So at the end of day 1, instead of stop-n-go riding through the night, we refreshed, showered at night and slept with clean clothes( That of course was part of the plan, for the rest of the days as well). And I was hoping I won’t be hit by cramps when asleep. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and I seem to have recovered enough to not cramp again. I wasn’t still sure though how the day would pan out. However what happened next was probably one of the big mis-adventures of the trip. And you would probably expect some sort of misadventure with the amount of planning we did, but we did first thing in the morning was just insane. I have never ridden really long with an MTB/hybrid, the maximum was about a 300km round trip to Mysore and back, but all through familiar roads. On Day 1 it was all highway and unexceptional, except the fact that we saw how well the main Mangalore highway rolled compared to the Savanadurga – Kunigal stretch. And of course the fact that we had to change plans because my muscles wouldn’t co-operate.
So Opendro set his mobile up for the route till the start point of the 2019 GMC route. All well except that he did something that was a bit unusual. Since a ride setup for bicycles does not work very well in India, we normally use the route for cars when we wish to bike. Very rarely would you use the walking path directions when riding on a bike, any bike. Turns out this was one of those rare occasions. Calling a 700km ride with minimal logistical planning would not sound out of place for the general populace, but it was not exactly outlandish if you picture the fact that only me and Opendro were involved. So we set out from Holenarsipura and I started off in the direction that I thought we had to continue. After some time, Opendro’s phone started beeping. So after mutual consultations, we decided to use the map that he had setup. And we dutifully followed the directions that he had setup on his phone. We started riding at 4 am from Holenarsipora, and after these initial course corrections, to avoid the diversions of the previous day, Opendro put on his ridewith gps tracker route and chose the walking route from Holenarsipora to Kushalnagara. And of course an immense adventure awaited us. The route took us through fields, small villages, a few unsure dogs , and in general deathly silence and darkness. It turns out that he had set it up for waling directions. It was really unusual experience, riding in complete darkness with just our headlights for visibility. Most of the roads were either small concrete village roads, or patched up mud roads.
That this was not going to turn out as anticipated. We went through some roads which were narrow concrete roads right in the middle of fields, possibly roads connecting villages but not attracting any major traffic. The problem when using roads is that we were never sure of how true those roads would be , and we were never going too fast , with the visibility level not very high , despite having headlights with us. Occasionally the dogs would wake up and bark, when we went through some very small hamlets, even by Indian standards, but for the most part, we did not even encounter dogs, these roads were that desolate. We might have taken some roads that were poorly constructed , or at least part of the roads were kuchcha, especially when starting off. The dogs themselves were happy barking at a distance, and didn’t consider it important that they intercept us anywhere in the route.
Or put another way, these roads would have been amazing to ride during daylight hours, we would have been treated to some exceptional and welcome scenery. But instead, we had this amazing experience where we rode in the dark and ended up spending more time riding slowly through some amazing scenery which we had no way of admiring. So at a couple of points, we manually took a look at the map, and decided to try and hit a main road. And the main road we did hit, we ended up touching the Hassan – Kushal nagara highway sometime after 6. And the irony was that by the time we hit this road, there was daylight visibility, meaning enough visibility to ride fast in backroads, so the timing was a double whammy. So we rode in pitch darkness on country roads, and have the benefit of daylight on the highway.
The route we traversed early in the morning wasn’t making us go fast since we were going through very narrow roads in the darkness. About an hour+ of riding like this, we realized that we were not making fast progress, and decided to find out the nearest highway that would take us to Kushalnagara and henceforth to Madikeri. Some map lookups and diversions later, we came on the Hassan Kushalnagra highway, but by the time we reached the highway it was already daylight and we lost any advantage of taking a main road at this time. We started rolling fast at 25kmp from this point. Unfortunately we probably ended up riding more than we wanted to, and at less speeds that we wanted to. From here, we reached Kushalnagara at around 7:30 and we found a Mallu restaurant to gorge on breakfast. Our plan was to complete Day1 and Day2 of GMC2019 on the day itself.
