Mumbai To South India Solo Road-trip

pranaymeher

Active Member
Day 16, Beautiful Konkan

27th December, 2015
Kundapur – Katta, Malvan, Maharashtra (380 kms)


I didn’t even wait for the sunrise. I was up and ready by 5:30 in the morning. I was desperate to leave Kundapur and ride towards Malvan. I left in the dark early morning. Just about half an hour later in the twilight I came across a beautiful view. I was riding on a road stretched as far as I could see. On the left side of the road was Arabian sea. Every successive wave was making desperate effort to touch the road but failed few meters short. And on the right side of the road was a beautiful river flowing silently. I made a symbolic representation of the sight in my head. The sea represented a man trying hard to reach out to a beautiful women beyond a wall. Trying hard to make his presence felt. The women, unaware of the man’s presence, just walked away silently without even realizing that her solace was so close by.

I continued my ride without any stops. I spent hours riding on a winding road with sea in my sight. By noon, I read a sign on the road “Welcome To Goa”. I crossed the Karnataka border and entered Goa. It was getting very hot. I was starving but did not want to stop at Goa for lunch. Basically I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic after lunch, therefore I decided to have lunch once I was out of Goa. The road in south Goa was spectacular. It was so good that I was tempted to get down from the bike and kiss it. Finding such good roads in India is like finding a needle in a haystack. The road snaked through beautiful little villages of Goa. When the road condition turned terrible I realized I was very close to Maharashtra border. I entered Maharashtra and stopped for lunch at Savantwadi.

I was headed to a small village in Malvan called Katta. I was going to my friend’s place. He insisted that I stay at his place instead of booking an accommodation elsewhere. My friend Pravin Akerkar, stays in Mumbai and we’ve worked at the same workplace in the past. His parents stay at their Katta residence. I had been invited to attend Ganesh Festival at their place in Katta long time back. I had loved the entire experience of the festival and the way I was treated like a family member. I had been a fan of entire Akerkar family since then. I had called up Pravin’s dad a day before. He had been waiting for me. He even called me to check where I had reached.

Akerkar’s Place which was named ‘Priya’ is difficult to spot from the main road as it is well hidden behind tall trees. They even have their own garden around the house where they grow vegetables. The village had changed a lot since my last visit. I reached Waradkar High School. I remembered this school from my last visit and it helped me find the place. I asked around for ‘Akerkar Sir’s place’ to few men outside. Pravin’s dad was a principal in Waradkar high school, therefore he was commonly known as ‘Akerkar Sir’ in the Katta village.

I reached Pravin’s home by 4 pm and received warm welcome from his parents. While I was parking my bike Pravin’s dad, I call him Baba, was very enthusiastically narrating my past road trip adventures to his paying guests. Aai, Pravin’s mother, and Baba welcomed me in their home.

Soon, some guests arrived. Among the guests were a newly wed couple who were back from their honeymoon in Kashmir. Baba introduced me to them and told them about my Ladakh bike trip. That got the conversation rolling. Apparently, the guy owned a Royal Enfield therefore was a biker already. He told me that he loves to ride but can’t think of making such long trip all alone. He told me about his friend who does solo trips on his bike. The discussions with the guests went on long. Some of which I could not understand as it was out of context for me. They all left to catch a bus to Mumbai.

In the evening I called up my friend Shreepad. Mine and his arrival date in Malvan coincidentally matched. I knew that he was going to spend his Christmas vacation in Malvan with his family but wasn’t sure on which date he was going to arrive. I had called him up few days back and came to know that he was going to be in Malvan on the same date as mine. We had made plans to catch up. Shree and me work in the same company and in the same team. On the call we planned to meet the next day. He had booked a homestay near Tarkarli beach.

The dinner was delicious malvani style fish curry and fried fish. I love malvani food and love it more when it is home made. Pravin’s mom makes delicious food. Me, baba and aai engrossed in our conversation. I had met them after a long time yet it felt like being with my own family.




Somewhere between Goa and Malvan
END OF DAY 16…
 

pranaymeher

Active Member
Day 17, Beautiful Sindhudurg Fort and Chivala Beach

28th December, 2015

I had breakfast with aai and baba and left for Chivala beach. Shree had insisted me to come for breakfast but I could not say no to baba and aai when they insisted me to have breakfast with them. Baba suggested that I wear sweater while riding to Chivala beach as it was cold outside, but I refused saying, “No it’s not that cold. I’ll be fine”.

