Pedalling through the Nilgiris


Travel Nilgiris

There is something about high mountains which has always attracted humans. Anthropologists suggest that the views from these heights allowed humans to see and go explore newer lands. That reasoning makes sense, because every time I see the land below from the top, I want to go ride through it. 

The Nilgiris are no different. A mountain range set in the Western Ghats, the destination of this ride was Ooty in Tamil Nadu. Udhagamandalam, as it is officially known, is a hill station worth visiting in the south of India. One of the highest points around, it attracts adventurous folks, like fly to honey!

Pedalling through the Nilgiris

With that destination in mind, I set out from Goa on a pedal powered bicycle. The journey started along the coast, hugging the Arabian Sea, all the way till Honnavar in Karnataka. That was a pre-cursor for things to come. The Western Ghats are all steep short climbs, which grabs you by your lungs and squeezes out every bit of oxygen out of you. You gasp, your muscles burn, your heart pounds and you continue climbing.

The joy of riding in the Western Ghats is the climbs, if you love climbing, you will enjoy riding this route. It is constantly rolling terrain, you go up and down, and up and down, as if you were stuck in an elevator! Most of this climbing is done in thick green forest roads, a few are highways with traffic, many devoid of traffic. Making it a pleasure to ride. You aren’t treated to toxic gases from motor vehicles struggling up the climbs more than a cyclist.

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Pedalling through the Nilgiris

Another highlight of the Nilgiris in particular and the Western Ghats in general is the richness of flora and fauna. You enjoy spectacular views of our exquisite feathered friends perched in the trees as you heave yourself and your bike up the climb! The varied vegetation providing shade from the sun, but at the same time adding to the immense humidity of the place. Shady trees are of immense value to a cyclist, which people in automobiles won’t notice in their air-conditioned cars. Which is why, modern highway systems have no amenities for weary travellers of yesteryears.

Pedalling through the Nilgiris

Another incredible attraction of this route is the food. Gastronomy is of particular interest to cyclists, and you enjoy the food doubly when ravenously hungry. The food out there is not just tasty, but varied as well. From the fish thalis of Goa, you move to the vegetarian fare in Uttara Kannada, before enjoying stellar pork in Coorg, and the beef with appam in Kerala. You round it up with multiple plates of tasty biryani in Ooty! As a cyclist, I learnt that you need to eat two breakfasts in South India, as morning grub is much lighter than what we are served up north.

Food isn’t the only thing that changes constantly, so do the people and cultures. People around the place have one thing in common, they are all friendly and helpful towards cyclists. The exception was while cycling through Kerala, locals over there don’t smile. They aren’t as welcoming towards outsiders. Neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were in stark contrast, where the locals would greet you with beaming smiles and a thousand excitable questions.

Pedalling through the Nilgiris

After braving rain, cold and a multitude of climbs, I slowly made my way up to Ooty after dark. The coolness of the evening and the twinkling of stars celebrated reaching the top with me.