Sunday 21st January
Jaipur to Malpura
Total Distance: 18493.14km
Friday we left Jac in Delhi to catch her plane whilst we took a train back to Jaipur. In Jaipur we met Chinmay, our warmshower host. Unfortunately he was in a mad rush packing for his trip to Bombay and his marathon so we politely made our excuses and said farewell to him and his lovely family. But not before sampling another wonderful curry lunch with his mum and dad. We managed 3km before we decided we needed some downtime. The last 3 weeks sightseeing has left us drained. We found a fantastic guest house with comfy mattresses and real duvets (a rarity in India) and our one night stretched to 2. We had just decided another day off was in order but fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, our guesthouse was fully booked. So we hit the road and had an uneventful day but we did see something of interest and certainly clocked up some decent mileage.
Our recent sightseeing trip has left us feeling rather disillusioned and out of sorts. We had expected to be blown away by Varanasi and the highlights of the Golden Triangle but instead we were left wondering why these sites attract so little respect. The Ganges, the Holiest of Holy Rivers, is a dumping ground for bodies, ashes of cremated bodies, human and animal waste and any other rubbish. Varanasi is also filthy, filled with beggars, poverty, underfed and uncared for animals, touts and salesmen of one type or another constantly harassing us and ignoring our polite “no, thank yous”. And these elements continued as we travelled to all the “unmissable “ sites until we were left questioning who recommends these places, why and what are we missing that we’re left feeling underwhelmed, depressed, appalled and irate! Hence, I think the desire to hide away for another day. But it’s actually been good to get back on our trikes although there was nothing inspiring about our route (yup another recommendation – “Cycling from Jaipur to Udaipur is unmissable “ (well not so far!). But I’m occupied on ‘puppy spotting’. Remember Mace? Well we did phone the Delhi dog shelter because I was considering taking him back. But he’d been adopted! So I’ve been busy looking for a replacement. An abandoned, undernourished pup or even a friendly street dog who feels we need adopting and fancies a bit of travel! Anything to provide a diversion from our current India experience.
We find a camping spot just off the road and pitch the tent. Not caring that we can be seen by the multitude of passing traffic.
Monday 22nd January
Malpura to River Khari
Total Distance: 18558.55 km
Nothing much to say about today. The scenery so far is proving rather uninspiring, mainly scrub and ploughed fields. But today I did spot an abandoned puppy. It turns out she’s a real squealer – 2 local Indian women decided to capture her for me and she was squealing like a banshee even before they touched her and she’s squealed when both Daz and I had to chase her down and pick her up.
Her name is now Bron, another star of GoT! We’ve found quite a nice camping spot for the night, which are proving easier to find than places to eat! We need to stock up on boring noodles, so that when we fail to find food in truckstops we won’t starve!
Currently when we do find an eating place that’s open, we say have you got any food, they nod their heads, then we list every dish we’re happy to eat, they nod some more and then nothing happens. They have no food!!
Tuesday 23rd January
River Khari to Bhilwara
Distance: 39.22 km
Total Distance: 18597.77 km
A little bit of a disturbed night. Bron was a little whiny sleeping outside the tent and kept waking us up. But we didn’t have any other visitors so that’s a good thing. Today the wind has picked up considerably, our first windy day since Tajikistan. And it’s a headwind and our speed slumps.
After about 30km we come to a small town and stop to see a temple and have a bite to eat. Then we round the corner out of town and the wind has picked up some more. With the sleepless nights and fighting against the wind we are so tired. So it’s thumbs out time to see if hitching will work in India.
With over 2000 kilometers to get to Trivandum we are hoping to hitch across some of the boring bits, which currently appears to be India in its entirety! Let’s hope this works. We get one truck that stops, but it’s full of gravel. Finally with about 5 minutes left on our self allotted time a small truck stops and even though the guy doesn’t speak any English we make him understand we want the next big town. So we throw everything aboard and hitch for 50km. Bonus.
Our kindly truck driver.
Just around the corner from where he drops us is a police station. We ask and they say we can camp in their back yard. Quick end to a long day.
Bron getting in some desperately needed shut-eye. She’s probably only slept.. ……….well most of the day actually. This travelling malarkey is soooo tiring!
Wednesday 24rd January
Bhilwara to Rajasmand
Distance: 72.25 km
Total Distance: 18670.02 km
OMG I slept so well last night, catching up after the last 2 rough nights but I don’t think Daz fared as well with Bron whining and all the local stray dogs barking or howling! We’re off to an early start, waved off by a crowd of policemen. Another unremarkable day but at least we knock out some decent mileage.
