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.
Well … I’ve aged. Now in my 7th year of running. I’ve been having problems with my health, my carburettor isn’t functioning that great. I’ve had a few surgeries on it, float pins changed, cleansing, rinsing, you name it. My shockers too have taken the brunt of all the bad roads of Mumbai and cross terrain riding that I’ve seen myself and Rutu through. Other parts feel rusty, like literally. But … I have the burning desire to carry on and he is happy with me… still.
This one was no different story, Mumbai – Mt. Abu – Bhuj and back, another 2200 kms+ of cross-country.
It was December and just like last year where we roamed around the lagoons in Kerala, this time Rutu had the arid India in mind – Rajasthan’s Mt. Abu and Bhuj, Gujarat. Here route.
The mantis, R-15, greets me early morning around 6.00am. She is all shining, showing off her best with her duo, Manas. While I’m still the same, standing tall and strong, no-frills girl. This trip as well, I’ll be hosting the Saddle bags full with road-rascals’ luggage, Mantis’ spares, etc. Rutu comes with the heavy saddles and were off by 6.15am. Rutu is quite protected with Manas’ jacket, over-dressed according to his usual simplistic style of shorts and flip-flops.
We meet the Bullying Bison just ahead of Dahisar check-post, Bison with her equally amassed rider, JK. Next stop was for a breakfast somewhere on the outskirts of Gujarat, we lay parked like always in a tri-headed formation under a green shed, The touring sisters as we are called. While we bitched about our guys, probably they lechered of others, the usual suspects being Multistrada, CBRs, KTMs and the other voluptuous Rs like 1000R and 1000RR, R1 and so on…
The road till now had been smooth, Mumbai-Ahmedabad’s NH-8 is a well known friend for us tourers. NH-8, keeping to himself, not having a strong character that plays upon us. However the air started getting from little polluted to being strongly particulated by the time we reached Navsari, Surat. The worst when we reached the outskirts of Ankaleshwar, Bharuch. Stretchs of NH-8’s skins too had developed a rash of trash and pieces of cloth! Ya you read it right, pieces of cloth. While our masters never cared to navigate through it, I still felt uneasy touching it. Probably it was too much for the guys as well as they halted for lunch somewhere between Bharuch and Vadodara (Baroda).
Rutu and others were very happy of the Punjabi Thali, a system that the guys weren’t really accustomed to. It had a jeera rice, dal tadka, paneer subji, rotis and buttermilk. Which according to them was easy to pick from the normal useless clutter of a menu card. There on, the NH-8 had a smoother dermis.
The outskirts of Vadodara was a pain, wading through a populous sea of fellow cousins, other automates, cars, trucks. My species wasn’t allowed on the Vadodara-Ahemedabad expressway and we had to go along the trusted NH-8 which was all under repairs, getting its base set, skin relayered, it took us almost 2 hrs to reach Ahemdabad. We were still 144km away from Palanpur our destined stop for the night and it was already 5pm. Our guys decided to take the Sardar Patel ring road and head towards Mehsana where they could find shelter for us and them alike. As we moved through the dark but still assisted by a equally friendly colleague of NH-8, passing through endless number of tolls, our guys perhaps decided enough of the dark darting when they finally stopped at a hotel in Kalol.
Dec 15, 2013
We had already seen JK come down for his smoke, tea so that he could get his bowels moving smoothly. All of them came with the heavy luggage around 8 and we were rolling towards Mehsana when we cut through કર્ક વૃત or “Tropic of Cancer”. Guys had a breakfast in a town called “Unjha” where smells and sights of Jeera or Cumin was all around as Rutu put it.
Palanpur and then Mt. Abu followed. Roads as expected and heard were fabulous in Gujarat. Unlike the Ooty road that I was expecting with series of Hair-pin bends, this one had a single narrow lane climbing all the way up to the town. After finding a parking place and a room for themselves, guys headed for lunch in the town and were discussing typical food-menu while returning back from a restaurant. They headed back into a Gujarati restaurant where there was no one but our guys. It seems they had a rajasthani thali and my guy had Daal baati. They then dessert-ed on Churma.
