The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say
J. R. R. Tolkien
01 Jan 2016
2300 hours: My phone rings, I hope against all hope it isn’t him. With sleep in my eyes I check the name on display, yep, it is him.
“Hey Dom, please tell me its good news.”
Laughs, “bro I was doing the once over for my bike and noticed my engine oil level is low. I just topped it up a couple of days back, worried that I may have a leak.”
“Damn! What’s the earliest you can be sure?”
I knew what was coming next, but did not want to hear it.
“Sorry bro, I’m out, cant risk it.”
“Cool man, shit happens. Get your bike in order. Cheers.”
And just like that another ride cancelled. I lost the number of times we had made plans to ride together and cancelled. This was going to be a New Year ride, something to remember the start of the year by. The original plan was to ride on New Year day itself, but it had been mutually decided to defer the ride by a day due to the risk of encountering drunk riders and cops making the ride a misery – the normal New Year drama!
We had planned a ride to Kalsubai peak – the highest peak in Maharashtra, this also happens to be near Bhandardara dam and Arthur lake, it goes without saying we had a pretty elaborate itinerary. Our biker friends gave us pretty awesome feedback about this ride and our route and itinerary was planned with the help of their experience and the internet, a round trip of approx. 350 kms in a day.
02 Jan 2016
0000 hours: Lying on my bed hoping by some miracle Dom gets his bike fixed, or calls back and says it was all a joke. No such luck.
0300 hours: Was startled into the world of the living by my squeaky alarm. It took a while for me to come to terms with the cancellation. As I got into bed the thought crept into my mind again, I remember deciding against it as I slept. Weighing the Pros and Cons. Can I? Should I? What about permissions? What about safety? I gave it another 30 minutes before making up my mind.
I am riding SOLO!
Destination? I went over the route in my head, most of it was highways/expressway. Not exciting at all. I wanted the first one to be challenging, exciting, different, and scenic. So I decided to change the destination, I can always do this route another time with Dom and the other guys. Also it wouldn’t really be fair on my part to leave Dom stranded with a broken bike and do the route alone. So where? Had to think fast, it was almost dawn. Always wanted to visit Raigad Fort. A quick google search returned a 136 km mountain road route right up to the fort, green and scenic. Looked like something I could be interested in. Further south I noticed a place called Harihareshwar, back to google, search results were impressive. A quiet beach, away from the hustle and bustle, what else can a Goan boy ask for? My destination was set.
0345 hours: Gave my bike the final once over, checked my gear, said a little prayer and was on my way.
0430 hours: Took my first stop for breakfast at a small dhabba just outside Panvel city. This is the first time I was riding geared up and it took me some time to get off the gloves, helmet and jacket. While I took these off the waiter patiently stood by with a menu in his hand. Once settled, I took the menu and thanked him. He still stood there, this was surprising as normally once the waiter hands you the menu card he gives you a few minutes to go through it and then returns to take your order, I thought he was very kind to keep waiting on me while I decided, to not make him wait any longer I quickly looked down at the menu, the menu ended before it started. It had just three items on it –
Tea, ‘caffee’ and idli! This cleared up any doubts I had as to why he stood there – there was no need to leave. I ordered idlis and ‘caffee.’ While I waited for my breakfast to be served I went through my route. I did not have a phone holder attached to my bike which meant if I had to navigate with my phone I would have to keep halting, something I wasn’t very keen on doing, plus I wanted to save as much battery as I could for emergency use – did not have a power bank either!
Roughly this was the route:
Panvel – Pen – Nagothane – Kolad – Mangaon – Mhasala – Harihareshwar.
Panvel to Pen was the easy bit, pretty straight roads, I had also travelled that route before. After Pen it was unchartered territory for me and my bike. Memorised the route and the place names, it would come in handy if I ever lost cell phone connectivity.
