Early morning Bananas had given us enough solid food to get going, We left Palolem around 7.30am navigating through a familiar route of small up and downs into villages, roads bordered with trees, Coconut trees randomly but beautifully landscaping the entire scene in the crisp air . Goa – no wonder is beautiful. It reminded us a lot of our Mumbai – Goa Cycle trip. We halted to get some snaps near Talpona river. One thing me and Surya both observed – People strive to keep the waters and the adjoining area clean. It was the first time we were riding early morning on this trip. A few more days and it’d be a routine. A beautiful one too.
I was constantly check Google Maps (with GPS lock) to see where would we be crossing into Karnataka, Approximately it’d be a place called Majali. Sooner we started to see South Indian style temples, with big entrances and boards written in Kannad. Karnataka was closer. After few ups and downs on the road, we had straight, flat stretch, Surya dislikes such roads a lot with no character. Plain straight and boring. We saw some sort of toll naka / check post. I was sure it was the state border. When we reached the border check-post and tried some snaps, the KA police stopped us from taking snaps, later when we told we’ve come from cycle all the way and going down south towards Murudeshwar, he softened and allowed us. He screamed at me when Surya was taking my pic
अरे टोपी तो उतारो, चेहरा दिखना चाहिए !
Further a gorge invited us into its gully, This was the entry into Karwar city. Post the gorge a long bridge over Kali river followed and took us straight along Karwar beach. I had told Surya, the road is right next to the beach and we’ll see a ship as a museum as well along the coast. We stopped at the Warship Museum took a few snaps and headed further along the road to have breakfast at an Udupi Restaurant around 10:00 am. I expected a lot from this one but the vada sambhar and onion uttappa reminded me of udupi hotels in Mumbai. Nothing special. Either Mumbai hotels were good or this one was just average.
There on we headed ahead towards Ankola, first – the immediate ghat ahead of Karwar, but it was beautiful climbing over the coastline. But then on the road again turning barren, perhaps the time around noon made it even more uninspiring to ride. We stopped for refreshments near Todur, where we took a few snaps of the shop and the lady owner as well. She was too shy pose solo along with her shop, so it had to be all of us in the ‘selfie’ mode. Outskirts of Ankola arrived around 2pm where a biker with a pillion rode along us asking us questions about our native place, our next halt and our final destination. This kindof interaction while riding would follow us all the way to Kanyakumari only thing that would change would be the language. We were already in a state where language was alien to us. From now on it would be just hand gestures, English nouns and Hindi verbs.
We spent about 1 hr for a lunch at a road side restaurant where the guy suggested we could also go and see a very famous “Arya Durga Temple”. But the heavy Dal fry, rotis and jeera rice had other requirements of its own. We couldn’t budge from the place, lazing till 3. When we finally got up and moved along towards Kumta. The next stop was near Shirur where we had climbed up a little and were running along the hills overlooking Gangavali river below. It was beautiful as there was hill on the other side as well and the river flowed right through the valley. After crossing the bridge over the river we saw a right for Gokarna, another tourist attraction. But it was 10km off from the highway, that would take 20km extra riding with around 2hrs extra. So we had to skip it.
The roads had improved a lot in Karnataka, not that they were bad in Goa, but since the hilly terrain had reduced. there was a greater chance of widening which was reflective in constant road widening projects along NH-17. Kumta came by around 5pm before that we crossed another river Aghnashini. The terrain had changed to hill again and traffic had worsened with trucks and buses moving at neck break speeds on the narrow NH-17. We found a lodge just opposite to the Bus stand, where the manager even allowed us to put our bikes in one of his shops which was getting built.
We got down on the road again in the evening after our routine of washing clothes and bath to explore the town. But it was really a small one. The only tourist attraction could’ve been a railway bridge running right over the centre of the town. We had tea near the bus stand and had an early dinner to get back on our beds.
We reached at Bandra Tel. Exchange around 4pm and the bus fellow said the can’t transport the cycles! Made a few calls to the bus booking fella to ensure our cycles were on-board or on-ceiling. At Vashi when the bus made a stop, it loaded around 100+ boxes of Apples, Grapes and other fruits, our cycle unstrapped and restrapped later.
