Dec 2, 2015

Bangalore to Goa Bicycle Ride

It's been an awfully long time since I have penned something here and even longer since I have written about a bike trip. Recently I completed a 5 day bicycle ride from Bangalore to Goa. This generated a lot of interest and I hope will be an inspiration and learning for others who want to take up a similar challenge. So here goes...

Most travelogues end with thanks to various people but in my case I am going to start with the thanks since the trip wouldn't even be possible without so many people coming together to make it happen.  

First and foremost I thank my wife Shobha without whose support and advice, this would not have been possible. I thank my parents and children whose encouragement kept me going. I thank my brother Sridhar who at the last minute, a day before the start of the ride, went to Decathlon and purchased a new pump since my previous one seemed to have just stopped working. I thank the mechanics at BOTS who had serviced the bike. I thank my colleague Selwyn who had planned to ride with me on this trip; since he was on the trip, I planned out the schedule in more detail and this worked out well - bummer that he had to drop out in the last minute due to work conflict. I thank my colleague Sriram for going out of his way to Decathlon to pick up rain covers for my panniers. I thank my colleague Jay for building me a tracking mobile app to provide my real time location updates to family and friends. I thank my colleague Ashutosh for lugging my luggage all the way to Goa and then back to Bangalore. I thank my colleague and boss Kalki for being supportive of the ride though he was concerned about the risks of the road. I thank the cycle mechanic at Nittur who fixed - जुगाड़ (workaround) of course - my broken spoke and let me ride another 600 Kms without an issue. I thank my colleagues Megha and Sudeep who kept motivating me with kudos on Strava during the ride. I thank all my colleagues at Salesforce who motivated me before, during and after the ride. I thank my relatives with whom I had lunch on Day-2, dinner on Day-2 and with whom I stayed overnight on Day-3. I thank all the people who waved to me, talked to me and otherwise encouraged me during the entire journey.

Finally I thank Nature and God for the perfect weather conditions and keeping me safe on the road.  

The Idea (कीड़ा - slang for idea or thought) & The Plan
Earlier this year, I registered for Tour of Nilgiris 2015 but have not had much chance to get on the bike and practice. Started practicing early November with a 100 Km ride and then a 2 day trip to Mysore and back. I needed more time on the saddle and the office planning meeting in Goa on 19-20 Nov presented the perfect opportunity. I could take couple days leave and ride all the way to Goa. 

Initially I planned to do the whole ride in 4 days but since Selwyn planned to join, decided to extend it by another day. The route was worked out as follows: 
  • Day-1: Bangalore to Tiptur - Around 168 Km. 
  • Day-2: Tiptur to Shimoga - Around 130 Km. 
  • Day-3: Shimoga to Gersoppa - Around 131 Km. 
  • Day-4: Gersoppa to Karwar - Around 120 Km. 
  • Day-5: Karwar to Goa - Around 80 Km.  
I planned to carry my stuff in two panniers - one of them for my cycling clothes and evening clothes while the other other one for the pump, spare tubes, puncture kit, few tools, food and first aid kit. In addition carried a bungee cord which was very helpful to strap on one or two extra water bottles. 

Made hotel reservations for night stays at Tiptur, Shimoga and Karwar and planned to stay at a relative's home at Gersoppa. 
Day 1 - Sat, 14Nov2015
Leaving From Home on 14-Nov-2015
Got up at 3.30 AM, got ready, had some freshly made potato sandwiches and a banana and hit the road. Was wary of the dogs early in the morning but fortunately none bothered me and I was on my way towards Tumkur road. Touched Tumkur road at Jalahalli Cross around 6.00 AM and stopped for another helping of the potato sandwich. The weather was good - cloudy and cool - as I crossed Nelamangala and took a coffee break at Kamat around 8.15 AM. Stopped for breakfast break at Tumkur around 9.30 AM and then proceeded towards Gubbi. 

Just 5 Km before Gubbi felt a drag and stopped to check. Found that one of the spokes on the rear wheel had broken and this was causing the wheel to wobble and rub against the brake pads. Went through the options in my mind and quickly checked on the web about broken spoke. Turns out you can ride for short distances even with 2 or 3 broken spokes.

Slackened the brake cable and moved on with an intent to get a fix at the next bike shop. Passed by Gubbi and could not find a bike shop. Moved on to the next town Nittur where I found a bike shop right on the road side. Checked with the shop owner and the mechanic and they initially said they can't help as they don't have the right spoke size. On pleading, the mechanic decided to try custom fitting a spoke. After 20 minutes of trial and error, he fixed the spoke and trued the wheel; I was good to go. On checking the cost, he said ಏನೋ ಕೊಡಿ (In Kannada language,  translating loosely to 'give what you think is right'). I gave him Rs. 100 and he appeared thrilled.  I surely was thrilled - he had made my day. I moved on towards Tiptur.

Resting at 1.10 PM
Rested under this tree at 2.10 PM
Felt great lying under the tree at 2.10 PM
By now it was around 12.30 PM and the Sun was at it's peak and I had to take intermittent breaks before finally reaching Tiptur around 4.15 PM. Checked into the hotel, took a shower, got some dinner around 6.00 PM, purchased some bananas for the next day's early morning ride and got to bed. 

