Rubber tramp in Sambhar-land -1

Photo of Rubber tramp in Sambhar-land -1 1/2 by Kar Ansuman

It sounds insane to many when I say I plan to cycle the entire southern coast of India solo without support in 15 days, and many thought I was a lunatic when I yearned to do so while I was recovering from an incision in my left sole due to an injury which I had ignored for many years.

It was in early 2013 that I conceived the idea of cycling the Southern Indian coast. Though riding along the beach has been something I have been planning to do for many years, little did I know I would do that on a push bike. The task looked mammoth, and being alone for 1200 + km was challenging. But like many other things in my life, I don't let many negative things creep into my mind. There are moments when your mind says it's foolish, and why am I doing this?

But the answer is always there: "Because I can". If there is something I know I can do, why shouldn't I? Why do I need social approval or a sign from somebody else to do something I think I can do?

I often get these questions from people: What if you get mugged? What if you are stranded in a no man's land, and there is no way out? What if the weather is terrible?.. Don't we all face these situations in the comfort of our homes or cities?


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I was mugged in the bustling city of Melbourne a few years back, and I almost got killed in that incident, miles away from my country and comfort zone. If I could fight back from that situation and live another day, why do these questions bother me now?

So sometimes my reply to such a question is - "I will see then"(with a smile).

What surprises me the most is all of us have such preconceived notions and fear in our minds about everything we want to do that it creates these invisible boundaries between us and our dreams. These fears are precisely why I make such trips. To go and find out if I can achieve it. Am I capable of getting myself out of such situations?

I can live a lifetime thinking I am strong, but I prefer just going out there and finding out if I am.

August 2013,

After suffering from lingering pain from a lump in my left sole, I finally decided to get that thing out. I have delayed the surgery process for many months because that will temporarily stop me from running, cycling, and doing all I love. But I could no longer endure the pain, so I decided to take a break and get it fixed. I know this will be a significant setback for my trip, but then I should think about the bigger picture "What if the pain becomes unbearable during the trip, and I have to call it off midway". So now I have decided to get it operated on and leave the rest to time. I am worried because my profession doesn't allow me to take vacations anytime I want to. So if I postpone the plans, I might have to wait another year to make this trip. And being impatient, the idea of waiting one more year is killing me. So I give myself a good two months to rehabilitate.

September 2013,

Instead, I have started putting on extra weight during rehabilitation, and that's a concern. A few extra pounds can prove a liability, and being out of training for two months can be fatal for the trip. Because the level of endurance one needs to accomplish this kind of trip is highly demanding, and it requires a lot of physical and mental preparedness to do it.

October 5th 2013,

Armed with a few extra pounds of body weight, less than half the endurance required for such a trip and lots of mixed feelings about the trip, I set foot on the southernmost tip of India. I quickly re-assemble my bike on the busy town "Of Kanyakumari" streets. I have a sore body after the long 9-hour bus journey. People on the streets look at me more suspiciously than curiously as I do some last tuning to my bike.

Its been almost three months since I had sat on the saddle, but the moment I fixed my bike, set the pannier bags and pushed my bike into the streets busy with tourists pouring in to see the gorgeous tri-coloured Indian ocean, I forgot about everything all the negativity about not being able to complete the trip. It doesn't matter to me anymore. Now I changed my goal, and It's no more about reaching Goa in 15 days. The challenge was now to live each day and take back something memorable every day.

This is something we all need to remember about living. We are so busy reaching a destination that we need to remember living the moment and not waste time thinking about things we cannot control.

Day 01 :

The first day of my trip is a short 89 km journey from Kanyakumari to Thiruvananthapuram. This part of India is notoriously famous for its humid weather conditions. Travelling to this region is a challenge, and cycling is unimaginable. The temperature in the morning was ok, and now it's getting hotter every minute, but I am ready for it. As it's the first day of my trip, I want to take it easy and slow. I know my body needs some time to get used to this routine, as I have been out of training for a while now.

It's around noon, and I am only a few km away from Nagercoil; the roads are pretty inhospitable.. not that I am expecting great roads, especially when the south of India has received heavy rainfall this year. Riding on a weekend isn't helping my cause either, as the Highway is busy with local buses which rule the roads here. And being a cyclist, I fall into the lowest denomination, where people riding more oversized vehicles expect me to be off their way. Cycling in India and especially on a push bike with accessories and coloured clothing, is a perfect recipe for some unwanted attention. People try to push you out of the road as they find it amusing. All a rider needs to do is focus on the ride and ignore such instances. It doesn't feel enjoyable when people look back at you after such an act and give you a wide grin. Sometimes I feel like venting my anger by throwing a big stone and smashing those teeth out, but I choose to wave my hands at them with a smile instead (That annoys them). Nevertheless, I quickly realized there were more significant and better experiences awaiting me en route.

