The Downhill Train!
I always loved the downhill ride from Kotagiri to Mettupalayam. At almost 40km, it is one of the best flowing and longest of downhill rides I have ever done. Despite the sunny start, we had to start riding with a warm layer to keep warm on the downhill. I started early and made my way to Kotagiri to start the descent. The traffic was sparse and I was in a flow. I found good lines and clear views to overtake the occasional vehicle safely and made quick progress. It is such a joy to find that rhythm and get going at a fair clip. That sort of downhill zen mode doesn’t happen all the time.
|Smiling from ear to ear after some fun downhill action!|
We reached SS1 at 32km mark, dropped our warm clothes and had warm ginger and mint tea. Ah.. the joy of hot tea flowing down the cold throat! After the tea, we headed towards SS2, at 67km mark, which is also the lunch point. We reached there quite early around 10:45am and the food was just being prepared hot and fresh. In terms of timing, it felt like a second breakfast rather than lunch.
|Hot ‘Akki roti’ right from the pan to our plates! Delicious! 🙂|
The ‘Akki roti’ with coconut chutney was so good that I sent down half a dozen at one go. The lunch spot was set up at a very nice coconut farm. It was lovely having hot food under the cool shade of the trees. This new lunch arrangement is the biggest improvement this year but they may need to re look at the placement and timing of it.
|Lunch stop in a coconut and banana farm! Pic: Milam Saxena!|
I felt like taking a nap under those trees after the heavy lunch but reluctantly got up to ride as the rest of the group wanted to get going to finish the long ride and spend as little time in the heat as possible.
Milam, Nikhil, Arvind, KKR, Russell, Lena and I formed a train and got going towards SS3 at 106km mark. Just as we got out of the lunch stop and three kilometers, in there we had to climb a 1km version of Kalahatty. It was a 1km 10% climb with 5 switchbacks that almost got my lunch out on to the road. Cursing the hill and the route planner, I slowly crawled back up while the others including Russell were racing up the steep climb.
|In sync with ourselves and the nature.. Pic: Milam Saxena!|
We were going through some very serene village back roads most of the time and only occasionally had to cross a town through traffic. The roads were silk smooth most of the way. We got to near SS3 at 106km. It was a bit sad to see the big lotus pond there bone dry! We refilled our bottles at the SS, rested under the shade for a few minutes and started to head towards Kumbakonam Degree Filter Coffee at 130km mark. After a few repeats of the most delicious coffee served piping hot in brass tumblers, we headed out.
|Kumbakonam Degree Filter Coffee!! Pic: Milam Saxena!|
We kept going at a steady easy pace for most of the time with me leading the train, but the boys kept playing the occassional uphill sprint game which I religiously stayed out of. After the coffee stop where we had to wait for a long time to fix a flat on Russell’s bike, our train began it’s journey to SriChakra hotel in Palakkad. The pace increased slightly on the home stretch to avoid the heat and we got to the hotel just before 4pm after a super fun and super hot ride.
Kadal – Palakkad Special!
We got fresh and in the evening we began our search for the best lunch places around. A McDonalds was right opposite to the hotel but we took the recommendation of a local friend, Rajiv Narayanan, and went out to try a sea food restaurant named Kadal. The restaurant is 1.6km from SriChakra hotel where we are staying.
|Kadal.. A must try in Palakkad for Sea food lovers!|
We were the first ones at the place for that evening. As we ordered food, many other TFNers who had taken up the same recommendation turned up at the restaurant and it quickly filled up. We kept ordering one after the other and each and every item was amagzingly delicious. We returned satiated and hit the bed ready for the big challenge of Valparai that we have to face today.
Today is Day 7 of TFN-2016! Can’t believe it is already coming to an end! In a couple of hours, we head to Valparai. It is one of the most beautiful climbs I have ever done and I’m looking forward to it. Today is also the last competitive section for TFN and the podium spots for almost all the categories are still up for grabs. This year’s competition has been very close and exciting. Let’s see how things shape up on this last CS.
More pics from the day are here.
TFN 2016 Day 1: Bangalore to Mysore
TFN 2016 Day 2: Mysore to Kalpetta
TFN 2016 Day 3: Kalpetta to Ooty! Kalahatty!
TFN 2016 Day 4: Rest Day
TFN 2016 Day 5: Ooty Thaishola
TFN 2016 Day 6: Ooty To Palakad
TFN 2016 Day 7: Palakkad to Valparai
TFN 2016 Day 8: A Beautiful End