Monthly Archives: January 2018

Day 30. Ambling in Mumbai

We started the day with a lovely breakfast with Dan, Kevin and Jacinta. It was lovely to be in a warm and friendly family home. Then our first aim of the day was to acquire tickets for the train to Udaipur, which only goes 3 times a week. On line tickets were full but there is a system of buying last minute tickets fro the reservation office, and also a quota for foreign tourists.

We pedalled into the Mumbai traffic to the station. It was no worse than London – especially as there are no tuktuks in the south of Mumbai and no cows, both of which are our usual hazards! At the reservation office were told that there was no quota left but the last minute ticket system opens at 10. We filled out all the forms and gave our passport details in advance then on the dot of 10 the helpful assistant frantically typed away trying to reserve tickets for us. Our credit card did not work and in that time we lost the first set of tickets but we managed to get 2 tickets on the next class down – not next to each other but he assured us we will be able to rearrange seats when we are on the train. Goal 1 achieved. Booking the bikes on will be the next goal but we can only do that at the station luggage office, and so have to allow 2 hours before the train goes.

We then cycled down to the High Court – an enormous and grand building. As we wandered round the building we passed barristers in the same garb (although did not see any wigs) and peaked into court rooms, although none seemed to be in session. I glanced into a bit bigger grand hall and something seemed to be going on. We were ushered in to stand by the side. Then all the judges gradually wandered in, mostly men but some women judges in beautiful white saris. There was a large painting of Mahatma Gandhi and then a garland was put round the picture and each judge lined up to place flowers in front, followed by what looked like other lawyers.

Back out in the corridor I asked a young female lawyer what the ceremony was and she explained it was Gandhi day and they do this once a year. We got chatting and she invited us up to the bar mess for coffee. We were plied with more food and also met a very senior lawyer who had been leader of the Bombay Counsellors. She had very firm (and adverse) views about Modi and the current political state in India and was very concerned about how all the new judge appointments were ‘friends’ of the BJP. It was a fascinating discussion. Another chance conversation that took us behind the scenes.

From the High Court next stop was the bike shop of Dan’s friend Deepak, who had confirmed he had the right size inner tubes. Traffic was getting a bit more busy but manageable with lots of traffic police blowing whistles at major junctions. Deepak had been riding BMX bikes since the last 90s and said that cycling was gradually becoming more popular in India as people became more health conscious. A really nice guy.



From the bike shop we headed to Malabar Hill – the posh end of town – with views to Chowpatty beach and Marine drive and rested a while in the ‘Hanging Gardens’. Not much was hanging and there was not much shade, although the gardens were pretty.


We then headed back to the flat and spent the afternoon sorting things out, picking up more bits of pieces for the next stages of our travels and resting. In the evening we had said that we would like to take them all out for a meal to say thanks for their amazing hospitality. We met Dan’s girlfriend, Tania, who is a part time piano teacher and part time editor of scientific papers. We were taken to a lovely restaurant with great seafood – our most delicious meal yet!

Not many pictures today (we forgot to take the camera) and we had not been to many formal sites but felt we had got a good feel of the city by cycling round and had seen some magnificent buildings. It felt much like London – but sunnier!

Day 29: Arriving in Mumbai : 70km.

We woke late(ish) and were on the road by 7.30. It was quiet and flat as we ambled North from Murud. We passed a series of places where the road had been improved and then suffered the bumps and jarring as we hit sections of road with more potholes than road. We later learned that this may be down to local politics.

Beware – Man at Work (or what passes for work)

Continue reading Day 29: Arriving in Mumbai : 70km.

Day 27. Velanashwar to Dapoli. 80km. 1300m climbing

So today we cycled from somewhere I had never heard of to somewhere else I had never heard of, and passed through lots of places that are equally unknown to me – and probably to the vast majority of the readers of this blog (i.e. if 10 of you read it, I would wager that the place names mean nothing to at least 9 of you). For those less familiar with Indian geography, we are north of Goa and today cycled from about 250km south of Mumbai to about 170km south of Mumbai.


Continue reading Day 27. Velanashwar to Dapoli. 80km. 1300m climbing

Day 24. Panaji to Malvan (not Malvern). 112km. 1100m climbing.

