08 September 2012

Tour of Anchetty

An exploratory ride to Anchetty

Anchetty is a small town in Tamil Nadu, unremarkable in most aspects except that it has become the destination for many moderately tough rides from Bangalore. Anchetty is about 490m above MSL (Bangalore is about 850m but the road to Anchetty and back crosses so many hills that the ride begins to feel like a rollercoaster - going up one minute and down the next. Given this fact, it became an attractive candidate for a 200KM brevet route (IISc to IISc) and we set out to recce a proposed route, part of which was visible in Google maps' satellite imagery, but not marked as a road...

Alex, Bharath and I started off from IISc by six - just before dawn. By the time it was light we had reached Kanakapura Road, and crossed the mess made by the Metro construction. We were supposed to meet another rider, who met us on Kanakapura Road. Sudheendra, a friend of Bharath, had brought a single speed Atlas Gold Line, to my utter shock. Anchetty is not a route one usually jokes about, even when you are in good shape on a good bike.

However, he more than kept up with us, no mean feat in itself. After a quick descent to Harohalli we stopped for a breakfast of idli-vada and tea. Then headed off towards Thalli.

There is a nice climb just after Maralvadi (another possible braskfast place), after which there is well paved road to Thalli. Boards on both sides proclaim the presence of elephants (Bannerghetta Forest Division - Elephant Corridor - Give way to Elephants), and electrified fences along the road reinforce that fact. A few km later there is fork - the road to the left descends towards Thalli and the one to the right goes to Hunsanahalli. We took the left fork, and immediately crossed the state border into Tamil Nadu. Till Thalli the road is good, and lined with trees. Hardly any traffic - the occasional motorbike and a few buses (Thalli - Harohalli). By the time we hit Thalli we wre beginning to feel the Tamil Nadu heat. After a quick stop we moved on south towards Jawalagiri (pronounced जौळगिरी, apparently). From here there are two roads - one going to Denkanikottai and the other to Anchetty. We took the one to Anchetty, for which we took a right shortly after exiting the town. At this point, i knew, was some sort of elephant corridor / reserved forest. One person stopped us, as is usual, to ask where we were going. He then told us that the next section is a climb in the ghat section and an elephant corridor - so we should keep our eyes and ears open. Should we see any elephants, he said, we should turn around and come back. This was a little disturbing - and we proceeded with caution. There were electric fences and a barricade at the start of the climb - with a board saying "Give way to Elephants".

The road through the forest after Jawalagiri

It was hot, and we soon split up. Alex zoomed off, while Sudheendra struggled sloowly up the slopes. I kept my eyes peeled for any signs of elephants - dung, footprints, trampled plants, sounds - but found none. After a while into the climb we found some people walking about collecting firewood. I asked them in my broken Kannda about the elephants. "None at all", they said, "We're walking around, aren't we? At least - none during the day. The do sometimes cross the road at night - so you shouldn't come this way after dark."

It was not long before we exited the forest, and the road became worse. The road surface had probably been weakened by rain and infrequent maintenance, and damaged by the heavy trucks that ferried rocks from the innumerable quarries in the area.

Trucks are one of the many quarries
What makes it worse is that the road snakes up and down over the many hills, and progress was quite slow.

After a while we came to a fork with a small road going off to the left. In order to stick to the route proposed, we took the it. It was a narrow road that soon became a mud road.

 After a kilometer or two it once again became a (bumpy) metaled road, and we ended up at the top of a hill overlooking Anchetty. A couple of switchbacks later we were at the bottom, and a few minutes later at Anchetty.

There aren't many places for good food at Anchetty. We picked one and had some parotas, rice and omlettes. It was too hot, so we moved off. Sudheendra took a bus to Denkanikottai, and we were to meet hm there. I had some bad memories of the climb to Denkanokottai from my last trip - where heat and exhaustion and climbing after lunch had nearly flattened me. This time, however, it was not so bad - we tackled the hill at a decent pace and rested for a while at the top.

Alex became a celebrity on the way, with some reckless youth (riding triple seat up the ghat) stopping to take photos with him. At Denkanikottai we met up with Sudheendra, had some tea and snacks, and then pushed off towards Hosur. Progress was much faster now, with the sun sinking and the temperature dropping. It was soon dark and we hit the Attibele bypass well after dark. From here on we just rode a fast pace all the was to Electronics City, and then back to IISc, reaching campus around 11PM with a total distance just over 200KM.

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