Deep Inside Kokan – A cycling journey to explore, unexplored Konkan

Deep inside Konkan – A 700+ kms of cycling on Konkan’s Coastal route, a stretch of India’s maximum number of virgin beaches and very few touristy spots which is  a heaven for an explorer who looks beyond explored. From Mumbai or any mega city, everyone flock Goa for beach vacation and ignores the long stretch of 700 + kms full of virgin beaches in Konkan except few tourist spots. Even after many governments came in power, none thought of developing this stretch to it’s capacity.  Out of all rides i did on bike or cycle all over India, ride on this road is very close to my heart.  beautiful, but rough roads are always not away from coast or never leave beaches for more than 14/15 kms at any point. There are ferries to cross creeks and rivers. When I did this route in 1998 on cycle, the roads were far away from existence, so I decided to explore once more and was surprised after 23 years, roads were kind of improved a lot with few bridges to replace ferries at certain points. Almost entire stretch has less traffic and always sheltered by coconut or mango tree cover with many villages on the way where you can stop and taste the local authentic food or drink. One caution to drive or ride slow as you might face sudden road block by cattle roaming freely on road. We were on cycle, so be safe from speeding.          

Epilogue: A flight of Phoenix to revive… 

When I look back at my life a little more than a year ago, I never imagined this is where I would have reached today. What a year it had been….and yet this is just the start of my second innings.

I was living a regular life, certainly enviable for others but nothing extraordinary to me. Weekdays to keep me occupied between trekking weekends which were my mainstay. And then an unfortunate event changed my life drastically and thought life would never be the same again.

My Doctor had warned me about the dangers of walking on an unknown terrains and getting injured again, but little did he knew that my stronghold was mountains, my solitary lifestyle and my baby, Simba. And inspired by our club’s motto ‘One step at a time’ I started my second innings.

To get back to my independent lifestyle was the first priority… Going back to my beloved mountains was a close and necessary second! I was resurrected with the help and support of my mountaineering group, I started again.

In 2014-15, we explored new mountains and with every trek, we raised the bar – for me and for everyone. Thus with a little difficulty, a lot of support and much more of stubbornness I had achieved my first step in rehabilitation.

Soon it was time for the next step – Riding. My beloved mistresses, Royal Enfields to my first love of mountains. For over 7 years now, I had explored a different Indian states each year on my Royal Enfields. But the incident made motorbike rides too much of a risk to others as well as me. So I sold of one of my dream machines, but was I out of action? Never.

The roads were beckoning and I have never been able to refuse them. So I substituted the bikes with a hobby from my younger years – Cycling. Of course, many questions popped up. Was I fit enough to cover long distances? Would my physical condition support my will and my dream? And would my stubbornness be good enough to sail through this difficult journey?

Only I could provide the answers. I had to re-build myself to face this herculean task. It started with choosing the right equipment, not only to support the medical condition but also to support my age (I’m not as young as I look ;)). Discussions with friends who follow the sport led me to the right machine and guide – the Hybrid cycle, a crossover between MTB and road bike and owner of one dealership gave me the priceless advice of ‘patience’. The man not only sells bikes, but also helps enthusiasts like me to work towards their goals. Jose from Haybren Adventures, Hiranandani Meadows,Thane suggested a model which wasn’t available in India, but was going to be launched. A perfect for a tourer, made for Indian roads. The wait was killing. Finally after a month’s delay the bike was delivered in India… Scott X 45. Never thought I would invest so much in a cycle, but one cannot value passion in terms of money.

Riding alone from the dealer’s shop to home was a big task. My first taste of cycling after ages – 15 years, to be precise. Managed that well. And then slowly the re-building for a long ride started, weekend after weekend. From 20 kms a day, it went to 120 kms on one weekend. From highway to crowded city roads, where everyone pops up from all directions. So the practice was shaping well.

But it wasn’t without other hurdles. Eventually, two plans were canned due to family emergencies. Finally I decided on a date that coincided with the office picnic to Goa. My initial plan was to start early and cycle to Goa in time for the picnic. Work pressure delayed the plan so I decided to do the return journey on cycle.

As they say – delays are sometimes blessings in disguise. I had a lovely surprise in store for me! Rajaram, a friend from the mountaineering club had been preparing himself secretly for this ride. That sealed the deal for me – the ride would happen!

