Cycling through India's blue mountains - for culture and cause
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Cycling through India's blue mountains - for culture and cause

Saturday, 31 October 2009, 06:54 Hrs
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Bangalore: Come December and 70 cyclists will set off on a 900-km-long tour from Bangalore to the beautiful Nilgiris mountains in Tamil Nadu, soaking in not just natural beauty but also the culture and cuisine of the region. And, of course, they will push the cause of the humble bicycle.

The eight-day tour - Tour of Nilgiris (TFN) - beginning Dec 15 will pass through Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Mercara, Irupu, Sultanbathery and Ooty. The Nilgiris are popularly known as the blue mountains in the Western Ghats of India.

"The success of the TFN in 2008 has ensured that more people want to go out on the TFN that aims at creating awareness about the multiple benefits of commuting by the most humble mode of transport - the cycle. Thus we're set for the second edition of the tour," Ravi Ranjan, founding trustee of the RideACycle Foundation - the NGO organising the event - told IANS.

One of the major attractions of the cycling tour is the rich flora of the region. The Nilgiris are a set of 24 peaks located in the western parts of Tamil Nadu, and borders Karnataka and Kerala.

The journey will give riders not only a good dose of adventure and view of the breathtaking natural beauty of southern India but a chance to discover the heritage, culture and cuisine of the region, says the Foundation.

The Nilgiris have been a popular tourist destination since India's pre-independence days. The Nilgiri Hills, a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, has been included in the Unesco World Network of Biosphere Reserves because of its rich flora diversity.

"The Nilgiris have its own charm. Over 2,700 species of flowering plants, 160 species of fern and fern allies, countless types of flowerless plants, mosses, fungi, algae and land lichens are found in the Nilgiris. No other destination in India has so many exotic species," said Arun Katiyar, a member of the foundation.

The first edition of the TFN in December 2008 saw 56 participants.

This year 70 participants have been selected to take part in the event. The organisers received around 300 entries through its website www.tourofnilgiris.com and 50 more through contests on Radio One FM94.3, the official radio partner for the event.

Along with participants from various parts of Karnataka, cyclists from Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and even the US will take part.

Besides, a support team of 20 people will also be on the tour. The support team consists of a blogger, a photographer and a doctor.

The group will cover an average distance of 120 km a day.

"On some days because of the sharp inclines, the riding will be tough. But the challenge is worth taking up. Most people will cycle for about 7 to 10 hours a day, starting each morning at 6 a.m.," said Katiyar.

"TFN rules specify that no one can ride beyond 4 p.m. Once it is 4 p.m., riders must wait where they are for a TFN sweeper truck to pick them up and take them to the end point.

"Not everyone can complete every day - there are changes in food, weather, altitude, road conditions, bike conditions, the company you are with and their pace for the day, unexpected breaks in the road, etc," he added.

Giving details about the kind of medical assistance the participants will be given during the tour, Katiyar said: "Renu Arora, a lifestyle physician and fitness consultant, who was part of the tour last year, and a fully equipped vehicle to manage emergencies will accompany the cyclists during the event."

"In addition, we map out every single hospital and police station along the route and discuss with them our tour before we go on it. A day before we are in their area, the TFN tour director alerts them to the fact that we will be riding through their neighbourhood. This way the hospitals are always prepared for an emergency," added Katiyar.

Bangalore-based RideACycle Foundation is a not-for-profit advocacy group promoting sustainable transport, responsible travel and environmentally and socially responsible bicycling opportunities in Bangalore.
Source: IANS
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