5 Days ~ 1800 KMs – 2 States – Wandering into the known & unknown

Background

Digital Marketing Agency, that too a start-up = minimalistic sleep, leaves are another topic overall. Let alone a 5 day long break! Have to bow down to the most humane boss that anyone can ever have. Especially for the break and the GoPro to record and share these experiences.

Ride Preparation

As always, one day before the ride the leaves were still dicey. No clue till 6PM whether this journey is on or not. And then at 8PM after a longish meeting, this godly boss tells me ‘I’ll handle the Friday work’. This sounded more like ‘Jaa Simran jee le apni zindagi’ and that’s all that one needs to hear. Frantic calls to one friend, who was all set to go solo, & to parents. Lining up all the necessary things to be packed for the ride. Covering up for the many firsts to come in the next 5 days, the major one  being covering about 750 kms in a day.

Alarm set for 4.00AM

Day 1

Road Plan: Andheri – Panvel – Lonavala – Pune – Satara – Kolhapur – Belgaum – Hospet – Hampi

If I must say, it’s quite funny that these alarms are rendered useless especially on the first day of the journey. As each time the brain and eyes are wide awake much before the alarm starts to do its duty.

Initiating packing sequence and the special morning chores, all set to roll out by 4.15AM. Heading to meet the man of the hour, Ashwin Pinto on his Pulsar 150, at the local decided destination in Andheri. Making sure that all the bags are packed and set to begin the journey to lead us into seeing a new but known space.

Our Aim was to be able to cover the known patches before the traffic starts. Initially halting at Lonavala to watch the sunrise and capture a few pictures. Realizing that to cover this distance one would need to minimize the halts and make sure to maintain decent riding speeds and reach before sundown.

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Sunrise @ Lonavala

Roads until Pune were good as always. From Pune to Satara there were a few diversions that slowed down the pace a little bit. Post that, till Belgaum the bikes were enjoying the super smooth slick 4 lane roads. Unfortunately they were only the straights. Just like people say, real women have curves, real roads have curves. The transformation of the surroundings, from state to state was quite noticeable. Post Belgaum the roads turned into 2 lane highway without any dividers. Not only did this reduced our riding speed a little bit but so did the fact that the roads were unknown, and we had to halt to ask directions and reach our destination.

At one of the places where we halted for some quick snacks, it got a bit difficult to communicate due to the language barrier. But nevertheless, the local hotel guy was more than eager to get us to try the special bhajiya that they serve along with the farsan. Not to be a stereotype, but it’s always safer to have some of the South Indian famous dishes like Uttapa, Dosa, Idli, Wada, etc. Nonetheless, the dish was delicious.

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Somewhere before Hospet

Further moving on to reach Hospet and trying to find our way in the midst of the evening traffic. At one point where we could spot mountains of boulders, it seemed like we had reached our destination, but we were mistaken. We had a couple of more KMs to go. Luckily, we managed to catch the sunset while entering Hampi and we were able to look around at the temples, boulders & ruins that are around. We were dead tired and wanted to find a spot to camp or a reasonably priced place to get some sleep. At the entrance of the famous Virupaksha temple, in Hampi Bazaar Street, a few guys approached us asking if we want to book a room for the night. After contemplating and bargaining a bit, we picked the first basic room that we managed to see. The rooms were quite reasonable for an army of two. We parked our bikes on the local street roads after being assured bythe locals who were running the place. Surprisingly we later saw that the small place was quite stuck to one of the big boulders around. (not exactly sure what this means)

We started the unloading ritual, i.e.  getting out of all the biking gears and changing into more comfortable and loose clothing. After a quick fresh up, we head out for a walk to see all sorts of things around us. From locals playing some sort of card game, where people from various backgrounds simply looking and trying to figure out what is going on. Being an area near the temple, this side of the river did not have non vegetarian food or any liquid spirits to enhance the atmosphere. It was a different experience to stay in the vicinity of a holy place on the streets amongst the locals. We grabbed a light dinner at a Tibetan place, which was run by a Nepali family. Luckily the pace of the place wasn’t as fast and mad as a metro city like Bombay. This quaint and tranquil village life was all we needed after our fast paced 750 km bike.