The idli and sambhar were just ok, but at least they were hot. I couldn’t complain of the view as much, the 10 minutes it took me to gulp down my idli and ‘caffee’ I had a front row seat to biking groups ride by the dhabba, I counted 3 different groups – a group of Royal Enfield riders followed by Ducatis and as I finished the last of my ‘caffee’, the loud Harleys made their ride by.
Settled my bill, geared up, and set off again. The route wasn’t too complicated so was hoping to cover a considerable distance before stopping again.
It wasn’t bad at all, hardly got any traffic owing to the fact that I had an early start and also because it was a Saturday. Music would have definitely made it better.
0530 Hours: Second stop. Somewhere after Pen. I covered Panvel to Pen fairly easily, even though I had not ridden this route previously I did have fair idea of the location and route. To describe in a sentence what I saw was a bridge from darkness into the light, and for some reason this compelled me to stop and click this moment. The image does not do justice to the real view. Also as I was admiring the view I remembered what Sam said to Frodo – “If I take another step, it’ll be the farthest I have been from home”, this point ahead was unchartered territory for me – the feeling was ‘different’.
Into the Light!
I did a quick route check on my phone and was on my way.
0610 hours: Stop 3 – Nagothane. My trip meter read 60 kms. Not bad, it took me roughly an hour and a half to cover 60 kms including a 20 minute breakfast break. While doing my route check I realised I had missed a turn off a few kms behind, asked a few locals for help with directions to figure out if going back was any good. It wasn’t, that turn would have added another 15 kms to my trip. Got verbal directions from the locals, thanked them and left Nagothane behind.
Around 25 mins and 20 kms later I reached Kolad. The roads from Nagothane to Kolad were bliss. Some sections were still under construction however even those sections were pot-hole free. After Pen I rarely encountered pot holes. I was easily doing between 80 – 90 km/hr throughout.
My next marker was Mangaon, there was a turn off from Mangaon towards Mahasala and I had no intentions of missing this one. Mangaon was the only place I encountered traffic yet.
0900 hours: I reached Harihareshwar! Before I describe the beach I must say I was surprised by the roads to Harihareshwar from Mahasla. Most of the section was Ghats, but the roads were smooth and pot hole free. There was the random ST bus blocking the road, but other than that one of the best roads I rode on.
The roads I so fell in love with. What cannot be seen is the road winding into the mountains.
The beach just added to the high from riding. It was deserted! I was expecting to see a packed beach owing to the holiday season. More than the loneliness of the place what took me by surprise was the cleanliness.
This was at Harihareshwar beach. I spent almost an hour and a half here. There were a couple of couples but other than them I had the beach to myself. It was one of the most peaceful and silent times in my life.
On one end of the beach were rocks, where you could sit and dip your legs into the cool ocean water. I had not carried much in way of food and drink, a bottle of water, a couple of red bulls, a few chocolates and a few packets of chips. I enjoyed the moment with chips and red bull on the rocks!
I gave it another 30 minutes before convincing myself to leave. I had almost made up my mind to stay, but I had a plan to follow. I had made this up en route, I would visit Harihareshwar, Srivardhan, and Aravi Beaches before heading back.
And I was glad I did not wait back. Harihareshwar was great but what came next cannot be expressed in words.
A beach between two beaches. Harihareshwar behind the hill on the left and Srivardhan on the right (Cannot be seen in pic)
Even though Harihareshwar and Srivardhan are almost adjacent beaches the route to get from one to another is long and twisty.
At a junction I stop to ask directions from a local. This boy was well dressed and seemed as if he was on his way to a party. After he gave me directions he asks me if I could drop him to a place en route. I agreed. He told me this was the first time he sat on a ‘super bike’. I did not correct him or explain the difference between a super bike and what I was riding. I did not want to ruin his happiness. The entire way he encouraged me to go ‘aur tej’!