Me and Bison relaxed while guys roamed Nakki lake. While we checked out an occasional R-15, a roaming CBR-250.. I guess our guys did something similar. The evening was cold when we returned back.
Dec 16, 2013
I guess everybody had slept more than they wanted to. ’cause it wasn’t till 8.30am when Manas came to check his Mantis. We were unsure of the day’s proceedings and we waited while they had a breakfast in the golden sunlight in the almost frosted-dew-drenched garden. When the guys came back to us, it was 10.30pm and it was with their entire luggage, it seems they had planned to go ahead instead of spending time in a typical honeymooner-infested city.
The road to Bhuj had Palanpur, Deesa, Radhanpur, Bachau. Palanpur onwards the road is what I would say too huge, too straight, too nice. It felt like an ant was crawling on a tarred road. Thats the perspective one could get about a 150cc on this road to Bhuj from Palanpur. All that we saw were trucks, long trailers and a few cars if we were lucky. Guys stopped just ahead of Radhanpur to have lunch. It was a small, local road-side dhaba ( a gujarati version of it ). It was 3.30pm when guys were back from food and I heard Bhuj was still 250km away !! But all were bent down and raced along till Bachau about 70km away from Bhuj where we took a road off from the NH/SH. I had lost the track of the road. The sun was setting behind Bachau, and I had to ensure I was bright enough to plough through the dark. Bhuj came by 7.50pm. Where the guys found a posh hotel, Grand 3D which had a huge parking space just for us. I assume it was lavish for them as well. Guys dined at the restaurant next to the parking lot.
Dec 17, 2013
I had heard many talks about the White Rann of Kutch, typically about the big-ass Bullets’ ride on the white sand (Thats what I thought initially – white sand). We were cruising up north towards Dhordo which was about 20km away from Hodka, the junction for getting to White Rann of Kutch or Kala Dungar (literally – Black Hill). The plan was set to get to Kala Dungar first (East of Hodka) spend time there, have lunch, then move down back to Hodka and west towards Dhodro for the White desert.
Kala Dungar was a small mount about 500m above the ground. While we were parked on the edge of the hill over looking the Great lake of Kutch which extended beyond the horizon. The blue of the water easily mixing through the hazy gray. Guys spent more than an hour on the hill enjoying the scenery. All of them more accustomed to watch a sea with lush green forests of Konkan and the Western Ghats, but this was different, a huge lake right between a desert!
On our way down, Rutu decided to stop by the “Torna resort” which seemed like cottages for staying. When we reached there, a huge pathani fellow with Orange colored hair welcomed us in. Another fellow asked them to wait as the lunch was being prepared. After more than 2 hours or so when the guys were back, they were discussing all the they had found about this place, proximity to Pakistan, the inflow-outflow of people, herds. More than 5000 cattle roaming owner-less in the Pakistan side and Indian’s greed to get some of the cattle for themselves and their mystic stories of crossing the border and sometimes getting trapped in the other country, stories similar for people on both sides of the border.
We finally descended Kala Dungar not before 3pm, and head towards Dhodro. When we finally reached, Guys were perplexed to find out that they didn’t have a ‘BSF-pass’ that was required to visit the White Rann. It was to be obtained at Hodka chowk. Rutu asked the BSF guard if they could let them through, so came their boss, a guy in Green civilian T-shirt and a camouflage pants and military boots. I heard their conversation…
– Sir, let us go through, we kept asking all the while for pass and we were asked to go ahead.
– OK, you dont’ have a pass, you have not paid
₹100, which was to be used for Kutchi people’s development. What will you do for the country if I allow you to go ?
– Sir, we pay tax!
– That’s OK, but pledge, keep you hand on your heart and say, you’ll help a person of India.
