Lately I’m very much into cycling. I own a Firefox Fusion (MTB). I cycle to every place possible, which includes office and gym, so practically my day starts and ends on a cycle. Before this trip, I had been to two 60 kms and a 90km cycle trip. The experience from them has just made me go for more. This cycling activity might explain (to an extent) my inactivity on the photography front. The photos in this post are taken using my mobile camera (Nokia E63 2 Mega Pixel), so please don’t expect DSLR quality images here.
As usual, we (I and Shivank) chose a random Sunday morning and took-off before the average person thinks of breaking his/her weekend slumber. I started the day’s trip by 7:40 AM, and met Shivank near his house by 8:00 AM; which was actually late even by our standards.
The first 15 kms of cycling was through concrete jungle – housing colonies and apartment complexes, the only respite was passing through a beautiful lake (Ambir Cheruvu) before Pragati nagar. At the lake the days fishing had just started. The fishermen were using a one person boat made out of slabs of thermo coals stitched together and reinforced by two bamboo sticks, an interesting contraption! The scenery became better and greener as we joined the Medak road. Here the only concern was that it was a two lane road with truck traffic. But as we found out yet again, truckers respect cyclists and maintain ample distance, it’s the smaller vehicles we had to be wary of. The going was easy; we had lot of office/general gossip to catch up with so we cycled at a relaxed pace and covered only about 15kms in the first hour of cycling. As per plan, our idea was to do a 50-60 km circuit on the outskirts of Hyderabad and we had a route in mind. But as it usually happens in such outings we ended up cycling 105 km. Even I had a hand in this: after about 25kms of cycling, a quick reference to Google maps from mobile told us that we were well off our planned circuit – now, we could very well have back tracked the same route and our objective for the day would have fulfilled, but its seldom fun to return along the route you have already passed. So right there we charted a new circuit passing through Narsapur (another 20kms from that place), then joining NH9, and then back to Hyderabad. This route, we estimated, would be around the 100km mark, which we thought to be do-able. But then, any feat, however daunting, appears do-able in the very first leg of it.
After the new route was charted, time, which was nowhere in the scheme of things, became the most prominent. Shivank was supposed to catch up with his friends for a movie (Avatar) at 4 PM so we needed to be back in Hyderabad by at least 3 PM, which was still 5 hrs 30 mins away. Naturally the pace quickened and we did a speedy 20km in about 40 mins. This was when we clocked a top speed of 55km/hr over a stretch of downhill.
Shivank racing on the downhill.
During this stretch we were joined by a high school boy (Venkatesh) who was cycling his way towards Narsapur to write his exams (@2 PM). He suggested us to eat our breakfast at Udipi (yes Udipi, not Udupi) hotel in Narsapur. We reached Udipi hotel by 10:10 AM; there was another cycling group who occupied the restaurant when we arrived. The group consisted of around 5 cyclists and 3-4 ppl on motor bikes. They were members of Hyderabad cycling club who had come on a private trip. Apparently they had left Hyderabad by 5:30 AM, traversed the same route as ours, and spent some time at a lake before stopping for breakfast. They were heading back by the route they came and appeared a little tired already. We on the other hand had covered the same distance in half the time and were thinking of doing another 70kms before calling it a day. So, two plates of Idli and a plate of Puri (between the two of us) later, we left Udipi hotel by around 10:30 AM. The day was bright and sunny; cycling was little more tiring than it was before 10:00.
This auto had at least 7 people packed into it! This is a Hyderabadi specialty!
After about 45 minutes of cycling we took a small break and rested for a few mins below a tree’s shade. While we rested, a guy (in his early thirties) on a motor bike came and met us. He asked us whether we were journalists/TV personnel doing some special program coverage, and told us he was a journalist working for ‘Andhra Jyothi’ newspaper. He appeared visibly pleased to meet us and was also quite conversant in Hindi. He suggested an alternative route to reach Hyderabad, which (according to him could cut out 20kms from the total distance) was shorter. So we peddled our way back to Daulatabad (4kms back), and take right towards NH9. On our way to Daulatabad we met two more motorcyclists. In general, people we met were always curious on where we came from and why we were doing this, i.e. cycling in the middle of nowhere. For the later question we ourselves didn’t have a clear answer!
