YHAI’s Goa Biking Expedition

In the month of July 2016, while surfing net to find few cycling ride paths, I came to know about YHAI’s biking expedition to be held at Jaisalmer in coming December. I asked my friend to check that out, saying let’s do it. At evening, that friend returned to me with details about YHAI’s another biking expedition at Goa at the same time. We both decided to join Goa expedition rather than Jaisalmer.

We told other fellow riders in our cycling group on the next Sunday, and few shown their interest to join. We started to explore options about train schedules etc, and related things.

Finally, the date came when we needed to register for the expedition, and trains reservation, unfortunately my friend with whom I finalised, had some family matters and wasn’t able to join. Similarly, out of few confirmations from the group, only one left as final. So, at last, we two Chirag & myself, registered for the expedition.

Day 0:
We boarded train in morning. It was going to be about twenty three hours of journey.

Day 1:
We alighted at Karmali station at around seven in the morning. Had tea and breakfast at station itself, came out of the station and waited for a bus to Panaji. After waiting for about half an hour, got a bus going to Panaji. Changed bus at Panaji Bus Station, and took bus going towards Miramar. The base camp was located at Sports Ground in Campal area, which is on the way to Miramar – Dona Poula. At around 8:30 we were at reporting desk at base camp. On reporting, we had been alloted a tent, and handed with a blanket, an inner of slipping bag, a rucksake etc. We went directly to our allotted tent, and found five other people already there – Paul from Kerala, Milon from Bangalore, Rahul from Thane, Ishan & Soham from Pune. We went for tea & breakfast and then completed other daily routines.

Basecamp at Panaji

There was no other activity declared for the reporting day, so we decided to explore Panaji city, and left base camp at around eleven. We started walking toward centre of the city, in totally blank mind about where to go and what to do. Unplanned travel is always joyful. We visited Church Square, Adil Shah Palace, 18th June Road, fontainhas area seeing some beautiful colonial architectures, etc. At evening, went to River Cruise, and then returned to base camp by nine. One more rider was added to the tent – Bhargav from Bangalore.

Colourfull Streets of Panaji

There was a camp fire (without any wood fire) at base camp. Tomorrow, we need to go for morning exercise at six.

Day 2:
Woke up early in the morning before five, tea was ready at serving tables. I wonder when had the cooking staff woke up and started preparation for tea and breakfast! Well, we were ready for workout and entire batch was at gate before six, and were appreciated by the camp leader about batch’s self discipline and time punctuality. We were taken to sports ground near the camp. Done some exercise under guidance of Ms Neeraja ma’am for one and half hour, and returned to base camp. Completed breakfast and took bath. All gathered again at around ten, Neeraja ma’am asked everyone about their prior experience about cycles / geared cycles etc., and guided everyone briefly about operating of geared cycles and do’s/dont’s. Cycles were allotted to all of us. There were few Merida MTB which were given to few of us, and remaining including myself were given brand new Firefox Target MTB. The only problem with new Firefox was there, they didn’t have rack/carrier fitted with.

After everyone getting cycles, and practice ride at a nearby ground, we were taken for a test ride. The test ride was at Altinho area of the city, which has some steep ascents and descents. Everybody completed it without any trouble. In evening, there was a joy ride to Dona Paula which we all enjoyed.

View from Altinho

Day 3:
Today we are to leave base camp and the real expedition to start. Everybody got ready, before reporting time. Tea/breakfast and pack lunch was ready. We were given a packet containing some toffees, chikkies, dry snacks, frooty etc.

We started at seven from base camp, and all other at camp wished us with clapping hands. We rode till Dona Paula jetty, from where we were to load cycles into ferry till Marmugao harbour. Neeraja ma’am was with us till the jetty. Our guide Dhaval and mechanic Tiwariji were on motorcycle and were to join us at harbour on another end. We loaded our cycles into the boat, waved hands to Neeraja ma’am and Panaji city and started sailing. It was everyone’s first experience of ferry ride.

