Thursday, January 17, 2013

another cycling expedition in the western ghats of India...

This is my first post of the new year and a few of you would remember how I promised last year that 2013 will start with a new chapter. Well, chapters of life sometimes change abruptly and sometimes they just slip in quietly and deceptively, sometimes we have to make an effort to start a new chapter.

 I told you my angel has done a miracle to me and the new chapters will all be full of that light. This new year already started with a refreshing note, on the 4th of January we started another biking (cycling) expedition into the western ghats in south Goa. Myself and the husband both together this time.

We cycled on the long beaches, jungles and villages of Goa seeing the real beauty of the place. The fisher women selling fish along the roads, the country variety of small bananas being sold, paddy fields being planted, rough roads with deep red dust and much much more. An enriching experience, quite challenging physically but absolutely worth it. We were breathless on the uphills, joyous on the slopes and generally exploding with happiness all this while.  There was so much beauty to be absorbed, song of nature to be tuned into, every thing that makes my heart sing. Yes, there were plenty of birds too, there was never a dull moment.

This expedition was organised by YHAI Goa, a state division of the Yhai India (Delhi) who had organised the Kullu to khardung-la biking expedition back in 2011. This Goa biking expedition is organised every year in December and January and about 5-6 groups are flagged off to the cycling track decided by the Yhai Goa team.

Here is the Yhai Goa base camp with all the tents and open dining area in sight.

The bicycles were arranged under a tree and we had to clean them ourselves as the previous batch had returned on the same bicycles, the dusty rough route makes sure that every hinge of a bicycle looks tortured and neglected. Covered with a tick layer of muck.

We cleaned every bit of dirt and got our bottle clamps etc fixed on them. Got the breaks etc checked, seat height adjusted and then had a ride around the sports authority and neighboring areas.

Then after lunch we had a ride to Dauna paula beach and back to get a hang of the Goa traffic. We were a bunch of 11 cyclists, a really jovial group that bonded well during the expedition. Here we are after our ride to Dauna Paula, enjoying sea breeze..

Next day (5th Dec) we started the expedition. This is the route map of all places we passed through.

It is the area of western ghats so you get a taste of mountain biking as well with the uphills and slopes but yes, it is not comparable with Himachal or Jammu and Kashmir mountains.We cycle for about 50-60 km every day with our baggage for the whole expedition  that means our clothing, toiletries, dry snacks and electrolytes etc tied on the cycle and stay in camps in the night. The camps are either tents or some local rest house with just the basic facilities. We used to get tea soon after arrival to each camp and then we used to take bath and wash our lunch boxes. The Yhai team had stationed cooks at every camp site for us who used to cook hot dinner for us and make sure we eat properly. After some chit chat and discussions we used to sleep on floor, blankets were provided which we had to fold neatly before leaving the camp. In the morning we used to get ready, have tea and breakfast and packed lunch and start again every day as early as possible.

 Here is our group at the time of flag off from the base camp.

Pedaling towards Dauna Paula again to get a ferry to cross the stretch of sea to reach Mormugao port..

Our bicycles were loaded on the ferry and we proceeded towards Vasco..

We unloaded our bicycles at Mormugao port and carried them to the road, adjusted out bags and started towards Airport, via Baina to Mangor hill junction. Here is Arvind, all geared up to cycle ..

We passed through BITS Pilani campus and then took a turn towards Cansaulim beach. That was a wow moment for all of us seeing an endless stretch of beach to cycle upon, with frothy waves occasionally touching our tires.

The only traffic we encountered here were the thousands of crabs running to their holes when they saw an army of cyclists approaching. Star fish were also spotted but they were not moving, some were dead but I could not collect any as there was no safe storage space on the cycle.

We cycled 26 kilometers on the beaches of south Goa, taking a lunch break at Colva beach and starting again in glaring sun. It felt too hot and sunny but the sea and the crabs kept us entertained. Also the many foreign tourists who were either sunbathing, playing with their kids or surfing on the waves.

This guy was surfing endlessly and a dog had took fancy to his parachute The dog kept following him in the sea wherever he surfed on the waves. Can you see the dog braving the waves in this picture? It was a sight to watch.

