It’s supposed to be the last day of my wandering; wandering that had taken me to the end of unknown roads, given me the tag of a mango-thief, wandering that has made me understand how comfortable our life is in the city. I mean we don’t go 5-6 kms early morning into the forest looking for firewood to cook food, we just switch on our oven and get things done, I had started comparing each and every aspect of our life with that of the villagers.
I was eager to start the day early and was up by 5:30 A.M. , while I was packing my saddle bags I felt like not returning home, I felt like continuing my wandering, but the reality is we are slaves of city life and need to go back. I decided of not taking this as my last day, rather started thinking of it as just another day where I will wander to the unknown.
I started off real early at around 6:00 A.M. this was the earliest start in my entire trip. I found no one in the reception so went to the watchman to hand over the keys, but he said that he needs to check the bills. This delayed my start by another 20 mins. Finally I was on my way and got to the highway soon. I needed petrol, I went to the nearest petrol pump, to find another guy on a motorcycle waiting, after waiting a few minutes he started blowing his horn like crazy, I guess the petrol pump attendant who was sleeping in the office didn’t like it. He came out and started abusing. I thought it to be a safer option to leave. The other guy in the petrol pump told me that the next pump is in Kerle, hardly any distance from here.
I went ahead and tanked up in Kerle and had a yummy missal pav for breakfast. I wanted to go to a forest today as yesterday I couldn’t get inside Chandoli National Park. I enquired and learnt that I need to go to Radhanagri and from there I need to go to Dajipur. They suggested me to go to Kolhapur and then ask for Radhanagri Road. I however wanted to avoid the city.
After breakfast I started towards Kolhapur and in a few hundred meters found a road on the left with ‘Kotoli’ written on the milestone. I headed towards Kotoli and immediately I could see lots of sugarcane fields on either side. It felt like I had come to a sugarcane world, someone cutting sugarcane, someone loading them in bullock carts, someone carrying the remains of it, some spreading the last remains by the side of the road to dry them up.
I could see the sun lazily making its way up through the foggy horizon. I was on the lookout for a perfect spot to capture the sunrise. I took a right turn from the main Kotoli road in order to get into the interior of the sugarcane farms. I could spot places where people were boiling the sugarcane juice to get the end product, I kept moving ahead and as I moved through the road I found the spot I was looking for. I need to take my bike into the part of the farms from where the sugarcane has already been cut and click the sunrise. Everything was perfectly set in my mind and I could even imagine the picture.
I took my bike into the field and for the first few meters it was perfectly fine, then the tyres started slipping, as the mud was very slippery, which I realized only when the bike started slipping. I slowed down but decided not to stop, as I feared that if I stop I won’t be able to move again and the rear wheel will start doing wheelspins. I started slowly turning my bike back to the road, but unfortunately my rear wheel got stuck and my bike fell on the left. I jumped out of the bike immediately. Here was I, in the middle of nowhere with my bike tasting the mud. It’s worth mentioning here that I had learnt the technique of ‘how to pick up your bike when you are alone’ from a thread on xbhp and later seen multiple videos on you tube.
I put the stand of the bike in position and started to lift up my bike from the left side. It was very very heavy, with a tank full of petrol and the saddle bags. Moreover I was in a hurry to pick it up and had all my riding gear on. I some lifted it. Once I lifted it completely I left it, assuming that the stand would take care of it now. But in a split second I understood how vague my ‘assumption’ was. The entire stand has sunk into the soft mud of the farm and now my bike was again lying on the ground, this time on the right side.
I learnt from my mistake that I had done few minutes before and this time I removed my saddle bags and my riding gear and lifted the bike in similar fashion. This time I didn’t leave my bike at all. I kept standing beside it and let the bike rest on my thighs. But soon I realized that my shoes are all filled with mud and they also slowly and steadily started slipping. Now I started to realize the seriousness of the situation.
I thought of the options I had, I could only think of standing there supporting the bike and shouting for help. Maybe someone passing by through the road would hear me and come to rescue me. After about 2-3 shouts a villager came and asked “why the hell have you got your bike here?” He was irritated and I thought that I shouldn’t tell him my ambitious motives as he may not understand. I just tried to ignore his question and indicated him to help me. We started pushing the bike and soon came near the road, but the climb to the road was a steep one filled with wet leaves and the bike’s tyres were completely covered with the slippery mud, result the bike denied to climb up. The villager gave up and went away.