– Sir, we swear we’ll help.
We heard guys later say, that initially they felt he was just joking, but he was damn serious. Then I overheard Rutu speaking with JK and Manas
– When I asked him “Sir mera Driving ID, I’ve given, but I don’t know your name. If I return late in the evening in the dark, where shall I get my ID from ?
– To which he replied “जिस भरोसेसे हम आपको जाने देरहें है, उसी भरोसे से आपको मिलजाएगा !”
Rutu admitted he didn’t have guts to argue further…
The White Rann, as we had initially thought, it was made up of white sand, But we were wrong. It was the white salt that had crystallized over the wet salty mud flats, that created an illusion of a white sand desert from the distance. As the sun went down behind the salt pans, the moon still waited, when it finally came up so did the glowing crystalline salt. It was yellow at first, but then turned into blue. The beauty increasing by the minute. Around 7.30pm the guys came back and we headed out of the Rann Utsav area, and halted just on the outskirts for tea. After 15mins, we were back on the road cutting through the slightly chilly desert. In the day what was my first ride through a desert, yellow-brown arid flats. The vegetation only a little bushy shrubs, throny trees and some weed, An endless flat area where one could get lost with no guidance of any landmarks, like hills, big trees, water, just arid flat land. Now the scene was dark, today was a full moon, shining bright, but it was still not enough and I was limited to 60 kmph. Only when there were bold road lines, would I be upped to 70kmph. If a reflector lined road was in sight, I was stretched to 90kmph in the dark. We came back at the hotel around 9.30pm where the next day was more of local sight seeing and relaxation, easy on us bikes.
Dec 18, 2013
The next day, we headed first towards the Swami Narayan temple, new temple built after the quake. Post the 99 crore worth institution we headed towards the Rajendra Park, which is in the middle of Harmirsar Lake. A beautiful park in the centre of the city. It had a very calm appeal to itself, we though I didn’t sight any couples enjoying the lonely, yet very peaceful and safe place, I’m sure it was one of the places where people from Bhuj came by to enjoy family time or cuddling time with their lovers. Next stop was the palace museum after which we headed for lunch, Next up – to the back of our hotel, the Bhujio fort. Rutu was eager to reach the top of the fort, JK didn’t even try. Manas trailed behind but finally manged to reach the top. I’m sure they had a good view of the city there. The day had been easy on us bikes, not a lot of revving just idling through the city. The day after was gonna be again on the road. Off to Mumbai via Ahmedabad, Vadodara.
Dec 19, 2013
We left early morning around 5.45am first towards Bachau, then connecting NH 8A, leading us straight to Ahmedabad outskirts. The road not that great till Ahmedabad, I had hoped the regal layout as had it been towards Bachau from Palanpur, but wasn’t that grand. Guys had a lunch after we moved along Ahmedabad outskirts via Sardar Ring road towards Vadodara. We passed Vadodara early by around 4.30pm we had covered 430km+ in less than 12 hours and were more than half way to Mumbai, guys wanted to rest. They decided initaly decided to head towards Bharuch, but then relented to JK’s antics and stopped at Karjan at a motel near TBEA factory.
Dec 20, 2013
Heading on the road around 6.30 am in winter in Gujarat around Bharuch is dreaded nightmare for a Asthmatic patient. Its cold, the heavy air settling over Narmada and its tributaries. Adding to it the pollution of all the industries near by. A place somewhere on the outskirts of Navsari was selected for breakfast around 9.00am. There on we fired all cylinders till we had crossed the Maharashtra border and the Beer Bars greeted the travellers just along the highways, still riding .. the Mantis came from behind, Manas indicating Rutu to stop. He said he was feeling very very drowsy. So we came to a halt in the jungles before Manor. Where were side-standed and guys had a nap of 30mins. Virar, Vasai wasn’t then far away. Wished the Bison a goodbye around 1230pm and then reached home by 1.30pm. A journey through the arid Gujarat and borders of Rajasthan had come to an end almost 2200km in the running.
