Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 34 - Tirunelveli to Kanyakumari

Think of the most beautiful experience you've ever had and then get onto a cycle and ride from Tirunelveli to Kanyakumari and then you decide which one tops your list. This expedition could not have ended more perfectly. We cycled on the most picturesque road, with hundreds and hundreds of windmills on either sides, the wind guiding us forward. We had a 5 a.m. headstart and no troubles on the way. We had our last dhaba breakfast for the expedition and wiped out the chutney container and took a long lime juice break at a hotel mid way where the manager invited us in and allowed us to make our own lime juice in the lobby. We also met with two Bengali journalists on a bike who were riding from Kolkata to Kanyakumari and then to Kashmir to promote road safety.

The girls were cheering and screaming at every milestone achieved, excited to reach our goal. We seemed to be cycling at a 100km/hour!!! The feeling was exhilarating knowing that Kanyakumari was ahead of us!

We reached Kanyakumari by noon, and were recieved by the President of IMF who had especially come all the way to flag us in. Mr. Govind Srinivas, Mrs. Vasumati's better half was also there to recieve us. After having a quick lunch we headed off to the Vivekananda rock where we spent hours staring at the magnificent convergence of the 3 seas. We then headed back to our hotel to get ready to meet the Rotarians who treated us to some delicious dinner! They even honoured us with pretty pink purses and caps. Infact a very funny incident occurred while we were at the hotel where we had our meeting with the Rotarians; 9 girls got into a 5 man elevator and it got stuck!!!! We finally got a technician to open it up and the girls were rescued!!!

The night ended with the leader giving all the girls a surprise; we were all flying from Trivandrum to Bangalore!!! We all hurriedly packed our bags and loaded the truck with our excess luggage and cycles so that the truck could head off to Bangalore.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 33 - Sattur to Tirunelveli, 80 kms

hehehehhe.. you don’t want to know what we did once we got to Tirunelveli :) But I'm sure you will get it right if you tried to guess… We went saree shopping hahahahah… We bought all the sarees in Tirunelveli to add to our Madurai collection….

It was a nice ride. I think we are all seasoned cyclists now and don’t feel the road too much (or so we would like to think). We have just one more day to go and we are still quiet unable to believe that we have cycled so much. Can't believe that we are already at the end. It Is funny actually. In some ways it feels like we started cycling yesterday. And in some ways it feels like we've been cycling all our lives, that this expedition is just another part of our lives.

NH 7 is a great road to cycle on. We've been on it from Dindugal and It feels as good as our umbilical cord - NH5 :) : 4-lane, double road with its 5-6 ft cycling lane.

We got flagged off at Tirunelveli by the Minister for Environment and also the Minister for Sports. Just our luck that they were here to do so. The accommodation that we have got here, is definitely the best that we have got so far on the entire expedition. It Is wonderful.. Feels like 7 star for us :)

It is amazing how quickly the Rotarians are able to put together a great function for us at such a short notice (this is actually true for all our locations. They all got a max of 24 hrs notice that we were going to land up). We got honoured here with small idols and fancy shawls. very touching.

Day 32 - Madurai to Sattur, 80 Kms

Only 2 more days to go.. As the end of the expedition is coming closer, so is the realisation increasing that we have to leave each other soon and get back to our lives… (not that our lives are not exciting enough :) )

We started off our day at 4 in high spirits as we were told that we have only 50 kms to go.. but after about 25 kms of hard riding, we came across a milestone that said we have 55 more to go… :(

But it was a great day.. Great weather and great cycling :) We took hardly any breaks and reached Sattur before 12 noon. We were greeted with very refreshing fresh lime juice with jal jeera in it that we stood outside a shop and had. The shopkeeper was so excited to meet us that he gave us free biscuits to eat. Thereafter were taken to a marriage hall where we were to stay for the night. Since, we'd bought so many sarees yesterday, we decided we need to get at least one member of our team married here today.. hehehe.. no luck though..

