It happened one evening during the year 2008 – a boring day inside the office and a lovely weather outside of it. I wanted to step out, cycle some distance, sit quietly in some corner, and enjoy the sunset; far away from the madding crowd. Reality struck me almost instantaneously – finding a quiet place requires me to ride at least 20 Km to get out of the city; ride in the peak hour city traffic for over an hour and yet, there may not be such a place left free by the greedy real estate developers. By the time I reach, the beautiful weather might have disappeared leaving me with only darkness. It just remained a sweet dream.
A year later, I had then quit my corporate job and was engaged in a pleasant conversation with a very elderly uncle of mine. The topic of enjoying nature was amongst those. Having lived on the West Coast for sometime in his life, he described his joy of enjoying sunsets there. Combining my interests in cycling and a quest for sunsets, I wondered if I can cycle along the West Coast. He blessed my idea and suggested me to do minimal planning which will help me to get the best out of the trip.
The only aspect of planning done for the trip was the reservation of ticket from Chennai to Kanniyakumari on March 8, 2009. I wondered if I need to buy/rent a new bike (one of the high-end imported ones) for the trip. However, I decided against and stuck to my Hero Thunder in which I had enjoyed the best and worst moments of my cycling. The idea of the trip was to enjoy the ride (and the sunsets) and not to set any statistical records for distance covered or speed.
Looking back at 10-years, it is fairly obvious to say that many things have changed – some for good and some not so good. First about cycling, plenty of changes both at individual level as well as the cycling ecosystem. The bike and biker has certainly gone in for a tremendous change. Since this tour, I had participated in four Tour of Tamil Nadu events, the most recent being 2018, which usually involves riding for 7 days and completing distance in the range of 600-800 Kms. In the cycling scene, the distance I covered over 18 days is accomplished by many riders in a single stretch! Cycling tours have certainly found a much wider acceptance over the past decade.
Nevertheless, I am still not sure if I have the “guts” to do something like this again. Totally unplanned and uncertain, I wasn’t sure what holds for me the following day, let alone the 18 days! I had no clue how to attend to a simple puncture, never had the right gears except a helmet and pair of gloves. A simple carrier was fitted to my Hero Thunder bike and the rest was executed on the way! There were no odomoter or GPS or smart phones – Just printed maps to guide me through. It would surprise many that we can still cycle without those!
On personal front, I certainly miss my uncle who passed away in 2016. He was a pillar of support for me when I chose to quit the run-of-the-mill life that many others expected me to live.
All the best