Cycling along the beach was one of the best moments to cherish, and we just soaked into every moment.

Mobor beach was our last point along the sea, overlooking Arabian sea. From there we took the road to catch a ferry again to reach village Assolna. It was a 10 minute ride after the ferry, here is me reaching Assolna village.

The camp was in a football ground rest house. We were all tired after the first day's long ride and the boys just spread themselves on the football ground. The well kept grass was really inviting..

This is the group having morning tea the next day ..

And then we started again for our next camp, that was Netravalli.

Passing through Banda to Cuncolim market on NH 17 to reach Forest office Balli. There were terrace fields on the way and then a very rough road as we passed the stone quarries. It was quite dusty too.

The pictures are taken only in the cleaner areas as we could not stop and breathe in the dusty patches. Here we are resting at a turn. We normally used to catch up with each other on turns so we stay together during the whole ride.

Later we passed though the mining belt to reach Cavrem piria panchayat ghar and then we proceeded to a historical pond.

This was really interesting as this pond is known as the Bubble pond, actually a natural spring around which stone steps have been made. The water keeps coming from the joints in the steps and bubbles keep coming up when we rest our feet there. There are numerous small fish and they come to your feet to nibble onto the dead skin. Pedicure done by fish in natural environs. It was amazing, we rested here for about an hour before reaching to our camp that night.

The camp site was a spice farm known as Tanshikar farm. It's a nice place to holiday if you want to connect with nature. Here we are parking our bicycles near our mud houses.

These mud houses were cold and wet and we felt really cold during the night as the blankets provided seemed to be wet as well. But we got to eat some Goan food in this camp and I bought some Cocoa and Coffee from there. They grow and sell several spices as well.

We started early in the morning from the spice farm as the next day was to be quite challenging.

We traveled through Forest range office at Kurdi range and passed through Mahalaxmi temple and then the Villem bhatti temple. Again some mining areas and then dusty red roads. We used to stop at such places to have our lunch. These were the fun moments we loved so much.

Later we crossed Shigao junction, Collem railway station and reached a stream that we had to cross to start on the way to Doodhsagar falls.

Here is the entry to the National park where the doodhsagar fall is situated. No one is actually allowed to stay inside this gate after 5 AM, but Yhai has made a provision for a campsite for their hikers and cyclists. We felt privileged.

The way to doodhsagar camp was tough, dusty and uphill roads with steep turns. This one is a straight road where we could stop and click pictures. On difficult roads one never thought of clicking pictures.

Another stream to be crossed before reaching the campsite.

The Doodhsagar camp had no electricity and a stream was where we had our bath. The food was served in the light of solar lanterns and we slept early. We sighted a giant squirrel in the morning but could not take a picture as it was way into deep foliage and focusing was difficult.

We climbed up again the the morning to reach the actual fall. Sat there for about an hour absorbing the beauty abound. This waterfall is at 310 meters, tallest in Goa and 5th tallest in India. Mandovi river makes this waterfall in the western ghats.

This is tiered waterfall and the uphill part is the border of Karnataka state. Situated inside the Mahavir sanctuary, it is a peaceful place in the morning. Many tourists visit after about 9 AM, I was curious about why only foreign tourists were all we could see coming in huge SUV's while coming back from the waterfall. The sanctuary closes doors after 5 PM and all vehicles are required to come back by that time.

Here is the lower tier of the fall...

Returned on the same route after seeing Doodhsagar falls and then moved further to Mollem junction and then to Tamdi surla. There is a detour to left from Mollem road which goes towards a canyon called Devil's Canyon. The same river Mandovi makes this canyon after the waterfall when it flows in a serpentine manner between crevices of solid rocks.

This is situated in jungle and there is no road to reach this place, just a narrow pathway that is strewn with large stones and we cycled with great difficulty to this spot. But it was well worth it.

After this we rode again to reach Bondla forest office to have lunch there and then started again via Satpal Arboretum towards Sakorda village and then towards Bondla arch. From there it was a really difficult climb on a rocky pathway inside the jungle area. It was just a 6.6 km climb but we all got drained at the end of it. We sighted a few Bisons, monkeys and macaques on the way and many wild ants and spiders. many varieties of butterflies too. There are many other wild animals and reptiles also in this jungle but we didn't get to spot them.

