Ride to Karwar & Amboli

Posted: by Pulsurge in Labels: , , ,

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” - Samuel Johnson

"Long time, no ride" that subjects as to how I started the plan of riding out. The last ride was somewhere two months back, now that's a punishment isn’t it? Add to it the previous planning of Amboli never got out of the bag. Surprisingly in the end, the plan turned out to be a solo ride- so as my mind usually thinks, the distance automatically gets pushed further and bringing out some vague riding thoughts of places which will be out of the time radar. The first place which came to my mind was Mangalore, didn’t know a bit about the places there barring a few forgotten monuments which Glen had briefed a year back. But it’s never the attraction of the place that fazes me, it’s rather an excuse for a point of U-turn. Thinking in practical terms I could see Karwar in a comfort zone for a turn-around point. Then the world's tallest idol of Lord Shiva comes to mind, for which I was so eager to see ever since I came across the magnificent structure on the web a year back. But anyway didn’t make it to Murudeshwar coz of personal reasons.

The last surprise package was still in wraps, my colleague Alkesh who recently bought a black P220 and somehow was bitten by the ride bug on our office picnic to Lonavla, where we ditched the bus ride and took the bike along. So since he bought the P220, was chasing me for a ride, and to really expedite things never knowing when I'll be heading out- he completed his running-in within surprisingly quick time for his given distance of commute. He stays at Jogeshwari and commutes to office at Andheri- hardly 10 kms of commute everyday to and fro. Every other Sunday he used to hit the Western Express Highway and roll a few 100 kms. Being aware of my ride plans- he asked me if he could join in and with great pride conveyed that he's clocked 2500 kms. Affirming to his request was a gamble. With practically no riding experience out of city under normal circumstances, I was apprehensive as to whether he will stand upto it. As my duty, I tried to acquaint or rather scare him with apprehensions involved on the ride. But he wasn't inching back a bit- he simply wanted to ride. I didn't have a heart to say NO to him. He was aware of the pre-requisite riding gear, he rushed off to Smart Designs and bought a pair of Cramster gloves- it was the only missing part of the set. Having serviced his 220 a couple of days before the ride, he was all set and eager to roll his wheels off on a first proper ride of his life. I got rid of the 60W candlelight bulb and fixed my 35W back again. The ride was already postponed a day ahead coz on leave issues and now we had Saturday night to roll and Monday to return.

Here comes Saturday, bags packed up- bikes washed, polished and ready to roll the long distance ahead. But then as usually happens on the riding day, time tends to move at a slower pace than normal. Its 6.30- through with the office hours and too restless to jump on our bikes. Time's up and now comes another delay...my phone- damn the battery's gone half and the charging never seemed it will stop. So mutually decided to let the phone energise and enjoy an interesting IPL match in progress on the big LCD screen. Match's over, charging is done- could feel the blood in the veins getting warmer and the muscles stretching out themselves anticipating the ride ahead. Loads of wishes from everybody for a safe journey- Alkesh gets the majority of them as it’s his first ride. Call up Sanket and I get my share of wishes- the usual one..... "God Speed" he says. And here comes Parimal's sms - as always his wishes are bundled up with the list of precautions I should be taking on the ride- a very good reminder that I keep my head steady and not scamper too fast on the roads owing to excitement. Vaibhav too joins the list of good wishes for the ride ahead. And the biggest bunch of wishes comes from my soulmate. As always she very well knows my ride plans- irrelevant whether its 4 in the evening or 4 in the morning, before I set my foot out, the phone has to beep for sure conveying her best wishes for the ride wrapped with concerns and worries for my well being, not to mention the unfulfilled wish to accompany me on the ride :)

So all is done - out of office and takes no time to bungee our bags onto the bikes. The N95 is ready with the Sports Tracker and hooked up to the satellite in pretty quick time. Crank up the bikes, thumbs up to each other - a press of the START TRIP button on the N95, slipped it into my jacket pocket and we're off.

I was never so nervous on any ride...well nothing much, but was just worried about Alkesh. Utter a small prayer to the almighty for our safety on the road- Alkesh was in my mirrors all the time and he was riding well which made me feel better. The crawl through traffic till Gandhinagar was too irritating and a patience test. Over we pass the Kanjur Railway bridge and its cruise control. The wind imparted a pleasant feeling and the engine humming its favourite song in its best tone at 80-90 kph. A small stopover at Revel's place in Vashi to collect the camera, refuel and purchase the required stuff like toothpaste, biscuits, chewing gum etc. A semi merry-go-round down to the Palm Beach Stretch gets Alkesh excited. He unleashes all the 19 odd horses in his P220 and starts to disappear by each passing second. I was surprised but at the same time was happy to see him confident doing three digit speeds. It’s a relaxed ride there from passing through the lovely JNPT route onto NH4 taking a halt again for pressure check on his rear tyre which was discomforting at higher speeds.

It’s a non-stop run till Neeta's Volvo stopover restaurant ahead of Lonavla where nothing much was available to eat and with half of the stalls closing down, we relished on a hot pizza and some juice to fuel our stomachs for the onward journey. The ride was getting more enjoyable with every kilometre on the odo- the throttle was held constant thanks to almost no traffic. Then comes the right diversion of NH4 towards Bangalore... wide open roads increases the twist of the wrist and we're happily cruising at 100+. Alkesh had perfected the rule of group riding- always in my mirrors and never went into the blind spot. Though we didn’t feel like stopping, but got off our bikes outside Katraj tunnel for a snap shot. The straight care-free stretch of road felt too much relaxed and somehow sleep started getting into our eyes. Tea seemed the best solution and we stopped over again for sips (gulps rather alongwith Kurkure packs for that tongue tingle) at a stall just before Khambatki Ghat.