I was in a better position now, as every passerby could spot me and I knew that I don’t need to shout for help. Soon two guys in an Apache came and seeing me they stopped by to help. They again asked the same question “why did you take your bike there?” I dint know what to say and said “I had a lot of stuff in my bike and hence was not sure if I can leave it by the road side”. They replied “Don’t worry; no one would touch your stuff here”. I realized that I had given a wrong answer to their question and tried to make up by saying “Actually I come from Mumbai and over there it’s very risky to leave stuff by the road”. I went back to take my saddle bags and clicked a pic of the spot.
With the help of these guys I got the bike back on road. The tyres, the footpegs, gear lever, handle bars, mirrors were covered with mud. Once I sat on the bike I realized the need to get my bike washed, as my shoes kept slipping for the footpegs. My saviours in Apache realized that and told me to follow them and they would take me to the nearest service centre. I washed my shoes and got my bike a much needed wash.
After the wash I and my bike were again ready to hit the open roads. I left the bad incident behind and started concentrating on the open roads. I had to go towards Kolhapur to get connected to the Radhanagri road. I saw some branch roads but I don’t know why I decided to skip them, as I wanted to spend more time in the Jungle. The highway seemed to be making its way through the sugarcane farms. I somehow started hating the sugarcane fields and wanted to get away from them as soon as possible maybe because since the last 2-2.5 hours I was smelling the sugarcane smell which I personally don’t like.
After an hour of riding through the highway I reached Radhanagri. Just before the town I saw a road on my left. I turned left but soon returned, no I didn’t hit a dead end, but I saw at least 10 vehicles in the next 500 meters, this was enough to indicate that it’s not worth travelling on this road. I knew for sure that this road would lead to a big village or town but I wanted seclusion, I wanted solitude so I decided to carry on towards Dajipur. Soon I was in Radhanagri. The entire process of the bike picking up and dragging it to the road had utilized all the energy that the morning missal pav had provided me, and I was hungry again. I stopped and grabbed a vada-pav and chai. I asked for directions to Dajipur and they said I need to continue straight. The shop was not a proper hotel, actually the part of the house facing the road was converted into a hotel and the remaining part was the house. The owner started making a call from his land line no, and the way he dialled the numbers made it evident that he hasn’t got the opportunity to be a tech-savvy guy.
I started moving out of Radhanagri and found lots of branch roads on both the sides of the highway, it was hard to control for me, but I decided to stick to my plan of reaching Dajipur first and then exploring the places around. My determination to stay in the highway ended with the end of the town limits and took a road on my right after Radhanagri. I kept on taking unknown diversions, sometimes left turns sometimes right. Well that’s the fun of wandering, that’s the fun of riding in the unknown and this being the last day of the trip I wanted to do what I love to do, explore. All these diversions and some direction from locals brought me to the kind of road I love, open roads which end in the horizon and populated with maybe one vehicle per 2-3 kms.
The road then slowly started to ascend a hill and again I encountered sugarcane farms. This place was more advanced I felt, as there was a truck in which the sugarcane was being loaded as against the bullock carts I saw in the last village near Kotoli. I soon found a place to click; it had been long since I stopped for a proper photo break. It was a much needed break to satisfy my photographic hunger.
I again started moving ahead and was delighted to see a lake on my left. I guessed it to be the Dajipur Lake. A few kms ahead there was a fork in the road. I took the right turn as it would take me to a higher altitude, and give me a better view of the lake and surrounding areas. The view was majestic from this point. I felt like sitting there for hours but the rays of the sun were hitting me hard, and a 10-15 min break made me sweat as if I was running for my life. I decided to move ahead.
After clicking the pics I decided to go down to the fork again and continue with the other road, as this toad was taking me away from the lake, and I wanted to ride around the lake. For reasons unknown, the feeling of riding along a lake or riding along the sea or along a railway track gives me immense pleasure, and I never question myself, I just keep on riding. Soon I got another island kind of thing as I had seen on the second day.
