Nandi 200

The good start to the year continues. Cycling-wise I meant.

Started the Nandi 200 km brevet yesterday with some good hours on the saddle thanks to the commutes and the previous weekend’s long ride. I did some last minute changes to the bike – always a tricky thing to do just before an event. Got the rear tyre changed, and then did some do-it-myself cleaning of the chainring, cassette and derailleur. Being not too experienced at this, I ended up screwing up the gear shifting a bit, and got a quick fixing job done at RR Cycles. Even then, I didnt have a comfortable feeling switching gears. Note to self: No last minute tinkering hereon.

Some 40 odd riders kicked off the ride from the Airlines restaurant. Quite a good turnout.

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The ride went smoothly upto Nandi Hills with a few gentle climbs with a bit of a chill near Doddabalapur. A flat in the riding party was a minor delay. All in all things were going pretty fine when we reached the Nandi Hills base.

I have done the climb only twice before, with the most recent one in July last year. This time I was confident of doing better and shaved off a good 12 minutes off my previous best with a time of 1:02:53. Yes, still a lot of room for improvement there. Now if only I do the climbs regularly. Even then, for a leisure cycling who does not really train, I will take this.

Conquering Nandi was a deceptive high; I still had a good 130 km to go, and a clear sunny sky to ride under. Not the best combination. The idli-omlette breakfast notwithstanding, I could feel the drop in energy levels the climb had brought in. Rode with several breaks till the next control point at Chintamani, and made it 20 minutes before the cut-off time. After a quick lunch, it was a simple equation: 73 km, 5 hours. Didn’t take any long breaks and rode through Hoskote before the perennial

finished the ride in 12.5 hours. The last 10 km seemed the toughest, having to navigate through the Bangalore city traffic.

Other highlights:
As happens most during a brevet, made some friends during the ride. We had each other’s backs, whether it was a puncture or anyone feeling any fatigue.
Yummy pulav by the organizers at the control point.
A couple did the brevet on a tandem bike. In a post-ride conversation, I got to know how syncing the riders’ cadence is critical to minimize effort.

Didn’t click many pics. Just a few at Nandi and some post-ride ones. Sharing a couple of them.

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Pearl Valley

Today’s ride was to Pearl Valley. Three riders including myself. I left home at 5.45 am and caught up with Ajeet at Silk Board by 6 am. Trilok was to join us a little later – it was a 17 km ride from his place to the meeting point. While Ajeet and I caught up on each other’s whereabouts, Trilok stormed on to the scene, hammering away on his pedals.

The ride to our destination was a quick 32 km ride, made more pleasant with the weather getting cooler as we moved away from the city. Locally called Muthyalamaduvu, Pearl Valley has a lake which feeds a waterfall. The waterfall incidentally turned out to be pretty dry during our visit. It is said to slide off the slopes in drops that look like pearls from a distance, hence the name Pearl Valley. Too bad if you thought of finding some pearl oysters around.

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Along the way, Trilok shared his experiences about his ride from Bangalore to Mumbai. Ajeet joined in soon, and together the two kept our trio entertained with stories about treks and tents, in particular, how to sleep to keep a tent from blowing away in the wind.

A holiday well spent. Adios, and happy Dussehra to all you folks.
Till I write again.

Bangalore – Goa: Day 5-7

In case you’ve missed the story so far:
Bangalore – Goa: Day 1
Bangalore – Goa: Day 2
Bangalore – Goa: Day 3
Bangalore – Goa: Day 4

 

This was to be the itinerary going forward:
Day 5: Ride from Murdeshwar to Gokarna
Day 6: Lounge around the beaches at Gokarna
Day 7: Ride from Gokarna to Goa

I’d have loved to say this was how I planned it when I set out from Bangalore, but no. Someday, yes someday, I’ll stick to the plan to the tee.

The ride from Murdeshwar to Gokarna was a short one – 77 km with the route along the Panvel-Kanyakumari highway being mostly smooth. My only regret was the road not being close enough to the coast. Some pictures from the ride.

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The distance not being too big, I rode at an easy pace, reaching Gokarna town by early afternoon and checked in at Zostel. Located on a hill, the place offered a stunning view of the beach.

