What goes up, must come down

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Crystal Inn Luxury Hotel (yeah right it is)

Flag of India  , Tamil Nādu,
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yet another belter of a day. India has taken more out of us in the last few days than I could have imagined.  The cycling has been the as tough as cycling gets.  Up in the mountains, mountains which make Les Alps, which we cycled over a few weeks ago, look like molehills.  This morning for example started with a 2 hour climb, the gradient was really steep and the 7 miles it took to reach the summit felt like an age.  Breakfast, which we had once again eaten off newspaper, was not too bad.  A couple of pastries grabbed by the guy behind the counter, he even whipped up a couple of coffees.  Climbing out of the mad little town that was Poopara (the name says it all, it was very Poohy), we passed a couple of points where last night we had been in pieces, trying to decide what to do next.  After a few more minutes of trying to climb the beast of a mountain it was very clear that we had made the right decision last night.  Returning to stay in Poopara was sensible.  Our weary legs would not have carried us up this one.  Reaching the top, as it always is, was unexpected and very nice indeed.  It also happened to be a border crossing between Kerala region and Tamil Nadu.  We stopped to enjoy the cracking views and were quickly swept off by a friendly local to go and have tea.  Into a mad grubby little shack we went to sit on a bench.  The coffee maker knocked spots of any fake barista Starbucks can offer.  He poured from jug to jug, arms stretched to their farthest point, the stream of boiling coffee always managed to land safely in a small cup with the desired frothiness.  The guys told us that we now had 27km downhill, which included 17 hairpins.  It was music to our ears, but nothing is that straight forward in India.  After a couple of minutes we realised the cheap Indian replacement brake pads were not doing their job.  Pols bike was pretty much in free fall, even with brakes fully on.  Some adjustments and temporary bodging made them a little better.  We swopped bikes so that if someone was to fly off the edge on one of the hairpins it would be the uglier one.  The 17 miles downhill were amazing, it hurt holding onto the brake levers for so long, even having to shove my foot in the back wheel to stop at one point.  But the views and wildlife made it all worthwhile. A family of monkeys were playing by the side of the road, dragonflies, butterflies and brightly coloured caterpillars meant there was always something to marvel at.  We continued to pass strange people, I think living up in the mountains does something funny to people, we have met a lot of mad looking folk.  When we reached the bottom we had some good flat across the plain.  It has been days since we enjoyed flat ground and it gave us a short lived boost to be back to doing 17 mph after days of crawling uphill.  After a while a guy drew up alongside on his motorbike. He was very chatty and was keen to stay.  He thanked Great Britain for their support and seemed very keen to repay the favour!  He stayed with us for 5 miles, leading us into a very busy town and finding us a bike shop.  The bike shop unfortunately turned out to be pretty useless and I had to ask them to stop in the end before they completely wrecked the remaining working bits.  Quite a crowd gathered and we were pleased to get out and sit somewhere relatively quiet for a bite to eat.  The map our friend had drawn for us said that we had 50 miles to Thandikudi, Goodwill Childrens Home.  There was no way we could do that on top of what we did this morning, so we approached Battlagundi hoping for some kind of accommodation.  The first pad looked OK.  The deluxe room was far from but it was an improvement on yesterday.  We thought we would try out town anyway so we pedalled on.  Then it happened, the first time I have actually been hit by a car.  It was only a sharp nudge in my rear pannier but it was enough to throw me off balance especially as I was clipped into my pedals.  The reaction was not really road rage, but I was a little annoyed!  He did apologise but these drivers are absolutely terrible.  They seem to think that blowing their horns repeatedly is substitute for slowing down or taking care.  INFURIATING!  After checking out a couple of prison block rooms  (and one brothel!) we opted for the first 'deluxe' option we had seen and settled in to rest for the final stretch tomorrow to the place we have both been so excited about getting to, Thandikudi Goodwill Children’s Village.  We were feeling brave so set out into town to have a look. We actually found a very nice place that gave us some pancake type thing on a banana leaf (even though we had ordered noodles!).  We polished it off and then went shopping.  Polly made some poor guy empty every shelf in his sari shop to try and find an Indian type outfit suitable for the more conservative areas.  As the outfits became more and more Bollywood, I sniggered at watching Polly try and talk her way out. (This is not true Michael. I did not ask him to empty any of the outfits he just kept doing it and I couldn’t stop him!) After 15 minutes of awkward refusal, I stepped in to help, agreeing to buy a very cool polo shirt and shorts outfit. This seemed to satisfy the salesman’s appetite and we left on good terms.  On a roll, we then went for a couple of terrible t-shirts from a roadside stall.  What a day.  Every day is full of action, we are exhausted.
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