Had some great lunch as usual :) and managed to get some rest.. The exciting part of today was the visit to the match factory (Sugar Match Factory - that's the name)… It takes a team of 60 people to make one match box that sells for Re. 1/-. All age groups of people work in the factory from Women to old men. Each one does the kind of work that they are able to do. The old men stick stickers on the boxes and the women mostly box the matches. Wow, they work so so fast :) It is fascinating to see how a roll of paper Is transformed into the bright tipped matches in no time at all. The machinery is all very simple and so are the processes, but they process is of complete transformation.

We had a great presentation at the end of the day. Krushnaa Patil gave a presentation about her 6 summits and Reena about her expedition to the South Pole. They really enjoyed it and so did we. Sleepy now.. another 80 kms tomorrow :) And i'm sure everyone is waiting for another round of shopping hehehe..

Day 31 - Dindigul to Madurai

What do a bunch of women love to do? Any guesses?? hehehehe… of course - SHOPPING!!!! And I think we bought almost all the sarees available in Madurai. We have never seen sarees so cheap and yet beautiful. The sales people at Pothy's were extremely happy with us and even knew us by our names (thanks to our new t-shirts with our names at the back).

We stayed at the Gujarati Samaj and had some great Gujju food yet again. Highlight of the day (apart from the saree shopping) was the visit to the Meenakshi Temple. What a temple! Out of this world. So beautiful and HUGE!! Even if I put 30 exclamation marks, it is not enough to describe the way we felt after looking at the beauty of the temple and its numerous granite pillars and sculptures… The temple contains the sanctum sanctorum of both Goddess Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati) and of her consort - Lord Shiva.

After this, we had a presentation with the Rotary gang. I must mention that this particular batch of the Rotarians that we met were indeed very different from the ones that we have met all these days. The whole time that we were there, they just kept pulling each other's legs and were so much fun. A very jovial and friendly batch. They spent time with each and every one of us and took the trouble to find out all of our details. Even during our presentation, they asked us so many questions that eventually we had to cut it short :)

Day 30 - Trichi to Dindigul, 100kms

The morning started with cycling on a well lit and smooth highway. Unfortunately some girls couldn’t start off with us as they had cycle issues. We went through some small towns and the highway became a narrow road and then was under construction for a few kms, so that stretch was not quite comfortable for us. But breakfast was as always yummy with humongous dosas, puris and idlis!!! We reached our destination by afternoon and were taken to the Rotary club house and ate yummy mushroom biryani for the very first time!!! We then spent more than an hour getting the cycles fixed by a very sweet old man at the cycle shop who was constantly engaging us in conversation. After meeting with more Rotarians and the press we were escorted to the hostel of an engineering college where we were put up thanks to the Rotract club.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 29 - Perambalur to Thiruchirapalli/Trichi 56 kms

With 3 more entrants, the team seems much bigger all of a sudden!! Our morning started off as usual and our pace was pretty good despite the new guys having joined us. We reached the city of Trichi before noon and were received by the Rotarian Mr. Sivakumar who directed us to the hotel we were to stay at which was right beside the Sri Ranganathar temple. After resting we were taken to the temple by the Rotarians and we took two hours to complete the tour of the temple. The temple has a dedicated area of 156 acres and has Asia’s largest Gopuram (temple entrance) which has 13 storeys and is over 200 feet tall. After we all prayed to the deities for a successful expedition, we were escorted to the Rotary house where we had an extremely interactive session with college students and the Rotarians. Smitha and Reena have rejoined us and the team is finally complete. We are now 15 girls, 5 days away from our destination!

Day 28 - Ullundurpetai to Perambalur, 71 kms

Again we anticipated a very hot and tiring day so we started off at 4 a.m. but had reached our destination before the afternoon sun hit us. Luckily the hotel we stayed at was bang on the highway so we didn't have to go into the city and cycle on the crowded streets. The rooms that were given to us were amazing also because it had air conditioning which is a luxury we rarely enjoy!! Today the entire team got together and cleaned all the cycles to ensure we have no problems while riding the last couple of days. In the evening Rotarian Mr. Karthik and his team joined us at the hotel along with the press. Today Bimla and Deepa have joined us after having left us at Bhubhaneshwar and so has a new member, Dr. Manjushri Waikar from Nagpur.

the stupendous morning sky..

the girls make the best of any opportunity and take a nap, be it next to the toll booth on the highway.

the press meet..

