– ODO- 8024 – 8118km
– Location- Allinagaram, Munnar, India
– Weather- 13-31 Cold above 1000m
Today was my third off road day. My mapped route took me down steep gravel mountain bike tracks in Austria and Turkey.
The day started on a high. I left the guesthouse I had been staying in nice and early. In the hills, the sun sets and rises at different times with the walls of rock blocking the sun. The route climbed up from pineapples to the tea fields. Distinct bushes close to the ground and in clumps. The sheer greenness of this part of the world really pops. Munnar itself was a real gritty tourist spot so I continued winding up my route past two dams on the smooth shady tarmac. Stopping to take videos and photos more than ever.
The road climaxes at the Top Station. When I arrived though there was a mob of people shouting and trying to corral officials into letting them into the viewing station. I immediately turned on my heals and found a lay-by that had better views by far. Indian tourist attractions have been reliably disappointing. Too many people. Too many shops. Too many scammers.
Now it was time to continue my journey. I followed the highway but the road began to break apart and my map complained I was going the wrong way. So I retraced my steps and to the left of a small chapel, I saw a track. It was labelled “Trekking path to Kurangani” It also said you needed a pass to have access from the police. I freewheeled down a little on a gravel track and wasn’t stopped, so I continued. The path steepened becoming more narrow and the gravel became looser. After a few minutes, I was committed. The track was so steep that it would be so much work to get back to the top. And the detour by road was right back to Munnar. Another 100km. An extra day. Not an option.
The path continued to narrow. In some places it was made from placed boulders. In others loose sand. Horse tracks and dung showed its normal traffic. Several times my front bag pinged off with the pressure. My handlebars twisted around against the bolts as I gripped my whole weight on the breaks. Several times a share switchback came the bike went over into the bank with its momentum. Several times with me underneath.
As I came lower the temperature rose and I began to sweat. I passed a small village and got bemused stares from all. After falling under the bike a third or fourth time I was fed up. I stopped to drink my limited water and put in sun cream. I was hungry, thirsty and exhausted. This was just stupid.
Finally, after two and a half hours I simply pushed the bike. Or rather held on for dear life as it fell down the path. I held both breaks locked in place. I met nobody except two hikers who passed me when I stopped. We met again at a waterfall only 3km from the bottom. I took off my socks and shoes and washed the scratches on my legs and hand. Picking sharp burrs from my socks and hair.
When I finally met the tarmac I kissed it. I’ve never been so glad to see a highway. 10km, -1000m in three full hours of sweaty terror.