Now that we were on the highway, we rolled pretty fast and reached Kushalnagara around 7:45. As we entered town, Opendro decided to go to a supermarket and get some paneer for lunch, as we did not expect to be out in any major town during the day. We went to a small Mallu outlet and gorged on Puttu and omelettes to stuff ourselves for the rest of ride. Then we went through a market street to the other side of town, and reach join the Kushalnagara – Madikeri route. The ride was uneventful till we reached Suntikoppa, and a few km from Suntikoppa the climbs to Madikeri started. A Sikh cyclist without a helmet rode fron the other side and waved at me, I waved back at him. As we were doing the uphill towards Madikeri , somewhere along the line the heat and the climb got me. I was literally crawling uphill , on a not so steep slope. Opendro was being patient, but I am sure he was visualizing all his carefully laid plans going downhill.
The Sardar meanwhile came back on the uphill stretch , zoom past me on his road bike, and with hand signs asked me to speed up. Probably a tourist who was relaxing a few days in Madikeri, but obviously a decent cyclist. Must have been thinking — Kahan se aate hai log, can’t cycle but they want to go around cycling near Madikeri. I of course was seriously struggling and was wondering how I was going to handle climbs that would come later the day. The last 6 kms to Madikeri probably took us an hour. Maybe I wasn’t hydrating enough, maybe I was not conditioned enough. Maybe I hadn’t recovered enough from my exhaustion the previous day. I didn’t really know then. But I took care to ensure that I don’t completely drain out again. For hydrating now, I was using a satchet of enerzal + a fair amount of salt in one liter of water. At some point before Madikeri, the cyclist was relaxing at a road side stall having some tea. Short intense ride for him on vacation I presume. As we neared Madikeri, Opendro mentioned that we needed to take a right at some point, and again we missed it. The official ride started just at the bypass that went towards Somwarpet. The first few kms was downhill. And the proper ride started just after Makkandur , we had to take a left towards the road that led to Mandalpatti and that went alongside the Hemavati river. Opendro had made his way to the road, when I signalled that I needed a break before entering that road ( I knew from memory that there were seriously steep sections, and it would take a toll in the heat) The time now was around mid-day and the heat in the mountains , despite it being late monsoon was fairly intense. Opendro was looking for some decent lunch, but there was nothing available. We ended up ordering coffee, which wasn’t great , and I ended up drinking Opendro’s cup of coffee as well.
As we made our way inside the narrow roads from Makkandur, it became apparent why we needed MTBs for the ride. The roads were worse off from when I visited last time ( in 2013). There was gravel on the road in downhill sections, there was loose stones everywhere. There were some steep uphills and steep downhills all along the route.
I was beyond exhausted at this point, and simply struggling to move. Meanwhile, the non-standard influx of food into my gut, combined with the core muscle stimulations , and combined with the fact that my intestines weren’t ready to get rid of their tenants in the wee hour of the morning in holenarsipora meant that the coffee , while awakening some of my senses, also ended up waking up my intestines, which then sent me urgent distress signals that some of its occupants wanted a way out. The only problem is that there were no public restrooms or any facilities in this stretch. The entire route was lined with plantations on both sides, and the road itself was narrow. Opendro gave the suggestion of using any of the coffee plantations for attending the urgent call of nature, but I wasn’t hundred percent sure if my impromptu gesture of offering human waste as fertilizer would be taken very benevolently if somebody from the plantation were to catch me in the act. Meanwhile we got ahead beyond the plantations to a stretch where we approached the Hemavathi river. On one side of the road was the longish approach to the river , on the other side was a hill side. I tried to figure out a way on the left of the road, but it was way too step for balancing while squatting. On the other side of the road was probably 3-4 feet between the hillside and the road, and this was filled with tall grasses. This looked like my best option. Unfortunately a I made my way into the bush, I realized that the road was frequently being used by jeeps and the riders of those jeeps had a vantage point to look down. So had to do some work to remain hidden from public view to do my ‘work’ in peace. So I went perpendicularly in, and after traversing 2 feet, again went parallel to the road another 4-5 feet , and then flatted the grass around me, making a small clearing. It helped that the area was bone dry , and that meant that the leeches would have gone into hibernation. So deed of the day well and duly done, and feeling lighter meant I could focus better on the ride.
