Into the Wild!!!
It was a sunny afternoon when we reached St. Martin’s College in Kompally. Riders were gearing up and assembling their bike for the big event which was scheduled to start at 1600 hours. Riders would soon embark on a six hundred and two kilometer ride through 11 districts of Telangana state with Kawal Tiger reserve in between. There were 3 big challenges that the rider would face
- Completing 602.80Km ride within 40 hours(Monday 8 AM)
- Keeping the body hydrated and nourished
- Almost no sleep for next 40 hours
Ride was flagged off sharp at 1600 hours. Route for the first 203Km was on Srinagar-Kanyakumari highway till Nirmal. All riders started pretty strong and we reached 74Km mark by 7 PM. I ensured that I eat enough as I would be riding for the entire night. We started again in the next 35 min and reached our first check point Kamareddy by 8:45PM. As soon as we left Kamareddy, my friend Sathish got a flat. Fixing the flat and changing the tube took 50 minutes as it was completely dark on the highway. We continued further for the next 20 km and saw another rider (Deep) who hit a pothole and had a tube and tyre burst. Luckily, he didn’t get any injury. We started off again after ensuring that he got help from the support vehicle. We had hardly crossed 2 kms when Sathish got another flat. It was then Sathish decided that he would quit the ride and return to base. I and my other ride partner Prithvi then decided to attack and compensate for the time lost. We were riding at a good speed around 1 AM when I suddenly realized, it’s just the two of us riding on the entire highway with no vehicle or rider in sight!! Just when these thoughts were going through my mind, we crossed a patch where a kennel of dogs were howling. I slowly gulped this feeling and consolidated myself stating that I could easily outrun a dog on my bike. I started singing to distract myself, Prithvi joined. A few Kms ahead I spotted something moving under a street light on the roadside. I initially thought someone was dancing but when I came closer, I saw that Shail (a fellow rider) was taking a selfie post 1:30 AM. It couldn’t have got weirder than this and I was enjoying it to the fullest. At 2:15 AM we reached Nirmal, our next checkpoint (Singh is King Dhaba) at 208Km. After getting our Brevet cards stamped and refilling our hydration packs we started again at 3 AM. Some riders who were ahead of us decided to take a short nap before continuing further.
Just as it takes a lot of fuel and power to start the engine, it took a lot of energy to start pedaling again. I began looking for distraction when I observed that rumble strips were shining and the road was lit by moonlight, it was similar to passing a hallway with entire focus of moon on us. We had just crossed 5Kms from the dhaba when the route took a detour from the highway towards Mancherial. Initial 20Km patch was under construction which required us to concentrate more on the road so as to avoid any flats. I started feeling sleepy so I switched on some songs and continued. We started entering into the jungle, when suddenly my flashlight indicated that battery level has gone down. It was still 4AM, we couldn’t afford to stop and wait for sunlight which would mean wastage of 2 precious hours. So I asked Prithvi to change his batteries so that we could get some bright light. Soon after we changed, a group of 4 riders crossed us. We decided to follow them. We had to ride behind them so that we could see the road through their flashlights and avoid potholes. Judging a pothole when it might hit you, carefully avoiding it, trying to maintain the same speed when you are feeling sleepy is something that I learnt that night. This continued for almost 2 hours till road was fairly visible. We were riding through a thick layer of fog in dense forest where a small village called Kaddam is located. As soon as we crossed Kaddam, we entered Kawal Tiger reserve. Small narrow road with tall trees on both sides mesmerized us. Sunlight was barely able to reach the ground. The atmosphere was filled with birds chirping and a fresh aroma of wet soil post rain grabbed our attention. Most of the route in Tiger reserve was a gradual climb so we had ample time to soak in beauty around us. Soon we reached Jannaram and had breakfast. I observed that the reserve had deer rehabilitation centers put up. It was difficult to imagine a rehabilitation center within a forest reserve area but that’s a sad truth. 32Km post Jannaram, we crossed the mighty Godavari river. The width of the river was quite noticeable. The bridge was over a km long. The temperature was soaring and we had to cover maximum distance as we could before 10:30AM. We were 33Kms from Thakallapally, our next check point at 355Km when the day’s heat started taking toll on our body and from here on the route was a gradual climb for the next 70 Km. By taking intermediate breaks under trees shed, we managed to reach Thakallapally by 11:40AM. There were a few riders who reached ahead of us. We had our lunch and I badly wanted to get some rest. But knowing the kind of lazy bear I am, I refrained from sleeping. Instead, I went for a shower and put my flashlight to charge. During this time, Prithvi had a good one hour nap. Riders were coming in, some with severe body cramps. News of riders dropping out started coming in. We started towards Jagtial at 1PM. The Sun was at its full might by 2PM and we hardly managed to reach Jagtial. We decided to stop for a few mins and re-plan while having some coconut water. It was decided that we will find a tree shed somewhere out of town and rest till 3:30PM to allow temperature to drop a bit. It was a good 39°C. I tried resting but couldn’t. So instead of wasting our time, I insisted on starting again. I was able to convince Prithvi and by 3PM we started again. A fellow rider Karthik, crossed us when we were about to start. He was struggling to keep himself awake. We joined him and started encouraging him. We stopped to refill our hydration packs and asked Karthik to continue. Prithvi was finding it difficult to ride in sun, so I asked to him to ride slow but to continue riding. After another 3 Kms, Prithvi got a severe muscle pull in his lower back. It was hurting him to an extent where he couldn’t walk. We slowly walked further until we saw a dhaba so that he could take rest. As soon as we reached dhaba, we saw Karthik struggling with sleep again. Prithvi decided to quit the ride and asked me to continue with Karthik further. We had hardly covered 380Km by then. After making sure that support vehicle is on his way we started again. I started talking to Karthik to divert his mind from sleep.
