25th November 2012
After a nightmare, that was yesterday, I woke up at around 7:30 A.M. as I was in no mood for blogging, I packed my belongings into my saddle bags and headed out to explore. I was now determined to do the Kaas-Mahabaleshwar route for two reasons, firstly because I broke my camera looking for that route and secondly I wanted to compare the route condition and visual appeal of the route between the monsoons and post-monsoons.
I however, decided to explore some more places before heading out to the favourite route of mine. I started towards Panchgani. The mild fog-filled roads looked magical basking in the morning rays of the sun, was hard to resist to capture it, I stopped for a click and then moved ahead
Few kms before Panchgani there is a place called Bhose, and somewhere near Bhose I took off from the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani road and took a small road that was branching out of the main road. This was a very narrow road and I could see some plantations at a distance. I started wondering what could it be. I was sceptical, whether to go in and check what they were or just ride on. Finally I decided to go and check and to my surprise I found strawberries in those plantations. For the first time in my life I saw strawberry flowers.
Fresh from the farm
After this I decided to explore each and every road/trail that came my way. I went ahead on most of the roads and in most of the cases had to retreat after hitting a dead end or a village. On one such return journey I got stuck, as the road was very narrow and there was a truck unloading sand. I was standing there for more than 25 mins. While waiting I got to speak to a person who was carrying strawberries for the market. At the end of the conversation he said “aapko jitna lena hai le lo, free mein meri taraf se” (take as many strawberries as you want, free from my side). This generous offer brought a smile across my face but I controlled myself and picked just a handful and had some of them immediately. They were delicious.
Soon the unloading was done and I was all set to explore more. I again took a trail but it ended too soon in a well-built building. I then decided to head towards Medha. I could have come to Medha directly from Mahabaleshwar, but then there is no fun in that, no adventure, no exploring, no freedom. The road started to climb upwards and finally it took me to the top of the mountain and then continued ahead. This was a sight to behold. I normally do not remove my helmet to click pics, I do it to save time. But this place deserved attention, I stood there for around 30 mins clicking the panorama from different angles.
A bikers view of PAST
I found a trail on my right and naturally I turned right. This road took me to a small village and the view it provided of the valley was incomparable. This is what wandering is to me, wandering on two wheels to give the ever-wandering mind something to rejoice, something to feel happy about, something new to see.
I asked the locals the way to Medha,I know I could have used my GPS to help me with the direction, but I didn’t want to use it. I wanted to feel the ride raw, as if i was thrown into the countryside and left alone to explore. I followed the route chalked out by the locals to me. Soon I started descending the mountain, and then I found a junction, I call it the crossroads of uncertainty, and I was not sure which one to take. I saw a villager, who was watching over the grazing cows, and asked him the route. Upon taking the right turn I soon got the sight of Medha. I couldn’t stop clicking the picturesque landscape. I could see a small bridge in the distance and wanted a way to go there. Once I reached Medha, I got connected to the Satara-Mahabaleshwar Highway, and instinctively I started ripping, but within a few seconds I stopped because I didn’t want to waste my fuel in ripping through the highway and also I wanted to go to the bridge. I finally went there and then took a internal route to get connected to the highway again. En route I saw the smallest barber shop I have ever seen (except those who sit under trees.) The internal route as expected was scenic and secluded.
CrossRoads Of Uncertaininty
The perfect road for a Wanderer
It was already 11:30 A.M., so I decided to ride as fast as possible through the Satara-Mahabaleshwar highway, for me the highways are a means to take me from one unexplored region to another. I now wanted to do my favorite trail, the Mahabaleshwar-Kaas route. I was supposed to take a right turn from the highway. The elongated ghat section of the Satara-Mahabaleshwar highway ended in a jiffy, thanks to the little cornering skills I had learnt in Lavasa. People looked amazed on see either me or the leaning bike, but I decided to concentrate on the road. Soon the ghats gave way to straight roads and I knew my turn is close by.
Luckily I took the correct right turn and started riding on the track I wanted, the route in whose search I had broken my camera. The road was good initially then within a few kms it started to show its true character, the reason for it being my favourite is this character. As I moved forward the road kept getting worse. Soon I came to a junction, well if you may call it, wherein one road was going down the hill and had smooth tarmac, whereas the other was filled with stones and dust and landslides, I had to take the latter one. As with an artery road, the view of the valley was splendid, I could see farm lands, stopped for a photo-break.
I kept riding at a steady pace and to be honest it felt like a cake-walk as compared to the struggle we did when we were here during this monsoon. Adding a pic from the monsoon here (just for comparison) to enable you to understand why I am calling it a cake-walk.
