The office is in Chandivali and it’s not pretty getting there from anywhere. Cost cutting dictated that we move from the prestigious Prism at Mindspace, Malad to Chandivali.
There is this really special friend of mine, who would call me and whenever he called, through some strange coincidences, I would be on the bike either on my way to Chandivali, or on my way back home.
Therefore, the name, Marquis de Chandivali.
Anyways now that I have my title…..
Getting to Chandivali from Bandra, by whatever means of transport is not an enjoyable experience. Not by any stretch of the imagination. By car, by rickshaw, by anyhow. Getting there means contending with horrendous traffic, especially at the turn off from the Highway to Sahar, then at the Leelavati Junction and all the way to Sakinaka. I would take a minimum of an hour to traverse the 16 odd km to work, so go figure the average.
Cycling to Work – Advantages
Whenever I had to go in on a Saturday or a Sunday, I would take my bike to work, and thus dawned the realization that perhaps its simply more practical to bike to work, as it would take me all of 45/50 minutes. Added to that, it gave me a sense of achievement, that I was being eco-friendly, I was working out. I arrived at work free of stress, no road rage, I arrived home free of stress, as cycling helped me to ease out of the work day pretty nicely. Win, win, win.
See I have to get my morning cuppa coffee at Gloria Jeans, or what used to be Gloria Jeans and is now Krispy Kreme. Well they promised that the coffee would still be Gloria, but I think that’s a bunch of bull. As I was waiting for it to re-open as Krispy Kreme, I ended up stopping off at Starbucks, Khar. Once I realized that the cuppa quality, aroma, etc was never gonna be of the Gloria standards, I figured that I would end up at Starbucks once again. Anyway this is supposed to be about cycling, right? So let’s cut to the chase by saying that I did end up at Starbucks, albeit, this time around it was at the outlet closer to my apartment.
So getting out of Bandra via the by lanes running from Bandra all the way to Santacruz is a synch, since I avoid most of the traffic lights (called traffic robots in Zimbabwe). But then you get to the road from the Santacruz Police Station leading up to the Milan ROB (Rail Over Bridge) as they are calling it, and that stretch is a total mess. The option is to take the right from the Police Station and hit the main road, but that’s even worse than the other approach.
Once you get past the desperate and chaotic morning traffic and hit the ROB you’re fine, temporarily, that is, until you hit the Sahar Junction. Then some more jostling and then the fast stretch all the way to the Leela Junction on the Andheri – Kurla Road. Of course it does help when you ride a heavily customized, full suspension, mountain bike, called Iron Horse-Warrior Pro, courtsey The Chief of Pro9, Faisal Thakur.
Tried Saki Naka a few times but you end up inhaling more fumes that you would care to imagine, and have to dismount every few minutes, what with traffic that comes to a standstill every few meters, so the best bet is the Military Road (no idea why it’s called that), which brings you to the Saki Vihar Road.
Just a short stretch of jammed cars, trucks, buses, tempos, scooters, mo’bikes, and you’re at the Chandivali Farm/Studio Road junction and then you’re home safe.
The ride in peak traffic is challenging to say the very least, but hey! I like the challenge, and I can’t miss my coffee, can I? I’m a bit of a traffic junkie, and nothing gets the adrenaline going better for me as I zip through traffic. Seen Premium rush? Now that the kind of riding I do when in traffic. Extremely challenging, but satisfying at the same time.
The one thing that stands out when you bike to work is just how disrespectful and aggressive most people are towards cyclists. The only saving grace are the cops who have got used to seeing me daily, and wave me through bad traffic, when they see me at the head of the mad herd.
I’ve said it before and I say it again, many of the cycling fraternity are talking about getting special bike lanes, etc and I think they are missing the plot. There are no lanes, there is no discipline, there is no mercy or consideration. Good Luck guys, I think its only getting worse! They think it’s a bunch of rich kids, riding fancy bikes, mostly for pleasure. Try riding to work every day people, you have some waking up to do.
So the only way you’re going to be noticed and heard is if the community takes to the streets and rides to work on busy roads, instead of these fancy bike clubs, and just waiting around for the facilities to get created. Lest I’m not interpreted incorrectly, I’m all for awareness, but if you’re actually looking at reducing the carbon situation and achieving other such dreams, a lot more need to get on the roads, and brave the daily commute, traffic, indiscipline, ill-treatment, danger and the like, and allow these dreams to turn into reality.
The Smart Commute
A few years ago, I started hearing about a Cycle2Work initiative, spearheaded by Firoza and some other noble souls, and being a daily cyclist, I knew they have their work cut out.
If you want to connect with this initiative, they even have a Facebook Page.
They now even have an app available for Android, that assists in setting up rides, tracking rides, and getting the whole Cycle2Work initiative into the palm of your hand. Called The Smart Commute (Beta), you can easily download it from the Google Play Store.
Awareness is the Beginning
An awareness of this alternate means of transport, is merely the beginning. A lot needs to be done, in terms of making cycling safe, providing adequate facilities both at the government level and at the corporate end as well, such as parking, bike lanes, shower and changing facilities, all with the intent of encouraging this super initiative.
Me? I’m hooked and don’t need to be preached to, but I certainly don’t mind doing the preaching. As always, lead by example, and what the heck, I just love it, so guess what? I’m on a bike to work, and that’s how its going to remain for the foreseeable future.
Each stop I make, whether for coffee at a coffee-shop, whether I bike to an important meeting at a 5 star hotel, or I show up for an interview (well I did this once), I can see the admiration in the eyes of the people who I meet, the people who I interact, with my co-workers. I get this look, saying, “I wish”, and my rather simple response to that is, WHY NOT?
