South Konkan Bike Ride

15th Oct 2009

It was June 2009. My friend Dhiraj came to me with a RE Thunderbird and asked me to take test ride. It was superb. He told me that you can buy this @ 45000/- as his friend has shifted to USA. I had no time as someone else was also interested. So I said yes immediately as it was a great deal for me. I was planning to buy some new vehicle like Hero Honda Unicorn. Before that I was mostly using Passion - 100cc bike. So within few seconds I was a proud owner of RE Thunderbird. 2 year old with only 9000km running.

Till November I was busy with work & couldn't go for long rides. I went for few one day rides of around 150km few times. It was Diwali & I could finish my work one day before Diwali. I had no plans during Diwali. My father was out of India. My brother & his family had gone out on holiday. My mother went to celebrate diwali @ her brother's place. I was alone. I hate fire crackers & usually I go out of the city during Laxmi Pooja. So I decided to go on a long ride for 3 days. After thinking a lot I decided to go to Hampi. Reason was simple - I had been to Hampi few months back & I knew all the logistics like stay, food & sightseeing. I love this place. Offcourse nobody from my family liked the idea. So on first day of Diwali after doing some office work I collected my tent at 1:30pm. I left for Hampi. I was feeling energetic & I wanted to go till Hubballi which is about 450km from Pune for night break. I was enjoying the ride. Maximum speed was 110kmph. After 2.5hrs I reached Karad & waited at Hotel Sangam for snacks break. I saw central minister Mr. Prithviraj Chavan at the hotel. I had sandwich & coffee. When I came back to the bike I saw lot of oil had came out. It was shocking. I couldn't find any source for that oil spill. No mechanic was available since it was Diwali. I bought 2 lit of oil. I had to fill about 1 liter oil to top up. I left Karad around 5:15pm. I was in Kolhapur at 6:30pm & again experienced the oil spill issue. It had spread all over the bike. Luckily one automobile shop was open. I purchased oil again. The guy told me that the oil is coming out from breether - a part which is just below the seat. From there it was coming on the chain. When vehicle was moving the chain was throwing oil allover. Even my pant had oil stains. I called up my mechanic to find solution for the problem. But he couldn't tell me any solution since the problem was related to timing wheels. It was risky to go ahead. It would have damaged the engine. Then I decided go to Amboli & Malvan instead of Hampi. So I started for Amboli around 7:15pm after ensuring accommodation availability @ Amboli. After one more oil refill at Achra I proceed towards Amboli. It was cold & misty. Visibility was very less. One pothole was dangerous but I could control the bike. The bike has really awesome controls. I reached Amboli @ 9:30pm. Luckily my stay was free @ Sayali Hotel. I had food there. Food at hotel Sayali is homemade & its really great.

I got up at 7am next day. First thing I did was to wash my bike to remove all the oil. Few kids were enjoying my bike washing skills. After the bath I had breakfast. I enquired about RE service station. It was in Savanwadi. Aba Korgaonkar was the owner. Sawantwadi is just 30km ride. I reached the garage around 10. It was open. It was unexpected. My mother is originally from Sindhudurg so I know these people are lasy and very loving. I saw a old mechanic who was working on one Bullet. There were other bikes also. I told him the problem. The mechanic was the owner. He asked me to wait for some time. I waited for about 45mins. He opened timing cover of the bike. The shop was nicely equipped. His daughter Mallika was also helping him. She was very interesting & talkative. She was fixing minor problems of bikes. Taking care of billing & selling spares. While doing this the chattering was continuously going on. She had a very long talk with me after seeing MH12 no. She enquired how did this bike landed here? I told her that I drove it from Pune. She was very curious about my journey. She told me that she rides bullet. She wanted to do Rajasthan on bike. Them she kept me asking questions. Where I have traveled on bike? Why I am traveling alone? etc etc.... Finally she asked me will you join us (she had some group) for Rajasthan? I told her that I am interested. She took my number & told me she will call me back once the plan is ready. I never got call from her :).

Till that time timing wheels were removed, all breather pipes were cleaned, oil was drained. Then everything was assembled back. Oil was changed. Bike was ready by 2:30. I wanted to get it washed but he told me to come by 4pm. It was his lunch break. I was hungry. I had fish meal in Sawantwadi's Mahalaxmi Khanaval. Its famous. Quality is too good. If you are fish eater you shouldn't miss this. I left Sawantwadi around 3:30. I had no plan. I decided to go to Malvan. Malvan has good accommodation options. I went first to Vengurla. I was at Vengurla by 5:00pm. I spent some time at the port watching some angling activity. Its very interesting. It started getting dark after 6. So I decided to go to Devbag. Its a narrow strip of land which runs into the Arabian Sea near Malvan. It was nice ride. After talking to a local I got simple room on the beach. My host was a local lady & her husband. They were from fishermen community. They told me a lot of stories related to fishing & local politics. For dinner I was served some local fish. The man went to the beach and got a fish caught in the net. The fish was alive when I saw it. Awesome... The typical konkani preparation was too good. You can't expect better fish meal than this. I went to the beach after dinner. I love to go on lonely beaches. I came back around 11pm. Next day I wanted to travel back to Pune. It was about 450km ride. I wanted to drive via coastal road as long as possible. So the distance would increase.

