Some good has come out of Covid-19. Last December, I came to India to see my mother and I continued to stay here to take advantage of the ‘work from home’ situation – Thanks to Edron Academy who were kind to agree to this.
The temperature here crossed the 30 degrees C mark and this won’t come down anytime soon. So, I wanted to escape the heat for a few days and was also itching to use my touring bike that I had shipped to India several years ago. Now was the best time to put it to a test.
I had abandoned my original plans to cycle all the way to the mountains, about 300 km or so. After a day of cycling, I turned back because the heat was unbearable – I hatched an alternative plan. I took the bike in a bus to Namakkal, a city at the bottom of the Kolli hills. These mountains were well known for some medicinal plants.
Only recently, I had discovered that the climb to the top of the Kolli hills involved 70 hairpin bends – I was curious and eager. I left Namakkal at 5.30am and reached the bottom of the mountain at 6.30am. A steady 30 km climb including the infamous, numbered, hairpin bends. The arithmetic was quite right, there were 70 of them! Some of these bends required pedalling standing up and some careful manoeuvring. The sign posts along the road warned people to honk since the corners were too small for large vehicles. Motor vehicles doesn’t really need such instructions – honking is a favourite sport in this part of the world.
I stayed on top of the hill for 2 nights where the temperature was a bit more pleasant. Next up was Yercaud hills. I made a mistake of tackling the 83 km ride from Kolli hills to Salem, the city at the bottom of Yercaud, in one go. I was cycling in 37 degrees C heat and had never felt so exhausted, even though I stopped every 10 km for a drink. It was a mistake to underestimate the heat.
Yercaud was only 30 km from Salem, 10 of which were on flat roads and the last 20 km was the climb up. This climb involved 20 hairpin bends and the climb itself took just over 3 hours. On route, there were plenty of monkeys in these mountains and people feed tomatoes to these monkeys. But these animals got used to this and demand the visitors for more tasty alternatives. I stopped at one of the viewpoints to have a snack and it was a mistake. A monkey came close to me and started grunting at me with its mouth wide open. It was not wise to pick a fight with a monkey, especially when there was an army of them. I threw the food in its direction and quickly pedalled away. People should stop feeding wild animals, perhaps not all monkeys are gods.
The weather at Yercaud (altitude 1350m) was a lot more pleasant and I had planned to stay 4 nights. One of these days, I did a 33 km loop on top of the hills which was the highlight of this trip. The route was through some quiet roads, heavily wooded area and tree lined. Most notably, the aroma of the eucalyptus tree was noteworthy. I had a lovely coffee at one of coffee plantations along the way – It was worth the effort.