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Whether you are a solo traveller or traveling in a group, Zostel is a great place to put up at while in Gokarna. The place had comfortable dorms and cottages, and a chilled out common area stocked with books and board games. Free wi-fi too. The place had a motley group of backpackers from across India and a few from the Netherlands and Germany too. Having ridden solo for the last 4 days, I loved the buzz around the hostel.

The common area had some funky art work.

 

The next day a few of us trekked around the beaches nearby. Some of the beaches had intriguing names – Om beach (named so because its shoreline resembles the Sanskrit letter Om), Half moon beach, Paradise beach and Devil’s cliff. Had breakfast at Namaste Cafe – idyllic seaside location with not so great food.

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In the afternoon, we went into Gokarna town, intending to to see the temples, only to find foreigners were not allowed in any of them. Once again, religion baffled me with its rigidity.

Gokarna to Goa

When I left for Goa, the day’s destination was not fixed. One of the guys at Zostel had recommended the beaches at Palolem, Patnem and Agonda, none of which I had been to before. I decided to take a call later during the day. If I made it in good time, I could even go all the way to Benaulim.

After the 10 km ride from Gokarna to the highway, the ride got more comfortable with the weather being on my side too. Overcast skies are so much better than bright sunny ones when you’re on the bike. And so it was this time too, except that it began to rain an hour after I had started. The rain kept making fleeting appearances for a while, and though it got cooler, I sweated heavily under my raincoat. Damn, off with the thing. Braving the rain seemed better than getting warmer under a waterproof jacket.

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The skies cleared by the time I reached Karwar where the beach was just too inviting to miss.

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Karwar Beach

 

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The ride on to the Goa border was plainly uneventful. Uneventful enough for me to ride leisurely singing songs to myself. That the roads were largely remote for long sections helped me practice belting out my vocals without a worry. Clicked a few pics and carried on happy to have come within touching distance of my destination.

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Turned out I had rejoiced too soon. The road thereon got steadily uphill, I had no food to refuel with and the ghats offered no sight of a restaurant. For once, the endless sights of greenery and winding roads seemed monotonous. Well, that’s what draining energy levels can do. Quick fix: stopped at a shop, picked up a bar of chocolate, topped up my water supply and went on. And just like that, the route looked prettier.

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By now I had decided to halt at Palolem. I reached the quiet beach after a quick late lunch. Time to chill out with a few beers. And that’s what I did.

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Yes, beaches in Goa can be serene like this.

 

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So serene, even this guy agrees.

So that’s the story of my ride from Bangalore to Goa. 694 km in 6 days.

Of course, there was still one minor task to be done – getting back to Bangalore. I was to board the bus from Margao, 40 km away from Palolem. On the face of it, the ride to Margao should have been comfortable. Of course, the rains thought otherwise and gave me company for most of the ride. By the time I reached the bus station, I was soaking wet.

Perhaps that was nature’s way of compensating for being kind on the other days.

Thanks for reading.

And another big thanks to Bangalore’s Simply Pedal, a community for cyclists. This is where I started going on long rides on the weekends, and gained confidence to do longer tours. If you are a cyclist enthusiast from Bangalore, check out their FaceBook page and the Meetup page. Okay wait, check out the pages even if you aren’t a cyclist from Bangalore.

Thanks once more. Till we meet again.

Bangalore – Goa: Day 4

The journey so far:
Bangalore – Goa: Day 1 (Bangalore to Channarayapatana)
Bangalore – Goa: Day 2 (Channarayapatana to Nellyadi)
Bangalore – Goa: Day 3 (Nellyadi to Udupi)

 
Today’s destination was Murdeshwar a coastal town 110 km away. Since the sun rises on the coast later than in Bangalore, I could sneak in a few more precious minutes of sleep.

When I left, I headed for a small detour to Malpe beach – the lodge owner had recommended a visit to the place. The beach, and Manipal University too. Chose to skip the latter though. I reached Malpe after an 8 km ride. The beach with its wide long stretches of sand was one of the cleanest I have seen.

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Moving on, I headed to Traasi for breakfast, and then to Maravanthe, a beach bordered by the Arabian Sea on one side and the Kolluru river on the other. I was told the shoreline was not too safe.

