It was for too long that I had wanted to set out on a trial journey. It did seem like it was going to be a walk on the edge of sanity to be ‘travel-cycling’ all by myself. I’d been planning it for several weeks and when the moment arrived, something would pop-up requiring my presence and I would reschedule my event. It was going to be a long back breaking ride from Chennai to Tuticorin; that plan changed to a ride to the lush greens of Kodaikanal; and later, I saw an opportunity for making it up to the Nilgiris. None of these whimsical rides actually happened.
Eventually, I decided on a ride up to the border of Tamil Nadu to a very popular waterfall – Courtalam. There was absolutely nothing awaiting me on reaching there. It was the most popular tourist spot in Tamil Nadu that time of the year and I have seen that commotion before. But then, I just needed a ride with some hills in between and that was the only place I could think of closest to home for my trial. Stopping by an aunt’s on the first day and finishing it off at a friends place at the end, with Courtalam in between seemed adventurous enough for me. All the other days in between, I didn’t know where I would stay or what I would do. The trial was to see if I could find places to camp in peace without any worry of danger. The day I had to leave arrived. I stayed in. I left for my wild-ass adventure the next day.
It was a tough 60-km ride to Kovilpatti. I started late – 7:45 AM. I over-estimated my physical abilities for the first day. It got hot too soon. I rested under trees. There were very few. There was too much dust. I forgot my electrolytes. The last stretch between Ettayapuram and Kovilpatti was cruel. Only a single lane for all, while a fourway road was being paved. With stones and tar yet to be paved only the first sandy layer of road was ready, which means dust flying all over every time a vehicle passed. They passed once every 6 seconds. Mostly trucks. I couldn’t compete. It took me more than two hours to cross the final 16 kms. It was dreadful. I thought of the similar dust type roads in going through apple orchards in Pabbar Valley way up in Himachal. I’ve had daylight fantasies of riding up there on this bicycle – all those fantasies were crumbling in dust now.
When I reached my aunts house in Kovilpatti, I stretched, and downed some of that protein juice. I looked back and I knew I was never going back that way again.
Next day, I cycled around Kovilpatti and headed off to Kalugumalai. After about a two hour ride and some problems with my pedal, I made it to Kalugumalai. Walked up the ancient Jain temple. Beautiful views from up there (My pictures of this trip are either at home or I lost them. Sad.).
I reached Sangarankovil that evening. It was a tiring ride. And I found myself a beautiful place to camp. It was a deserted open grassland. I could see flat lands with some palm trees upto the horizon where the sun was setting. Behind me was a narrow road about 50m away. Just before sunset, a shepherd walked by curiosly and began questioning about my intentions to be sitting there with my bicycle in the middle of nowhere. He seemed agitated at my ‘stupidity’ as not all shepherds and people who were going to pass by were simple, honest people. He warned me. After an uncomfortable conversation, I decided to head back to town and find a place to sleep that night, instead of camping out.
Next day I started again towards Courtallam. About 35 km into the journey, a gentleman I met on the way suggested I visit this dam which will be a little off-route from my objective. I was tempted. The ride to the dam was thrilling. You had to get off the paved roads and I had a feeling today I’d be able to camp out. I went for it. The scenery turned out into open, spacious, vegetative piece of land, with hills rising from from the distance where the sun was setting behind. Beyond those hills was Kerala, I could imagine. A little north along that hilly area would be Periyar Sanctuary. At the foothills, was this valley at the beginning of which the dam was situated. Karuppa Nathi Dam.
There was a temple there and after some inquiries, I realised they were letting me spend the night there on the excuse of being on a bicycle which would take me a while to get back to town before sunset. I walked a little more southwest from the temple, away from the dam, just to make sure I’d seen all of the beauty before I set out to the dam. I followed a beautiful stream, sunk my tires in it to cross over when I saw few people cleaning their motorbikes. They warned me of water snakes. Of course, I hadn’t thought of those. I left the stream soon and went straight for the dam.
Although I had a feeling about it in some corner, I wasn’t sure until it all happened. I was heading straight for some nature lessons, the slightly tough way.
it is unfortunate that my pictures are not with me at the moment. i probably even lost many of them.