When a non-cyclist cycled with Kalypso

Verina Henchy, a self-confessed non-cyclist, fighter and survivor of battles with her arteries, nature- lover and dreamer of unrealised cycling journeys…and then she encountered E-bikes! Read about her experience in her own words below:

“My name is Verina Henchy, I’m 60 years old and I consider myself to be a non-cyclist and yet I’ve just cycled 320 km through Tamil Nadu, Southern India with relative ease!

I can of course ride a bike.  When I say that I’m a non-cyclist,  what I mean is that cycling any distance, especially in heat, is an overwhelming experience bringing little joy and a great deal of difficulty.  In particular, hills have been so hard and so daunting that I have always been beaten by them almost at the starting point.  Recently diagnosed heart disease has gone some way towards explaining some of my difficulties but even after having 2 stents fitted just a couple of months ago, my general fitness level has still left me struggling with even gentle exertion.  This is all before I discovered E-bikes!

I have been a regular supporter of the bi-annual HEAL India charity bike ride, supported by Kalypso Adventures for the past 12 years but I have cycled less and less each time to the point of complete non-participation in 2016 and non-attendance in 2018.

I actually purchased my own E-bike about 18 months ago (2018)  because I was thoroughly fed up with being a bikers ‘widow’.  My Husband, a keen cyclist will disappear on his bike for  hours at every opportunity and having no hope of keeping pace or distance with him I used to stay at home feeling some resentment.  With my E-bike, I found that I could not only keep up with him on the ‘flat’, I found definite advantage on hills on when faced with a headwind!  After several longish rides with him, I had a sense that I might be able to join him again in India for the 2020 HEAL India cycle challenge and with an E-bike perhaps even finish the whole course which would be a first!  I contacted Kalypso Adventures to ask them if they could source a bike for me and in true Kalypso style I was told “no problem”.

Kalypso is a company with a strong commitment to Eco Tourism so their approach to my request has been both experimental and collaborative.  Working with local engineers they have been experimenting with batteries and frames to make bikes that are suitable for the Indian terrains.  E-bikes have heavy frames because the batteries can weigh 4-5 kilos and the charge life needs to be sufficient to cover long distances.  The components need to be sufficiently protected to ensure that they are not effected by the dust and sand roads and the pedal assistance needs to be sufficient to give help when needed while keeping cadence comfortable.  I write this section as a complete non technician……there is plenty to read on line if you want to fully understand how these bikes work and how to choose a model that works for you!

We arrived in Pondicherry in early January and to be honest, I was very anxious indeed.  What if I still couldn’t manage?  Would everyone think I was ‘cheating’?.  Would the battery last? The bike work?.The heat overwhelm me.?…..I was scared!

Did I manage to complete the programme? YES!  Was it a challenge? YES! An electric bike certainly takes the strain from pedalling but because of the size and weight required to carry the battery there is still considerable strain on your back, wrists and feet not to forget the saddle soreness suffered by all who take part.  Did I ever feel overwhelmed? NO!  I used a moderate level of pedal support throughout knowing that I had additional levels of support if needed so I was able to challenge myself to the max without ever feeling that I might over exert.  Did I feel a sense of achievement? HELL YES?  Was I cheating? ABSOLUTELY NOT.  I feel strong, fitter, toned and exhilarated.  These feelings only come after exercise!

So if like me you are a non-cyclist, with support from Kalypso and the HEAL cycle team, you too could take part in the HEAL India cycle challenge or any other challenge of your choosing.  It’s as easy as falling off a bike!”

Success at 16500 feet!!

At Kalypso we have always taken pride in our guides, but this day  is extra-special…for, a bunch of our boys have just completed their mountaineering course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and all of them have graduated with A grades!! Roger, Satheesh, Raja and Shinas – you have shone for us today!

The 28-day course involving rock, snow and ice climbing is arduous but exhaustive. It empowers the student to participate in any expedition that ventures upto 7000feet. The field training at the institute’s scenic base camp behind them, the Kalypso quartet finished the course with the tough climb to the peak of Renok at a height of 16500 feet.

We believe that our Team Kalypso occupies a singular position in that they regularly undergo refresher training in their core professional areas like rope skills, natural history, wilderness medicine etc by the best in the field. They have also received at various times, certification from pioneer institutes like HMI, Red Cross etc.