The place he wanted a drop to was only 2 kms from Srivardhan beach, and I was right about where he was going - a wedding party. He was so glad to have got a drop and sit on a ‘super bike’ that he invited me in for lunch. I obviously refused with as much respect and appreciation as I could, however he would have none of it. A relative of his was getting married and he insisted that I accept his hospitality. I was looking for ways of telling him that I really wanted to try the famous sea food in the dhabbas here without hurting his feelings. Couldn’t come up with any, so accepted his offer. I had a little of everything he offered, it was vegetarian food, but tasty! I wished the couple and was ready to leave. The boy comes with a small package in his hand. He had packed sweets for me for my journey – Faith in humanity restored!
I had lost track of time. It was almost half past noon when I reached Srivardhan. Srivardhan was another beautiful beach. Wasn’t as secluded as Harihareshwar, but was as clean and beautiful.
The sand on this beach was vehicle friendly, and I took my bike to get a feel of the water. Normally you would expect the bike to get stuck or slip in the sand, which did not happen here. There were other vehicles too all over the beach.
I did not want to spend too much time here, because by now I really wanted to see what came next.
Srivardhan surprised me. Also, I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get to the other beach and back. This was supposed to be a one day trip.
Trying to be a photographer – Srivardhan Beach.
It was only after I left the beach did it strike me the damage I must’ve caused the chain and sprocket riding in the sand. A quick cleaning and I was on my way again, making a mental note to get it cleaned thoroughly once I get back.
It was now well past 1430 hours. I was on my way to Aaravi Beach. Again the road exceeded expectations and so did the view. However, there were no hotels or restaurants on the way. I silently thanked my new found friend for his generous package of jalebis and for insisting I have lunch with him.
Another hidden beauty. On the left was Srivardhan, the beach in the centre between the trees was inaccessible, Aaravi was just beyond the trees on the far side of the picture.
At this point I truly lost all notion of time. All I could think of was reaching the next beach. So far one was better than the other. The view just got better. It was hot, but even the heat could not ruin the beauty of the place. What got to me was the silence. Silence everywhere I went. The roads where silent – no horny driver, no speeding rider, the beaches were silent – no crying children or noisy adults. There was peace all over. And not to forget – the Smell, throughout the ride I could smell the coast.
I no longer was riding at break neck speeds, did not want to miss the views. I wanted to take it all in. I was riding at 40-45 km/hr from Srivardhan. Never was I so fond of riding slow than I was at that point in time.
Aaravi Beach – The picture says it all!
Aaravi was different from the other two beaches. The road circumvented the beach. This beach did not have an entry point like the other beach.
The only barrier between the road and the beach was coconut trees. I rode all the way from one end to the other. I really did not mind riding back all the way. Those extra kms were worth it. I sat at this point and had a couple more ‘jalebis’ and finished off with another red bull. The only thing that would be left out on the list of things to do was sea food.
Points like the rocks at Harihareshwar, and this point at Aaravi really gets you thinking. I was surprised at the thoughts going through my mind at these places. At Srivardhan it was more fun than serious thinking. The serious thoughts are well beyond the scope of this write up and hence I shall leave them out.
I was never a fan of going back the way I came, it gets me all gloomy and sad, it reinforces the fact that that particular thing will end. And as I cross landmarks I go back to the point where I crossed it for the first time. I was wondering if I would see my friend again. I should have asked for his name, we called each other ‘bhau’ which translates to brother in English, and it was apt for were we not brothers? Isn’t it your brother who would stand by your side when you need him the most? I was his brother when he needed a lift, he was mine when he offered me food and sweets for the road, and did that not help me when I needed it the most?
My nameless brother, I shall forever remember you whenever I have jalebis!
The road ahead looked tempting, it was a steep climb and then disappeared around the mountain. I wonder where that would lead me. Would it lead me back home? Would it help me escape going back the way I came? Should I risk it? I checked the time, I would also have checked the route on my phone but as fate would have it I had no cell phone reception.
I thought to my self – interesting. I have two options, either go back or continue riding in the direction I was going. I could not make an informed decision due to lack of cell phone service and lack of locals to ask for directions. So I had a snicker and flipped a coin. I had enough of serious thinking and brooding.
Let Fate decide my direction!
This post was originally published on 'There and Back Again'.