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 27 - Pondicherry to Ullundurpetai, 77 kms

We hadn't expected a narrow, single and busy road to ride on early in the morning due to which we had to cover a little distance in the truck. Had yummy onion dosas, pongal and curd vadas for breakfast and hit NH 45. Again it’s a pleasure to get onto a well developed 2 lane highway. We reached our destination by noon as it was a quick ride today and had lunch at the Vasantha restaurant which was right beside our lodge. We were greeted by Mr. Vincent of Rotary. After an early lunch we went to our lodge and rested the entire evening. We then met the entire Rotary team and had dinner with them. They were very courteous and polite and fed us till we could eat no more. We tried the solapuri which is the south indian version of batura/puri which was yummy!!! Thankfully today was a very relaxed day as we have to start riding at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning!

Day 26 - Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry, 100 kms

Despite a super early start at 4 a.m. the humidity was rampant. We knew that 100 kms would be a difficult feat under the Tamilian heat so we were cycling our best and had planned for very few breaks. We were able to complete half the distance by breakfast which was a relief. There was a group of very hot bikers who went past us and all the girls went ga-ga all over their bikes. After breakfast we kept up the same pace and passed by a region where locals were salt farming and the white salt was dazzling.

At around 11 p.m. Mrs. Vasumathi's close friend invited us to the Pegasus military camp a few kms ahead of Pondicherry. We went there to have a tea break and had earlier planned to stay there but as most girls in the group had not visited Pondicherry we decided to stay in the city itself. After posing for some great pictures and admiring the beauty of the camp and the view of the sea we headed out for Auroville to visit the Matrimandir. Unfortunately by the time we reached visiting hours were over :( :(

We then went into main Pondicherry and were hosted by Rotary and were put up at the Youth Hostel. After having a late lunch and naps we had our usual posing and picture taking time. Later Mr. Kanan of Rotary took us on a drive and showed us all the popular sights, the Auroville Ashram, the beach, the French colony, the Hidesign hotels and many more. We then joined the District Governor Mr. Joseph and the president over milkshakes and soup at the Daily Breads bakery. We ended the day with a late dinner and slept at ten thrity! Gangotri ma'am has joined us tonight!!

view at the pegasus military camp.

the team!!!

the beach.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 25 - Chennai to Mahabalipuram, 35 kms

Our morning began with some very awesome police women joining us on cycles in support of the expedition. They cycled with us for about 5 kms on State Highway 49/East Coast Road. As we had a very short journey today, after breakfast we decided to stop over and visit the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust - Centre for Herpetology where we saw hundreds of crocodiles of different varieties such as the gharial, saltwater, marsh and many more from around the world. We also got to see some long pythons and a selection of turtles. It was such a marvelous place that we ended up spending over an hour checking out the beautiful creatures.

The heat was unbearable as we were cycling along the coast today but the glimpses of the sea we got made up for the high temperature and humidity. We reached Maammallapuram (as the locals call it) by 11 a.m. under the blazing sun and started hunting for a lodge and finally settled on the Sri Murugan Lodge. We ate a typical Tamilian lunch at the Ananda Bhavan restaurant which everyone relished. As we had nothing planned for the day some of us went back to the rooms to rest and some of us hit the shops! There were many Kashmiris who had set up store around the area we were staying at so we were able to buy some jewellery and some funky clothes! After waiting for the sun to settle down we decided to go see the Five Rathas rock temples, though unfortunately we reached there just after they shut. On our way back we were able to purchase some delicate showpieces carved out of marble.

Today was a very relaxed day other than the fact that we were baked under the sun! Tomorrow is another first for us as we will start cycling at 4 a.m. to avoid the coastal heat.

the policewomen - guest riders on the expedition

the crocs!!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 24 - Chennai (Rest Day)

Finally we got our well deserved rest in Chennai! Our morning started off with some yummy homemade dosas and cornflakes with bananas (still eating them like monkeys!)…The gracious Mr. Balakrishnan and District Governor Mr. Valli of Rotary held an amazing press conference for us and gave us delicious almond milk and samosas!