Kalypso believes that the spirit of adventure is what has kept mankind going since the beginning of Time. Today as our young adventurers receive their honours, we are satisfied we are doing our bit to keep that flame burning bright and strong.

Congratulations, Team Kalypso!

When Kalypso hosted the Kerala Blog Express 06 – 2019

Journeys and destinations are inextricably linked. Every journey we believe has to have a destination, and every destination, it is accepted is attained only by traversing the complex paths of a journey. Modern journeys though have undergone certain transformations. The purpose, the takeaways, the understanding have all been enhanced by the use of technology and so we have journeys that are easier to envisage, plan and document. Every traveller today has a story to tell which they do in more and more innovative ways. And so were the travel-bloggers born…that group of inveterate travellers who make no bones about the fact that for them journeys and destinations merge to form experiences and memories. A relentless search for epiphany defines them.

What is Kerala Blog Express?

Wordsmiths, idea-peddlers – individuals with an eye to look beyond the apparent, and see lurking truths. In modern parlance they are the digital media influencers, travel bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and lifestyle-bloggers. The Kerala Blog Express offers them a unique opportunity to explore and experience Kerala, God’s Own Country as the department of tourism, Kerala organises an online blogging contest every year and 25-30 of the winners from across the word are then hosted by them for a period of two weeks.

The group is taken by bus through the length and breadth of Kerala and utmost care is taken to ensure that their experiences are organic and genuine in nature while guaranteeing safety throughout. The bloggers then share their real time experience with their followers through various social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

KBE season 6 in 2019 replicated the success of this venture that began 6 years ago. Past participants have attested to forming new BFFs and having epic experiences. KBE is and has always been a fantastic opportunity for the world to see Kerala as it really is and for Kerala to present itself in all its multifaceted splendour to the curious eyes of the world.

KBE and Kalypso – where do the twain meet?

Relationships are forged on trust and mutual respect. And so it was when Kalypso was handed over the steering wheel of the Kerala Blog Express mid-journey. Setting out from Kochi in this edition of the Blog Express, on the Trip of a Lifetime bus, the group of expert bloggers wrote about, photographed and video-shot their tour sharing their thoughts and experiences with the world. Kalypso introduced them to sides of adventure and responsible tourism, important aspects of Kerala’s State tourism policy.

The journey and the travellers

We began our stint with the Kerala Blog Express 2019 by taking this group of 30 cycling from Kainakary in the Kuttanad region which is the rice bowl of Kerala along village roads and rustic fishing villages, to Nazreth Church, 15 kms away. From there on the backwater magic held sway and the group was taken kayaking from Nazareth village which meant 5 kms of the surreal where only distant bird-calls or the quacking of a team of ducks broke the silence and a gentle breeze was a constant caress on the coconut palms.  Kerala’s verdant beauty and its maze of waterways they found could be mesmerising.

The next leg of our journey with the bloggers saw the scene shift to the Western Ghats. Kalypso’s picturesque camp at Suryanelli played arena to their two day wonderful stay. Stiff backs and aching limbs notwithstanding, the bloggers were soon up to their active best upon reaching. The brisk mountain air, the lush green surroundings and nature at her wild best were all it took to rejuvenate tired bodies.  The exotic appeal of the campfire too proved irresistible. The morning saw them scale the craggy Phantom Head Peak to soak in the magical sunrise over the butterfly forest and the afternoon saw them setting off on their Trip of a Lifetime to their next destination.

Playing host to this group of young travellers who have been everywhere and seen everything was besides being a privilege also an experience that we at Kalypso will remember and cherish for a long time to come. Memories we know will linger for quite some time…whether it is Alex Chacon that Travel Vlogger and motorbike adventurer  playing mud football in a slushy village playground, or Alex Outhwaite falling in love with the tea plantations and the winding roads in between or Jonny Melon who expertly selfie-d even while kayaking or riding a bicycle on Kerala’s muddy village roads or Michael Gerber who fell in love with the sunsets and the tea plantations of Kerala or Nelson Mochilero, digital creator and compulsive traveller like all the rest of them, encountering for the first time the magic of Kerala’s backwaters and waterfalls…we could go on  and on about each and every one of them…the passion with which they embrace travelling, the special place nature has in their itineraries, their totally open and honest outlook…like how Kerala sees herself –truly human by nature

What an incredible time we at Kalypso had! Being activity partners for Kerala Blog Express and Kerala Tourism has been a terrific experience in itself and each season fills us with a sense of achievement and pride.

