The sweat comes trickled down my forehead as I gulp away my thirst.
I rise over the pedal of my bicycle like a phoenix.
So when I am applying the force down with my foot against the gravity of slope,
the whole leg screams out of excruciating pain!
With every forward push, the muscles gets pulled up to a point where it feels like the nerves may burst out anytime with a shower of blood!
But the show must go on….
Cycling maybe a leisure activity for many, but for me it is an adventure! With a cohort of 20 people, we decide to cycle from Mandwa beach near Alibaug, breezing through the coastal belt, all the way till Harihareshwar. The 120 km route is neatly divided into 3 days.
Episode 1 (Mandwa to Nandgaon) –
Sunrise splashes its colors everywhere as we catch the first ferry from Gateway to Mandwa beach. While cruising, the splendid Seagulls hovered around like the street children running behind a car!
We get down at Mandwa and gear up to start our ride. A quick briefing takes us through the safety rules followed by some light exercise. We start pedaling through a thick canopy on the both side of the road. I stop every one km helplessly, to adore the beautiful meadows that we come across on our way. Vehicles pass by us at dangerous speed. We had to keep our left. We reach the bustling small town of Alibaug where we have our breakfast. From here we take a left and ride through the Revdanda – Kashid road. TBH, this part is boring. As we proceed further, long uneven roads await us and the heat pin us down.
But not everything is bleak. We found a beautiful pond on the way, towards the left which was literally layered with thousands of lotus in full bloom. Together, it set the water on fire!
Later, we came across the pretty village of Nagaon. Numerous temples stood by the road to greet us. Exhausted from the afternoon heat, I stop at one of these temples and go inside. The ambiance suddenly gets silent. There is no sound of chirping birds or wind brushing against the trees. Amidst the emptiness, I find my solace! After reaching Revdanda, we cross a huge creek over a bridge. The sea as always, with its sky blending colors look soothing to the naked eye. The colorful boats and ships decorate the tranquil water.
As we get near to our final stretch, the sun kissed silver beaches greet us on our right. We stop at Kashid for a brief period. Compared to other deserted beaches, this beach is usually crowded with shacks to rest, water sports to have fun and camel ride for a good leisure. I lay on a hammock staring at the rib bone shaped coconut leaves hiding me from the heat attack.
We reach our Home stay late in the evening. The growing tourism demand between the coastal stretches of Mumbai to Goa has given birth to several home stays. The concept is very good and also safe. The Home stays are cheap, comfortable, with lovely families always ready to help. They have homemade Konkani sea food to offer, and are always spacious. What these Home stays don’t appreciate at their place is unmarried couples.
Episode 2 (Nandgaon to Sreevardhan) –
A part of the trip that has the dramatic show of nature, a glorious fort in the middle of the sea, a terrain challenging enough to set the adrenaline on rush and a beach that is a pretty well kept secret. The stretch between Nagaon and Shreevardhan has enough surprises. On our second day the morning greeted us with pleasant breeze and a sharp smell of the wild flowers. The hilly roads fuel our struggle more. After an hour of cycling, the road suddenly opens up to the vast ocean. The water glitters elegantly under the sun.
A fort, maybe deserted, stands in the middle of the sea. Not to be mistaken by the famous Murud Janjira fort, this fort is actually called Padmadurga fort. We casually ride when suddenly I notice a trail going up on a small hill. I stop everyone and insist to explore it. We start trekking on it and after barely 10 minutes of fooling around, we reach the top. Surprisingly, it had a helipad! Wonder if we had trespassed someone’s private property! The view from that height was commanding. Eyes get a bigger frame of vision and the constant cool breeze, ease the aching body.
“Hey this is amazing, thanks for bringing us here!” A fellow cyclist acknowledged!
Murud Janjira fort is quite famous here. But there are other places like Nawab Palace and Khokari tombs that are off the tourist maps.
We continue to ride further and then cross a creek on the ferry. We reach the other side of the creek called Dighi port. From Dighi we resume our cycling. The slopes here are the toughest of all. But we pedal, pedal selflessly just for the sake of the journey, forgetting about the destination. We reach to a point where we just kept cycling under the merciless heat. But this time we were more prepared compared to yesterday and just kept going.
The Plot –
The crooked canopy of jungle continues to run on both the side, like a reel of a film. A turn and the landscape suddenly change to the bright blue sky. Colorless sea fades away from the horizon as the road runs parallel to the long stretch of a virgin beach! The effort suddenly vanishes into the thin air of amazement. I never had an experience as beautiful as this. I mean c’mon, we don’t everyday get to drive along a coastal road with the beach as close as footpath by the road!
So we lived, we lived every single bit of the moment. We enter the beach along with our cycles. The softness of the sand sucked in my leg, as if a group of puppies trying to climb over feet. The best part? Not a single soul on the beach! In harmony with nature, everyone connected. Some kissed their feet with the rhythm of waves while others embraced this small wonder of nature.
The black clouds in the sky unite and start shooting rain on us. Strapping back our helmets, we quickly mount back on our cycles trying to run away. Against the pinning drops of rain, sizzling blow of wind and a thriving backdrop of lush dark greenery, we bend forward and rush downhill at a lightning speed. All this came together so suddenly that we couldn’t hold back our excitement. We release our hands from the handle and extend wide enough as if going straight into the mouth of death with all happiness. We shout our hearts out! (PS – It is as risky as sex without condom, so please don’t do it. We just happened to do it and we were lucky to be safe)
Episode 3 - We easily completed our 20 km ride on the last day and proceed to explore the temple of Harihareshwar. This place is literally over rated as there is nothing special to see. Even the beach is littered. We load our cycles in the tempo for the ride back to amchi Mumbai. A question is raised, “Will the cycles be safe over the long, bumpy ride ahead?” So Like a hero, I step forward and offer to stay at the back side of the tempo to look after the cycles.
I enter the rickety cube inside the tempo adjusting my body between the cycles. The bull sized vehicle starts as I stand hanging. The first jolt is felt as the tire hits the pothole and bounces the whole vehicle. It felt like a small earthquake as everything inside shacked and tilted hither and thither. I struggle adjusting back everything again in the running tempo. But Damn! Another pothole, and another struggle of adjusting everything. I was trying to give my hand little rest from the stiff pain of hanging when we bump again. And I suddenly realize that how big a mistake I have made by staying behind as it is a good 3 hour ride before we reach Mandwa. By the end of the ride I hop down and dusk of the muddy red color stuck on my cloths. Every part of my body shouts in pain as I see off all the participants and doze off in the car while returning.
A Few Tips for Planning the Ride –
- Always keep a first aid box with you
- Keep a repair kit for your cycle handy with you
- Locals are usually generous, so don’t hesitate to ask for help
- But don’t mess with the locals, they argue even when they are wrong
- Best season to cycle would be in winter
- Start early in the morning as the heat can drain your energy quickly
- If you are unable to ride on the slopes, simply get down and walk along with your cycle
- Never ride a cycle without a helmet