| 14/08/18 Eve of flag off
Raipur the capital city of Chhattisgarh was the starting point of “Tour de Chhattisgarh- Hills edition”, a four day cycle tour through the pristine and beautiful northern region of the state. About 40 riders who had assembled to participate in the tour were a diverse group belonging to Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujrat, Orrisa, Bhopal, Nagpur and Buldhana. Also there were ones from Sweden and England who lent an international flavour to the group. Their ages ranged between 16 years to 76 years with quite a few female participants as well.
The preparations started on a sombre note as news of the demise of the Governor Hon’ Shri Balram Das Tandon reached us. At the eve of flag off, during the initiation meet a 2 minute silence was observed to pay homage to the departed soul.
Later Shri Sanjay Singh, General Manager, Chhattisgarh Tourism Board 'CTB' gave a scintillating presentation about the unexplored pleasures lying in store for the riders in the next few days and thus lighted a flame of anticipation amidst them.
| 15/08/18 Day 1.
Flag off was from Simga – 40 kms from Raipur on the Bilaspur road. The riders and crew reached Simga at 7.30 am. Had breakfast – poha, boiled eggs, fruits – apples and bananas with tea/coffee/appy to top off. The spread was sumptuous in spite of jalebi being cancelled on account of state mourning!
The first support station (SS) was at 25 Kms. The riders started reaching it by 10 am.
They proceeded forward post refreshments. Two cyclists suffered punctured tube and were attended to, by the accompanying technician.
One rider gave up the struggle owing to exhaustion. Otherwise the ride was generally smooth although the softly inclining gradient was taxing. The second SS was at Kawardha, approximately 50 kms later. The last rider left it behind by 12.30 pm. There was a minor issue about the locations of the SS- the first one being too early and the second one being too late- say by 10 kms in both cases.
However this minor hiccup was sorted out subsequently. The third SS was at Nagmodi Resort- Boramdeo.
Bhoramdeo is a group of four temples dedicated to Lord Shiva or the Shiva panchayatan. The outer walls of the temples depict sexually explicit carvings from bottom to top which indicates the Sun god and the cycle of life. The erotic sculptures similar to those in Khajuraho and Konark has earned Bhoramdeo the sobriquet “Khajuraho of Chattisgarh”.
From here everyone proceeded to the day 1 concluding destination at Saroda dadar’s Baiga Resort- through the beautiful terrain of Chiphi.
The last rider reached the Resort by 4 pm, a total of 120 kms.
Margareta Benson had an unfortunate crash and had to get treated in the accompanying ambulance for bruises over her arm and leg.
That aside, it was a pleasant and eventful day 1. The meticulous planning and rigorous implementation along with the catalyzing presence of CTB all resulted in one seamless experience for the riders. In the evening we held a get together and had a reinforcing introduction session. Ms. Sanjeeta Singh Negi related about how the local police helped them to get out of turn darshan at the Boramdeo temple. The Officer, she said, told her that the entire government machinery from patwari level upwards had been informed about the tour and that all of them were geared up and attuned to be of help and to take care of the safety of the riders.
Mr. Meher Gadekar shared interesting facts about the etymology of the names of the local places. Chilphi was so named because the British had experienced a “chilled feeling” when they came here. Saroda dadar means unpleasant smell of carcass of animals killed by the tigers. This was the place where the tigers dragged their kill to consume in leisure. The word and its meaning belongs to the local Baiga tribal language. The lunch and dinner at the Baiga Resort were sumptuous and satisfying fares.
| 16/08/18 Day 2.
Started from Saroda dadar after breakfast at 7 am. Reached flag off point at village Koko by 8 am. Crossed quaint villages like Fonk and Gudli enroute. Requested Koko village Sarpanch Shri Rai to flag off the riders. He accepted magnanimously.
Thus started the day 2 ride through the rolling landscape made soothingly lush by the monsoon showers.
A significant part of the overall appeal and beauty of the land lies in the simplicity of its people.
Today was interspersed with catchy slogan writing on the road while marking the route for the benefit of the riders as the rally proceeded onwards. Some of the slogans blended quite well with the surrounding beauty all around us.
