fun.
Vaibhav found us a hotel on the beach and we stayed there. I was too tired to even eat, so I just had some bars and slept.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 5: Rameswaram - Kanyakumari: 62km biking

e woke up to a very heavy rain, in fact it rained all night and our bikes were completely drenched. Rahul and I were not prepared for rains at all, our bags were not waterproof.
We had decided to cut short the bike ride and take the bus from Rameswaram to about 60km before Kanyakumari. Since KK is southermost tip, I wanted to ride there and not arrive in bus. We were also fighting against time. So we took early morning local bus to take us out of Rameswaram. Ride from hotel to bus stand was only about a km, but in the rain we were completely drenched, head to toe, not to mention the bags were covered in mud as bikes did not have a mud guard. Getting bikes on the bus was interesting. I missed that fun because Rahul and Vaibhav took care of it while I watched the bags. We were not sure how much we wanted to ride given that we were running against time, rain and tiredness. But I really wanted to ride to KK. Vaibhav nicely agreed to stay with us till we are ~60km from Kanyakumari.
The road was not great and very bunpy. With every bump I wondered if something broke on the bike! Finally bus stopped at a place for lunch where it said 62km from Kanyakumari. So we decided to stop there and start biking. We got the bikes down and I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything was intact on all 3 bikes. We fixed the bikes back, had a lunch and then headed out. This road was not completely flat, but had rolling hills. Still road condition was good and hills were not so bad. The road also hugged ocean and we could see glimpses of it on the way. Thankfully it did not rain, and remained cloudy preventing us from heat. The scenery was beautiful and we were able to ride fast. As Kanyakumari came closer, we also started seed windmills. Near Kanyakumari, we also had a short section on golden triangle road. That road is just great, smooth, it was like gliding! The section was short lived though :(. We reached Kanyakumari before dark, and it was definitely the best ride of the trip.
In Kanyakumari, we found a hotel with very good view from balcony. It was facing east and we could see sunrise. Like Rameswaram, here also there was no lack of good north Indian food. We again ate a lot. I had aalu parathas. At night we saw great full moon from balcony. It had been a tiring day, so we slept early.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 4: Thondi - Rameswaram: 110km

We started really early, before day break around 5:30. We had a total of 110km to cover today. Starting early was a great decision. Morning ride was great. The road almost hugs the coast, though we could not see any ocean. It was a very good road and completely flat and in morning devoid of any traffic. We had lot of fun riding on that road. We saw good bridges and good birds. As we neared Ramnathpuram, traffic also increased. Getting in to the city was bad, but we had to since we were meeting Vaibhav here. We reached really fast, and then took a break in Ramnathpuram. Rameswaram was another 50+km from here. Heading out to Rameswaram, we met some traffic and it was also hot afternoon. Still nice flat road made ride good. As we neared our destination, we could feel the ocean coming closer. Rameswaram is a island, so to get into it, there is a long beautiful bridge. I loved riding on that bridge with water all around. From bridge its another 10km into the city, and that was very long 10km. I was quite happy to finally reach Rameswaram. It was smaller and dirtier than I thought. The temples was also not as impressive as some others in Tamil Nadu. After parking our bikes we roamed around a bit. One great thing was good north Indian food. Its a big pilgrimage place. so they had loads of great north Indian food. I ate so much, especially after the 110km ride. We checked out the 'beach', got a bit wet in rain and then ate some more. Next day we planned to leave early again in order to gain a day in our trip.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 3: Sivagange - Thondi: 67km

We started really early in the morning. The day was still cloudy and we were expecting some drizzle. Getting out of Sivagange, we met some really bad road, completely potholed. Thankfully, the road was flat and there was no traffic. It still made a pleasant ride. On the way we were coordinating with Vaibhav to see where we can meet him. Bad road was followed by really good road, and then some more bad road. We also saw a temple in between, it was flooded, so could not go in. Today was also a very pleasant ride, road lined with fields, some snake and bird sightings. Thondi was a very small fishing village. We found a small place to stay, cleaned our bikes, washed clothes, has good lunch. After some sleep, in evening we decided to go out and explore the village. Finally saw waterfront. Went to bed early and next day was a 100+ day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 2: Madurai - Sivagange: 57km

