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Mumbai Goa Cycle 2020 - by Akash Haldankar

This blog is for people who love to explore different places in unique ways.

It was the month of October 2019, having quite recently bought myself a brand new MTB (Firefox Mountrail). Sitting in a hotel room bored & finding a way to spend the time I was browsing through some adventure/expedition blogs. While reading, I came across a blog related to cycling, which grabbed my attention. It was about a cycling expedition from Mumbai to Goa conducted by addventureindia on Jan 2020. I was genuinely bewildered with the idea of taking my bike across the scenic coast of Konkan, Maharashtra. It kept me particularly anticipating what I would be experiencing in this journey. After the feeling of awe, I came to a sense of epiphany. I questioned myself if it would be physically possible for me to achieve this? Having just a few months of experience riding made me even more sceptical if I had the fitness to cope with the unseen challenges. It wasn't until when I came back home that the thoughts of me winding my way down the coastal route started to haunt me again. As if I had left all my ghosts back at the hotel that I stayed - fear turned into excitement, uncertainty turned into curiosity. I decided to give this a try merely because it was something I've never done before. After a few days of thinking, I immediately got in touch with one of the organizers & informed them about my participation. The ride was organized by Prasanna Joshi (+919819828845) from addventureindia

A day before the journey we were supposed to handover our bikes to one of the organizers (I met my first journey buddy Hari there), for them to transport our bikes in the support vehicle at our starting point - Mandwa.

Group pic Mandwa (L to R: James, Sarah, Rutesh, Me, Umesh, Hari, Jay, Shirish, Prasanna, Damle, Ugrasen, Sanjukta) Day 1 (18th JAN 2020): It was 5:30 AM, Hari & I took a cab as I picked him up near my house to reach the Gateway of India. Reaching well before the dawn, we started associating with fellow cyclists. Gorging on cups of tea left us high in spirits as we were eagerly waiting for our ferry to take us to our starting point. A casual introduction took place as we tried to recollect each other's names. Ours was a reasonably heterogeneous group with diversified dimensions in terms of age, gender, race, language. We were a group of 10 cyclists, two of them were British citizens (James & Sarah). Two older adults & most of us being Mumbaikars. I was both worried and motivated by looking at Damle & Shirish (both age 65). Both of them seemed to be self-assured about this journey. It was likely one of the coldest mornings in Mumbai, we got into the ferry and sailed through. We reached Mandwa around 9 AM; the organizers bought us idlis and hot samosas for breakfast. He briefed us about the road we would be expecting to cover today - our destination for the day was Murud about 70kms from the starting point. He told us to ride at our own pace but to make sure we don't pass the lead cyclist and co-organizer (Rutesh Panditrao). We stood for a customary group photo before setting off. As we started riding through the cold morning, there felt a sense of ease, a calm road surrounded by trees further amplified this feeling. An extraordinarily, flat & smooth way prepared me for the journey ahead. We reached Alibaug in less than a couple of hours, and it was then when we realized someone was missing. It was James; he got a punctured tyre probably due to the shattered glass ever so omnipresent on the road, he resumed soon as the lead organizer (Prasanna Joshi) in the support vehicle fixed it & he was back on the tarmac in no time. We reached Revdanda in the afternoon & had our lunch in a restaurant near the police station. The sun was making its way through the sky, and the temperature swung into extreme heat. Soon after lunch, we crossed the Revdanda bridge over the Kundalika river. Rutesh & Hari were the ones leading the pack. As I was riding at a steady pace, suddenly a few villagers tried to stop me. There seemed to be a commotion just behind me, on further inspection, I saw Damle brutally injured on the road. In a state of shock, Damle was aided by the villagers. They made him sit at ease on a chair—bruised knees, he limped to sit on the chair. The accident was dreadful; apparently, he hit a speed bump too hard, resulting in the front wheel of his bike getting ousted. He was bleeding profusely, and to his luck, the support vehicle was nearby. Prasanna immediately administered some first aid. In the meantime, most of us had gathered to check on him. However, Prasanna advised us to move ahead. After riding for another half an hour, one of us met with an even more dramatic mishap. It was Hari this time-badly bruised, with mud all over his face, torn clothes. Trying to avoid a pothole, he fell right into a pit next to the road. It was the second consecutive accident in a day. We kept on riding and came across our first incline before reaching Kashid beach. Towards the decline of the hill, the images of two of my fellow cyclists getting injured started to spook me, and I decided to go easy on the descent. We continued to pedal throughout noon, around 5 PM, we reached Siddi Palace, also known as Nawab Palace. Though not open for public, it is still in possession by the descendants of the Nawab of Janjira, many tourists just like us stop by the place to take pictures of this architectural marvel. We reached our destination for the day at Hotel Red Rose. All of us were severely de-hydrated & coughing incessantly. After 30 minutes, we decided to dine early as all of us were exhausted & knew that we have to wake up early tomorrow morning.

