It has been about four years since I have owned a bike and didn’t make any long trips. And, for a cruise bike like Avenger, this isn’t just demeaning but, in fact, a felony. Correcting that was on my list since long but somehow wasn’t able to manage that either due to lack of company or inappropriate weather, and sometimes (well, many times)because of sheer lethargy. The best time to ride a bike in and around Maharashtra would be winters and may be early or late monsoons. During monsoons it is amazing but one needs to be really careful on highways. Thankfully there are many places which are about 4-5 hours’ drive (150-200kms) from Mumbai which gives you many options.
Off late, most of our weekends ended up in either setting up our new house or visiting Ahmedabad. With a long weekend in waiting, we had to make a conscious decision to avoid both and breakout for some relaxing. I felt a bike trip is a must to break the four year old jinx. With a manageable heat of early March for a bike trip, we thought to give it a shot.
Initially, we had Kashid in mind, which is about 125-150kms from Mumbai (defining Mumbai till Chembur). I had been there already with my friends and it is a good place to relax and enjoy the amazing beach. However, on the advice of my sister-in-law, we narrowed down to Diveagar. Besides the advice, Diveagar also made sense as it is located in the middle of other famous beaches on the Konkan coast line like Alibaugh, Kashid, Murud Janjira, Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar.
So, finally the morning came when we took the monster up for a 200km long journey. We started off at about 6:30 in the morning against the planned time of 6. The plan was to start off while it is a little dark, so that we reach Kharghar by the sunrise and cover 70-80% of the distance by the time it starts becoming a little hot. We weren’t much off the track. By the time we reached Powai, sun was already up behind the tall buildings of the maximum city.
There wasn’t much traffic due to holiday (literally…HOLI day). Soon, we were on Eastern Express Highway. The weather was cool and perhaps, the reason why many brave souls wanted to protect their wrist, instead of their head, with the helmet, just so that it doesn’t jam on the bike handle. It reminded me of an article I came across on Faking News a few days back. Quite an interesting phenomenon!!
We had our first break after about two hours on NH17 after crossing Panvel. The place was simply named “Chai-Nashta”. Can’t think of a simpler name than that. The food was good we felt we were pretty much at ease, unaware of what was coming forward.
The highlight of any road trip is the road. More than the destination, it is the journey that matters. This road trip made me realize the difference between Narendra Modi and Prithviraj Chauhan as I have happened to travel to the remotest villages of Kutch and also on a busy Mumbai-Goa highway.
As the time was ticking, the sun was showing its true temperature. With huge diversity in terms of terrains, Mumbai to Konkan stretch gives you the unique experience of flat lands, steep ghats, roads along the beaches, roads through the jungles and much more. Of course, there are manmade diversities such as 24X7 diversions.
We headed off the “Chai-Nashta” with one more halt planned. However, the hunt for pure vegetarian restaurant yielded limited results on a sea-food hungry region. With most of them boasting on chicken, fish, prawns and mutton, we slowly started to give up.But there is one truth of the universe that “Gujaratis are omnipresent”. Finally, after reaching Indapur, two Gujjus, driving an Andhra bike in Maharashtra, bumped upon a Gujarati restaurant, run by a Patel. We had a brief halt there and headed off for the final 60kms.
That particular day, the roads had other obstructions due to Holi. After crossing Mangaon, on the narrower roads to Diveagar, in some villages, kids and teenagers used sugarcane to block the road for the vehicles and scare them with colors. While at some places I gathered up courage and drove fast, at one place, we were stopped. One person, obviously unidentifiable, came to us asking for money. While I tried to negotiate with them, I knew it would mostly go vain. Just as we were reaching a deal, a bus came from behind. Who cares for rabbits when they have a chance to hunt down an elephant? With much larger pray at their sight, people instantly forgot that we exist. Before thanking our luck, we drove off for about 500 meters to be out of their sight.
On our way to Diveagar, we realized how unexplored the place is, from the fact that we did not see a single Diveagar milestone till about 30kms from the place. There were many for Harihareshwar, which is famous as a religious destination as well as the beach. However, we had Google Maps at our disposal which kept us on the correct route.
We crossed the steep ghats after Morba and took a mini-halt at a milestone. It is one of my loved ways of photography because the number on the milestones not just reminds you how much fun you’ve had so far but also how much is coming next. We clicked some pics along the milestone and then headed for the final 22!
After six hours of exciting ride, we finally reached Diveagar. While Diveagar has amazing resorts, one by MTDC itself, we chose a guest house since we have two rules of traveling – Travel Light, Travel Thrifty. And you may mark the use of the word “thrifty” instead of “cheap”. We took some rest for about an hour and then headed off for the beach.
One thing you realize the best about Diveagar beach is the sand which is amazing to walk barefoot. There are some water sports like Jet ski, banana ride, speed boat etc. that gave you some more activity on the beach. However, for the afternoon, we just preferred to see around.
Hunt for Maggi
One revolutionary product that has changed the way Indians snack is Maggi (as many would agree). It is one product that is ruling India since more than two decades. However, it has been last few years since it has moved out of house kitchens and made way into road side eateries as well. Also, while traveling, it is one of the safer options to have compared to other items where you are not sure of the oil that is being used, the flour and the vegetables and so on.
As it was quite some time since we had our brunch at Patel Rasodu, it was time we had something to fill our tummies.With no Maggi stalls around, we had to compromise with Vadapav and bhajiya from the only stall on the beach at that time. However, it was just not enough and we were in no mood to put more oil into our stomach.