We then hit the mall for some retail therapy and Subway subs and ended the day with a walk on Marina beach…

The mechanics had finally come and put a stop to our cycle woes. With new parts and a thorough service tomorrow will be smooth sailing (I mean cycling) for all of us!!!

A hearty thanks to Mr. & Mrs. Ravi for their hospitality and welcoming us into their humble abode and Mr. Ravi's parents for being such loving and gracious hosts!!

Smitha and Reena have left us for a dance performance and to give a talk and will be joining us in a couple of days! All the best!!!! We will miss you guys!!

The countdown has begun! 9 more days to Kanyakumari! Whooopiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

with the Ravi family...

shopping at the mall!!!!

Day 23- Sulurpet to Chennai, 80 kms

CHENNAI here we are!!!!!!!! :)

Why the excitement? Because we have a rest day tomorrow… We are staying with Capt NR Ravi and his wife Lakshmi Ravi, Sister-in-law of the Leader, Vasumathi Srinivasan. The girls have finally got a chance to do their beauty parlour business :)… And, the best part is that there is a washing machine here :D… Small pleasures of life :)

There is a presentation in the evening for the family (a large one it is). They're looking forward to it. We might end up putting on weight here over today and tomorrow with the great food and sweets that we are all eating hehehhe

amazing dosas with sugar for breakfast and tea on the house!

a well deserved watermelon break at the industrial belt before chennai!

Day 22 - Gudur to Sulurpet, 70 kms

Whenever we think we don’t have much to cycle that day, we end up going too slow or taking too many breaks and end up reaching late.. hehehe… But today they were breaks well spent..

We were stopped by the Sarpanch (Head) of a village and his team. They came with the press photographers and brought a crate full of soft drinks for us. Just like that.. out of the blue.. It was so sweet of them. We managed to give them a lecture on keeping the village clean :)

Thereafter, we saw a board for Nellapattu Bird sanctuary. We were told that it was a kilometer away from the road and we decided to go there. Reena quickly brought out her bird book and we took off on our cycles. What a sight It was.. Hundreds of birds that have migrated from other parts of Asia and come here to breed. We saw Pelicans, Asian Openbill Storks, Painted Storks, Cormorants and different varieties of ducks. We spent about an hour just watching these birds. It was a sight of a lifetime. The Pelicans and Storks, especially, are such beautiful birds. We realised that the birds that we spotted the other day were these storks.

Sulurpet was great. Small town, but good food and a wonderfully comfortable hotel to stay at.. We all slept very well. It was, after all, our last day in Andhra Pradesh. Tomorrow onwards it will be welcome to Tamilnadu, the last State for the expedition…

We are unable to believe that we have already completed 22 days of the expedition. The pre-expedition days In Kolkata seem like a faraway dream. We can't even remember a few days of the expedition, already our minds are going blank. While there is great pride in the fact that we have been able to complete what almost everyone (including ourselves) thought was quite impossible. It is equally sad to see it coming to an end. All of us have grown so fond of each other and know that once we go back, despite all our promises to staying In touch, we will grow slowly busy In our own work and slowly drift apart. We will probably meet only at the next WANI AGM in Mount Abu. :( But one thing I am sure of. The relationships that have been built will definitely last a lifetime. When we meet the next time, it will be as if we were never apart. The jokes and leg-pulling will never end :) What a great bunch of girls… Ever helpful, always smiling, always pulling each other's legs and never feeling bad about jokes cracked.. Love you all!!! :)

Sunrise on the road...

The bird sanctuary..


Day 21 - Kavali to Gudur, 93 kms

Day started as usual. Reached at 2 pm. Lunch at a college hostel, then to our rooms, then presentation at the college and again dinner and back to our rooms by 8.30. Everyday we plan to sleep by 8 pm, but it has never been possible :( we need to get a little more sleep.. :).. I guess once we get back to our respective houses, we will just sleep through for 2 days in a row. hehehhe..