Rajapuri to Dighi ferry Day 2 (19th JAN 2020): We had to wake up early, and it was informed to us the previous day that we'd have to leave by 7 AM. I decided to freshen up & then woke up my roommate Jay Sarpotdar-an avid photographer & a hotelier. Jay was the person to be with if you wanted great pics. He was the only person in our group to have completed this journey a couple of years ago with the same organizers. To my astonishment, Hari & Damle decided to ride today despite their injury. We left sharp at 7, just before sunrise. We needed to leave before dawn every day as we made sure to reach our daily destination before dusk. Our goal for the day was Harihareshwar (about 65KM); a small temple town said to have been blessed by Lord Shiva. The morning was a bit less cold than the previous. We had to reach Rajapuri to get on a ferry that would take us to Dighi, where hot breakfast would be awaiting us. The ferry ride was on a small boat with just cycles & the cyclists on board. Our support vehicle arrived on a more massive ferry from Agardanda. After filling our stomachs with hot poha, we set off to climb a hill which would turn out to be one of the worst both in terms of incline & rough road. Luckily for us, this was the first & the last patch of rough roads we had to experience in this journey. Whether it was a stroke of luck or just the right time & place, but the roads ahead throughout the entire trip turned out to be a dream for any cyclist. All of us made our way gasping for breath to reach the top of the hill. James, Sarah & I were riding together & we're one of the earliest to reach the top. We began our descent to reach Diveagar. The road to Diveagar was an under-construction concrete patch. I want to state that solid concrete & cycles don't go well together, the hard surface seemed to hit the cycles suspension & more so leave you with a sore butt. It just doesn't have the firmness yet the mellowness of a tar road vital for a cycle ride. We reached Diveagar long ere noon & decided to have lunch at Shrivardhan, just before we reach for lunch we had to cross the town of Shekhadi; a small village which came into limelight post the 1993 Mumbai terror attack. We stopped by Pebbles beach. Peppered with Suruchi tree-whistling pine tree, the beach gave us a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea. It turned out to be a good resting point for all of us & to catch up with the tail-enders. Amongst the usual tail-ender were Shirish & Damle (the older adults). Damle unceasingly had a spirit of determination to complete this journey. A constant buzz of pre-recorded ringtones, whenever he received a message or an email on his cellphone left the group bursting into laughter. After a brief photo session & resting long enough, we decided to march ahead to Shrivardhan. After lunch, we moved forward to reach our destination for the day at Harihareshwar via Saigaon. A final climb for the day seemed to be remote & torturous before we reached Harihareshwar. The hill, however, was through a dense jungle where the monkeys and peacocks appeared to be heeding our path. Today we achieved our goal a bit ahead of schedule. We decided to wait for everyone before setting off towards the hotel-Gokul Paryatak Nivas. The downhill assisted us in reaching Harihareshwar shortly. Day 2 seemed to be a short one for most of us. My cycle enveloped with dirt needed a thorough cleaning before it was ready for the next few days.

Atop a hill at Harihareshwar (PC: Sanjukta Bhatgaonkar) Day 3 (20th Jan 2020) It was the third day of our endeavour, the destination for the day was at Karde Beach, Dapoli. We set off as always at 7 AM, just before the sunrise. It was informed to us that there is going to be a massive incline before we have our breakfast. But before going through the brutal test of endurance, we crossed the Savitri river from Bagmandla to Vesavi on the early morning ferry. The ferry left at perfect sync with the sunrise. A short ferry across this slow-moving river dawned with a picturesque florid orange sun made the journey even more magnificent. We were accompanied by a group of Harley-Davidson riders making their way to Mangalore. Some of them were baffled & humbled to know about our intentions. After crossing the river, we let the bikers move ahead before setting off. The road cut through the village of Vesavi before we met with some severe gradients at Shipole & Umroli. A thing which I learned while riding on such steep hills was to never look at the peak just focus on what's ahead of you keep peddling, take some rest, look around & you'd have accomplished what you have set off to do in no time. James, Sarah & I were leading the pack, stopping at regular intervals to look at the landscape the trail was offering us. The road was through a thick, dense forest adjacent to the river underneath.

