Me and my friends are having a day out. Enjoying floods in south Mumbai. Flora Fountain area has become Venice. We were enjoying the colourful fishes in the water. There were lot of varieties. Like the coral reefs. Some scary sharks too. Whenever a shark comes near, our woo’s reached to the top. Ok!! I understood. This is dream. I woke up, adjusted my quilt and went back to dream. After sometime I woke up. In actual, this time. Out of my 2 quilts, 1 is lying down at the end of bed and I’m shivering with cold. The last time I woke up was a dream too. I was in a 2 levels of dream. In Inception they had a drug, so what happened with me.
I, umm…We, came back from a long bike ride.
3 days. 739 Kms. 8 places. 1 Royal Enfield Bullet 350. Some roads less travelled. Some raw roads. Sleepy roads. 1 punctured tyre. Fresh food. Endless farm fields. Some cute birds along the roads. Die hard beautiful sunsets. Tiny villages. Couple of dark nights. Cold bonfires. Local helping hands. Love-hate relationship with Google Maps, my over reactive wife, our fights, love, disagreements, agreements, one ride…
Ashtavinayak. Ashta means Eight, Vinayak is one of the name of Ganpati. These Elephant Lord Ganpati temples are considered eight most holy places in Maharashtra. They are all situated around Pune. Each temple has a unique architecture and idol. It’s a pilgrimage tour.
It goes back when we started doing bike rides, we discussed about doing this journey on our bike. Winter is the best season to ride a bike on these roads. I replaced a few things in bike, like front tyre and spark plugs. I had my spare parts bag, first aid box, bunjee cords, elbow and leg guards, jackets, ready to rock n roll. We both finalised a route after our research. At each temple, leaving the bike with bags loaded on it, was our biggest concern on the trip. Coz taking a 60 ltr backpack to every temple was impossible and mounting, un-mounting would be waste of time. So we had decided, at every temple we’ll make a deal with a flower vendor. We’ll buy garlands and coconut from the vendor and ask him to look after our things. It worked almost everywhere.
The day before ride: Don’t ask me, a Super busy day. Changed tyres, lunch at in-laws, changed spark plug, did some minor oiling and tuning of Bullet 350, packing, getting cameras ready, etc. And slept late at 2am.
On the riding day woke up at 8 am. We were seriously late. Got up. Got ready, loaded bags on Bullet. Left home at 10am. The road was familiar till Titwala. From here we entered the unknown territory. Tarmac is such a joy. First time riding on Malshej ghat. It is not a difficult ghat section. Will have to checkout in monsoon. Around 2:30 we reached Lenyadri. Temple has a small climb for like 20 mins. We had a lunch first. And left the bike at the restaurant. Proceeded towards temple. Monkey’s on the way keep you entertained. The temple is actually in a cave. There was no rush in temple. A school picnic had come for visit. After our little hike we came back to bike, only to find out, a flat rear tyre. Now, I can fix a break cable, clutch cable, throttle wire, lights. But I can’t fix a tyre. Villagers said repair shop is just near at 1 km, I end up pushing it for 2.8kms. Freaking exhausting. It’s a walk of sympathy. People look at you like you have been missing a leg, hand and an eye. Pushing a dead bullet 350 is the last thing you would like to do on bike ride. Including a 60L backpack, camera bag and a full fuel tank. When I reached at mechanic, my every muscle was screaming, “Welcome to 30’s”. That evening puncture repair guy was my God. I used my spare tyre tube to replace the punctured one. After repairs I came back to the restaurant, where Shanti was waiting. I took a small Frooti break.