Currently we’re finding the scenery uninspiring, the continual requests for selfies (where everyone expects us to actually stop) is downright rude, presumptuous and annoying and if we stop for food the bill is often massively inflated – today they tried to charge 780 RS for 2 vegetable dishes, 8 chapatis and some boiling water. Typically this is more in the 350RS zone for foreigners. So we might need to reconsider our cycling plan. The only requirement is to be in Trivandum for March 31st for our flight to Japan.
At least we find a camping spot relatively easily.
Thursday 25th January
Rajasmand to Chirwa
Distance: 55.00 km
Total Distance: 18725.02 km
Yesterday we bought some cooking fuel but were dismayed to discover it wouldn’t burn so no cooked dinner or brews for us last night. And this morning we had to pack up and cycle without any breakfast and without a cup of coffee! And it’s cold and damp this morning so Bron starts her day inside my jacket.
So today we had to search for more fuel. We thought we’d found some but cunningly we decided to conduct a burn test immediately and when the fluid extinguished our burning wick, demanded our money back.
Eventually we found fuel but with the breakfast stop and numerous Bron stops (she was desperate to get off the trike and yet once off didn’t seem to need the toilet!), the day disappeared without gaining our hoped for destination; the lake before Udaipur (Udaipur is known as the city of the lakes).
So we had to stop early; not early in time terms because it was already passed 4pm but early in mileage terms (and we started at 8am!!!). But today we cycled about 3km where both sides of the road were lined with marble and granite workshops.
We stopped at one to admire a sheet of moonlight granite. It was 27 square foot and less than £100.
We also saw one of the typical sights of India – a tented shanty area by the side of the road. It’s heartbreaking that people live like this.
But look where we camped – this was just behind us. Convenient huh?
Friday 26th January
Chirwa to Udaipur
Distance: 23.33 km
Total Distance: 18748.35 km
Today we cycle into Udaipur.
First we visit a pet shop to buy worming tablets and anti flea/tick spray for Bron. We also purchase a lead and some chews. Then we visit Fatah Sagar Lake. We’re admiring the views but suddenly everything hits an all time low when there’s a massive argument because someone in the crowd of onlookers decides he should sit on Daz’s trike for a selfie. We’re really at the end of our tether tolerance wise – we’ve got some problems back in the UK with our rental property and with this additional stress we’re finding it hard to accommodate the audacity of the Indians. Eventually everyone kisses and makes up and we take Bron for a lakeside promenade – well she has to run to keep up with our trikes but we’re hoping to tire her out so she sleeps later. I’ve never had a puppy (apart from Mace) but it must be like having a toddler (not that I’ve had one of those either) but constantly thinking about toilet needs, sleep and food and how to juggle them to maximise a quiet easy life for us!
After the lake we find a brilliant supermarket (few and far between, the norm is a corner shop with crisps and biscuits) and do a massive shop and then head to the City Palace. Unfortunately dog entry was forbidden so we took some sneaky photos and then did a runner.
We stopped at a hotel to find WiFi and try and sort out our tenancy issues since our Indian SIM, which is usually pretty good, has failed to give us any Internet connectivity over the last 6 days. Two hours later, non the happier for our UK phone interaction, we head to Lake Pichola, stopping to admire sunset point, before finding a camping spot by the lake.
We’re literally on the grounds of a temple overlooking the lake, although the view is mostly obscured by trees.
Saturday 27th January
Udaipur to Rishabdeo
Distance: 66.48 km
Total Distance: 18814.83 km
Last night’s camp spot was a bit of a gem because despite being very close to the road we were above it, so remained undetected. The downside was it turned out to be the local training spot and the early birds were there grunting and chatting at 0630hrs. Daz thought if he pretended they weren’t there, they would go away but when I finally admitted defeat I found them doing reps in front of a mirror. Bizarre. We cycled back passed Lake Pichola which was very pretty in the early morning sunshine and then out of Udaipur.
Once out of town we hit the main Highway and it was another uneventful day although the scenery has changed from dry, flat scrubland to hilly, undulating, dry scrub. Bron has now been with us 5 days and she’s proving to be pretty entertaining and a great distraction. Initially she squealed like a banshee whenever we got anywhere near but now she wags her tail and is super excited to see us! We think she might know her name but she’s singularly unimpressed with her lead and locks out her back legs when we use it so we end up dragging her. This makes us look like bad owners and it’s really rather embarrassing in public. Bad doggie! Daz says she’ll get used to it or she’ll end up with drag burns up her hind legs and arse! Tonight we stop at another temple. The Guru is asleep but wakes up when we arrive and welcomes us heartily. We sit and have chai, he shows us the temple and blesses us then just as we are setting up our tent comes and offers us a room with bathroom and toilet… fantastic!