 Today was a day of contrasts and also a day that turned into a ‘mega day’. We started as usual as the sun rose at 7am but Panaji wakes earlier than places further south and this time we were not alone on the road (although I would not say it was busy).

The morning sun over the river across from Panaji

Continue reading Day 24. Panaji to Malvan (not Malvern). 112km. 1100m climbing.

Day 23: Agonda to Panaji (with a diversion to Old Goa): 100km and 600m of climbing.

Time runs slowly on a bike. It is partly that there is so much going on around me and partly that nothing is going on and so there is time to think. It is just one of those paradoxes. It is day 23 but, at the same time, I feel we have only just started and that we have been on the bikes for months. The world I occupied before I left – with all its pressure and responsibility (and the world to which I will return) seems like another planet.


Here there is only the road, the kms clicking away and issues of food, hills, sustenance and the fascinating things to see along the way. That is totally absorbing and enough to keep at least part of the brain fully occupied.

Today we woke and got an early start. The first 12 km had a series of 200m hills which we knew would be tough and wanted to do in the early morning cool. We set off at 6.45am with our back lights and on before almost anyone else was around. But of course there are always early risers, including a group of young school children who were bussed to school to start at 7.30.

The hills did not disappoint – up to 14% in places – but were soon over. This was thick jungle on both sides of the road with little habitation. It is strange how small the tourist beach areas are – just a strip of a few hundred meters – then the natural vegetation takes over and remains in control.


We descended, climbed again and then descended finally to the beach road and breakfasted at Benaulim beach. There we met a retired Swedish man who spent 6 months of the year in Goa and 6 months in Sweden. He extolled the virtues of India as a place to live for part of the year – with which we largely agreed – and said this was his 11th year! He is far from the only Scandinavian in Goa – we met another from Norway in the evening. Escape from Nordic winters we suspect.

The wide beautiful beach where our Nordic friend walks each morning

We cycled on and met a friendly English couple on their bikes who were lost. A combination of our GPS and our large scale map broadly sent them in the right direction for Colva beach. We hope they got there!

On we went and, after a while, found ourselves on the road from Vasco de Gama Airport into Goa town (which is called Panaji – Old Goa being 11km further inland). This involved the usual game of “chicken” with larger vehicles as we strove to maintain our right to use 12” of road without having an offensive horn blasted in our eardrums.   However it all passed OK and we crossed the impressive bridge over the Maragoa Bay towards the original places where the Portuguese landed to claim this area for a different European state.

Bernie – being given decent clearance (as is usually the case)

Panaji is a mixture of modern development and ancient waterfront Portuguese style buildings. We could have been in any part of Southern Europe (apart from the saris that is, but perhaps even then). We found our delightful hotel and apologised for turning up early – as we made better time than we thought.

We rested then thought we ought to see Old Goa, so abandoned the luggage and whizzed along the 11km along the river to Old Goa. This was a city which, in its day, was larger than London and Lisbon. The people have moved on – many to Panaji – but it remains with a world heritage site with loads of churches.

The saint’s final resting place

Two deserve mention. The Jesuit Church was massive – known as the Basilica of Bom Jesus (i.e “good Jesus” – but that may have meant “good Jesuits” as well). It had a massive statue of St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits, and the star attraction were the remains of St Francis Xavier. For centuries, a good set of relics brings in the crowds, and it was as true today as in the past. We were struck again that the vast majority of tourists in India are Indian – exploring the delights and heritage of their own country. Foreign tourism is a part of the beach business, but only a part because even then the Indian visitors massively outnumber those with tattoos.

It was unclear if this referred to the exhibit or the visitors.

Over the road was the largest Christian church in Asia, Goa cathedral. By comparison it was vast but slightly neglected. It had the feeling of a project that was commenced with all enthusiasm but where the money ran out when the structure was completed but before all the internal décor was paid for. As a result, the Church was both impressive and hauntingly beautiful.


