Friday, June 27, 2008

Hampi Heritage Half Marathon

I have been often accused of having a very predictable chronological narration, this time I break away from that… Let’s liken this ride to a mug and attempt to first this mug with the memories from this ride…

Step 1: Take the mug and proceed to fill it with some large pebbles
Mrugharajendra Mutt, Chitradurga:
The place had a pristine tranquility to it, one that is capable to absorbing large amounts of tumult.
I deposited my footwear in an unguarded pigeon hole and walked into the Mutt in my military cargos. At 7 in the evening, I was in no great hurry; I had traveled 300kms since morning – visited Lepakshi and Chitradurga fort. I took my time to read off the Kannada board “Sri Jagdguru Murugharajendra Bruhanmata Samsthana”.

The smell of incense and vibhudhi filled up the meditation hall. It looked more like a church with single large photo of Basavanna on an elevated platform at the far end of the hall. The Bridavan of the seer Mrigarajendra was the most peaceful – a bhajan played repeatedly and time seemed to tick in slow motion. I sat down in padmasan, closed my eyes and started to chant the Omkara, oblivious to the others walking in and out. I wanted to spend at least 10mins in meditation, when I opened my eyes again, nearly 25mins had passed.
I didn’t pray for anything in particular, but I was blessed with a very moving experience. The Mutt provides dinner as prasadam to all devotees and I was shown the way to the dinning hall. But even before I could enter, there were some hundred little kids who appeared out of nowhere and queued up in front of the entrance in gaiety.
A ‘teacher’, told me about how there were 170 orphan children residing and studying at the Mutt. I moved to the end of the queue, I was surely better fed than them not to queue up.
I sat down facing some 50 kids in the opposite row – the multitude of thoughts in their heads and the manifested reactions, gestures, actions, expressions was unbelievable. While we were served Ragi mudde, rice, sambar and butter milk, some kids envied the size of the ragi balls on the others’ plate, some played nudging games with their neighbors, some passed on excess rice to others (plus poured out sambar too), some stealthily examined the guests and some others simply gazed dreamily.
And in your own head you worry about seemingly important things – career moves and wooing woes, crude shocks, bottom fishing and bleeding portfolios, traffic jams and how-to-nudge-that-moron-off-the-road. This one experience was enough to absorb all that turbulence.
The meal not only filled my stomach, it filled my heart too!!

Step 2: Take some more large pebbles and fill drop them into the mug
TungaBhadra Dam Canal:
Where is this lady from? Where is Germany? Why are you running? Where are you from? What money do they use there? Is the ‘Gandhi’ money used in Bangalore also? Do foreigners have lots of money? How many rupees can you buy with one dollar? How much have you studied? Where do you work? How much money do you make in one month? Have you seen Indian cricketers? Is Dhoni better than Tendulkar?
Insatiable appetite of this 12 year old left me groping for answers. Chandrasekar and Dhoni (I could get his name inspite of asking twice, I called this cute kid “Dhoni”) joined Sabine, Athreya and I on the return leg of the TDB canal run. About a dozen RFLers ran along the TBD canal on the Saturday evening – the day before the Hampi Heritage Half Marathon, a distance of about 15kms, against some gusty, ballistic winds threatening to blow us off into the canal.
Chandrasekar and ‘Dhoni’ bombarded me with an endless battery of questions, left me diving for cover. I countered them with my own and learnt Chandra went to a village school, studied 9th std and wanted to take up science after his class X, but Dhoni dropped out in 5th std and worked at a quarry for the money. The lure of free lunches or even the free bicycles that they distributed this year was not incentive enough. Should this budding curiosity only be left to some random runner to satisfy? Surely there is more we can do…

