Wednesday, August 29

a Bad Boy at Valparai ...

“The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish is caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of a rabbit-snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.            When can I find a man who has forgotten words?He is the one I would like to talk to.”
… Rev.Thomas Merton

The story starts ...

We reached the Kerala Forest Check Post at
Athirapalli around 6: 45 AM on this rainy day.
Soon, it was time to tune the bikes
and make final preparations.
Sunil had to fix his fork and all others
had something to quickly get going...

Finally, the preparations are over 
and we are about to take off… 
the day is dampen with drizzling, 
but the heart is beating with joy… 
Hurray Happy Bikers! 


A great forest road beacons us to Valparai via Athirapalli: Athirapalli is 31Km drive from Chalakkudi. Valparai is around 80+ Km from Athirapalli. On a rain-soaked morning at 6:45 AM, 7 cycle lovers from Kerala reached Athirapalli Forest Check Post to spin through the woods and the steep paths … through the Elephant crossings and through the woods of wild-oxen… 
through blood-sucking leaches … 
through the sky of the Hornbills and through the silence of the crisp cool clear air. 
The path is a silent-steep. (At an early stage of this spin, a senior cyclist warned me, “Boy, two killer steeps await you! Don’t rush now. Take it slow!”) 
Yes, the 80+ kilometers of forest road bites slowly but sturdily.  For a constant spin, without any brake, it indeed is a kiss of endurance.  

Valparai is a hill station discovered by the British. Today, with a population of more than a lakh, it is the one and the only town located in a tiger reserve forest: the Anamali Tiger Reserve Forest.  
Malakkappara is an unexplored Kerala region bordering Valparai . Cocooned in snoozing green tea gardens and surrounded by rich evergreen forests and grass lands, Valparai-Malakkapara belt is a sleeping beauty... a joy of nature.  Located in Western Ghats, this region is 3500 ft. above sea level and forms the part of Anamalai mountain ranges. The steep path that takes the cyclists from Athirapalli to Valparai is one of the most scenic and romantic tracks in Western Ghats.    

The beauty of every spin is that there aren’t any words for it. IT IS SILENT! 
When luscious cascade of sights unravel the beauty of the nature, then the silence of the woods speak. 
The tantalizing steep climbs of the winding roads, 
the sparkling clean air 
and the hot cycle-saddle keeps cyclists on the spin … 
and then, it is pure heaven on earth… 
it is ‘nirvana’... 
'nirvana' on the saddle!

This blue-lit sky is the sight from our 
tea garden bungalow as the dusk sets in… 
far away we see the tea factory. 

“Oh! Hush my soul, and go ...and go 
and fill your heart with the cool breeze 
and the silence of the woods 
and the colors of the dusk lit sky...
it is one page in your life you’ll never forget” 

This is the Woodbriar Groups's Tea Garden Bungalow
which was exclusively opened for us ... 
... the romantic interior of
Woodbriar Bungalow.
After a great spin, 
Jan is working hard 
on his limes to give us the 
bitterest cocktail of our life! 
Cycling is a rejuvenating experience if it can be combined with proper rest and food.
The interiors of this lovely heritage bungalow added
to the warmth and cozy atmosphere which was
so essential for us after a long rainy day spin.

Most Brilliant Experience in Cycling:The scenic beauty, the woody environment, the presence of the abundant water, the silence and the solitude of the forest, the cacophony of the animals and the birds (Cacophony??) , the cool and the green air all around, the steep climbs the path offer is indeed a breath of the nature . (Rajiv, my fellow cyclist had to stop, turn the cycle and speed back as a bison was crossing across the road into the forest). As we inched through the heart of Sholayar Reserve forest… as our wheels made sturdy progress… as the kilometer-readings on our cyclometer advanced, all what I whispered in my heart was, “Ha! It is the most brilliant experience in cycling I have ever had!”    

Watching us invade their territory, the lion-tailed macaques were constantly making warning cries to their lot… We saw lots and lots of fresh elephant dung throughout our path. That’s something we should be happy about. We are in an elephant country and they are there healthy and growing!

