There are quite a few amazing rides in the immediate hiterland of Greater Bombay. The ride to Tungareshwar is one of them. Unfortunately the emphasis seems to be on roadies these days, and there is no way a roadie will do this ride. Mountain bikes, zindabad!
This is also the ride that got my friend into a lot of hot water (read waterfall), with his significant other. What with clothes coming off (partially, mind you) and getting all wet under the falls. Questions were asked … insinuations were made, and life itself (cycling) was under threat!
Originally we were supposed to do the Uttan Hills ride, and the event had already been posted. Then James writes to a couple of us, I think it was Amitabh and me, saying that they’d met the Conservation Officer, Mr. Munde at Borivali National Park, or Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as they’re calling it these days (Borivali works for me), and he suggested Tungareshwar. So the moment James suggested we do the ride sometime, my instant response was, let’s can Uttan and do Tungareshwar instead. Since there was a similar response from those who mattered, the event became the Tungareshwar Event.
Not the Best of Beginnings
We’re all supposed to meet at 5.30 AM (at my request), at Kashimira Junction and ride out. Alarm set, except I didn’t get a wink of sleep all night, and I ended up watching TV instead. Now the phone is in the room I share with my son (and he’s a sound sleeper), and I’m out in the hall watching TV. Suddenly something prompts me to figure of what time it is and holy crap, its already 4.07. Which would have been fine, except I’ve got to go and get, Malvika at 4.30 AM, and ride with her to Uttan. Not only that, I’ve got Dasrath and Mahesh to meet at the junction of Oshiwara Flyover and Western Express Highway at 5.55 AM. I get my gear together, grab a small snack, some cold coffee (my caffeine fix), and finally leave the house at 4.50 am, reach Malvika at 5.10 AM, doing a near sprint speed and we start riding, miss Dasrath and Mahesh who are riding on to Kashimira ahead of us. I guess Malvika managed to get some extra winks thanks to me, so one happy person in all of this.
So you get the drift? I’m running really late, and guess what? I’ve got the rest of the gang to meet at Kashimira right. Call, tell them to carry on, but Amitabh says they will wait. Now I feel let an idiot, and Mahesh is us usual “diplomatic” manner knows how to rub it in. I feel like slamming him in the face, but say, Sumir, control (akin to Naseer in Welcome), you made him wait, so can’t really blame him, and we’re away.
Talk About a “Bring It on Attitude”
So we know a little about the ride, though none of us has been down (or rather up) this route before. We were soon to find out, what with the falls a couple of our crew had and all! Now the ride itself for me, was a ni long one, Bandra to Kashimira Junction, then on to the WEH towards Vasai-Virar, and that is no worry at all, however little were we prepared for just how grueling it would be. We thought we’d be back at Kashimira by about 10.30 (so I can make it in time to meet my hot coffee date), but that didn’t really pan out as far as timings went. As far as length, it is a 33 km ride from Bandra to Kashimira via the WE Highway, but with my detour to go get Malvika, it added an extra bit.
From Kashimira to the Tungareshwar base camp inside the park, is about 28 Km or so, and from the base to the summit of the climb at the temple, is a grueling 8 – 10 KM. And believe me it is a pretty hard core all uphill endurance climb, stones, boulders, rubble, nothing really spectacular.
From Bandra to Tungareshwar and back, I clocked about 10 hours on my stopwatch by the time I got back home at 3 PM. The ride from Kashimira to the turnoff to Tungareshwar somewhere near Vasai, was nothing spectacular, with traffic and trucks, the usual….
The Main Event
We turn off the Highway, into the narrow road, quite nondescript and a couple of kilometers down that road is the forest check post which marks the entrance. From there its a pretty average ride to a temple, which is really the base camp.
The famous Tungareshwar Falls is literally a stones throw from the base camp, but the real ride is just about to begin! That fork in the path sets the tone for the steep incline up, which is going to be about 8 KM. This climb is the mother of all climbs I had done up until that point. Well on a bike, that is.
The real hard climb I’ve done is at the Grand Canyon, on one of the most difficult trails in the Canyon, that too in one day going down to the River and then back up.
