Trip Meter

Bombay 0 - Kholakhe village 59 - NH17 - Pen 90 - Nagothane 121 - SH92 - Roha 137 - MURUD 182 - Nandgaon 196 - Kashid 205 - River Kundalika 218 - Alibaug 238 - Mandwa 263 - Revas 273 - Revas to Bhaucha Dhakka ferry - Bombay 310.

[Numbers beside the place are trip meter readings in km at that point. Places in bold indicate night halts.]


Highlights

  1. Accidentally catching the Bombay-Pune Expressway (on a 2-wheeler) while trying to find the NH17 and falling in the trap of corrupt highway police
  2. Riding the zig-zags across ghats on SH92 and along the beaches on Murud-Alibaug highway
  3. Polishing off crab, prawns, surmai, pomfret and more at Sanman restaurant in Alibaug
  4. Catching the bullock-cart race on Mandwa beach
  5. Unloading my Classic 500 from the ferry onto the Bhaucha Dhakka pier in Mazagaon
Lubna was never fond of worms. So when the alarm sprung up at 5.30 am on a Saturday morning, we snoozed it and went back to bed. No point being the earlybird, we said. We had planned to take our Classic 500 on it's maiden trip - to Shrivardhan on the Konkan coast.

Around 8.30 am when we stepped out, the city was still waking up to a gray January morning. We started driving down the Eastern Express highway and past the slums and slum rehabs of Mankhurd (don't know if the latter are any better living conditions than the former). Children played on the streets, men crossed the roads recklessly and short factory chimneys spouted white clouds of smoke. Across the Vashi bridge, began the endless New Bombay. After 50 kms on the trip meter, we were still struggling to leave the city behind.

We were trying to pick up the NH17. But one missing sign-board at a very strategic point and we found ourselves sailing on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and traling behind us was a policeman on a motorcycle. He offered us three options: Pay a hefty fine, pay a bribe (50% off on the fine), or accompany him to the police-station/court. Missing signboards, unreasonable fines and complete disregard for circumstances - a successful trap by the Mumbai Traffic Police. After all, they have daily targets to meet. We eventually got out of it and found our way to NH17.

The Uran port gave way to greener countryside, and industrial warehouses changed to smaller villages. Breakfast on the highway - eggs, pav, pakodas and chai - was rustic and refreshing. Few more kilometeres on the odo, and the bike was finding its rhythm. The sun on our shoulders, a little wind in our face, Lubna and I enjoyed cruising down the NH17.

At the 120km mark, we decided to change our destination from Shrivardhan to Murud, ditched the NH17 and made a right onto SH92.

The SH92 wound its way up the Western Ghats - past infrastructure companies that made 'From land acquisition to registry' easier, past forest research institutes and through remote villages and terrace farms. Across the ridge, the road descended fast through acute zig-zags and S-bends of the dense forest. As we approached the town of Murud, the faint sound of sea filtered through ancient gigantic trees. The palm-lined town was enjoying its siesta, except for a few desi-drunks who wobbled on the streets on the Saturday afternoon.

The Golden Swan Beach Resort was a neat option in the town center. The resort tried to imitate the Mediterranean design, but not without the chaotic Indian touch. Nevertheless, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and the verandah opened directly onto the beach. Lunch was a fish-thali at a home-kitchen eatery in the town - the goodness of fried Surmai fillet and curried fish served with rotis and rice. The evening was spent riding towards Kasa and Janjira forts in a speed boat, walking on the beach, trying panipuri on Chaupaati and catching a gorgeous pink sunset. From the beach, we noticed an out-of-use palace rising out of the woods on the edge of a cliff.

"Woh rajwada hai," prompted our boatman. "Nawab ka rajwada."

The Janjira fort (corruption of the Arabic 'jazirah' meaning 'island') that floated in the sea was occupied and fortified by the Siddis/Habshis of Abyssinia in the 16th century. Over the centuries, Shivaji raided, Sambhaji attacked, Peshwas tried, the Europeans came and went, but the Janjira fort stood independent and still.

The dinner that night was a repeat of the fish-thali but in another home-kitchen eatery that didn't match the oomph of the one we had for lunch.



The next morning, we started our ride towards Bombay. After some smooth curves along the sea and through the forests, past small villages and ancient temples, we stopped in Alibaug town and navigated a few tricky turns to find the Sanman Restaurant (Israeli Gali, if I remember it right). This was the big daddy of no-fuss restaurants. Patrons patiently waited outside the restaurant in files, briskly walked in when ushered and promptly settled down in tightly packed chairs around tiny tables. The waiters floated around effortlessly with a characteristic smoothness and took orders in a jiffy. Only the food arrived faster than they took your orders. We digged into crabs, prawns, fish, more fish, soan kadi, appam and rice - the food was to die for.

After the sumptous lunch, we decided to stop riding and just ferry ourselves back to Bombay from the Mandwa jetty. On our way to the jetty, we saw a sea of people inside the sea. We slowed to ask the details. It was the annual bull-cart racing. Thousands of people from nearby villages along with hundreds of cattle and two-wheeled orange carts gathered on the beach on a Sunday afternoon to participate in the race. We spent an hour watching the race. It was a chaotic, go-with-the-flow affair, where the bulls ran into the crowd and the crowd ran away and into the bulls.

As dusk approached, we loaded the bike on a ferry at Mandwa jetty and headed to Bhaucha Dhakka pier in Mazagaon. The ferry tumbled to the waves and it was dark by the time we reached Mazagaon. Unloading the bike from the ferry to the pier took my breath away - a couple of guys pushed the 200kg beast from the ferry to the pier along a 2m plank that was barely 8 inches wide. Any error of judgement would drop my bike into the sea for good.

We headed out of the the docks - a heavy stench hung in the air - and rode through Mazagaon to the Western Express highway. It was difficult to imagine that the rusted, dark and greasy Mazagaon of today's Bombay was once a fashionable place of residence in the 18th century British India. The money started to migrate out of it when the Bellasis Road was built to connect Mazagaon to Malabar Hill in 1793. In the century that followed, dockyard labor moved in and towering mills rose in the neighborhood - finally sounding the death knell. The Mazagaon of Haji Mastan in the 20th century is a story for another day.

Right now, it was time to bring the Classic home after its first ride.




Tags: India, Ride, Royal Enfield

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  1. Love the photographs - Vartika Bansal