SOME PEOPLE tell me that the best time of the day to create anything is dawn. That is one reason why cyclists get into their job early in the morning. Hence, three of us got out of our homes early in the morn and decided to take a 100 Km trail last week. To surprise each other, we said that we’ll not plan the track and the destination. Coming together, we just rolled on our cycles until we reached empty patches of the road. Finally, down 22 Km. into the Highway, we decided that we would be cycling to a remote hydropower dam’s catchment called KAKKAYAM. The Kakkayam Dam is under the control of Kerala State Electricity Board and is not open to the public. It is a protected area, which comes under an important hydroelectric power project. Though the catchment area is open for public, very few reach there.
Kakkayam is a small isolated hilly enclave cocooned by the Reserve Forest and huge rubber plantations. This pristine valley forms the part of the extended catchment area of the dam. We planned to do a continuous 54 Km. peddling from Calicut to reach the dam’s catchment area and then to relax for half an hour in this valley.
It takes nearly 26 Km. of continuous peddling to reach the road junction, which takes a turn to the forest region and the plantations. The ‘Estate Mukku’ as it is known, is the last place where some locals warned us not to attempt the hills on a cycle. “It would be a futile,” they said, as it was too steep a climb to do it on cycle. Yet, we wanted to attempt exactly that! Together, we had carried an extra tire tube, a puncher kit, and some water. Cutting and climbing through the rubber plantations and the forest tracks, it was an adventure that rocked our hearts and bikes.
As the sunlight filtering through leaves struggled to reach ground, we struggled to pump the peddle through all those solitary steeps and violent slopes. Suddenly, all the romance of peddling vanished....what was left was only hard breathing! That was one time in life I wished I had an additional pair of nostrils! My Cannondale Quick Hybrid stood true to her class, giving me the best of her performance in these stressful terrains. (I know, after all she wasn’t made for the hills and the forest!). And for the first time, I felt the efficacy of 1 X 1 speed selection on her gears. But for that 1 X 1 speed selection, I could not have pushed myself all the way up. Reaching the top of the ghat road, we were surprised to know that there was still 28 Km. of hard cycling ahead of us to reach the Kakkayam valley. And we kept on peddling…
The beauty of this location is that, it is by and far untouched by the shoddy tourists and drunken motorists.
Thought we found that the tar-tarmac was good and fresh, there were no motorists but for some occasional bikers. Kakkayam valley stood at nearly 2500ft. above sea level.
This region is famous for the great biodiversity that it preserves. In fact, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Kakkayam as the one of the best bio zones in Asia.
In early part of 1900s and after the Second World War, the Syrian Christian community from the south of Kerala immigrated to this region of Malabar. They speak of their presence through the occasional sighting of the Cross and roadside Chapels. I stopped by one of them to make a Thank Offering. Rubber cultivation forms the backbone of the local economy. The Kinalur Estate, planted before the I World War by the pioneering British planters is one of the largest rubber plantations in India and is located in this region.
As this latex rubber drops into the collector,
I believe, there is something of rubber in all of us !
With the recent boom in world commodity prices, this region has awakened to the economic importance it holds in rubber. After all, there is something of rubber in all of us. My cycle tires tell me so!
|Country roads, take me home to the place where I belong....|
Hills and evergreen forests surround the Kakkayam valley and her extended catchment areas. It is from this catchment area that water is channeled down through various channels to the Tail Race Power House. Our cyclometer showed that we were climbing and advancing at 16 Km/hr. That was pretty good for us as the terrain stood steep, sloppy and messy. By around 10:45 a.m., we reached our destination: the beautiful green Kakkayam valley and her catchment area. The sight was gorgeous… absolutely gorgeous.
|The sight was gorgeous… absolutely gorgeous!!|
I placed my cycle resting on an evergreen pine tree and tried to sit by it. I watched the glory of the vast valley: once upon a time long long ago it was a place where the giants of the forest roamed. This day too it is glowing with beauty, enchanting me to slumber in its bosom.
The calm, tranquil and the chill waters of the catchment area were very tempting for us to take a dip. I was in no mood to yield to that temptation. Cooling ourselves in those waters would make us lethargic to peddle 54Km. back home. That is the last thing a cyclist would have. We gave up that plan and walked around the fringes of the water. We stood by it and thought distant thoughts. The grass was brown. We took off our shoes and felt the grass blades caressing our worked out feet. We basked on the grass like little children only to discover ants troubling us. Abdul wanted to cycle on those waters. Finally, he did it.
Baptizing his wheels in those waters, his face bloomed with a smile. The momentum of long cycling did not allow us to rest on the grass. So we commenced to sluggishly peddle around this huge valley. “Were we doing a slow-cycle-race?” I thought.
On the way back home, we did a continuous 45 Km peddling. I stopped just to replenish my water bottle and completed the final 9 Km to reach home.
Cycling back, I realized that a Monday awaits me. Every picnic ends. Every trail too has to end. Life doesn’t offer us endless streams of joy and happiness that goes round and round. At the Kakkayam Valley, my friends and I shared some momentous moments that will linger with us for a lifetime. More than cycling 108 Km., I realized a closeness that is difficult to write… which could only be experienced in life’s peddling.