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Indian Coastal Cycling Expedition – Dapoli – Guhaghar – GanpatiPule – Pawas – Ambolgad – Push your Limits– you never know what you can achieve!

After a much deserved rest at Dapoli and some well-deserved maintenance on the machines we decided to start day four a bit late. Our original plan was to cover just a small distance of about 45 km and stop over at Guhaghar at the holiday home of our teammate who had to drop out. But with him not along with us, we decided that we would not make a stopover at his home and rather continue to our next stopover as decided originally at Hedavi.

Accordingly, after a customary stop over at a little Ganesh temple  near my home at Dapoli and a heavy carbohydrate packed breakfast comprising of Poha ( puffed rice savoury snack dish) we commenced our ride towards Hedavi at 7 am. Riding through the densely wooded mountain roads from Dapoli to Dabhol early in the morning was a divine pleasure. The flocks of birds making their morning calls, the groups of langurs jumping between trees at times scared by the lights on the bicycles suddenly pooping up at blind turns, and sometimes simply disturbed by us passing right through the group making them annoyed, felt like we were intruders in the serenity of the early morning of mother nature. As we closed in near Dabhol and human settlement the scene changed from langurs to little children with their school bags on their backs ( schools had just started there after a long lockdown due to COVID) , similarly amazed like the langurs, with the two of us speeding away on our bicycles.

We crossed the Vasishthi river in the roro ferry and headed towards Guhaghar. Having reached Guhaghar at about 1030 am we stopped over at the lovely, serene beach of Guhaghar and took a little rest for about half an hour with some refreshments and coconut water through our parched throats, we continued our ride towards Hedavi. We asked the locals for the best options to reach Hedavi and we were told that two roads that head towards Hedavi and more or less same as far as kilometres are concerned; but the road that was along the beach via Palshet was rough/ and tough yet more scenic.

 

Do Not Limit Your Challenges………. Challenge Your Limits !

 

Soothing sights of the sea

Exchanging glances at each other we two decided which road we were going to take! We had decided without a word that we would test our limits today and take the road that would hug the coast no matter the incline and the quality of the road.

As we pedalled along the little villages and hamlets along the road we did not even realise when we reached the Junction that led to a turn off to Hedavi. Glancing at our watches we were surprised that we had reached Hedavi by Lunch time whereas we were anticipating being here by end of the day. The ride though a tough one was so enchanting that we did not feel the rigour!

We were doing well; we were going better than planned. We contemplated if we should find a good accommodation and call it a day, we had covered a distance more than that was originally planned.

With about 4 – 5 hours of day light in hand, we decided that we shall not waste the better part of the day just resting at Hedavi, rather we would push a bit more and aim to reach Ganpatipule, which would be much better option to call it a day with more accommodation options and a lovely beach to unwind. We had a quick lunch at a sole low-key way side eatery at the Hedavi turn off and mounted the saddles for our way towards Tawsal which is a ferry head on the Jaigad river. The ride was through lovely Mango orchards with the branches heavily laden with mangoes bowing down on the road. We were tempted to pluck a few mangoes, but we did not as it was some one’s precious crop and earning!

We were just about in time to reach the Tawsal Ferry point so as not to miss the ferry to Jaigad. With a litre of Kokum Sherbet down our throats on the ferry we were sufficiently refreshed to pedal the next few kilometres to Ganpatipule.

The road from Jaigad till Ganpatipule was by far the best stretch of road on the entire journey from Mumbai To Goa. With rolling hills, the road meandered through woods and around hillocks giving glimpses of the sea and the little coves and creeks along the way, we were at Ganpatipule covering a total distance of 92 kilometres by 4:30 pm.

As per our original plan we were to keep the day four and day five short and hence were supposed to stop at Guhaghar and then at Hedavi. But here we were at Ganpatipule, making up on time by full two days. Our initial plan was to reach Goa on the evening of 21st Feb but now this timeline could be advanced, or we could have an extra day for rest if we pleased!

Happy with our progress, we decided that for the day we would splurge in some decent accommodation, and soon we found ourselves in a sea view room in the MTDC Resort at Ganpatipule. The rest of the evening was spent at the beach rejuvenating ourselves and making good all the energy and hydration lost during the day.

We had an option of staying an extra day at Ganpatipule, but having spent two days of tour budget on a single night’s accommodation at Ganpatipule we decided not to further stress the budget, but carry on to the next destination of Pawas.

 

The views of Arabian sea from the bluff heads

On day 5 we set off for Pawas via Ratnagiri.  With a scrumptious breakfast we headed off for our first pit stop at Ratnagiri. We were to meet an old-time friend of mine at Ratnagiri. The ride till Ratnagiri was a fantastic…one awesome view after the other, the bluffs giving a nice vantage point to view the coves and beaches along the shoreline, the palm grooves and fir tree plantations clinging to the shoreline. The only eye sore to these otherwise ethereal views was the mess created by us humans in form nonrecyclable plastic waste.