Such a luxury – I even get to wash my hair. Creamy cheese pasta tonight for dinner. Later in the evening we’re introduced to the guru’s father.
He suggests we join him at prayer at midnight (well we thought he said midnight) but we politely decline on the grounds we’re rather tired as usual.
Sunday 28th January
Rishabdeo to Adalaj Stepwell, Ahmedabad
Distance: 9.17 km
Total Distance: 18824 km
Sadly our luxury room didn’t equate to a luxurious night. Bron went into several extended whining sessions – I guess it was separation anxiety. Normally she’s mere inches from us separated by just the tent’s fly, last night it was 5m separated by stone walls. She wasn’t happy and neither were we! Then at about 5am there was horrendously loud banging – I couldn’t work out what was going on but it was a lad summoning us to prayer. We declined and tried to go back to sleep and whilst I succeeded Daz said his racing heart from the shock factor kept him awake. Then at 7am we receive another summons and feel obliged to get up. We’re both pooped and rather bad tempered but we sit through the prayer service and then have chai with father Guru.
Apparently this temple is famous and attracts people from all over India. It’s the temple of the snake God, previously a warrior who fought to defend his district in the 15th Century. Prior to the battle he had just got married and he promised his wife he WOULD return. So despite being decapitated he went on to kill another 19 enemy and travelled 120km (yup headless) to return to his wife. From what we can figure out he then went on to become the snake God. Apparently this is historic fact!!! Anyway many come to this temple where the sacred ash cures cancer, paralysis and other terminal illnesses. Fact!
Eventually we made our excuses and went off to eat breakfast and pack. We decided that since the scenery was proving uninspiring we’d hitch to Ahmedabad. Well we’ve hitched successfully many times but today it seemed we were destined to fail. Quite a few trucks stopped but they were either going the wrong way, their truck was full or the doors were sealed. So were beginning to give up hope.
Then a vehicle stopped and there was room for us and our gear, and he was going the right way. But only 20km! Well we decided 20km would at least give us a change of scenery. So in went all the gear and us too. And he insisted we sit on our trikes in the back of the open bed truck. And off we went. 20km came and went. 1 hour went and then 2 hours and we were still sitting in the back of the truck.
And incredibly he took us to within a kilometer of a stepwell we wanted to see on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. He’d taken us not 20km but probably 150km.
We unload and pay the man 200 rupees for his trouble. We didn’t offer, the driver insisted but it’s a bargain nonetheless.
We cycle down to the stepwell at Adalaj. It’s very impressive and ornate but sadly so full of Indians it’s almost impossible to get to the bottom through the crowds and hard to appreciate it’s beauty!
Stepwell done we cycle back along a street market where I’d seen a large set of scales. We need to weigh our kit and trikes. We get the baggage done but the owner is adamant we cannot weigh the trikes… bummer! We stop for our lunch/dinner as it’s now 4pm.
Then cycle along some nearby backroads in search of a campsite. As we go down one narrow country lane we spot a commotion in the forest. Some youths are chasing down a pair of wild boar with net and sticks. Just as we pass they catch one in their net but the squealing is horrific.
Daz jumps in on the action, photo action that is, Bear Grylls he ain’t!! They truss its legs and chuck it in the back of a van by the roadside, dinner maybe!?
Just around the corner we find our campsite.
Monday 29th January
Adalaj Stepwell, Ahmedabad to Ahmedabad
Distance: 29.86 km
Total Distance: 18853.86 km
Last night we had some strange visitors at 10pm. They woke us up and insisted we come out to speak to them. When they realised they couldn’t converse with us they rang an English speaking friend who told us we shouldn’t be out in the ‘forest’ and should be in a hotel. I felt rather uncomfortable about our visitors so we rang Anil, our Colonel friend from the NSG – nothing like my friend’s bigger and better and more important than your friend. Thankfully Anil sorted everything out and our visitors left and we awoke unscathed this morning – always a relief.
The tent was a little wet this morning so we have a leasurely start as it dried, then cycled back around to the stepwell to see if we could visit it without hordes of people. There was barely anyone there and it’s a beautiful stepwell.
