Most of you know this, but here it is again: The Tour of Nilgiris 2009 is an 8 day, 900 km bicycle ride. The dates: Dec 15-23. The TFN, as it is known, aims to provide a different kind of cycling experience. A chance to feel the rush of fresh air whilst you ride among the greens. Free of worries, all arrangements taken care of. Just you and your bicycle. Interested ? The Tour is over-booked, hard luck. If you feel like clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" button, then here it is.
What could you look forward to in the Tour of Nilgiris ? Things aplenty. Coming first would be the joy of riding your bicycle through the greenery of the pine trees and tea gardens of the Nilgiris. The scent of the Nilgiris - ah! have you experienced it yet ? Riders will, no doubt, look forward to the chill of the winter air, the morning mist in the hills and mountains, the streams and waterfalls, and the coffee estates. The pains of climbing the hills would be erased by the joy of reaching the summits. The joys of a descent would be rendered all the more sweeter by the pains of the ascent. Some riders will fight their bodies, some their minds. Hopefully, none would fight broken bones. The distant mountains will come closer, surround you, and as they recede, they will leave memories. The experiences will matter, the outcomes won't. And in a weeks time, these will become memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
Some riders, I reckon, will use the empty moments to ponder about anything. Or perhaps, everything.
As many of you know, I am back in Bangalore already. And, you know it right, I came back sans my bicycle, sans my mobile, SLR camera, three lenses, GPS receivers, bags, ah well. The list is painful indeed, and includes even KP's trusty pannier bags and my sunglasses. Needless to say, I had no choice but to abort the trip. This list is an effort to recount what happened, and how I reached back Bangalore. It's long, but I'm sure you are all curious to know all the details. And, I owe to you, the reader. So here goes.
I woke up on the morning of October 10th (Saturday). I had had a good sleep after the midnight break. But, where was my bicycle ? It was gone! And where was the friend-for-a-day ? He was gone too. His bedsheet and creaky bike were all that were left. I saw his chappals in a few moments, and I knew what had happened : friend-for-a-day (read more about this chap in the previous post. Sorry for the redirection) had flown off with all that I had. How many hours earlier, I couldn't say.
It took a few moments for the situation to sink in : I had lost even my mobile, and my purse. My trust had been royally betrayed. Trusting fool I had become. And here I was : 20 kms away from Dwaraka, not a penny in my pocket, and not a known contact around me either. No cellphone address book to contact people either. To be honest, I didn't feel bad. I didn't feel the pinch of the loss, and I feel it much now, either (at the time of writing). I'm happy I took the loss well.
And what did I have left actually ? The following
- Manohar's sleeping bag
- Shoes, and a pair of socks
- A towel
, a dhoti
- Dirty yellow riding shirt, spanky clean saffron dhoti
- Red shirt with sweaty stains, dirty blue track pant
- Two water bottles, slippers
That's all I have of all my possessions. I push everything into the sleeping back. No chance of taking the slippers. They are too big, and who needs them anyway ?
Oct 7: Woke up really late, at 6:45. Ok, I'm still in the village, and relaxing. No need to hurry yet. I've willingly piled up the delays today.
First, a visit to one (out of three) temples in the village. The old man has changed to spanky clean white clothes. Looks like the shoddy ones are for the market ! Half an hour of prayer, I'm about to yawn. Imagine me the atheist sitting in a small temple trying to look a little devout! Next up was what we, in kannada, call the somari katte. The old man was joined by another person from the same family tree(kutumba). Many more people joined us - farmers, the local politico and the local headmaster. I was the center of attraction. Many things were freely discussed - from the rains in north Karnataka to my salary !
Oct 5: It rained heavily in Palitana yesterday night (by local standards at least). Kids enjoying getting drenched, a sight to watch. Memories of a carefree childhood die hard indeed.
Rains ensured a cloudy day, a blessing for me the rider. I started off on the road to Diu, avoiding the typical highway route. The road was OK, a state highway maintained in average condition. The road I took skirted the Shatrunjay dam, the largest in this part of Gujarat, for a while. Then it wandered off into the hills. I had been warned discreetly by a tea shop owner to not take out my valuable electronic equipments till I reached a place called Jhesar. The hills here have a semi barren look, and the place has picked up a reputation for unsavoury elements. I took my precautions and nothing untoward happened. The sun was trying all the while to pierce the veil of clouds, but didn't succeed until afternoon. And only barely then, at that.
