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  • Dhiraj D Sharma

Thindi Pothara Cycle Trip!!

Raj captured this photo of all of us reaching Mysore.

We would eat a little, and we would eat a little more, and we call this the Thindi Pothara Cycling Trip. As I share our experience of cycling to Mysore on a cycling culinary journey, I'm hoping to burn a few calories from what we ate in the past 48 hours on this wonderful tour. I got to design this experience from what my friend and I explored a year ago when we wanted to try out the yet-to-be-inaugurated express highway from Bangalore to Mysore. My friend said yes to this adventure with his new road bike, and nothing stopped us. We would sneak a peek at the barricades, and work-in-progress roads with a smile, and the entire road was all for us. Little did we know that these roads would help us explore so many varieties of good food, and some amazing lip-smacking snacks every 20 km as we ventured on this new adventure, and here we did it again with a bigger group.

I curated this itinerary and shared it with the community of cycling friends, and like always, got a few exciting responses from people who would ask me for more details and then disappear. Twelve people finally registered for the event, and only eight made it to the starting point. I should say it takes a special commitment to show up for what we all like to do, as our friends did. Dhriti had only cycled around 10 km on a different occasion supporting an event, and this tour got her excitement rolling. All that she wanted to know was if there would be a support vehicle to help her if she was unable to cycle, and there she was. One of our loudest friends, who would usually come home to wake us up and get started, did not turn up that day, nor did he answer our phone call until 8:30 AM when we were approaching our first stop. A tasty thatte idly was calling us, and our friend answered asking if he could still join us, and there he was in style. Ruban joined the team in no time, covering a 30 km mark. Bhaskar, my friend who would finish his work and log out at 4:00 AM, had his thoughts on whether to do this or not, but as the saying goes, "When in Doubt, Pedal it Out," he did the same. Venkey would now dare to travel overnight from Chennai to Bangalore, and just enjoy this ride like nobody. How could I not mention to you all about our friends Sasank and Varun taking a Porter ride along with their cycles from Whitefield City to Bangalore City and showing up for the ride? And so our adventure began.

We had a few lovely partners to get the tone right and get started. Malgudi Amruth Chah, co-owned by our friend, had organized a tea start and a nice flag-off to this cycling culinary journey. We would stop by his shop, sip a cup of tea and some tasty biscuits, and speed up the expedition but miss him on this ride. Mr. Shivakumar had previously come to the Tour of Andaman and he enjoyed his first cycle tour, and he was so inspired by the tour that he gifted a new bike to himself recently. A cycle is magical, I tell you, as I wonder if it must be one of the greatest innovations of mankind after an umbrella, as my elder brother claims.

We would take the country roads to avoid the main road and surpass the traffic at Kengeri, and in no time join the new highway, and the traffic was still on. Most of them would take this service road to avoid the first toll, as we saw, after which the roads became peaceful. We would arrive at Bidadi for a nice breakfast, and no guesses here on what we ate; it was the famous thatte idli and vada for breakfast. Our journey now continued to the very famous Mysore pak stall, the Janardan Mysore Pakk at Ramanagar, and every stroke of the pedal turns to be sweet full here. This hotel has a legacy for their Mysore pak. They used to also serve tasty masala dosa, and now they are focused only on sweets, I loved the part that my father's favorite store turned out to be my favorite too but can't beat his crazy love and madness for this shop and the sweet. When I came home, he was looking for a box from here, and I did not disappoint him this time too. This hot tasty sweet also introduced us to the hot and humid roads, and we sweated out our effort with all the sweetness inside. As we approached Channapatna, Ruban was patiently waiting to join us again and ride together. Bhaskar would feel sleepy and hop on to the support vehicle till Madhur where he couldn't resist his temptation to join the ride, and I was stopped by back-to-back flat tires as I entered the city. With the support vehicle just behind, it was a quick change of tubes for me, and I continued to cycle to join the group, I was able to join as they were enjoying their sugarcane juice just by the road.