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I got off the highway at around the 105 km mark to head to Murdeshwar. Back to sights of green – rice fields with the mountains in the background.

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Murdeshwar town was another 5 km away. It was a Sunday and it turned out a religious procession was going down the streets with some mythological characters being paraded around. A few revelers took the festivities a notch further by including me in their merriment with a generous shower of colours.

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Checked into the nearest lodge and came for a quick visit to the temple and the beach. The Shiva statue here, the second largest in the world, looked imposing even as its silhouette stood out in the sunset.

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The Murdeshwar temple itself has ornate carvings with scenes from the epics and a cave museum narrating Ravana’s story.

 

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A scene in the Bhadrakali cave: A furious Ravana lifts Kailasa Parvata

I did venture out onto the beach as well. Thanks to the heavy influx of tourists, the beach is nothing to write about. Ended with a quiet dinner. That’s about it for day 4. Day 5 would take me to one of the most charming coastal towns in Karnataka.

Bangalore – Goa: Day 3 (Nellyadi to Udupi)

Read about the earlier part of the tour here:
Day 1
Day 2

The previous two days of biking ensured I slept well the night before. Yes, slept well even in the poorly ventilated lodge with a fan that tried its best to keep me awake with its metronomic tuk-tuk. And once again, I struggled to wake up before 6 am.

Once I was up though, I went through the morning tasks quickly. Gobbled down an energy bar and headed off on the bike by 7 am – My starting times were getting later each subsequent day. The route this morning was much smoother and I rode along without much trouble. The descent through the ghats was done the previous day; today I could coast through the forest at an easy pace. It was a bit cloudy as well, and with the birds chirping in the background, and the trees lined up on both sides of the road, I would have gladly taken these conditions everywhere I rode.

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Across the Netravathi river

The breakfast stop was at Perne, 25 km away from Nellyadi. While I tore bits from the omelette, the man running at the breakfast joint recounted how a gas tanker had skidded on the bend outside and had caught fire a few years ago. Not a good story to tell a cyclist. Actually, not a good story to tell anyone on the road.

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Outside the breakfast point at Perne

After I moved on from Perne, the weather started getting more humid and sunnier as I headed westward. I could see I was getting a deeper tan as well. Reached Mangalore, and bypassed the city to head towards Udupi.

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My power combo of energy bars and bananas was working pretty well, so did not need to stop for any meal after breakfast.

Now the stretch from Mangalore to Udupi was a deceptive one. The route has a gentle gradient, nothing that would have you huffing and pushing the pedal. The humid weather and the almost naked terrain though made it tough. It’s not just the physical toll such conditions take. The monotonously sunny landscape throughout also dulled me mentally, mostly because I expected the route to get more scenic once I got closer to the coast. Of course, the highway was not all that close to the shoreline, much to my disappointment.

So just kept my feet on the pedal and continued. Just before Udupi, I caught sight of an elephant ambling ahead on the highway. Pedalled quickly and positioned myself a few meters ahead of the big guy. Pulled out my phone to click a selfie, but had no idea elephants could walk fast as well. The mahout later told me the beast was getting nervy by the sound of the road roller. Handed some chikki and a 10 rupee note to the elephant and went further on my way.

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Turned off the highway to head to Udupi. The first sight of Udupi surprised me. I thought it would have been a small quiet town. Rode into a place that seemed like a suburb in Bangalore. A bustling market, a few guest houses and streets agog with the sound of honking motorists. Even 400 km away, this place seemed closer home to Bangalore.

So what do you do when you are in Udupi. Check out a local Udupi restaurant of course. But with a twist. While I love the South Indian breakfast – idli, dosa, utthappam, a South Indian dinner does not cut it for me. Settled for plain old rice and dal fry. Yeah, you read that right.

Bangalore – Goa: Day 2

After much deliberation the night before, I decided to bike ahead on the day of the statewide strike.

Initially the plan was to ride to Sakleshpur and see how the situation was thereon. With my stocked supplies, I was confident of getting there without any worries. Left a little late considering Sakleshpur was only 76 km away. Had a lucky break just 7 km into the ride though. One of the breakfast joints on the highway was open. Had just finished a quick breakfast when some cops appeared and ordered the restaurant to shut shop for the day. (I don’t understand Kannada, so I assume the cops did ask them to close down. For all you know, they might have just asked for some idli sambar.)