 

Travel journalists of the past have evolved with the advent of modern technology and modern sensibilities to the travel bloggers of today. More authentic experiences, more innovative ways of sharing those experiences and more real-time story-telling! And all of this made more memorable due to the amazing palette that Kerala is! We salute the spirit of adventure!

 

Three Peaks Challenge India 2018

 

After a month-long preparation, 14 Kalypso challengers were flagged off from the heart of Kochi on 10th June. Cycling off before sunrise in the light drizzle and low visibility, it was an exhilarating start. Later as the sun came out, they had to weave in and around peak hour traffic. Once the team reached the foothills, they pedaled through the area that receives the highest rainfall in South India, and stopped at Neriamangalam Bridge, from where they could look down at the rainforests below and also spot the mighty hills that called to the challengers. The gushing waters of the Periyar below were a sign of the continuous rainfall at the hilltops. Zipping up their rain jackets, the challengers started their uphill ride making use of all the technical knowledge they had gained over the years about the art of cycling. The spectacular waterfalls and lush greenery of the rainforests encouraged the tiring minds to continue pedaling.

A quick lunch at Adimali behind them, they continued their challenging climb up the Ghats finding their way through the narrow roads, speeding vehicles, chilly drizzles and frosty winds. By evening the group reached the summit, Munnar at 5000ft from sea level. As they touched their first peak, a warm cup of tea fresh from the tea gardens was waiting for them. They continued their cycling through the stunning tea gardens until they reached the campsite at Suryanelli. After some hot soup, the team got busy in getting the cycles ready for next day. Considering the bad weather and the challenges ahead, the senior team decided only the fittest six would continue with the challenge.

Early morning stretching exercises and a re-inspection of their cycles meant the team was well set for the second-day expedition, following a healthy breakfast.  The initial trail was through cardamom reserve forests and the winding downhill roads of Tamil Nadu. After having overcome the slippery tarmac and sharp turns down the hills, the team enjoyed the 3-hours of cycling through the plains along the Western Ghats, passing the busy towns of Cumbum and Theni. The terrain changed suddenly after they cycled 90 km as they had started climbing up the second peak. The team found the ascent more challenging, as they had to navigate their route through the narrow roads, often having to give way to the huge trucks carrying tea leaves to the factories. A sudden downpour meant the team had to take a break in the nearby village, recounting their experiences with the excited kids who had gathered around them. The challengers reached Perumalmalai before dark and stayed there overnight. After a quick de-brief, they were fast asleep with a sense of achievement.

The next day the men started early to pedal 170km to reach the final peak of the challenge. Cycling down Palani went pretty fast with pleasant weather and less traffic in the early hours of the day. With tired legs from continuous cycling, they then faced an unexpected challenge – high winds on the Pollachi-Valparai highway. The team was exhausted by the time they reached the lunch point at Sungam after having had to cycle against the heavy winds. They then looked to reach the third mighty peak 3 hours prior to sunset pedaling another 55 km.

The unwavering four decided to challenge the peak. The determined group started cycling the 40 hairpins overcoming the heavy rains and low visibility. The cyclists pedaled through the Indira Gandhi National Park where the freezing winds chilled their grip on the handlebars. They crossed their deadline and made it to Valparai to complete the 3 peaks challenge.

As part of team Kalypso, we feel proud of our cyclists who completed South India’s toughest 3 peaks challenge in just 3 days, covering a distance of 460 kilometers. This will be a great motivation for cycling enthusiasts and could be made an annual event for the cycling community.

https://youtu.be/T7lzRXJ9ILw

Three Peaks Cycling Challenge India

   

 

 

 

9 intrepid tour leaders from Kalypso Adventures cycled an unprecedented 624 kilometers, climbed a total of around 26470 feet, in 3 days through undulating terrain to reach the three major hill stations of South India, which are at Munnar, Valparai and Kodaikanal. Fighting fluctuating temperatures, humidity and most importantly altitude, the Kalypso team showed exemplary determination and will to conquer these peaks. They undertook this insurmountable task from the 12th to the 15th of June, 2017.

Triggered by the success, this is now an annual event open to cycling enthusiasts across the world.

An Initiative by Kalypso Adventure Pvt. Ltd.

Kalypso Adventures, G 340, Panampilly Nagar, Kochi – 682036

Email: info@kalypsoadventures.com | www.kalypsoadventures.com