Present day pic
Pic clicked during this monsoon
The trail kept getting worse, I thought of making a video of this part of the ride. I stopped to set-up my cam, but it was too hot I started sweating profusely as I was wearing my helmet and riding gear. I decided to take my breakfast break here after setting up the cam.
As I advanced along the ‘road’, I came across a mountain-pass kind of thing and then I came to a narrow road, with a deep valley inches away on its left, one slip and I am gone. I tried to be as careful as possible and not look at the valley while riding and after covering a considerable distance again stopped for pics. Stopping so frequently for pics becomes irritating sometimes, as the entire process of taking off the gloves ->taking the cam out -> clicking a satisfactory pic and then doing the reverse takes up a lot of time, and the sun makes it worse.
I then came to a point where there was a gate kind of thing on the left, I went inside that as I desperately needed some water to drink. Luckily there was a small village with a waterreservoir. I drank ample amount of it and then filled up my bottle. This is the part I love, when I wander, its not just going to random places, it’s about trying to be a part of that place for a small time, be a localite, do what they do. As I prepared to leave kids gathered around me and looked at me as if I were an alien, and the elderly questioned my intentions. After answer them I started off again. I could see the windmills at a distance now. Yes that is where I was going.
I was so happy to get a clear view of the windmills, because last time during monsoons, I could hardly see the blades due to fog. I stopped at multiple points to click lots of pics.
I then took a trail on the left, this was supposed to take me through a small village, Ekeev, and then would connect me to the same Kaas-Satara road. I was surviving on 4 biscuits since morning, and hunger started to show its impact; therefore I decided to return back and take the normal road to Kaas. En route, I stopped to click and soon I realized that I was shooting the same lake of Tapola, which I was clicking yesterday when I broke my cam. Before the memories could haunt me I started moving ahead stopped at a couple of places to click. It was amazing to see Kaas post-monsoons. I mean it was not the plateau of flowers right now, but this was the first time I was seeing Kaas like this.
The Kaas Platueau
I started moving towards Satara to fill up myself and my bike, as I was not sure where I will be heading next and will I get a petrol pump there. Lucky enough I got a dhabba very soon and co-incidentally its name was “Sahyadri-Pusph”. It brought a smile across my tired face. Entertained some tourists with my stories of being a true wanderer and then pushed off after devouring a delicious chicken thali. I was on the lookout for a petrol pump now. En route Satara I stopped only once to click the city embedded in the mountains. I then realized that something was wrong with the zipper of the camera bag I was carrying, it was either slipping or getting stuck. I decided to use my bungee net to ensure that the cam stays in the bag, I guess you would understand how careful I had become after breaking my camera yesterday.
Satara Embedded in the Mountains
I reached a junction where taking right would take me to Satara City and taking left would take me to Thoseghar Windmills. I wanted to visit the windmills, however the need of the hour was petrol. I enquired about the nearest petrol bunk, most of the people suggested me to go to NH4 and fill up as going into the city and coming back here would consume a lot of time. I did as they proposed and headed out to the highway. Tanked up and again headed back to the Toseghar road.I crossed a small forest road and then came to a ghat road, the valley looked splendid in what I call the-torch-light-effect of the sun. I had no option but to stop and click it. Once I stopped, I noticed that there was a small temple in the small cave like fissure in the mountain, and surprisingly water was dripping through that fissure, it was really surprising given that the entire rock structure looked completely dry. I took this opportunity and prayed to lord for a safe and fun-filled trip. I started clicking and then an elderly person walking down the slope stopped by me and asked me for some donation as he needed to buy food. Normally I ignore such requests, but there seemed to be something that forced me to draw out a 50 rupee note and give it to him. He blessed me and moved ahead. I saw a small road on my right and I guess I even saw a board with Parali written on it. I moved ahead on that road but soon returned as I had something better waiting for me.
I had to stop multiple times in the next few kms to click the-torch-light-effect again and again, on one such stop I was pleasantly astonished by the view that lay before me but far away from me. I had never in my life seen so many wind mills together. It was a sight that I would never forget. I spent ample amount of time in the futile attempt to capture them in my camera. I mean the entire scene was scattered with them and the sun rays were piercing through the clouds. It was like a scene from a sci-fi movie.
Soon I came to what seemed to be the top to the mountain. I again saw a excellent photo-opportunity and hence obliged to the call of the wanderer, the wanderer who wants to capture each and every frame of this wandering, wandering that has touched his soul, wandering that will have a deep impact on him forever.
