Cycling to Lansdowne: The Triumph of Will Against Heat, Thirst and Terrain…..

Road to Lansdowne: A beautiful hill station in Garhwal Himalayas, 250 km from Delhi

Road to Lansdowne: A beautiful hill station in Garhwal Himalayas, 250 km from Delhi

31 km done, 10 km to go…..

2700 feet climbed, 1400 feet to go…….

I looked at the thermometer and it said 42 degrees Celsius (110 degree Fahrenheit) in the sun!

I took another deep breath and pounded on the pedal.

And then all of a sudden I felt a funny taste in my mouth. Seemed some sort of a warm brackish liquid was reaching my mouth.

I stopped, a bit confused and realized with horror that I was having a nose bleed and the blood was oozing into my mouth from the nose!

I got down from the bike and suddenly all started to go fuzzy.

It seemed as if a red curtain was pulled over my eyes making me literally see red and I realized I might be minutes from getting a sunstroke.

I frenetically pulled the water bottle from by bike holder and emptied the contents on my head.

I sat in the shade for a few moments and spotted a water tap some 50 meters up ahead.

I labored to the spot and turned the tap.

To my immense relief, the water came out gushing.

I sat under the tap and a big sense of relief filled me.

The water soaked me to the bone and ‘poof’ the heat exhaustion was gone.

The tap that saved my life. It was insanely warm and the bath cooled me down and saved me from a sunstroke for sure.

The tap that saved my life. It was insanely warm and the bath cooled me down and saved me from a sunstroke for sure.

Cooled down and feeling better, I re-calibrated my bearings.

I filled up my water bottle from the tap and called Mausmi from my cellphone.

Her sweet voice made me feel great and when I narrated my latest adventure ride with a possible sunstroke she did not get alarmed or showed any nervous tension.

She just calmly said “Don’t kill yourself for a ride, come back if you think you can’t do it.”

And then she paused and said “But I know you will do it”

I was smiling after I ended the call, you don’t remain happily married unless your woman knows what salts you are worth.

I mounted the saddle and muttered “Lets do this”!


Let’s Do This

It had been a while that I climbed up a mountain on my bike.

I was getting itchy to ride in the hills and the first weekend I got for myself in Delhi, I decided to ride to Lansdowne.

Lansdowne is a quiet hill station in the Garhwal Himalayas, 250 km from Delhi.

Last time my bike trip to the same place was washed away in a torrential downpour of Monsoons and I decided to give my ‘old flame’ a second try.

This time I had a new biking partner.

Roopak Suri: A crazy biker who aspires to be n amateur racer and the guy is very capable to become one for sure!

Roopak Suri: A crazy biker who aspires to be n amateur racer and the guy is very capable to become one for sure!

Enter Roopak Suri.

Roopak is a free spirited talented young bloke and a great rider himself.

He has done Delhi-Agra (220 km) in one day’s biking and regularly goes on Time Trials and easily clocks 40 km/hr average speed on his Bianchi Road Bike.

So, when I broached the plan to ride to Lansdowne, all he said was “Lets do this”!

So, on 11th June we found ourselves on a train to Kotdwar (a nearby railhead to Lansdowne) with our bikes safely stowed at one end of the railway coach.

I added a bit of drama by first running a fever (100.6 degree Fahrenheit) in the evening and second by forgetting my bike saddle at home which made me travel up and down between my home and the station in a 45 minute time window to catch the train. Finally a little bit of debate with the railway staff later, our bikes were safe and we were comfortably perched in our sleeping bunks.

Our bikes: safely kept in the railway coach. We paid Rs. 100 to the attendant to keep an eye on our bikes and he did the job superbly.

Our bikes: safely kept in the railway coach. We paid Rs. 100 to the attendant to keep an eye on our bikes and he did the job superbly.

We reached Kotdwar early in the morning.

Kotdwar is really a sleepy railway station with only one platform.

Somehow it reminded me of hindi flick Sholay’s Ramgarh station where bounty hunters Jai and Veeru got down to face off with the fugitive Gabbar on Thakur Saab’s insistence.

Kotdwar railway station

Kotdwar railway station

We assembled our bikes and went into the city to find a hotel.

We checked into Hotel Ambey which was a decent option.

A couple of bananas and a few energy bars made for our breakfast and we were off to Lansdowne.

Off to Lansdowne

Lansdowne is some 41 km from Kotdwar at a moderate altitude of 5700 feet.

It has a big military presence and is home to the Garhwal Rifles of Indian Army. In fact the town’s only claim to fame has been the army base for a long time. Now with personal mobility with the middle class Delhi becoming an easy meat, the town is growing as a popular hill destination for lots of weekend travelers.