At Tungareshwar we will climb 2177 ft in terms of altitude, and we didn’t even know it! Our team is pretty hardcore, so we don’t really fuss too much about distances, endurance, etc, we just love to ride and discover new places, and overcome new challenges. On a bike, its as hard it can get, with loose gravel, small boulders and rocks, that get washed down the path during the heavy monsoons. Moreover the rocks and stones are loose, and riding around them is not always possible, so you oftentimes need to ride over them.
So its not just a test of stamina and grit, its also a test of your fine sense of balance, and quick wits. Did we see the sign saying 10 KM? Of course not, and we just keep going on and on, it was never-ending. Some had to get off several times and just wheel the bikes uphill, and some of us rode more than others! Kevin and Amitabh, did the most riding and Amitabh reminded me of a mountain goat, going upslope at a decent pace. This ride, not only tested us, but also our bikes. Now I have a really strong full suspension, Iron Horse- Warrior Pro Mountain Bike, and I have not been too concerned about its safety doing trails off road in the past. But this trail, tested its mettle.
Elements of a Ride to Remember: Long Ride – Great Challenge – Great View – Danger – Sense of Achievement
The path opens on to the valley on both sides – giving you a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and villages below.
At the very top is the temple of Parshuram and Nityananda, which we missed only because we didn’t go around the final bend at the downward slope at the very end. Going uphill was a great experience, but we were all excited about the long ride downhill, yet we were aware that if going up was tough, gown down would be very treacherous, because we would have to fight natural momentum as the slope is steep, covered in gravel, stones, rocks and the like, added to which were some sharp turns, where breaking would be difficult with every possibility of tipping over and having the bikes end up atop us if we got it wrong.
I’m looking to do a speedy descent, however, since I had invited two guests, I decide as a matter of responsibility to remain tail guard, and Kevin accompanied me, inspite of him being a very experienced rider.
It was the right thing to do. I’ve lost sight of Kevin, as we’ve gone on ahead, and I’m riding behind Malvika. I’m about to tell her that she may want to lower her seat, so she has a better height to gravity ratio, and I’m about to do so, but she’s read my mind. As we progress through the twos and turns on the path, suddenly I get a slow motion view of the bike ahead of me tipping over throwing Malvika ahead of it, and the next thing I know she’s pinned hopelessly under the bike, at a crazy angle, with her legs intertwined in the handle bars. I jump of, simultaneously thinking, OMG, I hope she’s all right, and was dead sure that she would have some serious bruised, or even cracked or broken bones. I disentangle her, and am completely amazed that she’s all right, no broken bones, merely some serious bruised. What I’m even more amazed about is when she simply very matter of faculty tells me, “give me your hand”, and just needs that little support to haul herself up, and starts riding again, but slower this time. What an amazing girl! This fall would have winded or even scared the best of us, only she proved herself to be the best of the best! Attagirl!!
As we’re sorting her out, Mahesh and Dasrath have moved ahead, and I tell Kevin to go on as well. A very short while later, we see Kevin, Dasrath, and Mahesh stationary, and as we come up closer we see Mahesh bruised, his face bleeding, and I go, ah so Mahesh has fallen down as well! He’s badly shaken and concerned about his precious bike. Dasrath and Kevin stay with him, and we progress. Malvika makes steady progress with no further incident and soon we’re down, and find Amitabh and Kevin have a hot snack of Wada-pav and soft drinks. Yummy, by now we’re all ravenously hungry and we simply dig in! A twenty minute break, and Amitabh and Mahesh have to leave due to personal reasons.
We meet up with this guy Sumit, who has heard about our ride and wanted to join us, but has a road bike, which cannot take the challenge of the trail., and so he’s waited patiently for us to descend. Malvika has been determined to get into the water properly, and so we go to the falls, a short walk from where we’re sitting. Not much of a waterfall, what with the monsoons haven ended, but thee is a cold fast moving stream. Next thing we know is Malvika has her feet in the water at first, only to follow through with jumping into the falls.
At first the shoes come off, then feet get dipped in the water, then a little water gets splashed, then some shirts come off, and then its under the waterfall turn by turn.