It was a terrible mistake. There’s section of the road just outside the village, that goes through a small forest which was freezing cold. My hand and feet had gone numb. I rode at very slow speed and was struggling to turn around the corners. My habit of always wearing a helmet while riding, helped me that day, otherwise I would have entered Malvan town with teary eyes.

I reached the beautiful Malvan town. I was all too familiar with the daily hustle and bustle of the Malvan town. I knew the roads quite well too. Just as I was riding through the narrow streets of the market I realized that I had been in Malvan in my Christmas vacation for past three years in a row. Two years ago i.e. in the year 2013, me, my friend Avinash and his wife Maithili had had an amazingly adventurous 500 kms long cycling trip from Mumbai to Malvan. Which we had covered in 9 days. Then a year after that i.e. in 2014 I had come again with both of them in their car. And here I was again on my awesome motor-bike riding through Malvan streets on the way to Chivala beach in year 2015. I felt a strong connection with the place. I wondered where I would be in the Christmas vacation of 2016.

I took a left turn from a huge fig tree standing in the center of crossroads. Shreepad had asked me to ask for ‘Dattai Niwas’, the home-stay he was staying in. I found it, Shree saw me from the balcony. I rode into the open ground of the property. As I got down from my bike a cute little puppy came running towards my feet wagging its tail. I bent down, and as I was about to touch the puppy a loud bark startled me. I looked up, a female dog was looking at me angrily. The creases on her nose and the way she showed her front canines gave me goosebumps. Then my eyes fell on the chain the dog was tied with. I bent down and patted the puppy on the back. The puppy liked it and started jumping at my feet. It kept following me till the stairs and was still looking at me as I climbed up. I met Shree his son Vivan and his wife Anusha in the balcony. Anusha asked me how my trip was unfolding. I was introduced to two young boys and their mother. They were Shree’s neighbors and had accompanied Shree’s family on the trip. I spent next 15-20 minutes narrating all the good experiences I had in the trip.






While sipping a cup of hot tea we discussed the plan for the day. As it was their first visit to Malvan they wanted to go for Scuba diving near Sindhudurg fort. After having lunch we were to roam around the town and later in the afternoon we would either go for para sailing or visit the Sindhudurg fort. I had already experienced Scuba diving many times in my last visits, therefore this time I wanted to get a new thrill with new adventure sport.

We found our way to the Malvan jetty through crowded streets. Anusha had already booked for the scuba diving. We found the guy who was going to take us for the diving expedition. We bought separate tickets for those who were going to go for scuba diving and the remaining who were going to accompany them in the boat. Shree, Anusha and the two kids were all setup for the diving. We got into the boat. The water was not as clear as it was when I had been here the last time. The beach was full of anchored boats. Scuba diving cost was 1500 Rs. Recently all the adventure sport activity owners had formed a union to provide equal business opportunity for all vendors, therefore there was no scope for bargaining.

Our boat was full when we left the coast. I was filming the journey on my action camera. One of the passenger in the boat who was with his family thought I’m one of the boat owner and was shooting the trip for business advertisement. He started the conversation and found out that I’m just another tourist like him. We happened to be from the same city, Mumbai. As our conversation progressed, we were both awestruck to find out that we both had graduated from the same school. And as if that wasn’t enough, Anusha told us that her school was adjascent to our school premises. What were the odds of coming across a stranger who had graduated from your school 10 years before you. This trip indeed was full of surprises. Our conversation now was not between two strangers but between two alumni. The guy’s name was Keshav Kale. He introduced me to his wife and daughter. When they learnt that I was on a solo trip of South India they enthusiastically asked about my trip and all the places I visited. I showed the photographs and videos while narrating my travel story. They thoroughly enjoyed it. So did I.

Our boat slowly cruised through the open waters around the Sindhudurg fort. The beautiful fort stood strong amidst the ocean waters, singing the brave history of the great Maratha warrior, Chatrapati Shivaji. The boat was anchored very close to the fort. As the engine shut off, colorful fishes started emerging below the water surface. The volunteers in the boat started helping the divers put on their diving gears. One by one divers jumped into the water. I was having fun seeing the expressions and hearing stories of everyone coming back from diving. They were explaining their experience to their friends and families with great enthusiasm. Shree, Anusha and kids had great time too. The time went by so fast that we forgot it was way too long past our usual lunch time. We returned on the coast by 2:30 pm.

We went to a small restaurant which was famous in the locality for its delicious food. We ordered our sea food dishes and munched on it. It was already too late which meant I had to drop my idea of para-sailing. I had planned to leave for Mumbai the next day. Shree and Anusha forced me stay another day. They already were making plans for the next day. I suggested a visit to Devbaug. It’s a beautiful little town where a river meets the sea and is a great spot to experience water sports and sunset. There was a Tsunami Island which was said to be formed when mild tsunami waves had hit Malvan town. There are lot of adventure water sports available on the island. Shree and Anusha wanted me to accompany them tomorrow. I thought about and couldn’t resist. I love Konkan, especially Malvan and never miss a chance to visit it whenever I have one.