Next stop was Ozar. From here onwards i didn’t face any problems with bike. Ozar is very near to Lenyadri. Temple is beautiful. Made with black rock. Inside its cool and silent. Aroma of sticks adds a special background effect. It feels peace here. After Ozar, next destination was at around 70 kms which would be on a dark and unknown road. After some time we stopped at Narayangaon to find a spare tyre tube. We got one but, in the rage of finding the tyre shop we missed a turn. Now Google rerouted the route and we came to know about this at next turn. Where the road turned into much darker, less traffic, almost no vehicles. This was not our first time in such situation. Villages were passing at some interval. Look liked they had a long day and ready to call it a day, just waiting for the few one left around bonfire. The route we were on was not a state highway, neither a jungle route. It just connected villages. After a cross section the road turned muddy. Google was showing a road. But in actual, all that left there was no-road. In a minute we passed a village, we thought road will improve ahead. But it became worse. I stopped bike at a mysteriously scary and dark turn, we decided to go back to village and ask someone. Luckily there was a family near a bonfire. They advised us not to take the Google’s route as it was not safe in dark. Instead advised us to go back to cross section and take right turn. It’s a little longer route but you’ll connect a state highway, just follow that highway. We were so relived to here that. We followed the advise and adjusted Google, we were back in business. State highway was little relief. For last few kilometres we were again on inner road but this time we had confirmed the route from a guy at petrol pump. The silent road ended at a national highway at Ranjangaon. It was around 9:30. So we decided to check into hotel, call it a day and visit temple in the morning.
Today’s ride was one of THE RIDE. Where unexpected things happens. Thump of our bullet was the only sound, around. Headlight was my best friend. Moon was not interested in our help. Hopes for the best, are highest.
Mornings are super chilly at Ranjangaon. We reached temple in no hurry. Temple has wooden carving on pillars. It gives an old look to it but I think this Ganpati temple is richer (₹₹/$$) than the other 7. After temple visit a quick breakfast, refuelled the bike and checked out from the hotel. Now we’re on the way to Siddhatek. Day had just started and we again took wrong road. Came back. Rerouted. Started new road. In couple of minute I realised that I lost one of my glove, when I adjusted maps. Again came back. It was lying in the middle of road. Back to the business. I was angry on me. These things are frustrating on road. Chasing an unknown destination is a challenge. It can break you. It can make you. These moments are the real test for a rider.
The roads are nice here, most of them are connecting villages. Lot of farming fields on both sides. Specially Sugarcane. Got a chance to cross railway line. We reached Siddhatek by noon. Parked the bike nearby. So generally all the temples are not architecturally beautiful but are aesthetically pleasing. Each one holds its character. Siddhatek is situated on the bank of Bhima river. After Ganpati we decided to fill our tummies. We searched a small restaurant/hut kind of eatery. The old lady there made Bhakri for us. We had brinjal-potato subji, pithala, Thecha (Mirchi chutney), onions. This was the cheapest and best food we had on our trip. If possible we would love to eat here everyday. We left Siddhatek with heart and tummy filled with a delicious lunch.
Roads in this part of Maharashtra are not much crowded and perfect for riding countryside. Little traffic in between. After some time we connected to Solapur highway. The highway was with us for a short time. But our bums enjoyed it. I squeezed my throttle freely. With so much luggage bike struggled to cross 100kmph. We turned left for Supe. This straight road was beautiful. Sunset added extra topping. I was more curious to find out about a small sanctuary they have in this area. We were running behind the schedule, so we decided to skip it this time. I included Supe in my travel list. Well Supe was there in the list but now it got my attention.
Reached Moregaon in twilight. Searched a safe florist. Again a quick visit in temple. Big stony front face of the temple looked no less than a fort’s entry door. After temple Shanti needed an evening chai. We stopped at a tapri. Twilight had turned dark by now. Deep on horizon sun had left some orange’ish hues of his existence. Stars were getting ready to dominate the night. This was second day we are riding at night, towards our last temple for the day, at Theur. I like riding at night. The lights coming on my face keeps me awake. I had put on my second jacket. I was wearing a Tshirt, 1 cotton jacket, 1 rain type jacket, hiking pant, muffler and biking gloves. Shanti had one jacket. She can bear cold, I can’t. Even if I’m not riding, I need a jacket.
