Today we headed into the mountains towards the hill stations the British built that are so famous as cooling off retreats and are now big vacation areas for Indians. And on the way we got a Seattle-like coffee stop at a very western style place where I happily ordered a King Cappuccino and ate the last piece of a wonderful pastry I got yesterday from a bakery that is filled with pistachios, honey and other fruity, nutty goodness. King Cappuchino TimeAnd right now I’m sitting in a hammock with monkeys playing in the trees behind me looking up at some mighty tall, beautiful mountains I suspect we will spend most of the day biking up tomorrow. My roommate just told me a little monkey was climbing on the laundry drying in the sun on the porch. So clearly we need to keep the door closed to the room or no telling what visitors we’ll have in the bed with us tonight. And this just cracked me up: a black and white bird is trying to build a nest over the lamp outside our room and keeps flying up with nest material. Placing it in the space in the shade above the bulb where it drops onto the steps. But it’s persistent and keeps trying and our top step is covered with moss, leaves and sticks. It worked at it for several hours before finally giving up. Ready to convoy into the wildlife preserveToday we rode through a national park and a tiger reserve. We had to line up in a convoy because they said the elephants could be aggressive. Which I believe after seeing the Land rover my mother was in being chased in reverse gear by a huge male elephant when we were in Kenya. So we rode and congregated at about 75k,
Palace tiger and gateMysore is a busy city. It has a rich history of wealthy maharajas. A lot of traffic that actually does obey traffic lights. A visible sense of law and order, including uniformed police at traffic circles making sure people obey traffic lights. And there must be a law here mandating wearing a helmet on motorcycles because for the first time I saw a significant number of motorbike helmets (not all buckled under the chin, mind you). Busy Mysore MarketAnd a lot of tuk-tuk drivers eager to part you from you money. I ran into almost every tuk-tuk scam you can think of – any even fell for one, which – have to say –it’s hard to put on over on me by now. We ran into the “the Palace is closed till 11:00, but I will take you to xx place to buy something instead, which is a lie. Then asking five times the price. Saying there was a minimum for a run. Claiming the meter was broken.Micheline and I set off after we arrived to the Government Silk factory with a very talkative driver intent on taking us to buying opportunities that weren’t on our agenda. The silk factory was an operating factory where we could just sign in and the wander around essentially unsupervised to check out the making of famous Mysore silk. It was fascinating –like walking back into the industrial revolution age. The machines they were using to spool the threads and weave the fabric were loud, clattering systems of pulleys and levers straight out of the 1800s. The designs in the fabric were determined by a series of wooden pegs that somehow drove the designs that appeared in gold on the edges of the silk. The workers would waive us over and show
Lots of cow company on the road to HassanI’m currently in Mysore enjoying a rest day before we set off on 5 days of challenging riding to Cochin.A while back I was saying how the first half of the trip was more tour than really cycle centered … that’s not true the second half. We’ve shifted to a more cycle centered trip since Mumbai and the last two days into Mysore had me ready for a day off.Leaving the Jungle Lodge at Lakkahalli I was braced for more horrible roads, only to be delighted to find that they were quite good for our 135 ride into Hassan. We climbed up to coffee country- a long, steady climb that wasn’t too steep and where we shared the road with more cows than cars. At the top of the climb we passed many “estates” that were gated, signed and fenced. For a while I thought this must be where rich folks for the Bangalore tech world come to build homes. Then very belatedly figured out we were passing tons of coffee plantations – shade grown coffee for miles.No Coffee for usWe’d been told about a great coffee place at Km 55 so we were primed and ready. You know I love my coffee- even brought packets of Starbucks Via with me to help manage the craving. The coffee café was at the bottom of a long decent on the other side of the mountains and it was …. CLOSED. Doh! What’s interesting is when you mentally set your mind on something (I’m having a cappuchino and big pastry at 55k), and then it’s closed, you feel very deprived. And ravenous even if you’re not. So, every last one of us stopped at the first roadside kiosks down the road for consolation sodas.
I just watched the sunset over dammed lake behind Badra Dam from a balcony of my cabin at the River Tern Jungle Lodge.Some critter is chirping. The light is going from pink-red to gold-grey. I expect to have to retreat inside to Deet up any minute now. It’s a peaceful end to a long –but lovely – riding day.Longer than it needed to be due to missing a turn and heading several kilometers east when we should have been heading south. Crap. My first time lost. I was with Eva and Ana-Greta and we took a lovely road through rice paddies and ended up at a surprise T intersection. Hmmm … not on the directions. So we ask some locals for the direction to the next big town we needed to go … consistent answers say go straight on. We have an entire village navigation committee assisting us … and are even invited for tea. Such lovely helpful folks. But … they haven’t seen other cyclists. Bad sign. But when I pull out the map and consult, Eva and I determine it’s likely we are here so continuing makes sense. Or if we are where we think we are we can still get there... So we keep going and reach the next town. Ask for directions … that local navigation committee is convening … and I hear hssssss from Ana-Greta’s tire goes flat. OK – so we’ll be here a while. They change the tire, I consult with the committee. I get written directions – someone can write English. I figure out we aren’t anywhere near where we thought we were … alrighty. It will be a long day then. I get a couple of maps drawn for me. Lots of advice. Lots of questions. What's your name? Where are you from?