Feb 14, 2015 – Day 1 to Palolem Beach, Goa
Bus stopped, we were half asleep, uncomfortable. Probably it was past midnight.. It was around 3am at Lanjha, Ratanagiri. It was cold! The Bus moved on and I had to flush out things luckily bus had stopped early morning for diesel. It reached Mapuca waited for another 30mins to get the fruits off its ceiling and moved ahead for Panjim. We started at Panjim around 8.30am heading for our first halt of the trip at Canacona.
We stopped at Margao and had breakfast. A little chat with my sister in Goa, and she suggested we should stop at Palolem beach instead of Canacona. The ride from Margao to Cancolim was through towns, villages… But then… The first ghat on our trip welcomed us.. It was hot around noon and the ghat never seemed to ease. It climbed and climbed… The road, NH-17 Panvel-Edapally was just wide for 2 way traffic and in this section through barren hills.
It was just too much for me. At a point I started pushing the cycle, Surya too followed suit. A little further as it seemed it eased, we mounted back on and started only for another winding climb. Our heads throbbing with the excessive climb and HEAT! we stopped for relaxing ourselves. Another 10mins later we were back. Probably the inadequate sleep in the night and first day of our trip was taking its toll.
Later however, the road had to descend for the beach.. and it was much relaxing for us. We reached Palolem beach around 2pm and got into a shack for lunch. Which wasn’t great at all! My food-experience in Goa wasn’t ever good. Today just seemed same. Later we found a home-stay and got to cleaning. Washing clothes then having bath. This would be our defacto Standard-Operating-Procedure after finding a lodge / room.
Later by 5 we moved to get to Palolem beach, walked around and got into walking in the water till we reached that “honeymoon island” as labelled in Google Maps
My birth land, Madhya Pradesh. The “Heart of India” beckoning its son.
I’ve had a few biking (motorbike) trips here and there but none to my मातृभूमि. I had been planning since 2 years now and everytime it turned out to be fiasco. But this time around Manas suggested we should try out car as our vehicle.
Day 1: Amravati
Dec 13, 2014
We had planned for Jabalpur with stopover at Nagpur, going through Dhule (via NH3 or AH47). The road pretty much pristine all the way. At Dhule the NH would’ve changed numbers from 3 to 6, NH-6, The Central India’s East-West link.
We expected that too be along the lines of NH3, but it wasn’t. The road changed to a 2-lane without a median. The road itself was not in a great condition. We had covered around 300kms in 5hrs but just reach Jalgaon from Dhule (90km) took 2 hrs or so. At 1.30pm when we stopped for food, Nagpur was another 400km away, and out of question as our night halt. It had to be Amravati. The road gave our first breakdown, a puncture somewhere before Akola. Our next stop was in Akola where cops unnecessarily stopped us checking for documents, etc. and had to bribe them for not carrying an original RC Book (we carried just a xerox copy).
Post 5.30 ~ 6pm it was dark and had to trudge carefully on the road with overtaking now becoming even difficult with the oncoming high-beam cars and trucks. Amravati came somewhere around 8pm and we lodged ourselves in one.
Day 2: Jabalpur
Dec 14, 2014
We left Amravati around 7am for Jabalpur via Nagpur – Pench. It was foggy all the way till Nagpur, but the road was lovely, big, wide and with median. This ran till Nagpur where we took an unfortunate by-pass which was so bad that even trucks had to navigate through the potholes as big as the roads themselves, a Maruti Alto was no match. This was where we found the front right in the bonnet was creaking. We tried to find what it was, but couldn’t. The bad stretch was only 2km – 3kms but cost us more than 40mins.
Later the road improved and took us into the Mowgli territory, Pench Tiger Reserve. This forrest was the one that housed the stories of Mowgli like kid. It were these stories that inspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book. Pench is divides Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh (MP). As soon Pench was over and we moved ahead of Seoni, the ghat section got back into a big 6 laned highway. We stopped around Seoni for a tea break around 11.30pm.
Post that Manas road till Jabalpur where we had our lunch somewhere around 2pm. We reached my uncle’s house visiting the famous Balancing Rock around 4pm. Jabalpur was chilly.