We think we met 3 naxalites on a motorbike today. When we were unloading our cycles on the highway, these three guys came and started screaming at us, asking who we were and what the truck was doing there. They were all covered up with blankets. It was scary as it was dark at 5.15 in the morning. Our leader immediately said that we were all police women and spoke to them a little strongly… They 'inspected' all of us and finally went away… After that our journey was peaceful :)

Saw some amazing birds today. We think they were cranes, but could only see them from far away. It was an amazing sight as there were two of them standing in the water at the edge of a big lake. A beautiful image. We tried to go near and take pictures, but they sensed our movement and flew away.
How green can it get :)

Resting in the shade of a truck..

The college girls getting excited to meet us and also to wear our helmets...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 20 - Ongole to Kavali, 70 kms

Was a good day. We reached Kavali at 12 noon and had enough time to rest. So we thought!!

Went to a college hostel for lunch (this seems to happen in most places). Thereafter we were taken to a big engineering college to meet the girls and then went to another college to meet the kids who were having their farewell party. By the time we got to our rooms, it was 10pm :( again we did not get much sleep. Have not been able to update the blog either.
getting there!!

Frogs in a well.. don't become like them :)

Presentation at the college.. The person making the presentation, Reena, is not in the pic though :)

Day 19 - Machchilipatnam to Ongole, :( too many kilometers…

We shrieked with joy when we hit NH 5 again :) Unfortunately we could not cycle the entire route and we were sitting in the truck when we joined our umbilical cord again…

It was my mistake I guess. When I had first fixed the route, close to a year ago, I calculated that Chinna Ganjam (our original destination for today), as being 100 kms away (God knows how I got that figure. Maybe I was blind)… We come here and realise that it is actually 150… thereafter, Rotary was not able to arrange anything for us there as it is a very small place :( So we had to move another 40 kms ahead. It was way too much to cover so we had to cover some distance in the lorry. We cycled about a 100 kms and then got into the lorry. We still reached Ongole at 6.30 pm. As usual, the Rotarians were a wonderful team here.

At Ongole, the Rotary has a programme called "Assist" through which they are working on stopping child labour in AP as well as empowering women. Ever since the Tsunami has hit this place, they have been working towards helping rehabilitate the fishing community, especially the women, towards other professions, especially Dairy. It is great the kind of work that they are doing here. They were very happy to meet us and see women doing something like this, since they are so used to meeting the highly oppressed women of the fishing community in coastal AP.

As usual, our cycles attract attention wherever we go. We collect a huge crowd each time we stop for a break. They come to see the cycles and the crazy women who are cycling in pants and wearing silly helmets :) We stopped to have tender coconut and also some amazing hot vada's, chilly pakoras and banana pakoras.. Though the weather was quiet hot, we enjoyed them :)

In a way, it should be easier tomorrow as we have to travel 70 kms only.. keeping fingers crossed.
Breakfast place :)

traffic on NH 214

This is how narrow NH 214 was :( while it was absolutely beautiful, it felt dangerous because of the width of the road. We had to keep going off the road when trucks and buses came.. After this experience, we have decided to change our route in Tamilnadu.. Trying to stick to the big roads wherever possible.

Day 18 - Palakollu to Machchilipatnam, 120 kms

The route was beautiful again… bright green fields for as far as the eye can see interspersed with coconut trees. We had to sit in the lorry for about 5 kms because the road turned out to be extremely bad for that stretch. But end of the day we cycled about 115 kms.

Went first from Palakollu to Bhimavaram, about 22 kms. The team at Bhimavaram refused to let us go for at least 2 and a half hours.. Met some wonderful people. One of them made us stop all traffic on the road (twice) and shout slogans of "swatantra Bharat Ki Jai" (hail Independent India), "Jai Bharat" (Hail India), "Gandhi Ji Ki Jai" (hail Gandhi Ji) etc… the second time he realised that we wer not sayign it right.. so he corrected us.. when he says 'jai Bharat', we were supposed to say 'jai jai Bharat' :) We did not know about the second 'jai' when we shouted the slogans the first time.. it was fun :)

The 2.5 hours delay killed us after that though… The heat was unbearable, but we did cycle the entire distance. We reached Machchilipatnam at 5 pm and immediately went for lunch. Thereafter, press conference. Finally we had to force our way to our rooms (they refused to let us rest also). We were extremely tired that day, having cycled for almost 12 hours. And when we finally got our rooms, they were full of mosquitoes. None of the girls managed to sleep properly at night.
Our welcome at Bhimavaram before the road blocks and the slogan shouting and amazing breakfast of Pesarattu and upma..

