Gates of Hell – Day 4 (The end of cycling)

I WAS CONFUSED – I had seen the patient last year and his vision had been perfect. But now he could hardly see two feet ahead. I questioned him about it and he seemed reluctant to say anything. After some time, he slowly opened up that he had switched to an alternative mode of treatment. Now I’m not against other fields of medicine, but when something is working well, why switch unnecessarily? There were abnormal blood vessels all over his retina and a significant fluid collection in his maculae. He would now need to spend around 30 to 40000 on injections alone other than the other costs, with no chance of regaining lost vision.

Which brings us to:


I woke up at 445am feeling battered. We decided to let Bhuvanesh skip Yercaud since he had arrived only at 130am. I sent him a text and the rest of us silently left the room without disturbing his well deserved sleep. (The plan was to recoup en route to Trichy)

Aravind was making great progress. We soon reached foothills of Yercaud in just an hour, had some tea and proceeded to climb the hill. The hill was slightly easier than Kotagiri and would have been easier than Kodai if it hadn’t been for the tiredness we were facing.

As we climbed higher, more mist and clouds came our way. It was serene, even though the usual hustle – bustle of traffic was ever present.

We stopped for breaks every 3 km and we were soon at the top at 830am. After a few photos by the lake and the U turn point at Eggetarian, we left and returned to Salem.

The next plan was proceeding to Pachamalai hills via Mettupatti and Maliyakarai. This hill was similar to Sirumalai and we wanted to finish the challenge before 6 pm, aiming to finish and descend back to the forest checkpost by 6pm.

It was already 930am. We also had to cover extra distance at Pachamalai to compensate for skipping Sirumalai. That would mean 23km uphill before returning to base. Making calculations in my mind as we pedaled I estimated we would need at least 3 hours to pull off this stunt, which meant we needed to reach the forest checkpost by 3pm.

Was that Bhuvanesh up ahead? Yes it was – our plan was going like clockwork. He had checked out, skipped Yercaud and joined the party. Welcoming him, I went back to calculating distances and times. Google maps showed 72km left to the forest checkpoint. It was already 1130am. Time was not in our favour as usual and we would have to achieve more than 20kmph average to achieve this feat.

I kept the boys moving at 25kmph with breaks every 10km and we took a half hour lunch break to gobble down barotas at Maliyakarai. We resumed our journey keeping the same average and managed to eventually make it to the cool hill base at 3pm as planned.

The forest checkpost guy sat lazily and beckoned Ramesh to come sign the entry roster. The three of us cycled past and continued uphill. The hill was not that difficult but after the cumulative effort of the journey, our bodies were taking a massive hit. My knee was also paining badly despite the medication I took after lunch.

We did see some really beautiful landscape up at the top and on the way. The air was fresh and rejuvenating with almost nil traffic.

A tree shaped like a deer with antlers

I relaxed, forgot the time limit, and inhaled deeply. The smell of pure air was at it’s best. We took a photo at the viewpoint and kept riding in the rain for another 10km before returning to the forest checkpost by 610pm.

I smiled – just a ten minute delay! These guys were awesome. We then cycled into the city and had tea following which we were back to driving like mad men at 25kmph. This time we took just three stops over a distance of 60km to Trichy.

The traffic was annoying but we grimly fuelled, had snacks, carbonated drinks and pedalled with everything we had left. The pain had numbed and our minds had pushed it into a localised area somewhere insignificant.

Thuraiyur soon arrived – we took a break there. Aravind went ahead for a while but we caught up again and overtook him. We soon reached Manachanallur – just ten km to Annamalais Toyota which was the designated finish point! All those hours were now coming to this – half hour or less of pedaling!

Bhuvanesh and I looked back and saw no sign of Aravind. Worried, I pulled over and called him. There was interference but I managed to make out he was just 2km behind. Bhuvi and I proceeded forward at a slower speed and finally finished the challenge at 9pm. Aravind joined us 15 minutes later and we took a finish photo before dispersing.

Finish point with both warriors!

Aravind was going to ride home to Tanjore to cross 1000km! Bhuvi was going to his place of stay at Dindigul highway and I had 8km left to home. We departed after handshakes and goodbyes. This was a memorable occasion. We reached home and Ramesh was emptying all the stuff from the car.

“Lucky guys”, I thought to myself. “I still have 100km of running left to do tomorrow”.

Ramesh responded with “Enna thambi?” and I realised I had been thinking out loud. “Oh it’s nothing”, I replied in Tamil. My family was of course glad to have me back (of course I was berated for straining my knee)

After a well deserved dinner of yummy noodles, in went the next dose of paracetamol with enzyme.

MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP! But still, I messaged Balaji, Ajay and Jeeva to come at 4am to start the run. What a day! Only God knew what the last day held.