The route kept getting more scenic as I rode ahead. The strike also kept buses and trucks off the road, and boy was I glad? I mean, this is what a cyclist would pray for – clear but not too warm weather, pothole-free roads and no mean trucks threatening to knock you off with a shoulder push.

The scenes were a refreshing change from the previous day when I’d ridden through sparse green cover. Deciduous trees spotted the landscape for a while, and a small patch went around rice fields. Near Sakleshpur, passed through coffee plantations. Did pass by a mob burning tyres as well; in this case being ignored as a cyclist worked in my favour.

Reached Sakleshpur by early afternoon. With time in hand inspite of a quick downpour, I revised the day’s halt to Nellyadi, another 58 km away. Hit the ghats soon, and even though most of this was a descent, I stopped several times to soak in the sights and sounds.

Even went off road to step around a stream. Spotted some huge butterflies.

All this lingering came with a price. As evening set in, I still had some distance to cover, and it became a race against time to get to Nellyadi. There weren’t any villages on the way too, so I had to grind the pedals to get to the destination. Place turned out to be a dot-sized village. Put up with the first lodge I found. Didn’t have much choice; would have had to ride for another 21 km to find the next town. Wound up with a riding distance of 134 km.

Bangalore – Goa: Day 1

So I started from home at a little past 6 am. The day’s destination was Channarayapattana, 152 km away from Bangalore.

There is rarely a day in recent history when Bangalore’s legendary traffic has not hogged the limelight. This day wasn’t any different, yes even at 6.30 am. Got stuck between seemingly endless lines of trucks just after I had crossed Yeshwantpur. Oh, and this was before I managed to miss the road towards Nelamangala, and somehow ended up outside Yeshwantpur station. Which again is not to surprising given my propensity to go off track.

Long story short, I spent a good part of the early hours getting out of the city. Didn’t stop for long breaks to make up for it, except for breakfast and lunch and the occasional stop to stretch a little. Rode through Solur, Yadiyur, Hirisave without any distinct change in scenery either, so pedaling on seemed a better prospect. Maybe the mileage will be rewarded with a leisurely ride in the days to come.

Oh and yes, also felt like I could have gone even lighter with my baggage. Quite sure it weighs less than 10 kg, but after 100 km, every gram of weight made me pay the price. Something to think about in the next tour.

On account of the statewide strike in Karnataka today, I have stocked up on water and bananas. That’s going to be my superfood, let’s see how it goes. Might have to do a curtailed ride – droopy eyes and sore legs aren’t complaining.

Signing off with a few pics. Adios.


On two wheels along the coast

After the Mumbai-Nagpur tour, I had been toying with the destination for the next journey: Bangalore or Goa. Considering all the variables – I had to get back to base in Bangalore early, and would also have to carry a humongous, heavy laptop – I opted for the shorter trip to Goa. A solo ride.

One of the drawbacks of going solo is no one pushes you. You might, like me, take it easy and days might silently pass by. I kept dillydallying with the departure date, and eventually the ride that was supposed to kick-start in the first week of February, was pushed further to February 11.

Enthusiasm level was not high even the day before I was to leave for the trip. I felt indifferent, as if something was amiss. Mostly I have some anxiety before a trip like this; this time I had none’. Instead there was a bit of homesickness because I would not be coming back to Mumbai after I had finished the trip. Went to bed hoping I would be more upbeat the next day.

Day 1: Mumbai – Diveagar (109 km)
The previous day’s exhaustion ensured I could not wake up in time. Ended up leaving home at 7 am instead of the planned 6.30 am time. Inexplicably did not take a single flyover out of the several on the way from my home to the Gateway of India. Reached the jetty a just before 8.30. Took the ferry to Mandwa. Had thought of taking a nap during the hour-long ride, instead ended up snapping a few pics of the seagulls.

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Before leaving Mumbai’s shores
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A passenger entertained his little son by tossing tidbits at the gulls who were expert catchers

One problem I have when I ride in Maharashtra is finding a good wholesome breakfast. A carb-laden idli sambar is hard to find, and the ubiquitous vada pav, spicy as it is, does not make for a good breakfast. Nevertheless, had to make do with the Indian burger during the ferry ride.

