Tuesday, November 10, 2009

India Day 6 Kodaikanal to Palani 62Km / 40 miles - downhill

We had time for breakfast today as the route was a long descent and so we expected to do it quite quickly. Ben did not bother though – he finds it better to get more sleep and then stock up on energy using dextrose sweets.

The route was billed as downhill followed by a short hill and then a long hairpin descent with the last 10Km (6 miles) flat into Palani. The first bit would follow the route we took to get to Kodaikanal, but we would turn off onto a quieter road.

The advice before the trip was to have raingear and leggings/rain jackets as the temperature was not too warm at 2000m and going downhill does not warm you up very much unless you pedal hard.

Everyone apart from Jay, Ben and me were wearing leggings – I did have a rain jacket though. Unfortunately Ben had forgotten his as he was only able to start packing the evening before we flew to India. Alan was feeling under the weather (forgive the pun) over the last day so started in the van. But got out later and cycled the hill bit before getting back into the van – which seemed a bit masochistic.

As it turned out the temperature was not too bad – for people used to England. Ben, whilst not toasty, was not too cold.

We were hoping that we would be able to take more pictures than we took on the way up and that the weather would clear – it did not.

At the first picture stop I accidentally included these two Indian girls having their picture taken in front of the waterfall. In general I find that the Indian people we meet have been very cheerful – but when having their picture taken they become very serious.


Here is the waterfall without obstruction.You can see that the weather must have been pretty wet recently with the amount of water coming down the waterfall.


Jim just checking his picture of the waterfall.


See what I mean – when they are not formally having their picture taken Indians look cheerful – perhaps they were laughing at the strange cyclists.


There were still clouds around – in this case below us.


Some people on these trips stop to see things and take photographs. some don’t they keep moving. Jim does take pictures – and if he stops to take one I generally stop too have a look. Here he is shooting off to the next photo-opp. Which is just peeping out at the corner of the road.


Here it is - a shrine or Temple – with a nice bank of flowers leading up to it.


The roads around here have to claw there way up around the mountains, You can see a road on the hill in the middle distance going around the hill.


The flowers stand out as well – this one looks vaguely familiar – but I am not sure what it is.


Here we are at our first rest stop. At this point we were at the middle-highpoint. At this point we had dropped about 550m over 12Km (7.5 miles) and then gone up by 300m in 7.5Kms (5 miles). You can see it is misty. Although this is a straw roofed building they still advertise modern technology – the cellphone – AIRCELL is a local cellular service provider. One of the things I have noticed is how I seemed to get great cellphone coverage wherever I am in India.

Wearing fluorescent yellow was a good idea on misty roads with Indian drivers! Hot tea and coffee was welcome.


One of the cycling tricks I learnt on this trip, but am not sure I will copy, is to use the hotel supplied shower caps as helmet covers – Ben is admiring Mary’s shower cap. He definitely won’t be using that tip though..


Christine had started the trip with knobbly tyres she replaced them with some smoother tyres up at Kodaikanal – but not far before the rest stop she had the misfortune to puncture - maybe she is going for Alan’s puncture record. Our support team don’t seem to mind the rain so much.


As we descended the temperature got warmer. When the kids were smaller and we walked in the Lake District in England I always used to drum into the kids the importance of taking warm gear when going up the relatively small mountains in England. I also used to have a rule of thumb for the temperature drop for each 100m ascended – but neither I nor Ben could remember what it was.

At this point we are in the middle of the clouds we looked down on from the top.


Ben waiting for me to take pictures on the way down. This drop was 1400m in around 24Km (15 miles)


It seemed to get greener as we reached the plains below.


The road itself was still pretty steep though. There were steep hairpin bends along with water flooding across the road, rockslides and gravel washed onto the road. Although in general the road surfaces were very good. It meant we had to do a lot of braking on our way down. Ben’s brakes were not as good as mine so I went ahead shouting warnings when there was a problem ahead.


One thing I had not realised, but in retrospect was pretty obvious, is that rice would be grown in Paddy Fields in India. You can see them down below in this picture.

One sign that we were not having to work hard and so not sweating is that we had to stop for a wee. Ben waited until I started before he practically stripped off for his – not stupid eh. That photograph would have been on this post.