I then came to a village and noticed something that I had seen yesterday also in many villages. The roads were filled with ‘gulal’ a colour used in Holi. Yesterday I noticed a lot of people covered in gulal as if it was Holi, today also I noticed the same colour on the road. I kept wondering what festival it could be as I had no idea about it. I however kept moving ahead, and could again spot villagers carrying dry wood from the forest to be used for cooking.
The road started to climb up and the again I saw a footpath to go near the water. It was so small that I actually missed it and went ahead, and then realized that there was some trail, so turned back and headed towards it. After going for around 700 meters I got stuck, and it was bad. I had no place to keep my leg on the left as I was in an elevated land. I stopped doing anything and started thinking yet again. I started smiling, thinking that just this morning I had a bad experience and I didn’t learn anything from it and here I am again stuck in the middle of nowhere. But then I realized that I had learnt something, I had learnt that we shouldn’t give up, we should keep trying. I will wander around, I will keep the wanderlust within me alive no matter what. Then with great difficulty I managed to somehow get out of that place and had a hearty laugh.
I was back on the smooth tarmac road and kept continuing ahead. My guess was this road should connect me to the Dajipur road somewhere. I took out my mobile to check the availability of network only to see that it was switched off. I was frustrated seeing that, I haven’t yet travelled half the day and I was tracking my trail and now this is gone, all is gone. Later I recollected that I hadn’t charged my mobile the previous night and felt like killing myself.
I soon reached a point where there was a stony road on the right. As soon as I entered it I saw a mini-truck coming towards me. I had to return back to the main road, as there was no room for both of us to stay on the road simultaneously. The driver told me that this is not the way to the jungle, and I need to take a ticket for entering the jungle. In the next few minutes I got all the details and headed to the check-post cum ticket counter. The best thing that the driver said was that I could take my bike along with me into the core jungle.
I took the tickets and the person-in-charge gave me all the needed instruction. He said it would take you around 4 hours to complete the round trip and have food before you go as you are not allowed to carry food items inside. He also said the point from where I need to take a diversion and told me that at around 3.5 km from the entry point I should see a gate and a watchman would be there. I need to show him the tickets and he will open the gate for me. Before I could head out, I had to enter all my details in the register, and while filling the register I saw that there were just 2 entries before me.
Keeping all the instructions in mind I headed out into the jungle. I was dam excited; the thought of riding through the jungle was enough to excite me. I spotted the diversion from the main road and headed towards it. It’s a decent kaccha road for the first few hundred meters, and after that I realized why they denied entry to an Indica car at the check post. The road turned worst and only SUVs and bikes could make through it. I kept a steady pace till I reached the gate as told to me.
The guard enquired about the contents of my saddle bags and after confirming the absence of food items he opened the gate and told me to ride slowly. I enquired about wildlife spotting and he responded by nodding his head in agreement. I started my journey and after a few kms I decided to try something more dynamic to capture the pics. I strapped my camera around my neck and connected it to a remote shutter control. Unfortunately it didn’t give me great pics, so I had to stop time and again to click the wilderness. I kept riding at slow speeds and started looking for wildlife, all I could see was wild trees and herbs. Well to be honest I didn’t expect to spot any animal, I just wanted to enjoy the ride through the jungle.
I however got lucky as I could spot some birds and then decided to capture a video of the ride, that way I could capture any wild animal if spotted by chance. I was riding slowly and sometimes I even switched off my engine to minimize the alien noise that I was generating in this otherwise silent wilderness. I then suddenly spotted an animal, most probably a deer crossing the road. I was very happy for two reasons, first that I could spot at least something, and secondly I have captured it on video
Suddenly the jungle gave way to an open area; I was on top of the mountain. It provided me an excellent opportunity to see how deep in the forest I was. All I could see was different shades of green color around me.
