Saturday, August 27, 2016

Report: A Debut Outing with Godiva

Some things happening after a long, long while
- burning a day's worth of calories
- hearing the line "we should take a break"
The latter left me with little tangible thought. The former, however, has plenty of forthright data to put out.

The abovementioned calorie-crunching event happened on a morning. I was up early, ready sans the usual drag-down that happens in the early minutes of waking, had the bike prepped for a ride (air: check, tools: check, rear and front lights: check), and beat the other anxieties of life (the rest of life is an anxiety in its entirety, tho). 'Twas the debut ride for me and Godiva since having moved up here - though she has been here earlier, in the spring of 2012, but that was a long time back.

The sun had not yet started to peek through the mountains when I set out. But the village tea shop was up and running, which reminded that I could've been out 15 minutes earlier. Regardless, pedals got into motion. I was soon too lost in the experience, to feel concerned about those 15 lost minutes. The direction taken was North, one towards Bhowali. A coupla km before Bhowali comes a fork that climbs to Nainital. My plan was to hit Nainital via this route, then come down a new shortcut. It would've totaled to around 25km, which is reasonable to start with.

The rush of being on my favorite mode of displacement in my favorite part of the world was overwhelming. A glee made its way through my heart and to my face in the first coupla km, which is a satisfying downhill from Gethia to Khupi to Murdaghat, where onwards it climbs and climbs, to Bhumiyadhar to the fork to Nainital. It felt a bit irresponsible, but the first few minutes were speed unleashed, like a madman breaking free - the wind spoke hypnotic things in my ears and I wanted to hear more. To complement the wind, was the scenery, and to add to it was the detail I could pick which was thanks to being on a bike. On no other mode of motion can one pick up as much - to see the rising sun, to study the detail in the skies, to sample either side of the road, and to sample the relief of the road itself.

The uphill started, and in a while I was rediscovering the definition of perseverance. So long had it lain dormant in the hearth of my organism that I had forgot about it altogether. But here, it was a demand, to meet the challenge of the uphill. And so it happened, that I started persevering in a tangible way - one rev after the other. Funny, that outdoors is the only place where I assent to persevering; in the regular churn of the world I fail miserably/refuse to show any such qualities that contribute professionally or academically. Bhumiyadhar came. Then came the fork. Then came Nainital. I had made it there by 0640, about an hour's time, which is okay for a debut effort of ~15kmph. I could've been cycling for hours, or so it felt.

Having clocked a decent average to reach Nainital, I felt confident to take up the challenge of the new shortcut. However, consulting an elderly and a coupla boys hanging about, I learnt that the shortcut was a foot trail, that was too steep for a bicycle. The boys suggested I take the proper road down to Jeolikote, and climb back home from there. "That'd be too much," I expressed my hesitation, being tired. "Extend your adventure today," was their reply, egging me on. Since the road to J was all downhill, and it would translate to a mere 2-3km extra uphill cycling to reach back home, I coerced.

The adventure was extended, and I was found zipping down the beautiful Naini - Jeoli road, which was once considered the best-aligned hill road. The mountain scenes of this side are much new to me, and both me and Godiva enjoyed it together. It was still early, so traffic was negligible, which translated to a fantastic experience, and some amused Langurs by the roadside.

Tragedy struck shortly ahead of Patwadangar. Something in the bike didn't feel right. And on a lonely stretch, a lound noise and hiss came from the rear end of the bike. I looked down and found the tube had unraveled. In panic I braked and came to a stop. "I'm fucked for the morning," I said to myself. This was the farthest I could be from my home. And the auto-bragging about not having carried any money seemed the most foolish decision in retrospect. "How will I do 15+km carrying her," I thought. Depression started to take over.

Luckily, the tube wasn't bust. It hadn't unraveled at all. The bike was intact.
It was the spare tube that had come out from the saddle bag, slowly over the bumpy sections of the past few kms. Popping out, it had got stuck in the chain, that had me fearing the worst (unimaginably so). Picking up the tube, I could see that the bike was in fine shape. Whew! Then, I realized that the saddle bag was missing the toolkit. Depression was back, "Allo! Ya missed me, did ya?!"

The depression didn't seem easy to get over. Debut rides shouldn't end with losses of such nature. A multi-tool, though rather inexpensive equipment (compared to other cycling hardware), is important for the cyclist; and sourcing a new one would mean a wait.
I could probably backtrack my way, UPHILL, but with little hope of finding a small piece of equipment that could've so easily skid to the rain gutter at sides (since it would have momentum when it fell), or have been picked up by a curious eye if still in the middle of the road. Regardless, I started going back, uphill, eyes searching. The Langur troupe was sure amused seeing me again. As for humans, there still weren't many out yet.

This uphill seemed doubly difficult - first, I had committed in imagination to not be doing it, already feeling tired; second, it was a persistent and steep uphill, a "real" one. The conditions reminded of an earlier bike trip in trans-himalayan region. The milestones came slowly. Patwadangar, that I just flew through on the downhill, now came after considerable toil (and time) on the uphill. One gets to evaluate a stretch of road in detail on the uphills; consequentially the (mentally held) gradient map had addition in data.

What seemed the near-impossible and near-implausible, happened, shortly before the Nainital 7km milestone. Slightly off-center on the road, was some black junk, which turned to be the multi-tool. It lay in chaos, but still in a single piece. Elation followed. Perseverance worked, and it brought a WIN moment.

Having backtracked so far, it seemed foolish to go back down to J, then take to the road up (to G). 'Twas decided to continue up, hit Nainital again, and make down via the KylaK trail. Those 7km were challenge that squeezed out the last of stamina from my organism. 5k milestone onwards, I had found a distraction from the pain, and the will to give up, in counting the revs/strokes. It takes an average of 250-300 (full) revs to cover a km when uphill (in the lowest gear like 1.1-1.3). 5k reduced to 3k, and 3k to 2k to 1k to finally reaching Tallital. The remaining ride down to G was noteworthy for its challenging downhill which made me fear for the brakes - I trust my legs to get me up more than the breaks to get me down. But, a complete return was soon achieved.
Nothing broke, nothing lost.

The fatigue of the abovementioned morning was immense. To add to it, were the rashes of all shapes and sizes nature bestowed upon me - 30 that I could find visibly, and a few more in unreachable places - which is the result of the past coupla weeks of freewheeling time in the outdoors (and its undergrowth).

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