So the roads were okish, we were maintaining 40-50 kmph. We reached Theur by 20:30. Nice temple again. Crowd was less, as it was late in the evening. After the temple the plan was to find an accommodation in Pune. We had shortlisted some hotels. And next day just explore Pune. Meet some of the friends and family members and the day later we’ll cover rest of two temples on our way back to Mumbai. But.
When we were doing our planning for this ride. The main question was Stay. Pune has good hotels. But i did not wanted to waste time and kilometres to come back to Pune every fortnight. We had planned the route in such a way that we’ll get a good accommodation at Ranjangaon and for second day we’ll go to Pune for night halt. Now when we started the trip, we found that, near every temple there are lodges/hotels where you can spend night. Some are ok, some good. Now at Theur, it was already 9, though Pune was near why spend time to reach there and find hotel to stay. Instead, nearby we could get a decent accommodation to spend the night. It’ll save time and some cash also, coz hotels in Pune were costing too much as it was year end. I searched nearby lodges. Theur is not that developed it has got average hotels. Got one ok place for 600/- just near to temple. We parked our bike. Unloaded our luggage from bike. Got fresh and went out for dinner. Pithala Bhakri, we were more than satisfied. After dinner we went for a small stroll. It was colder outside and cozy inside our room. That night we slept like dead meat. Until the alarm went off at 5am.
Two reasons why we were up so early. Earlier night we planned to attend morning aarti and our florist told us it’ll be at 6am. Second reason, the lodge we were staying had 5-7am time limit, for hot bath water. So we got ready by 5:50am and within minutes we were bare feet, on the cold floor of temple. We sat in the core part of temple (Gabhara), waiting for aarti. Nearby villagers were visiting as per their routine. We waited for half an hour. We thought of some delay going on. Then we asked pundit about aarti. He said temple’s aarti happened at 5am. But there will be one aarti at 7am. Some nearby village person will be conducting it. We had no other option but waiting. A simple aarti ‘Sukhkarta-Dukhkarta…’ followed by ‘Ghalin lotangan… After our temple visit we hit a tea stall. A hot ginger tea in this cold morning will definitely make your day.
Ginger was farm fresh. The overall food we had on the trip was fresh, organic, tasty. Any Mumbai person can tell you the difference between the taste of vegetables. Richness of bhakri. Old, lost taste of Tomato. Spicy Onions. Quantity and price. We both being underweight, had a good time with food. In Mumbai my appetite is dead, but when I visit to such fresh air, I’m a foodie.
I’ll give you an example. So next day we had some modification in our plan. The plan was to spend a day in Pune. Instead, now we are covering the rest of 2 Ganpati, and go back home before the Mumbai’s evening traffic. So Pune was our first pit stop. We left Theur and parked straight at Kayani Bakery. I love Walnut cakes here. Took some parcel. Then we headed to Durga Coffee, for breakfast. One thing i missed on the trip was Missal Pav. Durga serves awesome Missal in the town. The place is famous for cold coffee. Whenever our biking group is in Pune, we make sure to pay a visit here. I left Durga with my Durga. Another pit stop at Chitale Bandhu. A quick shopping of Bhakarwadi and we were on our way to Pali.
After two days of riding we are back to known roads. Mumbai Pune highway has became our buddy. At Khopoli we took a left turn. I think they worked on the road, now its creamy smooth till Pali. Pali’s temple was quite crowded. Luckily we got parking. After visit, we left for our final 8th Ganpati. Mahad is near to Khopoli, so we were on the same route back till Pune old highway. We had enough heavy breakfast so we didn’t stopped for lunch. Also we wanted to avoid rush hour in Mumbai. We quickly reached Mahad. The temple and surroundings are quite. No rush here. After temple visit, I parked my bike at the temple’s entrance, set up my tripod and clicked the first and only picture of us, with bike. We had a Vadapav. Shanti had her evening tea. And we set for our final leg of this marathon ride. Thankfully we got less traffic in Mumbai and we reached home by 7:35 pm.
It is said, when you go places, you Go Places. We needed this ride. It was tiring but it made us strong. We had amazing raw food but it left us hungry. We travelled lot but it feels less, only to…