I started again and in some time I saw dust in the air, I began imagining that some animal might have passed by and thats why the dust. In the next second I realized that it was due to a Tata sumo, I could hear the sound of it. I went ahead and somehow overtook it and the people inside the vehicle looked at me as if they have spotted a bison, the most commonly seen animal in this region. After about a km I spotted a jeep on its return journey and the inmates gave me a similar look. I then recalled what I had seen in the entry register. The two entries that I had seen are now behind me and I was all alone in this wild forest. Anything could happen, the thought itself sounded very adventurous to me. After travelling through some more jungle roads I again came to an open area, this seemed to be the end of the road; the muddy roads were now replaced by a hard crust of rock beneath my tyres.
It was already 2:30 P.M. and now I decided to start my return journey. I kept riding at slow pace may be in the 20-35kmph range. All was going fine when suddenly a small animal emerged from the bushes beside the road and crossed the road. In an attempt to save it, I jumped on my brakes and result, the next thing I realized was that I and my bike tasted the dust yet again. My left foot got stuck below the bike, I somehow managed to drag it out and then using the same technique pushed my bike up. The crash guard had come off, the clutch lever and gear lever were bent, and even the handle-bar end weight was bent. My left foot was paining and it worried me. I somehow got on the bike and headed straight to the check post. All the while to the check post I kept on thinking “ok, what next?”
I reached back at around 4:00 P.M. and had my lunch. After lunch I went to Dajipur Lake for a click, the sight of the partially mutilated bike made me realize what a trip it has been. I took a minute off to reflect upon the trip and it brought a broad smile across my face. My foot was still paining but I decided that I would not let this pain ruin my ride. I had to go to Pune, my destination for the day, and I had to travel via Kolhapur. The route that a tourist or a normal traveller takes is Dajipur-Radhanagri-Kolhapur. But I decided to take the longer route via Vaibhavwadi and Gaganbawda. I believe in taking different routes for my onward and return journey, until I meet a dead end and I have to retrace the same path. Moreover the Karul Ghat was too good to resist. And I wanted to make it to Karul ghat by sunset.
The ride via Vaibhavwadi was satisfactory and I could ride pretty well with my painful ankle as the roads were smooth with minimal traffic, hence just occasional gear changes. The road as usual was covered with a natural canopy for most of the part. I then noticed something which made me laugh.At first sight it looked like a tempo doing a wheelie.
Actually he had overloaded the tempo with asbestos sheets and the road was steep, hence the wheelie. I stopped by to help him, but we needed many more hands to get the front wheel back on the road. Soon a truck came and those guys joined hands and we could somehow push the auto to the top.
At Vaibhavwadi I tool a right turn and headed towards Gaganbawda. My foot was paining and I was having difficulty shifting gears, courtesy the bent gear and clutch lever. I however decided to enjoy the ghats. The good quality tarmac and the smooth flowing corners took away all the tiredness of the day.I decided just to take one photo stop as it was getting late. On reaching Karul Ghat I stopped for a much needed photo break. It was supposed to be the last sunset of my True wanderers ride. I kind of made me feel what I am going to miss from tomorrow. It seemed that the beautiful valleys were asking me to stay and not return to the urban jungle.
I started off for Kolhapur, the roads continued getting worse. I kept asking for directions to the highway avoiding the city traffic. However I couldn’t get a concrete answer form anyone and decided to head to the city. The road was now full of dust and stones. I somehow made out of it coughing my lungs out. I don’t know if I was lucky or if the city had gone to sleep at 7:00 P.M, I didn’t face much traffic and easily got connected to the highway. Pune was at a hands distance now, yes just around 250 odd kms, and I had the 4 lane highways to transport my body quickly to Pune, my soul? well I guess it is still in the wilderness.
I started to ride like we should do on highways, safe and fast. My bikes chain was making a lot of noise, but I had no option other than ignoring them. I was keeping my speed below 120 kmph. I was honking, flashing lights, using indicators, things which I used rarely during the last 7 days. I realized how adaptable we are, and I loved the fact that I didn’t behave like a city boy when I was wandering. I stopped once for refuelling both of us and made it to Pune at around 11:30 P.M. with a painful leg. I wanted to sleep but the excitement that I saw in my brother’s eyes made me recite my complete experience to him. After recollecting my experiences, I felt contented.
Total Kms done on Day 7: 530 Kms