Perhaps you can see why someone got into a little trouble, and they poor guy wasn’t even there! Long story short, he’s not cycling any more.
The Ride Back
Restored and rested, we get back to our bikes and start the long ride back home. Its now close to noon and the thought from some was to take a truck or tempo back to civilization, but the girl says she wants to ride all the way back! And so, we ride all the way back to our various bases, encountering once again, the pollution, dirt, grime and traffic snarls of what is the WE Highway. We part company with Kevin and James at Kashimira Junction, and since my hot coffee date got moved to the afternoon, I request the chivalrous Dasrath, to ride with Malvika and I literally sprint the 30 odd KM back to Bandra. Freshen up and I’m off to an event that I was kindly invited to.
Now I usually upload the pics and write the Sunday Blog as soon as I get home, but this time I’m a bit behind. My hands are sore, my backside is sore and finally here I am on a Monday night (2.45 am). I’m informed later that Mahesh seems to have cracked a rib on account of his love affair with the ground, and has damaged his bike as well.
In conclusion, I will repeat, this is not a ride for he faint hearted. But guess what our diehard team of survivors and Amitabh who we missed on account of his early departure, are determined to do this again soon! Not only that, we plan to do an open invitation event, with prizes et all, for those who seek challenge and adventure. An event to test the mettle of man, woman and bike!
The bar gets raised each Sunday, and so we will continue to seek out new challenges on our journey of self-discovery.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
James posted this ride to Matheran, promising a tough one, and boy oh boy was that a well kept promise! The ride from Panvel to Matheran is about 50 km, and the last 7 km, is the really tough uphill stretch. The plan was to take the bikes to Panvel by transport, racks, boot, roof, whatever means possible, and ride from Panvel to Matheran via the old Bombay – Pune Highway. Scheduled departure was for 5 AM. After some serious coordination and arrangements we ended up taking four cars. So to begin with the team was: James, Kevin and Amitabh in Kevin’s Innova, Mahesh and David in Mahesh’s car and Shyam, Krishanu, Dasrath, Malvika and me, in Shyam’s and Kriahanu’s cars. It was really unfortunate that Amitabh dropped out the night before due to personal reasons, or he would have really enjoyed it, being the mountain rat that he is! We started off late….severe traffic en route due to two trucks colliding. We found a few more riders waiting for us at McDonalds, Abhishek, Mrinal, and M Nayak, who had read about the event posted by James. From our team, Shyam was the new kid on the block, having bought a new Giant from Thailand and keen to put her through the paces. Bikes are assembled (all full Mountain Bikes and Hybrids), and we are all set for the kick-off picture.
We started off at about 6 AM. Kevin as always set the brisk pace with his runaway sprint. I was determined to keep pace with Kevin, and so I following him, however, he’s a very hard act to follow, and each time I “almost” caught up (meaning seeing his flashing tail light), he would shoot off again. But it was great just being able to keep him in sight!
We had two support cars following us, and we got a call saying that one of us was down, it turned out to be Dasrath. It was pitch black, with oncoming headlights, so visibility was really bad, coupled of course, with the usual uneven roads, rubble, and the usual road hazards, and Dasrath was the victim. So we stop and and soon the others catch up with us, as does the support car carrying Dasrath. He took a fall, and I looked at his shoulder, which was swollen something mean, and I go oh crap, that’s a broken or then severely dislocated or maybe its the collar bone. Something prompted me the previous night to ask Krishanu to carry some heavy pain killers, and at this time that is what Dasrath needed. So we turn him around in a support car to the hospital, and keep tabs on him through the day. The jury is out, at first it was broken, then it was dislocated, and now it seems that he may not have a broken shoulder at all, but he’s out of commission for a couple of weeks if not more. Tough guy though, managed to grin through the pain, and was feeling very bad that he would not be able to do the assault on Matheran! Another time Dasrath, we promise you.
We were almost at the point where you turn off from the Highway and head towards Karjat, and so we kept on. The slight incline provided no real challenge, however the road was bad. As we progress when witnessed a beautiful sight, with the mist and fog rolling down the hills.
