By Mukund Sathe
Diary of a cyclist – a summary of Mumbai-Goa cycling expedition via coastal highway with ‘Add-venture India’.
Day 1: 6th Jan, 2018 Saturday
All of us gathered at the Gateway of India in the morning and took a ferry ride to Mandawa jetty. Informal introductions happened on the boat while watching the massive structures of the Bombay-high rigs.
We were in all 11 participant cyclists, 3 members from the organizing team and the driver of the vehicle, making it a team of 15.
Many of us had handed over our cycles and luggage to our tour organizers the previous day. They had made arrangements to bring them to the starting point near Mandawa jetty. At Mandawa jetty, a support vehicle (TATA 407 van) picked us up and drove us to a meeting point about a kilometer away.
However, one of the cyclists, Sureshkumar pedaled this kilometre distance also. This 55 year old ex-Navy ‘Haryanvi Jaat’ athlete from Badalapur maintained the lead throughout the journey. When we would rest during the breaks, he would perform yoga and push-ups on knuckles to relax. A teetotaler, who had cycled Mumbai-Delhi alone, became health Guru for many of us in the team.
We changed into our cycling attires and loaded the luggage in the van. We were provided with reflective fluorescent apple-green jackets. The jackets helped us in road safety as well as to easily identify the team members on the road.
Prasanna Joshi, owner, Add-Venture India, from the organizing team who wore many hats during the journey also got into his Mechanic shoes and replaced the tube of a punctured tyre. A graduate Mechanical Engineer, who has chosen an ‘adventurous career’, was also an expert in cycle maintenance. Dr. Milind Chitley, founder, Hills & Trails, briefed us on do’s and dont’s for the travel. He accompanied us till Alibaug and returned along with his colleague Uday. Rutesh and Saurabh from the organizing team were the lead and tail cyclists for the group. This combination and Prasanna in the service van moving across the group ensured safety and service during the entire journey.
It was almost noon when we embarked on our journey with a chant of ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya’. The traffic was relatively heavy and the road conditions were bad. I realized the importance of ‘padded cycling shorts’ which gave extra cushioning. As we crossed Alibaug, we had our first fall. Prashant fell over a pit. There were a few more falls in the journey but nothing serious. We crossed Nagaon village through narrow lanes and decided to break for lunch. The Konkan served us delicious fish and ‘sol kadhi’ in the journey. The quality of the fish and their preparation kept on increasing as we moved away from Mumbai.
Post-lunch we crossed the Kundalika river at Revdanda and climbed the Kashid hill. While almost at the top, my cycle chain snapped. I descended the hill without the chain and reached the service van. Prasanna promptly replaced the chain. In the process I got delayed almost by half an hour. Through the Kashid beach weekend crowd, I picked up speed to reach Murud destination before dark. On the way, I saw Saurabh waiting for me to accompany me safely. We cut through the Murud beach evening crowd and reached Hotel Red Rose at dusk.
A day was over after covering 67 km. At the dinner meeting, the next day’s plan was discussed. Everyone unanimously agreed to eliminate Janjira fort visit as all of us wanted to focus on cycling rather than spending time on sight-seeing. We all agreed to start the day with cycling at the crack of dawn and have breakfast after couple of hours of cycling. This schedule was followed by everyone and so it helped us reach our destinations by sunset .
My left shoulder had started aching as would normally happen whenever I cycle for long distances. Applied the evergreen ‘Iodex maliye kaam pe chaliye’ medicine and went to bed at 10 PM and this became my routine every night.
Day 2: 7th Jan, 2018 Sunday
We left Murud at dawn. On climbing the hill, we saw fort of Janjira, which has remained unconquered in the history. The sunrise welcomed us while crossing the town of Rajapuri from where the boats to Janjira are available.
Crossing Khokri Ghoomat, the sign of Sidi dynasyty, islamic rulers in Janjira area, we reached Agardanda jetty in an hour. A ferry took us and our service van across Rajapuri creek to Dighi jetty. We had our breakfast (upma, poha & eggs) at the jetty. The breakfast was brought in a hot case in the service van and served piping hot. Then we climbed the long ghat to reach Dive Agar via rough bypass road.