Our staring altitude at Kotdwar was 1600 feet and we were supposed to take the National Highway 119 via Dugadda to Lansdowne.

The road condition was excellent throughout with a fabulous tarmac quality all along till Lansdowne.

We set off from our hotel at 07:45 am.

Ride starts and off goes Roopak in his Livestrong gears!

Ride starts and off goes Roopak in his Livestrong gears!

The road was good and the climb was very gentle, in fact it climbed just 1000 feet in the first 16 km till Dugadda.

Buoyed by the nature and the tarmac my racer friend Roopak just flew off and the next time I saw him was back at the Hotel at 4 pm! Apparently, Roopak did the climb in 4 hours and came back to Kotdwar.

The road scenery changed after Kotdwar.

I was on NH 119 and climbing along the River Khoh.

I would see a lot of step farming fields which were largely unplanted in the summer months.

v

Step farming. Pretty green but not as much one sees post monsoon when this whole route turns to a riot of green

and the road turns beautiful too

and the road turns beautiful too

I reached Dugadda effortlessly and stopped for refilling my water bottle.

As soon as I stopped, I was mobbed my curious onlookers.

They descended in a big number asking questions about me, my bike and so on.

As always, I patiently answered all their queries.

My celebrity status was unmistakable and many folks brought out their mobile cameras to click me with my bike.

I also, got myself clicked with the locals- it is an invaluable perk of traveling in India on a mountain bike and I always love it!

People are inquisitive about cycles and the geared bikes makes them go bonkers.

Often people ask me about how costly it is.

This time I drew a huge audience around my ABC (Alimeter-Barrometer-Compass-Thermometer) Sunnto Vector watch and it was fun to get so much attention!

Yeah....I am a star! I always take time to explain the cycling stuff to guys, it is what al bikers should do, educate people as much as they can.....

Yeah....I am a star! I always take time to explain the cycling stuff to guys, it is what al bikers should do, educate people as much as they can.....

I ditched the NH 119 soon after Dugadda and took a state highway that would travel 25 km and climb another 3100 feet to reach Lansdowne.

The state highway was in equally pristine condition and very light on traffic.

Except for a few local passenger vehicles and a few Delhi based weekend travelers, it was all empty.

Pretty soon the road was all twisty and curvy and was climbing at a steady 4-5% gradient with a occasional 6-7% sections.

Emply roads from Duggadda

Emply roads from Duggadda

However, my problems began right as I hit the 10 am mark.

The temperature by now had soared to 37 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and I ran out of water. I had just one bottle holder in my bike and it was clearly not enough that I could bike to watering points with just 1 liter of water reserve in the daytime heat.

Soon I realized that I will not get to the next village/town without water and that made me go on a quest to discovering water.

Throwing away all concerns of getting bottled water, I tanked up at a local run off stream’s collection point.

It feels great to get water when you are thirsty on a bike ride, no matter where the water comes from!

Alright, there comes a time when thirst tides over your finicky choice of source......this one was one of many such watering points that kept me going

Alright, there comes a time when thirst tides over your finicky choice of source......this one was one of many such watering points that kept me going

I reached Fatehpur town and filled water from a local shop.

The guy told me that Roopak had stopped here a few minutes earlier.

Later on I would continuously hear “here comes another one”, “one more crazy cyclist”, “lunatic number 2 going up the hill” and all these comments which assured me that Roopak was well and truly setting the hill road on fire while I stalked him.

From Fatehpur, the ride’s scenic quotient took a quantum leap.

Yes it was hot and the climb was unrelenting but the road was beautiful.

Tall trees grew by the road side and the only sound I heard was the rustling leaves.

much better scenery after Fatehpur

much better scenery after Fatehpur

and it got better

and it got better

a beautiful ride, only if it was not that warm that I could have enjoyed it more

a beautiful ride, only if it was not that warm that I could have enjoyed it more

I was again out of water and this time there was no stream and no taps in sight.

I flagged down an incoming SUV filled with Sardars and asked if they could spare some water.

The guys were sipping cola in an air-conditioned vehicle and listening to music.

The driver said that there was a tube-well dispensing clean water just a stone throw away and they drove off rudely.

Punjabiyan de shan vakhri” (pubjabis have a different style) I said to myself and went ahead to find the prized tube-well.

And it was there, but it was dry.

So I stopped for another vehicle to pass by me.

This time I got lucky.

A family gave me their full water bottle and appreciated my spirit of riding in hills in the heat.

I thanked them and moved on.

Soon I reached the “First View of Lansdowne” signpost, which told me the end was near.

First view of Lansdowne, the end was near yet so far

First view of Lansdowne, the end was near yet so far

I had no clue that the last stage would be the most punishing part of the whole climb.