I opted to have two glasses of juice as I was pushing myself to catch up with the group and the heat getting on me. I asked the vendor to share some ice cubes, and he was kind enough to do so. I would roll them on my body as a kind of recovery and save some and put it inside my jersey too. My friends laughed, and we continued only to stop at Maddur, at Maddur Tiffanys, for a nice Maddur Vada. It was special to see all of us enjoying the simple taste of different foods in a short time. Idly, Vada, Mysore Pakk, Sugarcane juice, and now at Maddur with Maddur vada, and I asked everyone to save some space for the buttermilk, lassi, and ice cream that we were about to taste in about 8 km from this place, and so we did. We stopped at Nandini Milk Parlour, and took a nice nap break in the hot sun, sipping on some lassi, milkshake, and buttermilk. I was astonished by my friend Bhaskar's appetite to have four buttermilks back to back and reminded myself that this was okay for him as we had once challenged each other to a fruit drink, and I had thrown up on the 8th glass, and Bhaskar ordered one more on the 9th glass of juice. Twelve kilometers from here was our planned lunch point, a nap break here and a slow start for the day seemed to have piled up in sequence. Venkey gave up here as it was very hot and mentioned that he had not experienced weather like this even in Chennai. I quickly checked on Google to see it was around 32 degrees, but the spirit of everyone burning even higher.

As we arrived at Mandya for the late lunch, Sasank and Varun requested to continue and not stop for the late lunch just to ensure they had more time to reach Mysore. I felt like they were worried if I would ask them to stop, stating it was dark or there was no time. It felt like they wanted to achieve this feat and raise their bar one step above, for both of them cycling to the Airport and back, which was around 98 km, was the longest ride, and they just wanted to be unstoppable there. They continued, and we all had more food. Instead of solid food, we all decided to eat ice cream, have some juice quickly, and move on. We planned to have chicken ghee roast and neer dosa here, as I had experienced this a year ago with Dr. Amarpali, my sister-in-law, who introduced me to this place, but since we were late, the neer dosa would only open again by 7 PM. We were all in the game; it was around 4:30, and we had about 45 km to cover by 6:30 PM, which we would consider a safe time to be riding along the roads. As the sun was just preparing to set itself for the day, we were just setting up some pace too to make it to our destination.

The stretch beyond Mandya is more challenging than any other course of the day with rolling hills, paddy fields beside along with sugarcane fields. We wanted to just stop here and there with a view, but the thought of losing the momentum and regaining it again made it impossible.

In an hour-long cycle, we were able to see our friend just progress along the hill climb, and just there we found a good reason to stop by a watermelon shop to feast on it like there was no tomorrow. Ruban, Bhaskar, and I decided to buy a whole fruit instead of just eating 2 or 3 plates and continue further to ride along the setting sun, a promising view by the road as we cycled and entered Srirangapathna where we met our friends riding along again. It was around 6 PM, and we had 15 km more to make it, and we all agreed to carry on and finish this. I wouldn't have agreed to do this even after 6 PM if it wasn't for their faces burning bright to conquer this success of riding to Mysore from Bangalore. Sasank and Varun had persuaded me and everyone on this tour to do this. Ruban and I went ahead with a chatty ride, sharing our interests. Ruban shared that he just wanted to spend more time like this with friends, explore places, and be happy was all that he wanted, and with that thought, we happily arrived at Mysore and waited for the rest, resting close to a tea shop by 6:45 PM, and we saw them all arrive happily and with a sense of achievement etched on their faces.

We decided not to ride inside the city and just load our cycles into the support vehicle, and our adventure continued. I had booked a hotel stay online considering the Dinner place that we were supposed to explore tonight and also the Breakfast and riding points. Everything looked good until we arrived here to see the rooms in bad shape. Everyone was okay to adjust, but Raj would want nothing less than a great experience for everyone. While we were figuring out an alternative stay, our friends refreshed at the hotel rooms, and we called them out as Raj had booked another stay in the meantime. Never again am I making a booking with OYO with this bad experience. It took me dozens of calls to ask for an explanation and cancel the room, but I was never heard of; I gave up, and we all moved out. Now our team was divided into 2 as per the preference of food choice, Veg or Nonveg.