Palms Grooves along the coast

We stopped over at Ratnagiri for good homely brunch and some good hot coffee and warm memories of college days at my friend’s home. An hour so of good laughter and sharing memories and life between then and now, it was time for us to move on, it was already 11 am and the sun was getting hotter.

The ride from Ratnagiri to Pawas was going to be absolutely in open terrain on a plateau devoid of any tree cover for shade. I had known this from my earlier travels in this area, so we were a bit concerned and wanted to reach Pawas by lunch time or may be a little later than that.

Once we crossed Bhatye beach, there was nothing between the sun and my balding head shining through the crisscross structure of the cycling helmet. The heat was much more than what we anticipated. We were stopping after every four to five kilometres for hydration breaks, trying to find shade; at times when we found none, the shadow of one became shade for the other!  The going was getting tougher by every passing milestone that we crossed.

A little before Pawas we heard a very welcome sound. The sound of Ghungru (the Indian version of swiss cowbells) -which are also tied up on the gear wheels of sugarcane crushers, that make a rhythmic sound every time the wheel is cranked to crush the sugar cane for its soothing sweet juice. The silence along the road was so elusive that despite of  us pedalling towards the sound of those cowbells, we could not see the sugar cane juice vendor for another couple of hairpin bends along the road.

The moment we spotted where the sugarcane juice vendor was, we actually sprinted to the other side of the road to quench our thirst and craving for some energy in form of the natural sugar. We rested for a while at this spot. We had some unknown people stop over to chat with us…they were so amazed that it was just the two of us cycling all along with our destination another two to three days away!

The Enchanted Fir Forests

Pawas was a short distance from there, so we were confident that we would reach there a little post lunch. We were aware that Pawas did not have any formal accommodation or hotels, we had planned to stay put in the local temple premises, but as we crossed Pawas we realised that the week that were travelling was a period of Maghi Ganesh Utsav ( a period that celebrates the birthday of Ganesh – in the month of Magh as per the Hindu Calendar). With the celebrations going on, it would have not been possible for us to pitch for the night at the temple…something we never anticipated when we started the journey.

A little upset with this we decided to further push our limits and try and reach a place called Ambolgad. This was not on our itinerary originally, but now we had no option. After a brief halt at a roadside eatery for some lunch and afternoon rest, we continued the journey towards Ambolgad… distance just did not seem to get less. The mid-afternoon heat made matters worse. Now to save my self from a sunstroke I had wrapped my head with a bandana, and the helmet over it. Every time I took a sip of water, I gulped half of what was in my mouth and with the rest half I started to  wet the bandana to keep my self cool. I could not afford a mishap or an unwarranted sunstroke.

Activity along the Creeks of Konkan

At around 5:30 in the evening we managed to reach a turnoff that led to Ambolgad. We had two options either take a detour to Ambolgad or continue on our path towards Jaitapur. But again, we definitely knew that there was no accommodation at Jaitapur for the night. We decided to ask the locals for possible accommodation around where we were.

The locals advised us to head towards Ambolgad where we would find accommodation. Taking their advice, we decided to go ahead with another 8 kilometres downhill towards Ambolgad, in the hopes of finding accommodation. Though the road was predominantly downhill and supposedly paved, the condition was as good as a downhill cross country trail. The 8 kilometres of downhill took us an hour to cover. Once in Ambolgad, we confronted the truth. There were only two hotels operational at Ambolgad, one where we were, and second at the other end of the hamlet, and  both of them high end resorts!

Having no option, we settled at the Saminder resort. Another night which ruined our trip budget. But the only solace was that the accommodation was super plush with almost a private beach thrown in and luxury of a tea maker in the room. I had missed my morning teas / coffee for four days…what a luxury that was!

With the cycles parked safely and the bags off the frames, we freshened up and discussed the travels  over two days. As per our original plan we were to cover about 65 – 70 kms every day. As per the original plan we were supposed to be in Hedavi today. But here we were 108 kilometres ahead of where we were supposed to be… a good lead of two full riding days.

This made our sore legs and bums fresh, and we forgot all the rigour we went throughout the day. We did a bit of laundry (as we had a luxury of some running hot water) in preparation for arrival in Goa – two days later, in a presentable manner.

Boats at Sakhartar

What we summarized that night was ‘You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them. And once you push yourself beyond the limits, you suddenly understand how capable and strong you are’. We had kept a limit of covering a maximum of 75 kilometres per day anticipating that covering this itself was a challenge, that is what our bodies would be able to endure….but here we had pushed our limits, challenged them consistently, and our body was adapting to it!

Do not Limit your Challenges, Challenge your limits!

Seven days on the road on my first ever Cycling Expedition; every day taught me some lessons of life afresh, which I shall share in this series of articles along with images that were shot during the ride…

 

Keep a look out for the next learning…..

Milind

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