Next day morning, we checked out early and waited for the luggage place to open. They opened and surprise, the bikes were still not there. One more talk about they will arrive in an hour! I had had it by now, and I said tell us where the bikes are and we will go get them. No more relying on those idiots. So they told us the place and we got out to the godown to finally get our bikes. Good they were there and intact. We loaded the bikes and started our trip.
First destination was Sivagange. Getting out of Madurai was not nice, had to deal with all traffic and route finding. It was also middle of day, but thankfully cloudy. Somehow we managed to get out of the city and on small state highway to Sivagange. Biking was pleasant from the beginning. Road was almost empty and quite good, and we were making good time. Road was lined with water filled fields. We reached Sivagange soon, not much tired, found a small place there to stay. We wanted to leave early next day to avoid any traffic and sun. So there was not much to do, but eat and sleep and wash clothes. So that's what we did.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Trip Day 1 - Madurai

We started our biking trip in Madurai. Getting to Madurai was interesting. We had booked Volvo bus tickets and its truck is suppose to be bog enough to fit in the bikes. At the last moment though, the bus operator caused problems and asked us to send the bikes in 'luggage' separately. We went to luggage place and things appeared very dicy. I don't know why they cause so much problem, probably just wanted some more money. It did not look right from the beginning. But we sent the bikes in luggage. They promised that it will arrive right in the morning with us. ok. As I will learn multiple times, Indians have no sense of time, or of meeting any expectation. Tomorrow never really means tomorrow.
We arrived Madurai very early morning, and then roamed around to find a hotel. Found a not so cheap place. Then we headed out at promised time to check out the bikes. No surprise, the bikes were not there. The guys at counter had 20 different stories - it will come at a different place, it will come in afternoon, it will come in evening and then finally it will arrive tomorrow! I can't help wonder if this type of non-commitment is the reason why this country is still so backward even though there is no shortage of talent. Honesty and sincerity are missing big time.
There was not much to do in Madurai. We saw the main temple, which is great. And then some other temples.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

70 mile ride - last weekend practice ride

Today was last weekend of practice ride. We had decided to go to Hosur, then some other small place and then return by Benarghatta road. It was a good almost 100km loop. Once on hosur road, I started cribbing about traffic and pollution. At that time I really thought it was bad, I was not enjoying the ride at all. So we decided to take a detour to Jigni, expecting to follow the scenic route we took last time. It was not the way, we ended up in Jigni industrial area. The road was nice and paved, not much traffic. It was also mostly downhill. We were able to go quite fast there. Reaching Jigni, we had breakfast - dosa and idli at the same place. (I can never get tired of Idli and dosa and looking fwd to 8 days of that!).
From there we asked for directions to Ankele. Finally we were able to reach this nice 12km stretch, low traffic and beautiful. I had a feeling that we had been there before. Reaching there we asked for directions to Benarghatta. People pointed us back towards Jigni! The way to benarghatta was through Jigni!. So we retraced our steps. I did not mind because that 12km was the most beautiful stretch so far. From Jigni we almost recognized the way, taking the detour from benarghatta road to a less traffic better road.
In all we did only 70km, but it was good that we were not tired. I guess we will reach the 100 km mark only during the trip.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Weekday practice

We have been biking the same 2 hour route, and did the same today. But today I was just not in mood to bike, and today I was trying a new shorts and they were somewhat uncomfortable. Today traffic was less, and that was good, but we had to return few meters short of usual turn around point.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Biking 80km with hill

After 2 weeks of practice, it was time to bump up our weekend ride. We wanted to do 100km, but the 100km loop had 3 long hills. So we decided to go for the route which was ~80km with a long hill. Starting out it was mostly downhill. This road was not so good, pot-holed etc. The route was such that we go downhill, and then come back up the hill. This was part of the 100km circuit. While going downhill, I could see it was so steep that it was almost scary. Steep down and windy road. I could see how going uphill would be killing. Little bit down the road we turned back to go up the hill. Gear had to be 1:1, even at that I was not able to pedal and move the bike up. I was so wishing for the time when all I had to do was run up, far better than the effort I was putting with that bike. I had to stop 2 - 3 times to catch my breath, re-engergize and start again. I don't know how, somehow I reached top of that really long hill. From there on also it was a bit flat, bit also quite a bit gradual uphill. After that gargantuan hill, even the small uphills were feeling too much.
Good thing, on the way we found a coconut walla and had some fresh coconut water. This was so good, so much better than what we had in the city. This was also with malai, sweet!
After that point I was tired and just wanted to get home. On the way we had seen quite a few trucks, and so much pollution. My nose and eyes were all hurting. I would need to find something to cover my face on the trip.