Wild Wonderful Karnataka

Tour de Ooty
Team: Kiran Karkera, Imon Kalyan Bagchi and Nilay Kothari.

  Mysore to ooty,all of 161 kilometers was the route we had chosen for the first of our multiday rides.The overall elevation gain would be around 4300 ft(Mysore:2700ft Ooty:7000ft).Also,the route passes thorough the best part of 2 sanctuaries (bandipur and mudumalai) and the montane forests (sholas) in the nilgiris.

  So kitted out with 18-speed bikes and enough food to sell some of it in ooty,we(nilay,imon and myself) set off for mysore late on friday evening with the cycles fastened on top of the 'mysore mallige 180'. Reaching mysore around midnight and some late-night puncture fixing later,we hit the sack.

  As it turned out,we would have lots of practice fixing punctures the next day.Our plan was to reach gudalur,which is 110 kms away from mysore and at the foot of the blue mountains.It was great weather getting out of mysore,and the thin traffic helped us.By 10 am however,the cloud cover had melted away and we were labouring under the march sun.After a good breakfast at nanjangud,we hit the first of the bad roads which made the going really slow.Also,we hadnt quite anticipated the importance of pannier bags in touring,so tying the bags we used to the pannier took up precious time.After Begur,i had a multiple puncture (more like a blowout) and we spend time in a onion field mending it.It was really inviting to go to sleep under the shade of trees in the field,however, we wanted to stick to our plan and left after it was done.A kilometer down the road and im flat again !! :-(. Thanks to a kerala trucker,i had my bike in gundlupet in a jiffy and fixed and ready to roll.

  After another meal(yeah,we ate almost every two hours :-) we rolled on till bandipur,having understood that it would be difficult to reach gudalur that day.On the way,the first rains of the season hit us,and it was great riding in the rains after the heat of day.The kids along the way seemed to be having fun when we passed,waving and cheering us on. We halted at the excellent MC resorts just outside bandipura.We also did a small recce to the bandipur entrance ,confronting the first real climbing of our trip(about 2 kms of it). According to nilay,this was only the trailer and the live show would be tomorrow.For once,i tended to agree with him.

Early next morning ,we attacked the climbs we'd done the previous day and some flying downhills ensured that we covered the distance quite quickly.Soon we were out of karnataka and into the mudumalai forests.Spotted deer were everywhere,and they seemed to be surprised to see bicycles.There are too many of them to pay attention to after some time.At Theppakadu,where the road to kalati splits off,we breakfasted and rode on,with oncoming riders warning us of elephants ahead. And soon enough,we encountered a herd of them ,with one tusker ,2 babies and other females.Got some nice pics here.

  Some really steep downhills got us into gudalur,and a good meal later,at around 11 am we attacked the steepest portion of the ghat road.The road here gets steep enough to need to use the granny gears and the thighs were starting to feel like shredded cheese.The steep portion of the ghats last only about the first 15/20 kms.Before that,we were hit by some torrential rains again(damn! why didnt we check the weather forecasts) and helped out some stranded army captains with some motorbike repairs.Chilled to the bone when we started,the cycling got us warm and we hit a cosy chai shop and downed a few cups of warm tea.All along the way,people were telling us that the only accomodation was in ooty and not before that.We had only 3 hours of daylight to climb 30 kms.Fortunately,the slopes were mostly downhill after Naduvattam and the towns of TR bazar and Pykara ,we rolled into ooty exhausted in time to catch the setting sun.The forest seemed to have woken up with the rains and the tiredness didnt matter so much after that.

   Next day we took a well-deserved rest and started back for bangalore.

  Lessons learnt: Go over your bike thoroughly before a tour.My 2-year old tyres and tubes cost us a lot of time. There's no need to carry lot of food,since almost all towns have decent food. try out and test the pannier before the trip,we had endless troubles with it getting into the wheels and tying with ropes etc.Better,get some bungie cord to secure the bags. Travel (Karnataka)KSRTC. The people in tamilnadu STC charge the equivalent of a ticket price for a *single* cycle.