I only think about it :The machine and the spin...Our machine is personal to us. World will never know the bond that we make with them.

Our machine is personal to us.
World will never know the bond
that we make with them.
 Each of our machine has unique wheels… and each has a reason for it. The connection we make with our machine is a bond of joy. The rider will never be able to tell of it anyone… or to any onlooker.
the Bad Boy at Valparai ...

the innocent looking Cannondale Bad Boy 9 
has a “stealth-fighter inspired design 
and a radical fork” 
plus those two crazy wheels... 

Bad Boy surprises anyone who looks at him!

So is every spin… can we tell others of its joy and pain? Even our family will find it difficult to understand as to why we spin (that too at this age!), spin 100s and 1000s of kilometers. 
I only think about it.

We spotted a bison in one of the tea gardens …

Silence!! A Barking deer is near us!!

As the cycle platoon progress, is it a life without competition? … As we cut the forest air, there is so much joy that we have reached here and now. 
The monsoon rains sprinkle us with water, soaking every bit of our spin-wear… but that extra weight is a labor of love. We don’t complain! Then the sun poops out of the dark clouds. Is there a competition between the clouds and the sun?  We hear the singing of the birds. There too it seems a competition is in progress as to who sings best. ( I cannot stop to listen to the birds as the cycle platoon too has a ‘little’ competition at the heart of it!!)  
The mild sunshine dry our hands and feet… they dry our face. But the cycling vests, the briefs and the cap are thick with water… and the heart is beating with relish. 

As the Bad Boy reached Valparai,
we also had a walk through the woods... 
We reached this 200 year old wooden European bungalow and 
we posed for a moment of nostalgic flash…
that was the best we could do there and then !

Song throughout the day: We heard 100s of birds singing in the morning and in the evening  around the bungalow . However, I cannot forget this bird’s whistling as it carried food to its nest in the bungalow throughout the day! 
Can anyone tell me which family she belongs to? 


All good times have to end...
Jan and Christel are saying good bye.  

As we left for home via Pollachi, we saw Aliyar Reservoir from the upper winding roads.They looked great. 
The monsoon rain clouds were grouping up in the sky. 
Aliyar Reservoir forms a part of the Aliyar Dam and is at a lower level to the Aliyar Reserve Forest. 

Porcupine Quills and Good Luck
I always wish to carry home something tangible from every happy moment of my life. As life advances, precious memories may fade out. And, laptops may not work to bring back those great digital pictures. So, I picked these porcupine quills as we walked through the woods. 

Arun told me that it is a sign of good luck to pick a porcupine quill from a path. 
Hearing that, Biju gave me a quill he had picked up to add to my good luck!!

Good luck or not, these quills will stay with me for a long time to keep reminding me of the great Valpari Spin as a family of the Happy Bikers.   

Happy Bikers at Valparai 


Rajiv and Nisha
( with children Magha and Rohan)
Sunil and Tina
Our Guest Cyclist from Coonor:
Satish, (Jacob's friend)

Measuring the growth: I found this strange granite post in a tea garden. 
Arun told me that these stones carry markings to measure the growth of the plants. 
I wonder if  there are posts in our life to measure 
intimacy, love , speed, skill and growth !

 For Happy Bikers' this spin created new records … 
and new heroes were born... 
and the world went spinning for a little fun ! 

As we reached Valparai, Jan's Garmin report stood thus: 
Total Distance : 81.71km, 
Duration 4:15, 
Speed 18.4 km/h, 
Height Achieved : 1610 meters. 

For Happy Bikers, this is a memorable performance 
over previous efforts on this terrain. 

A Very Special thanks to Mr.Sunil and Tina who meticulously planned and executed all the arrangements for Happy Bikers.
We missed Mr. Jacob who came all the way from Coonor and could not spin with us.
We also missed all other great Happy Bikers from Cochin who could not be with us to cheer and to crack a million jokes. 

And Jan, Thanks for that Wonderful Cake. I enjoy it at every spin!

Fine !!