Day 3: Bhedhaghat Marble Rocks and Dhuandhar, Jabalpur
Dec 15, 2014
After a very heavy breakfast of Mutter kachoris prepared by my aunt we headed out for one of the flagship tourist attractions of MP. First halt was Bhedhaghat Marble Rocks, where the boating through the gorges of Narmada river takes us into a Marble walled serpant flows of माँ नरमदा.
The next halt was Dhuandhar waterfalls which in roughly mean “Misty watefalls”. The huge falls creating a mist around the area and hence the name.
We also enjoyed a ride over the waterfalls with a cable car (rope-way) which took us to the otherside of the river, where a restaurant at a scenic place served us lunch.
Day 4: Bargi Dam Cruise, Jabalpur
Dec 16, 2014
This morning it was Aloo Bonda that silenced our hunger after which we headed out to see Madan Mahal, walking distance from my aunt’s place. Its more of a watch tower on a huge bolder atop a small hill. Now more or less in ruins, but luckily acknowledged by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) as an important piece in history. From here one could see the entire Jabalpur city.
The main attraction for today was a Bargi reservoir through a 30km winding road from the Jabalpur city to Khamariya. Where the Bargi dam halts the flow of Narmada and creates a huge reservoir. Its from here where the water flow is controlled downstream which continues through Dhuandhar and Bhedaghat. MP Tourism has setup boating, small-cruise facility over here so that people can enjoy the expanse of the water body. The ₹110 ticket allowed us to go deep into the reservoir an hour long ride that served piping hot hindi-item-number music on its deck so that kids and adults alike could enjoy the chilly breeze with their dance steps.
We were contemplating on our next stop, whether it would be Amarkantak (The highest point in Satpura, MP and also the origin of river Narmada) or Pachmarhi a popular Hill station of Madhya Pradesh. We zeroed in on Pachmarhi.
Day 5: to Pachmarhi
Dec 17, 2014
We had forgotten to see the huge Shiva statue in a temple-sque enviors of Jabalpur. So early morning we left for it. The fog in Jabalpur was thick. When we reached the place, I couldn’t see the statue, it was only as I waked towards the centre of the park the sitting Shankar slowly emerged out of the fog, revealing its massive scale of around 50feet +.
We left around 10.30am for Pachmarhi, via Narsingpur – Pipariya. It was all a state highway but the road was in an excellent condition, just wide enough for 2 cars but neatly lined and smooth. We had lunch around 2pm in Pipariya and left for Pachmarhi at 3pm.
Pipariya to Pachmarhi was just 50km but that 50km was of clean long, winding road. 10-15km ahead of Pipariya was flat, but then the Satpura National Park invited us into its depth. The road became narrower which completely ruled out a possibility of an overtaking maneuver unless we came down from the road on to the flat dusty bed of the road. This road was a continuous uphill climbing to 3555 feet above sea level, the altitude of Pachmarhi.
We booked a single night halt at a hotel along with the next day’s excursion of attractions around Pachmarhi with a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy (Jeep). The dinner was pathetic at a local restaurant which served us an uncooked chicken-tikka which was also tasting bad, we couldn’t have anything of it.
Day 6: Pandav Caves, Bee Fall, Reechgarh, Dhupgarh, Pachmarhi
Dec 18, 2014
We had to take receipt of ₹900 (₹600 car + ₹300 a guide) to enter into the inner green blanket of Pachmarhi’s Satpura Tiger Reserve. First stop was Pandav Caves, which reminded me of many caves in Maharashtra, typically that of Lenyadri, Junnar district, Pune. 5 caves atop on a small hill – where the Pandavs resided during their वनवास. A beautifully curated garden downstairs gave a good photo opportunity for most tourists.
Back down we had Maggi noodles a tea and headed out for Bee Fall, a water fall named due to its bee like stinging feeling when one sits under it. The fall is some ride to an edge of a moutain from where one has to trek 400m down to the base of the fall to enjoy its beauty, the fresh refreshing fall’s charge drains immediately as we have to climb back up to the jeep.
There was still time for lunch and we decided to check out another attraction, Reechgarh. Its a big cave like place with a cave like entry to an opening which has a periphery of huge rocks around it and giving a very small opening at the top almost 90 feet above. The other side of the entry is an edge of the mountain also known as the Echo point. An echo of a shout is heard almost after 2 seconds and is a lot different in experience from the normal echo points that tourists typically enjoy.