The road meandered its way to the river , and this brought memories of the ride to Mandalpatti in 2013, where i spent substantial time soaking in the river waters. Our road took as away from the route I had followed in Mandalpatti. Just as we crossed the bridge that took us to the other side of the river, I found a point where we could go down. We went down and refilled our water bottles , refreshed with a face wash , and continued. From this point I don’t remember anything remarkable other than the fact that we were doing constant uphills, followed by downhills, both fairly steep and with the road quality not so great. I would say that I did improve my offroad riding skills, which are non existent to begin with. On really long steep uphils, I decided to not risk it and opted to walk instead. There was one steep climb for the day that came towards the later part of the day. At around 1:30 pm I think Opendro decided to break for lunch. Opendro maintains a strict timetable for breakfast, lunch and dinner and religiously follows it. The lunch for today were biscuits and paneer eaten raw, followed with Chicki for dessert. I had got along Coconut burfi as well to suit Opendro’s palate, given that Peanuts did not suit him. Sometimes I have to admire his style of organization. We may not get enough lunch — we need some protein, so lets go get some Paneer from a store — which should be available. Of course proteins are not immediately available but I have seen from the past that some sort of protein based snack does help in ultra long rides, you are after all, constantly exercising muscle. So we found a nice ledge next to the roadside stormwater drain , parked our bikes and had a sumptuous lunch.
One of the highlights of the day was the beautiful cascade of Abbi Falls that came on this route. We went past Abbi falls, which was a nice cascade. We stopped by to take a photograph, and the route continued. One of the downsides of riding with a tight schedule was that we do not have the luxury of stopping and relaxing. A simple visual scan was the best we could do, given our paucity of time.
Towards the 2nd half of the day, despite the make-shift lunch of raw paneer and biscuits, we did get exhausted as the day started getting less brighter. As one can guess, since we are surrounded by hills, the sunset tends to come earlier than Bangalore, and the surroundings darker. We finally hit the main road after riding maybe 40 kms with no shop, no recourse to any food. Opendro’s experience with Transam probably gave him some confidence, and since I was going easy, I was also okay. But the 1st tea shop we found we gulped in some tea, and some mildly sweet bread like sweet. We must have chomped in a good bit of snacks from that shop. Possibly made up 50% of his days business from one snack. Once we went past this spot, riding became fairly easy. From this point we basically strolled easy for the next 5km or so and came to a town called Vanaguru Kudrasthe. The town had one central junction, and a bunch of homestays around it. The official end of Day1 GMC was 10km away, so we decided to take a break when we were in daylight and there were staying options. I , for one , more than anyone else welcomed this break. it was a fairly exhausting day for me, and I wanted a night of good sleep.
We had to hit 2-3 houses before we finally found a place to stay. There was one room empty for two people and we took it. Ordered dinner at the homestay + asked him to leave extra with us in the room. We did not want to wake up anyone the next day when we left. We paid him in advance. With dirty clothes worn over two days, the night beckoned me to wash my clothes and try and have them dry by the morning. I had a shower and washed my cycling clothes, and hung them to dry outside. Before coming up for dinner we had small conversations with some of the remaining guests, who were relaxing. They were not wearing any masks. For that matter, I don’t think anyone was wearing masks around here. e had a fairly filling dinner, and went to sleep. The homestay owner had a puppy though , who kept barking throughout the night, interrupting the otherwise relaxing sleep. The goal for the next day was to combine Day2 and Day3 of GMC into one.