After an hour and a half-long incline, we finally managed to reach the top. Breakfast was served to us in a small makeshift restaurant at Gawalvadi. Wada-Pav's & Upma had our stomachs full & energy revived. The initial descent towards Kelshi felt thrilling, and gravity propelled us to reach the foot of the hill in no time. Moving towards Kelshi, we entered Ratnagiri district. After a short stop at Kelshi, we stuck to the coastal road adjacent to Padale & Anjarle beach directing us to cross the Anjarle bridge. A steep climb awaited only to reward us the Anjarle beach viewpoint, with a scenic view of the Anjarle creek erstwhile the Arabian Sea which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It was well past noon we descended our way down to Harnai. Starving, I was left drained out every ounce of my stamina. We stopped at Nisarg ho

tel for lunch. We were told that we had managed to complete 90% of our journey for the day. Pleased to hear this, we decided to for rest a bit longer before moving to our destination (Hotel Whistling Palms) right at the seashore of Karde Beach. A quick swim in the evening helped our sore muscles to relax. Good food & and a good night sleep were crucial traits which helped us get energized for the next day.

Anjarle Creek

Day 4 (21st Jan 2020) I was awake well before 6 AM; our destination for the day was Velneshwar (about 70 KM). Packing up stuff, making sure nothing is left behind, loading & unloading of our luggage every day seemed to be a routine for us. A smooth road to Ladghar helped us eliminate our sleepy faces. On the top of a small hill was a conical shelter, apparently used by the local fisherman to rest. We stopped by to take a group pic before moving ahead, meeting another climb before having our breakfast at Burondi. The famous statue of lord Shri Parshuram made a decent spot to halt & eat breakfast. The figure is 21 feet tall and standing on a half-dome shaped structure-40 feet in diameter. The dome also serves as a meditation chamber where devotees and visitors can sit silently, meditate and unwind themselves.

Parshuram statue at Borundi Climbing up & down the coastal route made our bodies & mind accustomed to the trail prevailing ahead. One can't expect flat terrain everywhere. Nature is fair that way, and it demands efforts at inclines & rewards with equivalent declines. It was around noon that we reached the Dabhol Jetty waiting for a ferry to take us across the river to Veldur. We had just missed the boat. It wasn't after almost an hour that we got into one. In the meantime, the soaring temperature tempted us to indulge in some ice cream before going on board. After crossing the river, we met with yet another considerable incline. We became aware now that we had to scale a hill as soon as we cross a river every time. This time it felt even brutal because of the heat combined with the sheer rate of incline. Reaching the top, anticipating a downhill, I felt disheartened to find myself riding through a dry plateau. After a considerable hour-long ride we managed to descent into the town of Guhagar-our spot for lunch. Guhagar is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Konkan. Adjacent to the beach, yet having unusually more numerous trees felt diverse than the beaches that we visited since the inception of this journey. After lunch, we met with the third incline for the day. I decided to stop counting until I arrived at my destination. We were instructed to wait for each other at Palshet, where the road split into two. Moving towards the south, it was already around 3 PM & we were a tad behind our schedule. It was still around 12 more KM to go before we reach our goal. Another major & demanding climb drove me to complete exhaustion. It was luckily the last climb of the day, as we all made our way to reach Velneshwar (Kinara Velneshwar Hotel). We were staying right along the coastline, as near as it can get. I got wearied of the continuous inclines which were a set back on my vigour. The room where we stayed had the best view of any stay that was yet to come. Jay-my roommate succeeded to take a few clicks of the sunset & the coconut tree right from our balcony. Day 4 ended with leaving me drained off my enthusiasm. I needed a good night sleep before taking on the next day ahead.