At times riding through rough terrains, bad roads and steep ghats, you’ll always want that the journey should be over. But when we reached Tiracol, Goa it seemed like – What !? Already there ? It meant that we had no more travelling to do on our cycles enjoying those jokes with Surya, Puru, the good downhill slopes through dense trees, the slow climbs overlooking huge beautiful beaches.. All was over.
When I finally locked my cycle in my building, Even though I had some ruptured skin down my bum, I felt I wanted more.. What would now remain of this whole journey (probably once in a lifetime) was fond memories, discussing events in the office with friends..
We left early for Devbaug. At the beach the guy charged us ₹300 for a minute’s ride opposite Devbaug to Bhogave beach. From there on we trotted on foot to reach a road leading to सागरी महामार्ग (Coastal Highway).
There on the roads were always up, down, winding, scenic till we reached a ghat prior to Vengurla. Where the road climbed, not just it but it worsened just stones stuck in tar, the upper layer of tar had weathered away. Our cycles too took the brunt of the bad roads. When we reached down Vengurla almost as soon as the ghat ended, our wrists were aching. We had some heavy breakfast of ‘misal pav’ and carried towards Goa.
On our way just prior to Arawali, an uncle waved Surya asking him to stop. He asked about our trip and said that it was his dream in his youth to do the same, he then invited us to eat ‘unforgettable groundnut ladoos’ (similar to groundnut chikki). Had tea in the shack selling those as well, all on the house. We thanked the uncle and carried towards Redi and then Terekhol (Tiracol). The ferry just evaded us but it came back soon. The ride to Goa crossing the state border was free !!
And there we were having crossed 4 district boundaries and 1 state border in Goa. Tiracol to Aarambol wasn’t far away another 20mins and we rented out a sea-side room for the night. In the evening we went to the Sweet Lake and had a good swim.
Day in numbers
Cycling Time: 7:15 hrs
Water Rides: 2
Relaxation Time: 1.30 hrs
Dec 7, 2013 – Day 8 to Succorro, Goa and back to Mumbai
I planned the next day I’ll have a visit to my sister’s place in Succorro. So we left around 10.30 having breakfast, tea, icecream and lunch. It seemed as we ate more than we rode. We had confirmed a bus back to Goa which would ensure our cycles too got a ride back which departed from Mapuca. So after an enjoyable time with my sister and her family we headed back to Mapuca for our journey back to M U M B A I.
ST Bus was scheduled at 8.00am, we already at the ST depot by 7am, ensuring our cycles were ready (handles turned, etc) for the bus ride. The bus took off and reached NH 17 via Hathkhamba. It took the bus around 6 hrs to reach Malvan bus depot. When we assessed our state of the cycles. Puru’s rear rim’s spoke were broken. Rest of the cycles seemed OK.
We took a lunch near the ST depot and headed towards Tarkarli which was about 7km from Malvan. The road was smooth tar one spinning through lovely canopy. We fixed a hotel room and went for a evening stroll on the beach which was just opposite to our room. Me and Surya were so excited with the long beach that we went for a jog for about 4km or so. The ended relaxing, watching TV, enjoying sea sounds.
Day in Numbers
Dec 5, 2013 – Day 6, Malvan and Tarkarli
This day had no cycling at all. But decided to go to Malvan town, fix Puru’s cycle and roam around. Fixing a geared cycle’s rear broken spokes is a big task. We knew it then. Luckily there was a guy in town who could do that. A temple awaited us next and a hotel just adjoining to the temple. We asked for उकडीचे मोदक, and the lady said ‘u’ll have to order atleast 10′. Me and Puru looked at each other laughing, “No problem, bring ’em on !”
Malvan’s waters are clear and pristine with a lot of wildlife. We even found a black sea urchin in the rocks of the water. On our way back, we visited the Laxmi Cashew Factory, Surya trying his hand at breaking the Cashew shells.
