Under the burning sun

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A 7 hour, 56 km cycling trip that started under pleasant climatic conditions in rural areas and ended up in hot and potentially dangerous conditions.

March 27, 2016. Easter Sunday. Tiruchirappalli

This was the day in which I did the most grueling cycling trip so far. Tiruchirappalli is a hot place with temperatures exceeding 40°C during summer. During winter (if tropical regions can be considered to have one at all), the temperatures remain around the 30-35°C, making cycling possible even during day. But during peak summer months of May and June, cycling is possible only during dawn, early morning and dusk. Afternoon is just way too hot if you're not used to it. Heat index reaches dangerous levels of 45-50°C.

I started off cycling in the pleasant morning sun from my college NIT Trichy at 7:30 AM. Initially it was through the farms and villages. There were lots of trees, which made cycling pleasant. The initial stretch of 12 km consist of bad roads, which though unpleasant was a challenge I looked forward to in my Btwin Rockrider 340 mountain bike. The roads seemed have been laid a decade ago and not maintained. The farms were uncultivated as the cropping seasons were over. The north east monsoon was long over and the water from the Cauvery river was insufficient. The fruit orchards and other trees provided the green cover during this trip.

A lake with very little water and overgrown with plants

Figure 1: An almost dried up lake

I reached the Kallanai dam at the Cauvery river one and a half hours later at 9 AM. I spent some time there. There was precious little water in the dam, which I believe was reserved for drinking purposes. My college and BHEL owned a big borewell in the river, which was used to suck water out from the river bed for drinking purposes.

After sometime at Kallani, I continued along the Grand Anicut canal, which origninated from the Kallanai dam and provided water to the nearby farms. There was very little water flow along the canal. There was a mud path along the canal, through which I cycled. The green cover provided by the trees along the canal made the weather pleasant during the late morning hours. Cycling along the even mud path was also a pleasant experience as the vibrations produced in the tires by it was pleasant in a way. I continued along for about 20 km upto Budulur. I reached here at 11 AM and I took a small break there in a bus stop's shelter. After that, I continued along a big highway road to Sengipatti.

Mud path with shrubs on either side

Figure 2: Mud path along the Grand Anicut canal

A canal with very little water and overgrown with grass. Cattle are grazing the grass.

Figure 3: Cattle grazing in the Grand Anicut canal

I noticed a marked difference in this stretch. The weather felt signifantly hotter and unpleasant. I think it was due to lack of tree cover along this road and the black highway road, which essentially absorbed all the light from the sun. Also, it was near midday. I had to take a few breaks along this 7 km stretch upto Sengipatti due to the heat.

At around 12:00 PM, I reached the Trichy Thanjavur highway. The weather became even more hotter and unpleasant. The road was bigger and the trees were lesser in number. There was nothing to protect me from the burning sun. It was extremely hot and I had never been in such a hot weather outdoors before. I had about 17 km to go before I reach my college and there was one liter of water left in my bottle. Luckily, there were shelters in bus stops every 2 km. I stopped at a bus stop for about 10 minutes, took the water and directly apply in my head and arms to cool myself down. When outside the bus stop, it felt dangerously hot and I was quite worried whether I would suffer from sunstroke or something. Looking back at historical weather, the temperature was probably at 36°C with a humidity of around 45-50%, making the ambient heat index at a dangerous level of 42°C and direct sun heat index at 50°C. I traveled from one bus stop to another. In between, I met a curious elderly local who wondered what I'm doing in the hot sun with a cycle. I had a small chat with him. When near the college, I took lunch at a small restaurant.

My water reserves ran out halfway in the 17 km stretch along the highway. I had to refill my bottle at a tea shop in a bus stop (purchased a cup of tea so that I could request the shop keeper for water). When nearing my college, I stopped at a restaurant and had my lunch. I finally reached my college at around 3 PM, extremely tired due to the heat.

Looking back, it was a risky cycling trip. It was exciting to push myself beyond what I have faced. But I'd probably not do it again.

https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/india/tiruchirapalli/historic?month=3&year=2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_index

http://www.agritech.tnau.ac.in/expert_system/paddy/season.html

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