One time I checked into the Hyatt, and I rode in on my cycle with backpack. You can imagine the reaction of the hotel staff, right from the security at the gate, to the security at the lobby entrance, to the front office staff. Well, it’s an entirely different matter, that they were so very impressed, that they parked the bike at the lobby entrance for the duration of my stay. The bike did look mighty impressive, so that may have helped, and it may have just been my swag, but still….
It’s been a rough week at work, too much going on and too few folks to do it. Critical resources AWOL. You get the drift, yah? Welcome to the Indian software industry.
A welcome diversion comes in the form of the young cyclist, Niranjan. Bump into him at Pro9 and he goes, we are looking to do a ride that takes us around the periphery of Bombay. Have bike – will ride. Always. Sure I want to ride, but there is this little thing called travel on the cards, so it’s a bit iffy.
Carl messages day before the ride as well, please join, it’s fun riding with you and I guess that felt nice. A bit aghast seeing that they be looking to leave at 3 am. It’s not daunting that it’s the witching hour, but rather, it’s not that long a ride, let’s leave later. See it’s the sun and heat that’s the concern (not me I like riding in the heat), so I defer and go with the plan.
Perhaps I should say I don’t like riding in the rain, just so I don’t let the public get the impression that I ride 24*7. Oh well, I do ride 24*7 oftentimes starting late at night, but just don’t like the rain. Now that we have that little item settled….
Now I’ve done this particular ride at least a couple of times before, but given the circs, this is manna from heaven.
Had to rush to office for a video conference and got done pretty late. So with little or no sleep, start prepping for the ride at 2.15 am. Gear check, bike check, and man and machine all set to roll. Make the rendezvous point (Shivaji Park) no one there, so ride around for a few minutes and the pack arrives. Arvind, Carl, Niranjan, Vidit. Discuss distance (140 km appx), pace (should average 22 kph), and we are off.
First stop NCPA, hydrate, pics, kid around. Selfies not preferred, but will have to make do, no one around to take our pics, except some couples on the sea face whom we decide not to disturb.
The next leg is NCPA to the Eastern Freeway that connects downtown Bombay to the hinterland and also connects to the Eastern Express Highway.
Good pace on the Freeway, and in almost no time we are connected with the said Expressway and a very short while later we are at the checkpost demarking Bombay from Thane. We take a pit stop and hydrate, get some morning tea and onto the next leg. Doc breaks out the super “Brown Salt” brand goodybag, with roasted nuts and cookies. Now Brown Salt is his lovely daughters’ brand, and the stuff is good. Breakfast point is decided as Bhayendar or Utan, but as luck would have it, the young lads Niranjan and Vidit get separated. A couple of calls and we decide to regroup at Decathelon on Ghodbunder.
Since we did stop, well we did make a stop of it and got some more chai and did a quick snack too! More Brown Salt goodies (of course). I sure hope he’s paying the kid for the stuff he’s stolen!
But we did loose time and are resolute to make up by a much shorter breakfast stop, which didn’t happen. Sorry, breakfast stop did happen, but was leisurely. Thanks to me. Was just keeping the rescheduled breakfast stop suspense.
The ride up Ghodbunder was nice and the downhill was super. We ride different paces, so decide to make Fountain at the end of Ghodbunder our reassembly point, before we get to the turnoff to Utan.
Up until this point despite our stops etc we are averaging 25 kph or so. Not bad, not bad at all. We have covered about 90 odd km till then I think.
Crack on and we are at Utan and we climb up to the chapel atop a really steep incline. This one is new to me despite me being a self proclaimed authority on Utan rides. Well, ran out of wind and the gears really slipped a lot so ended up walking up the final slope. But the climb/walk is really worth it. It’s beautiful up there. Thanks Carl. I will have to do this again, and make the summit, this time without dismounting.
So now we roll down and soon we are a’climbing again, this time up the slope into the fishing village of Utan. Now this is where I spring a surprise on the guys and say at some point turn left. Now that left leads up a slope that kinda says, you da gonna go to heaven! Doing that incline after a 100 km ride is not to be taken lightly.
That surprise left leads to a place called Hotel U-Tan Sea Resort. A well kept secret. Beautiful little villas, pool, deck based dining area showing off the Utan coast in all its glory. And this the decidedly short break turns out to be a really long one. Albeit one well worth it. Discovery for the boys.
Now I’m forgetting what time exactly we descended from the “Road to Heaven” but methinks it must have been around 11 am or so. The next leg takes up down to the town market place and the view is really nice.
It shows fishing vessels anchored off the coast. It always brings to my mind the scene from the movie Troy.
A final climb and that brings us to the stretch running through the Gorai beach stretch, and at the end of that comes the fork in the road. One leading to Esselworld and the huge Buddhist Pagoda, with the bright gold stupa, and the other, leading our way. The stretch to the jetty at Manori. Gorai and Manori bring two things to mind. The Manori Belle I was seeing a long time ago. And targolas, those juicy things found inside a coconut like shell. Targolas we find at the jetty and do I have to really say that we dug in, what with the good Doctor wanting to take a closer look, ensuring that we are given only the juiciest of the lot.
Feasting on these only meant that we let a couple of ferries go, but finally hop on for a five minute ride to the other side, which is the Marve stretch.
Ow The Sun Hurts My Eyes!
The short ride brings us to the leg that ends at yet another jetty at Marve, and a two minute ride later we are at the fishing village at Versova. The sprawling city of Bombay is after all made up of seven islands joined together and created on the basis of humongous land fills. In effect Bombay is just on huge fishing village turned into a major and immensely populated metropolis.
Now this is where we are back in civilization, it’s around 12 noon, and realizations dawn. Dammn it’s hot, it’s crowded and by the way our little getaway is over. Welcome to the real world.
At Juhu Circle we part ways. I head straight to Bandra via Juhu Beach and the others turn left. Carl to Kalina, Vidit and Niranjan to Vile Parle and Dr to Wadala.