Fortunately, it was early evening and few other eateries were setting themselves up for the day. There was one with the Maggi as well and we ordered so. For him, it was definitely a good start for the day but he was stumped when we asked for a more filling option of Egg Maggi as we saw eggs with him as well. With some confusion on his face, he accepted the order. He made a decent one with an almost cooked egg bhurji on the top of traditional masala maggi. I guess he learnt something new that day. For us, it was surprising that he had never come across such order.
In the evening, we took the bike for a spin on the beach. The 3km long beach and an amazing sunset don’t leave you anything more to ask for. For few seconds, as we entered the beach, I got the feeling, it was just a matter of time that I would lose control. However, low gears and steady hands ensured an uneventful ride.
Ride to Harihareshwar
We planned to leave early, the next day for Harihareshwar in the first half and Murud Janjira in the second half. With a little fatigue of yesterday’s drive and cognizance of a 200kms drive the next day to Mumbai, I felt it was best to keep only Harihareshwar for the day and take rest for the remaining part of the day.
While we had an ambitious plan to leave by around 8 in the morning, it was so much just to wake up. After completing a heavy breakfast, so that we don’t have to worry much about the lunch, by 10, we were on the BorliPanchatan-Shrivardhan road. We heard a lot about this amazing road that runs parallel to the beaches and gives you a view you would die for. As we found out, every single word was true. With ups and downs of the road on the hilly area in the left and sea on the right, it is a rider’s paradise.
Harihareshwar is about 40kms from Diveagar and about 12kms of this stretch (till Aarvi beach at Shrivardhan) runs parallel to the sea coast. We had many stops on the way to enjoy the beauty of mountains, white sand and blue water – all fitting into one shot. Especially, the road parallel to Aarvi beach will make you forget Goa.
After crossing Shrivardhan, the road drifted from the sea and was now passing through many villages to give a glimpse of village life. The road was pretty much smooth with some ups and downs. At few places it is so deserted, we had to verify if we are on the right track. Thankfully the cell phone network was almost always available.
We reached Harihareshwar after about 2 hours of drive, with multiple stops to catch some splendid views. While Harihareshwar is famous for the smaller Kalbhairav temple and the main temple of Harihareshwar, we chose to take a look at the beach. It wasn’t much different from Diveagar, except that the sand was shining a little (reflecting the sunlight). The beach wasn’t as clean as Diveagar. In the nutshell, I didn’t feel like I would have missed something amazing, had I not visited Harihareshwar. However, the road leading to Harihareshwar is a MUST DRIVE.
After having a quick snack, I gave the bike to Swati (my wife) as she drove back from Harihareshwar to Shrivardhan with much ease and confidence. For a change, I enjoyed being at the backseat, taking couple of snaps like this:
We reached back Diveagar in the afternoon, pretty much tired. We took a quick snack and headed off for the beach for some water sports, enjoy the sunset and just relax in the shallow water of the sea.We could see people walking in about 100-200 meters into the sea as the waters at Diveagar are quite shallow. You can also see star fishes on the beach being driven by the tide and carried back to the sea again.
The chilling morning
As the inevitable had to come, we had to pack our bags and head back to Mumbai. We planned to have more breaks in the return journey as we knew we were not as fresh as we were in the onward journey. We had two breaks at an interval of about 70-80kms while coming to Diveagar which is about maximum you can drive at a stretch for the first time on a comfortable bike. But now, we also had an idea about the road quality which was not so suitable for a longer stretch of bike ride. Also, we were not so much in a hurry while returning home.
As we set off at 7 in the morning from Diveagar, we realized what we forgot to bring – JACKET! For the first hour, while the temperature would have been just around 12-15°C, it felt about 7-8°C with the wind blowing right on our face even at a speed of 40kmph. After crossing Mhasala, we were looking some place to break.
As we drove about 10kms from Mhasala, we reached a village and a tea stall was at our rescue with fresh hot tea and vadapav. We stopped to have the much needed heat into our bodies. The village was gearing up for some big event that day with roads decorated something like this and men with traditional Marathi cap (or Gandhi cap) standing at a distance of 20 meters on each side of the road awaiting some big personality. We felt honored as we passed through the human chain. 😉
We took couple of breaks but were still quite exhausted by the time we had reached Vadkhal. We still had about 90kms to cover. We thought to have a bit long break and then take one more at the McDonald’s Kharghar before reaching back to Mumbai. While I was slightly hungry, I thought to have Masala Uttappa which would just be enough.
After ordering, I was made to realize by the restaurant waiter that it is a crime to order South Indian in mainland Maharashtra. I should have rather ordered Misal Pav, Puri Sabzi or something alike. The first part of my punishment was that it would take some more time before they could get me what I want since they will have to make some arrangements for their first South Indian order for the day. The second part of the punishment was kept surprise till the order came.
Once I received the much awaited food, I realized the definition of Masala is essentially Til sprinkled all over the Uttappa, something I had never imagined. While the taste was out of the world, pun intended, I had to pay for my sins.
By the time we finished our break at Vadkhal, it was already 12 and a bit of restlessness was setting in with temperatures soaring. A transition from 7-8°C in the morning to 40-45°C (as it felt) in the noon was something we were not so much prepared for. And as I am writing this, my skin is still recovering from the sun burn 😉
We took a quick break at Kharghar McDonalds for a chilling McFlurry (the first time I went McDonalds and didn’t have a burger) and reached home to conclude an exciting and exhilarating 500kms on the road.