So with next day’s plans decided, we all went back to the ‘Dattai Niwas Homestay’. Other’s got freshened up and then we left for having an evening snack with tea. We then spent the evening at Chivala beach. It’s one of many beautiful beaches along Konkan coast.





I had decided to come back to Katta, at Pravin’s place before 6 pm. But was feeling so chilled out at Chivala beach that I stayed long and watched a beautiful sunset. When it was dark I left for Katta and repeated the mistake I had committed in the morning. I was frozen stiff when I reached Katta.

END OF DAY 17…
 

pranaymeher

Active Member
Day 18, Para-sailing High In The Sky at Devbaug

29th December, 2015

I was back at Shree’s homestay early in the morning. I removed by sweater as I got down from the bike. I was looking for the cute puppy but it was nowhere to be found. Puppy’s mother was barking at me ever since I had arrived. Making sure that she was tied with chain I made funny faces at her before walking away.

I met everyone in the balcony. We sat while rest of them got ready. Anusha had booked a cab for us to drive around the place. We all were hungry and desperate to have breakfast. I suggested to have a breakfast at MTDC, Tarkarli beach. I had been to the place before and knew that it served delicious food. MTDC resort on Tarkarli beach is a major tourist attraction and it’s very difficult to get a booking of the place in peak seasons. The resort is right on the beach and is very calm and relaxing place. A perfect holiday destination.

Our first stop was at MTDC. We got a table on a open place. We ordered spicy ‘Misal Paav’, a very spicy Maharashtrian breakfast. While the breakfast was getting ready Me, Shree and the kids took a walk on the Tarkarli beach. The beach is splendid. I remembered that just a year ago me and my friend Avinash had run four kilometers on the same beach after our KickBoxing workout session on the beach.





Everyone munched on the delicious breakfast at the accompanying beautiful view of the beach. From there we headed to Devbaug. Our plan was to catch a boat ride which starts in the backwaters then goes to the sea and beautiful, secluded beaches nearby and back. I told Shree and Anusha that they have to try the local delicacy of Devbaug, ‘Ukadiche Modak’. It’s a Maharashtrian delicacy made with coconut and jaggery wrapped in rice dough and steamed. We got the whole boat for ourselves. Shree tried his best to bargain but all in vain. The driver of our cab also accompanied us in the boat ride. The boat went past the ‘Tsunami Island’, it was a piece of land protruding out from the surrounding water. It is said that it was formed when tsunami waves had hit the coast. We had hills covered with tall trees on the left of us. On the right side we could see Devbaug beach and the sea was right in front of us. We could see the waves of the sea crashing into the calm backwaters.

There were already many boats anchored at the Tsunami Islands and many tourists were enjoying water sports. Some lazy ones were just sitting around munching on junk food. Our ride became bumpy as we entered the sea. The golden rocks looked magnificent in the late afternoon sun. Soon ahead we reached Nivati beach. I’ve taken many boat rides on the same spot but never got down at the Nivati beach. All boat rides just show a glimpse of the beach and head back from there. Shree insisted the boat owner to take us to the beach. There already was a boat anchored on the beach and few tourists were taking photographs and selfies. Our boat owner agreed. We got down on the beach. It was a separate world within a world. The beach was sandy and covered with tall hills from all sides as if it’s completely cut off from the other parts of the land. The beach was calm and serene. We spent more than half an hour there. I chased some colorful small fishes in the crystal clear water to get a closer view in my video but they swam away fast. We left the beach in our boat but came back again as Shree had forgotten his and his son’s caps on the beach. The boat owner, without any word turned back and brought us back on the beach. The caps were retrieved and we were heading back in our boat.

We got down on crowded tsunami island. Our driver took us near a shack made of bamboo, raised above the ground. The ground was underwater. During high-tide the entire island gets submerged in knee length water. We dragged our feet through the water to reach the shack and booked our tickets for para-sailing. Far in the distance I saw a red colored jet boat, a parachute tied to it was high above the sea level. The guy attached to parachute was screaming with joy.