What a super ride, fantastic company, a few stops too many, but loads of fun anyway. A total distance of 134.7 odd km (read 140 odd, started Strava late) a top speed of 60.1 kph, calories burned 3551 (probably more).
For starters it wasn’t 400 km, more like 331 (give or take) if we have to believe Google Maps, but it sure felt like a helluva lot more than 400.
I reached the target on May 22, exactly a month after Majidbhai (The Faisal’s respected father) had called inviting me to the family homestead, but that wasn’t the first time I’d been invited. Khaled (The Faisal’s younger brother) had suggested several times over the last year that we should plan a ride down to their farm.
But as we know things happen when they are supposed to happen, and so it all came together when it had to. The circumstances were right, the timing as well, what with The Thakur clan deciding to go on a family vacation.
What an amazing experience it has been, notwithstanding the extreme heat, horrible stretches of non existent roads, necessitating a change in my game plan.
Plans are a’changin
As game plans go, the original, was to ride all the way down the West Coast to the town of Ratnagiri or thereabouts, and then cut over to the NH 66 and then on to NH 204. This was supposedly the longer, but more scenic route, hitting the pristine beaches along the west coast of India. Following this route would have meant covering a distance of appx 370 km, as opposed to the shorter route (mainly along the National Highways), which can’t be said to be scenic by any stretch of the imagination. A highway is a highway is a highway.
So that was the plan, but as plans go, they tend to change, as this one did, and how! Had I forced along the planned route, I would only have subjected myself to willing torture, what with the roads and heat. So I guess I decided to be more pragmatic (read chickened out), and changed the plan in flight.
Well I have two, bikes, (count three) if I include Kartikeya’s (my youngest son) Merida Hybrid, which I don’t usually count. Me on a Merida? Common, gimme a break! Not that I have anything against the Merida, but still.
So the tradeoff was between the two dual suspension bikes, the Iron Horse – Warrior Pro , a hard core downhill bike, with some neat modifications done by The Faisal @ Pro 9 Bicycle Studio (10 speed group-set, hydraulic brakes, thick tyres) and the Trek – Fuel (also dual suspension), coming in at around 14/15 kgs.
While the Iron Horse is an amazing ride and strides at a great pace once you push her to a steady gait, its a bitch to push on steep inclines, but boy does she hug the road when riding downhill, especially around the curves! She’s built for that after all.
The Trek on the other hand, is so much easier to push uphill, but takes a lot more rotations to keep her going on a flat, and you have to be that much more careful when cornering at breakneck speeds. I did touch around 60 kph on some stretches. Sheer exhilaration!
That the terrain is not optimal, and I’m going to be climbing quite a bit, I settle for the Trek – Fuel. And a wise choice it was, else I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. My calves and thighs were taut in any case 🙂
Backpack & Contents:
I’m going to be on the road, two maybe three days, so was essential to ensure that I was carrying everything that I needed for this adventure. Not to forget, that its most certainly going to be hot, and its a simple case of HYDRATE or DIE, so 3 liter water bag, and the twin bottle-holders mounted behind my saddle, duly filled with that most precision of commodities – WATER, and a suitable amount of electrolytes.
Spare tubes – check, toolkit – check, cleaned and oiled chain – check, dry lube – check, tail and head lights (with extra backups) all charged up – check (not that I was planning to ride at night, but when you’re on the road, you never really know), power bank for phones – check, route duly plotted – check, potential overnight stop over points – check, mosquito repellant – check, bare essential toiletries – check, dryfit gear – check, sunblock – check. This is the pre-flight checklist, else its a no go. You get this gist? Its a whopping 10/12 kgs on my back, not something I really want, but can’t really do without.
I’m geared for the long ride and adventure ahead, so Castelli tights, Endura jerseys, body hugging dry-fit underneath, compression bands on my legs and arms, gloves, bandana round my neck, another on my head. Each is with thought behind it, especially the compression bands to lessen the muscle strain on rough roads, and the bandana’s to keep the heat off the neck and head. I’m a bit bald, see? The skin tight drifit? Well to keep the perspiration off the jersey. Did I mention the helmet with the built in UV shades? They don’t just look cool.
Part of the plan was to do three sessions a day, each of 3-4 hours, give or take, 5 – 8 am, 9 – 12 noon, and 3 – 6 pm. But I ended up doing 2 sessions a day, albeit longer runs. You can’t just ride 3 hours and stop! You need to ensure that there is a logical stop location, to cater to rest, refuel, and stay the night.
Maps, Way Points, Distances, Speeds, Road Conditions, Weather Conditions
Blow By Blow Account, Thoughts, Experiences
Peeps you asked for it, well a lot of you did, so don’t complain about the detailed narrative that follows. Besides this is just not for the cycling (and non-cycling) fraternity, but for myself as well. As I write, I relive this amazing adventure!
Friday, May 20, 2016 – Day 1
My track record of getting onto the dammnnn ferry at Gateway is not exactly good, and so true to form I get the 8 am ferry to Mandwa, as opposed to the 6.15. Why is that not a good thing? Its the heart of the summer, and the heat is scorching as the day progresses.
The original plan as I’ve mentioned was to get to Harnai Beach down the coast the same day, and push on, such that I reach target destination by the end of day 2. Simply put that didn’t happen, and only made it as far as Harihareshwar by the evening on day 1, a full 56 km short of the plan. It’s another matter altogether that I didn’t make Harnai at all. You’ll see.
1 / 7
I only managed to reach Kashid around 12.30/1 pm, and the minute I got off the road, took to much needed refreshments. The only breakfast I’d had was cold lime juice and poha….keep in light buddy, you don’t want to be throwing up due to a full stomach, and the heat.
