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Indian Coastal Cycling Expedition – Ambolgad – Malvan – Shiroda – Panjim – Dabolm– Don’t Let Obstacles Define Your Experience!

Having pushed our limits over the last two days we gained an advantage of two days on our ETA to goa. Our original plan was to reach Goa on 22nd Feb 2021, now we were looking at the evening of 20th / early morning of 21st Feb 2021.

The push till Ambolgad though physically exhausting, acted as a morale booster. We were now confident enough that we could manage about 90 Kms a day on our MTB’s with the heat and climbs thrown in. As such this distance from Mumbai to Goa was teaser for us to assess our capabilities for the Indian Coastal Cycling Expedition covering over 6500 Kilometers on the Indian Main Land. And we were getting confident of being able to do that with every passing day.

The night at Ambolgad – for me – was bit uneasy night. Though I wanted to sleep I could not sleep as well. The sounds of the waves crashing on the shore were saying something I could not understand. And being a seafarer, I knew that waves are the voices of the tides, and tides are like life. They bring in food for the shore creatures, they are the ones that help ships get out of a shallow harbor to the open sea. The waves are like the pulse of the ocean. When your see a wave forming out on the sea you never know what it would bring along on the shore. You never know if the wave would be a small gentle rolling wave or one of a giant breaking wave, all you hope is that you are able to gently surf over it rather than drown in it. May be that was what I was feeling hearing those waves that night. I did not know what these waves would bring in for me. I was little uneasy.

I was out of my bed at 4 am the next morning. With the luxury of a hot water kettle in the room, I made myself a piping hot black coffee and sat in the veranda hearing to the noises of the sea. Time passed by as I refilled the cup a couple of times and then it was time to leave.

As we were getting ready for our departure around 6 am, we came across the owner of the resort who happened to be a part of the photographer’s team who shoots glamour calendars for a famous Indian Liquor Baron. Seeing us get ready he asked us where we were planning to go at that hour in the morning. We told him of our intentions to start early so that we could reach Malvan before sunset.

We were cautioned that we should not step out on the roads before day light as one stretch ( on the downhill road that we passed the previous evening) a tiger is often seen hear a watering hole. And that it would not be safe for us to venture out in the dark. Taking his good advise we decided to delay our departure, and then to while away time at hand we took a small stroll on the beach, taking the fresh breeze on our faces, we freshened up for the days ride.

Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It is part of our life !

… Aimee Mullins

Burn Fat Not Fuel – on the way to Malvan

After we had good day light and we received a thumbs up that it would be safe to start our journey we commenced our ride somewhere around 7:30 am. An uphill on the 8 kilometers of the cross-country trail and we were on relatively good roads where we could start pedaling at our normal cadence. We crossed Jaitapur and were actually relieved that we made the right choice to stay at Ambolgad. The place was absolutely devoid of any suitable civilization to call it a night. Any ways we fetched some cash at the only ATM there and proceeded ahead, we had exhausted almost all our cash on accommodation at Ganpatipule and Ambolgad.

As we continued pedaling along the towns and hamlets on the fringes of Ratnagiri district, the quality of roads suddenly changed. And a few meters ahead we saw a board ‘Welcome to Sindhudurg’. Just transcending from one district to the other, the roads had changed for better. Isn’t it such a surprise that within the same country, within the same state administration, two districts could have amenities strikingly different?  If the roads could be so good in Sindhudurg district, why can’t they be similar in others as well.

A little before the town of Devgad I noticed that the tires of my bicycle were showing signs of cracking along the sides. That was not an encouraging sign. If the roads were good, I could go on for a while but if the roads were rough, I was to be in trouble….deep trouble.

I was carrying spare inner tubes but not spare tires. The condition of the tires forced us to reduce our speed. I pumped in the tires a bit tight to prevent any pinch wear on the tires at the same  time avoiding the inner tube to bloat out of the cracks. We continued like this for over 20 kilometers till Devgad, carefully avoiding any rough patches and potholes on the road.

We were lucky to find a cycle dealer at Devgad who was willing to replace the worn-out tires on my Cycle with another ones he had on a model that was up for sale in his show room. He had no other spares. Agreeing to the little premium that he charged, I got both the tires replaced. I considered my self lucky that he had the right sized tires available, else for sure I would have had to carry the bicycle on my shoulders that day!