We sat in a small motor boat that would take us to the jet boat. Everyone except Anusha and her friend had decided to go for para-sailing. All of us got aboard the jet boat and our adrenaline shot up as soon as the boat picked up speed. Boy, it was moving so damn fast. We were asked to wear our life jackets. The boat was full with other tourists as well. The guy in the boat was calling each of us one by one and tying the harness around our waist and then would hook us up to the parachute and then what followed was a magical experience. We had a choice of opting for a dip in the water for 200 rs more. The para-sailing itself cost us 1000 rs each. When my turn came, I opted for a dip. I was told that I would be dipped twice. One at the beginning and another at the end of the sailing. I tightened the grip on my selfie stick as I rose above the floor. I was shooting everything on my action cam. The boat slowed down a bit and I was submerged in water. The boat dragged me in the chopping sea water before picking up speed. I felt the jerk as the boat sped up. Within few seconds I was high in the sky.

I was screaming with joy just like the guy I had seen earlier. The coast and the blue water was looking splendid. Shree and kids were waiving at me from the boat. I was trying to capture expressions on my face with my camera as I was flying high. The flight ended soon with another dip. When everyone else had gone through their turn, I said I want to do it again. I asked the boat driver I want a full dip this time. I left my camera with Shree and got myself hooked up to the parachute. When I returned in the boat, my mouth was full of salt. I thought of asking the cook not to add salt in my food for today.

After the para-sailing adventure we returned to tsunami island. We spend some time there, kids had their fun in the water by the time our boatman came to pick us up. He took us back to the starting point in Devbaug. We had our lunch in a local restaurant and went to the ‘Devbaug Sangam’ point, where the river meets the sea. The kids had amazing fun gathering sea-shells on the beach. They even saw some starfishes lying on the beach. From there we came back to the home-stay. I stayed there till evening. Bid farewell to everyone as it was my last day in Malvan. The next day I had to continue with my road trip.















I could have easily reached Mumbai the next day. But I didn’t want to end my epic road-trip in a traffic jam in rush hours of Mumbai. Instead, I planned to reach Lonavala the next day and ride to Mumbai on the day next to it.

I had my dinner with Aai and Baba at their Katta residence. While we were having dinner I showed the photographs and videos of the day’s adventure. They told me that they haven’t visited the Tarkarli beach for years now.

As the trip was coming to an end I wished more that this trip last just little longer. This trip had given me more than I had expected when I started riding 18 days back.

END OF DAY 18…
 

pranaymeher

Active Member
Day 19, Deserted Phonda Ghat

30th December, 2015

The golden fresh, morning rays hit me as soon as I took a turn on the deserted road. The road was going up. The passage of Phonda ghat had finally begun. I had been riding on pathetic roads for last 2 hours. I had left Malvan early in the darkness. My plan was to have lunch at Kolhapur and take the route back to Mumbai. Reaching Mumbai in the evening during peak hours was something I wanted to avoid. I put that decision on hold and thought of taking that decision once I reach Pune. It was my brother Milind’s birthday. I made a mental note to call him up to wish him once I take a halt for breakfast.

The road quality of the Phonda ghat was really good. I was pretty sure the road was made very recently. I was back in the road trip mood and started enjoying the ride. On the highest point of the ghat section and realized that I’m the only one riding on this road. From the point where I was, I could see the road far behind as well as ahead and spotted no other living soul except for trees and bushes. It was kind of scary, but I really enjoy such scary feelings. On moments like these I imagine that I’m the only human being in this world.

Riding on top of the Phonda ghat was bringing back memories of Zozilla pass in Kashmir. I had crossed that pass two years ago during my month long road trip in Ladakh. My day-dreaming was abruptly shaken off when a huge red, rusty thing appeared in front of me out of nowhere. It was S.T. bus. I saw species of my own kind after many hours. The road started descending down. I could see small villages in the valley with smoke coming out from many chimneys. Far off on the distant road a bullock cart was carrying long sugarcane. I crossed that village and then another and then one more and then another. Narrow roads and daily hustle and bustle on the village roads slowed me down. I was observing the village life as I was passing by. Men were mostly dressed in white clothing and white Gandhi topi while women were dressed in mostly pink or green sarees. Tea stalls had many customers gathered around and some were chewing tobacco or smoking beedi (desi cigarates), including women. Tractors were rushing towards farms for their daily work and small children were carrying huge khaki school bags on their shoulders. Some kids didn’t have foot-wares on their feet. They were walking barefoot. I felt sad for them but was sure that if they take their education properly, one day they will be wearing expensive shoes. And by education I don’t refer to the education taught only at School. A curious mind receives education from anything and everything happening around.

