A glossy brochure from an ‘adventure’ travel company landed on the mat. It detailed group cycling holidays. One particular trip caught my eye:’Cycling Tropical Kerala and it’s Backwaters’. Oh my. I had hoped to cover some of that ground after cycling Sri Lanka but the lack of ferry services had put paid to that idea. It was unfinished business. It all looked very tempting although less so at the prices quoted by the travel company! A quick check revealed that flights to Southern India with ‘cycle friendly’ British Airways were pretty reasonable. Irresistibly priced. Add in that Indian immigration services now provide a tourist visa on line (24 hour turnaround). I figured a ride from Karnataka over the Western Ghats and down into Kerala would do the job very nicely. Besides.. my tent had a new floor, I had replaced my thermarest and serviced my stove with a new wick. The bike had a new chain, chain rings, jockey wheels and cassette. It all was waiting to be used.
Bangalore or Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka, is slap bang in the middle of Southern India. It boasts of being the software factory of the subcontinent and has earned the moniker of ‘silicon city’. The flight with no frills British Do-not-really-care-ways took around 10 hours. The newly revamped Kempegowda airport at Bangalore is pretty impressive. However it is almost 40km north of the city and escaping it involves some major congested roads. I grabbed a smallish taxi with folding rear seat to take me and the bike to a friends home in the city. The young driver drove like an absolute maniac. I truly feared for my safety. I am used to people taking risks but this guy had a death wish. He narrowly squeezed the car in between other road users both big and small. He did not stop for any traffic lights. He had been working all night and my fare would be his last before returning home South of Bangalore. I feared it would be a last trip for both of us. He became lost and I guided him (courtesy of google) up and over the hills of the city.
Prashanth warmly greeted me outside his family home. I had a self contained cosy room perched somewhat neatly on the roof terrace of his house. He and his family spoilt me rotten. Good food and great company; it became the perfect start to my somewhat randomly arranged trip. I was lucky to arrive during Diwali too. Bangalore loves fireworks!
The following morning we cycled together out beyond the outskirts of the city and had coffee before parting ways. Thanks for the hospitality Prashanth!
Kanakapura Road provides a longer, more relaxing ride West towards Mysore as opposed to the busy highway 85.
It didn’t take too long to reach a turning which would lead, in time, to the waterfalls at Shivanasamudra. I loved the little lanes that led me past picturesque villages and rural scenes. It had turned into a great ride through a rural India which took me back to my experience of cycling in Sri Lanka. It is fresh, green and subtropical. With the light fading I found a discreet spot to camp close to an open wood and small roadside shrine.
There were few sealed roads as such but mostly dirt tracks which took me past local villages. I had to backtrack a little at one point but then could not believe my luck. A canal works its way Westwards in the direction of the fabled waterfalls. Alongside it was a sealed service road. It is ‘closed’ to traffic and guarded at each end. But it is used by local people for cattle, cycling and scooters. I was waved through. Great!
Finally I arrived at the visitors viewing point overlooking Shivanamudra waterfalls. It is pretty impressive and, quite understandably, one of the most popular spots for visitors from Bangalore and Mysore. Monkeys too.