Finally reached the Bondla dormitory which was our night camp that day.

The famous resort Wildernest is adjacent to the dormitory and we are planning to go there sometime soon. Staying into a cottage within a jungle will be enchanting for sure. We crossed the gate of this resort, climbed up again and finally reached the Bondla dormitory which was a pleasant change from living in tents. I also cooked in the kitchen of this camp but unfortunately no one thought on clicking a picture. Cooking rejuvenates me for sure even after an extremely tiring day.

We spotted a few spotted dears around this dormitory, a few peacocks and hens and giant squirrels too. It was too dark to take pictures of all these but we got a shot of spotted dear the next morning.

This was our last camp and were were excited for the last ride together. Had a group photo before leaving Bondla sanctuary.

On a slope coming out of the Bondla sanctuary.

The view was the best in this area as we were not climbing any difficult uphills. Roads were very good and the uphills were enjoyable. The only trouble was the harsh noon sun which seemed to drain all my energy. We crossed Gangem and Usgao villages and saw rice fields being planted.

Many birds were spotted in this stretch as we were little relaxed now, despite the harsh sun. Took a few more resting breaks than earlier so the birds were easier to spot and click. Will share the birds in mt next post I promise.

Later we crossed Khandepur, Betki and Marcela to reach Khamburja ferry. Crossed the river to reach Old Goa.

Old Goa has it's own charm. Old fashioned bungalows and smooth roads. The sun was not as harsh as the day time so we felt more relaxed and enjoyed the ride more.

Beautiful homes and small churches were seen..

And then came the road along the Mandovi river, a 13 km ride which felt like a quick breeze along the river. Pond herons, Kingfishers, and Egrets are spotted playing around.

Reached back to the Base camp in record time. The earlier cycling batches had all reached the base camp by 6 PM but we could make it around 4.30 PM.

Here is the group rejoicing in glory just after finishing the 5 day ride spanning about 300 km. ...

Everyone covered with dirt and sweat and yet so happy and energised. This is the beauty of doing something we don't do in our normal routine. Something that makes us test our capabilities both physically and mentally.

Isn't that a great start to a new year? And did I tell you I was the oldest in this group of 11 people who were part of this expedition? Yes these were all 22-26 year old kids and I was almost double the age of the youngest kid there. It feels really nice to finish such a challenging ride successfully. That too in the lap of nature, tuning in my soul with mother Earth.

Wishing you all a happy new year with a refreshed heart.

PS : Please take care to carry your own good quality bungee chords, biking gloves, water bottles, lunch boxes, electrolytes, sunblock, caps and dry snacks or chocolates etc if you are going to a Yhai biking expedition. You can carry a spare bottle clamp and a handle bag to be fixed onto your bike for convenience. It helps you keep your electrolytes, sunblock, a small camera, mobile phone and other essentials handy. Also, try and save all the empty packs of electrolytes into your own pocket rather than throwing them all on the roads and dump them into the dustbins or the pits at campsite.

Cycling shorts that are padded at the bottom are advisable for long distance cycling and so are shoes. But we chose to wear open sandals with socks as we knew we had to cross rivers and shoes will cause water logging for the feet. Yhai provided backpacks as well but it is advisable to carry your own sturdy backpacks with multiple pockets. Yhai also provides helmets but this time we decided to not wear them as we wanted to have a cap that protected from the harsh sun. I also used a cotton stole to protect me from dust that is so prevalent in mining areas.

# all pictures are taken by myself and Arvind.


  1. superb update!! enjoyed reading every bit of it! what an adventure sangeeta.

  2. wow wow wow ! I am so happy for you .. I hope the rest of the year is as exciting and adventurous for you ! Lovely write up and lovely snaps ! I can only imagine what fun this would have Been !

  3. superb !!!

    you inspire me everyday take on new challenges.whether its cooking or taking a journey diferently..
    I always did not want to visit Goa coz of the crowds and the same whole routine of things tourists do there..but this is so amazing!!

