Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ride to Neelkanteshwar

October is almost like a second summer in Pune. The monsoon has just ended and the temperature hovers around the mid 30s C. I went shopping the previous night looking for a dry fit shirt and pant. I did not find a Nike dry-fit full arm shirt and so settled for a Adidas climacool for Rs. 1500 and a Nike dry-fit track pant for Rs. 1200 from Planet Sports, SGS Mall. I lost the buckle on my helmet and so went hunting for one but to no avail. I went to Prime Sports on MG Road, the shop I purchased my helmet from, and asked them if they had a replacement buckle or strap. The owner was terse in replies and wanted me to just buy a new helmet! I would not have expected them to have spares of products they distribute but at least could have been friendlier or have pointed me to someplace I could get one. I reached home at around 10:30 PM in the night to at least get some sleep but the electricity had just busted. It has become a common problem now in Pune with frequent power cuts at unusual times. I just pray that the nuclear deal starts producing results soon. So instead of sweating it out at home, we decided to celebrate with dessert :) It was not till 2:00 AM before I could sleep! These set of ad hoc events had serious repercussions on my ride.

It is 4:30 in the morning and I was frantically looking for my cycle pump. I had checked on my tires late last night and the tires were almost flat. Not been doing justice to cycling lately! I then remembered that I had given the pump to a friend during a previous ride. I could not get through his number though. It was also getting late. Our group from Magarpatta had to meet the Pune Cycle Pratishthan (PCP) group at Kothrud at 5:40 AM. It was already 5:15 AM and was desperately seeking solutions. Luckily a friend of mine had bought a LA Diesel yesterday. So I borrowed it and along with a couple of riders cycled furiously to catch up with the rest of the folks at Kothrud. The new bike needed adjustments to suit me. I could raise the seat easily but did not have the tools to raise the handle bar. I had to compromise on the seat height and raised it as much as my back would not hurt. My legs were never on full stretch and that was a big drain on my energy. We the latecomers reached Kothrud around 6:15 AM and the group was waiting patiently for us. This is a big lesson learn t for me. I should never have mixed up on priorities and ignored checking my bicycle the day before.

The group ranged from a young 10 year old to the young at heart senior citizens :) The wide variety of bikes around from Doodhwalas (Hero Jet / Atlas) to Trek 6 series were photo moments. There were first timers, regular office commuters, national and local racers and seasoned cross country veterans. I felt wonderful riding with such a group. We cycled from Kothrud to Shivne, crossed Peacock Bay before stopping for a break. The ride was scenic along the Khadakwasala dam's backwaters and the picturesque hills in the backdrop.

Vada pav break

Hill around Khadakwasala

Half laid road before Neelkanteshwar base

The support vehicle brought us vada pav and then we rode on towards Neelkanteshwar base. My mileage clocked around 50 Kms when we reached the base. The climb from the base of Neelkanteshwar was a steep trail filled with mud and stones of all sizes/shapes. The very look of the climb was discouraging but got inspiration from others who took it on. I tried too and was surprised to find how gears can simplify the efforts. Pardon the novice me but this is my first long distance ride on a geared cycle! I went along but it only got tougher with the worsening trail filled haphazardly with huge stones. Half way though, my thigh gave up and cramped when I was negotiating a climb over a rock. I went flat down and was reeling with pain. I remembered to stretch and drink water but the pain fudged my thinking and I stretched the wrong side! Yulas, the group leader, offered me tablets but I am usually averse to medication and so did not take it. I stretched again, this time right! Drank lots of water and rested for a while. I pushed the cycle rest of the way up till the point where the trek starts to reach the temple uphill. We were offered buttermilk and rested for a while.

The trek up went fine. Refreshed ourselves with the cool water in the temple, took some more rest and then climbed back down to where our cycles were parked.

View from Neelkanteshwar

Trek downhill

Now started the downhill ride on the stony trail. The bike and the body took a beating and my hands were all sore and bruised by the time we reached down. A stark reminder to wear gloves next time! We then crossed the backwaters on a boat. This boat ferried people across on a regular basis and had a very unique way of propelling. There is a rope tied between and the boatman pulls the rope and navigates the boat across.

Boat ferrying the cycles

View from the boat on Khadakwasala backwaters

After crossing over we had a pit stop to have lunch. Delicious poha with freshly grated coconut and coriander was served. There was also an abundant supply of bananas. This is where we introduced ourselves and was amazed to know the background of each and everyone in this group. I truly admire the enthusiasm and fitness levels of every individual in the group where age or skill drew no barriers.

We started cycling back towards Donje Phata, which is also the entry point to the famous Sinhagad fort. This route was unfamiliar to me and the very fact that I did not know what was coming drained me completely. I saw uphill climbs after every turn and this went on endlessly. We somehow made it after many puffs and pants. We were offered refreshments there and seeing our state of despair, Yulas was kind enough to offer us a ride on the support vehicle. However we felt that we had to give ourselves one final thrust and complete this. I would not get a good nights sleep otherwise. This is one route we had done many times before. Though circumstances were totally different now, we had to do it. So we rode and rode like zombies forgetting all about every nerve in the body that was complaining. We took a few breaks for water and to stretch. We saw some of the other riders breeze past us. I am in total admiration of their fitness levels. I had a bad experience with the Adidas Climacool Tshirt. I was sweating profusely inside and felt very uncomfortable. The Nike dry-fit pant worked wonders though.

We finally reached home after traveling 40/45 Kms back which gave us a feeling of tremendous satisfaction!


Rajkumar Iyer said...

Nice description ... reminded me of
the last climb when you said
"This is F***** killing me" :) ...

Maverick said...

Yes the swearing was all justified then! Now I can look back and say its F****** over. But the point is I will F****** do it again :-)

Kranti said...

gosh!! .. must be quite exhausting :O ... I doubt what my condition would have been then .. :P
But nice blog silhouetting the Enduro memories (alas! they've become 'memories') and get inspired! :)

Maverick said...

Dont worry, the Enduro memories should come alive again pretty soon :)

Rajkumar Iyer said...

Guess what the fun part is... everytime I do it after break of a month or two it is like enduro only ... so 3rd week next month it will come alive again for me ;)

Maverick said...

Do not wait till next month dude! Remember our plans of having a quick ride every 1st week to Sinhagad or some place close. Also with the Pune 10 Km run and Mumbai half marathon approaching you better start running! We should get fitter before the next PCP ride.

Brat said...

mav, awesome. ur biking experience rekindled my spirits to start biking. did u know that Lexington has one of the best biking trails?

u always wanted a bike here in US too. so no surprise for me that you are continuing with it.

Maverick said...

Thanks Brat. Yes I have a new found passion to cycling of late and it has been an amazing riding experience. I never knew about the biking trails around Lex! I was just into commuting to school, work and home back then. Gosh, I wish I was more like now..must be fun cycling around there! Do take it up as a leisure activity and I am sure you would start loving it too :-)