After alighting at Mandwa, I began the ride toward Murud. The coastal roads seemed innocuous, but the rolling inclines made me sweat. The laptop I was carrying magnanimously made its presence felt during the climbs. Some sections of the road were not too good either, and that made the climb even tougher.

The ride from Mandwa to Kashid was nondescript except for a sumptuous chicken thali at a restaurant near Murud. After lunch, I headed to Rajpuri and took the ferry to Dighi. From Dighi it was a short 16 km ride to Diveagar. Short, but again the climbs made it challenging enough. Checked in at a homestay Nikunj Nivas where the Manjrekars served me a lip smacking vegetarian dinner with fried brinjal being the star of the menu.

Day 2: Diveagar – Harnai (80km)
The plan today was to ride to Bagmandala jetty, take the ferry to Bankot and then ride to Dabhol. Simple on paper. Not when I had not considered all the variables involved. One, my appetite for sleep, and two, the conditions of the roads.

So let me start from the start. Left at around 7.30 from the homestay. There were two routes to Bagmandala. One went through Harihareshwar, the other further inland. I chose the former even though it was 2 km longer than the other. After all, this was a coastal ride, so why go inland? The decision paid back my faith. Harihareshwar beach had only a thin inflow of tourists, and the long stretches of sand could infuse in anyone what Goans call susegado, a state of pure wasted living.

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Harihareshwar

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I headed next to the Bagmandala jetty, 4 km away from Harihareshwar. Turned out there were two jetties at Bagmandala and the one where I was initially waiting had a ferry scheduled later than the other one. Rushed to jetty #2.

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Waited at the wrong jetty before I had to hurry off to another one

By now I was fairly hungry. With no restaurants nearby, I thought I’d have an early lunch on the other side at Bankot. The situation on the other side was not too different though, and I carried on. Making matters worse, I had also emptied my water bottles. I decided to go on to Kelshi and break for lunch. Even though it was geographically only 7 km away from me, the road to the place was 25 km long thanks to the creek that jagged inland. Going by my easy pace, I budgeted 1.5 hours to get there. The road soon deteriorated further, and even worse, there was not a single village for a long way. I began feeling dehydrated and took several stops in between. Around 13 km later, I found signs of civilization. Ran to the first house, glugged down several glasses of water, and refilled my bottles. Went a little further and had a home-cooked meal. Scrambled eggs never felt any better.

In line with my travel protocol, I made a few calls to update my current location. Had a short nap, and by the time I woke up it was already 2.30. I was sure Dabhol was out of reach today, but could not decide about the revised stopover. I decided to put this off till around 5 pm. Though Kelshi was still 12 km away, the roads made it seem even longer. At this point, I was wondering why I did not take the Mumbai Goa highway instead of being masochistic by riding on the coastal roads. The way eased up a few kilometres before Kelshi. Yet, by the time I reached there, it was 4 pm. Thought of riding to Murud, some 30 km away. Pushed the pedals, pleased to see the roads were much better hereon. The road now bordered the coast and all the sweat shed earlier in the day seemed worth it. The serene shoreline with long stretches of virgin beaches were a great reward. Stopped and walked around the beaches at Paadle and Anjarle. I was losing time for my revised destination, but who cared. These were untouched sparkling beaches, one that could give a Mumbaikar’s sore eyes some much needed respite. Hurrying on to Murud now seemed an absurd thing to do. I took my time on the ride, and was rewarded with some fantastic views.

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A beach near Padale
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En route Harnai

Touched base at Harnai. Checked in at a resort bordering the beach and soon headed out to watch the sunset. Saw the sun already dipped halfway in the sea. Clicked some pictures of Suvarnadurg – a sea fort about a mile away from the shore – that made me proud of my photography skills. Have a look.

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Day 3: Harnai – Tavsal (93 km)
I started from Harnai at 7 am. Rode to Dapoli, then to Dabhol. Just before reaching Dabhol jetty, I met a Dutch couple who had been cycling for 11 months. They had started their Indian tour from Kochi and were heading to Mumbai and beyond. Looking at their baggage, I wondered how they must have made it through the climbs.