As we had reached ahead of schedule, we skipped lunch at Rane khanaval and proceeded to Shrivardhan. Prashant and Arjun led the journey. Both had road bikes costing about 1.6 Lakh each. Prashant from Panvel has done many such cycle tours. He regularly pedals to his office in Chembur covering 70 km per day. Arjun, a Punjabi puttar from Delhi has accompanied Prashant in many cycling tours. Controlling speed of his cycle was the biggest challenge for Arjun.
On the way we crossed the fishing village of Bharadkhol and village of Shekhadi, which came to limelight during 93 Mumbai bomb blasts. We crossed yet another mountain and miles long beaches of Kondvil and Aravi. Through the rough roads at Walvati we reached the Shrivardhan connecting road. The road and gradient on the last descent was so bad that the handle of the vibrating cycle caused severe pain in my forearms. We had lunch at Shrivardhan.
The last stretch to Harihareshwar was a bit tricky. The road had many branches. However the instruction given to us was very simple – ‘Take right at the branch’. The instruction was true during most of the journey, as every time we moved away from sea, we needed to take a right towards the sea. The road, partly State Highway 99 and remaining inner road, was too good compared to what we faced till now. Good road and no traffic allowed me to enjoy some hands-free cycling moments. The last stretch was a long steep ghat through a dense forest with monkeys around. When we reached Gokul guest house we were drenched in sweat. It was a journey of 60 km today.
Had a quick shower and rushed to Harihareshwar temple. Enjoyed a pleasant walk with Shree on the ‘pradakshina marg (route around the temple)’ watching rock formations and the sunset in the sea, followed by fish dinner. Shree is 65 year old ex-army man settled in Nashik who served the army in difficult border regions. A very positive personality, post retirement he played different roles as a newspaper editor, director of educational institutes etc. A principled military man with no drinking, smoking habits (not even tea) and who never purchased liquor for friends through the army quota.
Day 3: 8th Jan, 2018 Monday
After a good quality tea and Prasanna’s briefing we moved out of the lodge to reach Bagmandala jetty. When the ferry arrived, the strong water currents of Savitri river drifted the ferry away from jetty. In the second attempt it managed to park itself. Ferry took us to Veshvi jetty. Every ferry crossing was followed by a steep mountain. We climbed to Kelshi phata. Breakfast had been arranged in one of the road-side farm house.
After breakfast, a bad broken road took us down to Bharja river bridge. We crossed the bridge and traveled across a silent road parallel to the river with chirping birds keeping us company until Kelshi. The main road led us to Utambar-Aade bridge where we had a snacks break. Rutesh’s bakarwadi, Dheeraj’s dates were more than filling for a long ride. Dheeraj from Vasai is a MS in Mechanical Engineering providing architectural consultancy services to US clients. He also has got into his own Laundromat business. He attempted the tour last year but could not complete it due to excess heat and hence rejoined this year. Due to past experience he was carrying variety of healthy snacks which we all enjoyed.
We left the main road and turned to Anjarle beach, another virgin beach untouched by commercialization. We cut across the farm roads to meet State Highway 4 (SH 4), i.e. Sagari Mahamarg, the road we used many times on and off.
After crossing Anjarle creek bridge and climbing a small mountain, we had a fascinating view of Anjarle creek meeting the Arabian sea.
We continued through Harnai, one the biggest fishing ports. Got a glimpse of Suvarnadurga fort, before reaching hotel Nisarga where we had lunch.
Post lunch was the smallest ride of the trip, just about 8 km to our destination. We left SH4 and through the unprepared roads of another Murud town we reached Hotel Whistling Palm on the Karde beach near Dapoli. It was also a smallest distance covered in a day, we covered just 55 km. After resting for some time I went to the sea. Enjoyed the cold water and waves only to realise that I was alone in the sea. How many times do you get such large swimming pool only for yourself 🙂
Day 4: 9th Jan, 2018 Tuesday
The day opened on a challenging note. After cycling for a kilometer on rough roads, my cycle’s rear gear assembly (derailleur) malfunctioned, bending the chain links. I was lucky enough to have Saurabh with me followed by the service van. Until last year, the road was not motorable so the service van was not available on this road. We were lucky indeed. Prasanna got into action and after hardwork of about an hour, he fixed the chain and gear assembly.
