Tuesday, February 12

Story of a leisure spin

SOME THINGS in life come without much planning.  Many things come after planning. A leisure cycling to Nelliampathi hills came in without much of a planning. After days of serious cycling and randonneuring at Cochin and Chennai, it was time for me to do an unwinding … take up a leisure spin. From brevetting to a leisure spin, there is a lot of gap and miles of fun. 

Nuveen at the background with smiles.  
Nelliampathi trip came from the desk of         Dr. Nuveen  from Trichur. As a young and dynamic  cyclist from Trichur, Nuveen floated this idea. Upon his invitation, four of us from Calicut decided to join this spin to the sleeping hills of Nelliampathi. 

Known as ‘Poor man’s Ootty ‘, Nelliampathi is a popular and a small hill station 60 km away from Palakkad.  Encircled by coffee and tea gardens, it is a jewel in the crown of Kerala. Cutting through government’s reserve forests, the journey to Nelliampathi is an experience in cycling. Nuveen and his novice team were very focused to make this a success. Seeing their enthusiasm, we couldn’t help but join them.  

Fatty frame with slim wheels ....
that is what Bad Boy is all about !

The only route to this hill station is through Nemmara, a small town  at the foot of this beautiful hill station. On 6th Saturday evening, at 8 PM, three of us (Nazeer, Zaeer and myself) packed our  cycling gears and hurried from Calicut.  Nuveen and his team had planned to commence the spin from  Veddekenchery, a town 23 Km away from Nemmara.  Biju was to join us at Veddekenchery from Trichur.


Typical of a hill station, Nelliampathi is least developed. The entire area is in the hands of a few medium-scale plantation companies and the rest  is held by Kerala Government as reserve forest. 

From our base camp at Veddekenchery, all of us set out at 7 AM to Pothundi Dam, the first stop over of our spin. This spin is a warm-up section for something more tough ahead: 23 Km. of pure steep climb to Nelliampathi.  
Two friends from Pollachi: 
Baba and Srihari Ratnam are two friends from Pollachi
Here, they seem to be enjoying the  tender  Coconuts. 

The climb commences from Pothundi Dam. Cutting through reserve forest and coffee gardens, the road is cool. Cocooned in the canopy of huge teak trees, most of the sections of the road is dark. The air is crisp, clean and cool. The daylight is unable to filter through the leaves due to the thick foliage. As we cycled, we could hear the chattering of birds breaking the silence of the woods... and there is nothing else to disturb the sound of silence.     

"If leisure cycling is all about recharging the spirits of my  mind and the body, then it is all about a spin through these woods where solitude is my companion and silence is my sound. I can only magnify my Creator God every moment of my breath through these enchanting woods." 

The only major breakdown we had was that of Srihari Rathnam's bike. With a broken derailleur hanger, Srihari had very little option but to seek the back-up car of Biju. Waiting for the back-up to arrive, we shared lot of thoughts. After all, leisure cycling is never a fun if close sharing of thoughts never happen. It was Nazar who shared that there are universal derailleur hangers which fits on any bike (something like free-size vests) irrespective of the make and size. I think carrying a universal derailleur hanger by a pack of riders will help during these type of breakdowns. 
This memorial was erected to commemorate the completion of the building of the Pothundi dam. Today it is a decaying piece of civil masonry shooting up the sky. With tattered lettering, I think Government has never cared to maintain it since instillation. We must learn from westerners how they keep memorials alive and afresh. It was a shame to see it in this manner!
Pothundi dam is the second dam in Asia to be built using only jaggery and quick lime. This earthen construction method is almost lost today and no government will dare to build a dam using jaggery! However, Pothundi dam is standing strong and is serving to supply water to the entire region of Chittur taluk. From the tattered lettering on her memoral, nothing much could be read.  

Getting off the saddle, walking around,  
it was time for a few shots. 
  It is impossible to keep on  cycling when I wish to take a picture.  In a serious cycling event (like in brevetting), I find it stressful to carry a heavy DSLR camera and do  photography. But in a leisure spin things are different. It is good to keep a heavy camera and do quality photography. 

This is my Bad Boy
like me, she is a fugitive in this forest road ....

The vast panaroma of the Pothundi Dam and her catchment area is absolutely striking. The heat of the summer has stressed the region to a brown bowl of dry leaves and trees. The catchment area alone show a mass of water. In the clear afternoon sky with air puffing with heat, I sat still to talk to myself about the beauty of the seasons.

On reaching Kaikatty, the first town of Nelliampathi, we had arranged our lunch at Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s motel. After any ride, no matter what the food is, they all taste exceptionally good. After this great ride, Kerala fish curry with rice was tasting great. 
After lunch, it was time to relax, talk and unwind. The Trichur boys decided to proceed a little further to explore the fringes of Nelliampathy hills. I am sure they were rewarded with excellent panorama of  hills. Most of us decided to pace back downhill and make it back to Veddekenchery in record time. 

The Trichur boys decided to proceed a little further to explore the fringes of Nelliampathy hills. I am sure they were rewarded with excellent panorama of  hills.

Getting back home, downhill rides are always thrilling. In downhill rides, as the wheels roll, we do not sit on the saddle waiting for the cycle to carry us down. Instead, we peddle aggressively taking the cycle speed above 40 KMP. That is a real fun! All of us reached Veddekenchery in flick of a breeze. 

The Riders at Nelliampathy : Nuveen , Gokul, Ramzan , Dibin Sudeep, Baba, Srihari, Biju, Nazer, Zaheer  and Abby 


Acknowledgements : Couple of photographs in this blog have been used from the FB walls of Nuveen and friends.