Saturday afternoon brought with it a grey overcast sky and a twist to this ride that surpassed the little obstacles that came.The weather report for Sunday’s ride brought with it news of expected rain and a possible chance of not riding, and as Saturday evening progressed the rain wouldn’t let up. By midnight things had little of a change.The question of ‘to ride or not ride’ then was left to how the morning skies would look..
At 5:30 am the rain had gone and left behind the smell of fresh mud. The petrichor though was left to be experienced out of the city and with that need began the river and forest ride: a quest for the fresh smell of earth. By 6:am we left to our first destination,a road that curves through the forests of the Tungareshwar national park. The 85 sq km park is a sibling to the Borivali national park and harbors a variety of Sahyadri wildlife, but parts of it are now facing danger due to an influx of population.
With breakfast enroute, the first stretch of the Tungareshwar road was upon us, running through villages that had clustered around brick kilns and rice fields, we soon got into the flow of the ride.
A couple of years back this route was a complete off-road dream that became tricky and technical in the rains , so it was a bit of bitter -sweet to see the roads being freshly tarred. Sweet because it was a different way of experiencing the stretch. As the road opened up the weather decided to play along and with only a light drizzle every now and then, the riding was smooth excellent,and beginning to feel like a lot of fun,the bonus being the fresh smell of the trees and fields wet with last night’s rain..
With better road conditions,we ended up doing much better time and soon we connected to the NH 8 highway that runs from Mumbai to Delhi and with it some of the best roads this country has. The NH8 cuts through the forests of the Palghar district and to the west lie the lesser known beaches north of Mumbai. With time in our favor we did an impromptu extension to Kelwa beach, a place an astronomer friend of mine mentioned is one of the best places to go stargazing. The rains continued to play along and the roads leading into Kelwa were a picture perfect scene.
By late morning we made it to Kelwa beach and took a small break for brunch , filling ourselves with fresh cutting chai, spicy wadas and the sound of the waves hitting the shore under the overcast skies. With a light drizzle overhead, we made friends with a few fellow vacationers and played a quick game of volley ball.
It was nearing lunchtime by the time we parted ways with Kelwa and start ascending a small ghat through the forests,and closer the towards the Vaitrana river. Our stop for lunch would be by the banks of the Deep green waters of the calm river. As we exited the NH8 and entered a small by -road from the highway , the scenery changed from honking trucks , cars and muddy flyovers to small little huts in villages, clusters of trees that have shed their leaves, fields that were harvested and the sounds of village children playing games in their front yards. By noon we stopped at clearing just by the river and dug in to a simple yet nourishing meal , complemented with a juice and salad. After some fooling around and lazing for a bit, we were set to hit the road again. This time through pure dirt roads that we had not got the opportunity to experience earlier.
As early evening set in , we were full of dirt with huge smiles on our faces from all the off- road riding , it kind of reminded you of being a kid and playing a game of football in the rains. Speaking of which had till now only served to cool the air and making the normally dry off-roads superb fun to ride.The chance of getting out and riding even if the weather was sketchy , might have not worked to our favor but this time round taking the chance had paid off and completely changed the dynamics of riding this road in the late winter.
BY evening we were closer to Mumbai and made a stop to check out the Natural hot springs at the Vajreshwari. Having seen the beach , riding though the forests and digging into lunch by the river, the stop at Vajreshwari was not up to much but we filled up on Pakoras and Poha and exchanged tricky experiences on the dirt road over chai and sutta, bringing in a perfect end to a pleasant rainy Sunday ride near Mumbai.
This travelogue was first published by Karma Yatri .