After taking the right towards Vemulawada, road condition went bad and we had to stop again to stretch our sore muscles. We stopped at a petrol station again to re-hydrate ourselves and source some energy from the petrol vendor struggling to understand and speak Telugu. For at least 50 times during the day, we were questioned by the localites on their bikes asking about our ride. Since I don’t understand Telugu, I was responding “Hyderabad” to whatever question came my way. For the follow-up question I replied the same. But when things went out of control and 3rd question came up, I responded “Naku Telugu radu” meaning “I don’t know Telugu”. They had a good laugh our situation and continued further. I was enjoying it. The sun was settling down fast and we wanted to reach Sircilla by 6PM. As part of learning from last night, I didn’t wanted to utilize my flashlight unless required. So I asked Karthik, if he was okay to use his flashlight for the night and I would put on my lights when the road turned bad or if we were going at high speeds. His lights weren’t that bright and it became difficult to see the roads when vehicles approached us from the other side. We came to Siddipet at 9PM, had a few idly’s to recharge ourselves and started towards Ramayampet which was another 47Kms. The terrain was rolling and the roads weren’t that good which slowed us down. At midnight, we were still 6 Kms short of reaching Ramayampet and I was finding it difficult to keep karthik awake. He spotted a petrol station and wanted to doze off for a while. We had 8 hours left with us with over 110Km more to cover. My calculations were not on the affirmative side and if we continued at the rate we were going, it was very difficult to finish by 8AM. I was sleepy too but convinced Karthik to continue. I decided to observe the ride till we reach Ramayampet and take some concrete decision.
Upon reaching Ramayampet, I asked Karthik if he could ride faster else we would miss the cut off time to reach the next checkpoint. Upon receiving a negative answer, I asked him to follow me if he wanted to finish in time. Route from Ramayampet to Medak is a downhill. Big bursts of push on downhill ensured that I was riding between 40-55Kmph. I reached Medak checkpoint by 1:15AM. Karthik followed suite and reached after 5 minutes. Thought of being left behind alone while feeling sleepy with no guarantee of rider behind pushed him. We started riding together again and then I started feeling sleepy. Waiting for rest now would mean encouraging Karthik to take rest. So I started pushing myself harder. I was constantly walking through memory lane with friends and family. I was somehow able to cope up with pain and sleep until we reached our next checkpoint BVRIT College in Narsapur at 4:25AM.
The organizers and College authorities arranged a huge buffet for us. After getting our Brevet cards stamped, we started to finish last 36Kms. Karthik got a huge boost of energy and he started at a good speed. Looking at him going fast, I tried matching his speed. Cruising through the forests of Narsapur, we were now having a sort of race until we reached Nehru ORR. It was already 40 past 6 in the morning and last 10 Kms were remaining. For the second time during the ride, there was a huge surge of energy and I began targeting the terrain. Finally, both of us were able to make it to the finish line at 7:05 AM Monday. It was a moment of satisfaction and excitement (finally I could doze off without any worries). Other riders came in pushing hard making sure they don’t miss the cut-off time before 8AM. The First rider (Raja) to reach finish line was at 6:35AM. Out of 31 riders who started on Saturday, 18 were able to make it to the finish line. There was a wide smile on Karthik’s face. He was no longer sleepy. Finally, he managed to do it.
First time is always the toughest and it teaches you a lot of things. This ride had turned me into a strong, persistent, focused and a happy being. I realized how powerful good memories are. Hopefully, I will take these learnings further use it well in life ahead.