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Reached Dabhol jetty and took the ferry to Dhapove. Next stop was Guhagar, 16 km away. A one-hour ride I estimated. Was going along smoothly until a flat tire interrupted some 10 km away from Guhagar. Changed the tube – previous experiences made me more efficient at this – and reached Guhagar beach without further drama. Instead of losing time with a full lunch, I snacked on pav bhaji and lassi, and headed further.

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On we go to Dopave
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No takers for a ride at Guhagar
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This is a few minutes before I had a flat tire.

Saw Aussie Pat Farmer who was doing a Spirit of India run across India. The road thereafter got more tedious with several climbs and not many people around either. Trudged my way to Tavsal jetty where I was to take another ferry across the Jaigad river. Narrowly missed the 4.45 ferry. The next ferry at 5.45 would be too late for me to get to the other side and then ride to Ganpatipule. Luckily, Vaibhav, a stall owner at the jetty, offered to host me. Decided this was a better option than looking for accommodation on the other side in rapidly dwindling daylight.

Having stopped earlier than usual that day gave me enough time to soak in the atmosphere. Vaibhav’s place was on the banks of the river just as it formed an estuary. The rhythmic, almost metronomic, sounds of the water lapping the shore gave the place an unhurried look. I was happy I had stopped here for the night.

Some other highlights of the day:

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Day 4: Tavsal – Ambolgad (101 km)
I had to make up for the low mileage on the previous two days, so I had decided to take the first ferry at 6.40 am to Jaigad. When I left for the jetty, it was still dark outside. Having been there the previous day helped me find my way easily though and when I reached the jetty, I thought I had arrived just in time for the ride. As it turned out, the ferry would leave later at almost 7 am.

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The ride from the other side at Jaigad jetty began with a stiff incline for almost a kilometre. After around 4 km, the road eased out and thereon it was a smooth ride to Ganpatipule, not before the coastal route kept feeding me with some more scenic views.

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At Ganpatipule, I gorged on some omelette – this was my way of making up for the not-quite-passable vada pav breakfast I had been having for the last couple of days. I then rode to the beach which had quite a bunch of tourists probably since it was a Sunday. Also visited the temple out of mere curiosity.

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The stopover at Ganpatipule turned out to be a long one, about 1.5 hours. Left for Ratnagiri, 22 km away from Ganpatipule. The road had the usual climbs and descents. By now, I had decided I would go easy since the ride would definitely spill over into 6 days. It’s amazing how this one change in perspective helped me enjoy the ride a lot more this day. Snacked on bananas on the way. Nutrition-wise I was doing spectacularly today. Thanks to all this, I did not need to stop for lunch and continued from Ratnagiri toward Paawas.

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Time to soak in the view from the bridge

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Yup, a bat colony

 

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Le panga: With some kabaddi players

I had tentatively decided to halt at Ambolgad for the night. This was not the best option because the Ambolgad is 8 km off the Mumbai-Goa coastal highway. Which meant I would also have to cover that much more distance the next day. Spoke to a few locals on the way; they told me I could go to Jaitapur instead. I reached the point where the road forked to Jaitapur and Ambolgad and asked around for accommodation. The locals there did not know much either. Taking a chance, I headed to Ambolgad as it seemed like a touristy place, and would therefore have more accommodation options. Turned out I was wrong. There were only a handful of places and almost all were too expensive for me. Luckily there was also an ashram (Gagangiri Maharaj Ashram) right at the end of the road. Stayed there for the night, where I would later watch India beat Sri Lanka in a T20 game.

The ashram overlooked the Arabian Sea over a cliff and a rocky shore below. I had imagined the ashram would be occupied by some priests, but it turned out it housed only a caretaker and his Man Friday. Mr. Caretaker was a middle-aged man whose tall portly frame could intimidate many. Add to it a loud raspy voice, and you had a presence that could leave an audience groping on the backfoot. I was no exception. Yet, both the inmates extended their hospitality later and served me some delectable mori (shark) fish curry and rice.

Woke up to some violent sounds in the wee hours of the night. Turned out Towering Caretaker had spied a rat near his bed and was whacking the life out of the creature. Slept the rest of the night wondering if any more rat-attacks lay awaiting.