From that stepwell we headed to the next Stepwell, Dada Harani Vav, and I spotted a huge set of balance scales for weighing 50 kg bags of flour and corn. I wanted to use them to weigh a trike but Daz was his usual pessimistic self and said we wouldn’t get a trike on the balancing tray. “Oh thee of little vision”. I didn’t intend to use the tray but to hang the trike from the hook. And with some fine balancing (and plenty of interference from all the locals who’d gathered) we finally managed to weigh my trike – 27.4 kg!! Quite a bit more than we thought. So with my bags weighing 26.28 kg thats a whacking total of 53.68 kg I’m lugging about! No wonder I’m so slow!
After our weighing session we head to the next Stepwell which is possibly more elaborate than the last. There’s barely anyone there but we do meet a British couple who spent 9 years sailing the world but have now returned to a more sedentary life in Gloucestershire.
After the stepwell we head to Satellite, a neighbourhood of Ahmedabad, and our warmshower host Nisarg.
He’s a spinal surgeon with an oncology specialism. His wife, Sweta, is a psychiatrist. However they’re both at work but we’re met and looked after by Nisarg’s father. This would all be absolutely marvellous were it not for the fact Bron is in continuous meltdown tied up outside. She makes such a din that she’s eventually allowed in the house – yup she’s turning into one spoilt young lady! Bron is such a huge problem that despite having a lovely bedroom with ensuite we decide to put up our tent on the patio because Bron will either wreck the house or whine all night. So that could well be the last of our warmshower hosts unless Bron learns to accept our absence. Nisarg didn’t finish work until 1030pm so that’s when we sat down to dinner. He’d been called for an emergency operation and had been at work 15hours.
Apparently this is the norm in India for those that want to reach the pinnacle of their profession. In May Nisarg will travel to Bologna, Italy to work at the best spinal oncology department in the world.
Tuesday 30th January
Ahmedabad to Kharod
Distance: 23.85 km
Total Distance: 18877.71 km
Bron was very well behaved last night so that’s some consolation after giving up an ensuite bedroom. We were up early because of the noise from the neighbouring temple and then had breakfast with Nisarg and Sweta. After breakfast we say our farewells and head out of Ahmedabad via the last Stepwell on our list, Jethabhai.
From Baroda, in South; to Patan, in North – Stepwells (or vavs, as locally known) can be found almost all across Gujarat. For hundreds of years, their efficiency in storing water, in response to the semi-acrid climate and seasonal fluctuations, helped the local population strive and survive.
Today vavs represent rich history and act as prominent historical sites for architecture students and tourists alike. It is believed that some of the vavs must have been built at Mohanjodaro during the Indus-Valley civilisation. Ahmedabad, too, has two prominent vavs, both of them an extraordinary heritage site to visit.
Dada Hari ni Vav, a carefully designed 500-year-old, which was originally built under the reign of one of the most prominent sultans of Gujarat named Mahmud Begada. A total delight to eyes, it offers a four-storeyed massive structure, all full of intricately carved walls and columns. The sunlight filtering through was making it look even more beautiful.
Adalaj Stepwell – Set in the quiet village of Adalaj, this vav has served as a resting place for hundreds of years for many pilgrims and caravans along their trade routes. Built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai, wife of the Vaghela chief, Veersinh, this five-storey stepwell was not just a cultural and utilitarian space, but also a spiritual refuge. It is believed that villagers would come everyday in the morning to fill water, offer prayers to the deities carved into the walls and interact with each other in the cool shade of the vav. There is an opening in the ceilings above the landing which allows the light and air to enter the octagonal well. However, direct sunlight does not touch the flight of steps or landings except for a brief period at noon. Hence some researchers say that the atmosphere inside the well is six degrees cooler than the outside.
From there we cycle to the main Mumbai expressway only to be told cyclists aren’t allowed on. This is after we have already cycled 3 km on it and reached a toll gate. No pleading helps, but they finally allow us to go forward one junction, 1 km rather than go back 3 km. We do however have a motorbike escort for this. Funnily enough at the next junction a truck is just starting up and is heading in the direction we want. A quick conversation between the toll guard and the driver and we get a lift to Baroda (Vadodara) – a nice comfy 120km.
From there we manage another lift to Kharod from a lovely Sikh – his only downfall being his propensity for texting whilst driving or taking selfies with us.
Daz would normally be doing his nut but he can’t criticise when it’s a free lift. Once he’s dropped us off we stop for some dinner and then with full water reservoirs head off to find a camping spot. We find somewhere nearby and whilst we set up Bron goes off exploring. We’re settling down to a cuppa when Bron returns. She’s mooching around looking for some attention when suddenly she collapses. Her back legs won’t work and she can’t stand. We carry her to her bed but she soon deteriorates; peeing and poohing herself, panting and eventually vomiting up something vile smelling. At one point we think she’s rallying but sadly it’s just a brief reprieve before our little travelling companion dies. She was only with us a week but hopefully we loved her enough in that short time that she’ll forgive us for bringing her young life to an untimely end.
