Closing a year

Byline: Arun V and Shivakumar

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The whole of 2015 seems like a roller coaster ride. Many ups and downs and many new beginnings later, it was time to bid farewell and start fresh for a new year.

To rid all the insufficiencies of the past year, Arun V and his childhood friend, Shivakuar Yadav AKA Teenu decided to take a bicycle powered trip to the ends of the state of Karnataka. Arun narrates to Crank how it seemed like a futile idea to start with but is particularly happy that they decided to get out and ride.

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The journey began in my head. I have always been a seeker of wanderlust. Trekking different hills and motorcycle touring to remote locations of India has kept me ticking. I had never considered cycling much until I hit the scenic Western Ghats on the route to Goa on my motorcycle and decided that the sights here deserve much mulling about and being on a bicycle would most certainly accommodate that mulling. A catalyst to brewing this idea was the story of  Rama Krishna I read in an older edition of Crank who attempted Kashmir to Kanyakumari on a bicycle in two days to enter the Limca book of records.

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Hoping that Teenu would join the trip was the last thing on my mind until I casually suggested the idea of the trip. As soon as he followed it up with a logistical question, I knew that I could confuse and trap him into coming along. He caught the bug and was soon pestering me for dates. His enthusiasm had me nail down bicycles on rent, touring hybrids with hydraulic disc brakes, suspension and what not. Judging by our fitness levels we had hoped that they came with mini solar powered motors. But all they had were pedals and chain powered wheels. The folks that we rented the bicycles from were the only ones supplying such bikes and they gave us a few tips, demonstrated how to carry about short fixes and sent us on our way. We had 620kms to ride and we did not have any other restrictions.

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Our ride started from JP Nagar, South Bengaluru, the farthest corner of the city that connects us to the highway we want to be on. Considering how fresh we were to cycling, I thought we were going to reach the Bengaluru border, be dead tired and hail a cab home for us and a van for the bicycles. We weren’t sure if it was the bicycles or us, we just kept going onwards to Tumkur with our destination in mind.

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With the power of GPS and the fact that a cycle can be taken anywhere a pair of legs could navigate through, we sought out a few back roads to add some adventure to the trip. And boy was that a good idea! We enjoyed being lost and yet knowing exactly where we were going.

On our way we met a few riders who are seasoned at what we were doing for the first time. A quick heart to heart about their first time put us at ease that we were not the only ones who were doing silly things. There have been others before us who went through the same feelings and have gotten really good at it. As they trudged on ahead of us with swelling calf muscles on display, we laid under a tree arguing with each other trying to take credit for the idea of this ride.

At under a 100kms to go before we reach Jog falls is my friend Anand’s hometown of Matthur. He was kind enough to invite us to stay over at his quaint childhood home at his village. This stay brought us back to some kind of reality about how great a home cooked meal can be versus the hotel food and intense carbo-loading we were doing while we were out on the road.

The hope of reaching Jog falls was what kept us going. We have both been up there before, but never had to endure the hills on bicycles. I think that is what made the sights that much more worthwhile.

The Jog is very dear to Karnataka. With its reference in many folk poems and even commercial songs, everyone knows of it. A popular song even questions one’s existence as a human being if one had not witnessed Jog falls in their lifetime. We were going to make ourselves very proud by having made the journey to this awesome sight with absolute human effort.

With only a third of our journey to finish, we were feeling more confident about finishing it. And the imposing hills of the Western Ghats that grow taller on the way to Honnavara were not a challenge anymore. In fact every hill we climbed gave us a better view from the previous one and that became our incentive to finish every single hill that came our way.

Having put in so much human effort, tons of endorphin release later and with the idea of getting a six pack soon becoming a reality, we decided to drop the revelry and intoxication intake that is expected once you enter Goa and returned homeward bound.

Investing in a good bicycle is not the only way one can experience such trips. We wanted this experience and we made sure we got it, we rented out good bicycles and it was the best thing to do for our souls and our pockets. For people contemplating if a cycling trip is even going to be worth all the effort, I want to let you in on a little less concealed secret that I weigh 95kgs and I managed to have the best time of my life on a bicycle. You should too.

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