I thought that Day 1 would be difficult, which goes on to show how little I know (hey that rhymes!). This part of the #100BeachRide can be summed up in 3 words. Deluge, Wet & Miserable.
How Bad Can It Be?
It is still dark outside when I wake up but I can hear the torrent outside. I’m done repacking and cleaning my bicycle for the third time, yet the rain doesn’t seem to be letting up. There are brief lulls between heavy rain showers and I decide to head out in one such lull. The entire day is a constant game of frogger between me and the rain. Cycle for a couple of kilometres in a lull, then dive under any available cover in a heavy shower. This cover is anything from a plastic shanty, to a shopfront or a dhaba.
Unhappy over Chai
I seek cover under a Dhaba along the National Highway 66. Since it is a highway there are dhabas every few kilometres. Me, I’m just grateful to have a roof over my head. After I’ve polished two plates of Bhurji Pao (scrambled eggs with buns) I meet this Long-Haul Trucker (sorry Surly) over a cup of tea.
I won’t stand for a smile. Hauling a 12-wheeler from Kolad to Mangalore is not as easy as it looks. I don’t have an air-conditioned cabin or a demister on my window. I’m way behind schedule, now due to a flat tyre. The owner is after me for a quick delivery. Smile for what? This is life.
A Brief Lull in the Storm
I’ve made it to the Vadkhal. This is a twin achievement for me because a) it means I can get off the dreaded NH 66 and on to a quieter NH 166A and b) I’m halfway to Alibaug – my destination for today. There is no part of me that is dry and I just hope my Ortlieb Waterproof panniers are doing their job. What worries me the most at this point are my wet feet. I have a lot of distance to pedal and macerated feet this early in the tour won’t do me much good.
My introduction to Alibaug is via this fruit seller.
Me: Sir 6 bananas, please
Him: There you go
Me: How much?
Him: For you sir? Free! I see people like you on a bicycle and I admire it. It’s a small gesture from a humble fruit seller
Him: Welcome to Alibaug. Yahan par aapko aise hi log milenge (this is the kind of people you will find in Alibaug).
Rural India still has a heart that belies its means.
Teenvira Dam 1300
Recommended by the fruit seller, the vegetarian restaurant Sadechar Anandvan lives up to its reputation. Their deluxe veg thali sets my taste buds salivating and for a brief interlude all tribulations, trials, mud and wet shoes are all forgotten.
The ride from Teenvira to Alibaug is the wettest I’ve been in my life. Ever! The bicycle tyre was submerged partly all the way to Alibaug. The road was just a river of water and slush. I spot a small family-run guest house (Saikrupa Cottage) in Alibaug and decide to call it a day. If you think I am being a sissy, here are some scenes from Mumbai to convince you otherwise. The Indian Met Department has sounded a three-day coastal alert and I reckon staying in Alibaug is the safest thing to do for now. Thankfully I am on the first floor, because that night the water rises and floods most ground floors, including that of my landlord’s.
Looking at the state of my shoes, and hence my feet, in the rain it was obvious that despite their stiff soles they were the wrong choice for a monsoon tour. So my next mission then was to score a pair of rugged sandals or floaters as they are referred to in India. I found a shoe shop in the bazaar and after a quick haggle I had myself a pair of sandals for ₹ 600. The shopkeeper was adamant they would last me a year but I would be more than happy if they last me for the #100BeachRide.
Fat meet Sand
Alibaug – August 29 & 30
The weather remains the same – thunderstorms with some relief. Life slowly limps back to normal in this small town. The tourists have all left and I have the beaches all to myself. Over the next couple of days, I experiment with tyre pressure and come to the conclusion that 8PSI is perfect for loose sand. Exploring the empty beaches on a fatbike, flicking wet sand and kissing the surf is starting to grow on me. So is exploring the partly submerged city. There’s a small voice in my head that keeps whispering – salt water cannot be good for a bicycle. But this is what “The Marine” signed up for – Semper Fidelis!
It is still Ganpati season in Maharashtra and it will remain that way until September 5th. I come across this pair of drummers practising on the beach for the 7th-day visarjan (immersion) and boy are they loud! No harm in swaying to the Dhol Beat in the drizzle to keep those blues at bay