Hydrated like a fish, a very light meal, and hammock snooze later, and I’m steeled to continue, but not before I put in a video-log of the progress thus far. Enjoy looking at my ugly mug and listening to my sexy voice :), or so I’ve been told.
The route took me from the comfortable hammock at Kashid Beach to Murud, up a fairly good incline, passing the Nawab’s (erstwhile ruler in a bygone era) dilapidated palace en route, overlooking the coastline. No wonder that….must cost and arm and a leg to maintain, and no privy purses post the Indian Independence :). It’s the perfect palace to convert into an upscale resort, and I’m wondering why that has not yet happened.
I arrive at the turn off at Murud, which takes me to the jungle jetty at Agardanda. Now this Agardanda is a good 9 km from the turnoff at Murud, but getting to the jetty is not exactly fun. You ride on and on through Agardanda, making the distance around 14 km, on roads designed specifically to test the linkages (my anatomy isn’t the best) of muscle to bone, and all manner of tissues in between. The road itself, is actually more like a trail, with dirt, gravel, stones and wide cracks in the road, therefore the jungle jetty bit kinda sticks.
Some cool refreshing sugarcane juice en route and I arrive at the jetty with perfect timing as there was a ferry unloading, just waiting for Mr Nagar to get on.
2 / 6
Exploring the country, off the beaten path, though arduous at times, almost always has its rewards. I discover that this Dighi Port ain’t some small fishing village port, but is capable of taking in fairly large sized vessels….not sure if it’s ship repair or ships waiting to be scrapped, or just loading bauxite. The ferry was also quite a surprise, as I was really expecting a small boat barely capable of taking my cycle and a few passengers. Au contraire, it is pretty well sized, and capable of taking on several cars, mo’bikes and a truck or two, apart from quite a few passengers.
The ride across to Bagmandla is about 30/45 minutes, and I’ve taken the time to kick my shoes and socks off, hydrate, splash water on my face, neck, rather hot bald head, and finally soak the bandanas in water before I don them again.
I’m off the jetty like a jackrabbit, meaning to ride hard and fast to Harihareshwar, by now knowing that the stretch target of Harnai Beach is just that, a stretch. Ride hard yes, ride fast, well let’s just say, not so fast. Pretty steep inclines, more of really bad roads, designed to test the dual suspension Trek, and of course I just have to mention the rattling of my skull bones. There are some pretty good downslopes but the roads are bad. Nevertheless, I throw the bike down the slope, wary that putting a wheel wrong will only mean pretty nasty cuts and bruises and perhaps a few broken bones. The Trek took the punishment like a pro, but nothing compared to the metal beast, the good ole’ Iron Horse. I missed her sorely at such times.
It was a “dammed if you do dammed if you don’t” thing….dammed if I’m gonna ride the beast up the slope, but equally wishing that I had her when riding down. Guess as much as we would like, we can’t really have it all. Now to find a bike that is light enough to climb with, but smooth on the rough downslopes. Something I’m seriously looking out for, cost be dammed. If I’m gonna being doing this time and again (as I surely am), I’m gonna need such a geometry.
The really bad part of this leg, was the fact that there are these dumpsters carrying bauxite from the mines to the jetty, and they don’t let up, and they just don’t care if you are on a teensy weensy bike. Finally, it was getting dark, and rather than risk riding at night with these monsters threatening to extinguish one’s existence, I decide to find suitable means of transport to get me to the Hotel where I’m gonna put up for the night.
Finally, I get to Harihareshwar, log in at this place called Harihareshwar Beach “Resort” (don’t make the mistake of staying there at INR 2,500/- a night), well after the sun has set, and all I now need is a hot shower, and some real carbs, to take me through to day 2.
Saturday, May 21, 2016 – Day 2
Day 2 of my adventure sees me up around 8.30 am or thereabouts. Now that doesn’t exactly leave me time to get on the beach, or go for a swim or anything other than get my ass in gear, and get on with the plan for day 2. But, as is my wont, I get in a few pictures …. can’t let the public down.
Fortunately, the ride to the jungle jetty at Bagmandla is a mere 4 odd km, and the roads are acceptable….perhaps I’m just used to the road conditions by now 🙂
The ride to Bankot across the water is pretty short, but I had to wait for at least 45 minutes on the jetty, roasting in the sun bearing down on me like its going out of style.
Now, this is where I think I made a wise decision, but I didn’t think so at that time. This is where I decided that if the roads, the killer inclines and the heat are all conspiring against me, perhaps I need to use some self preservation strategies. Namely reroute and get on to the NH network. Question is, can I? Is it too late? How far? How many km am I going to be adding? Valid questions ovot???
There are some pretty helpful truckers at hand on the jetty, and they look at me like I’m pretty daft! Where have you come from? Bombay!!!!???? They were like, you look like you can afford it, take a car dude! Anyhow, I explain to them, that this is my passion, and torturing myself is my favorite pastime, but for some strange reason, they are not buying this explanation. Waeva dude, have bike – will ride, you drive your trucks, no quarrel with you.
So the rerouting happens, and I am now making my way to Mandangad, via the steepest inclines encountered, and perhaps the longest ones on this ride. It can, of course, be my head affected by being in the sun too long, boiled to a crisp.
The roads, not too bad, I would even say really good on some stretches, but this stretch had me questioning of there is a God, he should put me out of my self inflicted misery. As I looked on ahead, all I could see was curve after curve, with no respite in sight, and when I did hit some flat stretches, they were far too short-lived for my liking. Were the truckers just having a go at me (having read the thoughts that ran through my head), and deliberately misled me? Nah! I don’t think so Sumir, why would anyone do that? Would they? Well, let the record reflect that they didn’t. Their advise, not to proceed down the coast and cut over to the NH, was compassion itself, and I’m sorry I doubted them, even fleetingly.