The route from Narsapur onwards had been quite pleasant, with paddy fields on either side of the road. The farmers could be seen tilling their respective pieces of land. Fragmentation rendering the use of tractors impractical.
Any apprehensions we had about the quality of road from Daulatabad were laid to rest. The road was freshly laid and very even. What more, it passed through some remote (lost in time) village settlements.
Grandma was narrating the child a story as she walked barefoot on the tar road.
As we continued to cycle we met a guy (Ramu) on his bike who wanted to buy us Tea (Telangana Tea to be precise!). So we stopped at a roadside tea shop. He seemed very excited with what we were doing. He said he was in-charge of the water pipeline (Manjeera water) for that area and asked us to contact him in case we come by that way again.
Ramu and the the tea shop workers.
So, after the 5 min break we resumed cycling at 11:45 AM. By now we had done 70-75 kms of cycling for the day and were quite tired. As we passed through another village, a group of 4 boys (cycling to the next village or to the nearest play ground) started some small talk with us. As with everyone else, I’m sure even here they were intrigued with our presence in that place and probably a little amused with our clothing and cycle helmets. The conversation (while cycling) was limited to single word sentences in English or Hindi. Soon, we ended up having a cycle race with the boys. They didn’t stand a chance once we up-shifted the gears.
We took another small break at 12:20 PM. The sun was really beating down on us; the exhaustion was quite apparent and there to be seen. From here we had still 26 kms to go and we estimated we would take 2 more hours to cover the distance.
My cycle: Blue and Black – Firefox Fusion – 6 gears (only rear)
Shivank’s cycle: Orange and White – Firefox Target – 18 gears (6 rear, 3 front)
We had planned the next stop at Patancheru where we would get some refreshments. Cycling had become monotonous in the heat and to keep my spirits (and energy) up I did skitch two times – once by holding on to the side grill of a big passenger auto and another time by holding on to an extended hand from the rear passenger of a similar auto. The skitches didn’t last for more than a 100 meter, mostly because Shivank was not interested in this mode of transport and I didn’t really want to skitch then – after all we were doing it for the joy of cycling and not as a punishment!
At 1 PM, just when I thought I could go no more we reached Patancheru. At Patancheru we also joined NH9. As we cycled a little ahead on NH9 we saw some roadside stalls on wheels, and to our astonishment this was the exact same place we had had stopped for refreshment in our previous 90km cycle trip. The coconut store guy recognized us in an instant. We had 3 coconuts water and 4 glasses of sugarcane juice between us. After having so many liquids my stomach was making weird noises, of liquids splashing around. I ignored it.
Refreshed and rejuvenated, or at least thinking that we were refreshed (as thinking is everything), we started our last leg of 18 kms at 1:20 PM. For the first time in my cycling experience I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I wanted to try. I think even Shivank realized that I was quite totally exhausted and started dishing out words of encouragement. During this stretch of cycling we exchanged but a few words and I was seen either nodding or shaking my head to conserve my very last energy reserves. We drifted through the city roads as a pair of disheveled cyclists, I on my part had even stopped acknowledging the stares which came my way
It is hard to imagine now, sitting comfortably in my house, what was going through my mind as I pushed down the pedal one after the other under the blazing sun. ‘Even total exhaustion and tiredness is an experience worthy of experiencing.’
Finally at 2:20 PM, I reached my house. As I stepped onto the cool and dark living room, I felt the earth move from below my feet, later I realized it was not the earth but me. I quickly regained composure, bathed, ate lunch and slept for 2 hours straight.
Date: 10th January 2010
Place: Hyderabad outskirts