It was 11 am now and I was some 12 km from the summit.

The temperature by now had soared to 40 degrees in the sun and I was running out of water every 2 km or so. Sometimes a stream would help me, sometimes a vehicle, sometimes a small village hut or sometimes I was just riding without water.

The climb? The heat? The thirst? Or the next watering point?

At times I wondered what would get me first.


What would get me first

At the 10 km from summit mark I had my nose bleed and brush with getting a sunstroke (as mentioned at the start of the blog).

The tube-well saved my life and from there on I decided to ride slow so that the core temperature remains low and I don’t fade out in a place where I might not find any help.

Every tube-well or a watering point would see me taking a mini bath.

I would pour water all over me and fully wet my cap to ensure that I keep a cool head.

This is how I looked after a mini bath when I would soak myself in water and soak the cap. Thanks Bear Grylls (the presenter of Discovery Channel's 'Man vs Wild' series for teaching me how to remain cool in sun)

This is how I looked after a mini bath when I would soak myself in water and soak the cap. Thanks Bear Grylls (the presenter of Discovery Channel's 'Man vs Wild' series) for teaching me how to remain cool in sun

I would stop after every 100 feet of ascent and hydrate myself and if possible take those cooling mini baths.

Those stops were excruciating. I had set a 5 minute stop regime and the 5 minutes seemed like an eternity.

At times I would just watch the ants or see far of mountains or just sit there blankly and wait to get my core temperature down.

In one of those stops, I just threw a few small pebbles at a cow and when I rode my bike the cow would see me coming and start running. Then it would stop and still see me coming and it ran again.

Amused me for a while.

Run Lola Run”, I said and pedaled.

managed to scare a cow somehow :-)

managed to scare a cow somehow 🙂 Spot the cow running ahead!

I never quite understood why, but the last bit of climb to any hill station saves the best of the gradients.

This was no exception and the last bit of the climb was the steepest.

The only thing that fueled me was the thought that the soon it ends!

Almost there, just a few short steep sections to go

Almost there, just a few short steep sections to go

Beautiful NH 119 and the state highway, no potholes whatsoever made the climb a lot easier than doing the same on a minefield type highway

Beautiful NH 119 and the state highway, no potholes whatsoever made the climb a lot easier than doing the same on a minefield type highway

And it Ends

12:45 pm, 5 hours and 41 km and 4100 feet of climb later, I was finally at Lansdowne.

It was surely not an express climb and my progress was slow.

Blame it partly on the excessive heat, frequent water quests, fastidious approach to avert sunstroke and mostly my unconditioned state (hardly any biking in frequent times for a host of reasons).

But the end result was great and I loved the feel of completing the arduous climb.

After a short visit to the Renuka Lake (which was a dull place), a short lunch and one pic at the city center and I decided to head downhill.

reached Lansdowne! Heat, thirst and terrain conquered by will power and pedal power :-)

reached Lansdowne! Heat, thirst and terrain conquered by will power and pedal power 🙂

The downhill was a fast affair and all the places went by in a jiffy and I was back at the Hotel.

The stats of the day were:



Kotdwar Lansdowne Climb Profile

Kotdwar Lansdowne Climb Profile

Distance 82 km
Time on Saddle 7 hours
Starting Altitude 1600 feet
Finishing Altitude 5700 feet
Total Climb 4100 feet
Average Gradient 3.50%
Highest Gradient 7.00%

This ride came on a day I was informed that I am riding in the Tour of Nilgiris 2010, the most prestigious biking event of India and the climb to Lansdowne served as the icing on the cake. So, how was the ride? I guess it was very tough because of the heat and the thirst involved in the whole climb. But as it goes, the will is stronger than many forces and it triumphs over the oddities. I came back wiser for I did tide over the forces with just a few ounces of will.

Am I riding again to the hills?

Yes, I will!


my trusted partner: Trek 4300

my trusted partner: Trek 4300

Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.comn

+91-7838237844

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27 Responses to “Cycling to Lansdowne: The Triumph of Will Against Heat, Thirst and Terrain…..”

  1. Vinni Says:

    Well love for cycling can truly take people to places, appreciate your Hard work, but whats making me sad is the Lasndowne which is one of better know hill stations has become so hot, the last time I was there it was so nice and cool. Global warming it looks like has already en gulped the hills.

  2. Roopak Says:

    Nice blog entry 🙂
    Captured the ride really well
    And thanks for my introduction hehe – was very funny 🙂
    You can add the GPS links also!