I hit some really fast downslopes and this was encouraging, not to mention that kept me cool, but when the final section ended, and I looked up and saw the snaking route up the hills to Mandangad, my heart sank. I thought I was gonna cop out, and even stopped for 15 odd minutes. I say 15 but it could have been a lot less, as my feet burnt up on touching the terra firme, and the soles of my shoes kinda merged with the molten tar.
This is what went through my head. Sumir, you make a big fuss about doing this trip solo, in this weather, at this time of the day, taking this route. And not only that, you friggin’ went and publicized it! Do you really have a choice, except to go on, or do you want to be called chicken? Fearing for my macho reputation was probably the most motivating factor, albeit via the route of negative discrimination. In the final analysis, I had to do it for myself, reputation be dammed.
And so, I finally made Mandangad, at around 1.30 pm, found this little shop and just sat myself down, rehydrated, recouped, and prepared to get myself to Chiplun via Khed. Sounds simple, afraid it’s not as it sounds. This route boasts of the famous Kasheli ghat, and this is what I am going to contend with, and so I prepare myself mentally. Truth be told, it takes me at least an hour to get back on the road, and finally I’m on my way, the final dash to Chiplun.
This stretch for some reason was not as taxing as I thought it would be, and the climbs though in the extreme category, didn’t daunt me. Fortunately on this stretch it was a case of balance, and what goes up must come down (this law of geography worked in my favor), and I attacked the downslopes with the greatest of zest, made the most of them, and made really good time, arriving into Chiplun around 4.30/5 pm. At Chiplun, well not exactly Chiplun but a few km outside Chiplun at a place called Shri Kshetra – Lote Parshuram, where the famous Parshuram Temple is located.
So the choices on places to stay were pure and simple, The Taj Gateway Riverview Resort @ INR 8000/- a night, versus INR 1,400/night. Price being the driver here, I wasn’t disappointed one bit, in fact delighted. Amraban Nature Resort, located bang next to the plush Resort, is value for money, with friendly owners, friendly staff, and the most delicious homemade thali for dinner, not to mention spacious and clean rooms. Guys, check this place out, really good.
I must ‘fess up that I did grab a quick bite at the plush resort next door, just for old times sake.
Gateway Riverview Resort
Gateway Riverview Resort
Amraban Nature Resort
Amrabah Nature Resort
Ride, Eat, Sleep, Rave (no Rave though), Repeat, and thus I get dinner and crash, but not to miss the video log update.
Sunday, May 22, 2016 – Day 3
Its too early for breakfast, so I’m kindly served nice masala chai at 5:45 am, and before I know it I’m on my way again, but not before cleaning and oiling my chain.
Now this stretch from Amraban into the town of Chiplun is one joyride, an amazing, long downhill stretch, and its the perfect way to start the final leg. Not that it was downhill nor flat all the way. I did encounter the long, long climbs, but I’m off to an early start so the sun wasn’t as vengeful as the last two days. Yet, I’m drenched from head to toe, and I did get a chance to get some amazing lime juice at this random stall at the top of one of the long uphill stretches. At INR 10/glass there was room for 2 glasses, and barely a dent in the old pocket.
This followed an amazing long downhill stretch where I hit 55/60 kph. Superb, is all I can say to this. Of course, the long climbs are ‘awaitin and up up and up we go once more, and around 17 km from Sangameshwar, I just have to stop and get my breath back, do some stretching, as I had been doing all along. Prevents the lactic acids from building, you see, and this is a preventive technique to avoid muscle fatigue and cramps.
This is pretty much the last climb, and en route I get a call from The Faisal, who determines my whereabouts….. I had told him to look out for me between 11 – 12 noon, and I was just a little ahead of schedule. As I approach Sangameshwar, from where The Faisal’s place is around 60 odd km, we talk again, and all Faisal has to do is mention that he will meet me half way, spontaneity kicks in and I gladly say yes. Cheating? Surely yes! But I’m not ashamed. I’ve navigated the worst possible roads, done extra miles, some pretty daunting inclines, and so I’m not disappointed at all.
In hindsight, I should not have succumbed to that offer to be picked up ahead of the target destination, as there were beautiful favorable inclines all along the route.
I plonk myself at this dinky little roadside eatery, drink aerated water to my hearts content, and await the arrival of The Faisal and his merry band, comprising of Khaled, and the kid Mohammad and the little Abu. It is an hours’ wait, and then they arrive, hugging and patting of backs in camaraderie all around as they arrive.
The time spent waiting is not wasted, and is put to use for my final video log, here goes….This one is short, I’m pretty beat by now.
We make a couple of stops for some cold kokum juice, much refreshing, and sorely needed. The pick up party is thoughtful, and as they mount the Trek on the rack, I’m handed a big box of water melon and musk melon, perfect for the road warrior.
The Thakur Homestead
We arrive at The Thakur Homestead at around 2.30 pm, and I’m warmly welcomed with hugs and pats on the back by Majidbhai and Shakeelbhai (Faisal’s older brother – Abu’s father). Majidbhai reminds me that it is exactly one month ago, that he called me from the village, inviting me to visit.
I quickly shower, gobble the lunch served, and nap for an hour or so, and around 4 pm, I’m driven around the town, and to a beautiful vantage point a ways down the road to Kolhapur.
Back to base, tea is served with crumpets, and tidbits and come sundown, things become quiet in the village, and we go to bed pretty early as compared to Bombay.
Its a lazy morning, and the plan is to visit a nearby hill station, but that goes out the window, when I announce that I need to get back to the metrop ASAP, some developments at work, demand my presence.
So we run around a bit, and Khaled, Abubhai, Mohammad and I drive down this really steep incline, to the riverside in the village below. Beautiful, simply beautiful, so tranquil. Plucking and eating wild berries fresh off the trees on the way up, is simply a treat!