In half an hour, we reached Mormugao harbour. Its fishermen’s harbour and lots of fishermen’s boats were there, unloading variety of fishes. We unloaded our cycles and came outside of port. Dhaval and Tiwariji were waiting for us. Tiwariji checked cycles before starting ride. We started riding for our real expedition. First few kilometers were on highway passing besides airport. The ride was tiring and boring on highway. After few kilometer we left highway and took a small road going towards Velsao beach. It was a pleasant ride with coconut trees on both sides of the road, and was a descent too. On reaching Velsao beach, our guide Dhaval, mechanic Tiwariji and few of us went to see the tide status, and returned with dull faces. It was high tide time, and cycling on beach sand was not possible. We took interim small roads passing through villages. The inner beauty of Goan vilages can not be experienced with any other mode of transport which we enjoyed on cycles.

Till afternoon, we reached Colva beach. Completed lunch in a nearby garden. Tide level was low at this time, so we took our cycles to the sands. Though it was tiring to ride on sands, but was an amazing experience. Sea on one side, water touching tyres and sometimes splashing over the face too, mild wind from sea side – all these experiences were which we never had earlier. Till four in afternoon, we reached Cavellosim beach, from where had to take road again. Parked our cycles, left bags there and jumped into the crystal clear water of the sea – ah! relaxed……!!

After spending more than an hour in water, we came out. Had some snacks in nearby shack, and again took our cycles on the road. Our first day camp was just few kms away. By the evening, we reached Assolna Football Ground, where we had to stay overnight. On reaching, tea with snacks were served. Till the dinner was ready, we relaxed on the green grass of the football ground. We had chat and gossips while relaxing. This was first evening where everyone was together at one place. We came closer by knowing each other. While we were busy in gossips, Tiwariji washed all cycles. He was truly dedicated to his job. When the dinner was ready, we gave justice to the dinner which was tasty and delicious. A total of two large rooms were available for our accommodation. One room was given to girls, and another was for us to accommodate eighteen members!! Since, everyone was tired, went to sleep in no time.

Day 4:
Next day morning, everybody woke up with freshness. Had a delicious breakfast, and got ready for next ride. We started riding passing through Assolna village. Initial 5-6 km streach was boring. We were informed to stop at a T-Junction where YHAI direction mark is there. At the T junction, Tiwariji serviced all cycles with de-greaser. One or two guys had some other minor problem too, which were cleared by Tiwariji. From here we left the main road, and took a small road passing through tree plantations on both sides. The road had too many accents and descents, but was enjoyable. There were rubber plantation and sugarcane fields on sides of the road. Today the group was divided as there were fast riders and slow riders. Few of us were too ahead, we were in middle and few were too behind, but where a T-junction or V roads comes, everybody waits for others to come so that nobody miss the route. At such T junction, we stopped for lunch, which was a beautiful place – a lots of tall and wide trees, a small water spring flowing – ah! lovely place. We took lunch and rested for some time. Moved ahead for more uphills and downhills, and went to Budbud Lake. As people say and I also read in other blogs that when we make some sound the bubbles come from the bottom of the lake, but I felt the bubbles are coming continuously at random places but it has nothing relation with any sound. Anyways, we enjoyed it and started again. Netravali village was just nearby which we crossed and reached our campsite in Netravali sanctuary. This was the best campsite among all higher camps. There were three large tents out of which one allotted to girls and two were for us. On reaching campsite, welcome drink with snacks served.

Such marking found everywhere on entire route
On a steep climb, while others were dragging, only Dr. Ninad was able to climb
Trucks queued at iron mine

Our guide – Dhawal and Tiwariji already told us about a waterfall near to this site, so we just took towel and clothes and started towards the waterfall. It was almost 4-5 km trekking with some steep ascents. Finally reached at waterfall and jumped into the water. The water was so cold but we enjoyed it for more than half an hour and returned back to the camp. On returning, tea and snacks were ready and we were so hungry that we finished all leaving nothing.

This campsite was a lovely place, surrounded by trees. We asked our guide if its safe to sleep under the open sky and not in tents, but Dhawal told it may be safe in terms of animals etc, but the weather will be colder. While we were busy finalising the place, dinner was ready to serve. The atmosphere was so pleasant that today nobody went to tent after dinner. Another reason might also be there that there were no mobile phone’s signals in this area. We had a good time while chatting, everyone had some experience to share, but when Triwariji started sharing his various experiences, all others were shut. As the time passed the weather started being colder. Tiwariji asked cook to prepare hot bournvita for all of us, on having bournvita we slowly moved to our tents.

