Cycling through Mountains of Karnataka and all that Jazz!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Cycling is an endurance sport. Quite frankly, it is a pain in the *** - literally and otherwise. But there is something very addictive about it. Consider it an epitome of free spirit, if you will.

Over a year ago, I had tried cycling in Goa, no, not the beaches, babes, bikini Goa, but the flora, forests and falls Goa. I loved every bit of the five days then and ever since I wanted to hit the saddle again. Somehow it so happened that I was so engrossed in Himalayas that I never took to cycling after that.

cycle

Mind over Matter

A year later, a mail from BASC rekindled the lost spirit. I suddenly remembered how much I enjoyed cycling downhills and how much I loved enduring the challenge of going uphill against the gravity. The destination, on the other hand, was quite troubling to say the least. It was no less than the highest peak of Karnataka, Mullyangiri in Chikmagalur. I distinctly remembered how tough it was to climb an uphill from my last experience and today I set out to ascend an altitude of 6000 feet. And considering the fact that the past few months have been rather dormant with the last adventure as far as November, physical fitness was also a matter of concern. But since when did I start taking calculated risks, we take what we get! ;)
Because I am too lazy to workout I have always put my trust in the mind over matter psychology. Well so far it hasn’t failed me but maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Today it won’t, I hope.

A delightful ride from Hassan to Belur.

It was 8.30 AM and the cycles have been disembarked and we are in Hassan, all set to go. I started riding the bike and memories started flooding my mind. I couldn’t think of a reason why I didn’t cycle for so long. Hassan to Belur was a 32 kilometer ride and the road was delightfully pleasant with countryside views on both sides. I had a 5 minute headstart which kept me in the lead all the way till Belur. I averaged at 20kmph and I was quite happy about it. I rode alone singing I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known. I talked to myself, I sang to myself, I whistled everytime I crossed a milestone. Without taking a break and never changing the gear I was the first to reach Belur by 10. Joined by three more guys from the team in the next few minutes, we headed to spend time at Chennakesava Temple at Belur. It was a work of art by all means. But all the while I was secretly gloating that I performed admirably without any preparation whatsoever and this being just my second ride added all the more to my swelling pride.

cycle temple
Chennakesava Temple

Front, front, crocodile festival.

But what I was about to find out was that nature has its own way of bringing me down to earth. After something like lunch, we started out yet again to reach Chikmagalur, a good 30km ride from Belur.  It was 1.30PM and the heat was beating down and the winds were strong, opposing the heat but opposing a smooth ride as well. But still I managed fine with the btwin 5.3 MTB. If I didn’t mention yet, the bike was a much larger frame than I needed. I am thinking it was 21” frame while an 18” frame would’ve been just perfect for me. I was riding alongside this dude called Dipankar aka crazy rider, a pseudonym that would be well justified in some time as you would see. Enjoying the views, taking ample breaks, we reached Chikmagalur by 4 PM. By now, a lot of things happened - my friend fell off the cycle, few guys decided they wouldn’t cycle anymore and go in the support vehicle instead, three guys had gone ahead directly from Belur and were almost on their way to the peak, I decided my cycle will go all the way to the top and I was super tired after 50kms of biking already.

Killer Climb of 14kms to Mullayangiri(1930meters)

Apprehensive about 20kms of uphill climb after a long ride, I started out with a doubtful mind and soon the worries materialized into a matter of serious concern. I wasn’t able to climb even nominal ascents, let alone the killer ascending road to Mullyangiri, 14km uphill. I was soon joined by Ravi and Dipankar, Ashish was giving his wife company, while we three stopped just before the climb at a small shop to have a snack. I told Dipankar I think I should take the ride in the support vehicle instead of delaying them but he insisted I go ahead with the climb. At that I declared I am fine with the idea but the thing is I would take my sweet own time and he complied. And the rest as they say is history.