Lunch is served, a nap follows and at around 4.30 pm, its time for me to leave. Majidbhai, Khaled and The Faisal drive first to Pali, then to Hathkhamba, and finally to Ratnagiri, to wrangle a cheap ride home.
The Thakur Hospitality
What can I say, except not stop talking about the Thakur hospitality. Majidbhai, epitome of humility, of affection and selflessness, even washed my clothes on the sly! I’m just humbled. I can’t not mention that I was gifted 2 whole crates of mangoes, cashew-nuts, and what not! I wasn’t allowed to lift a finger, treated as an honored guest, and the icing on the cake, is the fact that the entire family abstained from eating any form of meat, fish, chicken, etc in deference to my choice of diet. This completely blew me away, deeply touched, and won over forever.
Thanks in Order
I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the constant flow of messages and calls in support of my quest. Juhi, Kavita, Sandeep, Bhavin, Veer, Rufina, and many others, too numerous to mention. Thanks guys, would be happy to take you guys along at some point in the near future. These are adventures worth embarking on. They surely test you but define you as well.
I’m back at work, back to the grind, and can barely wait to take up my next challenge……Keep you posted.
Its a Sunday afternoon, nice snooze has happened (on account of the Sassy Spoon Breakfast Ride), and methinks, what have I left from this past week’s list of pet projects, that didn’t see light of day, for some reason or another? Mentat kicks in….,I said I would complete the series I am writing on the ride last Sunday. Last Sunday! Late. Better late than never.
Its a Sunday afternoon, nice snooze has happened (on account of the Sassy Spoon Breakfast Ride), and methinks, what have I left from this past week’s list of pet projects, that didn’t see light of day, for some reason or another? Mentat kicks in….,I said I would complete the series I am writing on the ride last Sunday. Last Sunday! Late. Better late than never.
For some reason or the other, I’m always the tail and end up having to do extended sprints to catch up to the spearheading pack, and its no different after the visit to the school at Alibaug.
We had just said our goodbyes to the team that was headed back to Bombay, and 16 of us made our way to Alibaug, for a change this time we do know where we are headed. Alibaug is about 8-10 kms from our pit stop at Awaas. Long story short, I do catch up, and the kids in the group follow my lead and do the sprint with me.
En route we run into Rahul Mulaney, an avid BMX guy and cyclist. Wave each other down, stop the dash, and we shoot the gowans, introduce the kids to the experienced Rahul, and learn that he’s informed Faisal that he’s going to meet us somewhere along the way to Alibaug. He’s staying the weekend with friends, and rode out to meet us.
Now our illustrious Faisal of Pro 9 fame, has this penchant to stop en route and partake in delicacies the road has to offer, and so we wait for about 20 odd minutes, for the rest to catch up. Where were they? Sipping some cold sugarcane juice, whereas we are on this sprint. Much needed, I say, its around 10.30/11 AM and the sun is beating down hard, AND its summertime! We had to skip.
Rahul suggests, that the beach at Alibaug is crowded, and instead we consent to ride down to Varsoli beach, and we are on our way down the 2-4 km stretch to Varsoli. We hit Varsoli a few minutes later, via a meandering road. Not much to see, just another beach, but there is something about being near the water, that is always soothing. Besides the shore is covered in shade from the tall trees.
Destination Alibaug is still on the cards, and so when someone tells us that there is a shaded path all the way from Varsoli to Alibaug, we buy in (read – get conned), and after a short break, head down the path. Rahul has to get back to his friends, and so he heads off to. A very short ride later, we discover the con. The path meanders back to one of the roads leading to the main Alibaug beach. So much for shortcut in the shade. Indeed! Still working out the kinks in WordPress, You Tube videws don’t embed, and I’m not even using the free service! So I had to provide a hyperlink to my Youtube channel. Hey, I’m not publicizing anything, it all WordPress.
See, we are all city folk, and any old ride out of the metrop, holds promise, and so we bitch and moan about the heat and such interesting stuff, but always yearn for that getaway. This was just another one of them.
Alibaug beach is well very Alibaug, and like most other beaches in India, dirty, crowded, and so when the Delhiwalli (Vamini), said that this was a big let down, I wasn’t surprised. I was so tempted to say, well, if we had done the ride to Kashid, you would have seen a much cleaner beach, and none of this Alibaug disappointment would have happened. I desist, I’m over it. More on the Delhiwallaha’s a bit later. Ought to be a law, when Delhiwallaha’s come to Bombay, don’t compare Bombay to Delhi.
We ride up and down the beach and finally figure there isn’t a spot to hang out, and finally we figure out a Hotel about 2 km out from the bus stand. That’s where we head, it has a pool, which we finally never got to use, but find a place to rest and chill, we did.
Rested, food intake, plenty to drink (mostly soft), no pool. Something about the management asking us to book three rooms for a couple of hours @ INR 4500. We are cyclists, ain’t no suckers. Give it a miss. Settle monies owed, mostly to Sandeep who has bankrolled us until this point.
Last ferry back to Bombay from Mandwa is at 6, so we decide to head out at about 3ish. Its blistering hot. We break into three groups, the first are the boys and me, Veer, Vivaan, James, one other kid whose name slips my mind.
The kids do us proud, especially Veer who leads all the way at a cracking pace, followed by James and self, taking turns at pipping each other in pursuit of Veer. Finally, the last leg is uphill, coming up to the jetty. Veer finishes strongly, I follow and then James. Rest come in, all accounted for, and we assemble and have time to kill till the ferry.
Then we have discovery, some new establishments have opened up on the jetty, and Sandeep suggests that we all go there. Fantastic place, great view, more refreshments (mostly soft), and then The Faisal comes and rushes us, no reservations, so we have to stand in line, else we miss the ferry, and will end up waiting for another hour before we can leave.