Later when I checked my GPS to look at the drop and what speeds we were cycling at I noticed that we actually maintained a higher average speed cycling on the flat plains than when coming down the long descent. It was harder work – but we did not have to keep braking for bends.

Just before the town of Palmani we stopped at a snack stall – to allow us to re-group and give the team time to sort out the hotel. We were allowed to choose whatever we wanted – Ben had some rather odd crisps.


While waiting around, our leader, Bob, had a Top Gun moment and cycled around on a borrowed Indian bicycle, His call sign is now SpongeBob. A name we have also given to a doughy ball that is served with ice-ream here in India.


As well a Auto Rickshaws they also have “Auto Lorries” – these are water buckets used for carrying supplies of water in villages with a shared water pump.


The town was at the bottom of a steep rocky hill with a Temple on the top. It had steps and also a cable car. Some of the group later climbed the large number of steps to the top – you had to go barefoot, going up was not too bad, coming down was much harder.


As we waited to go into town this chap went by with his Ox and Cart.


These kids came to observe the foreigners. They looked at the bikes – I was a little wary when they went over to mine - but they just wanted to look and not touch.


Mary and Barry went over to a nearby coconut stall – first they cut the coconut so you can rink the milk through a straw – then the guy cut the coconut into pieces with his machete so you could eat the coconut flesh. The stallholder seems quite interested in Mary’s reaction.


Eventually we set off into the town, at the outskirts we went on a toll road – it was an almost pristine concrete surface. Then the road turned onto to muddy rutted road in the middle of the town – at this point I thought oh dear – what is the hotel going to be like. But we turned off into the hotel compound and found a pleasant hotel.

The first thing is to do is get a shower – we were pretty muddy and wet and grimy. Then we had lunch- a round tray with rice in the middle bowl surrounded by around 8 smaller bowls each containing a different food. Some were spicy, we had yoghurt, rice pudding and dhal- it was all very nice.

Indian hotels deliver toiler paper after checking into the room - as it is a funny western habit. This hotel also delivered an Air Conditioning Controller – although I did not get mine. Not that I needed it – all the Indian Hotel Bedrooms have had a fan over the bed which has provided sufficient cooling.- they are a little noisy though.

I then went out to clean my bike – Jim’s method, which I have copied, is to first use a dry cloth to take all the dried mud off and then to use a wet cloth. The washing area was at the back of the hotel compound – Ben came with me but was put off by a heap of maggots near the tap.

Jim’s washcloths came from Cambodia – where they gave us chilled towels at our snack stops when cycling – to mop down with not to eat of course.. Unfortunately I somehow managed to lose one of them, Jim is now down to one wet and one dry one.

The hotel did not have a bar or serve beer in the restaurant so we had dinner in a back room and supplied our own beer. The first dish was – mu-lik-ku-tan-ni –which means pepper water – We have borrowed the word in English for Mulligatawny soup – which is derived from the same recipe.

We got a large bowl of rice and then a couple of dishes one after the other to eat with the rice. I made the mistake of asking if there were other dishes to follow. They thought I wanted more so I ended up sharing a bowl of dhal and a chapatti with Ben. It was rather nice and others did the same.

Earlier in the evening my daughter had sent me a txt from England – unfortunately it got re-sent 10 times including when I was asleep and woke me. Perhaps the local Cellular Provider was trying to make more money, as I have to pay for the cost of the transmission of each txt from England to India – I’ll have to check my bill when I get back.

I tried charging my laptop from a bedside socket and got some sparks – someone had stuffed something into it.

I also squashed a mosquito and it must have just fed – quite a lot of red blood came out – however I did not itch in the morning so I don’t think it was me. I did spray the bathroom with mossie spray as it had an open window.

We had an early day the next day as it was going to be 140Km/88miles with a “brutal” climb at the end. Quite a few people went to be feeling a little concerned.

1 comment:

  1. Nice trip. Thanks for sharing your trip experience. Palani or Pazhani traces its name to Pazhamnee, which in turn came from pazham (fruit) and nee (you). This scenic town is blessed with a rich colorful fauna life, lofty hills, some exhilarating adventure sporting prospects and is a home to the auspicious temple of god Kartikeya. Check out all best hotels in Palani.