• City: Kanpur

    Day 1: Baga to Malwan

    As it has now become a habit, any attempt at starting on time was immediately thrown out the window!

    Starting from Baga Beach, the route was supposed to stick to the coast like a leech. And along the North Goa beaches I rode. Some of the most touristy and therefore undesirable parts of the state!

    So much so, that I didn’t bother stopping at all in Goa. It was ride straight through. As I moved closer to Maharashtra, the crass commercialisation continuously decreased.

    Plenty of saltpans along the way…

    The moment I crossed the bridge and entered Maharashtra my heart rate monitor strap broke. A reminder from the Velo Gods, that touring doesn’t require all this unnecessary data!

    Roads were fantastic there, narrow, serpentine, snaking its way through idyllic villages. Asphalt quality is good for the most part, one can easily ride through on their road bikes.

    Hopping across from Goa, the first thing that hits you is the lack of tourism. Or any attempt at making the place tourist friendly. It is almost as if the Maharashtrians don’t want tourists. They actually don’t, but more on that later.

    A wrong turn led me to Paradise Beach. A picturesque spot, with firm sand which allowed me to ride my bike on it. After frolicking in the sand, it was time for second breakfast. Breakfast in this part of India is very light. You have to eat two breakfasts. One just doesn’t cut it!

    Paradise Beach

    At the restaurant where I ate, there was a kid on a cycle. With his head buried in his phone, hanging over his handlebars. I sat there for close to an hour gobbling down hot food and that kid was steadfastly stuck to his screen.

    My curiosity got the better of me, and I asked, what was that kid tripping on! The restaurant manager told me that, they were the only place with WiFi in the vicinity and mobile internet was pathetic. So, all the kids came there to use the WiFi!

    I laughed at the kid and then wished I had also asked for the WiFi password, while I was whiling away my time there…

    A peculiar feature of the land is that there will be a short 1-2 km climb. With the climbs averaging 6% mostly and some of the tighter hairpins going all the way up to 20%. After this short climb, there will be a flat tabletops with golden grass adorning it. Then there will be a descent of similar proportions which ends on a bridge crossing a river. And this up & down song is on loop!

    One of the many river crossings…

    Pancake flat hill tops for a kilometre

    While the numbers might not look impressive, you just need to throw in the heat and humidity of the coast into the mix and you realise why it is quite taxing!

    Along the way, in the village of Mhapan, I met fellow cyclist Waman Thakur. We had been in touch over the phone for a few months, and it felt good to finally meet in the real world as well.

    We rode together till the under-construction Sindhudurg Airport before he turned back home. Waman told me of the inauguration of the airport, which included the first flight landing there with a Ganpati idol on board. Can’t get any more auspicious than that!

    After bidding adieu to Waman, I rode ahead and called it a night in Malwan. A small town. But rather than stay in the actual town, I stayed a little before in a tiny homestay. The grandfather of the house only spoke Marathi, so he called his grandkids to translate.

    With Waman in the Golden Grass which covers the land till the eye can see…

    The boy and girl were school going age and as is usually the case, the girl was smarter. She was far more conversant and helped me get a room in their homestay. Her brother was…well he was a dumbo in comparison.

    I got home cooked food for dinner, which was nice and plain. Welcome grub after a long day in the saddle.

    I love catching the sunset on the road and then finding a place to stay!

    This is what the elevation profile looks like for the day!

    You can check out the full route from Mapusa to Malwan on Strava.