Meanwhile Manasi, Rajaram’s wife put a ‘*conditions apply’ on our plans – That both of us would go through medical tests and get a medical clearance for the ride. It was a slight damper on my enthusiasm, but she was right and besides I was not about to risk trouble with her and others had the similar opinion. The doctor’s visit went of well and now we had an all clear to take off!

The dates of the ride were finally decided – 3rd week of March 2015.

While all this was on, I had been doing what I love to do before almost all my rides – stitching my personalised saddle bag. I love to customize these to my taste and convenience. The saddle bag and pannier took over a month to finish but gave me immense satisfaction. It had all the fittings required for long ride – a space for my clothes, footwear, toiletries and required spares and what not. The finishing was somewhat crude, but gave me more pride than a readymade could have. Also first time I was also carrying my new gizmo – GoPro action video camera. I love to get clicked but have very limited or no eye for photography, but decided to capture few moments.

Sun rose to bless for start of new journey 

Travel to Goa
Transporting my precious cycle to Goa was a complicated and arduous task. I no longer trust professional bulk carriers since they damaged my motorbike on a previous ride from Guwahati to Mumbai. I finally decided to take the train with my cycle carted in the luggage compartment. And learnt a very valuable lesson – I should have let the experts do their job. I couldn’t fit one wheel in the carton. The result was to carry one more additional luggage i.e. wheel, besides my saddle bag and one small bag.

The luggage booking service was quite prompt, but decided to wait along with box at the railway platform for 2 hours. No one would have given company or guarded his woman with more care, than I guarded my bike that night. And I still kept my fingers crossed till I saw the box getting unloaded at Madgaon station.

Holi relations in Goa

It was one the time of the biggest festival in Konkan belt. Goa was evidently part of Konkan. Could see the revelations all around the road in Goa.

At the Scott dealership…

Oops… wasn’t expecting this hurdle coming in my way and had some uneasy thoughts on whether this ride was jinxed? The wheel which I had packed in the box had a bent axle nut. But after hearing my plan to ride back to Mumbai, the technician at the Scotts dealership did everything he could to put the bike together and it survived just fine till I reached Mumbai.

It’s Goa time!

A lazy evening at the beach in Goa

 I had heard about the terrible driving sense of tourists in Goa and the next task was the hotel, where I was supposed to chill for the next two days. Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, but I still ended up riding an extra 10 kms cos no one knew the hotel. to pass that hurdle and reach. For the first time, an office party passe in an auto mode. The road was beckoning to start the ride!

Day 1: March14, 2015, Saturday
Start of the new chapter in life..
Proposed destination: Malvan
Route: Madgaon – Panjim – Mapusa – Sawantwadi – Kudal – Pinguli – Malvan or  Madgaon – Panjim – Mapusa – Shiroda – Vengurla – Devbag – malvan

The killing wait was finally over and the dawn brought it’s excitement of riding on familiar terrain and my favourite route in India. I had everything packed up the previous night and with Atul, my roomie bid adieu to me early morning after a long previous night’s office party.

On the road: 

 My plan was to travel alone on first day, but I was in two minds           about the route – whether to hit the coastal route right from Goa or touch coastal route after crossing Malwan.
 Chose the latter option. The coastal route in Goa passes through   Terekhol – Shiroda – vengurla – Devbaag and Malvan. The route had  lot of uphill slopes which would have slowed me down on day 1   itself. Finding a road leading towards NH 17, manoeuvring through   the small by-lanes of Madgaon and heading towards Panjim was like   finding my way out of a maze. I realised that early morning Goan riders were not as laid back as advertised and very helpful. I touched   NH 17 at a very interesting junction where the colourful decorations of ‘Shimga’ (Holi) festival were still visible.

  From there, the ride up to Mapusa via Panjim was fairly peaceful. I had my   first breakfast on the ride at a restaurant called ‘Kolhapuri Tadka’ – and the spread gave me an indication of what to expect for the next few days. Though being a Maharashtrian, I have never been able to develop a liking for the famous missal pav and Kande Pohe. Note to self – Try and avoid     these two breakfast staple diets as diligently as I would avoid rash drivers!

Scott on the road

The road was surprisingly nice and smooth, but it’s a two lane highway which means a cyclist is an ant in front of luxury buses, container trucks, dumpers, tourist vehicles and private cars. The extreme left edge of road was my invisible boundary. But that wasn’t enough too, because if someone wanted to overtake from the opposite side I would have to get off the road. In first 30 odd kms itself, I encountered a couple of tourist vehicles who were in great hurry to start their vacation and butted me out of my lane. I had no option but to take a detour to the Coastal highway which is not as smooth but definitely less populated.