Soon I was in Kolhapur. The roads were very confusing but somehow I managed to reach the other end of the town and arrived on the National highway. It was late in the morning and it was way past the normal breakfast time. I started searching for a place to munch over a brunch. The highway did not have much options for food. I spotted a ‘Vitthal Kamat’ restaurant as came near a toll plaza. But the restaurant was on the other side of the road. I felt there must be another restaurant ahead on my side of the road. I rode ahead. And for next 5 kilometers I saw nothing but the highway passing through barren lands. I took the next U-turn and arrived at the ‘Vitthal Kamat’ restaurant I had spotted earlier.

I got freshened up. Called up my brother and wished him ‘Happy Birthday’. I ordered my food and after finishing it I realized that I had over-estimated my hunger. I was already full and yet to make things worse, the waiter served a glass full of Lassi as soon as I was about to go the wash basin to wash my hands. I had forgotten that I ordered Lassi too. I gulped it down. Payed my bill and was back on the road.

Lassi was a huge mistake. I was feeling drowsy. I felt like I was riding for hours but when I checked the time, it was only 45 minutes since I left the restaurant. I was sure that I would definitely hit someone if I continue riding in such drowsy state. I stopped at the next Dhaba. There was road repairing work going on nearby and the machines were making annoyingly loud noise. I ordered strong black coffee which took another 30 minutes to appear on my table. I drank it and felt refreshed. From there the ride became pleasant.

I stopped straight at 4 pm. I had arrived at Pune. It was time to take a decision, weather I should go to Mumbai or I should not. Ending this amazing road trip in the traffic of Mumbai did not sound like a good idea. So I decided to spend the night at Lonavala and then head for Mumbai the next day. Mumbai is just 80 kms from Lonavala. So I would reach Mumbai by afternoon.

I checked-in into ‘Hotel Revineer’ near Mumbai-Pune Express way. It offered a pleasant view of the surrounding hills. The bed was comfy. Even though I was tempted to crash onto the bed after a day long ride, I decided to enjoy the sunset view from the balcony of my hotel room. I hit the warm shower and ordered hot cup of coffee. Sipped it while enjoying the Sunset. Just the last day of the trip.


Sunset view from my Hotel Room at Lonavala
 

pranaymeher

Active Member
Day 20, Coming Back Home

31st December, 2015

I was up before the dawn when it dawned upon me that it was the last day of my first Solo Road-trip. I felt sad, as I always felt on the last day of my adventures. “छुट्टी खतम, स्कुल शुरू”, as said by the character Arjun in the movie ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, the depressing Doordarshan tune started echoing in my head. Coincidentally it was a last day of the year too. My cousins had made plans to celebrate the New Years Eve at my brother’s place. I decided to join them in the evening.

I ordered my morning breakfast in my room. Got ready, finished my breakfast, loaded the gears on my bike and hit the road. My bike’s tire was punctured at Coorg but since it was tubeless tire I had continued my ride in the same condition by filling it up every morning. I filled up air at a local shop and from there in about 2.5 hours I reached home.

It was an overwhelming experience. I unloaded my saddle bags and backpack from the bike and carried it to my apartment. As I opened the door and stepped in, the memories of the morning of my departure rushed back in my head. I remembered me convincing my self on the first day by saying “Pranay, you are going have an awesome trip”. I was back home after 20 days and told myself, “Indeed I had an awesome trip”. I put all my stuff where it belonged, took a well deserved hot shower bath and then sat on sofa contemplating the last 20 days.

This trip had given me so many memories in such a short time. I remembered the boring highway, numerous meals at roadside dhaba’s and restaurants, meeting a childhood friend, catching up with old colleagues and friends, the new friends I made in the trip, Paul uncle and his home-stay in Coorg, the unforgettable sunrise of Nandi hills, the magnificent boulders and ancient ruins of Hampi and countless other beautiful sights I witnessed while travelling on the road.

I laughed at myself because I had cancelled this trip to save funds for a cycling trip in France the next year, yet the restless adventurer soul in me had made me make this short trip instead, and I’m glad I made it. I promised myself that the rest of the road-trip will be completed eventually. I had engrossed so deep in my thoughts that I didn’t realize that the afternoon had turned into evening. I got ready and went to my brother’s place to meet my cousins for New Year Celebration. The evening went on in me narrating my whole trip experience to my cousins. The next couple of weeks went on doing the same with my colleagues.

This solo road-trip may have come to an end but it gave me an experience and confidence to have many more amazing solo-trips in the future.

Until my next Solo trip… I’m signing off for now. Yes, a video journal on this trip is coming online pretty soon. Keep Travelling… Keep Learning.. Keep Smiling…



… End of this Solo Trip… Until the next one… Good Bye…
-Pranay Meher

 
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