Malvika, not wanting to break her rhythm, has gone ahead and the rest of the pack and we follow. We arrive at the junction where the straight option takes you to Bhimashankar, and the left option to Matheran. Tried calling Malvika, as I wanted to make sure that she didn’t miss the turnoff, and to our relief, we found her all relaxed waiting at the point where we would begin our ascent to Matheran.
Looking up we could see that it was a long way up, but little did we know just how steep the incline is, none of us having done it before. As so I started off first, and I’m doing fine for the first kilometer or two, and then David and Mrinal, just go past at an unbelievable rate of ascent. What do these guys eat?!!!! Then these two guys in Red and one in Blue come out of nowhere, and sail past.
By now the road is getting really steep, and we’ve hit the hairpin bends, and in the distance I see the Red and Blue duo resting…. We introduce ourselves and it seems that they read about the event and decided that they would make the attempt as well. The guys are Kaushik and Prabhuda. Now I find Kevin coming up close and soon he’s past me as well.
Its way up there! Our readings tell us 600+ meters above sea level.
I am about halfway through, only I didn’t know it, and I see Krishanu, Shyam and Mahesh sailing past in the support vehicle, and they promise to send it back for me should I need it. At that point I was struggling, yet I thought I’d make it. I keep on and bump into Abhishek, Kaushik, Prabhuda, and Kevin at varying points of their ascent, then they’re all ahead and I’m going really slow now. The sun is up and the heat is getting to me, sapping any energy I have left. James comes along in the support car, and I give in, and hop in as well. I shouldn’t have, I was three-quarters of the way there, with only two more of those dammnnn hairpins to go! I was kicking myself for giving in.
So my assault will have to wait another day, as it will wait for me and the others. We ask about Malvika who has refused to hop into the support vehicle, and walks up the last couple of turns! I’ve met very few girls with such determination! Great going Malvika.
At the top the view is breathtaking, and we wait for Kevin now, who has come in. It rained earlier that morning and when the sun comes up it gets really hot, and there is vapour coming off the road surface. Even the monkeys are thirsty
We huddle for a group picture, and some of us are eager to take on the down hill, which will be really exciting and at the same time very dangerous. One small mistake, and we will tip over or then just shoot off the road and down the ststeepeel hills. There are a couple of really bad spots, and with the rail tracks crossing the road at a diagonal, its a sure show stopper.
About half way down, we stop to cool of our rims and brakes, which are red hot now due to constant braking to slow our descent. We make it a picture opportunity, but it was a good thing too.
James has noticed a wobble in his front wheel, and David and I take a look, and it urns out, that its not just a care of tightening the quick release. Its a possible bearing problem. And better safe than sorry, we advise James to pack it in, and he’s in the support car. Very unfortunate! There was no untoward incident this time, and Kaushik, Prabhuda, Mrinal, David, Kevin, Krishanu, Malvika and I are all down.
We all are ravenously hungry now, and the poor stall owner, runs out of the delicious batata wadas and misal pav, that we’re devouring.
In about half and hour we’re off again. Kevin, David, Kaushik, Prabhuda, Mrinal, Malvika, Abhishek and I decide to ride as far as we can until the support shuttles can come and get us. Its really too hot to ride and we take the easy option. I arrive at the Karjat junction and see this Watermelon cart, and it seems like a great idea to partake. I flag down Abhishek and Malvika and they succumb too! We then find this “family restaurant” and stay put in the shade, until Shyam and Kriahanu, our designated shuttles come and get us. The bikes are loaded and tied down, and we switch cars. Shyam and Krishanu goig off straight home to Bandra, and I will drop Abhishek and Malvika before heading home myself. I finally got home at 5.30 PM, and its been a long day for us all.
The analysis? It was a great ride, very challenging going up the 7 odd km, but the down hill was sooo short lived. It probably took us just 15 minutes, whereas the uphill was over an hour, the fastest being 54 minutes which was David, that too on a MTB! The MTB’s are aout three times the weight of a road bike, but somehow I’m hooked to MTB’s. But maybe for challenges such as these, a road bike is more suited, but we’ll see.
So until next time, Matheran, I will have my revenge, as I’m sure some of us will!!!!