Coming back to our bikes we met a couple of delightful and impressive MBA students, Abhinav Agrawal and Ahtesham Ali Sayyed, who we met and had talked to on the Kudle Beach near Gokana. It was a lovely coincidence and we wish them well in their studies and careers. Abhinav is the committed Arsenal supporter who, if he makes it to London, I promise to take to the Emirates (although I am hardly a good luck charm for the Gooners).


The wind was against us on the way back so it was a bit tougher. We then went out for a lovely meal in the old part of the town, in a hotel that was originally part of the Hippie Trail but now sells wonderful food in a room covered with drawings and saying from those on the “trail”.

So as you can see, today was another day when nothing really happened but then again so much happened.

Day 22. Gokarna to Agonda Beach, Goa. 96km. 550m climbing.

Today was a day of multiple laughs. It was also the day we reached Goa, which seemed significant. Our first few km were not such a laugh, as we immediately had to tackle a steep hill, up to 14%, to climb away from Kudle beach. However, our legs were rested and fresh and it was soon over, and then we were treated to the rising sun as we crossed over the hill back over to Gokarna itself and then on along a quiet back coast road. After 13km we reached another ‘will there be a ferry across the river’ moments.   But as we drew up we could see the ferry on the other side. Soon we were loading up and the ferry filled with a gaggle of schoolgirls – some giggling, some moody, all with rucksacks slung over their backs; just like school children everywhere. Except this was a rather different commute across the palm fringed river.

The morning commute


Soon we were back on the road, peddling through a series of villages. We knew we had to hit the main road after about 30km and took what looked to be a road to cut off the corner. Soon the road petered out but a man by his hut waved us on saying ‘shortcut road’ – through a fence (saying no entry onto military land) and along a sandy path. So rather dubiously, and giggling as we slithered along, we followed the path and sure enough after a few hundred meters we hit the paved road again.


We were now on the main coastal highway but the traffic was fine. There were a few awkward dusty sections with lots of lorries past some quarrying but then we were peddling past a massive naval base (not that we could see anything other than fence and barbed wire) and then into the town of Karwar. There we achieved our objective of getting some money, and our more important objective of a particularly good cup of coffee!

After Karwar there was a massive road-widening project to create a large dual carriageway. The new half had been paved but had yet not opened. It was accessible so, accompanied by a few motorbikes, we had the whole carriageway to ourselves for long stretches and were larking about taking ‘in flight’ photos of each other cycling along.

A whole dual carriageway to ourselves!



Then we crossed the border from Karnataka into Goa and almost instantly felt we were in a different ecosystem – much more tropical again. The road was smooth and things felt more prosperous. Goa is a tiny state that was only relinquished by the Portuguese in 1961, long after independence and only after the Indian army eventually walked in to unite the last section of the subcontinent.


The main road did an enormous loop but it looked as if there was a side road we could take with another ‘will there be a ferry across the river moment’. No ferry this time but there was a narrow rusty bridge, not even wide enough to allow motorbikes and somewhat of a squeeze with a bike with panniers, but it looked sturdy enough and we laughed our way across.


We were soon at another ‘river moment’. The road looked as if it looped round but we thought we would check out the jetty that was signposted down a little side road. At the jetty it was a very short hop across to a sandy bar. “Do you want boat” a man called, “how much?” “200 rupees”. Our ferry this morning had cost 10 rupees so we laughed and set off to cycle round. “No, no, bridge is closed for painting” we were told “150 rupees”. Now the bridge may or may not have been closed, and I suspect the latter, but what the hell. So we agreed to the “boat”. We were led away from the large boat to a narrow canoe. They duly loaded on the 2 bikes, 6 panniers and us then said they could take us a bit further to get to a road as we would find it difficult on the sand. We admitted defeat and agreed to the 200 (it’s only £2.50 after all and worth it just for the laugh). Sitting somewhat rigidly to stop the canoe tipping from side to side it set off across the estuary. Half way across the boatman tried to renegotiate the price again but we duly ignored this and were laughing too much at the madness of all our stuff in this canoe. In spite of our refusal to pay more, we were safely delivered to the other side!

2  bikes in a canoe!



It was then just a few km to Palolem beach – yet another “most beautiful beach in India” (again!). It was very picturesque but much busier and more developed than Kudle beach but we happily sat in a beachside café for a drink and a late pasta lunch.