Lunch followed, a good Veg Gutte ki subzi. The next stop was the last for the day, Dhoopgarh / Dhupgarh. The highest point in the Satpura range. But to get to it one has to travel well over 10kms from Pachmarhi along steep and narrow roads through the mountain ranges. Dhupgarh named after its all-day sunny blast atop the mountain. The edges to both the east and the west labelled as Sunrise and Sunset points gather tourists. Since most of the tourists are from Madhya Pradesh and surrounding regions where the concept of a hilly terrain is not common, its quite a place to see the sun set for the honeymooners that frequent the hill station. MP Tourism has created a nice little Amphitheater to enjoy the sunset.
Post the setting sun, our driver took us back to pachmarhi in his Rally Sport styled driving. We had guts to try another Chicken dish, but yet again fell flat on our faces, this time yet another restaurant to hit us. Another dish going to waste we had to calm our stomachs with good old omelette-bread on a road-side shack.
With MP’s tour and major attractions getting over, we were left with just our journey back to Mumbai. This too would require a night halt and we decided to go via Indore and atleast enjoy its Chappan Chat street.
Day 7: to Indore
Dec 19, 2014
We checked out early by 7.30am, but Manas couldn’t find his pouch of electronic gadgets and it cost us another 30mins before we finally headed towards Pipariya, around 9am along the road we pulled over and ate our breakfast that we had bought the earlier day, Cream rolls, Cake and Chakali.
At Pipariya we headed eastwards towards Hoshangabad. At Hoshangabad we enquired about the route towards Indore, a via-Bhopal or via-Harda. Most of the guys suggested us via-Rehti-Khategaon. So we floored the pedal along NH59A. Around 1.30-2pm we had reached Kategaon and were looking for a good restaurant, but couldn’t find any. We settled for a cleaner version of dhaba, a bhojanalaya. The food was really good and tasty. Veg. though, Manas had given up hopes of having a Non Veg. in MP.
Indore was just 110km from Khategaon, but the restuarant owner said we’d take around 2-2.5 hrs to reach. He was right the smooth road went bad thanks to the extremely high plying of heavy trucks coming in and out of Indore. We reached the outskirts of Indore around 4.30 – 5pm. We settled for Ginger Hotel. The heavy traffic in Indore reminded us we were back to mad-civilization. Chris-cross cars, bikes, trucks, signals you name it.
We dumped our bags in the room and headed out for Chappan Dukan (56 shops) chaat street. Where we were welcomed by groups of teenagers and elders alike storming across multiple street-side shops for chat and sweets. We stopped across Vijay Chat house. While others were buzzing ordering stuff, we wondered what we could order, Khopra Batata Kachoris or Batata kachoris, etc… We ordered Coconut Potato Pea kachoris and various other forms of it. While doing that we ordered Shikanji, though normally a sweet lime water concoction, but here in Indore its a thick rich drink made up of Shrikhand, Rabri, Milk and Dry fruits. The shop owner was quick to spot us as tourists reading the available food items and offered us the drinking and ensuring that we try to identify the taste of its varied ingredients.
Post our diabetes and cholesterol killer food we were back to our hotel room.
Day 8: to Mumbai
Dec 20, 2014
We had around 600km to cover, so we headed off early by 7.30am but not without a visit back to Chappan. This time for its famous Pohe, Poha / Pohe a dish of Rice flakes with tasty garnishing of farsan, sev is a mouth watering dish. Yet again we saw hordes storming early morning. But MP is known for its love for food, time and age doesn’t matter.
With a sumptuous filling we finally head out for Mumbai, back on NH3 or AH47. We crossed the border around 11am and soon had crossed Dhule. The chilly MP weather had turned into a warmer dry barren air. We had our food 30km North of Nashik around 2pm, with this speed we could’ve been home by 6.30pm.
But as Mumbai neared, the traffic became worse, had to wait for 30mins at Kalyan Murbad phata. and then things got slower as we reached Thane. The SCLR was quick but Kalina was just long red tailed lines of cars.
But relatively the 600km took us only about 11 hours, thanks to NH-3.