“Be it no concern
Point of no return
Go foward in reverse
Setting forth in the universe” — Eddie Vedder
Sunday, August 27 | Film City Road, Goregaon | 0700 | Cloudy
All best-laid plans have come to nought . My partner & I had planned a grand send-off for this ride. Ribbons, confetti… the works. Yet, today we are happy with a low key send off. No dancing elephants or showgirls. A quick for-the-record photograph, gear and panniers on and I’m off. Happy to finally see Mumbai in my rearview mirror .
Under (Air) Pressure
0800 | Drizzle
The loaded fatbike feels a bit unwieldy at first, but from experience I know things will settle down in the next couple of days. The 35 kg weight is apparent in the first few kilometres. Just through Aarey and I’m already trudging in my lowest gear and still huffing and puffing. By the time I emerge on JVLR, I am lathered in sweat. Just as I’ve crested the flyover and there’s a big screech from the rear wheel and the fatbike comes to a standstill. I get off and realise that the tyre has slipped the rim and is stuck between the rim and the frame. This had happened once before when an overenthusiastic bicycle shop had pumped 35 PSI air into the tyre. I check the tyre pressure and it registers at 32 PSI. In the urge to be ultra efficient on tarmac, I had overinflated the tyre. So off with the panniers, find a piece of wood to remove air, put back tyre in and reinflate. This time I use my pressure gauge to make sure I am at 18 PSI.
Best Vada Pao
Naigaon | 1030 | Cloudy
I spot a vada pao centre next to the highway and stop for a break. The smiliest and the best service vada pao in Naigaon greets me. Along the road under a flyover and served by this smiling man in an apron is the best vada pao I’ve had.
Man pointing at the fatbike – Kitna deti hai? Me – 2 vada pao/hour.
Kudave | 1200 | Cloudy
The first traffic sign for Panjim. But we’re taking a long way home. 546 be damned.
Panvel | 1220 | Rain
I’m crossing Panvel and checking with several auto wallas if there’s a place to stay in Karnala. They all seem to agree that “Kshanbhar Vishranti”, literally translated to “rest a while”, is the place to stay. It starts to pour as I cross Panvel and I duck under a closed shop roof for shelter. This will be my modus operandi for days to come. While I wait, I spot this Rajasthani gentleman and we get a conversation going.
We hardly get rain where I come from. It’s a difficult life. Life is all about planting hardy crops and waiting for it to rain so the harvest suffices. Politicians will tell you that canals water a major percentage of arable land in my state but I’m yet to see one in my village. Close to the border, we live like we’ve done since independence. Rain adds colour; did you know that. I know about colour. We Rajasthanis love colour. In our drab nature, we add that spark of colour everywhere. You see it in our food, our clothes, our houses… So when you tell me you don’t like the rain, I’m a bit surprised. Rain is life.
I am humbled by this conversation and it dawns on me how perspectives differ. The rain won’t stop so I take my chances, don my Decathlon rain jacket and soldier on.
Rent By the Hour Quickie
Karnala | 1300 | Rain
Its 1 PM and I see this nice resort on the other side of the road. I decided to check if I can get a room in my budget. I’ve decided that my daily budget will be ₹1000 (USD15). When I ask the guy at the reception if I can get a room for the night, he looks me up and down, asks if I am alone. I say “yes”. He then replies “aapko mehnga padega (It will be expensive for you)”. Looking at my flustered expression, he explains – “We rent rooms by the hour or by 8 hours. So you will have to pay twice the 8-hour amount even if you leave early in the morning.” It doesn’t dawn on me immediately, but then as I step out in the rain I have my aha moment. This is a place for rutting, a “rent by the hour quickie” if you will. Something I didn’t know existed. Well, you learn something new every day 🙂
Introduction to Modak
Karnala | 1330 | Rain
Finally I spot Kshanbhar Vishranti (क्षणभर विश्रांति) on the other side of the road. It is a huge establishment. A restaurant, shops and rooms. The hotel owner turns out to be from Malvan and when he hears I am headed to Malvan I get an instant discount. The room is nothing great but the manager insists that I park the bike inside the room. He says, “…can’t have such an expensive thing parked outside where someone may mess with it…”.
Since this is the monsoon season, all bedding, toilets have a mouldy look and smell to them. I need a filthy scale from 1 (spotless) to 10 (gives you Ebola). This room is a 5. I start to work on my routine: since this is Day 1 things are in a bit of a flux.
After Day 1, I’ve settled into the following routine for most of my riding days
- Start riding by 630.
- Breakfast around 830 (that is if I can find any store/counter open).
- Banana break at 1100.
- Check-in to a shelter after a morning of riding.
- Order food.
- Wash riding shorts and T-shirt and set it to dry.
- Take a shower.
- Have lunch.
- Sleep for an hour.
- Go out get some photos, walk the land, meet people.
Once I’ve put the laundry under the fan to dry on a “borrowed” clothes hanger, I order a Sol Kadi in the evening and watch the rain turn into a deluge outside. The rain stops for a while at 6 PM as it starts to get dark. I decide to step outside. I meet the manager who tells me that this place has its own dairy and that their modak is something not to be missed. Now I’ve never tasted Modak but I have a sweet tooth and a cyclist always welcomes something sweet and loaded with calories. I buy a small lot and it turns out to be excellent, so I go in for seconds. Another 250 grammes for the next day. Little did I know then that this Indian sweet will also become a routine for this trip.
Modak is an Indian sweet popular in many parts of India. The sweet filling on the inside of a modak consists of freshly grated coconut and jaggery while the outer soft shell is made from rice flour or wheat flour mixed with khava or maida flour. The modak is the favourite sweet of the Hindu deity, Ganesha. It begets him the moniker modakapriya (one who likes modak) in Sanskrit. — Wikipedia
Remains of the Day
Over dinner, I get a chance to reminisce about my day and I realise
- I hate riding on the National Highway. Can’t wait to step off the NH onto some local roads. The route from Navi Mumbai all the way to Panvel was a 6-lane with lots of traffic. While It didn’t hamper me in any way, but I had to be very careful of the 16-wheelers and especially at places with left turns where I had to go straight. The rear view mirror is the best ₹400 I’ve spent so far.
- I don’t have numb hands despite the fact that the road from Panvel to Karnala is all dug up and a mess. This is a good thing. I’ve owned and toured on bicycles that have cost 4 times this bike and have always ended up with buzzy or partly numb hands. I attribute this to the cushioning that these big fat tyres provide.
- Beaches – none.
- Expense Counter ₹ 1400 (900 boarding + 500 food).
- Hotel 5/10 (cleanliness).