Disclaimer: The cycle ride illustrated below was performed after much training and acclimatizing to hot/dry weather conditions, please don’t attempt such rides without understanding the impact of weather or the effort drain on your body.
There, I have put the disclaimer out upfront as I don’t want anyone to underestimate the effort as I did before attempting this ride!! Before this I had done two 170 km rides in Feb 2010 and I did believe I could do this ride comfortably, the weather proved me wrong!
The actual distance from Hyderabad to Bidar is about 125 kms, i.e. if one takes the NH9, which we didn’t want to. We had worked out a route which passed through a network of SH’s and lesser known village roads, combing through the remote parts of Andhra Pradesh in the process – from my earlier cycling experience around Hyderabad had observed that the roads are generally of good quality which was true in this case too.
I did this ride with a new ride partner, Anand. We started on Friday morning (2nd April – Good Friday) at 5:10 AM. The first hour of riding was mostly in darkness and as we both didn’t have lights the speed was a little restrained, but as we joined the NH9 our pace picked up. We cycled un-interrupted for about 1 and half hours, covered 36 kms at a pace of about 22 km/hr before we arrived at Kandi. At Kandi we were to branch northwards from the NH9 towards Andole. Since we weren’t sure of coming across any decent places to eat our breakfast, we decided to eat our first meal at Kandi. The breakfast joint needs special mention here – we had one of the best idlis with very decent chutney and sambaar, and well well, a single plate of idli meant 4 idlis. After a plate Of Idli each Anand had a plate of Puri (4 puris), of which I had one. We later topped this all up with a very delicious chai (Tea). The Breakfast joint didn’t have a name but is right in front of the triangular shaped median (with a statue in the middle) in Kandi.
After the breakfast we started cycling again at around 07:15. From Kandi, instead of riding through Sangareddy town, we decided to take the bypass which looked shorter. It was indeed shorter but the road was less of a road and more of loose gravel and mud. Pace dropped significantly. The bouncy ride right after breakfast was a little un-settling to the stomach. My thin tired Hercules ACT 110 was definitely not suited for this terrain but I somehow managed. Every time we went over a rough patch of road I feared a puncture – which could have seriously set back out ride plans (we weren’t carrying any puncture kit), thankfully nothing like that happened. We took about half an hour to cover this 6.5 km stretch. Once we reached the main road (because of an error in reading Google map) we took a wrong road which ended in a village – this added an extra 5 kms!
How I wish that all roads were as good as this one.
Things weren’t going very well, it was 08:20 and we had done about 46 km with probably another 100 km to go to reach Bidar. My ride plan was to complete 60% of the distance by 10:00.
We hit the main road again, the riding was smooth and except for few stops to adjust the seat post we rode pretty much without stopping. Anand rides a Firefox Fusion – it’s a 6 gear steel framed cycle with fat tires (2 inch). I ride a Hercules Act 110 – 21 geared alloy cycle with thinner tires (1.25 inch). Expectedly, distance started building up between us. Anand was also complaining of knee pain, mostly because he rode a little faster than he usually does in the initial leg of the journey. BTW, Anand is no novice to cycling, he has cycled from Delhi to Kathmandu (1100 kms), alone, over a period of 14 days on the very same cycle. Anyway so, on one of those stops where I thought I would wait for Anand I met an Old Man who was walking on the road side wearing a Dhoti and loose white shirt. He started speaking to me on his own, I tried telling him that I don’t know Telugu but he went on. Its later I realized that he just wanted me to listen. He was recounting some anecdote of his where he had to meet the land inspector who came in a jeep, he pointed in the direction where his land was, he seemed quite enthused about the story he was telling me. He finished his story, blessed me and wished me well. As Anand joined me he asked what I was talking with the Old guy, I said I have no Idea! I can understand enough Telugu to get the gist but not the details!
We reached Jogipet which is about 75 kms away by 10:45. Anand bought a Crepe bandage and wound it on his knees. After some inquiries we found there is a shorter route to Bidar bypassing Alladurg. The diversion took us through some of the most remote parts of AP but still the road was pretty decent with lots of (passenger) auto traffic.
The day had become quite hot by then and it was going to become worse. Till then cycling had been quite easy for me with ample number of breaks, as we were in no hurry it was going to stay so, but my only worry was the heat later in the day.
We passed a village every few kilometers on this road.
Enclosure for livestock. Pretty unique construction. Anand noted why the cows don’t eat the thatched roof!
As we entered ‘Tal Elma’, one of the bigger villages, we were sufficiently tired and decided to rest below a big tree. Below the tree were mud pots filled with water, right then a 50 something guy with a very friendly smile came over to us and asked us to help ourselves to the water, it was his service to quench people’s thirsts who pass by that way. The water was cold, courtesy mud pot… mmm.