Then just a few kms on the next bay Agonda beach, our destination for the day. Under 100km felt like an easy relaxed and enjoyable day. We were a little nervous about the ‘budget room’ we had booked after our experience at Kudle, but although simple and set slightly away from the beach on the other side of the road, the room was great, nice balcony area and only 1 minute walk to the beach rather than right on the beach. Better for us really as safer for the bikes and quieter. Boiling hot water in the shower gave it top marks!

Agonda beach is a 2km stretch of sand. Although the bay is fringed all along by restaurants and lodgings these were fairly unobtrusive and most development happens behind the beach so not blighted by concrete or high rise. We ended the day bobbing in the waves – a far more enjoyable way to ease the legs than stretching (which we are always very bad at doing). A romantic walk along the beach with another beautiful sunset then ‘beer o’clock’ as the light finally faded. A great, happy day.


Day 21: Day off in Gokana

Today was a relaxing day by the beach in Gokana. There is no much more to say really – we changed hotels to a decent one, went for a walk to the world famous “Om Beach” – one of the world famous beaches in this area and relaxed. It was pretty and the breakfast was pretty good. But we then walked back as the sun rose up and decided to take cover for a few hours.


We ventured out late in the afternoon to play in the waves. It was a joy to walk into the sea without that Atlantic grimace as the cold water hits you and you convince yourself it can become bearable (another glorious British deception).   Here is feels OK when you first walk into the sea and remains OK. The Indians tend to bathe fully clothed – not sure why – have not yet got that sussed.


The lack of description on the blog should not be taken as a lack of beauty – it was stunningly beautiful. However this is definitely “tune in, drop out” territory and so we, of course, felt under tattooed (in fact totally devoid of tattoos – unlike all other westerners here) and that we were servants to the western gulag system of work. However I did catch a severely tattooed Dutchman drinking beer and catching up with his news via on his mobile – on what looked like Facebook. So maybe not quite so detached from the corporate world of capitalism after all.

Hotel staff amusing themselves by riding our bikes.

We also saw a couple of English women at the restaurant who could have stepped straight from an “Absolutely Fabulous goes to India” script, complete with sensible teenage daughter who looked a combination of bored and appalled by their antics. She did not say “Mum, where have you brought me this time” but it was written on her face. Having said that, there were lots of great people as well but they do not make such good copy.


It was great to relax, recharge the batteries and plan the next few days to Goa and beyond.

Day 20. Jog Falls to Gokana. 107km and 1020m climbing

Today was a day of ups and downs, in every sense of the word. We were off early in the morning as usual just after sunrise. We were suddenly on the ‘wet’ side of the Ghats and had passed from the dry high plain to tropical forest. Cycling as the sun was rising on the quiet of the morning through the lush landscape was beautiful. Occasional small homesteads had small emerald green paddy fields in the golden early light.

The river above the falls in the morning light

The cycling was tough though with steep climbs and drops, forever undulating through the hills. We had cumulative tiredness in our legs from a succession of days that were a bit longer than we would have chosen. As in most mountainous regions, the route is dictated by a few roads and the stops where we could get accommodation, which is much less profuse than the coastal tourist areas. The scenery kept us going and at last we started a proper descent.


A viewing platform gave great views down to the river that had come out of the gorge. This is the river that was emerged after Jog Falls, and then followed a further 200m descent down to sea level over just 60km.


The map indicated we would be following the river about 30km to the sea at Honnavar, and so we anticipated an easy run. How wrong we were! The road veered away form the river into a series of small (i.e. steep 50/60m) hills but relentlessly up and down, up and down. We were both finding it tough going as Honnovar crept nearer at slow pace. 5km from Hannovar, as we thought we may have done our last hill, David’s gear cable suddenly snapped. We both nearly snapped too as we wheeled the bikes to a shady area but David patiently changed the gear cable by the roadside.

We were now without a spare gear cable. Although this is the first time a cable had snapped in all the time we have been cycle touring, it would be sod’s law that it would happen again. With the wonders of a smart phone and google we identified a bike shop in Honnavar and, at last, did the last few kms into town. It had taken us 5 hours to do 60km and we were mentally and physically exhausted.