Green, green and more green.. and what a green it is..

The Sai baba temple next to the place where we were staying..

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meet the team Part 3

Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu
A very accomplished mountaineer and instructor and a very strong lady. Over and above this, a very conscientious lady who is very humble about her achievements. Reena is married to Lavraj, who has climbed Mt Everest three times.

Reena is trained as a Liaison Officer and has climbed many peaks. She was part of the first ascent of Mt. Argan Kangri (6789mts) in Karakoram range of Ladakh in July 2003 with All India Women Expedition.
She has climbed extensively not only In the Himalaya but also In Alaska as a part of mountaineering courses of NOLS.

Presently free lancing as an outdoor instructor for outdoor agencies mainly for NOLS ,USA.

Reena is the first Indian woman to ski to the South Pole (from coast to pole) as part of a commonwealth expedition with 6 other women from around the world.

Rupa Sahi
A qualified mountaineer and mountaineering instructor, Rupa is a lively young girl who Is full of beans and does not eat at all (this is what we all like to say about ourselves.. and it Is a joke.. truth is that all of us eat like crazy.. lol). Rupa is a great team member and is very strong. I have nicknamed her Hanuman because she is the only girl with enough strength to climb on top of our truck and push the canvas over the top to open the back. We require her to do It only when Chotu (the truck's cleaner) is not around.

Apart from mountaineering (she has climbed at least 6 peaks in the Himalaya), Rupa has also done a course in parasailing. Presently she works at 'Jump n height' Rishikesh as a Bunge jumping instructor.

Soni Shah
Soni has done a lot of courses from NOLS (National Outdoor Learning School) and is trained in First Aid. She, along with Reena, is the doctor of the team. Soni is a true adventurer. Apart from climbing mountains, she is a mountaineering Instructor, she has done a Para sailing course, she has participated in Artificial Wall Climbing competitions and represented India in the Nepal ‘WXtrip oct2010’ in World women adventure challenge in 2010. Over and above all this, she has also participated in a Mountain Biking Expedition of 36 days, covering 13 districts (2300 km) of Uttaranchal in 2007. We think she is the thinnest girl on the expedition and I am sure she will agree…. :) A very hard working girl who is a great asset on the expedition.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 17 - Kakinada to Palakollu, 104 kms

The 104 kms is what we cycled.. after that we had to cover another some distance in an auto because we punctured a cycle and there was no puncture shop around and our truck had to take a different route because this road was not completed, so we could not replace the cycle and the road was bad and there was no road across the Godavari river and we had to take a ferry to cross from one side to the next. Whew!

The roads were beautiful in the morning, past the lush green paddy fields in the mist. We could see wonderful birds in the trees on the side of the road and hear the calls. We hardly felt the road. Thereafter, we eventually reached Amalapuram and we got separated into three groups. Sneha got lost (God knows who she followed.. hehehe)… Our truck decided to follow her because they saw that she was going in the wrong direction, and then they got lost themselves… By the time we got all of them together, we wasted quite a bit of time. The heat began and we thought we had only 20 kms more to go…. and then they told us that we have to go 80 kms more :(

That is when we discovered, thanks to a tailor outside who's shop we were sitting when we were re-grouping, the route with the ferry is supposedly much shorter. But our truck could not follow. So we had to send the truck on the 80 kms route while we went on the supposed short cut with the ferry. Krushna and Smitha went to send the truck on the correct route and then came and joined the team at the ferry (that was supposed to be 4 kms but turned out to be close to 10)… Sigh!!!

The ferry ride was great though.. Except that before the ride we were told that Palakollu was 20 kms.. After we finished the ride, we were told that it was 50 kms away, then we punctured a cycle and we had nothing else to do but take 3 autos and load everything into it and get to Palakollu. Everyone was dead tired and it was quiet a bad day. We had not even had lunch till we got to the school at 5.30 pm, when the pPrincip[al, Ms Vasantha, brought us steaming upma. We managed to get a chance to speak with the kids as well, then we planted some trees and had a press conference.