The evening had a little more cycling in store, a Devbaug visit to check with the locals about a ferry / boat ride down south side of the devbaug backwaters. On our return, we took the ‘National Highway 17’, as put by the fisherman for the beach ride back to Tarkarli in the low tide.
The sight of Jaigad from Velneshwar makes you impatient, makes u do the distance…Jaigad was on the otherside of creek. Our first stop was atop hills and back down to the sea level – Tavsal jetty. The road wasn’t good, and we nearing Tavsal gave us more beautiful scenery that awaited us further in our journey, the water now starting to turn bluer than the initial murky color that it had, the vegetation deeper and dense. We had a nice stop at Tavsal, savouring sweet tangy taste of Kokam sarbat.
The ferry took us to Jaigad, where we had to climb a hill again and down to Ganpatipule. We reached Ganpatipule around noon and decided to have lunch. The last day at Velneshwar we had come to a reassessment of our itinerary, we decided we’ll take a bus to Malvan, save 2 days which we could use to rest and enjoy at Malvan and Aarambol, Goa. A quick lunch and another big climb of Ganpatipule to Ratnagiri (sea-side route).
I and Surya were waiting for Puru when we saw him walking pulling his cycle. A scene we had got accustomed with during steep climbs. We refreshed ourselves in a deserted shack’s cool shadow. We climbed back again, the nightmare of any cycle tour awaited. Puru’s rear tire was flat. We managed to get Puru in a tuktuk with cycle in rear and me and Surya went on the lovely roads overlooking the beautiful beaches south of Ganpatipule. It was one of our most lovely routes.
Ratangiri was closer than we thought, around 4pm we were there. Puru waiting for us after getting his tire fixed. At the ST stand we found the Malvan bus at 4 had already left and another one for Sawantwadi at 6pm would drop us to Kasal. Deciding against the night travel we found a hotel to stay and headed towards Mandvi beach/jetty. Not a great one, but we relaxed along a beach side shack sipping tea and strange oval cut कांदा भजी.
We had a big ghat to cross just ahead of Anjarle, but again local fishermen advised us an alternative route for Harnai, via the fishing village. Again a boat ride took us through Anjarle’s creek. In the haste of the yes/no to reach we took a wrong turn (well a right one for cars, bikes) towards Dapoli for which we had to climb a huge ghat, a good road SH 4 though, but thats not what we had planned, we wanted to go coastal through Murud (Ratnagiri), Ladghar beach, etc.. However this long ghat took us through to Dapoli town.
Further from Dapoli we climbed yet again, we were still climbing, never had come down the elevation we had gained for Dapoli. The destination now was Dabhol jetty. This would take us down south into the heart of Ratnagiri’s infamous Power project, Enron. Now christened as Ratnagiri Gas and Power Private Ltd. The last 10km to Dabhol were downhill, entirely. We wondered if we had to climb it, it would’ve taken our heart out! Dhopave jetty, south of the creek and we had to climb again rising into Enron. However the roads were good and the down hill was long and easy which helped us cover more distance. Coming down overlooking Guhagar was a delight.
We stopped at Guhagar town, refreshed ourselves with biscuits, tea, Glucon-D, etc. and head for Velneshwar which was another 20km of ride. But the sun was easier post 3pm. and we hand another ghat to climb. Once we took a right turn for Velneshwar another hill welcomed us. Puru got down off the cycle, I slowed down, checked with him and he replied
कुछ नही, आराम !
Another few kms and I was famished ! I had a very short and quick lunch at Dabhol jetty, since we had a quick ferry to catch in 40mins around 1.30pm. Now with all the ghats that we had climbed, the battery entirely drained out. I found myself dizzy, empty stomach. We stopped by road, and ate Parle’s 20-20 biscuits and Glucon-D. With a more than a partial charge, we were ready and headed into the lovely Velneshwar beach.