This guy had a small petty shop across the road and we helped ourselves to some milk (flavored and bottled) and biscuits. There had been too many breaks and I wanted to better the pace but by then Anand’s knee condition had deteriorated, he told me he was doubtful whether he would cycle the full distance.
We resumed cycling, after a while the distance between me and Anand increased and he was nowhere to be seen, it was too hot to stop and I just kept cycling.
Statue of 12th century revolutionary Basavanna over his white horse. There is a statue of Ambedkar under wraps here too. Each village I passed on this road had one of these statues or both!
I reached Vatpally by 13:00 ate a banana, and after some inquiries was told Bidar might be another 50 kms from here. At Vatpally the village road merges to a bigger and better maintained road, but the terrain became drier and barren with wide open spaces. I hate wide open spaces as it always means winds, and if not lucky, head winds! It was the case here too; there was always a strong, persistent and warm headwind, yes warm, as warm as in a dry sauna bath.
After cycling for about 13-14 more kilometers (at 13:40) I decided to take a break at a road side shop; also I was running low on water. By then I had cycled 100kms, yeah, a century. Filled the hydration sack and mixed some more electral in the squeezer bottle. As it always happens whenever you (cyclist) stop in a populated area, you attract attention. Here too a crowd (of sorts) gathered around, after sufficiently warning them not to pull, push any of the gear levers I went about eating an Orange I had carried. Feeling sufficiently refreshed by the Orange poured some water over my head.
I called Anand and he had still not reached Vatpally and was about 10 kms from it, he told his knee problem was still very much there and will probably take an Auto ride to Bidar. I advised him to not push too much and continued on my ride.
A few kilometers on this stretch and I encountered a stretch of road which was freshly tarred. Now, riding on a freshly laid Tar road is not a great experience, especially not when you are riding a cycle. There was a small stretch of road to the right which was yet to be Tarred, I rode on that part, but whenever an oncoming auto/car/lorry came by I had shift lanes to the tarred road – that part of it was not inconvenient – what was inconvenient was the flurry of small stones which came crashing on me as the vehicle approached and then passed me. I hated this part of the ride the most. Also, the Tar being quite hot when it was laid was making it extra hot. Even this too passed.
Now as I shifted to normal roads the layer of tar that had stuck to the tire surface started attracting all sorts of stones, it didn’t take much time for me to realize that this can potentially lead to a puncture. So, I found a piece of wood and painstakingly scraped the tar surface from the tire. This took a few minutes but I think it was worth it. This was at around 14:15.
By then I had started to feel lonely and I did know that I would have to cycle alone to Bidar. I kept a look out on the road that was supposed to split to the right (the so called short cut towards Bidar). I had estimated from that point Bidar would be around 20 kms. As this point was not marked on Google Maps I rode without an estimate of the remaining distance – when it’s so hot and your energy levels are dropping precipitously this condition is sort of unfortunate.
By 15:00 the heat had definitely got to me and I was found constantly sipping on water. My milestones (on the short run) were the trees that I could see in the distance. I would egg on and push my body to just reach the tree on the horizon and then to the next and so on. Every downhill was greeted with glee and every uphill with respect. There was a constant gust of warm dry wind which was negating my cycling efforts. I needed a break.
At around 15:15 I found a shelter – it was a place of worship, the idol was just a formless stone slab about 2 feet in height enclosed in a small room, and there was a stone bench beside the enclosure which served as my seat. I ate one more Orange fruit and wished I had bought a sleeping mattress with me. Right when I was considering whether I should take an extended break before continuing to cycle Anand called me, he said he had just passed me on an Auto rickshaw and whether I too needed a lift, thought for a second and agreed. Quickly packed and reached the Auto waiting for me. Dethatched the front wheel using the quick release and sat next to the driver holding the front wheel, the bike went in the passenger foot rest space and a gentleman inconvenienced himself by holding on to the front fork; still much of the rear wheel was outside the auto’s side. Had no idea till where the Auto would take us when I got in, fortunately or un-fortunately for me, it was just a 4 km auto ride. The Auto guy stopped at a village in Andhra Pradesh close to the border of Karnataka and said we would have to take a jeep which leaves to Bidar every 20-30 minutes. Bidar was another 15 kms from that point. Right then I made up my mind to cycle the rest of the distance to Bidar. I replenished my water supplies and by that time a jeep arrived and Anand got onto it, he said he will check-in to a hotel and let me know the details once in Bidar.
It was 16:00 by then. I pedaled away with new vigor which lasted for only a few minutes, the reality, that was my tiredness re-surfaced within 10 minutes.
Andhra Pradesh – Karnataka Border.
Bidar, it appears is at a higher elevation than its surrounding places and there were consistent up hills all along the way. I walked the uphill and rode only when it was flat or downhill. It took me 1 hr 40 minutes to ride 18kms and reached Hotel Ashoka in Bidar by 17:40.
Date: 2nd April 2010
Place: Hyderabad to Bidar