Today was the day TFN would live upto its promise of “Mostly Downhill”. About 140km or so of distance expected ,and we were going to enter God’s own country today.After the gift of Jace’s bike, felt more comfortable doing the misty downhills. My rides on the roadbike lasted a good half day , and now it was time to go back to hybrids.
Duh, where is my helmet?
It was drizzling and misty so the ride was delayed till the race director was comfortable. And as with any other day, 100 guys started off the starting block. We were made to cycle Ooty some 10 times before the route took us on the Gudalur downhill. There was some confusion so I just followed Prem. For the rain,I just wore 3 T shirts to ensure I was as dry as possible. Decided not to carry the rainjacket, knowing that I would be cycling in the Wayanad heat. Its great to get wet in the rain while cycling.
We had a good break once we got out of the Ooty area. A tea stall selling Paruppu vadas and tea did roaring business from the descending cyclists. I am sure she must have done her daily quota in 2 hour of madness leaving some evening regular customers dissatisfied.
Here is all of us posing for the cameras in the mild rain near the tea stall
Ram was also going to go downhill today after rehabilitating for a couple of days from his bruises. I learnt later on that he suffered another injury after slamming his chest after two buses forced him off the road. A crack on the ribs.
The downhill was relatively quick , though I took a break at the tea stall(Ayyappa Enterprises)just before Naduvattam where I was greeted by Amit Chatterjee and co on the way up. Nice lemon tea, though the carrot stall opposite had not yet opened up. Went on downhill and took the designated detour towards Kalpetta from Gudalur.
It was misty in the latter part of the downhill and some part of the road was quite wet.
Our 1st pit stop was probably just before Gudalur at the same place which happenned to be the 1st pit stop on our way up. Wasn’t hungry but could not resist the temptation of a peanut butter and biscuit combo. And of course a customary swig of the pulpy orange juice. After going through the town, realzed how much of a shortcut we had taken because of the school. Soon after Gudalur, the scnery changed to large swathes of tea estates, and repeated stretches of horseshoe shaped roads with a tea estate in the middle. You could see the other side of the road sometimes even a kilometer away.
I saw a lot of Moplah women on the way ,and stopped and chatted with one of them. She was curious about this steady stream of cyclists coming this way. I explained that we were on a tour of the Nilgiris and Kalpetta was our next stop. Was surprised to learn that I was still in Tamil Nadu though. This is one rather astounding feature of the state of TN. In the Border areas, you’ll find Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam (as I now learnt) spoken, but no Tamil. The areas surrounding Bangalore ,ie Hosur, Bagalur, Denkanikottai, Karadikal, etc, you would find a lot of Kannada and Telugu speaking people and here I found a lot of Mallus. I was determined to reach early enough to enjoy some time in the pool so I went ahead alone today, and in fact for the rest of the journey I was pretty much alone. The roadies had gone far ahead, and the other guys were enjoying the scenery. Somewhere along the road I overtook Mohan, Ross and her 9 year old son doing TFN. The next pit stop had some lunch, which I just took with me while I rode, since I was not hungry.
The roads from Gudalur to Sultan Battery are long winding rods with huge tea estates, and you see a sea of tea estates everywhere you go.
It surprised me as to how long the Kerala border took to arrive. We took a route that went near the Meenmutti waterfall. Given that it was 2km away from the main road with a rough approach (plus the fact that I was alone), I chugged along to Kalpetta. I was keen to use the pool today. Day 2 and Day 5,6 were the days we were in rather upscale resorts with nice pools. The opportunity to relax was welcome , but there was a time limit of 7pm for the pool usage. I reached the Kalpetta area sometime after 4 and was there at the resort before 5 pm. Today there weren’t much breaks apart from needed ones to replenish.
I spent about 2 hours in the pool. I entered it soon after checking in, and was followed soon by Amit Mukherjee, Sudarshan Iyengar , Darshan and some more of the Pune gang. Got a little irritated that the hotel didn’t serve Mallu food. What is it with all these “resorts” that they serve Panner Butter Masala and Naan irrespective of their location. No local cuisine? One more reasons why homestays stand out. I cribbed to the hoteliers and they organized boiled rice from the food prepared for the staff.
There was a display of all the photographs taken over the past few days at night, The day after was going to be a local Wayanad ride , but I was already feeling a little uneasy at the end of day 5. Cornered a bed on the floor ,away from the fan , as my repeated roomie Boni had a habit of sleeping with the fan on, irrespective of the temperature! We had the windows open, so that was not required, as Arun D’Silva also did not like the fan on, and actually it was a bit chilly.