After few enquires, some cops showed me the route which joins the Coastal highway in Maharashtra to Malwan via Shiroda – Vengurla. At one point, before Sawantwadi, the distance shown till Malwan was 49 kms! The road was rough. I was worried about the cycle since I hadn’t tested it so far on this kind of terrain in my trial runs. But the distance on the milestone could be covered in 3 hours which was well before dark. Decided to push my luck a bit more. After reaching Sawantwadi at about 3, at one of the numerous halts of replenishing myself with kokam sherbet or Nimbu paani, one fact came in light – the 4 lane section of the Mumbai – Goa highway was just a few kms away where it touches Sawantwadi town. That was a good news. To achieve my target of reaching Malwan, I would have to improvise again and resumed on NH 17 till Kudal. It was a wise decision. I cruised on the four lane for next 30 odd kms. With a divider, it was a blessing. No incoming vehicles. Covered the distance quickly and took a left at Pinguli as directed by Raja. So far so good. I was in touching distance of Malwan with just 25 odd kms to go. I was in a cheerful mood and uploaded my whereabouts in my mountaineering group and Bullet group and informed Atul, too. I followed this practice throughout the ride as these are my well-wishers who could be worried on my disappearance from the grid.  Along with this practice, followed one more ritual religiously which was hydrating myself well as per my doctor’s advice due to hot and sultry weather. At least 5/6 liters of liquid per day.  

Then came the tough news – My joy of the good road lived for short term. My next challenge was to finish the next 10 kms in an hour. The road was narrow and both lights – cycle as well as head torch were dimming. I had forgotten to change or carry spare batteries. In addition to that, I had to deal with road obstruction due to the new airport construction, umpteen slopes and what not! The first day had been truly testing and I think, I passed with flying colours without scratches. A little before Dhamapur at Chowkya, Raja and his cousin picked me up with Raja taking over on my ride for last 8/9 kms. Thus ended my first day of riding with approximately 145 kms of riding. I limped off to bed having remembered old lessons and learned new ones on visual adjustment and traffic understanding and it also rebuilt a large chunk of my self-confidence.

Day 2: March15, 2015, Sunday
Closer to roots!
Proposed destination: Pawas
Route: Malwan –Achra –Devgad – Vijaydurg – Nate – Pawas 

Raja and my plan on day two was to start 6, I still needed to sleep off the fatigue from Day 1. Fortunately and to my surprise, there were no cramps or leg pain. The ritual of hydrating well and cycling practice in Mumbai paid off well.
On day two, we were to cover the most distance in all days with a riding time of about 15-16 hours but the roads were supposed to be smoother without too many slopes. So the target was difficult but achievable. The trick was to cover the max distance before noon, then ride from late afternoon to late evening. In these hours, one could easily cover 130 plus kms with few uphill slopes.


One long stretch

As expected, the first hour was superfast. Me with yesterday’s experience and Raja with fresh limbs, were peddling with a speed that would probably take us straight to Mumbai. Our breakfast halt was near a school. And off course the cycles attracted a bunch of school kids. Wanting to finish our breakfast in peace, we tried to keep our distance but we couldn’t resist their simple charm. And as we started responding to their broken English in Marathi, they lost their inhibitions because they thought, we are some crazy foreigners. Their questions were unlimited and unstoppable – about breaks, gears, shock absorbers and so on. Few of the kids had declared themselves guardians and wouldn’t let anyone touch our cycles.

Borrowing on the kids’ infectious energy, we started our post breakfast leg with same zeal as the morning ride. On the way Raja made a surprise stop – a temple. Not so odd in this country of a million or more Gods, but Raja and I have always avoided temples in our past rides. We firmly believe that we do not need to go chasing after God in a specific place. There is always an Almighty guarding us.

But this place was something else. Nestled in thick tree covered, though next to a road but peaceful with just couple of people sitting inside. This place was worth visiting. Raja mentioned about coming here in his school and college days and it hadn’t changed till date. When asked for potable water, they pointed us towards a floor below main temple. A hidden fountain and small pond to wash our feet and another Gomukh for potable water. There were a few fish in the pond and dipping our feet in that pond gave us such a refreshing feel which was unparalleled to any spa treatment. Pretty soon, we had small fishes nibbling on our feet looking for food. It was definitely worth an underwater shoot by GoPro.

