Saturday, July 24, 2010

Scaling newer peaks at Kodaikanal - Part II Trek

I had contacted one Kodai Mani, who had lots of recommendations on the net. With no intention of spending any more time than required in the filthy room, we desperately agreed to his high rates for a day trek. He promised us it would be worth the money (2200 or so).

So we were picked up from our hotel and were surprised when Mani picked up a garland and some lemons to add to the supplies of packed food, sleeping bags, mattresses & other trekking equipment. We found out later the garland was to worship his mother nature, quite a character the guide was!
At the Berijam forest check-post, we joined another team of 7-8guys, of varying sizes from Chennai who we would accompany for the trek. While Shreya & I would head back that evening, the other team had plans to camp in the forest for the night.

At a little past noon, we started the trek from Cap’s Fly view point. (true to its name, caps thrown down the cliff fly back up because of the gusty winds that make their way through the hills). When the mist allowed us, we could see endless hills with dense forests, some exposed peaks and very deep valleys. We trekked along on the edge of these hills in the ‘mimosa’ forest. These Shola forests were rich in Bamboo, Eucalyptus & Pine.

Shreya & I stayed in the front of the pack while we crawled up a nearby peak. At the peak, we refueled over some home-made chocolates, while we waited for the heavier team-mates to join us.
As we left this hill, we entered a forest of medicinal trees. This stretch was no less dense than the forest we had left behind, but just the air you inhaled told you there was a difference. About 100acres are apparently maintained by the forest department for medicinal plants here. Mani took some time here to pray to a stone that symbolized the forest for him. This ‘idol’ was garlanded and lemons were offered.

We got some fantastic pictures, Shreya had a liking for the lavender Neela-Kurinji flowers. At about 3, we stopped for lunch (packed lunch of chapatis which we had carried) by a creek. Great photo-op once again!

It seemed like it was lunch time for the leeches too and they were busy feasting on my blood.
It was a short walk to the forest road after lunch, it was around 4-4:30 when we reached the car that was to take us back to Kodai.

And just when we thought we had enough adventure for a day, the next one began. We reached the forest check-post at 5pm. The check-post is manned by forest guards and the only way out of the forest is via the check-post. When we reached there, the barricade was locked securely, with no sign of the guards. A chai waala (the only other human around) told us that they had ‘just’ left.

Our over reliance on mobile phones gives us this wrong notion of security, we quickly dived to our devices, only to realize there was no signal! The next hour or so was spent in pacing up and down the path trying to ‘catch’ mobile signal, in panic, in weighing out the few options. There was also threat of a thunderstorm, dark clouds were fast approaching and so was darkness.
We were able to get to talk to the forest officials for 30 secs or so before we lost signal once more.

Just as Shreya and I were readying ourselves to walk the 10kms to town to get help, the forest guards came to our rescue. We were let out of the forest after paying a small ‘penalty’. Even as we were driving back, the skies opened and down came the thunderstorm. What a day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scaling newer peaks at Kodaikanal – Part 1 Cycling

The hills and valleys of Kodai were quite like our own mental state, as we swung from sheer disappointment to speechless awe in Kodai. And whether it was the cycle ride, the trek or the jog, whether it was the hills, the lakes, the pine forests or the gardens – we scaled newer heights of our relationship.

The highs and lows of Day 1 (9th June 2010):
Train, Taxi, Cycle
We took the overnight train, Tuticorn Express from Bangalore to Kodai Road and then found ourselves in a taxi (very outside of our frugal budget limits) to Kodai. The contrast of the beauty of the hills and the insides of our hotel was evident even without having to enter the ‘Guru Priya’ hotel where Artha Options had booked us. The hotel was pathetic, but we decided to stay on, in one of their better (less stained) rooms. The idea was to spend as little time indoors as possible.

By lunch time, we took a bus to the city center – the Kodai lake. I had a single minded focus to look for a place where we could rent decent cycles or motorbikes. Renting motorbikes in Kodai is out of question, we were told, by an old man renting BSA cycles, who seemed to have all day to dispense such information!
We finally found a bike rental, near the TTDC Boat house who had Hercules Act 110 bikes and was renting them for Rs.30 per hour. (Highly recommended if you are looking to ride around Kodai). We had a quick lunch at Woodlands and hurried to get ourselves on the bikes.

