Today was a day of ups and downs, in every sense of the word. We were off early in the morning as usual just after sunrise. We were suddenly on the ‘wet’ side of the Ghats and had passed from the dry high plain to tropical forest. Cycling as the sun was rising on the quiet of the morning through the lush landscape was beautiful. Occasional small homesteads had small emerald green paddy fields in the golden early light.
The cycling was tough though with steep climbs and drops, forever undulating through the hills. We had cumulative tiredness in our legs from a succession of days that were a bit longer than we would have chosen. As in most mountainous regions, the route is dictated by a few roads and the stops where we could get accommodation, which is much less profuse than the coastal tourist areas. The scenery kept us going and at last we started a proper descent.
A viewing platform gave great views down to the river that had come out of the gorge. This is the river that was emerged after Jog Falls, and then followed a further 200m descent down to sea level over just 60km.
The map indicated we would be following the river about 30km to the sea at Honnavar, and so we anticipated an easy run. How wrong we were! The road veered away form the river into a series of small (i.e. steep 50/60m) hills but relentlessly up and down, up and down. We were both finding it tough going as Honnovar crept nearer at slow pace. 5km from Hannovar, as we thought we may have done our last hill, David’s gear cable suddenly snapped. We both nearly snapped too as we wheeled the bikes to a shady area but David patiently changed the gear cable by the roadside.
We were now without a spare gear cable. Although this is the first time a cable had snapped in all the time we have been cycle touring, it would be sod’s law that it would happen again. With the wonders of a smart phone and google we identified a bike shop in Honnavar and, at last, did the last few kms into town. It had taken us 5 hours to do 60km and we were mentally and physically exhausted.
We managed however to get a spare gear cable, although not spare inner tubes for David’s 700cm wheels, which are proving very difficult to get. We will need to carefully mend all any punctures as we won’t have the luxury of ditching used ones. Still feeling hot and bothered we stopped for samosas and sugary fizzy drinks to get us going again then back on the road, turning due north again.
We were now on a much more main road but blissfully flat. This was much easier on the legs, but the flat straight roads encouraged ‘mad’ overtaking. We were often faced with a bus, lorry or car charging towards us as they overtook a slower vehicle. It was like cycling along the outside of the fast lane on wrong side of a dual carriageway! David was not feeling too well (stomach still the wrong side of good) so every km was taking its toll. We were now cycling in the intense heat of the day. Now we were back a sea level this was about 6 degrees hotter than we were used to and, believe me, the difference between 31 and 37 degrees feels a lot when cycling.
At least on the flat we were covering km more quickly and after 20km turned off the main road. We cycled the next 12km with some trepidation and the road should end at the tip of a small peninsular with a “ferry” supposedly available to cross the river. We had not been able to find confirmation that the ferry existed. If it didn’t then we would have to retrace our steps and then go a much longer way round. The last section was so steep we were back to pushing our bikes again in the heat and feeling thoroughly miserable! However, our spirits rose as we turned the final corners as we descended to the river and saw a little boat which operated as a passenger ferry. It was too small for vehicles but could manage a few motorbikes and, of course, bicycles.
After a few minutes wait we crammed on with our bikes with other motorbikes and foot passengers for the short trip across the river estuary. We met a young Israeli couple on a motorbike who were touring India for a year. There is quite a tradition of young people from Israel exploring India, often after completing national service. Some tourists restaurants even offer specific Israeli food on the menu. They were delightful and we chatted about mutual travelling plans as the boat crossed the sound.
We were really flagging by this point and the final kick in the teeth was a last steep hill up and over the peninsular. Only the thought of a comfortable room and some time for R&R with day off kept us going.
We finally descended to Kudle beach, about 5km south of Gokarna. We found the hotel we had booked and walked exhausted into a smart looking place where people were sitting in comfy chairs drinking tea. They did not seem to have our booking though – and then we realised our hotel was actually the place next door – a drab looking establishment. David went to see the room and came back and said “you really need to see it before we decide”. I was exhausted and said anything was fine but “no – you really should see it”. The room was very basic and drab, bits of material at the windows and a separate shared dismal shower and toilet. We have done ‘basic’ quite happily several times but this quite a notch down, Our spirits were at rock bottom but we did not really have a choice (I did nip back next door but they had no rooms available) and we accepted but knew we did not want to stay there the next day.
At least the shower got us clean and we semi revived after brewing a cup of tea and then thought we should at least see the beach today as it is badged as one of the best in India. 100m down the road we came to the path down to the beach and our spirits immediately lifted as we were faced with a beautiful curved sandy bay with waves rolling gently in. We were soon in our cossies and in the wonderful warm Arabian Sea, bobbing away in the surf as the sun went down. The pain in our legs easing and the difficulties of the day receding.
We then had pasta and pizza at a beach side café (we love Indian food but it is great to have a break from it from time to time) and our first beer since we arrived! On the way back we even passed a nice hotel and negotiated to stay the following day with an early check in so we will only have to move a few hundred meters tomorrow and then be in a nice environment for our day off. A good end to a tricky day.