The surrounding was so peaceful. Definitely a place for meditation for hours without any disturbance, but that was for another day and another ride. Today, we had miles to go yet. The next target was to reach Devgad via Achra or nearby place for lunch.

We were also considering paying a visit to Vijaydurg fort. On a previous motorbike ride I had spotted Dolphins in sea behind Vijaydurg. But the detour was almost 35/40 kms and for cyclists that meant 2/3 hours – this plan too had was parked aside for another trip.

Devgad – a place known for the finest Alphonso mangoes. As a child who has grown up on the Ratnagiri Alphonsos from my native place, I was looking forward to tasting this indisputable king of all fruits! But what a disappointment, even at its roots of origin, the king was sold at the same cost of trip! We were left with no choice but to move on for lunch. The funny part was that, we accidentally choose a fully grown Mango tree for our siesta. As the saying goes – ‘jise dhunda gali gali wo nikala meri gali’. But unseasonal rains in February had rendered the tree bare of fruit or blossom much like the overall crop. This explained the super steep price of the fruit. No Aam for Aam Aadmi this year.

Siesta done, the next target was crying out to us. We were riding at a good speed, but would have to push hard to reach Pawas. If not, the back-up plan was to take an interim stop at Adivare which was about 60 plus kms and we knew of a temple’s Dharamshala where we had taken a night halt during an earlier ride.

On the way we passed Jaitapur, a discreet village, now prominent on the country’s map due to a tussle between government and locals over Atomic Power Plant. The classic struggle of a country moving from an agriculture base to industry base. The dilemma between a few losing their livelihood for the greater good. BJP government’s Land bill is targeted towards solving this issue.

We chatted up a few people and found out the difference between published and ground reality is. The government had already given appropriate compensation, but the sudden inflow of cash baffled poor farmers and they ended up splurging on luxuries like cars and bungalows. It clearly lacked vision of investing this compensation for their futures. And then you throw in dirty politics where locals are incited to protest so that parties can win and make more under the table money.The best thing about cycling or biking is, you collect stories on the way and then become a story teller in future which you can’t while zooming past villages.

Our pace kept up and we were able to cross Adivare by dusk and crossed the 30 kms to Pawas by late evening. Pawas is famous as the base of Swami Swarupanand a spiritual leader who influenced an entire generation of Maharashtrians and bought them together to his chant of `Om Ram Krishna Hari`. Pawas is now considered as one of the most important holy places in Konkan Region with a temple constructed near his Samadhi by his devotees. He is the local equivalent of Satya Sai Baba of Shirdi. My take on the whole affair is that these good men start out with pure intentions but their followers fall wayward from their actual teachings and use their legacy to generate money and create an empire out of it.

A relief to legs – ferry to cross

 Surprisingly on a Sunday night in the off season almost all lodges were full. Finally an old man took       pity on us and allotted a big enough to accommodate both of us along with our cycles. We had been   following this practice on the tour for obvious reasons. Didn’t want curious or frisky locals tampering with our only mode of transport or even worse!

  Finding a place to eat was another task due to the time. At 10pm, we were very late by their standards. Finally our obviously non local look, got us an opening (See the bald tattooed look has its pluses!).

  Daane daane pe likha hai khaanewale ka naam’ – a small eatery served a sumptuous meal of fish thali. And thus day came to end our day of hard peddling with a few disappointments but a lot was achieved in all.

From here, we were sure of our daily target would be relatively easy which was 100 kms per day. 


Day 3: March 16, 2015, Monday

Dream road…
Proposed destination: Hedvi
Route: Pawas – Ratnagiri – Aarey- Warey Road – Ganpatipule – Jaigad – Narvan – Hedvi.

I had titled day 2 ‘Closer to roots’ because my native place, Phansop was very close to Pawas. This is the point where the road actually starts earning my given title of the ‘DREAM ROUTE’ – Pristine unpopulated beaches, delicious seafood, crossing creeks on ferries and barges and the generous hospitality of the Konkani Manus; I was looking forward to it all!

We started the day at 6am and apart from a few school kids, not many people around, we had clear roads. Immediately after Pawas, comes a region peppered with lot of slopes and we had decided not to ride all of them since it would have only tired us faster. From that point, the road runs straight and smooths up to Ratnagiri. Along the way, we had bypassed my native place Phansop, but since I had no one but nostalgia awaiting for me there, we gave it a miss. Bittersweet isn’t it – but that’s what I love about travels.