The spoke issue taught me a couple lessons - 'there are always workarounds if you think calmly' and 'if someone refuses something the first time, ask a few more times before giving up'.
Day 1 Route and Stats
Day 2 - Sun, 15Nov2015
Got up at 4.00 AM, got ready, had a couple of bananas and hit the road a little after 4.30 AM. Reached Arsikere little after 6.00 AM and stopped by at a small shop for an early breakfast. Moved on enjoying the ride on the rolling terrain. Stopped at Birur for another round of idlis around 9.15 AM. Reached Tarikere around 10.50 AM, had a couple of glasses of Sugarcane juice here and proceeded towards Bhadravati. A little while after Tarikere I found this huge convoy of villagers with their sheep - 1000s of them - occupying the entire road and walking towards Bhadravati. On enquiring I found out that they had been to a temple near Tarikere and were now going back to Bhadravati.

Early Breakfast at Arsikere - 6.00 AM
Rolling Terrain - 6.55 AM 
Flock of Sheep - 11.13 AM
Reached Bhadravati just around noon time and went to my cousin's place for lunch and rest. Left from there at 4.00 PM towards Shimoga and reached destination hotel by 5.00 PM. Checked in, cleaned the bike, purchased bananas and water for the next day. My sister in law's family joined me for dinner, post which I retired for the day. 

Day 2 Route and Stats
Day 3 - Mon, 16Nov2015
Got up bit late today with some aches. Got ready, had a few bananas and got out on the road by 5.15 AM. Right outside Shimoga encountered a long uphill climb - this set the tone for the rest of the day - climbs, climbs and more climbs. The scenery however is beautiful all the way. 
Around 43 Km from Sagar - 07.11 AM
Had breakfast in a small town, Tuppuru, at the top of a hill around 8.00 AM - Idlis again but more rustic - coarse grained and potato sambhar (lentil with potatoes). Moved on to battle more uphills. 
On top of another long uphill climb - 09.20 AM
Getting close to Sagar & 100 Kms to the west coast of India - 09.46 AM
Reached Sagar around 10.35 AM and stopped by for second round of breakfast (yes, idlis again but added a wada too). After some rest, moved on towards the next stop of the journey - Jog falls. 
Around 15 Km before Jog - Paddy harvesting in progress - 11.53 AM

Flat stretch for a change - 11.53 AM
Reached Jog entry point just after 1.00 PM. Took the diversion and visited Jog falls. The water flow was less and since it wasn't a holiday season it was less crowded too. Took some pictures, had lunch and left around 2.00 PM.  

Jog Entry Point - 01.01 PM
Bridge over Sharawathi River - 01.03 PM
View from the bridge - 01.03 PM 
View of Jog Falls - 01.16 PM 
Really felt great to be up here on my bike - 01.16 PM

From Jog to Gersoppa the distance is around 35 Km and I was hoping to cover this distance in a little over 2 hours. Boy, was I wrong. 
Old distance markers after Jog Falls - 02.17 PM
Resting after climbing another hill - 03.24 PM
The downhill looks great from up here - 03.24 PM
Exquisite view of Sharawathi river from a vantage point - 04.03 PM
What was expected to be a continuous, long downhill had quite a few uphill stretches as well. I covered this distance in little under 3 hours and with several breaks. For anyone attempting this stretch in future, be mindful of the climbs and the not-so-good roads. Also there are only few small shops where you can get something to eat and drink. Finally reached my relative's home at KPC (Karnataka Power Corporation) quarters at Gersoppa around 4.40 PM. Spent some good time with them, had dinner and hit the sack by 8.30 PM. 
Day 3 Route and Stats
Day 4 - Tue, 17Nov2015
Got up by 4.00 AM with more aches and took me a while to get out of the comfortable bed. Got ready, ate few idlis prepared by my host and was on the way by 5.15 AM. It was such a treat to eat hot breakfast in the morning; thanks Aunty. 
With my hosts before leaving Gersoppa
It was still dark when I left home and the terrain was rolling. The bright stars in the dark sky were a joy to see and a motivation to push forth. Was looking forward to the first view of the Arabian sea but it would be a while till I could get this view. By dawn I was on top of a small hill and around 15 Km from Honnavar. 
On top of a small hill - 06.30 AM
Moved on and came to a fork where I turned right onto Edapally - Panvel Highway which would take me all the way to Goa. The scenery now changed to more of Coconut trees, rivers, small waterways and ponds and flat roads till Kumta where I had my second round of breakfast at around 9.00 AM. 
Fisherwomen casting their nets, Badagani river - 08.08 AM 
Badagani river - 08.08 AM
Aghnashini river (after breakfast at Kumta) - 09.38 AM