The standard biking route in Kodai is to ride the 5k around the Kodai lake. But, that is not what we had in mind. We started from Kodai Lake at 3pm, the idea was to take the ‘Valley tour’ (as the tour operators call it) and see how far we could go.

The Valley Tour: This loop covers many sightseeing points – the Coaker’s Walk, Upper Lake view, Pambar falls, Pillar rocks, Guna caves, Moier Point amongst others. This is one big loops in the hills bringing you back to the Lake.

Shreya and I had no idea how far we would be able to cycle. We were welcomed by killer uphills that tested the granny gears of the Act110 right away. We huffed and puffed our way to the first sightseeing point – Upper Lake View.
(if you have started to notice how these places are named, wait till you get to Cap’s Fly Point!!).

The ride was out of the world; the dense forests, the misty roads flooded me with memories of my ride to Ooty in 2008. We continued up and down the rolling hills, following the signage from one view point to the other, making our way through villages, Fairy falls without water, roads filled with ankle deep water at places, slush, curious locals & noisy tourists.
The valley tour took us right through the Golf course and up to Pillar rocks.

We had covered nearly 11k riding by the time we reached Pillar rocks. By this time, we had already climbed 250m or so, from 6900ft to about 7300ft. The mist completely covered the view of the rocks. Moreover, the place was packed with tourists who had thronged the place in buses. We chose to enjoy the nature’s beauty like we had done so far, we got back on our saddles to conquer the next uphill...

With some 14k left to get back to the lake, it seemed like we had a task on our hands. The distance was made easy, thanks to some breathtaking views. There were Pine forests growing right into the clouds and at many points, the mist brought down visibility to near zero, albeit for a few seconds. As Shreya rightly remarked on one of those killer up-hills, you really need to endure the up-hills to enjoy the down-hill cruising. Well, it is easy to endure those, when you have a husband who pushes the bike up for you ;)

We were soon blessed with a slight drizzle and more importantly, the milestone that said “6k to Kodaikanal”. It was all downhill from there, right down to the Kodai Lake, offering some more views of the star-shaped lake.

When we were back, we had covered 23k in 3hours, starting at 6900ft to 7550ft, climbing 550m or so! It was yet another celebration of my marriage to Shreya.
The details of the ride are here. Part II & III coming up shortly.

Scenic Sarjapur - 30k family ride

Shreya joins the Guest writers Band wagon with this narration of the 3rd July 30k ride around Sarjapur. Read on...

We not only have places for our cycles in our hall but we have enough for them in our car too. Hollywood is now a member of our family and we gave him his first ride in the city of Bangalore on the 3rd of July 2010. Well, Hollywood is the bike rack Manoj got from the US and we customized it to hold the Giant and the Schwinn.

July 3rd-4th was one of those rare weekends which had no pre-laid plans. We always wanted to go to some nice place, park the car and cycle. The Bike rack made it possible! On Saturday morning Manoj, Tima and I decided to cycle 30 kms close to Sarjapur Road. But something must go wrong in any plan and in our case it was Tima’s health. He was down with fever and his “kick start to cycling” was further delayed. So Manoj and I put our cycles in the rack, drove up to Decathlon, parked the car there, got into our cycling gears and pushed off.

It was a pleasant morning with a slight drizzle. We went across fields, rose gardens, ponds, villages, clubs and International Schools. We were discussing that there are such beautiful places so close by and all we have to do to enjoy them is just get off the bed in the morning. I was also telling Manoj that I would love to cycle in one of the Hash trails as it has its own flavor.

We deliberately took a 5 min break after 10 kms because we wanted to drink the tang we prepared early in the morning that day and to take some profile pictures. To my surprise, after 5 kms or so we came across the hash trail we laid a month back…yaay I said and pedaled with excitement. It was only 25kms when we reached Decathlon and so we went ahead on Sarjapur Road to make it 30. Thus we would not worry if our weekend is not planned as long as we have our cycles and Hollywood with us.
Ride details here:

Manoj Comments: Overheard while climbing an uphill - "Guess what, I am on 3-6". Giggling somewhat "Ha ha, really! I am on 1-2" comes the reply. A very high quality discussion that only cyclists can appreciate. I guess we have arrived as the cycling couple!