For Bron, Indian Lion January 2018 by Darren Broadhurst
“Why do dogs make us cry,
When they slip from this to the next?
Because they fill our days full of joy
Gambol and frolic through our hearts
Make us smile with their waggly tail
And dispense a cuddle without a thought
That’s why dogs make us cry,
When they leave us behind to go play in the sky.
Wednesday 31st January
Kharod to Daman
Distance: 26.87 km
Total Distance: 18904.58 km
Last night we were both absolutely devastated by the loss of Bron (and she’d only been with us 9 days) and our sadness continued today. We stood by the side of the road for a couple of hours before finding a lift to Daman.
When the driver dropped us by the Daman turnoff (140km later) he went into complete rant mode because he wanted money. We gave him 200 rupees but he wanted more. Well I want Bron to be still with us – a life lesson; wanting doesn’t equal reality! We cycled into Daman and visited the fishing harbour and the old fort walls.
Then we went forth to find dinner and a camping spot – strangely most of Daman is closed – is Wednesday early closing? Finally we reach a beach area, full of shanty restaurants blocking the beach view! We eat, and share a bottle of wine in memory of Bron. Then pedal down the road alongside the beach. A local guy, Geo, on a motorbike says hello and explains there’s a lunar eclipse tonight and he’s meeting friends on the beach for drinks and a barbecue. No excuses needed we invite ourselves and set up our tent on the beach in the fading light.
Another local sends his kid off on a moped to get us beers, a nice end to a shitty day. Thanks to Geo and his friends for making us so welcome and sharing your food and beer.
Friday 2nd February
Daman to Bolsar
Distance: 89.88 km
Total Distance: 18994.46 km
Yesterday we stayed put and got some admin done and had a nice relaxing day on the beach.
Today we set off, heading south along the coast road. We got occasional glimpses of the sea but it’s a mucky brown, with brown sand and the usual quota of rubbish. It’s really not that beautiful but the roads are quieter and it was a long, but pleasant day’s cycling.
Unfortunately we struggled to find somewhere to camp. Our quiet coast road turned into an endless town that’s not even on our map. Finally we take a turnoff and find a covered hardstanding amongst some marshy wetland.
We’re setting up when a local comes along and tells us we are camping on the local cremation ghat!! But he says it’s OK if we don’t mind!! What goes bump in the night?
Saturday 3rd February
Bolsar to Shirsad
Distance: 67.51 km
Total Distance: 19061.97 km
We survived our night next to the cremation stand and weren’t disturbed by any spirits of the dead. Today we left the coast and found some hills – particularly enjoyable in the 35 degree heat. However it was pleasant riding along the country roads with jungle either side. Just before finishing for the day we spotted a film shoot that we couldn’t resist investigating. They were actually filming a music video.
The lead was a famous actor – although not so famous that we recognised him – and the song was about ‘selfies’. The single will be released later this month and given the Indians’ obsession with selfies I can only imagine it’ll be a huge hit. We should probably buy it as it would epitomise our experience of India.
Sunday 4th February
Shirsad to Mumbai
Distance: 54.25 km
Total Distance: 19116.22 km
Today we cycle into Mumbai eventually finding ourselves in the Juja district. It’s not far from the beach which is a mass of humanity. It’s been another hot day but as usual I’ve enjoyed the thrill of cycling through another city although it’s complete chaos.
In Mumbai there’s another metro under construction ; it’s the third we’ve seen in progress, the others were in Jaipur and Ahmedabad. There’s definitely money and development happening in this country. Mumbai also has skywalks – surely an over-engineered and expensive version of a pavement?
But the pavements here are either so rough and so full of stalls or rubbish that it’s easier to walk on the road which just causes more congestion. We’re staying in a hotel and we have an incredibly long, hot shower. It’s so great to be somewhere with limitless hot water; for the last 6 weeks in any hotel we’ve visited the water has been limited to the size of the water water heater. Feeling clean and refreshed with our laundry organised we head to find food and drink and find a rather nice restaurant next door. A good day done.
Monday 5th February
Once our chores are done we’re off sightseeing. We get the train to the southern district of Mumbai. It’s about 20km but only costs 20 rupees. Not even 50p. There’s a ticket machine but we don’t have the special payment card but we ask the guy behind us to buy our tickets for us and we give him the cash. It saves us joining the massive ticket queue. Boarding the train we accidentally enter the handicapped compartment. It’s almost empty so that’s where we stay.