Pit stop at Velneshwar (PC: Jay Sarpotdar)

Day 5 (22nd Jan 2020) My body was getting used to the new routine. Going to sleep early & waking up early the next day to ride was habitual. It would be a long day today before we reach our destination at Pawas, Ratnagiri (70 Kms). I decided to stop counting the number of inclines that lie ahead, just because I knew I had to cross them nevertheless. We left on time before the sunrise us usual, making our way to Hedavi. I wasn't riding close to the coastline; the route was through a few plateaus with the constant peaks and valleys. It wasn't until we reached the port of Tawsal that we ate our breakfast. Crossing the river on the ferry, we made our way to Jaigad. A steep inclination helped us to reach upland. It wasn't yet noon, but the heat was unbearable. Riding through the barren land with no trees left me de-hydrated. Striking an oasis in a desert, made me stop by at a place seeming to be a misfit for the terrain. It wasn't until I referred to Google maps that made me realize that I was at the JSW Ganesh mandir. The temple with its vast vicinity kept well established with a garden, a museum, artificial ponds & a few fountains. Most of us stopped by before moving ahead to Ganpatipule, our place for lunch. Before reaching, we descended downhill & were back beside the coast at Undi near Malgund. Reaching Ganpatipule well before time enabled us to visit the iconic Ganesh Temple.

Ganpatipule After eating the delicious Modaks (a steamed dessert) prepared for us by the restaurant, we moved on to finish our final leg of the journey today. As I was riding, it ended up being the most pleasant section of the entire trip. Cycling alongside the coast of Arrey Warrey Beach was a de-stressing experience. It made me forget of the hot tarmac & the demanding inclines. I reached atop a hill overlooking the Warrey beach that we had passed & the road leading to the Arrey beach. The peak gave a breathtaking singular view across the stretch of the entire beach that we just passed. Excellent visibility further enabled us even to view the peak we had crossed an hour ago. All of us stopped at the peak for a quick glimpse of the view & to grab a quick drink of coconut water. We descended our way down to the Aare Ware bridge & the Shirgaon mangroves to reach the bustling town of Ratnagiri. Biking through the small alleys & circles lead us out of the city to Bhatye beach. A steep inclination aided us to reach a plateau. After an hour-long ride, we reached our destination for the day at Pawas. We stayed right next to the Shri Swami Swarupanand Math and Samadhi Mandir (a temple). A bed and breakfast accommodation distinctive to previous days, not because we were far away from the seashore, surrounded by jungle, but because it gave me an unusual spooky impression. After dinner, a few of us were craving for dessert. It was just past 9, and all the stores in the vicinity remained shut. Pawar, the over-enthusiastic & energetic driver of our support vehicle, asked an owner to open her store so that we could indulge in some ice-cream. We decided to sleep early today as everyone was too tired to gather around & have our daily chatter. Day 6 (23rd Jan 2020) A comparatively cold morning made it difficult for me to wake up. It was the first time on this trip that Jay woke up before me. He seemed to be a bit subdued than usual. I had spooked him last night without me remembering. I will come to that later on. Managing to pack up & leave on time (our destination for the day was the temple town of Kunkeshwar about 90 Kilometers); we had to make our way to Adivare for breakfast.

Breakfast at Adivare The route here was through small villages encompassed by mango trees. I stopped by for a while at Purnagad bridge, entranced to see the seashore eventually, most of us did the same. It was the most challenging ride before breakfast. Everyone arrived at their own pace. It was already close to noon before we left for Jaitapur.

Jaitapur In contrast to the morning, humidity & heat became unbearable, and I was fatigued, sweating extensively & getting de-hydrated. Utilizing the last drop of drinking water in my bottle, I reached Jaitapur only to know of the horror that lied ahead. As I waited for the support vehicle to refill my flask, Rutesh told me about the upcoming terrain. The road was the dryest patch of land on a plateau that we'd ever experience. Cycling longer than an hour with the sun right above, we were supposed to pedal incessantly till we reach a crossroad at the Katradevi Temple. The only indicator of arrival was of a juice stand under a large banyan tree, and this turned out to be a powerful motivator for me. Being the first to arrive, I started to quench my thirst on as much juice & ice slush possible (which later turned out to be a terrible idea as I suffered from stomach ache). Well past noon, we descended to the Amberi bridge; which is a gateway to the Sindhudurg district—making our way uphill to another plateau I reached Padel for lunch around 3 PM. It was by far the most delayed time we clocked for lunch. We still had 20 km to reach our destination for the day at Kunkeshwar. Proceeding Devgad, we stopped by at the Wadatar bridge for the quick photo of the sea. I came to know about a new bridge connecting Devgad to Kunkeshwar, which would easily save us our precious time. The bridge leads to the Mithamumbri beach, facing the Devgad windmills, giving a picturesque glimpse of the sunset. A final incline was unavoidable to reach our destination (Sukhsagar Resort) just before sunset. A night-time visit to the Shiva temple and the group gathering on the terrace for dinner & chit-chat helped me relax.