We still managed to eat dinner after the late snack :)

Today was the first time that the team got screamed at by the leader. When the leader came back after some shopping, she found 3 girls repairing the cycles while a few others were sleeping and relaxing in the room. They got a solid yelling for being bad team members. :)

Tomorrow's route has also undergone a change as the route, as the map suggests, Is actually incomplete. We would have had to take anotherr ferry and the truck would not have been able to follow. So we will find out tomorrow what the actual distance is :) wish us luck :)

View across one of the many many bridges we crossed in AP.

The ferry we took to cross the river, cycles and all :)

At the school with the students..

Tree planting.. It was fun!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 16 - Tuni to Kakinada, 70 Kms

Can you believe that we reached our destination at 11.20 am??? Is that fast cycling or what!! heheheh.. We were estimating that we will reach at around 2 pm.. But we shocked our hosts by landing up at 11.30 :) Our host is a beautiful and smart lady named Krishna Kumari who runs a beauty parlour in the city. She is also the President of the Rotary in Kakinada.

The first half of the ride today was filled with anxiety and worry. We knew that our umbilical cord (as Anita Rao from Vizag put it) was going to be cut… lol.. The Umbilical cord being refered to is NH 5, which we have been cycling on ever since we started the expedition. The one with the wonderful double road and a 6ft cycling lane throughout… We had to take a left and get on to NH 214 to go towards Kakinada. as soon as we turned off NH 5, all our fears were confirmed - Single road, traffic, no cycling lane. NH214 tried to cheat us by giving us all of that for about 200 mtrs, but it disappeared immediately. But as we continued cycling, we realised that the view was wonderful. bright paddy fields on both sides of the road for as far as the eyes could see on both sides of the road, tree shaded roads and a chance to cycle through the villages of AP (NH5 bypasses al towns and cities.. just plain road).. And surprise surprise, we reached kakinada before we even realised it. Cycling early morning though might be a problem. We will have to figure that one out tomorrow morning.

We have great accommodation here and had an amazing meal. Amazing because we did not have to eat South Indian thali and could eat roti's or Chinese :) Tasty food. We've already decided what each of us Is going to order at dinner.. lol…

Nothing new in today's list of things that we did. cycle - breakfast - cycle - press conference - lunch - speech at a school - rest - dinner (this one is yet to happen) :)
A squished snake on the road:(

Temple town of Annavaram on the way to Kakinada

At the school...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 15 - Vishakapatnam to Tuni, 95 kms

Today was definitely one of the most tiring days so far. We hadn't taken any rest yesterday and also ended up sleeping at 11pm because of the YHA meeting. And there were too many mosquitoes at night. So we were already very tired when we woke up in the morning :( and to top it all, the heat has become quiet unbearable. Plus not to mention that most of us have upset stomach's due to the tasty but super spicy Andhra food :)

Anita cycled with us till the Vizag Steel Plant. The YHA team at the steel plant arranged a great reception for us on NH 5 with breakfast and YHA caps for each of us. We then carried on towards Tuni and Anita went back to Vizag.

But we managed to get to Tuni by about 2.30 pm. We got an amazing reception from the staff and students of the Sri Prakash school and college here. The campus is so beautiful and so are the people. We started off with a press conference as soon as we reached. Then lunch (very tasty) followed by us addressing about a thousand students. Though we are so tired, we're really looking forward to interacting with the hostel students later today.

The great part about the school is that it is a school that believes in the green movement. They have a dairy farm and not only produce milk for the school but also sell the milk. They use bio gas for all the cooking in the hostels and also for the generators. We are going to be going on a school tour in a bit. Catch you then…

The breakfast with the Vizag Steel Plant team

The monument that the VSP put up to celebrate their turnaround from Rs 600 crore losses to Rs 600 crore profits...

Birds in the fields.

The Principal and the students at the college :)

with the students after the presentation and talk with them...