Of course, more photographs …. photos are an absolute must.
These Deli peoples have to be dealt with. Making all sorts of comments about how the Bombay peoples are all flash and post rides that show up at an average speed of 17 kmph! Ouch!!! True, but Ouch!!! That really hurts. I say cancel their passports to be in Bombay, pack them off! Heh heh. But on a serious note, I totally get what they were on about. Riding in the precincts of Delhi is great, less traffic in the morning, super roads, good speeds are just so much more possible. This establishment on the jetty was a saving grace, as is the hospitality, enthusiasm, and warmth of the Bombay riders. Vamini, Anchit, will ride with you guys anytime, anyplace, Bombay – Delhi hardly matters.
Faisal works his magic and gets us onto the ferries with minimal waiting. We have to split up into two groups, but we all get on within minutes of each other, and we head back.
The water is choppy now, and the boats a’rocking. The journey takes over an hour instead of the 45 minutes it should take, and we are back where we started off from, good ole “Aamchi Mumbai”. Dammn, I said it, Mumbai.
Some take the train, some ride, we all split up, back to our grind, Monday morning the next day, back to work. But, not before Veer, James, Faisal and I manage that one last sprint from Gateway to Bandra, Juhu and Kalina. That was an awesome ride, ripping through traffic, in tight formation, totally focussed and disciplined riders.
Great company, great teamwork, super riders, great cause, can hardly wait for the next one! Kudos to all. Thanks guys and girls, you are all super. Viva La Fraternity of Cyclists, what a fantastic bond.
Sunday May 8 2016 turned out to be a ride, albeit with a difference. Started off disappointed that we were not riding the promised distance. Grudgingly showed up, got over the disappointed mood when together with the pack, and then there was no looking back.
Last week Faisal posted a ride that promised to be a challenging one. Now I’m all for challenges and the promised bicycle ride to Kashid, ahead of Alibaug did fall in the challenging category. No so much for the distance, but due to the fact that I did intend riding back despite the heat, being summer and all. If wisher were horses, beggars would ride, Right?
All set and gung ho I was, when I saw the FB update…. RIDE CUT SHORT and now it’s just Alibaug! Man oh man was I pissed! WTF! Headed over to Faisal’s at Pro9, and cribbed like mad.
Didn’t Rufina call you, goes Faisal? Well The said Rufina (my dear dear friend Rufina) had called earlier in the afternoon, and I suspect ’cause she know that I would be upset. She explained why, and the like, and being a gentleman (noblesse oblige you see), could not vent at her, therefore, The Faisal go it, double barrel, right between the eyes. Clearly I hadn’t heard a word Rufina had said.
Now that wasn’t enough either, so I go and post on FB….DISAPPOINTED, changing plans last minute is just not done, I’m opting out, popular vote of the rest of the riders be dammed.
Anyhow, I finally eat humble pie, and decide to go. Ah mean, popular opinion, and I’M not consulted. How dare!!!
So I wake up late (as usual), and tell The Faisal, that the others should ride on ahead and I will catch up at the Gateway Jetty at 6 am. Ride like a madman I did (full shortcut, aka cheating), reminiscing that last year I was also late, and ended up taking the ferry, 45 minutes later! Then having to ride like my tail’s on fire to catch up the the larger group. Don’t be late Sumir, you’re pushing the wrong side of 50, the old ticker isn’t as strongly a’ticking as it used to.
So we all assemble and get onto the boat, slippery steps and all, and load ourselves and our bikes onto the ferry.
By now the mood is just fine, given that I’m with the cycling buddies, and we are all fun and laughter on the upper deck.
The departure from the harbor early AM, leaving the hustling and bustling metrop is always breathtaking. Ships awaiting berth at the outer anchorage, offshore supply vessels, drilling rigs, fishing boats, leisure craft, the rising sun, clouds, all contribute to the feeling that yes, we are headed out on some adventurous getaway.
5 / 6
Chai, great company, excitement, scenery, just chilling on the upper deck is just a fantastic combination to lift the spirits and wish this could be the life day in and day out. That’s my dream by the way, to divest this year or the next, stop working on a daily basis. Just turn consultant, and follow my passion, cycling across India and maybe around the world.
One final inspection to check if we are headed in the right direction and all’s well as we approach the Mandwa Jetty across the sea.
Offload the bikes, climb the rather steep and slippery gangway, and we are good to commence our ride, but not before we take a few pictures of the pack, some who make dire threats, lest the are left out of the photo ops.
The piece d’resistance is the photograph of the group, all colors and hues. Yes we cyclists like to look good and put on a show. We are the brand ambassadors you see.
From this point on the pack sprinted to a destination known only to Rufina, at whose behest the plan was somewhat changed. Until this point I wasn’t really prepared for what we were about to witness, and therefore, hand on heart I must admit, that the longing for the longish ride resurfaced. Dammnnn, only to Alibaug? Groan…………………………………
What follows next is worthy of independent mention, and therefore my dear audience, I must say, you will have to await Part 2, of this report.
It’s the Diwali Holidays see, and take advantage of things going well at work, and a bit of a lull to take an additional couple of days off. Well it started off with a Friday off, then extended to Friday and Monday, and then became a whole week off thing.
Had no clue what I was going to actually do, but get in some Cycling was always at the back of my mind. Am not in peak condition, so even though the intent was to do some silly long distance riding, I kinda thought that it would fizzle out.
Was A Bit IFFY But It Worked Out. Partially That Is
Why? I know I would get grief if I headed out during Diwali and the festivities around it, Dhanteras, Laxmi Puja, Bhaubeej, etc. So I sort of just mentioned that I may go away riding for a few days, and even though the kids know I am prone to do some crazy stuff, I think my folks wished that some sort of sanity would prevail. Whereas they have no objections to my riding (well they didn’t back then), they have never been able to get what I get out of pushing myself mentally and physically beyond all reasonable limits. So sorry Faizal, I will not yield, at least not yet.