The day progresses, and the sun is just getting brighter and hotter. Three hours into the ride, I spot the dry landscapes slowly turning green, and the aroma of coconut makes me realize that I have entered the state of Kerala. I quickly stop for lunch and take a break as my back hurts.

Food options are narrow if you are a Vegetarian, as meat and Fish are a staple diet for most Keralites. Finding decent vegetarian food can become a challenge during this trip. I need to eat a minimum of 5000 to 6000 calories daily for such a trip to fuel myself properly and keep riding continuously. And being a vegetarian is not an option here. But little did I know there were more significant worries; I was getting a cramp in my left calf muscle, and even after being careful about my hydration levels, I pulled my calf muscle. I have around 20 more km to reach Thiruvananthapuram, and I have to push myself somehow and make it through the last 20 km, which is a gradual uphill into the town of Thiruvananthapuram.

After a gruelling 5-hour ride due to cramps, heat and mostly uphill roads, I make it to the capital of Kerala -- "Trivandrum, also known as Thiruvananthapuram". I found a budget accommodation for the night. I searched for good vegetarian food and could only manage some Iddiyapam and chana masala curry. I am surprised how vegetarians survive here as I am already a little weary about the food options available. Nevertheless, I fill my stomach with food and call it a day.

Day 02,

I wake up at around 4 am to start early to avoid the tropical heat. It can get humid in Kerala during this time of the year, And I was riding next to the sea, it made proceedings sweaty.

The destination for Day 02 is Eravipuram Beach. The roads lead to gradual climbs. To my surprise, the streets were neat but narrow for a National Highway. The empty roads are the best and worst parts of cycling early morning. Because when you need help, you will find none. In most parts of Kerala, the roads are well-marked, and someone will require some effort to get lost there.

As I progressed, I bumped into a few cyclists from the "Trivandrum cycling club" who were training for an upcoming event. I'll stop by and say hello !!! They were excited to know what I was up to. I spend some time discussing the cycling scene in Kerala, discussing the routes, sip some local tea. Twenty minutes later, I make a move—the guys from Trivandrum cycling club cheer for me when I resume my Journey. There applause and whistles reverb in my ears as I slowly move away towards my destination into the busy NH 47. A sense of accomplishment slowly sinks into me for being appreciated for this effort. It's incredible how a few words of encouragement can make a difference in someone's actions. Suddenly it all started making a lot more sense.

After four hours on the road, I see the first signs of reaching Eravipuram. Day 02 is a short ride of around 70-odd km, and more extensive and more prolonged days are waiting for me in the upcoming weeks with 150 + km-a-day rides. So the first few days were short planned rides to get used to the conditions.

Eravipuram is a small village in Kollam District. The town only has a few options to put up for the night. The only liveable place I found was close to the beach. The price was dirt cheap for a night stay, but the rooms were horrible. But I have no options. As it was just about one night, I decided to stay here.

Day 02, 7:45 pm:

I wake up to a loud thump outside my room and realize that I have slept the last 6 hours as someone has drugged me. I was drained totally because of the heat and fatigue. I get up quickly and go outside to see what made the noise. I realize there is a local beer bar on the top floor. It was a weekend, so the place was crowded, and I guess a few people got crazy and started throwing empty beer bottles to the ground floor. It looks like that's some game once they are drunk. I crawled my way back to the bed, and I felt fragile though I didn't understand why I felt that way. It may be just fatigue.

Day 02, 9:00 pm:

The power goes off !!...... I reluctantly got off the bed to get food for myself as there was no room service. The corridor in the hotel was dark and stinky. I was on the 2nd floor; I managed to pull the torch out of my cluttered bag. I go out of the room and call for the guy at the reception to come and help me get some food, but I am still waiting for someone to respond. After waiting for a while, I lock my room and down the stairs. I see no one at the reception and frustratingly go out of the hotel in search of some food. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, and the only thing close to it was a small tea shop shut because it was a Sunday. I decide to return to the hotel and check the bar on the top floor for some food. All this while, I had negative vibes about this place.. the location, the room I checked in, everything about the place was repulsive. When I reached the hotel's top floor, I found the waiter and ordered some food.

After having some food, I felt a little better, but I continue to get these negative vibes inside my room. I don't believe in the occult, but what followed that night kind of made me a believer in the existence of something paranormal.

To be continued !!!

Photo of Rubber tramp in Sambhar-land -1 2/2 by Kar Ansuman