Aghnashini river - 09.38 AM
Another view of the Aghnashini river - 09.38 AM
By this time it was getting hot and unlike last 3 days there was no cloud cover as well. Stopped by at a petrol bunk rest area where I engaged in a nice interaction with a large Maharashtrian family on a trip towards Kerala. They enquired about my ride, some of them rode the bike and there were many pictures taken. This was the happiest interaction I had during the five days on road - all of them were so full of life and welcoming - positive energy for themselves and everyone they touch. 
A group with the Maharashtrian touring family - 10.14 AM
By now it was really hot, Sun was beating down the head, the climbs had started and the headwinds had started. I took frequent breaks for rest and took pictures.
Having sugarcane juice under shade of a tree at Hiregutti - 11.14 AM
Crossing Gangavali river - 11.40 AM
Another view of the Gangavali river - 11.40 AM
Reached Ankola little before 1.00 PM and stopped by at a Kamat for relaxed lunch and some rest. Started at 2.00 PM for the final leg of the journey for the day towards Karwar. Lots of climb, road construction, hot sun and minimal tree cover made the going difficult. At one point stopped by and spoke with the road construction engineers and came to know that the road to Karwar is not only being widened but at some points they are doing a complete realignment of the road; saw several instances of this where entire hills are being cut through for the new roads. Finally saw the sea at 3.42 PM. 
First view of the Arabian sea from top of a small hill - 03.42 PM
As I got closer to Karwar, the Indian Naval establishments started showing up and the ride was nicer post 4.00 PM. Reached Karwar port little after 5.00 PM and the hotel a short while after. 
Karwar Port - 05.02 PM
Checked into the hotel and went out for a dip in the sea - really enjoyed that. Subsequently after shower went out for dinner at a local vegetarian restaurant. Ran into Naveen Torgal who is a social entrepreneur with a vision of giving a rebirth to our dying lakes and also using them as an avenue for encouraging water sports. He and his partner have cleaned up a lake on the outskirts of Shimoga and are currently operating water sports activities there - Chunchadri Meenu Abhivrudhi Mattu Jalakreede Samsthe. Check it out and encourage them by sharing it in your circle. 

Got back to hotel and called it a day by around 10.00 PM. 
Day 4 Route and Stats
Day 5 - Wed, 18Nov2015
Got up by 4.30 AM and was looking forward to the day. Today was going to be a short one and the anticipation of meeting my colleagues at Goa heightened the spirits. Got out on the road by 5.10 AM. By 6.00 AM I entered Goa state. 
Entering Goa - 05.51 AM
Rode through the rolling hills and reached Kankon little after 7.30 AM and stopped here for breakfast. For a change no idlis here - had some bun with bhaji and a large glass of tea.
Passing through rolling hills of Goa - 06.55 AM
Breakfast at Kankon - 07.44 AM
After Kankon, there are a series of long steep climbs and then obviously the long steep descent; of these, two are especially nasty climbs. 
On top of another climb - 08.34 AM
Since I was in no hurry today, stopped often for respite from sun. Before Varca at Chinchinim, got off the highway and took internal roads and slowly made my way enjoying the local sights. Passed by Club Mahindra resort where we had vacationed as a family few years back. Reached Hotel Alila Diwa before noon. 
Reached hotel at Goa - 11.46 AM
Celebratory shot - 11.53 AM
Over 5 days I had covered 635.5 Km in 38:51:14 riding time with an elevation gain of 5,686m. There was a sense of accomplishment and thankfulness for how well everything went. 

Parked the bike, checked into the room and forgot about riding for the next 2 days. The colleagues got into the hotel later in the afternoon and the next couple days went by in a blur. 
Day5 Route and Stats
Day 8 - Sat, 20Nov2015
I had originally planned to ride to Mangalore and then take a bus from Mangalore to Bangalore. Changed the plan to instead take the bus from Panjim to Bangalore. My bus was at 6.00 PM but left early around 10.30 AM from hotel and took a leisurely ride towards Panjim. 
Crossing Zuari river - 12.24 PM
Zuari river joining the Arabian sea - 12.24 PM
An offshore casino - 02.24 PM 
Rode along Mandovi river towards old Goa to kill time before the bus - 03.44 PM
Bike loaded on Airavat bus to Bangalore - 05.53 PM 
Ride from Hotel to Panjim Bus Station + local Goa ride

Reached Bangalore by 6.30 AM and rode back home, thus ending my 700 Km adventure. With this I have gone to the two coasts of India. Will some day look to go to Kanyakumari on the south, Delhi on the North and maybe even Lahore. 
Complete ride route map
For the technically inclined, you can find the detailed location updates here. These updates as systemically generated every 2 Kms or so from an iPhone app and sent to a Salesforce object via a REST API call. The systemic updates are tagged with comment 'System Update'. Any of the rows with a different comment are manually generated location updates with the comment text entered by me. In the map above, the red markers are the systemic updates and the blue markers are the manual updates. There are 2 UTC date fields on the file - Location Update Time and Created Date. The Location Update Time is the time at which the update was generated by the iOS app and the Created Date is the time at which the update was sent to the server. For most rows, you will find that the two values are not far apart from each other. In cases where these two values are far apart, it indicates that I was passing through an area with no data connectivity due to which the updates could not be sent to Salesforce as soon as they were generated by the iOS app. See screen shot of part of the file below. 
Location updates sample
Once again, thanks to all those who made this ride possible.