I led the nonveg team while Raj decided to lead the vegetarians by choice. I took my group to experience the street food of Mysore while Ramzan was in the backdrop, the streets that we chose to explore were the busiest. We started with jalebi sweet and then ventured into the jellibe fish; we had fish kabab, and fish fry and walked along the colorful streets as Dhriti referred to Meena bazaar of Mysore as more like the commercial street of Bangalore. We now ventured into ZAM ZAM hotel, one of the cleanest and neatest hotels that I've noticed, we settled in for a feast of chicken, beef, ghee rice, and more solid food in the tummy we just walked to my favorite Lassi Shop at the Bazar only to acknowledge that he was sold out, a bit disappointed by this but we did not give up on this as we had all of those in the shop opposite to this but I missed the taste of ALI Lassi Shop. We all now meet again after a great course of food and head towards our new hotel which was not known. Luckily the hotel rooms were the same as looked upon online, Varun mentioned this at the reception and we all laughed. A good night's sleep was all we needed after a great day of cycling in the sun, feasting on food with a lot of fun with friends.

The entrance to the climb up Chamundi Hill.

DAY 2 we planned to cycle to Chamundi Hills, a 6 km climb from the base, and to do so we introduced a friendly challenge, a bet of 100 Rupees from each participant. As I came out of the room, I was taken by surprise, only 3 of us were ready to take the challenge, I forced Bhaskar and he agreed which made only half of our group take the climbing challenge and the rest decided to walk to the hills. We started well and went on to do this, I wasn't confident about people walking up to the hill but they proved me wrong. The last time I was here to cycle was to celebrate my birthday with a multiple climb which gave me a lot of confidence then and now. Ruban did not take this easy and I followed with him until the 2 Km mark where he disappeared and left me alone, I realized chasing him had only left me behind him but away from Bhaskar and Venkey. I knew it was not easy, we all knew it was difficult but the views around the corner with low traffic helped us reach the heights. Ruban made it first and I reached him by a close margin and the group followed us for a while. We celebrated this small victory, went around the temple took photos, and headed back to our business, to eat a little and to eat a little more. We tried our partners' BMore body wipes to also cool off after we had sweat out so much after the climb, this also brought the group joy in testing new things but it was all smiles in the end because it was nice as unique as our tour.

We arrived at Mylari Dosa, people waiting outside the store here is a common scenario but to our surprise, it was not too busy with their new establishment beside the old building. We stood in the queue hoping to grab on the tasty dosa and we had to fight to get inside with a stranger it continued to an unpleasant situation where the hotel staff had to interfere and escort us to their new building like VIPs only to keep us waiting for the next 5 Min but the wait was worth all the fight for this great taste of tradition. The dosa was not crispy and floating with ghee but a fluffy dosa before that the group was so hungry that we decided to just taste the idly too as it was on offer. A coffee break just next door and we came back to our stay for a quick changeover and carry on. We ventured out to a play arena just at the outskirts of Mysore which would open at 12 and we had arrived 10 Min prior so guess what we did, order some more food at the cafe and wait for our chance to get in. We all played Bowling, cricket, air hockey, and foosball and this was so much fun too. And to end this tour in the way it all started we now arrived at Halli Mane Restaurant as planned for the final feast. Venkey had come from Chennai for the food feast and we wanted him to taste things that were different and mostly local delicacies we ordered a full meal course for all of us with Ragi Ball.

The meal started with a sweet roti, semiya with paysa and everything nice... Venkey had never had Ragi ball in his life and we would take turns teaching him how to eat and explain how to eat that while Sasank would settle for Meals with Puri and Varun with stuffed parathas. We enjoyed this food feast by singing the iconic Vivaha Bhojanambu song to commemorate the tour and what's next was to just get on board to sleep and wake up to the sounds of the busy Bangalore Traffic as we approached Kengeri. We all bid goodbyes to each other and shook hands in the hope of meeting again on a great adventure.

I would like to thank all my friends who made this possible and our partners who shared the feeling and supported us on this special adventure. Malgudi Amruth Chaha for their nice hospitality and warm flag-off arrangements. BMore for recognizing our expedition and supporting us with the body wipes and a special thanks to the Track&Trail store, Nagarbhavi for helping us out with rental cycles.

Let's "Recognize that food is more than sustenance—it is an expression of culture, heritage, and creativity".

With love, DhiRaj

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