Friday 7th December (Salem – Karur)
I was almost half tempted to spend a rest day in Salem; the hotel room was pretty nice with the door open and a fairly cool breeze outside. But I don’t have unlimited time and need to press on, at least one more day before a rest day, despite bruised thighs and calves.
A nice man in a store on the ground floor beneath the Siva Lodge gave me directions out of town which, however improbable they seemed, soon had me on the required bypass. A nice restaurant, where I turned south onto NH7, provided breakfast.
The national highway was better than most, with less roadside sprawl. It was a clear day and I stopped around 11:00 am to change into a long-sleeved shirt. My knee was no trouble but I was well worn as I found the KVR Hotel (I think) in Karur.
The AC I was paying for failed early but I assumed it was due to a power cut. But it didn’t come back on so I checked with reception. A breaker was tripped, but it tripped again immediately, so I got moved to a new room at about 1:00 am in the morning. But I was planning to spend another day here so I could have a lie-in.
Day 33 Today: 97.4km, Avs: 15.8 kph, Time: 6hr 11min, To date: 2984 km.
Saturday 8th December (Karur) A rest day. Brief excursions for a shave and for good food at the restaurant below the hotel. Did some work on blog photos, then worked on my course project.
Sunday 9th December (Karur – Dindigul) There was a sign for Dindigul outside the hotel so I got off in the right direction, even if it didn’t seem the quickest way back to NH7. There was an alternative route to Dindigul, along SH (State Highway) 74 and I thought that I might be on that. No problem; it’s a relatively short distance to Dindigul so it didn’t really matter which route I took. Then I came to a twinned highway and turned left onto it, decision made for me. But something wasn’t quite right; the sun was in wrong place. After a few kilometres with no signage (that I could decipher, at any rate), I checked the map – which showed only one twinned highway, the way south to Dindigul. But unconvinced, I turned around and retraced about five kilometres to where I’d joined the twinned highway and turned left (south) onto SH74. I had been on the newly twinned highway to Trichy and Chennai, I presume.
The state highway was fairly quiet, with most heavy traffic presumably sticking to NH7. The surface was varied with sections that slowed me down a little but time wasn’t such a concern today, even with the extra and unnecessary ten kilometres.
I noticed that my appreciation of my surroundings is getting less intense. Head down, I’m pedalling away and missing much of the countryside. Just a few more days now.
Day 34 Today: 83.7 km, Avs: 14.7 kph, Time: 5hr 41min, To date: 3067 km.
Monday 10th December (Dindigul – Virudhunagar) The days are all merging together, into a blur. Where did I sleep last night? In which hotel? What was special about today? I guess that means it’s about time to end the ride. Or to slow down, and spend some time in these places I’m passing through – but my schedule doesn’t allow for that.
Initially, my plans were to arrive at Kanyakumari towards the end of January, having detoured to Hampi, Mysore, Pudicherry and Rameswaram. But Puri was a disappointment, and for a while I wasn’t having any fun, so I decided upon Christmas with my son Nicolas in Laos. This shrunk the timeline considerably. And there haven’t been that many places that I felt compelled to dawdle at/in. And, just maybe, I’ve done enough cycing for a while, given that I am not really much of a cyclist. The purpose of the trip was to see a different part of India – the eastern side – from the vantage point of a cycle. And to see if I still have, at 60, what it takes to be an adventurous traveller after twenty conventional years as a family man. Cycling itself was almost incidental, although the bicycle is a pretty amazing invention: efficient, affordable, free (as in freedom). Fitness and weight loss were other objectives; I must be fitter and I am definitely thinner but, possibly, not lighter; the scales I stepped on in Vellore had me weighing the same as I had when I left Canada: 5’8″ and 210 pounds which combines to make a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and qualifies me as borderline obese. Let’s hope those scales were wrong!
The hotel manager has just come in and told me I need to turn on the air-conditioning. Go figure! Maybe, because I’m paying for it, I’m obliged to use it?
I went for a walk around the district looking for somewhere to eat this evening. Quite a bustling place, lots of activity at stalls lining narrow streets. The town has quite a backward feel to it, interspersed with incongruities like a shop with fancy training shoes and an ice-cream shop. Dinner was quite basic, ‘gobi masala,’ or cauliflower curry, with chapattis. Then back to this rather grim hotel (the first hotel I looked at was worse; this may be the best in town, Google shows some others but everyone I asked pointed me in this direction).
Looking at Virudhunagar on Wikipedia, I see that this town of 73,000 people has ten engineering colleges and three polytechnics! On some parts of the ride, especially in Andhra Pradesh, it seemed like there was an engineering college every couple of miles. I think the Indian government opened the post-secondary market to private enterprise and colleges sprung up everywhere. Then there were concerns about academic rigour and many may have been shut down.
The day: a breakfastless start, a brief detour for a photo of the rock fort, and onto the highway again at about 9:30. I’d had a broken night so didn’t feel like getting up to early. Found a nice breakfast place on the highway – two masala dosai. Heavily vegetated ghats (hills) mainly to the left (east) but the road was only gently undulating. Lots of signs for Kanyakumari now. Saw some big rocks with buildings on them from the Madurai bypass and vaguely remembered a hot barefoot (required) walk up to a temple some twenty years ago. Of course, my memory may be faulty. South of Madurai, the countryside was less intensively cultivated, more grass and bushes. A clear day, with a hot sun and my feet burning, although the temperature was reasonable. The day dragged a bit, bum sore in the saddle, wrists and elbows aching, thighs weak. Jeez, what a whiney old fart I’ve become! Good night!
Day 35 Today: 102.6 km, Avs: 16.3 kph, Time: 6hr 19min, To date: 3170 km.
(Pictures will be a week or so; have to concentrate on coursework for a while)