From the train we go off to explore Marine Drive and Harniman Point and stop for lunch.
Then we visit The Gateway of India, Leopold’s cafe, Colaba Walkway and then head to Crawford Market.
We realise that we’re really close to the Town Hall and Chatrapathi Shivaji. Chatrapathi Shivaji was earlier known as Victoria Terminus. The construction was completed in the year 1897. UNESCO has declared the terminus as World Heritage Site in the year 2004. The building is a representation of architecture of various cultures including traditional Indian, Victorian and Gothic. Though it is a terminus to board and get off trains, you cannot help marveling at the stunning architecture of the building.
They’re beautifully illuminated at night; they look absolutely incredible. We’re both pooped so it’s time to head back. Initially our train compartment is almost empty but by the end it’s so full we struggle to get out. We’ve really enjoyed Mumbai. It has a great feel to it and whilst we weren’t expecting to enjoy it and had considered skipping it, it’s been great fun.
Tuesday 6th February
Mumbai to Rewas
Distance: 42.20 km
Total Distance: 19158.42 km
Today we do 36km across Mumbai to eventually end up at Bhaucha Dhakka, the ferry terminal, to catch a ferry to Rewas. We head off to see the incredible Bandra Woril sealink but discover we’re not allowed to use it.
A detour is required to visit a Decathlon and treat ourselves to a knife, fork, spoon set. To date, for the last 2 years, 3 months and 14 days we’ve just had a spoon. Then we want a supermarket but when we eventually find the right area it’s no longer there. Our last destination is the Clock Tower and High Court.
It’s been another crazy cycle ride but we finally arrive safely at the ferry port. Luckily there’s a ferry just about to leave, unluckily they only have a narrow gang plank to load motorbikes, mopeds and our trikes but fortunately with 2 guys plus Daz the trikes are safely manhandled over the gap.
Hurrah – we’re off. A two hour ferry crossing which costs us 75rupees per person but 100 rupees per trike. The ferry takes us south to Rewas, cutting out about 117km of cycling around the bay.
We expected to be dropped off in Mandwa but at Rewas we’re told we’re at the end of our journey and we need to disembark. The ferry terminal is a small jetty which appears to be in the middle of nowhere.
We cycle out along gravel tracks and after about 6km, in a small village, we pick up some bread rolls and eggs. Egg banjos for tea tonight! Just a bit further we spot the local cremation grounds with some hard standing beside it.
Campsite found, at least this time we aren’t camped right on top of the funeral pyre area itself! Aren’t we the respectful ones!
Wednesday 7th February
Rewas to Rashid
Distance: 51.17 km
Total Distance: 19209.59 km
Another overcast day today but great cycling. It’s mostly tropical jungle with the occasional sprawling village. The roads are fairly quiet although often a mass of potholes but it’s great not to be surrounded by crazy drivers.
We spot a boatyard with some beautiful old cars but the gate guard won’t allow us beyond the gate to take a closer look. Then we find a fantastic restaurant for lunch and have a lovely meal with a couple of beers. This is a fish and shellfish area and we’ve even seen people shucking oysters, well perhaps they were oysters, but we’re worried about the water purity, or lack of, to try any.
We have a pleasant afternoon, admiring the beaches and numerous temples.
To top off a good day we follow a tip from the I-Overlander app and find ourselves wild camping on a beautiful stretch of beach.
Time for our first dip in the Arabian Sea. It’s great so refreshing after another sweaty day. India is starting to look up!
Thursday 8th February
Rashid to Diveagar
Distance: 43.07 km
Total Distance: 19252.66 km
Well it was a fabulous night and morning on our beautiful beach and we were in no real rush to leave.
I spotted some pretty green birds – a Green Bee-eater – and a woodpecker. The lush tropical forest continued as we headed off. There’s a lot of trees in blossom and there’s more hills now so whilst it’s tougher physically we’re often rewarded with beautiful views down over the coast.
We pass a local Street market full of fresh fish, catch of the day, but alot of it we don’t recognise. There be strange fish in these waters! We’ve seen signs at restaurants for ‘pomfret’ a type of fish done in the tandoor. It looks scrummy but it’s double the price of our normal meals so we’ll save it for a special occasion, maybe Daz’s birthday in March!! Our plan today was to cycle to the Rajapuri ferry and as we got closer people were pointing us on. But it turned out they were directing us to the Janjira Fort ferries. The Fort sits on its own island just off the coast. We stopped at a restaurant there to enjoy the views of the Fort and all the boats taking out tourists.
