Men on bikes and a pilot

Dec 20, 2022. Sometime around noon, when stomachs start grumbling and folks begin to talk about lunch plans, I can see my office bosses walking up and down, discussing a trip. I could hear a few words – cycles, bus, let us ask this one, would that one come, and then a gentle nudge on my shoulder – will you come, pilot our bike trip? It was like a proposal of a lifetime! Without batting an eyelid, I said yes! It occurred to me that I’d agreed to a trip I didn’t know anything about 🙂

A few cycling enthusiasts were asked if they would be interested to join and added to the newly created WhatsApp group, ZNMD 2022 (as corny as the WA group name might be, at our age (all 40+), zindagi certainly na milegi dobara). Some desperately wanted to come but had other plans. So, in the end, it was three bikers and me. A good head count; perfect for the car both in terms of being able to load cycles and comfortably ferry three grown men back.

A flurry of activities followed on Dec 21, 2022 – meetings cancelled, shopping list prepared, gear purchased, checklist shared, car serviced, accommodations booked, route planned (Bangalore-Mysore-Sultan Bathery-Ooty-Kotagiri).

As a pilot car, I was carrying the bikers’ overnight bags, repair kits, water and other replenishments. As to my role as a pilot, I keep an eye on the bikers. They start riding. I begin about 5-10minutes after them. I pass them by one by one till I see the first rider. Then I drive ahead and wait for them to pass by me. We keep this going till we call it a day.

Cycling from Bangalore
Loading up

Dec 22, 2022. Bangalore to Mysore – The actual ride started on Kanakapura Road. I drove ahead about 5km after seeing the first rider and waited. It was the first time in many ways for all of us. Mukesh is a seasoned marathoner and biker, and Venky cycles regularly, but for both of them, this was their first overnight long-distance cycling trip. Sree used to bike a lot but hasn’t done major trips in a while and I was their rookie pilot 🙂

Cycling from Bangalore
Let’s bike!

By the end of day one, we all had a better understanding of each other’s riding styles, and it became clear that we would enjoy the journey more than the destination. So there were many stops on the way for tender coconuts, ice cream, chai, etc., and we were not sticking to a regimented schedule.

Once we reached Mysore, we devoured some yummy stuff at Gayatri Tiffin Rooms and posed in front of the palace, and the boys bought some souvenirs.

Gayathri Tiffin Room Mysore
Dinner at GTR, Mysore

Dec 23, 2022. Mysore to Sultan Bathery – The bikers decided to ride in tandem (almost), and I was to keep pace at no more than 2km ahead of them. This was a good decision. The road was dusty and hot, and it was comforting to see each other at closer intervals. Lots of lemon water was prepared and consumed.

I have always admired both cyclists and motorbikers, and much to the embarrassment of my grown kids, I have waved, talked, and even sent flying kisses out of the car at these people. Now it was my turn to watch my bikers becoming celebrities and talking to other 2-wheel riders on the way. From a couple in a fancy Range Rover to rickshaw drivers in Gundlupet and farmers and a veggie shop couple, everyone was curious and wanted to talk to the riders whenever we stopped (this day saw us consume more tender coconuts, water melon, chickoos, and the like!).

Cycling from Bangalore
Let’s take a pic please….

At a break, short of approx. 30 km from Sultan Bathery, Sree decided we must do a safari. We managed to get a slot for the evening safari in the Muthanga Forest Range. We loaded the cycles and sped as much as the road and load allowed us (we had to have lunch too!). We were rewarded with the sighting of a herd of elephants, 16 strong, with a tiny little fellow and a young one.

Muthanga Forest Reserve
Elephants in Muthanga

We reached our Airbnb in Sultan Bathery, freshened up and drove into town for dinner. I remember Gobi Manchurian was on the menu as was dosa and parotta, though I cannot remember the name of the restaurant followed by falooda (in Mysore we went to Corner House. We clearly have someone with a sweet tooth on the team and he also happens to be a gourmet, who talks, walks, dreams, cooks food! He has promised us a propah sit down dinner sometime and I am quite looking forward to it. Venky, do you hear me ;-)).

Dec 24, 2022. Sultan Bathery to Kotagiri – While all of India is cricket-obsessed, West Bengal and Kerala’s love for football is unique and special. With the World Cup earlier this month, Sultan Bathery was decked in Argentinian and Brazilian colours. We stopped to take some pics. After a rather sumptuous breakfast at India Coffee House (with onlookers obsessing over the parked cycles), we left for Ooty, the most challenging part of the ride.

Sultan Bathery
Football fever, Sultan Bathery

After the dry dusty ride the previous day, it was green and refreshing to travel through the forested area. While I waited, I tried to take pics using a new technique that I had seen on Instagram (and so had the others, we kept trying, they were much better at it than me. I had only a 50% success rate). The ride was now a slow upward climb with few downward slopes along which the riders sped with the glee of a 5 year old.

At the next stop, a guy on a scooter stopped and chatted with the riders wanting all the details, he has been ‘observing’ them, he said and then invited us for a chai break at his tea stall 2km ahead. As we were making our way he was there, waiting for us, and waved us in.

Cycling from Bangalore
Chai break by invitation only 😉

By the time we reached Gudalur it was hot once again and the town was packed with crazy traffic, all going to Ooty for the upcoming holiday break. The riders pushed on some more till it was decided to bring the ride to an end. A good decision given how packed the roads were and the last stretch of road to Ooty was not in the best condition really.

Remember how I said it was the journey and not the destination? Well, this section of the bike/car ride saw us stop a few too many times 🙂 Salted mangoes, gooseberries, banana fritters, boiled corn, churmuri, more tea, hot chips in Ooty….and lots of jokes that kiddos might have cringed at, but made us guffaw heartily.

Cycling from Bangalore
Can we have some pineapples too….

It was dark and quite an adventure getting to the stay at Kotagiri. We got to admire our surroundings at daybreak. We were in the middle of a tea estate and were treated to some of the yummiest home-cooked meals on this trip.

Kotagiri Tea Estate
Colours of Christmas, view from our accommodation in the middle of a tea estate

At the start of the trip, I knew only one of them very well. By the time we got back, I made two more new friends. They treated me like a queen, they were thoughtful about little things (are you drinking enough water, do you wish to take a pee break, are you tired driving….). The camaraderie we developed was wonderful and I am quite looking forward to going with them on many more adventures if they will have me as their pilot. I even surprised myself by agreeing to a dare I am not sure I can put on record here. Curious? Ping me and I might tell you 😉

Cycling from Bangalore

Here’s to more adventure and all things good in the coming year! Wishing everyone a super 2023!!

9 comments

  1. Kirana
    1. Kalpaka is the name of the restaurant where we had Gobi Manchurian and Dosa in Sulthan Bathery
    2. Yes I will treat you soon for a gourmet exp.
    Fabulous read. Keep writing

    Liked by 1 person

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