Roadside maintenance – successful and on we went.

We managed however to get a spare gear cable, although not spare inner tubes for David’s 700cm wheels, which are proving very difficult to get. We will need to carefully mend all any punctures as we won’t have the luxury of ditching used ones. Still feeling hot and bothered we stopped for samosas and sugary fizzy drinks to get us going again then back on the road, turning due north again.

We were now on a much more main road but blissfully flat. This was much easier on the legs, but the flat straight roads encouraged ‘mad’ overtaking.   We were often faced with a bus, lorry or car charging towards us as they overtook a slower vehicle. It was like cycling along the outside of the fast lane on wrong side of a dual carriageway! David was not feeling too well (stomach still the wrong side of good) so every km was taking its toll. We were now cycling in the intense heat of the day. Now we were back a sea level this was about 6 degrees hotter than we were used to and, believe me, the difference between 31 and 37 degrees feels a lot when cycling.

Preparing a structure for a Hindu Festival – nerves of steel needed.

At least on the flat we were covering km more quickly and after 20km turned off the main road. We cycled the next 12km with some trepidation and the road should end at the tip of a small peninsular with a “ferry” supposedly available to cross the river. We had not been able to find confirmation that the ferry existed. If it didn’t then we would have to retrace our steps and then go a much longer way round. The last section was so steep we were back to pushing our bikes again in the heat and feeling thoroughly miserable! However, our spirits rose as we turned the final corners as we descended to the river and saw a little boat which operated as a passenger ferry. It was too small for vehicles but could manage a few motorbikes and, of course, bicycles.

All board the skylark!

After a few minutes wait we crammed on with our bikes with other motorbikes and foot passengers for the short trip across the river estuary. We met a young Israeli couple on a motorbike who were touring India for a year. There is quite a tradition of young people from Israel exploring India, often after completing national service. Some tourists restaurants even offer specific Israeli food on the menu. They were delightful and we chatted about mutual travelling plans as the boat crossed the sound.

We were really flagging by this point and the final kick in the teeth was a last steep hill up and over the peninsular. Only the thought of a comfortable room and some time for R&R with day off kept us going.

We finally descended to Kudle beach, about 5km south of Gokarna. We found the hotel we had booked and walked exhausted into a smart looking place where people were sitting in comfy chairs drinking tea. They did not seem to have our booking though – and then we realised our hotel was actually the place next door – a drab looking establishment. David went to see the room and came back and said “you really need to see it before we decide”. I was exhausted and said anything was fine but “no – you really should see it”. The room was very basic and drab, bits of material at the windows and a separate shared dismal shower and toilet. We have done ‘basic’ quite happily several times but this quite a notch down, Our spirits were at rock bottom but we did not really have a choice (I did nip back next door but they had no rooms available) and we accepted but knew we did not want to stay there the next day.

At least the shower got us clean and we semi revived after brewing a cup of tea and then thought we should at least see the beach today as it is badged as one of the best in India. 100m down the road we came to the path down to the beach and our spirits immediately lifted as we were faced with a beautiful curved sandy bay with waves rolling gently in. We were soon in our cossies and in the wonderful warm Arabian Sea, bobbing away in the surf as the sun went down. The pain in our legs easing and the difficulties of the day receding.





We then had pasta and pizza at a beach side café (we love Indian food but it is great to have a break from it from time to time) and our first beer since we arrived! On the way back we even passed a nice hotel and negotiated to stay the following day with an early check in so we will only have to move a few hundred meters tomorrow and then be in a nice environment for our day off. A good end to a tricky day.

Day 19: Shimoga to Jogs Falls: 108km and 850m of climbing

We woke at about 6.30am, which was pretty late – at least by travelling standards. We had not got to bed until 11 the previous night and so slept in. We knew would pay for this later and, of course, duly did!  We checked out, failed to pay by credit card and so used cash. The use of credit cards is spreading in India but cash remains king. Using European based credit cards is pretty hit and miss. I am sure it will be totally standard in 10 years time but this is a transition period.