Day 5:
I never had sound and pleasant sleep which I experienced last night. Early morning, chirping sound of birds made us wake up. When I came of of the tent, was amazed to see the beauty of the nature around. A little foggy dawn, birds singing around all these were the experience which we strive to feel in our busy urban life.

Netravali Campsite

Today’s destination campsite was changed due to some reasons. It was Kollem as mentioned in expedition itinerary, but now we had to go Sanganer. Dhawal told that we need to ride more with more uphills, so we made hurry in getting ourselves ready and said good bye to Netravali camp.

We passed through Netravali village and at next T-junction, took road to Kollem. This was one of the best scenic road passing through forest. Since we were informed to reach destination camp early, we started pushing hard and ultimately got tired soon. Now we started experiencing short of water, and no shops or even any village were found. Ultimately, at one T-junction we found person selling fresh sugarcane juice. He looked at us, our attire, our cycles and our heavily breathing & thirsty condition. We didn’t ask anything, and ordered for juice. Ah! what a soothing sensation it was!! When asked for amount to pay, it was shocking, he was selling it at exorbitant rates. Anyway, he was like oasis for us in this green desert!! Now, after this T-junction, our ride was to continue on highway which was full of heavy vehicles and mining trucks. Later on we came to know that there was an iron mine just few kilometers from here. Now cycling was tough due to the sun over the head, steep inclines and more important was to save ourselves from trucks. Luckily this stretch was just 5 km, and we reached at our destination campsite.

We were given 2 rooms in a school, yes it was a school! We reached nearly at 12.30. Packed lunch was still with us. After few minutes’ rest, we went to nearby small restaurant and had our lunch there with some snacks taken from the restaurant. After returning to the school (!!!), everybody went to slip, as here nothing was to do. Nearest village was at 2-3 km and the road was too busy with mining trucks’ traffic. The rest of day was too boring.

Next day’s campsite was Khandepar. Now YHAI has removed Tambadi Surla temple from the route, it was used to included earlier. We asked our guide Dhawal, if we wish to go there, will it be allowed and possible. Dhawal and Tiwariji told that who wants to go Tambadi Surla need to leave early in the morning, before rest of the group leaves, and meet the group again at T Junction where road to Tambadi Surla temple meets . We agreed, and took a count, some 8-10 members including me planned to visit that temple. After dinner, we discussed about route plan with Dhawal and went to sleep early. Unfortunately, I had mild fever and was experiencing shivering of cold. Before bed, I told Chirag that I won’t join for Tambadi Surla as I was not feeling well.

Day 6:
Everybody who were going to Tambadi Surla woke up early, and as I was not feeling well, I woke up but remain in bed. When Ishan came to know that I was not joining, he forcefully requested me to join with words – ‘yess, we can do it Dipeshbhai‘. Then I also thought to join the group, and quickly got ready to move. When I reached downstairs, entire group was ready. Tiwariji told that who wants to do Tambadi Surla can go ahead and remaining shall reach junction point since they were slow moving.

We Tambadi Surla group immediately started pedalling. There were steep inclines for few kms but then it was flat terrain. We passed through Colem village, and stopped at X junction post Mollem for final counting that how many are coming for Tambadi Surla Temple. At next T junction, we left the main road and moved towards Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctury where Tambadi Surla Temple is there. Its a lush green forest and the narrow road passing through dense line of trees. After half hour of ride, we reached the temple.

The Tambadi Surla Temple is a beautiful temple carved from basalt stones. The temple is historic and was erected in 12th century. The temple is surrounded by beautifully maintained garden. We passed few minutes at the temple premises and left for return ride. On our return ride, Ninad’s chain broke on midway! Fortunately, one person on motorcycle offered help. Ninad took the cycle on his shoulders and rode the motorcycle. That guy dropped at the T junction from where we turned. In few minutes, Tiwariji with remaining group came and he repaired the chain. We started again towards next destination. We took lunch at one road side dhaba, visited one cashew factory enroute and finally reached at the entrance of the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. From here it was going to be 6 km of off road cycling.