Kunkeshwar During the chatter session Sanjukta, the only Mumbaikar woman with us on the trip told me why Jay was terrified last night at Pawas. Apparently, not to my cognizance, I woke up at 3 AM & perched on my bed. Jay saw me sitting on the edge of the bed, asked what bothered me. I did not respond the first time. On being questioned again, I presumably told him that I was talking to a man sitting on the chair next to the bed (pointing specifically to the vacant chair). It freaked him out; he couldn't sleep for more half than an hour as he saw me perching without even moving a muscle. That was the reason he seemed to be freaked out. Day 7 (24th Jan 2020) A crisp foggy morning turned out to be the most pleasant start to what would turn out to be the longest day of our trip. The hills on-route turned out to be less tall than the ones I had experienced previously. Riding through mango territory, after a series of hills & elevations, we reached our breakfast location at Achara Titha. The favourable terrain helped us reach Achara well before time. After filling up on breakfast, frenzied James bought some fireworks to make the final night together even more memorable. Following breakfast and an hour and a half long ride, past the Kolamb bridge just before Malvan, I decided to stop by to indulge in some sugarcane juice right by the creek. Everyone was soon to catch up & restore themselves with juice. It was well past noon, and we were starving, the organizers encouraged us by describing the spot where we'd be having our lunch at Tarkarli right by the beach. As soon as we arrived at the place, the description confirmed to be accurate. Right at the beach barely a few meters away from the sea, with sand below our feet, we had delicious lunch prepared by a makeshift establishment owned by the villagers. James & Sarah could not resist the urge for a quick swim. However, it was what came after the lunch turned out to be a significant element of the trip.

Devbag to Bhogave ferry We reached the end of the peninsula at Devbag Sangam beach, a place where the Karli river meets the sea. We were quick to load our cycles on a small vessel taking us to the mainland at Bhogave beach. The support vehicle had to detour via Chipi to intercept us at Parule. It was now 3 PM & still about 30 KM of hills & valleys to reach our destination for the day at Vengurla. I was determined to reach the goal to have a quick swim in the sea. I was pushing as hard as I can, occasionally stopping only to fill up my water bottle from the villagers. A sense of adrenaline raced through my body, enabling me to pedal harder & faster. After several inclines & plateaus, I finally made my way to the Vengurla market. Hari, James, Sarah & I were the only ones to arrive way before sunset. The early arrival gave us plenty of time to check into the hotel (Sagar Sarita Beach resort) & go for a swim. It was the last night of the journey where all of us would sit together & have our daily gossip sessions. Everyone seemed to be emotional tonight as the day ended with laughter, good food, memories & of course the fireworks purchased earlier by James. Day 8 (25th Jan 2020): The final leg of the journey began a little late as we had our breakfast right at the hotel where we stayed. We were only supposed to cover 35 KM before reaching the end of our journey at Arambol, Goa. The terrain was almost entirely flat except for a small incline. We reached the Aronda bridge (Maharashtra Goa border) via Shiroda. Our last stop of the journey was the lunch spot Hotel blue sea view, Arambol. I was humbled by my accomplishment of riding for eight days, travelling a distance of 550 KM & gaining an aggregate incline of around 8000 Meters (almost equivalent to the elevation of Mt Everest). I loaded my cycle in the support vehicle which brought it back home, and I shared a cab with Sanjukta soon after lunch to catch an evening flight back to Mumbai.

Maharashtra Goa border

Arambol, Goa As I was making my way to the Goa Airport, I was already missing the beaches, hills, valleys, forests, plateaus, rivers, creeks; The Konkan coast has a lot to offer. One can't get enough of it even after spending a significant amount of time. At the end of my eight-day journey, I decided to come back next year to experience this all over again.

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