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Montra Tour of Nilgiris Day 7- It’s all down

After spending the night (day 6) at the foot of Valparai Ghat the Montra Tour of Nilgiris has just one more day left in its basket. Waking up to the sound of nocturnal insects with a view of tea meadows is something the fast city life fails to offer. By far today route was the toughest and the longest day on the saddle for the cyclists.

As we waited for the cyclists to pass us at the misty buffer zone, we spotted a few birds and a variety of flowers. The mist seemed to increase as we gained elevation and reduced as we descended on the other side of Valparai climb. the first 40 km consisted of 12 km of uphill followed by 28 km downhill.The first support station situated 40 km away from the start point at Aliyar checkpoint was mostly downhill. As most of the riders had already passed the check post hitting flat roads with vast kalpavrikshaw baugs barricaded with a wall of rocks on either sides.

This pack of riders included Nils the champ, the Dutch train and a few others. Not to forget the leader of the women’s category Vicki Nicholson and fellow cyclist and blogger Venky. Before we started our long journey into the Anamalai Tiger reserve, Tamil Nadu, riders rode till support station 2. this journey begun after covering about 100 km i.e half way through the ride. By noon all the riders had entered the reserve with the sun shining overhead. The high profiled sanctuary forest guard’s didn’t let anyone enter without being thoroughly checked. These cyclists were informed to stick together and ride in a bunch for safety concerns as the area was abundant in leopards, tigers and elephants.

The moment we entered the reserve, we were informed about a herd of elephants that had just passed by. We waited in excitement for a while hoping for an encounter, but there was no sign of a single elephant. Since then, our eyes were glued to the dense forest which protected all creatures big and small. I could recollect from my memory the trees, the road, and the rivers as we passed the same route before during the recce. The umbrella shaped trees which provided perfect shade underneath with parasites growing in abundance.

These umbrellas shaped trees were also home to a hundreds of insects and birds. With the sun overhead the butterflies didn’t shy away from dancing around the flowers. The huge ant hills which were seen in several movies were all experienced firsthand. The sanctuary did offer a one in a million view, but the inclined road heading towards support station three was a struggle. With no support station for this 50 km which covered a small area of Anamalai Reserve before entering the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. As the forest officials didn’t permit the TfN Team to pitch a support station in the reserve, the riders suffered shortage of food and water. This scarcity was overcome by bikers who patrolled the area back and forth supplying adequate water and other requirements.

I wondered what motivated these guys to ride through this torturous weather. Looking at their tired body language and faces I decided to hop on a biker and help these riders with supplies. The view on the bike was epic as we helped a few riders and reached support station 3 where all the riders stopped after suffering the last 15 km of agony. Some of them reached and couldn’t walk as the heavy feet had taken a toll on their bodies. Before beginning misery part 2, they all sat under the shade and enjoyed their much needed lunch. Majority of them decided to ride till the next station and take the float (sweep truck) all the way to the hotel.

From here (support station 3 at Marayoor) the riders had to cover a total of approx 40 km uphill to reach their destination with scenic view with dozens of waterfall appearing to originate from the clouds. This waterfall which flowed freely right below the rode was a temptation for cyclists to throw their bikes and jump right in.

In the meanwhile, our sweep truck had already passed us loaded with bikes and tired cyclists headed to the hotel. As riders reached the support station 4 many of them decided to go ahead with their journey which almost seemed impossible. Their tired mind was convinced by now that they were running on a flat tire. But they knew at the back of their minds, it wasn’t true and they had to carry on pedaling. On the strong had survived till now. By 4 pm (IST) the sun was nowhere to be seen as the cold and the mist had started with their shift. As we passed SS4 the climb just didn’t seem to end from our car.The riders had covered themselves again with the jackets to avoid freezing.The tired faces we saw from the car window appeared tired, hungry and many had suffered a lot. But somehow they pushed those pedals just enough to not fall of the bike and reached the pickup point, from this point the riders along with the bikes were floated to the hotel. But quite a few daredevils decided not to load their bikes on the float and pedal ON. From where I see it, everyone who rode was a true warrior. With one more day left for the tour to wrap up as riders relaxed their tired minds and souls from the suffering at the Sterling hotel in Munaar. Tomorrow’s day will cover a total distance of 58 km looping around Munaar after which the riders will pack up and leave for the cool off party held at the Leela Palace in Bangalore post prize distribution.
Courtesy: RAY Photography

Written By

Abhishek Tarfe is a Certified Bike Mechanic from Park Tool School. He enjoys teaching people how to cycle and loves going on multi-day tours. Besides, he loves dogs and coffee. Follow his madness on Instagram

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