I noticed that, my bike’s chain needed attention, but here was I with no idea of where the next service station would be, I guess I didn’t have much option but to move ahead. From this point the road first turns right and then turns left to take you to the flat land on the top of the mountain. As soon as I took the left turn, I was in for the sight of my life, hundreds of windmills stand tall in front of me. I stopped for taking some photographs.
The road, if we may call it, was in pretty bad shape and given the rocky bed of the landscape I felt it would be difficult to have a good road in near future too. I was mesmerized by the scattered windmills around me, and the road was not bothering me anymore. I am always ready to go off the smooth tarmac roads if I get to see what lied in front of me. Soon I came to a junction. I had no clue which one to take as I had no particular destination in mind. But it was already 4:30 P.M. and now I needed to decide the destination for the day. During this entire ride I have been following this pattern, explore throughout the day and at around 4:00-4:30 P.M. decide where to go for the night. I luckily found a person in a security post there. I asked him in Hindi “where does this one go and where does this on go?” pointing to the roads on the left and right from the junction. I guess he was not well-versed in hindi and hence went inside the security post. In the next couple of minutes another person emerged from inside. I repeated my question and he said that the right one would take me to the Koyna backwaters and the left one would go through the windmills. My next question was “where can I get a place to stay for the night?” He suggested me to go to either Patan or Koynanagar, he added that the chances of getting a lodge in Patan is very slim, so I better head for Koynanagar, which being a tourist destination, will surely fit my needs. I inquired about the availability of mobile network and he said that “bus BSNL aata hai” . I decided to move ahead I badly wanted to ride along the Koyna backwaters, but the guard suggested me not to go there as it would take minimum 2 hours and then the journey to Koynanagar would get delayed. I decided to move towards Patan. I then came to a small bus-stop and started wondering “why will a bus come here, I hardly saw 5-10 people in the last 10 kms. I got confused wherever there was a junction, because there was no direction boards and every road looked the same. I saw a truck coming my way while I was contemplating which road to take, I guess he understood my confusion and guided me properly. He said the roads are like this for the next 5-7 kms, till the point when you see the last wind mill, after that you will have smooth tarmac. He also advised me to take the muddy road, he proudly proclaimed “thats the road we have made because the normal road is too stony and bumpy, follow the route and you will get the tarmac road”.
Bus stop? Here???
The two different coloured roads
The sun was running towards the horizon and I still had a long way to go to find a place to rest for the night. Unfortunately I got confused again at another junction and took a left turn. Soon the road got worse with just big boulders in it. I decided to turn back and wait at the junction for someone to turn up. I waited for 10 mins but no one came, hence I decided to move along the straight road. I was riding at around 10-15 kmph and watching the sunset to my right. The view of the sunset compelled me to stop for a photo-break.
I soon made it out of the windmills and found a tarmac road. I was elated on seeing this road, not that I hate bad roads, but because I needed to cover distance quickly right now. The road took me down the hill and the sun was about to set. It seemed that God had put his hand inside a volcano, pulled out some fresh lava out of it, moulded it into a round shape and said “from now you will be called the sun”. The sun looked like a ball of fresh lava which again made me pull out my camera.
The perfect Sunset
It was already dark now and I started to ride quick, I passed a couple of villages and kept moving ahead in the proper direction with the help of the local guidance. Upon reaching Patan I came to know that I can get a hotel only in Koynanagar, which was around 30 kms from here. I rushed up to Koynanagar and enquired about any MTDC resorts there. But the MTDC resort was too expensive for me so I decided to take a room in a nearby hotel. The room provided a splendid view of the dam, so I confirmed the room. I asked Rohit, the son of the owner, about any shops that could fix my bag’s chain. He said that it can be fixed in the market. I found the shop which Rohit had told me, but the person in charge denied to repair it as it was too late and it was time for him to go home. I requested him a lot and told him how important is it for me to get it fixed. After lot of persuasion he agreed and fixed it, and said that this is a temporary fix because he doesn’t have that particular zip-runner with him. I was happy that at least its fixed for now and headed back to my room, had dinner and opened up my laptop to update my blog only to realize that there was no internet connectivity. Hence decided to spend some time to capture the dam and do some timepass photography. Hit the bed and started recollecting the events of the day, and then started to ponder on the role of the winds in making biking so exciting, so adventurous. It the feel of the gushing winds across our face that differentiates our experience from the experience of a person in a car. The wind gives me a feel of freedom, freedom with no boundaries, I fell asleep lost in these thoughts.
Total kms done on Day 4: 240 kms