  4. I actually felt like I was cycling with you, and seeing Goa once again ! Lovely photos, and descriptions, and I am sure the last two paras with suggestions will be greatly appreciated by folks ! Great post , and what a beginning to the new year ! The angel smiles ....

  5. I was living through my biking expedition.. same camps, same cycle.. its so YHAI :-) Feeling like as if i did it all over again :-) We should do Surpass together in April.. game?

  6. Superb are really an inspiration for everybody. Amazing photographs !!!

  7. fabulous holiday : lets do one of these together
    thanks for sharing !!

  8. o my; what a thumping start to the new year sangeeta :) have a rocking year ahead !

  9. You are a star. I could do this only in my dreams. WOW!!

  10. U are one talented and spirited lady sangeeta ! hats off to u !

  11. Loads of admiration and wishes to u mam !

  12. Awesome awesome Sangeeta! I was waiting for this post :)

  13. Vow Sangeeta, really you have had an awesome trip and your spirit and enthusiasm is quite evident, really your angel has started a miracle for you... hugs and take care.
    By the way I tried putting my comments on your food blog many times but somehow I am not able to , infact I didnt see the comment box ..

  14. Seriously ... there was so much in the expedition ?? :D Never observed the things while riding ...
    For me it was like -- bike n baggage, tang and water, breeze n road and yeah gears also ... loved 3*7 on slopes and plateaus !!
    Thanks for giving words to the experience...


  15. OMG. So want to do this trip. Amazing trip for the amazing mom of an angel.

    Thanks for the post and the pictures. Dare I?

  16. Wow!! No other word comes to mind..... u sure egg me on to go on do new things.....!!!
    Great mate....may the year ahead be as exciting for u ...:)
    Western Ghats is another story... the terrain is soosso so... beautiful.. and I especially love the red coloured soil.....!!! So missed my hometown when I was seeing the pics..
    Take care...
    BTW... seeing and reading about it I was wondering why id u even bother to respond to mails!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sunita Damodar

    1. ha ha Sunita...I am in love with my profession as well, answering those mails feels as great as this. Believe me :-)

  17. You know I just told Hetal whilst reading this post and watching the pics, this is how people live & enjoy their life.. :) :) So full of fun :) :)

    Never mind the sleeping on the floor or the wet blankets... the experiences of overcoming your tiredness, discovering new people - deers even, visiting a waterfall, riding through forests, the inane laughter and chit chat and cracking of jokes... awesome ! I am so so so so green watching all this... Although I have no cycle and experience of cycling like this... next time you do such a trip do let me know I can beg or borrow a bicycle and maybe atleast try my hand once... :) :)

    This is super awesome :)

  18. Absolutely fantastic!! Such an inspiration you are Sangeeta. Enjoyed reading the whole bit and virtually took the journey with you. thanks for sharing

  19. This is great!! Congratulations on completing this expedition successfully :) I am sure this must have been a really fulfilling experience for you as well as for Arvind. after reading this post and seeing all the awesome photographs that you have posted, i am compelled to say that I too am inspired to take this up and want to join you when you go on your next expedition. But then kabab me haddi kon banna chahega;) na baba na...that too in the kabab of such an accomplished cook like you!!! God forbid.. :):)
    Thanks for taking all this effort to share with us all :)

  20. What a fabulous post to start of the year Sangeeta, loved reading every bit of it..the river fall picture is awesome, so is the picture of women planting paddy...and is very inspiring ...even after all those cycling, living in camps etc , I am sure the experience you had must be very overwhelming and cherishing ...Lovely post and this shows there is a beautiful world out there other than blogging world :-)) ..hugs and smiles

  21. i was so looknig forward to this post... long but so refreshing.... and kya pics liye hain arvind ne tumhare.... totally alive... hats off to him... and love that paddy pic too.... someday i would love to join you in one of your cycling trips....and hope u know .. u inspire me.. always....

  22. Hi Sangeeta, how r u doing? You took me down the memory lane except the bike part :) I went to Goa in 1990 I beleive.....beautiful pics & nice to read about your experience.....thanks for sharing...

  23. Amazing experience you had, we are also planning for the same trip in this December '16. good to see the snapshots you had taken, now we're much excited about it.