Hospet to Davangere 130kFolks in India are really ingenious at figuring out how to do something, and today I had a chance to spend some time being instructed on the modern way to thresh beans.Rice paddiesIt was a wonderful day of riding. The first hair raising 15k getting out of Hospet on a busy crumbling road were enough to make me question whether two cups of coffee was enough caffeine to make my brain alert enough to navigate through the mess. But the rest of the ride more than made up for it – we pedaled through the countryside – farmland planted with sunflowers, cotton, corn, and eventually rice as we headed south.The roads were good and the terrain flat to rolling, which is ideal. It means that you have time to goof off and explore, while still minimizing your time riding in the heat of the day. I find myself weighing stops in the precious cool, non-trafficky hours between 7 and 11 AM. Premium cycle time. Want to pedal as much as possible before the heat sets in. But when I saw people putting dried up stalks in the middle of the road I had to stop and check it out, even in morning prime time for cycling. So here’s bean threshing Indian style, assisted by much pointing and gesturing and various passersby who stopped to watch us watch the bean threshing:Stalks that have dried out bean husks are carefully laid in the middle of the road.Cars, trucks and ox carts run over the stalks.The beans are squirted out to the side when cars run over them, and they are scooped up and set aside for sifting and, I hope cleaning, later.They are continually swept into smaller piles in the road until there are minimum beans left. Then the husks and
A half hour local bus ride this morning got me, Jen and Mika (Americans who joined in Mumbai) to Hampi for sightseeing. We are staying in Hospet, a grubby little town where the bus station smells like the open sewer that surrounds it. But our hotel is an air conditioned enclave of tourists midst the chaos with restaurants, Wi-Fi and beer – no doubt why they chose it.Hampi is the huge draw in this area. It’s an enormous archeological site that includes dozens of ruins and many kilometers. In the 14th century it was the home of over 500,000 people. The architecture is considered some of the best Hindu art that exists. It’s in a landscape of hills topped by boulders and looks surreal.We had no prayer of seeing the entire site in a day, so opted to see two of the larger temples instead. One was active with locals coming for blessings and to pray. The other required a walk in the hot sun of several kilometers (it was several K after we walked right by it at any rate and had to backtrack.) The temples are ornate and covered in carvings. Huge and intricate gopurams (those tall pointy towers) and sub buildings with decorated columns and paintings. Hampi is also interesting because many of the ruins have been co-opted as housing and there is active village in the middle of the site. Often they just wall off the bottom floor of an old building and live there and move in or set up shop. Banana trees and sugarcane are planted between ruins and ancient walls. Women do laundry in front of an ancient building. There is an effort to relocate the village met by resistance of the villagers, many who are making their living selling drinks and food
Yes, that’s right: 190 k. That’s about 115 miles – just shy of my previous longest ride of 120 miles. It wasn’t supposed to be that long, but when they took Alan to the hospital they discovered that 60k of the highway we were supposed to ride was torn up and unrideable, so they scouted a new trip that added a lot of distance.The thing I’ve discovered about riding here in India is that it takes exponentially longer to cover mileage here than in the states. A combo of the road conditions, trying to navigate, being flagged down to talk … whatever it is you count on a ride here taking longer than an equivalent ride at home. I covered the 115 miles in 10.5 hours. That’s a long time. And I was one of the first in … many were out there over 12 hours.It was a beautiful ride though for the first part thanks to the detour that made it a long day. We passed teak and bamboo plantations, monkeys, butterflies and miles of beautiful deciduous trees.Then we passed into very rural farming country. Cotton, corn being harvested, sunflower fields. People would flag us down to ask questions or pull up on their motorbikes while we were riding to talk. That’s sometimes OK on wide open road, sometimes not when there is traffic. This area reminded me of the country we were in the first week that was so rural. Villages were much more basic. We were much more of a spectacle and drew crowds. People didn’t really know how to act with us – they get very few tourists. We ran into some of the same behavior by kids we saw the first week: this frenzied excitement that gradually evolved into touching, hitting, rock throwing. Kids
Lanni and ChrisAfter two rest days in Goa, the three days of riding east inland proved to each be unique with different sets of challenges as we climbed up from the coast to the mountains, rode a very long day across rural and remote plateau farmland and then slung elbows, yelled at and flipped off more than a few trucks and cars fighting our way into Hospet.It was a beautiful ride back out of Goa by water riverfront. We biked through Old Goa and then through rolling red earth land dotted with sparse trees- and easy and fast feeling ride to 70k.Then a big climb – 15k up through a wildlife sanctuary. It was a splendid climb- a good percent grade that let you spin easy with stunning views to the valley and birds sounding off in the trees. The only wildlife we saw was monkeys and hot cyclists taking a shade and breeze break on the side of the road.I rode with a gal who ‘s a good cyclist, but has trouble in heat. I have a huge appreciation for riders who are intelligent about their bodies and can take care of themselves- and she did a great job of spotting the signs of overheating and getting off in the shade cool down and make sure she was hydrated. I don’t mind waiting for that- even though it takes some of the fun out of the climb. What I hate is riding with people who don’t take care of themselves to prevent heat/hydration problems or can’t recognize they are in trouble until they are off the bike puking and dizzy. I think everyone on a trip like this where you are exposed to extreme conditions without ready medical aid needs to be that self-aware and capable just