Day 5: Ambolgad – Tarkarli (103 km)
Having had a restless sleep, I started late that day. The day’s tentative stop was Malvan, around 100 km away. Got back to the coastal highway and soon crossed Jaitapur. Hunger announced itself earlier than I expected, and I began looking around for a place for breakfast. The road though was deserted for miles, the only sign of human civilization being the vehicles that passed me. I reflected on my decision to stay at Ambolgad the previous night and felt relieved; had I carried on toward Jaitapur, I would have had to ride a tediously long way to find any accommodation, and could possibly have been stranded somewhere on the highway after dark. Another thing that I had discovered in the last few days: even though I was riding on the coastal highway, stretches of the road seemed like a torrid bald desert. The ride onward from Jaitapur was no different. With no trees for cover, the road snaked through parched land under a scorching sun – yes, a scorching sun at 9 am in the February winter – with pale yellow grass on either side submitting to the hot breeze. I pedalled on slowly, passing through a couple of villages that still had not woken up to provide any meal. Trudging on, I reached Katradevi, where I gorged on my favourite breakfast – omelette with bread.

Rested for a while, then stocked on some chocolates and packed an extra omelette as I did not intend to stop for lunch. The scene changed thereon, with mango orchards lining the roads from Padel to Devgad. By now I had decided I would stop at Malvan, and wanted to make it in quick time so I could spend more time at the beach. Rode through Mithbav and Achara, not stopping much. Soon I was 30 km away from Malvan at 3 pm. I looked up Tarkarli on my phone, and it seemed close too, across the river. Deeming it to be too aggressive a target, I rode toward Malvan. After having ridden through several ghats, the steadily downhill road was a nice surprise and a breeze to ride through. Reaching Malvan, I found Tarkarli was not too far; in fact I did not have to cross a river as my navigation app had indicated. Technology can mislead sometimes.

I checked in to a homestay near the MTDC Tarkarli resort and headed to the beach. Watched the sunset while snacking on the largest ever serving of bhajiyas. The sea at Tarkarli was choppy and no tourists ventured to swim. Otherwise, it had the sights of a common beach – kids playing cricket, some making sand castles, couples clicking selfies, a couple of camels plonking their feet in the sand. Touristy, yes. It was still good enough for some quite time by the beach.

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Day 6: Tarkarli – Calangute (115 km)
Had the earliest start at 7 am. Had packed boiled eggs from the previous night to avoid having to search for a breakfast place early in the ride – learnings from the experience thus far. Next stop was to be at Vengurla, 47 km away. Though the route was sunny and bare initially, I soon rode through several mango orchards again, and also came across cashew plantations.

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Quickly downed some vada pav at Parule and continued to Vengurla. Today’s ride was turning out to be quite easy. Passed Vengurla and after another omelette-heavy breakfast, continued to Sagareshwar. Somehow missed the turn I had to take and went about a kilometre ahead until I realized my error and turned back. It was uncomfortably hot at the beach so I did not hang around for long. Clicked a few pictures and headed further.

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By the time I reached Shiroda, the excitement of crossing the state border was palpable. When I did cross into Goa after Aronda, I felt as though I had crossed an international border. Then onwards, rode through Arambol, Mandrem and Siolim and stopped at Calangute. The ride was a breeze except for the more bustling roads just before Calangute. Checked into another lodge, and celebrated my arrival with some beer on the beach.

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So this was it. 6 days, 600 km. I am glad I took up this route; the climbs all along the way tested me. Doing the ride in the late winter upped the endurance factor. Sometimes I just had to focus on the destination ahead, and ignore the heat or the inclines. Most of the time though, I could go along leisurely, pause for a while to just soak in the sights, click a picture maybe, or just make small talk with a passer-by in my coarse, stuttering Marathi.

Over the next few days I rode around Margao and Benaulim. Met some interesting people who might have just given me ideas for the next cycling trip. Excited, but that will have to wait for a while. Till then, goodbye folks.

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Benaulim beach lets you party and still stay away from the crowds.

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Ben and Julia were travelling across India in Horny Hornet, their customized tuktuk..
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.. and Ben has earlier biked from the UK to China. Crazy, inspiring stories.