Conveniently there was also a tailor next door so we had Daz’s shorts tightened in the waist; after only 6 months they’re already way too big. The Rajapuri ferry which we hoped to find here now runs from Muru. Well at least we’d been told there was a ferry but we never know for sure. We followed the directions through the fishing harbour and then down some small gravel tracks and finally we arrived at the ferry port. We were mightily relieved to discover that it actually exists and that ferries run frequently. There is even a car ferry but apparently there was no need for us to wait and instead we were loaded on the passenger ferry with several motorbikes.
The crossing cost 104 Rupees in total, no idea of the actual cost per person or per trike or per special price for the foreigner. We crossed the estuary to Didhi and pushed on to Diveagar beach. Unfortunately between this long stretch of beach there’s a band of forest separating the beach from the road and there are only a few access points. And at each access point there’s masses of people, food stands and various attractions (banana boats, camel rides, horse and cart rides). We tried to find somewhere private but failed and returned to a main access point and set up camp on a raised plinth overlooking the beach, watched by the masses.
We do enjoy a sunset dip – it’s incredibly refreshing. Now night has fallen and all the visitors and tourist attractions have all packed up and left us on a deserted beach in the pitch black.
There’s no moon and it is really, really dark. Spooky!
Friday 9th February
Diveagar to Harihareshwar Beach
Distance: 37.28 km
Total Distance: 19289.94 km
Our tranquil morning was rudely disturbed by what sounded like a couple of coach loads of children at 0730hrs. So that was our lie in scuppered but a wet tent meant we were still there until 10am. A local dog kept us company though.
We stayed on the coast road which was a really rough, potholed tarmac and with some hills progress was slow but again beautiful views of the coast. About 10km from Diveagar there was the most beautiful unspoilt beach without a single tourist. Why they all drive to Diveagar in their hordes I don’t know.
The numerous estuaries / inlets require significant detours if there’s no ferry/bridge so at Shrivardhan we had to head inland around the estuary. A puncture and problems with my back mudguard meant we called an early end to proceedings once we’d found a camp spot on the beach. Actually the beach was too sandy – yup unusual for a beach to have sand???? but it’s too deep and loose to cycle through so we ended up on the hardstanding of another crematorium.
We take a lovely dip – that’s 3 evenings on the trot we’ve risked the Arabian Sea. Daz seems to be overcoming his sand and salt water phobia although all dips are followed by the daily bucket wash. Oh how we love our Ortlieb bucket.
Saturday 10th February
Harihareshwar Beach to Ade
Distance: 37.87 km
Total Distance: 19327.81 km
A nice easy start today with a 5km cycle to the ferry from Bagmandala to Bankot and only 48 Rupees. It’s a genuine vehicle ferry but OMG what a palaver. Seriously Indians can’t drive to save their lives. One guy decides he can’t reverse up the ramp from the ferry (it’s true though, he was actually incapable of reversing in a straight line) so instead attempted a 3 point turn on the ferry ramp/jetty ramp. DOH!
From the ferry we climb for about 10km on the usual crappy roads so it takes us an age. Then it’s a nice downhill to Kelshi.
We were hoping to find cooking fuel here but there aren’t any chemists so they’ll be no cooking tonight or for breakfast. So tonight it’ll be tomato salad, cakes and biscuits. After Kelshi we finally see the beach again and look for a camping spot.
We find an unfinished build without a lock on the front gate. In we go and camp in their backyard overlooking the sea. There’s even an outdoor sink so I can wash my hair. Nice
Sunday 11th February
Ade to 8km short of Dabhol Jetty
Distance: 43.68 km
Total Distance: 19371.49 km
Last night we were driven from our camping spot by a really surly, angry neighbour. He was absolutely determined that we move despite how harmless we are. Usually the locals are worried about our safety but this one just wanted us gone and told us to camp on the scenic lookout just up the hill. So that’s where we ended up.
We had lovely views and beautiful evening and morning skies.
Today more hills, more heat, more river crossings. We did have a chuckle in Harnia watching the heavy traffic trying to negotiate the narrow streets when no-one will give ground, can reverse or use their mirrors. It’s bedlam but comical. We just sit and laugh. From Harnia it was a long climb to Dapoli with temperatures of 37degrees C and high humidity. It’s certainly sweaty work.