Whilst the tires were being replaced, we had some lovely sea food at a local restaurant for lunch… the best fried squids I had tasted so far! Post lunch we continued our ride towards Malvan. Navigating the Google maps we noticed one particular stretch marked red as heavy traffic. As we closed in on  that stretch, which was parallel to the sea, we did not find any traffic there, however the road was so bad ( It was under repairs) that the red laterite stone that was used as the base layer for the capping was literally like a cheese grater. My pedaling partner passed a funny remark saying the road was not red to indicate traffic but was shown red as a warning for severe damage to the spine if you traverse it. This lasted for a couple of kilometers and after that all was well.

An Abandoned bridge

We took it easy till Malvan, only to reach there by 7 pm or so. We found a little guest house for the night, had a heavy seafood dinner and dozed off. We had planned an early start the next day, and accordingly we were all ready to mount the saddle by 6:30 in the morning. Settling the bills for our nights stay we headed off to our bicycles only to find the rear tyre of my co riders’ bicycle fully flat. That was our first flat on the tour since 6 days. We replaced the punctured tyre with a spare tube at hand and commenced our rides. The ride  from Malvan till Shiroda took us through the lush green tree cover of Sindhudurg district. The roads were a mix of good, tarred highways and rough rural roads.

Just about three kilometers  short of our pit stop at Shiroda, my co-riders’ bicycle again developed a flat. With just three more kilometers to go we decided to walk it down and repair the flat once we reach our camps. To our amazement the locals seeing us push the cycles came up to help and gave us where about of a local bicycle handy repairman. We got our flat removed again and within minutes we were at the beach side shacks to spend the evening. Apart from the flats our ride that day was uneventful. Despite the damaged tires and the flats in the tire tubes twice in a day we had high spirits and we did not let that hamper our progress. We were yet enjoying the scenery around and joking and making our way. We did not let the obstacles define our experience of the day!

The shacks that we were put up for the night, were right on the beach, and we could hear the rumble of the seas throughout the night. It felt as if the sea was applauding our efforts so far. With Goa just a few kilometers away and our spirits high we decided we would start a little later after a leisurely breakfast so as to reach Panjim by early afternoon. I had some of my family friends come over for a short impromptu visit to say ‘Hi’.

After a good heavy breakfast we started off for Panjim and sharp after 7 days and 3 hours from our start at Gateway of India in Mumbai, we were on the border of Maharashtra and Goa. We had committed to be at Goa on the 22nd Feb 21 and here we were in Panjim on the afternoon of 20th Feb 21. To our amazement we had friends from Bangalore and Pune come over to see  us in Goa.

7 Days and 3 hours from the start we were on Maharashtra Goa border

 

Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim

The next day saw us under a spot light. The United Veterans Association at Goa had arranged for a media coverage of our ride. We had the National TV channel, the reporters from Times of India and other prestigious publication interview us. There after they had arranged a grand welcome for us Dabolim which was our official end point for this leg. We had completed 653 kilometers in 62 riding hours with a maximum elevation in a single climb of 243.84 meters above mean sea level. We were received by the Indian Naval Flag Officer Commanding Goa Area and over 50 odd veterans from the three armed forces and some active Naval Personnel. What an honor it was, to be applauded by fellow service personnel good 23 years after retiring from the services! I was absolutely overwhelmed. The entire welcome event was hosted by Mr George and his team of Track and Trail Goa.

Having completed the 653 kilometres, I am quite confident of completing the rest of the journey along the Indian coast in the forthcoming legs. I might do it in three or four legs with the next one some time in November 2021 from Goa till Kanyakumari, the planning is on, the preparations underway.

My beloved wife even gifted me a lovely touring bicycle, the Fuji Touring Disc Anthracite Limited edition, precisely a month before she passed away on 21st April 2021. And that makes me even more determined to complete this journey that I have embarked upon. I think trying to complete the remaining three legs in a single go would be a befitting tribute to all that she did for me in our 31 years of togetherness! I would certainly attempt to do that…God Willing……

My Guardian Angel for the rest of my expedition…

To sum all the learnings from the ride…..

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”

“Change is a normal part of our lives, but it’s uncomfortable for the vast majority of people because it makes them feel like they’ve lost control”

“In the journey of life it is so easy to be engrossed with and focused on your own journey, that sometimes we fail to identify why someone is slowing down or may be someone is having a problem. How important it is to look out for others and be with them”

“Let out the child in you & you will never grow old”

“Do not Limit your Challenges, Challenge your limits”

“Do not let obstacles define your experience”

Milind

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