Saurabh and me rushed to catch up with the others for breakfast. We crossed the calm Konkani town of Ladghar to meet SH4. While crossing Tamasteerth, Saurabh informed me that this area is the backdrop of Sane Guruji’s famous novel ‘Shyamachi Aai (Shyam’s mother)’. Coincidently our service van’s display board was also ‘Aai’, who supported us throughout our journey like a typical caring mother. Saurabh is a partner at Add-Venture India. He has done Mumbai-Goa cycling alone. Though an expert cyclist, he maintained a slow rhythm to ensure that he was following the last person in the team. A very soft spoken and helpful person, whose company was admired a lot especially by the European team members.
Another mountain climb at Burondi and Shri Parshuram’s statue welcomed us. The statue stands over a half-globe which is a prayer room with echo acoustic. Stacy played her flute there. Stacy, a 27 year old girl from London is a vegetarian, a professional saxophonist, plays excellent flute and was very energetic in riding ahead with all speedsters. We noticed many hornbills in the area. Here we had a breakfast of roti, potato sabji and pickle.
After passing through the Panchnadi area we reached a junction of SH4 and SH96 where we rested for some time. Another half an hour cycling and we were at Dabhol port. The next ferry was overcrowded with too many vehicles on it. We made a forceful entry into the ferry with the cycles and loaded the cycles in the lorry standing in the ferry, as we could not afford to waste another hour for the next ferry. The ferry took us across Vasishthi river.
Massive chimney structures were visible on the hills. It was our next meeting point before lunch. We climbed the SH4 ghat in the hot sun with no trees (probably cut down during road widening) and met for water break at the gate of Ratnagiri Gas and Power plant (earlier Enron Dabhol project) at Anjanwel. Another hour of ride and we reached Guhagar for lunch. I finished lunch and quickly visited Vyadeshwar temple which is our family’s ‘kuldaivat (deity God)’.
Post lunch was a comfortable ride to Kinara beach resort at Velneshwar. The resort was about couple of kilometers downhill off SH4. Today we covered distance of 68 km and also got an opportunity for another dip in the sea.
Day 5: 10th Jan, 2018 Wednesday
As most of us were disinterested in repeating the Velneshwar uphill climb to SH4, we got into the service van to cover the distance. Rutesh, another ex-Navy man was part of the organizer’s team. He has excellent cycling experience and knowledge. He works as a facilitator in experiential learning programmes. He informed us that most of the ride here will be on the flat plateau to Taswal jetty. Normally Rutesh would be off the target in terms of terrain, but this time he was way away from the facts 😉 . Actually the ride had 5 river crossings, and for each river crossing you descend the curvy ghats, cross the river and climb up the mountain again 🙂 . However we actually enjoyed the surprise elements.
When we reached Taswal jetty we pounced hungrily upon a breakfast of upma, bhurji and roti. Across the Jaigad river we saw a ship maintenance unit having large ships docked. The creek depth must have been huge to accommodate such large ships. Jindal group also owns a port here. We crossed the river in the ferry with our service van. As we moved on the plateau we noticed Jindal colonies, temple, education institutes and even a private dam. We passed Bhandarwada creek and town of Malgund to enter Ganapati Pule.
Again we were ahead of time and thus skipped the lunch plan. We climbed the Aare-ware road ghat with scenic sea view. We had a refreshing break on the top with ‘naariyal paani and malai (coconut water)’. While other group members had lunch in a village downhill, I broke away from the team and went to meet my ‘aatya (aunty)’ staying at Adi near Sakhartal, had a delicious Konkani lunch with uncle and aunty and rejoined the group on the way.
We crossed the Ratnagiri city towards Bhatye beach. The service van went to a cycle repair shop for couple of major cycle repairs, which was available only here in the entire region.
After about 12 km of evening ride we were in the religious town of Pawas. Our stay was at Matoshri guest house. Got freshened up and attended ‘aarti (prayer)’, at the Swami Swarupanand Samadhi Mandir. The environment had a very peaceful positive impact on the mind. The day ended with the travel counter increasing by another 80 km. In the next two days we are supposed to cover 90+ km per day. The body was getting used to the schedule.