Reached Sonbhadra Resort, Amadob by 4 pm, after about 144 kms of riding. This Resort lies just besides Amarkantak the origin of Narmada river.
Kshirod Kumar Nayak created an unwarranted episode today! He excavated some tuber of a wild plant and claimed that it was edible! A few riders tasted it and Sitesh Mishra ate a bit of the proffered root. It caused quite a violent reaction in the body. There was mild paralysis and itching in the mouth and throat. It also caused severe and constant vomiting. Thankfully the poisoning did not turn out to be serious or life threatening and the guy recovered eventually.
Once again the late lunch and dinner were sumptuous affairs at the Sonbhadra Resort.
The evening was occupied by a general get together where riders shared their experiences and exchanged stories. Like how they entered into a local school enroute and had an impromptu song and dance jam session with the kids and teachers. Mr. Yogendra Singh narrated about his exploits in the London-Edinburgh-London cycle race where he inspired a younger colleague to complete the tour. Mr. Sachin Palewar shared his pride about how his name got, although inadvertently, associated with both ‘Race Across America’ as well as ‘Tour de France’, both iconic cycling events!
| 17/08/18 Day 3.
Flag off was at 6 am amid light showers and breathtaking view through the magical Maikal terrain. It was perfect building up crescendo of the TDC. The riders did a hundred kilometers exhilarating ride. Mr. Abhishek Kumar held an extempore quiz contest for the local kids gathered around at the end of the CS point, after which, he also distributed gifts to the children who could barely contain their excitement due to this unexpected windfall!
By 12 noon, the few strong riders proceeded to Katghora town 133 kms onwards and the rest were swept along to have lunch at the Kake da Dhaba.
After lunch it was a rather tiring bus ride of 6 hours to the wonderful Saila Resort at Mainpat. Mainpat is a hill station in the Sarguja region of Chhattisgarh State which rivals the likes of Chikhaldara and Pachmarhi. It is a picturesque table top about 1200 mts above sea level lying in the Maikal hills which are situated between the Satpuda and Vindhyanchal mountain ranges. It lies off the beaten track, entirely unsullied by the regular tourist traffic.
We had dinner and called it a day. Here I noticed Jordan Byrne having a quiet dinner by himself. So I struck up a conversation and asked him how he learnt to be so adept at breaking a chapatti with only three fingers then picking up the sabzi between it then later dipping the nivala in the daal and after that putting it in his mouth without letting anything spill! ‘God loves a trier’ he replied. I on the other hand would be inclined to give credit to the astute Chowdharie Brothers with whom he is doing his internship.
| 18/08/18 Day 4.
Thus dawned Day 4 of the TDC. Today was a laid back leisurely day. The ride was divided into two parts. The strong riders were given the option of doing a 20 kms downhill ride from Mainpat and the challenging return climb of 20 kms back to the resort. 8 am to 9 am was breakfast time. A few riders opted for the 40 kms down/up challenge and the rest used the time productively by washing their bicycles and getting general maintenance up to speed.
After breakfast everyone did a gentle ride through the serene ambience of Mainpat up to Tiger point waterfall about 10 kms away. At Tiger point it was 2 hours of absolute fun and frolic with gay abandon and a refreshingly pleasant dip in the waterfall.
The graffiti visible around had a distinctive flavour of the hindi heartland that is the State of Chhattisgarh. For example there was the government slogan discouraging smoking-
“ Cigarette pi ke khans raha hai,
Maut ke aage naach raha hai!”
Which roughly translates as-
‘You cough due to cigarette smoking,
In the face of death you are dancing!’
After lunch, the second half was spent in sightseeing various prominent locations around Mainpat. Noteworthy among them being Jaljali where around 5/10 acres of flat land wobbles under your feet as if an earthquake is occurring! Then there is a Buddhist Monastery for the benefit of the Tibetan refugees resettled here some 40 years ago. Tintini is a place where rocks make a hollow sound!
Later in the evening we had a concluding ceremony where in the winners of the cumulative timings of Competitive Segment CS of past 4 consecutive days were announced in various categories.