As decided I got up at 5:30am. By 6 I was on my way. My decided route was Devbag - Malvan - Achra - Devgad - Tirlot Amberi Bridge - Jaitapur - Adivare - Pawas - Ratnagiri - Ganpati Pule - Hedvi - Guhagar - Dapoli - Mahad - Varandha Ghat - Bhor - Pune. I was at Amberi Bridge at 7:30am. I had breakfast there. I left for Jaitapur around 8:15am. I was not sure about the road. I asked a person who was waiting at a bus stop about it. He told me that there is a short route. According to him it was not easy to find it since it was not a tar road. He told me that he is going in same direction so if I take him he can show me the road. Since it was dirt track ride he was slightly hesitant. I gave him some confidence. We went few kilometres ahead and he told me to turn left. He was 100% right. I would not have got this road. It was narrow dirt track running through dry fields. There was traditionally constructed wall of stone and mud locally known as bandh on both sides. We had to go behind a tempo traveler for a while & than a Rickshaw. The dirt track ended after 40 mins. I dropped the person at the end of that track. He told me to go towards left. He wanted to go to right side. He was looking like someone who has taken a mud bath. I immediately got the reason why he was so hesitant to come with me. The bike because of oil & dust was looking amazing.

Within next 20 mins I was at Jaitapur. I was expecting that the constitution of bridge on Jaitapur creek would be comple. But it was not. The approach road to bridge was under construction. I had only 2 options. One was to travel back to Rajapur & travel via Goa Highway. This was time consuming. Other was to request the ferry to take me & my bike across the river. This is regular practice in Konkan with 100-150cc (about 100-125kg) bikes. But to load and unload 200kg RE Thunderbird is difficult task. The structure of the Jetty was complicated. There were steps but no ramp. The bike has to go down on the steps a bit and then turn 90° to go onto the boat. At the same time silencer & engine is very very hot. If the bike is stuck on the steps then its more difficult to pull it up. So I had full doubt if this can be managed. I asked the person if he would take my bike to that side. He saw the bike & told me that he would charge me 70/-. I was ok with it. I told him that its a heavy bike. He told me that he takes 4-5 REs daily. I was asked to wait for 30mins so that the bike would cool down. After 15min of circus 6 people loaded the bike onto the ferry. It took just 7-8 mins to cross the river. Again the bike was offloaded to other side. This side was bit more complicated since the steps were narrow. Finally after crossing Jaitapur creek I headed towards Ratnagiri via Adivare. After Adiware the road runs along the coast. It is one of the best ride in India. The Purnagad beach looks amazing with casuarina tree plantation. I reached Ratnagiri around 12 in the noon. Ratnagiri to Ganpatipule via Arye Ware is my favorite drive. The road runs along the sea through the motions. The view is amazing. Arye Ware is picture perfect beach. In 2007 because of heavy rain the approach road to bridge was washed away. So the government had decided to increase one more pillar. The road was closed. Dhiraj and me while exploring Konkan went till the spot. The site engineer was kind gentleman. He allowed us and also helped to cross the bridge though it was under construction. He told us not to tell anyone about this otherwise instead of completing the bridge they would be busy in helping out people. I crossed Ratnagiri and joined the coastal road. It is such a beautiful road. I was driving at 90kmph on that road. It took me just less than 30 mins to cover that 40km patch. I reached Ganpati Pule by 12:30pm. I asked a policeman for the road to Pune. He told me that its better to go via Goa Highway (Chafe Phata) since the boat service at Jaigad is not in operation. I had no option. I had no spare time to go 20km one way and check. I didn't go to the temple since it was crowdy. I decided to change the route to Pune. Ganpati Pule - Chiplun - Poladpur - Mahabaleshwar - Pune was modified route. Goa Highway is 40km. Road was good. I crossed Chiplun around 2:30pm. I waited at a roadside hotel. I had simple dal rice for the meal. I left around 3:00pm for Pune. Chiplun to Mahabaleshwar is 110km but there are to major ghats. Kashedi ghat which is 10km and Ambenali Ghat which is 35km. Both are beautiful ghats. I had decided that I'll go non stop to Pune. Ambenali Ghat is awesome but its very long. I reached Mahabaleshwar at 5:30pm. Normally everyone is supposed to pay entry fees. I crossed the check point. It was very bad decision to travel via Mahabaleshwar. Ambenali Ghat consumed more time and Mahabaleshwar was jam packed. It took me one hour to cross Mahabaleshwar. Mapro Garden was full & the whole ghat section of Pasarini ghat had bonnet to bonnet traffic. It was Sunday. Everyone was traveling back to Pune or Mumbai after finishing vacation. By 7:00 I was on Satara highway. I was tired but I didn't want to wait. Finally by 8pm I was at home. It was first long ride. I covered 534km in 12 hrs. I was happy with vehicle's performance but was disappointed with oil leakage issue.

Photo of South Konkan Bike Ride 1/2 by Devdatta Mulay
Photo of South Konkan Bike Ride 2/2 by Devdatta Mulay