Day 6: 11th Jan, 2018 Thursday
After having tea at the Pawas junction, we moved on for a longer distance today. It took almost 2.5 hrs to reach our breakfast joint at Adivare. We crossed the Muchkundi river on the way.
The breakfast place was an average one and caused an upset stomach for some. Abhishek squeezed in time to have a quick shave at the local barber. Abhishek, a young movie director has taken a formal film training at the Universal Studios in USA. He has assisted in bollywood movies like ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai Dobaara’. His maiden directorial venture is on the verge of release. I plan to watch the first day first show.
The best part of today’s travel was that there was no known town, rather there was no town until evening. After breakfast, Rutesh’s instruction was, ‘you will ride very long distance mostly on a plateau with nothing around. Finally you will reach a banyan tree where a lady will be serving ‘limbu-sarabat (lemon juice)’. When we actually rode, we realised that, the terrain was exactly the way he had described. We crossed Agarwadi bridge near Jaitapur. During the journey we observed lot of campaigning against refineries and nuclear plants. By noon the temperature was on the rise, Google showed the region temperature as 37 degrees C. Humidity was also quite high. We noticed Vijaydurg on the way and the long plateau travel began. It lasted almost for an hour. There were no trees or shades on the way. Songs played on the cellphone brought some soothing effects in the journey.
Though every small tree on the road resembled the banyan tree described by Rutesh, it was only at 1:30 PM that we saw the actual banyan tree with the limbu-pani girl under it, at the end of the road at Katradevi. It was like oasis in the desert, and the girl on the ‘limbu-pani’ stall under the tree was our saviour. Drank variety of drinks including ‘barf ka gola (ice ball with juice)’. I think I have never ever consumed so much liquid in a day. Some of the members used the service van to travel to avoid the unbearable heat.
Again another desert plateau led us to Padel canteen for lunch. Took a quick nap before proceeding. Here we heard a good news that a bridge has been built at Mithmumbri cutting down the distance to Kunkeshwar by 5 km. Post lunch in the reduced heat, we comfortably reached Devgad, the land of Alphonso Mangoes. Further the new bridge from Taramumbri to Mithmumbri road kept us near the sea. We had a good sunset moment while climbing the last hill at Kunkeshwar. Hotel Sukhsagar was near the seashore and the temple. Visited Kunkeshwar Shiva temple late in the evening and spent a good time in discussions there.
It was the toughest day with a distance of 86 km. Realized that up-down ghats are much better than flat plateaus, trees make so much difference in our life. Special ‘ukdi modak’ were arranged for dinner, completing all Konkan delicacies to be served to us. Agnes and Judith enjoyed all types of food during journey. The grannies from Scotland aged 75 and 71 were ‘wonder of cycling’. When I met them on the first day, I wondered why they were here as I thought that they won’t be able to make it at this age. But as the days passed, I saw their consistency and started wondering whether I would be able to do it, if and when I reach their ages? They were very friendly, would chat with all of us, will try to understand the culture, try out the food items, but once on the cycle, they would put their heads down and keep on pedaling.
Day 7: 12th Jan, 2018 Friday
The day began with tea in a restaurant near the temple. It was hill journey again and much enjoyable than yesterday. We crossed the Naringre river and left SH4 at Munage.
After crossing Achara river we halted for breakfast at Achara phata. Surprisingly we got idlis for breakfast. Soon we were back on SH4 where we crossed the Gaad river.
We entered the town of Malwan, the heart of Konkan having sweet Malawani language. We headed on small village roads with coconut trees to Tarkarli beach where we had the last lunch of Maharashtra.
Couple of kilometers further we were at Devbag beach. We loaded the cycles onto small motor boats and crossed the Karli river. The boats dropped us on the Bhogwe seashore. As the service van could not be loaded onto the small boats, it had to take a detour through Malwan, Chipi and reach Bhogwe.
After about half a kilometre walk/cycling on the beach, we began our last journey of about 35 kilometers with longer and steep ghats. As per instructions we were to meet at the Bank of Maharashtra, Parule. On the way, we got a view of Chipi airport which is under construction. Yogesh and me were together. Yogesh, a RBI employee, a cool 37 year old Tamilian was consistent in cycling. He also was one of us who completed the entire journey without getting into the support vehicle. In the last couple of days, our cycling frequency matched and we rode together for most of the journey. We reached the meeting point and waited, but realised that some of the cyclists may chose to use the van. I saw the van going to Bhogwe to pick up others. Yogesh and me decided to move ahead on SH4.
