- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The 2200m steady descent from Ooty was spectacular. It was quite cool when we set off in the early morning and, after a few undulating miles through the Nilgiri Hills, we glided down through a range of climate zones to palm trees and the warmth of the plain. It was 5 hours of non-pedaling bliss with far too many temptations to capture the stunning scenery on camera.
Another of the many highlights was the ride from chaotic Mysore to Bandipur National Park. On quiet country lanes, we were introduced, for the fist time, to rural life in India and jubilant greetings from dozens of children. This became a regular and heart-warming feature during the trip. It really is a different world in these small villages and cycling enabled us to see this at close quarters.
Peter, our leader, managed to arange a cycle run to a Hindu festival and this was simply mind-blowing with a dozen elephants adorned in spectacular colours, huge bands of Keralan drummers and horn players and dancers supporting massive colourful spinning wheels. This was Hinduism at it's most vibrant! I heard that they manage to find a such a festival on most trips.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Peter was a suberb and confident leader with a huge bank of useful knowledge about the country. He was pleasantly laid back and there was no experience of being too organised; a problem among some leaders.
Joseph, his co leader, was a delightful and considerate Indian guy and quite new to the job. He was invaluable as well as being a strong and fast cyclist.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
When we first met as a group, two of the major concerns were, cycling in the chaotic traffic and the climb to Ooty. These were also my worries.
Don't worry about the traffic. Things may seem a bit chaotic and your intrusion is just one tiny additional element to the scene. Drivers seem to cope well with all this; they are masters at judging your speed and avoiding you. Cycling through towns becomes a breeze eventually.
Try to keep 3 metres away from the edge of the road and mantain a decent distance from the cyclist or vehicle in front of you. There's an abundance of pot holes and speed bumps in the towns and drivers tend to stop suddenly and without warning to negotiate these. Cyclists can be vulnerable in these circumstances, so the most important piece of advice in my view is to keep your distance, particularly in the small towns.
The climb to Ooty is not a race even though an element of male and female machismo emerges at times! Some walked or grabbed a lift in the support mini bus for all or part of the climb. Others did it ever so slowly. Believe me, nobody cares a jot or tittle if you don't cycle to the top. It's a holiday, not a competition.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
This must be one of the trips you must do before you die!
Just do it! You will not regret it!