Finally calling it a day we headed back to the small and cozy room to not have to wake up to an alarm and the routine of ‘Wake Up – Office – Sleep – Repeat’

Day 2

Waking up, not to an alarm but to the chants of the temple. After a relaxed morning ritual, we head out to find some place to eat. Not wanting to look up on the internet like every other tourist lands up doing, we resorted to the old age technique of shedding one’s inhibitions by asking people and trying out places that might be worthy.

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Breakfast spot for the day

We managed to find a decent and small place that served some local food, where we could see the guy making the dosas on the road, while people were seated inside waiting for their food to be served. With a low level table, everyone was to sit on a mattress laden floor and have their food.

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Winding up with food, we checked out from the place and requested the folks to keep our bags for the day. We planned to head to the other side of the river and check out the stay options out there, as all that was heard was non vegetarian food was available on the other side.

Today was the quest to reach ‘The Other Side!’. Speaking to locals and trying to figure out the best way to head there. Boat ride it was. Whilst waiting for the boat, the river folk were washing the elephant. No pun intended. They were literally soaping, scrubbing & cleaning the elephant. Everyone out there was enjoying the show while the animal was having the time of its life being treated like a king.

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The engine of the small boat roared to life and the so called sailor was a pro at manoeuvring his way through the rocky sections and taking everyone to the other side. As soon as one sets foot on this side, it is clearly obvious that it is a radically different Hampi. The crowd was different, the locals seemed different, and there were more foreigners on this side. It was what most would call more ‘chilled’. Walking around and checking out a couple of places to stay, we Finally locked down with The Goan Corner. The first day here, we decided to have the ‘sleeping under the stars’ experience.

The other action point was to decide which places to visit and then make it for the last ferry that will take the bikes to the other side of the river. We landed up visiting the spiritual side of the river and all the places around, Vitthal temple, Matanga Hill, Pushkarni, Krishna Temple, etc.

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Time to pack-up, gear-up, saddle-up and head to the other side. Luckily we managed to get onto the last ferry to head there. It was a heck of an experience pushing and squeezing this heavy RS200 onto the small ferry with the entire luggage, riding gear, etc.

 

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Taking the ferry to ‘The Other Side’

The sun had started to set, riding in the darkness without any clue about the exact roads or any hint of the local language to be able to figure out one’s way. This seemed like another big quest which was overcome with basic presence of mind and figuring the way out by trying to interact with the locals and describing the place to them.

Finally we reached The Goan Corner and settled down to keep the luggage and gears on the exquisite star gazing bed, situated right on the terrace of the owners. One is provided is a mattress, bed sheets, quilt, mosquito net & a small locker, all the bare necessities as Mowgli would say. The owners and their sons are a talkative and interesting bunch. If one is going to visit Hampi, they should surely go here just to talk to the owners and hear all sorts of stories about visitors from across the world. Surprisingly, the sons are  bikers who work there during the season time. And with the salary they earn, they travel the length and breadth of the country for a couple of months each year.

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Star gazing accommodation for the night

Our stomachs were starting to grumble, and we resorted to the dining place. Another good aspect of this place was that they shut the WiFi post 9.30PM! It’s the perfect way to be disconnected from the world and actually meet and interact with new people. We met up with a bunch of travellers, one of whom was a couple from Bangalore who enjoy traveling together on the Duke 390. As the night began all sorts of stories were unveiled. All the lady wanted was a good pillion seat, I’m sure all duke owners can agree with their numb buttocks. Conversations that lead into all sorts of directions. These things always make one wonder about the beauty of nature and the way it designs everything to match with each and every uneven piece out there. How everyone is in a different phase of life, where different experience lead to making one more mature and learned. Conversations would surely go on and on till the dusk, but then finally calling it a night, we resorted to the star studded luxurious bedroom. We could finally sleep comfortably as the quest to ‘The Other Side’ had been successful!