In Dapoli it was hunt the fuel and supermarket time but we managed to stock up on a load of cooking fuel and our staple food larder so hopefully no more shopping required for a few days. In India the cooking fuel we use, denatured alcohol is only 70% concentration. This means it burns at a lower temperature and therefore takes longer to cook, consuming more fuel! Also, we can only find it in chemists predominantly in 100 ml bottles, so when we rock up and ask for it invariably they only have a couple of bottles in stock. Fortunately today we score 3 chemists, 2 bottles, 2 bottles and 12 bottles. The last chem must think we’re drinking the stuff! Then we headed towards the ferry port at Dabhol but called it a day before we got there.
Camping site tonight is in someone’s orchard – hopefully they won’t kick us off later.
Monday 12th February
8km short of Dabhol Jetty to Tavsal
Distance: 52.07 km
Total Distance: 19423.56 km
The last 2 nights we haven’t used the fly because it’s so hot at night but this morning we woke to find a very wet pod. Some drips had come through onto us and our sleeping bags were very damp but mostly the beads of water had collected on the outside so another drying mission this morning. We almost had a 2 ferry day today but failed at the last 500m because it was gone 5pm so we grabbed some water and camped next to some type of municipal building.
Our entertainment today was provided at Dabhol Jetty. We arrived early and parked outside the ticket office. Then several vehicles arrived and parked next to us. They were basically blocking the entire slipway and as the ferry approached it was apparent that there were several vehicles aboard. Of course we assumed they’d want to get off and weren’t just planning to spend the day to-ing and fro-ing across the estuary.
So the ferry pulls up to the ramp and all the motorbikes and mopeds get off and weave around the parked cars but still they don’t move. Then the cars start to disembark and find their exit blocked by the waiting cars. They drive up to the bumper of the waiting cars, hooting continuously, until finally it occurs to the waiting cars that perhaps they need to get the hell out of the way. Kinda obvious but not in India. Of course then there’s the fun of watching them reverse. Apart from that it was just another day at the office; sweat, hills, more sweat, more hills………… you probably get my drift.
Sadly my puppy search is proving unproductive – I’ve seen quite a few but they’ve been fairly well fed and still with their mothers. One possible candidate was refused by Daz as not puppy-like enough and not cute enough.
Tuesday 13th February
Tavsal to Ratnagiri
Distance: 50.80 km
Total Distance: 19474.36 km
This morning we met 2 Indian cyclists heading to Goa from Mumbai. They’re steaming along compared to us. We all caught the Tavsal to Jaigad ferry together.
Waiting to disembark they spotted a pair of crested serpent eagles so we enjoyed watching the pair hovering, looking for prey. (Later we check – Eagles my arse. They’re mere Brahminy kites (Haliastur indus). Found mainly on the coast and in inland wetlands where they feed on dead fish and other prey).
The waters here are also teeming with huge jellyfish fish. A map reading error by yours truly meant we missed the coast road and went inland. The error cost us about 10km – so a costly error.
When I finally noticed my mistake I took us back to the coast via a minor but rough road. Since it was mostly downhill with no traffic it was an exhilarating ride. Back on the coast at Ganpatipule we stopped for a late lunch.
The remainder of our day was dithering about whether to find a hotel for the night. One choice took us on a detour to the beach through a festival but the homestay wanted 18$ for a safari tent so we decided to push on.
Finally we stopped at a temple and asked to camp. It turned out not to be a temple but a brand-new hotel with a party Hall.
But they were happy for us to camp, gave us water and then we found toilets and a wash room down at the back so an excellent find. There was also a dog with her 2 puppies to provide our entertainment.
Wednesday 14th February
Ratnagiri to outskirts of Ratnagiri
Distance: 13.00 km
Total Distance: 19487.36 km
Valentines Day and time for a well earned rest and a huge clean up. This morning it’s a short ride to see Ratnagiri Fort and the town centre before heading to our ‘posh’ hotel,
The Blue View by Timber hotel. The reviews describe it as ‘superb’ so we’re a little underwhelmed but that’s India for you! But it’s peaceful with great views and we can get our ‘shit’ sorted. The trikes are suffering from all the dust so they need cleaning whilst all our cooking equipment is covered in soot thanks for the naff fuel.
But we’re here for 2 nights so we should have some time to relax and perhaps time and sufficient Internet for GoT.
Well our hotel is ‘superb’ but not for the expected reasons. On arrival we were given a 2 storey apartment but as we started to unpack our kit in the lounge we were told we were sharing the apartment . Well we objected to ‘sharing’ and we’ve ended up with a huge apartment with a lounge and roof top terrace. And we have a WiFi dongle so even uploading this blog has been relatively painless. Happy Valentines indeed!