As expected, I was totally drained out of energy and the climb seemed daunting with my cycle moving just miniscule distance over each minute. The clock showed 5.00PM and we had just two hours before the light faded. Looking at my snail pace, Dipankar said he would drag me and my cycle uphill and I couldn’t believe someone was actually saying that. I mean, how can you drag another cycle uphill but he did, with a rope, for a kilometer or so and this was making me feel super guilty. First he missed his sunset because of me and now he is even dragging me! I told him I will cycle on my own but I will come at my own pace. Now I realized cycling is an endurance sport. After all that adrenaline rush in the morning, here I was slogging, pedaling, cursing, crawling (?) and somehow I reached the temple 12kms uphill after 90 minutes. And that did it, Mullyangiri was still 2 km uphill and only four made it to the top yet. I stopped at the temple and this was an achievement in itself for me! In the end, only 7 out of 15 made it to Mullyangiri top on pedals and I was one of them!
Later that evening, a couple of us walked in the night to the peak. It was tiring again but it was fun too. We had dinner and then crashed for the night. So far so good. I am happy that I cycled all the way up but the last mile that wasn’t tackled left me disappointed. And then dreams or snores or crazy winds took over.

sunset

It’s a new day, but same old story.

Next morning I wasn’t too sure if I can ride 60 more kilometers and how much of uphill I knew not. But I decided I would. Only the 7 of us who rode yesterday were sure to be riding today while the rest were yet to decide. The thing is, the support vehicle would go on a different route than the cycling route which meant we either cycle all the way or none. I thought no one else would be upto the ride today and in that case I would be the last one today as well.

WTF!! I cycled so much yesterday??!!!

I started out from the temple and was riding downhill. And the first thing I said to myself was “WTF!! I cycled so much yesterday??!!!” The hairpin bends extended all the way down and I couldn’t believe I did all that uphill on a cycle. Being the first to ride down, I spotted few dogs that scared the shit out of me and then a mongoose by the roadside. Birds were chirping, cool breeze was hitting my face and the force of gravity was working its magic. I reached the diversion to Kemmangundi. The yellow board said Kemmangundi 22kms but, the catch was, the sign was scratched probably suggesting the distance is wrong. But the optimist in me was considering the distance to be just 22kms.

Road to Kemmangundi

I along with Dipankar persuaded Keerthana to come along with us to finish the entire ride and she joined us. I just cycled a little ahead only to find out the road goes up again. What the hell, I had no choice but to cycle and so I did hoping the road would go down sometime. After all, logic says if you are already on the highest point in Karnataka, the hill station should be somewhere below. Well after sometime the road went down and the joy lost was found again. The downhill ride lasted a good 15 minutes and I assumed I would’ve covered at least 10kms which meant only 12 more to go to Kemmangundi. Of course our calculations were off the charts only to be corrected by a local shopkeeper who said we covered 13kms and have a good 25kms ahead of us before reaching Kemmangundi.

The Baba Budangiri Climb

But the brilliant downhill had left us all in good spirits and we all started in joyous reverie. And the road up went again and back I was slogging on the road. Now the support vehicle passed by, Abhilash waving at me, and that marks the beginning of the slogging. Soon we reached another diversion which went all the way up to BabaBudangiri Hills. The road was in excellent condition so far but now the potholes were making their presence felt, rather ostentatiously. It was another uphill drag for 4kms or so and only 7 of us reached the peak again. We had a small break, a small breakfast and the pleasant part started again, riding downhill. On this route downhill ride was even better because of the MTB and the road filled with stones and potholes. Good things don’t last long and we were back on the main road leading to Kemmangundi. What was surprising was that, while we assumed only 7 of us were riding today, it turned most of the group was riding today with us. We met them halfway while we were coming down. Pleasantly surprised by the true grit, we all started riding towards Kemmangundi and the rest is seriously history.

Mountains and Mountains and Bhadra WLS

The roads went uphill, and but condition of the roads went downhill. The road was pathetic and was more of a trail than a road. I was super hungry and super tired and the day was super hot. Back to slogging and dragging, I was riding through plantations for a while before I reached open space on top of the mountain and with no tree cover to my aid, the heat was scorching. Few had gone directly to Kemmangundi without taking the Baba Budangiri diversion which gave them an hour of head start. Apart from two more, the rest were behind me. The two ahead of me were way ahead and I lost sight of them long back and the ones behind me were way behind and there was so sight of them as well. So, here I was, stuck in the middle of mountains all alone. Not that I mind, but you know just in case.

