Suresh and Sheela ensured we left with a hearty breakfast and plenty of tasty snacks to see us on our way. We said our last goodbyes and thanks for their generous hospitality and hope that we may be able to return it in some way in the future.
Our first 15km were on the main road out of Mysore but at 7am the roads were quiet. Traffic lights are not switched on at that time of the morning so we negotiated the “dance” across junctions with traffic coming from all directions.
We then turned onto a more minor and life was immediately quieter. We cruised along a well paved road through agricultural land and then to the banks of a large lake. The road then crossed the corner of the lake on a long, very smart bridge. We paused to take photos and marvelled at how quiet it was.
A couple of hundred meters from the end of the bridge though the road ran out – literally! We were suddenly on a sandy track. We were used to the road disintegrating for short stretches and expected the tarmac to come back soon but all we got was very deteriorated stretches of road that we even worse than going along the sand/dirt track.
David’s Garmin was still indicating we were on a main road but “main” it definitely wasn’t. We resorted to google maps and realised the main road had turned to the left in the village before the bridge, but we must have missed it (if it still existed which seems unlikely as there was only one bridge). Whatever, we were seduced but the smooth straight tarmac road and signs that were only in squiggly writing. We could see the track we were on eventually joined up with the main road, so pressed on. So we bumped along for several km then suddenly hit new tarmac again. Presumably in some new budget year the road in between will also be tarmacked. Even that was short-lived, as the new tarmac finished a bumpy old road took over again, but at least this was more navigable than the last stretch. We played leap-frog with a bus that was crammed with people with several hanging on for grim death from the door, and at last reached the proper main road.
We turned north and the next ‘google maps’ instruction was ‘keep straight ahead for 72km’ so it was easy navigation from there. We thought the road would be busy but in fact it was pretty quiet with very few lorries, the occasional bus but otherwise tuktuks, motorbikes and tractors were the main users. Soon we were eating up the km again but were never bored. There were always villages to pass through the things to see.
From time to time, motorbikes would slow down next to us and match our speed to have a good look. Usually if we said ‘Hi’ or waved the occupants of the motorbike, which could range from 1-5 adults + children – rarely wearing helmets and with women in saris riding side saddle, carrying small children. On being waved at they would almost always break into smiles and wave back. Sometimes they would ask our names or where we were from or where we were going and, after they had had an eyeful of these strange travellers, they would speed on.
In one town we passed a large crowd and group of drummers and then saw a large decorated ‘shrine’. We stopped to take photos but soon were surrounded and we seemed to be more of an attraction than the religious deity, so we quickly moved on.
We brewed up coffee and ate up Sheela’s delicious snacks and later rested under a shady tree eating oranges and apples. The road undulated up and down and was never really flat. The gradients did not seem too bad but perhaps that’s because we are getting a lot stronger. We bobbed up and down around 800-900m altitude so the day never felt too hot (although David noted it was 32C in the afternoon so we must also be getting acclimatised to the heat).
Finally the road continued a more lasting climb up to the city of Hassan, the road topping out just below 1000m. The road was suddenly full of lorries, buses and tuktuks but we are now pretty confident negotiating ourselves through hectic traffic and we easily found our hotel.
We had covered over 72 miles (113km) between 7am and 3pm and felt tired but not totally exhausted. After resting and planning the next few days we strolled out into the city. We were heading for a restaurant recommended on tripadvisor but if it existed any more it certainly was not at the place marked on the map. In fact there was an extraordinary death of eateries. ‘Eating out’ is clearly not in the culture here. We finally found a restaurant under a posh looking hotel and ate ‘Manchurian Mushrooms’ and noodles which were tasty and filling. A final stroll back through the humming centre of town. Hassan seems to be a centre for clothing judging by the number of cloths shops of different varieties we passed.
For an A to B day, it had been remarkably pleasant and we broke our distance record for this trip so far. Legs definitely getting stronger, bodies a bit thinner and exposed parts are browner (but with cyclist’s tan marks extraordinaire).