My Spectrum Racing teammates, Dr. Arvind Bhateja, Mohan Kumar, Shankar Jayaraman and I, along with a couple of friends from Bangalore and elsewhere, are heading to France for a couple of weeks of riding in the Swiss Alps in July. While we are there, we also get to watch the Tour De France go by on a couple of days.
As a precursor to that trip, we wanted to do a shorter trip closer home. Shankar came up with the plan to stay in Kalasa and ride in the hills around there.
So, on Thursday morning, 9th June, exactly one month before we take off for France, we started driving to Kalasa, a dainty temple town in Malanad.
A couple of our friends, Venkat Rajmohan and Jyoti Venkatesh M a.k.a MJV, also joined us. So, we decided to go by two Innovas with 3 people and 3 bikes in each.
We started at 6 am and reached our destination, a lovely homestay called Kaapi Kaadu, just outside of Kalasa, right on the banks of river Badhra! It was 1pm by the time we got there.
Day 1: My Daddy Ride!
No, it has nothing to do with my dad but an amazing view point that’s for some reason that I don’t know yet, is called ‘My Daddy ‘ view point.
We assembled our bikes as soon as we got to the homestay. We decided to have lunch, give it an hour or so for it to settle in our tummies before heading out for a short ride to the: My Daddy’ view point.
It was hot and humid and the 1.5km 9% climb right out of our homestay towards Kalasa almost forced our lunch onto the road. But, we were incredibly lucky to have had a clear day and got treated to pretty epic views at the view point.
Check out the video log of day 1 here:
Day 2: Kalasa – Horanadu – Shanthigrama – Basarikatte- Balehole – Kalasa! Steep, Steeper and Steepest!
The ride for day 2 was planned to take us to Sringeri via Horanadu and Shanthigrama making it a 90km ride for the day with about 1500m of climbing.
In my native tongue, Telugu, and I imagine in Kannada and Sanskrit, Kalasa is what we call a metal pot with a large base and a small mouth, large enough to hold a coconut. It is used in some auspicious Hindu ceremonies and Vratas.
Kalasa town, I imagine, got it’s name because it somewhat resembles that holy utensil with hills all around it with the town itself being in a valley. It is my interpretation of it anyway. The historians among you can provide more context in the comments below.
So, riding out of or riding into Kalasa would mean you’ll have to climb out of our climb into it. There is no way around it. Only, the route you choose might determine how steep, steeper or steepest that is.
On the day we decided to take the steepest road we can find to get out of the town. The climb up to Horanadu was a pretty brutal 8km climb with most of it in double digit gradients and some sections going up to high double digit grades.
I first did this climb in 2019 as part of Great Malanad Challenge (GMC)! GMC 2019 Kalasa Loop At that time the climb was completely unpaved with loose gravel. It was difficult to climb even on MTBs as it was difficult to get a grip on such steep gravel roads.
Luckily for us at least most of the road is now smooth tarmac, although there are still some unpaved sections. We grinded our way up the climb and managed to breathe a sigh of relief once at the top.
We then started descending on some pretty smooth tarmac down towards Shanthigrama. What we realised during that descent is that it is going to be even tougher and longer than the climb we just did if we were to ride back the same way after going to Sringeri.
So, after reaching Shanthigrama, we decided to find a peaceful alternative and took the Basarikatte-Balehole route back to Kalasa. That would make the ride shorter but with decent elevation gain on our legs too.
The 9km climb up to Basarikatte was brilliant although the roads were not smooth. The steady gradient of 5-6% meant, we were able to get into a nice climbing rhythm. Mohan sir was in his climbing element and I got on his wheel and stayed there till we reached the to of the climb. We waited there to regroup and started descending to Balehole. The 9km descent to Balehole was butter smooth roads. We decided we should try this route in reverse someday.
From Balehole to Kalasa was fairly uneventful rolling terrain. We got to Kalasa and started looking for lunch options in the town. They were almost non existent. We managed to get a some semblance of a meals at Suprabhata restaurant. To compensate for the ordinary lunch, we stopped at Kamat Icecream and belted mini Gudbud. That was a good way to end the ride on a sugar high!
Day 3: An Epic Day In The Hills : Kalasa – Kudhremukh National Forest – SK Border – Karakatti and Back!
The day 3 ride plan was to ride in the Kudhremukh National Forest until the final check post at the junction of Bajagoli and Karkala roads and ride back to Kalasa making it a 110km ride in total.
16km from our homestay, just after Sansa village, we had to stop at the first check post for the Kudhremukh National Forest to get permission to ride into the forest. We were instructed not to stop in the forest as there is a big elephant presence.
The ride into the forest started with a 4km steep climb that woke up our legs. We rode past the abandoned ghost town which was housing Kudhremukh Iron Ore Corporation (KIOC) and reached Gangamoola which is where the twin rivers of Tunga and Bhadra originated.
The views through the forest were absolutely stunning but the roads were very rough. With the rough roads, it was better riding up than down the hill. It also started raining from Gangamoola on our way down to SK Border. We regrouped at SK Border and decided not to descend another 13k down in that rain.
Shankar flagged down a truck and found out from the driver that there was a village in 5km if we take right from there, where we can find some food before riding back to Kalasa.
That village was Karakatti. There was a small family run store and food place where we had nice neer dosas, omlets etc, refilled our bottles and started riding back.
As soon as we started climbing back towards Gangamoola from SK Border, it started pouring down. We put our rain jackets back on and continued climbing. Shankar got into the zone on the climb and I got on his wheel. We reached Gangamoola in good time and decided to ride on without stopping to stay warm.
But, when we reached a view point offering breath taking view of the hills, we couldn’t help but stop to take pictures.
After spending good time taking in the views and a ton of pictures, we started riding back. I latched on to Arvind’s wheel who was in a fast and furious mood. It was fun navigating the rough roads back to the check post near Sansa.
2km before reaching the check post, Venkat Rajmohan had a side wall cut on his front tire and had to walk to get to the check post. MJV, who was riding behind him at the time carried the news to us. By the time Venkat made it there Shankar managed to find an auto to take Venkat back to Kalasa. The rest of us rode the 16k back to our homestay satisfied and tired from an epic day in the hills.
Epilogue: So Much Beauty To Explore!
We were planning to do the day 2 ride in reverse on Sunday morning before starting to drive back to Bangalore. But, rainy weather in the morning dampened our spirits and we decided to settle for a lazy breakfast and early start of driving back to Ooru.
There are so many beautiful routes to explore in this area that it is worth making a trip like this an yearly affair.