Day 3

Somehow by the end of the night Ashwin was named ‘Koala’ due to his appreciation of the laziness that the animal showcases. He was headed to Bangalore to meet a couple of his friends. This was the real test to finally let the lone wanderer in me to explore this place.

First things first, food! Setting out for breakfast, I found this homely breakfast joint called Pooja’s Breakfast Point. The mother was cooking idlis in the kitchen and we were seated in the supposed hall with one table. This was one of the best idlis I’ve ever had, especially with the mix of the chutney and sambar. They were  served had natural honey whose taste I can still feel lingering on my tongue. It seemed to have a caramelized flavour, and thinking about that breakfast just makes my mouth water even today. Another interesting bit that happened over breakfast was a simple conversation with 3 ladies who were travelling. They were all from different generations: a grandmother, her daughter & her granddaughter. It made me realise that it’s the simple things in life like spending time with your family that really make travelling worthwhile.

Koala was all set to pack up and leave. I must to appreciate his courage, as he intended to cover Bangalore to Bombay within a day on 15th, that’s about 1000 KMs. And off he was to Bangalore.

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Ashwin leaving for Bangalore

I started speaking to the owners of The Goan Corner who gave me quite an interesting idea for the day ahead. It was a nice and small circuit where I’d get to do some cliff diving, ride through the paddy fields and, to top it all, catch a sunset from atop the Hanuman hill. It seemed like the perfect plan for the day.

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The day started with managing to find the cliff diving spot where I ended up meeting a few folks from England who were also staying at The Goan Corner. And once the body hit the water the first time, all of us just couldn’t stop the kid within and kept jumping into the water. Even though there were different signs saying crocodiles in the lake, most of us lost almost all our inhibitions and clothes.

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Cliff Diving

I even met someone totally new and came to know that she stays in the same area as me. The saying that‘It’s really a small world after all’ is quite true indeed.

Next leg of adventure was riding through the paddy fields, beside a canal to reach another secluded water body. I caught up with a couple of people from dinner last night, and landed up traveling to the secluded water body with them.

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Riding through the rice paddy fields
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Another lake nearby where everyone was relaxing

Surprisingly these guys also were from Bombay. Every person that one meets on the road has an interesting story to say. So did these guys. We hung out for lunch and then went to Anegundi hill, the birthplace of the mythological monkey god Hanuman. This quick and small trek was worth it as the view of the sunset was soothing to the eyes. I stayed there and watched the sunset whilst the clouds did their magic.

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Sunset from atop Anegundi hill

Quite a few people were out there capturing the frame on their professional cameras. Here I was using a borrowed GoPro without any more equipment, with some jugaad managed to keep the camera a bit steady and put it on timelapse mode.

Lesson learnt, camera work is an art & requires utmost patience. One has to invest heavily or be a total DIY person, i.e. make do with different equipment and still manage to capture what is seen by the eyes.

Finally I returned to the humble place/not sure where this is. Tonight had planned to sleep in the tent. All the arrangements had been done in the morning before leaving.

In the morning, I quickly freshened up & made up my mind to head to a new location, a bit far away from Hampi. My initial thoughts were to head to North Goa or Vengurla. This not only led to a meeting a new person but also a hundred more fascinating stories to hear. The boys here lovingly called him Mutthu Anna. Even before I got to meet him, I came to know that he is someone who has travelled the length and breadth of the country. He told us about how he owns a Triumph Tiger and that one day someone was fiddling around to take a picture and ended up breaking the clutch lever. He later came to know that it costed a whopping 7000 rupees!

Finally, I got to meet him and he suggested taking the route via Amboli ghat, cross Sawantwadi and head to the coastal road to Shiroda. For the last day of this trip, he suggested starting via the coastal route and then heading back to Bombay via NH17. This sounded like a splendid way to end this trip. Little did I know what the next day would actually hold for me.