Day 14 - Vishakapatnam, Rest Day

I think it is time to make a separate list of the new things and experiences that we are having individually and as a team. heheheh so today's new experiences are as follows:

1. First time that most of us stepped onto a ship. It was Dredger that sucks up silt and mud from the sea bed.
2. First time that we stepped into a submarine. Thanks to the Indian government that spent loads of money in converting an actually submarine into a museum so that civilians like us can have a taste of what it is like to live on the submarine.
3. First time that a few of us played on the beach
4. First time that most of us had cold stone ice cream at a place called the ice age. It was fabulous and we were stuffed at the end of it. It was nice to watch them make the concoctions with ice cream and a whole lot of other ingredients whichh they put onto a frozen granite slab and mixed up using to knives.

Apart from all of this, we also visited the Simhachalam Temple, the Naval Colony, went shopping to the tribal exhibition where we bought kalamkaari sarees and other exciting stuff, went book shopping and ate some noodles for lunch :)

Anita Rao and Harita accompanied us through this exploration of Vizag / Waltair.. Anita is a great person. A painter, counselor, mom to an 18 yr old, cyclist, motorcycle enthusiast (she was the first woman to go from Delhi to Leh and back on a motorcycle…

The YHA arranged a big meeting for us in the evening where we spoke to quiet a few people who had come. The hospitality at Vizag left nothing lacking at all. We could have stayed a few days or weeks more there :)

On the dredger

on the steps of the submarine

Outside Anita's house
This is what the Submarine looks like :)

With the YHA and Rotary teams at the presentation in the evening...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 13 - Srikakulam to Vishakapatnam, 100 kms

It was going to be a long day due to the distance. But we were extremely excited because of the rest day coming up tomorrow… We couldn’t wait to get to the beach (we were told that we are staying at YMCA, on the beach). And the other excitement (not really exciting) is washing our clothes.. hehehe.. we've been piling them up for the past few days anticipating the break day. Our next break will be after 9 days at Chennai.

The road today was very enjoyable. It was a lot of downhills, though we did have quiet a few uphills as well. We had our first Dosa for the trip. The owner of the dhaba pulled out the newspaper and showed us our picture:)

One of the new things that most of the girls did today was eat a fruit called tateningo. It grows on a coconut like palm and has small juicy heart shaped fleshy pulp filled with sweet water. One has to peel the outer skin with the fingers and eat the fleshy pulp while the water bursts into your mouth. It was so refreshing that we ended up eating quite a few each.

OH!!! and how could I forget.. All the girls also tasted fresh toddy today :).. We watched a guy climb up the palm tree using the rubber and jute apparatus and recover fresh toddy.. we all had a sip each... It is amazing how are are all getting to do so many new and exciting things ont he journey and meet such accomplished and generous people...

All along the route, everywhere we stopped for a break, we've collected a crowd of curious people. Everyone is equally shocked (it is more like - entertained) when we tell them our route. But more than anything, the men and the boys are more interested in the geared cycles and they all ask us the price. They refuse to believe us when we tell them that they are Hercules (Indian) cycles. In fact they refuse to believe that we are Indians ourselves. hehehe.. We normally have a tough time getting them not to touch the cycles and change the gears. It is really funny to see that in every group there is one person who is the 'know-it-all'. He invariably is the one who explains to the others the intricacies of the gears and how they work, even though he actually has no clue about it.. hehehe.. As you can see, we have entertainment wherever we go, even if we feel like zoo animals up for display :)

We've had many people stop us on the road to take pictures. One of then today turned out to be the District PR person. He was extremely interested and said that he will pass on the details to the media.

Mr Vithal Raj of the Rotary came to pick us up from the beginning of Vizag ( also called Vishakapatnam and Waltair). This place is so beautiful. One of the most beautiful cities visited so far. Even our truck driver Is telling us to stay back here for a few days. As promised, we are staying at the YMCA and our stay here is hosted by both the Youth Hostels Association as well as the Rotary. Had a big press conference and a presentation with the Rotary. We've not had time to go to the beach, though it is just across the road.

BSA Hercules got all our cycles re-fitted today. That is exciting.. They should run like butter day-after-tomorrow. heheheh..

Have a long day of sightseeing tomorrow.. and meetings and conferences.. :) catch you later… :)

cycles when loaded into the truck

Reena loved the Toddy :)

The tender coconut break

With Mr Vittal Raj