Oct 29 – Murud
We had scouted out the ferry crossing that would get us out of Mumbai, and I had confirmed on the internet that the way on south was possible from the ferry. We were starting out to cycle the 600 km from Mumbai to Goa, possibly six days. This way out of Mumbai was one of the reasons that we were able to come into Mumbai in the first place. Getting away from a city of 17 million can obviously be an enormous issue.
We had a fast breakfast at 7:20 and rode to the ferry terminal in 5 minutes and made the 7:45 ferry to Mandawa. The ferry was basically full and we had to carry our bikes down stairs to the boat. It took about an hour and some for the crossing and we were riding down a pretty peaceful country road by 9:00. We soon got into the traffic that feeds into Alibag and got lost a bit before finding our way on down the road. The heat and humidity started to hit by 11:00, and we stopped and had a light meal. We rode on for less that an hour hitting a lovely sand beach with some concessions where we each had three drinks, and dozed in the shad of the the concession, while watching the young people playing on the beach and sea.
We cycled on for another hour or so, hitting Murdu where we tried a couple of places before checking into one of them. It was pretty good, but there was no beer and we had to wait until 7:30 to eat. We had done 75 km, some of it on the rough back roads we had seen further north, but mostly it was a pretty nice day. We now had to make a decision of how to proceed further south. Our hotel host explained that he thought the best would be to get inland to the main road going south, as the coast road was very rough. He drew out a description of how we would get to highway NH17.
Oct 29 – Mahad
We had breakfast at the same hotel we ate at last night and were on the road a bit after 8. For the couple of hours the cycling was idyllic as we snaked our way east, stopping at every intersection to confirm our route. The road was good, it was still cool and there was no traffic. As the heat began to build we hit a 13 km rough section that drained us. We again had three drinks at the first stop with cold drinks. We had 15 km more to go at this point and were dreading it, anticipating more of the same, but it turned out to be wonderful, including a long down hill that we didn’t have to brake on due to the rough road surface that had been the norm up to this point.
We hit NH17 at noon, after 55 km and had a long lunch break before heading out in the heat. We did 40 more km, stopping often to drink and suffer.
In many ways this day was not too bad, but the heat really drained us. We had entered Mahad having seen about a dozen signs advertising a Visava motel, and so had high hopes of finding something above the basic hotels we see everywhere, and it is. We had beer, a great shower and nice room and are getting rejuvenated for the push on.
We did 95 km today.
Oct 30 – Chitlun
We got away with a hotel breakfast by 8:00 and started with a 7-8 km climb, probably gaining 3-400 m in the process. The road is well engineered, with only a few steep gradients, it is probably in the 6% level most of the time, so we were pretty slow. I experienced some back pain and so for the first time this trip took some ibuprofin which seemed to work. We are riding in the Western Ghats, and will be until we drop down to Goa in a few days time. The road is continually climbing and dropping and so it is a workout. NH17 is pretty busy the whole time. Periodically the road surface simply deteriorates and so we have pot holes or even no sealing left, just rough gravel. But then we get some kms of great surface and moments of quiet on the road. Each town we go through is a bee-hive of activity with people wandering across the road and tuk-tuks picking up and dropping people off.
Sometime after noon we decided to have a lunch break, rather than pushing non-stop to Chitlun, where we had been told there should be some good hotels. It is good we did, because the hour and some in a cool room with a little food quite rejuvenated us. We are not travelling long distances, but the riding is tough and past about 11:00 it is well above 30C, and so we sweat profusely.
At Chitlun we found a good hotel, but nothing on the level of last night at the Visava. Regardless of the level of the places we stay in the people are so helpful, friendly and enjoyable. We struggle a bit with the language sometime, but they almost always help us up to our room with our bags and every request is met with a head waggle and a smile, even if they don’t know what we want. Indians are so easy to like.
Today we did 95 km again.
Oct 31 – Lanja
We were supposed to have breakfast as part of our room, but they were not going to be ready any time soon, and so they gave us some finger sandwiches and tea and off we went. We did not have the long climb off the start today, but we made up for is with a never ending series of climbs in the 2-4 km range. We stopped for a restaurant break at about 10:30 today and that made a big difference. After that we continued strong for a couple of hours before we had another restaurant break. At these breaks we mostly try to cool off, drink a lot and have a snack, at this one it was a shared order of fries.
We headed on, now on the lookout for a hotel. 20 km found us in a small town, with some very basic places, but we weren’t going any farther and so we chose one. This one cost us 300 R (~$6), while we normally feel that 1500 R is a good deal. Our showers were accomplished with a dipper from a tap and we expect bed-bugs will be our companions as we sleep, but we are able to get showered, beered, fed and in a bed (albeit shared like so often in these places).
I walked up the road and found a place selling cold beer, which we had in our room, and the meal was alright, if a bit salty.
Today we did 110 km.
Nov 1 – On the Road
We had bananas and hit the road about 7:30, to a different day, it was overcast almost drizzly. Which meant that it was a bit cooler and so I went a bit harder than usual as it warmed me and felt so good. We had a lot of climbing, basically continuous up for 50 to 100 m and then down again. I guess I got a bit too far ahead of Rich, because when I stopped, he did not turn up for half an hour. We both tried our phones in this period and they did not connect. We had no cell coverage .. wouldn’t you know it. I rode back 4 km and found Rich waiting in a town that he thought I would have stopped in. He had only gone 18 km since the start, but I guess because of the time it took us I should have stopped earlier.
The continuous climbing persisted until we stopped for our second lunch break and then we had about 30 km of pretty flat riding, to our night stop. We also rode longer into the day because without the sun hitting it was a little less draining, even though with the humidity we still sweated profusely, especially when we stopped.
Cycling in this way is very tough and you watch the road happening continually, but the scenery gives some mental respite to the riding. It may sound like it is drudgery, but the hard work does pay off with the visual and viseral.
The place we stopped at on this night was one of the fairly regularly occurring nice places. Our only exception on the run down from Mumbai was last night. This one had basic rooms, but cost 1400 R unlike the 300 R of last night, but we had more confidence that we would not have any little crawlies in bed with us, not that we had last night.
I did 113 km today.
Nov 2 – Panijim, Goa
Our hotel served us breakfast in the room and off we went. The day continued to be overcast and the road was fairly flat. After about an hour it actually started to rain, for the first time seven weeks into this trip. We waited about half an hour in a sheltered spot and then continued on, continuing to make good time. NH17 finally drops down to the coast briefly before climbing over on last series of hills before entering Goa, the smallest province in India and our destination for this leg. We had some serious climbing on this section and as we got to within 20 km of Panijim, the capital, the road got quite a bit busier. We had one final meal at a nice place and then did the somewhat hectic ride into the town. We used our GPS to get us to a hotel, but it was not up to snuff and so we found another close by and booked in for three nights.
We did 97 km today.
Our six day, 600 km ride down through Maharashtra province was pretty tough with quite a bit of rough road but the endless hills of the Western Ghats is probably what it the toughest. I just read in the paper that October was one of the hottest on record and so that was certainly a factor. Tough as it was, it was great, and the best section of cycling on this trip yet.
We will now have two days off to visit Goa.