Saturday, November 14, 2009

India Day 10 Part 2 Cycling from Thekkady to Vagamon

When a lull in the rain occurred we set off – you can’t wait for ever for the rain to stop. The first 10Km/ 6miles were pretty horrible – the road surface was not at all smooth and with the rain and traffic it made progress pretty tough.  I packed my small camera rather than my larger camera as I did not want to risk the camera getting wet in yet more rain – the smaller one could be packed in a plastic, sealable bag.  The road was also not too wide and so we had to keep our wits about us. particularly as we had worn brakes.

Once out of the town the road surface really improved and surprise, surprise we started to climb again.  Here is an Indian schoolboy on his way home after school.


Although there were lulls in the rain it did not look too hopeful – look at the clouds down the valley.


The valley carried on for quite a while as we climbed. In the end we climbed from a low of 800m to a high of 1160m.  We were not really expecting this – what we were expecting is a climb over the last 1Km and rolling hills before that.


It started to rain quite hard – so when I reached this church I pulled out my camera took one picture and then put it back to avoid it getting wet. Not too bad for an impromptu shot. I think that Mary and Barry visited it as it was being cleaned.


We also saw tea pickers out amongst the tea bushes. Rain or shine those leaves need to get picked.


Here is tea being picked by hand – she is practically on her toes to reach the top.  I am not sure she is keen to have her picture taken though.


After a while the rain started coming down in torrents. The countryside would have been really nice if it had been sunny.  A few Km before the end one of our support crew asked us to wait. Ben, Mary and I were out front and whilst moving were warm enough – as soon as we stopped we started freezing. He asked us to wait for 10 minutes – we said we couldn’t – then he suggested 5 minutes and we mutinied and carried on.

The hill started up again and we ploughed on – unfortunately  not far from the end we (Ben and I) stopped for a wee. Then we reached a town and were directed across a roundabout where a British lady wanted us to stop to ask us what we were doing. I am afraid that we were slightly rude and just carried on – there is no way we wanted to  stop when a hot (we hoped) shower awaited us.

Finally we saw a sign for the hotel. It turned out that the final climb was actually up a small “private” road and not too bad either.  It is funny how our support crew latch onto certain facts and seem to miss out the bigger picture.

When we arrived Ben and I discovered we had been leeched – again. The hotel staff who were waiting to welcome us had a method of getting rid of the leeches – salt. Just apply it to the leech and they let go almost immediately.  Ben found some leeches in his helmet and was a little worried he might have some in his hair so we did a leech check of each other.

They had hot water – so never was a shower more welcome.  The power did cut out once or twice, but only after my shower. It carried on raining on and off that evening. It was quite misty around the hill; this is some sort of communications building for the police apparently.


The misty hills.


In fact there were clouds all around the hill. It later turned out that the bad weather was caused by an anti-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal - unusual but no consolation to a bunch of wet cyclists.


The entrance way to the hotel atrium. In the end Alan started in the van, then cycled then returned to the van. I believe that Jay and Christine rode in the van the whole way. It is really hard to start cycling in the rain on unknown hills.


The weather certainly looked as though it was here to stay.


Here is the height chart – we finished higher than we started,

Day 10 Thekkady to Vagamon

I liked the hotel – it had an atrium in which guests could sit and admire the view, take coffee or use the single PC. It turned out that there PC was connected to the Internet via a WiFi router – but the manager either did not want to understand or did not understand that it could be turned on to allow us to wirelessly connect to the net, rather than all queue up for the single PC. So someone who shall be nameless had a look at the router from the PC and discovered the Admin password – from there it was straightforward to enable the “Guest” login and Bob’s your Uncle. (Actually he was our tour leader.)

He was able to log in again to keep his blog current and I was able to download a few days of posts as well. Jim did a bit of Skype-ing and we got to say hello to Abby.


There was also a game that looked like a cross between billiards and shove ha’penny. Graham first played with Raj who taught him the rules and then Barry, Mary, Christine and Graham had a game. There are two teams – opposite players play together. I wonder if Mary used to be a Pool hustler she seemed to be a natural at this,


Ben getting up to date on Facebook.

DSC00096 The hotel also had another area where you could play table tennis and badminton,  which Graham and Christine tried out. All in all the hotel was quite spacious.  The bedrooms were in separate satellites and clustered around a central space as well.  When you are moving from hotel to hotel your bedroom becomes quite a mess with clothes being dried, muddy clothes being sorted and gadgets being charged. So it feels good to be able to leave it behind, Especially as the rain was lashing down outside.

There was a plan to watch a magician and then have dinner – but as is often the case in India (in my experience) things don’t always happen quite to plan and the reasons are never quite clear. We had dinner in a separate area on a landing overlooking the Atrium. This allowed us to drink our own beer – which was very well chilled - without offending the other guests.

The food was served to us by young waiters who had a limited grasp of English although far outweighing my two words in Malayalam (predominant language in Kerala).  Although the food was mainly Indian, as pseudo vegetarians we (Ben and I) asked about one dish being vegetarian and were told yes it is Italian.  Well it turned out to be spaghetti with a tomato sauce with shreds of chicken in it. A good job I am not too worried about eating meat.

After dinner we had a briefing from Raj about the next day and as the weather in the region was so bad we were offered some choices. We could take a 65Km/40mile route with 25Km/15miles of downhill or an 85Km/50mile route with 15Km of downhill. Much discussion ensued – not about the distance, but about the terrain. Given the state of most peoples brakes we wanted to avoid too much down hill and were not too bothered about the extra distance if rolling genuinely meant rolling after the downhill. So we chose the longer option with less downhill. Although the downhill would be steeper as we were still having to drop from 1100m to sea level.Here are the diners – l to r around the table. Ben, Mary, Barry, Bob, Graham, Christine, Denise, Jim, Alan and Jay.

Sorry Jay I should have taken a couple of pictures – I had not realised your eyes were closed. Actually Jay has a neat trick to avoid those sorts of problems, when he takes a photograph he counts to three but takes the picture at two to avoid the reflex blink,


Ben disappeared off to bed – however the rest stayed to watch the re-scheduled magic show. – look at this lot watching intently to see how it is done. The tricks were fairly standard but it was quite entertaining. (An example trick; turning four separate cloths into one multi-coloured cloth after feeding it through a tube, with some dancing around to distract the eye of course.)


Our support team stayed behind to watch as well. Barry is watching intently – to see how it is done or maybe he is thinking about becoming a magician.


The finale was a slightly odd trick involving a young boy who had not taken part in the rest of the show. He drank a bottle of some sort of soda (pop) and then the Magician made it appears as if the fully clothed boy were urinating through a funnel – here is the boy drinking and having his stomach patted. I did not use flash as I did not want to put the magician off – which is why the picture is a bit blotchy,


After the show it was time for bed – once again we had an early start and although the distance was not very great we had by now gotten a bit wary of the terrain briefings. We also wanted to try to avoid the rain that was in the area, as much as possible. We would have breakfast on the way – bur there was to be tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits as an inducement.

Just as I got to my room there was a power cut.  However I had brought a torch/flashlight with me so was able to sort things out before hopping into bed.  The window frame rattled a bit in the night – it was windy – and in my dream state I imagined it was mice running around  in the ceiling!

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