    • manasij Says:

      Thanks man!
      It was good to team up with you but I am no match for your pace buddy!
      Hopefully we will have more rides in future together 🙂

  3. Abhishek Bhardwaj Says:

    Hey Congrats !
    Not many Bicycle riders in our country.
    I like bilking too hope one day i will also travel like you.
    I follow Tour de France every year.
    Biking is such a great fun.

    • manasij Says:

      Thanks Abhishek……

      I am sure you will do what you have a calling for 🙂
      and yes, biking is fun fr sure 🙂

      cheers,
      manasij

  4. Varinder verma Says:

    Good work manasij. I have a mountain bike too specialized hardrock, and I too go on rides, but I guess you are a good biker and a great story teller. Keep it up buddy! Way to go

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Manasij,

    Its nice to see that you have now started conquering North India now.. Good Luck for your all future rides..

  6. Vinay Kumar Says:

    Hey Manasij,

    Its nice to see that you have now started conquering North India now.. Good Luck for your all future rides..

  7. Vivek Bhat Says:

    More than anything else, the roads remind me of my home state J&K… and here I am living in Pune, around 1800 KMs away.

    Your blogs always serves as a inspiration to me, I cycled around 15 KM non stop yesterday and was euphoric about that (Even buzzed about that 🙂 ). But there definitely is a long road ahead, and I will love to cycle my heart out in the coming days…

    Manasij, thanks for the inspiration and keep it up man 🙂

    • manasij Says:

      Hey Vivek,

      Thanks for the appreciation.
      I am sure the more you ride the more places will you see and more memories you will have to share.
      So, keep riding buddy!

      Cheers,
      Manasij

  8. Ajay Says:

    nice writeup Manasij…I read about your Leh trip also

    Lansdowne – I grew up there – 3 years – nice, quaint town, still retaining its ‘old world charm’ – not sure if you got a chance to visit Tippin Top

  9. PS Soni Says:

    you have a wonderful story telling style, very gripping. Cycling to lansdowne was a great and difficult ride, thanks for the insights

    hope to be able to get on to the cycling bug. have just started out in city cycling

  10. Shailaja Says:

    Great Effort…..& Nice Write-up-as Always…!

  11. annoymous Says:

    Noce blog ……nice spirit but what made me laugh the most is:-
    “My celebrity status was unmistakable and many folks brought out their mobile cameras to click me with my bike.” ——-:)

  12. Sujash Says:

    good going Mansij…. truly admirable effort…

  13. Anonymous Says:

    great going dude! 3 cheers to ur indomitable spirit !

  14. Kunal Says:

    Nice writeup.
    Just curious as to why you were wearing multiple layers (and that too dark colours) in the hot weather..?

    • manasij Says:

      i was wearing a kookaburra exo-skin which helps keeping the body temp constant
      yeah the choice of color ended up being on the darker side.

  15. Steve Hoge Says:

    (Gotta catch up now, since you’ve already posted your Landlord blog entry…)

    Congrats on braving this climb! Can’t believe the heat in NW hill states this year; one of the reasons we didn’t stick around but came back after our ride in the Andamans.

    Some suggestions:

    1) Get some additional water bottle cages! I traveled with 3 on my bike and definitely went through all of them on our mostly-flat cycling legs through Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc.

    2) I think you’d find an authentic cycling helmet like your friend Roopak’s MUCH cooler than that cap, plus it obviously offers real protection from pavement, trees, cows, SUVs etc. You can get them with bills to keep the sun out of your eyes, of course.

    3) Not quite sure why you’re wearing all those layers in the pictures – t-shirt, jacket and arm-warmers (or long sleeves?) Fewer layers == better evaporation == more cooling.

    Are you still going to do the Leh->Srinagar trip this summer?

    -Steve

    • manasij Says:

      1. yes I need to get a fe bottle cages
      2. i do have a cycling helmet but i dont like using them on tarmac where chances of falls are remote
      3. i was wearing a kookaburra exo-skin which helps keeping the body temp constant, it helped and did its job well, the problem was the hear anayway and lack of water
      4. i am in ladakh from july 22nd doing a biking + blogging duty fir the first ultramarathon of india, it is incidentally world’s highest ultramarathon
      chck the site: http://thehigh.in

  16. Anonymous Says:

    good efforts in lansdowne, we welcomes u again in garhwal himalayas

  17. Ashish Maindola Says:

    great efforts in lansdowne ,i inviting u again

  18. manik Says:

    Hey! Great write up! I’m thinking of biking from Delhi to Lansdowne. what kind of bike do you think I should use (mbt or road bike)? Could you please reply as son as possible.
    Thank you so much!
    Manik

  19. Sanjit Mishra Says:

    Wonderful….what a perfect description ! Your language is simply amazing, man! All the best…and hope to se ya soon somewhere on the roads…

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