Many of the umpteenth number of empty beaches

From here on the sea was our constant companion all the way, almost up to Mumbai. We took a break in the village of Bhatye, a little before Ratnagiri. It’s a beautiful village known for its Coconut Research Centre of Agricultural University of Konkan. It was also our first beach in the last 3 days. Tempted by the sea, Raja decided to take a dip. I opted for a lazy nap in one of the restaurants.
We entered Ratnagiri city at its peak hour, and having found a restaurant easily, I was pleasantly surprised to find options other than the dreaded ‘Misal’ for breakfast.
This was the point, from where we headed towards a stretch of road called ‘Aarey Warey Road’ which leads to Ganapatipule. The road has hillly region on one side and the Arabian sea on the other, looks like something straight out of a movie sequence…although those are usually shot aboard! The stretch starts with a creek bridge and we were compelled to make several photography breaks along the way. All those rough patches and umpteen Ratnagiri slopes had only made reaching this lovely stretch only that much more appealing.

On a call to find shortcuts

Ganapatipule
I love the approach road to Ganapatipule village; it never fail to dazzle me each time I travel there. You go down an unassuming hillock and suddenly there you are – A vast expanse of sea. This place has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, but being a weekday, we were saved from the crowd.

I have visited this place several times since it’s very close to my mom’s native place. And I used to love the original small and old temple which was built in Konkani style, but when they rebuilt and made it big, like any other commercially run temple, I lost interest in visiting. The temple lost its old charm, but I guess everyone has to go through a change, even Gods are no exception. The 400 year old Ganpati idol at Ganpatipule is said to have sprung up from the soil. This deity faces the West, so as to guard the western gates, unlike deities in other Indian temples who face the east. The temple is at the base of a hill, and pilgrims walk around (pradakshina) the hill as a mark of faith.

As per our own ritual, we skipped visiting this temple like we had done with others and started hunting for lunch. Our next stop was to be Jaigad which was 20kms away with limited chances of a decent eating joint. Again a sumptuous meal of fish fry and bhakri was enough for us to go for our afternoon siesta. Today the distance was lesser in comparison to earlier 2 days, so we had time at our hand (Actually only Raja had time – his wristwatch ;)).  Pretty soon we were at Jaigad and then onto our first barge to crossing over a creek. The ease of this passing made me realise unlike the Ganapatiphule temple, this was a welcome evolution. My last river crossing in 1988 had been crazy with a tiny little boat bobbing wildly on the big waves.

Did you know, that you can actually spot Dolphins in nearby sea behind Jaigad just like at Vijaydurg! Vijaydurg falls to the North and Jaigad to the South and these forts were constructed by the Marathas to protect the creek from both ends. The fortifications are still in strong and sound condition.

On the other side of the river was Palshet, a place that I remember for the generosity of the family that hosted us during my last trip despite already having a large number of other guests.
This time, we rushed to the next village, Hedvi and easily found a place in its only lodge. We dropped our luggage at village’s one and only lodge and ran to the beach at Hedvi for a quick dip.

Hedvi a small hamlet in the Ratnagiri district is known more for its Dashabhuja Lakshmi Ganesh temple than as a tourist destination for its beach. The beautiful temple is built atop a small hillock and is believed to be from the Peshwa regime. The idol of the deity here has 10 hands instead of the usual 4, hence the name Dasha bhuja Ganpati!

Bamanghal, Hedvi

About a kilometer from the temple are the rocky shores of Hedvi. The black sand beach unlike the beaches on its either sides is a rocky stretch exactly like Harihareshwar sea shore. The rocky shores of Hedvi shelter a rare natural phenomenon where continuous gradation of the rocks by the sea has created a gap in the black rock patch about 20 feet deep and 1-2 feet wide. It is called The Bramanghal. The sea water surges in and a column of water rises through this gorge above the rocks up to 20-30ft in high tides!

The evening at the lodge was spent chatting with the owner, whose father had opened ‘Prakash Lunch Home’ which is famous for authentic veg Maharashtrian snacks in Dadar and Girgaum way back in 60’s.

More than half of the journey was over. Now Mumbai was calling.


Day 4: March 17, 2015, tuesday

Chilled out day
Proposed destination: Eihter Dapoli or Karde
Route: Hedvi – Palshet – Guhagar – Veldur – Dabhol – Dapoli – Karde
   

With only 66 kms to cover, we didn’t have any ambitious targets for today. Or that’s what we thought!