Step 3: The Mug already seemed to be filled?? Time to pick some smaller pebbles and pour them into the mug; There is still more room here…
Ride to Lepakshi:
I set off on Friday, 17th morning, quickly getting off the highway, towards Doddaballapur – Hindupur SH9. The road opens into some spectacular landscape almost immediately. Riding alone into the breeze, the thump of the bullet fighting the howling winds to reach my ear drums, the familiarity had a strange home-coming feeling to it. It was only after some 100kms when I reached Maakalidurga where the road hugs the railway track like a DNA double helix, that I realized that the road was taken before – the penukonda ride!! Remember the 24 Karat Action??
I reached Lepakshi at 10:30 after passing through some rib-tickling places – TondeBhavi and Auto Nagara. By then all the pores had opened up and I was ready to soak in any amount of gyan, I took the services of a guide!
Perfect ingredients for a 1-day ride: Good roads, easy ride, lotsa history and biology (Padmini is described as the most perfect form of feminine excellence!!)
I offered my prayers to the deity, Veerabhadra and the 5 lingas, a more realistic form of Padmini was top of mind.

I took a longer route via Madakasira-Rolla-Agali-Sira-Chitradurga and was able to reach Chitradurga only by 4:30 after a brief stop at Ravi Bar and Restaurant outside Sira.
Had just enough time to visit the Chitradurga fort, where the guide Channabasapa built stor(e)y after stor(e)ys, the Palegaras who built the fort couldn’t have built more!
Riding around the Chitradurga fort in fading twilight is enough to send down some shivers and must have been truly impregnable in its times.

I also visited Chandravalli lake and Ankali Fort, walking down eerie steps into the subterranean dark chambers with a candle, being told about the swami’s who performed penance, was straight out of a Indiana Jones movie.

Step 4: More small pebbles to fill the mug, please
Cycling around the Hampi Ruins:
I reached the Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari at Kamalapur outside Hospet on Saturday morning. Rajesh, Leona, Reena and I went around the ruins near the Krishna temple, Virupaksha temple to reach the over-hyped “Mango Tree” for lunch. While they had all kinds of cuisines – Chinese, Tibetan, Vietnamese (joking!!), they missed out on North Karnataka meal. How can one substitute Momos for some authentic Jolada Rotis (Jowar Rotis)??

Step 5: There is room for more small pebbles, right?
The First-Ever Hampi Heritage Half Marathon:

Thanks to Sabine, Sam and all of Sam’s relatives - Babu Mama, Santosh, Prashanth (and the phat-phati full of cheerleaders), we had a wonderful itinerary covering some 35 places!! We started at 6:15 from the hotel and spent a very memorable 5hours running, taking pictures, listening to Sam as he helped us with the history, marveling at some of the ruins. Our supplies phat-phati ensured that we did not run out of fluids. Upon Sabine’s insistence we managed to complete 21kms. How often do you run a 21km distance and manage to travel from 1 CE all the way to the 14th and 16th century? It was a fantastic experience.

The cherry on top was still to follow, we were treated to some finger-licking Jolada Roti and Badane Ennegai lunch at Sam’s house at Malapangudi after the run.

Step 6: Just when you think you nearly filled the mug, take a fistful of sand and pour it in… there is still room for more!!

The lone lush green tree rooted the red fields
The early morning air washed clean from overnight rains
The dump-all-luggage-in-hotel-lodge, visit the fort, lake, caves, mutt and then forget the name of the lodge at chitradurga
Race with the thunderstorm from Chitradurga to Tumkur
The inflation catching up with Lakshmi Tiffin Room, Chitradurga – Rs.3 for extra cup of sambar!!

Step 7: And when you finally agree with me that the mug (likened to the trip, you remember) is finally full, proceed to pour in some Kingfisher Beer. The Beer sizzles through the remaining spaces making the mug truly full.

In pouring rain and soaring spirits, we downed mugs and mugs of the bitter fermented fluid, making pretext of carb-loading (the quintessential pre-race ritual), making RFL jokes, polishing off pakodas and masala peanuts, cracking pjs, matching every pitter patter, the rains made outside.

Moral of the story: No matter how full the ride/run may seem, there’s always room for a few Beers!!

