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Masingudi to Mettuppalaiyam

Today a cow stepped on my bike and I completed the hardest climb I’ve ever done.  
Sunrise over the mountains we are about to climb
We stayed in a jungle lodge at Mudumalai National Park last night and rode out early to climb up to Ooty, over the mountains and descend into Mettuppalaiyam.  
The climb that was described as “memorable” was truly memorable.  I sweated and huffed up an 8+ mile climb to Ooty.  I’ll even go as far as to call it the hardest climb I’ve ever done, which is saying something after tackling the Rockies and the High Sierras.  Very steep, much of it over 10% grade.  There were 36 switchbacks on the way up. I know this because someone decided to post a sign that said “Hairpin Turn” with the number (12 / 36) so we could count along as we slogged up.
The valley below was beautiful as I wound up the mountains and west. I tend to cycle alone on hard days with big climbs … I find I do better at my own pace when things are really challenging.  
But even I had to walk my bike – which I NEVER do.  Hit a village in the last quarter of the climb which was filled with people and busses and local transit and had a road running through it that was unbelievably steep. So steep that my calves and hamstrings cramped while walking.  So steep that trying to pedal meant I was going so slowly I was afraid I might topple over sideways if someone stepped in front of me.  They’d clearly just paved the dirt path that ran through the existing village. It was like they just dumped a truck load of hot asphalt at the top and let it run down the hill in the most direct way possible.  
I was the first woman in, and the 5th or so rider through.  I felt good about that.
Meanwhile due to an emergency, and they decided to halt further riding for the day.  
This was for many reasons, including the fact that with two staffers at the hospital and their emergency supplies depleted and spotty cell service they felt they couldn’t adequately support the rest of us if there was another accident on the long descent.  
That, coupled with a text message exchange by a rider who rode straight through with Ricardo on staff basically made it clear that the descent was pretty dangerous, full of traffic, steep with hairpin turns and some rough road, and that many riders weren’t going to be skilled enough to safely navigate down, and the rest of us would need a nice dose of luck to make it safely.  So they halted all riding and hired a truck to take the bikes and a bus for us.  And after that bus ride down I was grateful not to have ridden it – it was hair-raisingly dangerous and would have been high risk and basically a stressful, not enjoyable experience.  So I think they made the right call and am thankful to not have ridden it. I expect they’ll be re-routing the trip next time …
And in a truly “only in India” moment … as we were waiting around at the top of the climb for what was next, a really big, very bold cow scavenging for food nosed right through and started walking amid bikes, our vehicles, lunch tables and wherever else it pleased. 
Damn Cow that stomped my bike coming back to scavenge
So in India it’s really true what they say about the cows – they roam free wherever they want. Generally placid and unflappable. Clearly treated well and having no fear humans, cars or bikes.  We often ride through herds of them on road and they barely look at us, and if they are in the road we ride around them – they don’t move or flinch. I’ve often seen them laying in the middle of city traffic circles sound asleep amidst traffic that is so insane it makes my toes curl.
Anyway, I had my bike lying on the ground and that damn cow stepped on my rear wheel. Turned out it could have been a lot worse, a couple of bent spokes that Rick managed to fix and true the wheel while we were waiting, though we’ll see what happens when I ride tomorrow. Lucky for me the cow didn’t step on my derailleur or something.
Eva, btw, who crashed yesterday is fine and doing well and will be OK and in good spirits.
Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA

One thought on “Masingudi to Mettuppalaiyam

  1. You know my feeling about the big descents!!! Sounds like this was unbelieveable!! I guess I would wonder if anyone had tested this climb on the bike before putting you in such a precarious position!?!?!?
    Glad rest of you are ok and sorry about the injured rider!

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