After 3 days of cycling, we had realized that all these kilometers were just the numbers, which look big when you plan, but as soon as you hit the road all these are easy to cover. Crossed Guhagar town as quickly as possible. The aim was to reach Dabhol for lunch. But we hadn’t considered the road conditions while planning this portion. There were plenty of hills to cross. It was almost as if the engineers had decided to give drivers something challenging to cut the boredom of the straight roads so far. For cyclists like us however, this was no joke. Also, we were no longer in sight of the sea so things started to get boring. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere, we came upon a 21’ statue of Lord Parshuram standing on a huge globe about 40’ in diameter. Parshuram,  a reincarnation of Vishnu is believed to be a creator or Konkan. The place was Burondi. And inside the sphere was a meditation hall. Suddenly, the boring landscape had so much more character.

After this point, our road led us back to the Arabian sea at a shore called ‘Tamas Tirth’ from top. Here, the sea water turns Red in colour and with a little luck, one experiences a fully red sunset. We were not so lucky, but the view was still magnificent. The road passes by this sea shore after a long downhill slope.

From here, we rode on to Veldur and from there to cross Vashishti river and reach Dabhol for lunch. In our entire journey, we had been very lucky in finding ferry’s and barges at the right time. Another thing we had noticed was that whenever we had sighted the Bhardwaj bird in the morning (supposed to be a sign of good luck) either our peddling was less stressful or we had found good food joints and lots of help from locals.

None on the beach, as if we owned the beach

Dabhol is a small seaport. In the 15th and 16th centuries, then known as Dabul it was a rich Muslim trade center, first under the Bahmani and later under the Adilshahi sultans of Bijapur. As the port with most convenient access to the Bahmani sultanate’s capital at Bidar, Dabul’s fortunes ascended quickly with that dynasty. At its height, it was arguably the most important port link between Chaul near Alibaug and Goa.

After fueling ourselves with a local thali meal, we got directions to the nearest cyclist friendly route to Karde our destination for the night halt. On the way we passed a Masjid that is said to be built by Aurangzeb’s mother in gratitude of her safe passage through a rough sea storm. It’s a must see place.We reached Ladghar, one more popular but clean beach frequented by tourists from Mumbai and Pune. We were directed by locals to walk on the beach in order to reach Karde faster and easier. We found a nice rocky patch to shoot some pics and videos which turned out fantastic in Raja’s video or rather he used them brilliantly. Eventually the Ladghar beach was way too inviting and we dropped the idea of going further till Karde and took a room at the MTDC B&B. Dropped our luggage in the room which was just across beach and dived in sea water. After a refreshing swim and dinner, we called it a day.

Day 5: March 18, 2015, Wednesday
A  Birthday celebration enroute and time to roughen it.
Proposed destination: Either Harihareshwar or till we stretch
Route: Karde – Harne – Anjarle – Kelshi – Bankot – Harihareshwar

Waves and sea breeze were our wake-up alarm today. But before that at midnight we celebrated Raja’s birthday with the cake which I picked up in Ratnagiri and calls from impatiently awaiting group members in Mumbai. Manasi called in the morning to wish Raja and we started for our next destination. Either Harihareshwar or further, depending on how much we could stretch ourselves.
The exploration of the road between Ladghar and Karde showed that the one shown on google maps with a dotted line is actually motarable and will be completed by next year according to locals. The road was rough and uphill, so we decided to walk on beach. Karde was just km away. I always liked Karde because of its clean and less populated beach and one of the hotels is pet friendly and allowed Simba to stay with us on our last visit. I had spent some quality time with family about 7/8 years ago. The village here is quiet and peaceful and ideal for family vacations.

A ride on the beach, shortcut to save time

Riding further, after feasting on hot Kheema Pave and bhajiyas in Harne Another beach was waiting for us, Anjarle beach, a pearl in a neckless of pristine peaches of Konkan. this beach is just waiting to be explored. We hit Kelshi just before lunch. It is yet another sleepy village in on the Konkan stretch, blessed with a beautiful beach on one side and a creek on other. Kelshi is also the birth place of Nana Phadnavis, one of the important personality in Peshwa dynasty. We decided to explore Kelshi for food.
Finding someone to serve us food on a weekday afternoon was a little difficult, especially since we didn’t fit the mould of the typical Indian tourist.  But, once we got cracking Marathi language, we could sense a bonding for these desi tourists travelling like firangs. Finally at one of MTDC’s B & B scheme, a lady invited us for a lunch and God’s gift, fish. It was a blessing for us!