The next three ghats were a patience test. When the van crossed us in the second ghat, and of course, offered us to get in the van, we realised that only two of us were left behind. We refused the offer for the van ride and continued at a steady pace.
The target was to reach before it turns dark. Sunset took place when we were in the last ghat. With more of mind power and less physical strength we reached the top. Yogesh was ahead of me and he went on the slope. I saw the Vengurla corporation board, shouted in excitement and shifted the cycle gears.
A loud thud sound and my cycle suddenly stopped. The rear gear assembly had given away making the cycle immobilized. Yogesh had gone ahead. I called up Prasanna and learnt that the vehicle is already on the way in search of us. Meanwhile Yogesh realized that I’m missing and he climbed up again looking for me. The van also arrived. While loading my cycle in the van, I saw other cycles in the van. I was determined to complete the journey cycling. I requested driver Panchalal to give me a cycle. He was very helpful throughout the journey. Apart from supplying water, managing luggage, he also happened to know a lot about cycle maintenance. He assembled Rutesh’s cycle’s front wheel and gave me the cycle. As the cycle was very new to me, I carefully traveled further couple of kilometers alongwith Yogesh and the van to reach the hotel Sagar Sarita on the beach safely.
Today’s 94 km proved to be the toughest cycle journey where it was more of a will power which made me sail through.
Day 8: 13th Jan, 2018 Saturday
The most relaxed day of the journey. It was for the first time, we had a breakfast in the hotel before starting the day. Rutesh was kind enough to offer his cycle to me for the remaining journey. We were excited to enter Goa.
We crossed the Mochemaad river and Tiroda creek at Shiroda before taking a break for sugarcane juice. We all gathered again at Pawaskar wadi to enter Goa together. The last mile towards Aronda and we reached Goa connecting bridge over Terekhol river. Rutesh was ready with the camera to capture our moments of triumph as we entered Goa one after another.
A feel of accomplishment was captured in the group photo on the bridge. We continued further for about 8 km in Goa to reach a Blue Sea View restaurant at Junos Vaddo by noon, where Goa’s feni was waiting for me 🙂 . Covering around 540 km in 8 days definitely needs a celebration.
I learnt that both the cycle and our body have too many parts, which can fail anytime 🙂 . You must have resources and a strong will to repair them and proceed further. In the tour overall there were couple of tyre bursts, 4 punctured tubes, 2 derailleur breakages and 3-4 chain breaks.
I personally thank ‘Add-venture’ (https://www.addventureindia.com/) for providing the required support system to enable me to complete the journey. The excursion was well planned and well executed in terms of accommodation, food, cycle maintenance, water, support vehicle, medical, local connects in each area, maps etc. The team was very open to feedbacks. The entire route was so well planned that most of the times we were very close to the sea. I was also happy to meet 14 people from different parts of the world, from different professions and all of us as a group bonded very well.
Here is a theme song I have penned describing our beautiful cycle journey –
शक्कर वाली चाय पीकर,
पानी बोटल जॅकेट लेकर,
सुबह के लाली के इंतजार में,
भरो टायर में हवा ।
यारों चलो साइकल पे मुंबई गोवा।
तपती धूप बदन को चूमे,
हेल्मेट पसीना पहिया घूमे,
ऊपर नीचे कोंकण परबत,
सागर लहरें दे ठंडी हवा ।
मस्त चलो साइकल पे मुंबई गोवा।
थकके बैठे पेड़ के नीचे,
करे योगा कोई, कोई सोके,
पानी पीते स्नॅक्स खाते,
कोई छोड़े सिगरेट का धुंआ ।
मित्रों चलो साइकल पे मुंबई गोवा।
रात को दुखता बदन सारा,
सोलकढी और फिश फ्राई प्यारा,
गपशप बातें किसीको दारू,
कोई सोये खाके दवा।
लेकिन चलो साइकल पे मुंबई गोवा।