When we were just to start our off road ride, Dr. Ninad caught one green coloured snake (he told its name too, but I forgot). He gave details about that snake and then left it on a branch of a tree. We started riding which was easy going in starting but after that inclines were ready to welcome us which made us tired, but it was enjoyed. The off road ride ended at the entrance of Bondla Zoo. We didn’t visited the zoo, but waited for all members to gather and started riding again. Now, it was steep downhill which may be dangerous if can’t control the speed.

At the end of few km on busy highway, we reached Khandepar, where in one farm house our camp was held. After refreshments at camp, we went for a small walk upto highway. On returning to the camp, dinner was ready. We took dinner while enjoying chatting about the individual’s experience about the expedition, as this was the last night we were together. Chatting was continued till late night after dinner.

Day 7:
Everybody woke up late, as Tiwariji told that its easy ride for today, and no need to hurry. It was a foggy morning, and dense fog was there allowing visibility of just few meters only. The ride was to be on a busy highway, and with this dense fog we didn’t want to take risk. The fog remained for approx an hour or so, till that we completed our breakfast. Since, today was last day of riding, we planned to take lunch at Old Goa, so we didn’t take packed lunch from the camp.

We started cycling on highway. The traffic was very less as compared to yesterday evening. The route today had too many ups and downs and some climbs were really hard to pedal. Few km ahead, the road was passing adjoining the river on the side. We stopped there for a small break and to enjoy the view. Fishing boats were sailing river. On the other side of the river bank, there was a beautiful coconut plantation, and the view was excellent. We started ride again, now there was a short but steep climb and we needed to push hard on pedals. Unfortunately, a bolt on derailleur hanger in Chirag’s cycle broke, and the derailleur stuck on one side. Few guys from our group were enjoying river view from the top, we all tried to make Chirag’s cycle to run atleast till we catch Tiwariji, and we were succeed in efforts. On next cross road, we found Dhaval and Tiwariji waiting for the group. Tiwariji had hard time to fix the derailleur but was done successfully. Till that time, now only Chirag and me were left, and whole group had moved ahead.

We were approx one hour late from the last guy of group crossed us where we were fixing the cycle. Tiwariji gave idea about route ahead, as now the route was to pass through towns. We, Chirag and myself, started ride again. We tried to keep pace as high as we could, but alas!, till the next town we couldn’t find any of our group mates. We reached a small town Cumbarjua and got lost in the streets of the town finding the way ahead. We asked one person about the way towards Old Goa, and he suggested to take ferry and pointed towards the way to reach ferry point. When we reached, ferry boat was ready to deport, loaded our cycles on the boat and crossed the river. After just few km we were at Old Goa town. We tried to call group mates & Dhawal, but most of them were unreachable. When we reached famous church at Old Goa, we saw there two cycles from our group. We too were interested to visit the churches, but keeping cycles unlocked was not found suitable, so we moved ahead. Now, we were hungry enough, so were finding a good restaurant where we can park our cycles safe. On the way to Panaji, we found such restaurant, and had a wonderful lunch. Panaji was not too far, and we were at our base camp in just few minutes after lunch.

Our Guide – Dhawal
Mechanic cum Guide – Tiwariji

On reaching, base camp we deposited rucksake, octopus cable tie, and sleeping bag inner on the counter, and in no time we got our deposit in cash refunded. We were allotted a big size tent, where we found few guys of our group already resting there. We went for bath and relaxed. Other groupmates returned in couple of hours. We decided to go for dinner out in some decent restaurant. At evening, we were enjoying dinner at a restaurant in Panaji. On returning to base camp, at the time of campfire, certificates were distributed to us, and our expedition ended officially. Few groupmates left that evening, and others were to leave on next morning.

Day 8
We had our train on the next day, so next day we rented a scooter and went for North Goa beaches and Old Goa churches. A day full of enjoyment of Goa’s happening life.

Day 9
We checked out in morning and took city bus to Panaji Bus Station, from where we boarded bus to Mapusa. The day after that we were in trains with lots of memories. After almost a year, our whatsapp group is still active and we are in touch. Ishan is in contact personally too, and we talk every few days.

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