A short siesta later, we were ready for the next destination – Velas. Now famous for the Olive Ridley Turtle festival which takes place every year between mid- February to the first week of March. This is a festival where you witness the hatching of these turtles and their first baby steps as they crawl towards to the open sea – very important for the young female turtles, as once she turns into an adult, she will come back to the same beach – to her birth place – to lay her eggs. Sometimes the return journey for a female turtle can take as long as 15 years. Unfortunately, as the mother leaves the eggs on the beach to hatch, it falls prey to predators like dogs, mongoose and even humans, thus endangering this remarkable species. Nowadays, villagers have become friendly and protects eggs.

But thanks to the huge effort of the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra to conserve the Ridley turtles along with the natural beauty of this village that shares the vast coastal line of India, these baby turtles live to return back to their nesting sites.    
Left this village, with a promise to return next year to witness this natural phenomena and enormous human efforts to support them. This place re-built my faith in human kindness and gave me some hope for the future generation in the face of fast disappearing natural wonders that are increasingly sacrificed to the altar of human progress.

The route from here to Bankot was one of the worse and truly proved my title of this day’s ride – Roughened it out. Though the patch was just 11 kms and we actually cleared it earlier than expected. Again, a sighting of Bharadwaj bird, had rescued us through this nightmare. We reached just in time to reach ferry wharf while barge was taking off or in right words, sailing off.

We reached actually earlier than expected and now we could have alter our destination by giving it a little extra effort, but the revised target was Diveagar. Another 50 kms instead of 7/8 kms! It was too much for tired bodies, so we decided to stick to earlier target of Harihareshwar.

Harihareshwar’s famous beach which is combination of rock and sand which always mesmerises me. The natural carvings made by sea water on rocky portion are amazing. This is a major pilgrimage and temple was built in 16th century.

MTDC has provided a fantastic opportunity to locals by utilizing their properties for B & B scheme throughout Maharashtra’s tourist centres. A tourist will find a combination of luxury hotels with B & B scheme accommodations for budget travellers. But with home so close by, we spent a sleepless night.

Day 6: March 19, 2015, Wednesday
Home calling…
Proposed destination: Push hard to reach Mumbai… (Sanju…TOP GEAR!!! – a Bollywood joke …
Route: Harihareshwar – Diveagar – Dighi – Murud Janjira – Alibaug – Rewas – Ferry Wharf – Home sweet home

 

Today we did not required a wake-up call because we were planning to try our luck to board last ferry service either from Rewas or Mandwa and enter Mumbai’s boundaries late evening or night. On the way, there was an important Ganesh temple, Diveagar a 500 year old village. A religious and tourist centre, famous for a Ganapati temple with an idol made in 1.5kg of gold which unfortunately was stolen couple of years ago. Currently the idol is replaced with Silver.

The excitement was prominent and everything seemed to move faster. On this route to Dighi port, we could see lots of kids and youngsters on the road early morning to reach school or college. Distance till the wharf was covered quickly. Ferry was just waiting for us to board and immediately took off. We could see the Dighi port taking shape. This port is built to reduce load on JNPT and Mumbai port. Once complexly operational, this area is going to be one of the busiest on Konkan coast.

Janjira fort was at a touching distance while crossing from Dighi to Rajpuri jetty which was thankfully less crowded.

Janjira fort from shores

Janjira and its surrounding area was once occupied by the Siddis and was famous for being the only fort along India’s Western coast that remained undefeated despite attacks from Dutch, Maratha and Britiish East India Company. Once you leave Murud, you can spot the palace of Nawab of Murud. This is a private property and you cannot enter without permissions. Before leaving Murud, I had my last portion of Misal pav. I doubt I will touch my cycle or Misal Pav for at least for 3/4 weeks once I reach Mumbai.
We were on our way to Alibaug and on the way, we crossed one more white sand beach, Kashid mostly frequented many Mumbaikars. Though I love this beach for its clean water, we didn’t want to waste time on this beach as we were in a hurry to reach Alibaug for lunch and from thereon to cover about 30 odd kms to Rewas. While having a lunch at Alibaug at a hotel I felt nostalgic as this would be our last lunch in Konkan and on a ride for now. We were now confident about reaching Rewas much earlier than thought. Last few kilometers were difficult to clear due the excitement of reaching Mumbai tonight.