Day 4

I woke up early to pack up and bid goodbye to Hampi, taking away a variety of experiences in terms of food, people and memories. The much known ritual of Saddle up! Gear up! Gloves on! Helmet on! And ready to go. The distance to cover today was around 400 KMs.

The early morning ride was nice and peaceful, especially with mist settling down on the paddy fields. It was surely a sight that makes one want to breathe in that fresh air and feed the lungs with nature.

I took one halt for tanking up and was back on the road. At one place near Belgaum, I saw a crowded local street food stall where they were serving piping hot medu vadas. The aroma would make anyone hungry for some food so I stopped here for a quick breakfast. Sadly I don’t remember the name of this joint. If I did, I would have made it a point to recommend this place to others as well.

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Somewhere near Amboli Ghat

The rest of the day carried on with riding towards Amboli Ghat. Those roads were a glory to ride on, especially because of the flora around which made the ride better. This is the real sort of green that one should really look for in life, unlike the green paper that we end up running for, by working day in day out and not appreciating the beauty around.

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Crowded beach of Shiroda

I reached Shiroda beach by around 3 PM. I was a little disappointed as I had been told that this place would be uninhabited by human forms. I rested for about 15 minutes and ate some snacks, Making up my mind to head via the coastal road towards Malvan before the sun sets down. Then I could figure out where to pitch the tent for the night. This way I would save up some time from the journey for the next day as well.

Moving on via the coastal road, which was a bit patchy but the view surely compensated for any form of bad roads. I rode along the seas and small rivers, crossing bridges & hills. Having always heard from people about this side of the country, one really has to experience riding through these places, otherwise the journey to any place is worthless.

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Panoramic view of Vengurla Beach

I reached Vengurla by around 4 PM. This place was nice and deserted, even figured out a spot to camp and get some food from the nearby resort. But the insect in my mind prompted me to go further ahead, so that the riding time for the next day is less. Gearing up I headed back onto the road. I reached Malvan, and having heard loads about Tarkarli, started moving in that direction but was soon caught up in the midst of unbearable weekend touristy traffic. The only thought going through my head was, ‘This is not what I was looking for when I set out for a good 5 day journey!’ I took quick U-Turn to get out of this mess and headed into a random direction to figure out something for the night. This was one of the best decisions of the journey, which will unfold shortly.

On the road now, I had only one thought in mind, ‘Look for something basic to eat, a safe-ish place to put up the tent and hope not to be robbed’. In short, the basic roti, kapda, makaan. After asking a couple of locals, I started heading towards Tondavli beach, without any clue about what it is, or if anyone has ever been there. Without any internet to read about the place or anyone’s previous experiences. With just faith in humanity and animals to let the night pass peacefully. Even whilst riding to the beach, the view was serene and offered me some sense of confidence. The sun was sinking into the sea, riding from a height, I was able to catch a glimpse of this beauty that nature lends to us, day in and day out. I reached one point where there were two roads to go ahead, and I had no clue nor any people around. Luckily, two people on a bike came along. With a short interaction, they asked me to come ahead and said let’s see what we can do. We reached one place and I met this person named Mr. Anand along with his retired father. Both of them were from Pune and now out there setting up a new small resort. It was a fascinating sight for both Anand & myself. To me for the initiative these guys were taking, to Anand for meeting a biker who was out on a trip. Within a couple of minutes of interaction, the ever so hospital Anand, his father & Panth were happy to share their food and space with me. I had only 2 conditions to this. That I would help them in cooking the food and that I’ll pitch the tent on the beach and not disturb them any further.

After quickly unpacking, I went for a short dip in the water whilst the sun was at the horizon and was slowly fading away. The love for water is undeniable for anyone who has ever had the joy during childhood.

