“Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’
Streetlight, people, oh oh oh Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’” — Journey
Vengurla – 17 Sept 17
Today is the last day of my sojourn at Malvan. It is a 2-day ride to Panjim if I push it but why do it. This is the fag end of Konkan and I want to savour all of it. The weather has turned again. Menacing dark clouds dot the horizon and I realize that this leg will be wet. Yet I’ve seen so much and been through so much on this tour that it doesn’t faze me one bit. The ride to Vengurla passes through the still “under construction” Sindhudurg airport at Chipi-Parule (the completion date was 2014). A generous local on a motorcycle leads me through the airport boundary, over the runway and on to the other end via a small shortcut. 10 kilometres from Vengurla, I get my first puncture on this trip. It’s raining, but fortunately there is a small garage along the side of the road under which I can get to fixing my flat fat tyre.
Vengurla is a historical natural port. Given my Dutch connection, I was curious to see an ancient Dutch Factory erected in 1665 by Dutch East India Company’s envoy Rickloff Van Goens. However, the structure is in ruins today and not worth a second look. The beach at Mochemad was beautiful and made up for my disappointment. The moment I reach the beach, I get caught in a heavy shower that does not ebb until late the next morning.
Harmal – 18 Sept 17
Today is the day I step out of my beloved Konkan on to Goa. Shiroda is the last Konkan town and as I pass through, I am flagged down by a guy who runs a small hotel and he treats me to the best-scrambled eggs (anda bhurji) I have had on this trip. This small kindness is what endears Konkan to me. It is a slice of unspoilt rural India where people may not have much but they are willing to share it with an unknown passerby.
My welcome to Goa is under suspicion – “Stop for checking”, says the policeman on the border bridge. “Why? Is a bicycle the preferred means for smuggling into Goa?”, I ask. The policeman is not amused. He does the motions of looking through my panniers but is soon bored. “Go on”, he says. “No, I have two more bags that you haven’t searched, would you not like to take a look?”, I reply sardonically. The policeman is not amused at the least, but before it gets ugly a police jeep arrives with a senior officer who has again seen me in the newspaper and he is kind enough to give me a sheepish, “Welcome to Goa” greeting.
The moment I enter Goa, I regret it. The traffic is crazy, scooters being driven at breakneck speeds. People flag me down to ask me which country I’m from. The moment they realize I am an Indian, they lose interest and drive off. Apparently being Indian and a non-Catholic somehow turns you into a third class citizen. Harmal is a poor substitute for Konkan. The beach is covered in ramshackle shacks and while every shack advertises world cuisine, the food is atrociously bad.
Candolim – 19 Sept 17
Even if Panjim is a stone’s throw away, my partner won’t be there to greet me until tomorrow. So I spend the day visiting the beautiful chapels and churches in small towns. Making a deliberate slow progress to Panjim. The beaches are run over by loud boisterous tourists and most of them seem to think this bicycle is for rent. I could have made some dough renting out the bicycle to revellers on the beach, but by now this fatbike has endeared itself to me. I have had nothing go wrong on it, except for one puncture, which if you consider the roads I’ve been riding on, is nothing short of a miracle. So I keep away from beaches most of the day – and explore the backroads, drink fresh and cheap coconut water and just watch the tourist antics.
Panjim – 20 Sept 17
“You cannot walk with a bicycle on the sidewalk”, says a shopkeeper. I’ve just stepped off the ferry into Panjim town and this is the reception I get. I ignore the bait. It’s the last mile on the last day of the #100BeachRide and as I make my way to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church (Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceição), I have an urge to turn back and ride all the way back to Mumbai. But the church beckons, my partner is there grinning and happy to see me and I’m a bit drawn either way. Here’s what the audio log for my last photograph says –
“Its been a while since I’ve been on the road. At the end of this adventure comes a poignant moment where my happiness of achieving my goal hung in a balance with the sadness of the ride being over. This is not a great photograph but it is one where I was on that tipping point…Here’s to my partner who was always beside me in spirit, a wonderful ride, the people I met along the way, the happiness shared, the trials, the tribulations and the knackered knee…Here’s to everything that makes bikepacking on a fatbike so great. Thank you, India!”