Slowly I cycled and waited while the rest came. It was difficult to maintain pace on the uneven trail. Considering the fact that sun was burning right on top of my head, it wasn’t any easier to walk either. Karthik and Ravi went ahead while I took my sweet time to rest and pedal. Soon Arti, Dipankar, Nilanjan and Keerthana were in sight. Phew, company atlast!

Hunger was taking me down and so I ate a dairy milk and the sudden surge of energy propelled me to go forward again. I did, I went and landed in Bhadra WLS all alone which was all the more scary. I cycled, I walked, I prayed not to see any wildlife and worse not to encounter any dogs. The atmosphere was eerie considering the thick canopy and undergrowth by the sides. And in case you are wondering, there is no road. It is more of a jeep trail. At one point I had that fit of insanity again when I decided to just stay put until the rest are in sight. I sat right in the middle of the jungle listening to all weird noises.

But what I didn’t know was that Kemmangundi was barely 3kms from the place I stopped. There was a milestone right next to me and I didn’t notice. Well that sight would’ve definitely motivated me to go ahead. After sometime I could hear familiar voices again and along with all of them, I started. It was a very short ride to Kemmangundi from here. Finally the ride was done. 80kms on day one and 60kms on day two, not bad for a second ride right?

Sense of accomplishment – yes!

Sense of Complacency – put back in its place!

Towards the end of it, I realized I lost a lot of water, salts and stamina. But true grit can pull you through anything. It was amazing that almost the entire group had cycled on the second day. The ride was beautiful but the camera was left behind. I’d like to do this route again, maybe when its cooler and greener and then I promise to get back with many more photos.

Chances are I have found a new way to keep myself entertained. Maybe you will read more ride stories here in the coming days. After trekking so much, I felt I needed a new destination or a new muse and I may have found one.

Timelines –

Day 1 - Hassan – Belur: 8.30 – 10AM (32kms)
Belur – Chikmagalur: 1.30 PM – 3.30 PM (33kms with breaks)
Chikmagalur – Mullayangiri: 5.00 PM – 6.30 PM (12kms uphill)

Day 2 – Mullyangiri – Baba Budangiri – 8.30 – 11 AM (30kms uphill and downhill)
Baba Budangiri – Bhadra WLS – Kemmangundi – 12 – 4.00 PM (30 km gradual ascent in hot sun)
Destination is the far mountains seen


road

pond



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15 comments

  1. Yes, Cycling is good for health and mind. Thanks for sharing your trip experience :)

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  2. You start off declaring cycling is a pain in the *** and you want us to believe you had a good time? :P

    Awesome stuff, haven't returned to those mountains since that crazy trek. :)

    Rented out the cycle?

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  3. ## Jarlin Paul - yep it is! Thanks for reading my experience. :)

    ## Ravish - LOL.. i know! Crzay bugger I am . ;)
    Yea.. rented it out.. came for around 800 bucks for the weekend. I am considering buying one MTB now. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,

      This was a great thing to do.. we were planning to take up this mullyanagari-bababudangiri by walk, but this makes it more interesting..

      if you have rented the bikes in bangalore, can you please help me with the details of the shop so that I can try too please :)

      Looking forward for your reply! Cheers!

      Delete
  4. Wonderful right up.. i stayed in belur fr 6 yrs frm class 5th to 10th at uncle's place.. i used to count each milestone and cry as i used to go those many kms away frm my mum n dad.. remembered the same when i read u wishtling fr every milestone :) very good rightup.. cheers..

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  5. Awesome writeup!
    BTW, thanks for hiring bikes from veloinvillage.com

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  6. One more ride being cooked on the same lines :
    "Ride on a Ridge: March 26th/27th: Chikmagalur-Kemmangundi-Mulaiyangiri" : http://tandemtrails.co.in/beta/upcoming-tours.html

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  7. Excellent write up and fabulous eye for detail on pictures. Super!

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  8. Good article on your experience, I plan to do something similar this Jan. Need some advice. Did you guys pitch a tent in Mulliyangiri? Is it possible to pitch one or sleep in the temple?

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  9. great writing.. this surely inspired me a lottt. !! :)

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  10. was it sumer??any way great wring ill surely cycle on this path frm hassan to kemmangundi>> i was searching for one like this..thanks for sharing

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  11. I also usually cycle so much every day, on a Chwinn speed mountain bike. It's my big passion!

    ReplyDelete

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