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Heading for a swim @ Tondavli

With this nice and refreshing break, I pitched the tent and went on to help them to make food and to be of some help. We all ended up talking about all sorts of topics and stories. About their journey of life, about how everyone has had the bug for traveling and how they wanted to set something up of their own, through which they would be able to share the love for nature and relaxing getaways.

The dinner was basic and more than fulfilling due to the company of these loving and welcoming people. This day was a real test for me, to actually know if I have the capacity to be the person I aspire to be – A lone wanderer. It helped me learn many things about myself and how the mind behaves when problems are presented. This whole thought process led me to acknowledge that I can travel alone and manage the 100 day journey that I really want to head out for in the coming year.

I resorted to bed early by 10 with nature singing its lullaby in the form of waves. Since it was a curved beach, the waves would hit the shore on one end and keep going on till the other end in ripples. This is something everyone should experience in life.

Day 5

I woke up to a chilling atmosphere, unable to stand out there in beach shorts and take the morning leak. My eyes opened to the thoughts that this is the last day of this journey. Isn’t that what goes on in the head on the last day of each rider? Cause one always thinks about the amount left in the bank and how many more days can he/she be on the road and come back only when it really feels like. The need  to break free from the daily fight of going to an office, and getting to appreciate nature only for short intervals.

Beginning with the morning necessities and then repeating yesterday’s ritual of Saddle up! Gear up! Gloves on! Helmet on! And ready to go. Bidding Panth, Anand & his father goodbye, promising to visit their place once it’s ready, ‘The Red Stone Resort’.

I headed back via the coastal road towards Kankavli and then joined NH17. At last another dream was to be fulfilled: to ride from one end to another on the less appreciated Goa – Bombay highway. The roads were a bit patchy here and there, but I was able to maintain an average riding speed of 40-45 KM/PH. The roads were bliss once I touched NH17. It was a joy to ride the Pulsar RS200 on this road, pushing the bike around the twists and curves. Not that I am a cornering maniac, but it was fun to lean around. When on this road one has to make sure to keep feeding themselves, which I forgot. By around 11AM realized that I hadn’t had any breakfast at all. I halted to fuel up and feed the stomach and the body some glucose laden chocolates.

Crossing the good patches of Chiplun, Kashedi, Mahad, Kolad and then reaching the dreaded Vadkhal Naka, the roads were in bad conditions and made the return leg quite tiring. From Vadkhal Naka to Panvel was a disaster in terms of the road conditions because of the construction going on to widen these roads into a 4 laned highway. No one knows when this would really be ready. The riding hours in the past two days taught me the feeling that females go through all day long. I appreciate their effort more now, after wearing the chest mount for the GoPro for about 8 hours each day. I have to say, it did feel nice to unclip the mount.

The ride from Panvel to Bombay is usually filled up with traffic, due to the touristy crowd coming back from various locations after their weekend trip. And this one being a long weekend, there was bound to be more traffic. Even though this would be a disappointing sight for most people, all that was running through my mind was that upcoming solo journeys in the pipeline, the mind was pumping in optimism at its best.

Road Traveled

Mumbai – Panvel – Lonavala – Pune – Satara – Kolhapur – Belgaum – Hospet – Hampi – Sanapur – Hospet – Belgaum – Amboli – Sawantwadi – Shiroda – Vengurla – Malvan – Tondavli – Kankavli – Chiplun – Kashedi – Vadkhal – Karnala – Panvel – Mumbai

Overall Gear

Luggage System

  • Viaterra Claw

Stay Jugaad

  • Quechua Arpenaz T2

Riding gears

  • Jacket – Scoyco JK17
  • Pants – Spartan Aspida Odysseus
  • Gloves – Cramster TRG2
  • Shoes – Steel toe safety shoes

Action Camera

  • GoPro Hero 2 (Borrowed)

DSLR

  • Nikon D3000 (Borrowed)

 

Total Spends: Rs. 5000/-

Fuel: Rs. 3,000

Food: Rs. 1,500

Stay: Rs. 500

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