WHY SWITCH to A ROADIE!!!!!!
Back in the day I was known in the circles as a bit of a “hard-core” type, since I ride hard and fast, and simply refuse to move away from my Iron Horse – Warrior Pro to anything else. Road Bike? No. Hybrid? No. I’ve been told its time to graduate, but, hey I love the feel of an all steel heavy bike, wide tires, and I say, I get a harder workout in a much shorter span of time, so why upset the apple cart?
Sorry, I was rambling wasn’t I? Ok, ok. Dragging myself back to the topic for today’s blog, The Ride to Janjira and back.
I did ride finally, but the objective to ride all the way to Srivardhan and back, turned out to be a damp squib, for several reasons. For one, my dear mother, gave me grief, my dad laughed like I was a bit daft, and then da mudder asked the question “What will I do at home”? She goes, stay home and take care of your old parents. Couldn’t argue much with that on the phone, so abandoned plans and just did the Janjira bit. The other practical reasons why Srivardhan and Harihareshwar didn’t happen, is that it was really hot, the roads were totally broken for long stretches, so whatever riding I did, posed a direct threat to the Crown Jewels.
Stop Off At Alibaug
So if left home (Bandra) at about 3 PM on Wednesday, Nov 6 2013, had my customary start-up coffee at Gloria Jeans, and finally left for Gateway at 3.45 , arrived in time to catch the 17.30 ferry across to Mandawa. I wanted to ride to Janjira or at the very least Revdanda, the same day, but as I realized, it was pitch black when I landed at Mandawa Jetty, and had to ride to Alibaug under well, not ideal conditions. Reached Alibaug at about 19.30 and spent about an hour and a half finding a reasonably priced Hotel to stay.
Let’s make a long story short, I now know every street in Alibaug. Stayed at Ravikiran, who gave me a hefty discount for the overnight stay, with my plea of, “Me phakat ratri jhopnar, ani sakali breakfast pan nahi ghenar (hey, I’m just gonna sleep the night, and will leave well before breakfast)”. Downed a bottle of beer, several poppadams, and a nice dinner, and thought I’d sleep like a log and wake up all fresh and head out by 6 AM on the 7th. Sleep didn’t happen until 4 am as my second wind had kicked in after riding about 40+ km.
Awful Sambhar For Breakfast
So I woke up at 7 AM got breakfast of some godawful sambhar, idly and vadas. Well the vadas were to die for, and so were the idlys, but best I not say much about the sambhar. I’m somewhat of a purist when it comes to food, and sambhar with garlic, and some silly stuff in it doesn’t exactly do it for me. But when you are on the road anything goes right
Crown Jewels Under Threat
So I’m now headed down the road and after a steady start, hit the broken concrete hard. Hoping beyond hope that this will end sometime soon, I was only to be disappointed. The only good thing is the ride on the Iron Horse – Warrior Pro, with its really rugged frame, dual suspension, modified crank and new hubs, and of course the fact that I was leaving the crawling traffic behind. Courtsy Faizal (The Chief of Pro9 fame), and this is not advert, he’s good.
Revdanda – Murud – Janjira – Damp Squib
I took the right to Revdanda and was soon at the far end of the beach. It was really fantastic, barely a soul so I had the beach all to myself. The big disappointment was the filth people had left behind at the beach, spoiling a pristine stretch of beach.
Dismounted, found a few benches and stopped for some Gatorade which I’d frozen in the freezer the night before. Well I couldn’t hang around for as long as I’d like so took some pictures and moved on. The 36 km from Revdanda to Murud wasn’t exactly a cakewalk at that time of the day, with the sun beating down overhead.
6 / 18
We aren’t forgetting the “stay home with the old parents” bit now are we? So regretfully, barely had I touched Janjira after taking the ferry to the other side, I had to make my way back, instead of making the big push to Srivardhan at least if not Harihareshwar.
A Story of Heat, Missed Turns And a LONG Ride Back Home. The ride back was the stuff to speak of not so much the ride to Janjira which was, well, a piece o cake.
Truth be told, I really had barely any recollection of the ride from Mandawa to Alibaug, being focused on riding in pitch darkness, save my headlamp. So no wonder that I had not noticed that there is this very long, gradual, but VERY LONG uphill before you hit the down-slope into Mandawa. I even almost gave it up and dismounted, but I knew that it would be not so wise, so I plodded on and on. What goes up must come down at some point right?
FINALLY I hit the down-slope, and coasted for several minutes and the second wind hit me, and by now I was at a steady clip. So steady in fact, that I overshot past the turn to Mandawa, and not by a mile by 18 KM. Succour came in the form of a stall selling cold solkadi, and then a gannawalla, and I generously partook.
So when I figured that I’m not just 17 KM off the turnoff, but from the backtracking, I would need to add another 22 KM to reach Mandawa, I had to weigh the balance between riding back or moving ahead. No I did say I’m a diehard didn’t I? I asked for it and moved ahead.
Ride Hard – Ride Fast
From the point at which I’d stopped, to Wadkal Naka was a mere 5 KM or so, and from there to take the Pen-Panvel bypass to Kolva to Sea Woods Estate was no mean feat! Then once I hit Vashi, the traffic deterred my swift movement, and after getting incessantly ensnared at Chembur decided to backtrack to Vikhroli – LBS – BKC and then finally Bandra.
The customary end to any ride as with the beginning is a cold coffee at Gloria Jeans, where I catch my breath and then head home, as so that is what I did.
Srivardhan – Harihareshwar WILL Happen
Very sore, very tired, don’t know when but happen it will, and ain’t going to give in to any “requests (read emotional blackmail from da mudder)” this time around.