More poses here and here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thalli Ho - A different High

Bangalore has suddenly gotten into the grip of a ‘wow’ weather, it has this multiplier effect on the outdoor fun experience.
With the training for The Great Tibetan Marathon in full swing, I couldn’t have asked for more. I finished off a 35km run at 11am, last Saturday with the sun still behind the cloud canopy.
The Silver Bullet has been catching a thick layer of dust for awhile now (thanks also the oil leaks from all possible seals). With the Hampi ride right around the corner, a test ride with RTMC seemed like the best way to optimize (that’s Manoj, the consultant) the conditions.

Vodka aka Harish Shivaram had thrown open an invite to do a recce of the area to the south of Bangalore. There were 8 of us in all – vodka, Abhi n Kavita, Prateek, Santosh and others, started off from Shoppers Stop at 630 RTMC time.

As soon as we got off the Banerghatta road, I settled into a neat relaxed mode. It was a truly chillax ride, perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. We snaked through villages and wrong turnings taking breaks at will, stopping to relish the breezee countryside, slowing down till the goats cleared the roads, waving to wide-eyed kids, chai breaks, scaring cattle away, Abhi even giving a loving tick on one calf’s rear!!

The winding well paved roads opened frequently into some amazing greenery. Check the hues of green on this one.

We got back to Aishwarya Parkland (!) on Banerghatta road by 1pm to some Beer and lunch! Perfect weekend!

Directions (thanks Vodka):
Bannerghatta Circle - Anekal Entrance Fork – Anekal Bus stop - Thally Road (Right Turn) - Thally Outskirts (Left Turn before town) - followed shortly by a right turn - Hold steady course – Maralwadi town centre - Take "straight road" to Thattekere - Ride through Thattekere, and join highway to Jigani – turn right - Bannerghatta Circle.
If you tried following these directions, remember you didn’t read it here!! ;)
Photus here
An earlier FSR ride report here
Abhi’s version on bikeszone here

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Two Hills - What thrills!!

When I started off to Sabine's Birthday 'party', I thought I would simply have to ditto the previous Nandi Ride/Run, how mistaken I was.
With the International Airport opening that 24th morning, I was ready for some ill treatment on the Highway to Nandi. Ananth and I started off a 4:45 am from Hebbal Flyover and very closely followed my earlier timings to Nandi Hills.
Madhu had promised to take us on a virgin trail provided "as long as you keep the trail details only between people who respect the sanctity and cleanliness of the outdoors."

Ananth and I took the exact 2:02 hours or so to ride to the Nandi Base camp and as usual waited agonisingly for the others in their cars to turn up.

The run up the Nandi Hill twin, BrahmaGiri (according to a foundation stone on the top) was more like a power walk for the last couple of kms. Just standing there totally exposed to the strong, crisp morning breeze was refreshing. There is a temple with a pushkarni filled with croakers on top. Sabine couldn't have asked for a better birthday celebration as she cut lots of FitKit Biscuits (like 10 of them) and passed it around the 20 odd runners!!

Ananth and I left the group and made our way back to the parked bicycles. With the usual Ghanne ka Ras break at Chikkajala we reached Hebbal in a good 2.5hrs.

Camp Gee Dee

BH3 Run No. 468

Sunita describes the camp in her blog here.

Tucked away, next to the Banerghatta Wildlife Sanctuary, far far from the madding crowd, is a small slice of heaven called Camp GeeDee. The topography is excellent and of course the human hand has helped to add a lake or two, making it one of the most exciting place to be, especially for the nature/bird loving brigade and solitude seekers.” – Sunita Raghu

What a place this one was, I was quite unprepared for it, the intention lost in all the Hash Humor. My already battered bullet took a serious beating on the rough roads leading to the place. When my mood is exuberant, I imagine my bullet to have wings or something... I had wings for sure, borrowed from my angels who are around me these days ;)

The ride took me right around Bannerghatta forest to the camp site. Pradeep, Athreya and I were the FRBs huffing and puffing on the false trails and uphill trails. The Beer flowing, the breeze cooling our soaked bodies, the sun going down under the dense forest, the Hashers playing to the Swing low hymn - What a thrill, I say

Check these links for more on Camp Gee Dee
Photo courtesy: Sabine, Sunita Raghu and Barbara