A small village, Velneshwar has the entirety of the beach’s length as its boundaries. From the beach’s north end one can see Jaigad’s JSW plant and Jaigad light house. We stayed at a beach side room, clean even with a TV set.
It was my first time that consecutively I was gonna do another 60km+ stretch on cycle. Bum a little sore, but doable.. The lovely small ghats enroute to Shrivardhan via Aaravi was morning bliss. Surya getting some Salman Khan styled photos (also read as without T-shirt).
We halted at Shrivardhan for ATM, coconut water etc and headed towards Harihareshwar, just as long the name is.. so seemed the distance. The ghat to Harihareshwar was never ending, the worst part – heat! Konkan doesn’t honour Dec. 1. Heat stays and so does the humidity. Puru’s cycle and its bag weight too show what is extra / unneeded at such a trip. We had to stop on the ghat under a tree where we felt we couldn’t move ahead without some Glucon-D. The ghat had started post a dry barren flat road which had the sun drain us out. We reached fairly early at Harihareshwar, 11.15am. But we felt we had travelled 100km+ thanks to the Konkan terrain and the sun.
Post food we moved towards Bagmandla jetty, where the govt. ferry service would’ve made us wait for more than an hour, the private one was earlier. Opting for it, we waited for it under a banyan tree, a typical tree with a peripheral wall around it so that travellers like us could rest. It was there where we found our ‘guide’ or rather a misguide. He said that we could go to Kelshi (our scheduled day-2 destination) via a shortcut, then Ganpatipule was just 40km ahead of it !!! Yes you guys read it right he said Ganpatipule. When that Ganpatipule distance came out his mouth, I knew he wasn’t to be believed. He kept talking, friends, bullet riders, etc. Of all the crap that he gave us, two things were right – Bagmandla to Bankot, You change districts, Raigad to Ratnagiri and there was a ferry (boat) ride at Kelshi and a huge huge shortcut!
Bankot, Ratnagiri. We had crossed into the famous Alphonso mango district. Guys on the ferry had warned us that ferry at Kelshi was not to be relied on. They said luck could help us get through. We still believed and kept asking the local fishermen about it, they were happy enough to send us that route, बोटी मिळतील, We would get boat rides.. Bankot to Velas we had to walk, climb on footsteps through a sea side terrain of rocks, sand, beach and get on to the road which connected Velas.
Ahead of Velas was another ghat, rocky, full of red stones, red sand and bad roads. The decent was a full speed one, our suspensions just mildly protecting our frames and our shoulders, but Surya’s thirst for a down-hill full speed decent knew no boundaries, bad roads, steep slopes, incoming traffic, nothing stopped him.
Down the hill, we were straight at a creek. We couldn’t see any jetty! all we saw was some fisherwomen getting off the trucks, tempos, tuktuks and walking straight into the ferry. We asked one for Kelshi, she pointed us straight towards a small village across the creek. The sand/soil was too wet to walk with shoes, we tied them on our cycle frames and walked into the creek. It was lovely! Our cycles, us and a huge tropical Konkan scenery. We were thrilled to get to this end and already said that this crossing was ‘पैसा वसूल’ part. A boatman just had taken a woman on the otherside and while rowing, he shouted that he’ll be back, just wait. When back, what we saw was not really possible. In his small boat, we had to cram 3 cycles and 4 people. The boat all by itself was something of a canoe and just as much of imbalance with such a payload.But Mr. Abbas, was confident and led us through and even posed for our cameras while we toiled to keep the boat aflot.
The small boat ride of less than 10mins led us to Kelshi village, probably my ancestors’ home. A girl helped us clean our foot in her backyard and then we rode through our 2nd favourite road types, cycling through narrow village roads, winding up and down houses, small shacks, etc. We reached Anjarle beach again during sundown and decided that would be our stop for the day. We had 10 उकडीचे मोदक (rice flour steamed encapsulating coconut with jaggery – konkan sweet dish) as well at dinner 😀