Paid a visit to Shatrunjaya first thing in the morning today. This place is about 2 kms away from Palitana, where my hotel is. Shatrunjaya is an important place for a jain piligrim. The main temple, and 41 other small temples, are located on the top of a hill. And how to get there? Well, you have two choices: either climb the 3600 or so steps up the hill, or take a doli . A doli is carried by two or people depending on the kind of comfort you want. I chose to walk up, kind of obvious right?
Wanted to set off from the Dhaba as early as possible, but still ended up pushing off at only at 7. I continue on the road, leading towards Bhavnagar, with Shatrunjaya being todays stop.
Long boring ride it turns out to be. The hot sun is aided here by the lack of trees close to the road. The only thing of interest on this road were the salt factories. These churn out mounds of salt. It is interesting to see salt formed in various crystalline structures in pools of water.
The land is parched in most parts along the road here. Villages are five kilometers away from the highway, a surefire indicator of where the more hospitable land is. Dried-up rivers have left in their trail a white residue, which can only be salt. Elsewhere too, there are small dry patches of land tinged with white. I have had enough of this salt and heat, except that my body is losing some.
Oct 2 : I have been observing, with some curiosity, the many ways in which tea is served here in Gujarat. There is the kaat(half) chai and the full tea. Full tea, at eight rupees, is quite expensive. However, if you consider the percentage of milk in it, then it is good value for money. The Gujaratis like their food and drink, and will pay for them too! The full tea is not considered full until the tea overflows from the cup into the saucer, and a significant amount at that. Many hotels stock more saucers than cups. The reason? The more popular half tea is served directly in saucers. This annoys me since the tea cools off fast. Not a problem for the locals who seem to rin through their tea fast.
I had keyed in a long story, which was lost due to a typing error. Ouch - more than an hour's worth of effort wasted. I've seen Lothal's excavations and have seen greenery, parched lands, and salt fields.
I am now in Palitana, near the Jain piligrimage place of Shatrunjaya. It's been extremely hot here all along the route. I had an hour's yesterday evening. Suprisingly I woke up close to dehydration. It is clear I'll need to change my plans. But by how much I dont know yet. If Gujarat is this hot, I cannot think how bad Rajasthan could be Some tell me the temperatures are high due to less rains, but not others. Anyway, I am here now, and I have to deal with it...
Will rewirte and post stories later. Today is a semi rest day !
Yesterday was a hectic day - both at office and home. KP helped me pack the bike into the box(thanks BOTS for that), and we also ensured that the panniers were OK. A stitch in time is supposed to save nine. I had only one bag to save. But stitch I did.
Harsha dropped me and the bike to the airport. But before that I said goodbyes to my sister, brother and aunts, and most importantly, to KP. As I was shaking hands with him, I realized that this would be the last I would see of him for quite some time. KP is moving to Singapore. At that moment, it dawned on me that I would miss him much. I shed a few tears unseen by the rest of the folks, much like I had when I bid goodbye to roommates during my engineering days. Who says men don't cry. We do, but we are experts at hiding them too...
First things first : I fixed a bug in my geo-blogging code yesterday. I had a busy loop in python - that's fixed now. This turned out to be the reason why I wasn't able to take snapshots of the new dialog using ScreenShot. I've uploaded the changed posts.py too. Plus, WordPress Geo Mashup released their version 1.2.8 today, which includes a fix for the issue I had reported yesterday. Thumbs up to them ! I'll update my previous post with this information.
Also, I realized yesterday that I could do a little more with WordMobi than just posting coordinates. For instance, that I can post KML files - thus plotting my route on the blog! The file attached to this post has a path that shows the appropriate area of my tour (experimenting right now with this - it's supposed to show up on the map on top - doesn't seem to be working!). Need to add this functionality to WordMobi - and need to figure out how as well... Update: This doesn't seem to be possible with the current Geo Mashup. Perhaps I should try 1.3alpha...