Continue reading Day 19: Shimoga to Jogs Falls: 108km and 850m of climbing

Day 16. Mysuru to Hassan. 112km. 930m climbing

Suresh and Sheela ensured we left with a hearty breakfast and plenty of tasty snacks to see us on our way. We said our last goodbyes and thanks for their generous hospitality and hope that we may be able to return it in some way in the future.

Sheela – the great cook.

Our first 15km were on the main road out of Mysore but at 7am the roads were quiet. Traffic lights are not switched on at that time of the morning so we negotiated the “dance” across junctions with traffic coming from all directions.

We then turned onto a more minor and life was immediately quieter. We cruised along a well paved road through agricultural land and then to the banks of a large lake. The road then crossed the corner of the lake on a long, very smart bridge. We paused to take photos and marvelled at how quiet it was.


A couple of hundred meters from the end of the bridge though the road ran out – literally! We were suddenly on a sandy track. We were used to the road disintegrating for short stretches and expected the tarmac to come back soon but all we got was very deteriorated stretches of road that we even worse than going along the sand/dirt track.


David’s Garmin was still indicating we were on a main road but “main” it definitely wasn’t. We resorted to google maps and realised the main road had turned to the left in the village before the bridge, but we must have missed it (if it still existed which seems unlikely as there was only one bridge). Whatever, we were seduced but the smooth straight tarmac road and signs that were only in squiggly writing. We could see the track we were on eventually joined up with the main road, so pressed on. So we bumped along for several km then suddenly hit new tarmac again. Presumably in some new budget year the road in between will also be tarmacked. Even that was short-lived, as the new tarmac finished a bumpy old road took over again, but at least this was more navigable than the last stretch. We played leap-frog with a bus that was crammed with people with several hanging on for grim death from the door, and at last reached the proper main road.

We turned north and the next ‘google maps’ instruction was ‘keep straight ahead for 72km’ so it was easy navigation from there. We thought the road would be busy but in fact it was pretty quiet with very few lorries, the occasional bus but otherwise tuktuks, motorbikes and tractors were the main users. Soon we were eating up the km again but were never bored. There were always villages to pass through the things to see.


From time to time, motorbikes would slow down next to us and match our speed to have a good look. Usually if we said ‘Hi’ or waved the occupants of the motorbike, which could range from 1-5 adults + children – rarely wearing helmets and with women in saris riding side saddle, carrying small children. On being waved at they would almost always break into smiles and wave back. Sometimes they would ask our names or where we were from or where we were going and, after they had had an eyeful of these strange travellers, they would speed on.

In one town we passed a large crowd and group of drummers and then saw a large decorated ‘shrine’. We stopped to take photos but soon were surrounded and we seemed to be more of an attraction than the religious deity, so we quickly moved on.


We brewed up coffee and ate up Sheela’s delicious snacks and later rested under a shady tree eating oranges and apples. The road undulated up and down and was never really flat. The gradients did not seem too bad but perhaps that’s because we are getting a lot stronger. We bobbed up and down around 800-900m altitude so the day never felt too hot (although David noted it was 32C in the afternoon so we must also be getting acclimatised to the heat).

Finally the road continued a more lasting climb up to the city of Hassan, the road topping out just below 1000m. The road was suddenly full of lorries, buses and tuktuks but we are now pretty confident negotiating ourselves through hectic traffic and we easily found our hotel.

We had covered over 72 miles (113km) between 7am and 3pm and felt tired but not totally exhausted. After resting and planning the next few days we strolled out into the city. We were heading for a restaurant recommended on tripadvisor but if it existed any more it certainly was not at the place marked on the map. In fact there was an extraordinary death of eateries. ‘Eating out’ is clearly not in the culture here. We finally found a restaurant under a posh looking hotel and ate ‘Manchurian Mushrooms’ and noodles which were tasty and filling. A final stroll back through the humming centre of town. Hassan seems to be a centre for clothing judging by the number of cloths shops of different varieties we passed.

For an A to B day, it had been remarkably pleasant and we broke our distance record for this trip so far. Legs definitely getting stronger, bodies a bit thinner and exposed parts are browner (but with cyclist’s tan marks extraordinaire).