I was going to meet my baby, Simba after 8 long days. Finally reached Rewas at 4 after couple of breaks of sugarcane juice and felt we have done it. All the energy preserved for seeing this moment, though sapped. But God had something else in his mind. Due to low tide, no launch had touched Rewas jetty since afternoon which also means, we were just 30 odd kilometers from Mumbai border but unsure of reaching tonight. On his last ride to Alibaug, Raja had faced the problem and had a solution ready – to reach Karanja by small boat which are sailable in shallow water, ride for 10 kms and take another ferry to Ferry Wharf from another jetty at Mora was the option left with us.

We had to try and catch last ferry. Checking options, if not.

The plan was quickly implemented as a launch was waiting for us to take to Karanja. But riding in Uran’s busy street when we had already reached Mumbai in our mind was much difficult than riding those 700 plus kilometers. We managed to keep our excitement in check and finally reached Mumbai shore and we had a welcoming party of Sandeep and Pandhe waiting with garland and soft drinks at Ferry Wharf. 

We had done it!!

I can’t explain how it felt!! To have fought all odds to embark on this journey and then to walk out so enriched with memories that will last us for lifetime.

To summarise our adventure, here is a superb video shot and edited by Rajaram. Link of the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6hY1ChKUus

Now eyes are set on another adventure which might just change the course of my life as I surely know about it and waiting anixiously.

But that’s another blog for another day…

Thank you for going through this blog. Come and lets
explore my other travels through my perspective.

For this journey which I could manage to take and I will call as a journey of rising Phoenix from ashes, all credit goes to Rajaram and Manasi, my dear friends. Both help me to see through my revival and bought my life back to track. Also thanks to my Taimurlung Trekkers’ buddies who had strong belief my capability and supported me throughout to stand on my feet. Also thanks to my family to support and did not stop me.   

For all pics and video credit goes to Rajaram Kavatkar 

53 Replies to “Deep Inside Kokan – A cycling journey to explore, unexplored Konkan”

  1. Remembering the old memories of 1998 Mumbai Goa cycling.

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    1. Outstanding stuff. And I almost can relive the journey through your narration. Cheers! And best wishes for more such adventures.

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  2. It’s always a delight to read ur articles they are full of information and your personal experience makes it interesting as if I am reading a book. Keep writing and keep inspiring👍🏻

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  3. It was my goods deeds that I m still associated & done lots of treks with this monk. Wish the journey would have continued crossing the international borders so we could also had the blessing & chance of this advanturous unforgettable experience someday.
    Wish all the very best to the team for the forthcoming event.

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  4. Dear Rajesh,
    It was a pleasure to read n virtually travel as the words flows through the roads, rivers n terrains. We are avid travellers n voracious reader….the information regarding the pristine beaches n unexplored roads are too tempting to do a backpack, specially during 5 months lockdown. Wish you success in sphere of life.

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  5. Nature is not to place to visit ..its home ..nomad you proved it …wish to b a part of your trek .All the best for your upcoming events .👍

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  6. Superb article Bunty

    Keep exploring new things and best wishes for your second inning journey…

    Regards
    Milind Telawane

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  7. I am from GUHAGAR,KONKAN.
    What to say about natures gift to konkan.
    I can imagin how you must have enjoyed total ride without actually joining you.
    During your next ride I shall be with you mentally because of my age of 75 years
    Wish you more fun ,more joy you ride next time,but I am excited.
    GOOD LUCK….MOREमजा
    RAMESH VESVIKAR.

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  8. Superb article
    Awesome cycle ride
    Pictures are also too good
    Gr8
    Waiting eagerly for next blog

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  9. Lovely Journey. Will look forward to more. So do keep exploring and writing.

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  10. Bunty dada…..You put me in nostalgia about the countless road trips (cycling could never ever to be thought of ) in konkan….kudal, bhatye, pawas, raigad, hedvi, veldur, dapoli ….are not unknown to me as my origin lies in palshet. I completely enjoyed going through all your travel journey taking a visual plunge into it…..

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  11. Wow. U made this jorney so exotic n interesting om paper. I can well imagine the fun, the joy of travelling with your group. After the lockdown let us know the next destination pls.

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  12. Awesome bhai. Looking forward to this roadtrip on my bullet. Hop on as my pillion anytime

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