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.
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.