Alkesh got too charged up with the tea and blasted away into the distance with me in amazement watching him take those curves on Khambatki like I never saw him do before. Khambatki offered a small dose of a much needed thrill on the mostly straightish roads. From that point onwards it was a rocket launch ride - was finding it extremely tough keeping up with Alkesh who at no point of time seemed interested to come down below the 100 kph mark. My bike yelling out its guts and redlining every now and then in 4th to be within shooting range of his scorching P220. Satara and Karad were gone even before we could realise.

We were constantly on the scamper for more than an hour now- and decided to give the engine a bit of cooling. The temperature had dropped and that fresh smell of soil concluded that it had rained- thankfully the roads were dry. Caught sight of a tea stall and realised that we had almost touched Kolhapur- off with the riding gear and it was complete bliss. The cool climate was a treat after the suffering we had to go through the Mumbai summer. Add to it the amazing "Gavti" tea we were served.... glass after glass, we kept them coming till we were completely satisfied- by then 8 full glasses had already gone down our throats alongwith 2 packets of Parle-G.

Bikes were pretty cooled by then and charged the phone as much as I could....was time again for another rocket riding session. Steady on the throttle and only realised after touching Sankeshwar Toll Plaza that we had crossed the State Border. The sun was creeping its way up behind the horizon and we stopped to click pics of it rising and the wonderful roads that continued into eternity.

With Belgaum approaching, I suddenly took a halt and asked Alkesh to swap bikes. You have the roads- lets see what guts can be stirred up in the P220's belly :) And boy ...doesn’t this bike touch 100 in a dash- but the wind disappointed me..too much drag and I couldn’t push further than 120 on the digital dash (no crouching though). Came across an RTR chap pushing his bike real hard - but then there's no replacement for displacement... and the result was obvious ;) The 118 kph you see on the GPS track might make you feel that it was my bike :P but it was the P220. 2 kph difference compared to almost 10 kph on my analog speedo- pretty good for accuracy! Reached Belgaum and waited for Alkesh to arrive.

All the fun apart, and our bikes taking the toll of our crazy riding- the fuel indicator was already leaning left. In fact I was already running in reserve for some time now and with the perpetual dividers not seeming to end and bunks all on the other side - I was worried if I would run out of fuel. But thankfully Alkesh wasn’t finding my bike comfortable and rode pretty relaxed. An IOC bunk stood right opposite to the halt and luckily we could cross over to the other side of the road. Refueled with Xtra Premium (only available) and being in Karnataka was priced higher than what we get here. Asked the attendant if I could charge my cell for some time- "YES SAAR" was a very polite reply. In the meantime got fresh with a washup and got relieved of the fluid bouncing in the bladder.

Asked a local for directions to Karwar and we were on our way with speeds drastically reduced owing to overnight rains and slippery roads. Had to pass through traffic and zigzagging some really narrow lanes to get onto the right track. Dry roads again and we push ourselves towards Karwar taking a stop again for breakfast which was left half eaten- couldn’t just take much of the taste on offer. Rolling the distance, the view started getting better and the roads started getting dry and the cruise was truly refreshing; more than the Gavti tea we had at Kolhapur.

No blind corners with trees ticking by in the corner of your eyes- with your mind almost keeping a track on the number of them whizzing past you. We already had an extended treat and it was time for some jerky experiences. Lost ourselves at Londha taking a horrible road which came to a dead end in some far flung village and then again a sign board totally misguiding us on the directions taking us towards Goa rather than Karwar. It was a waste of 30 kms merry-go-round-ing the same place. In the end got placed on the right track and again it transformed into a comfortable glide.

The earlier comparison of the experience to the refreshing wasn't wrong at all...am sure everyone would have faced this incident. It is like you enjoying a rejuvenating cup of tea and end up swallowing tea granules.....and you can only think of spitting it out as soon as you can. I agree this was a pathetic comparison, but then this was the worst part of the ride- the roads were bad..utter bad...ok wrong word..they were worse and even worse part- they were simply refusing to end. Try to avoid one bump and bang into another....Our backs, butts, even the bones had already taken some 20 kms of battering and it was still long to go. I carried on bumping and concentrated more on the road to avoid the craters. I glance in my rear view mirrors and find Alkesh missing- slow down keeping my eyes glued in the RVMs hoping to find him soon, but he isn’t to be seen. I come to a complete stop and just sway my head towards the right....baaaaaah....I get a scare- huge black faced monkeys around 15 of them all staring at me. Still a stupid thought of clicking them came to mind, but then I have some very old memories about their snatching habits. Wanted to simply rip off from the place, might be they would start chasing me- though I haven’t heard or seen instances of monkeys dodging human beings- still that fear was there in mind. Alkesh wasn’t to be seen yet- but I preferred waiting at a relatively safer place. Started my bike- irritated with the starter noise that the Pulsar makes, again fearing that might annoy them.

Got the wheels rolling slowly and gradually and finally into good speed before stopping again at a relatively safer and monkey-less place. A few minutes later Alkesh arrives and we both start rolling over those punishing roads again. We might have covered another 20 kms of a painful journey before we hit paradise, I mean good roads. With fresh laid tarmac and the gravel still sticking around- it was time for some crackling music....even my helmet got involved in the orchestra on more than one occasion- luckily my visor wasn’t hit. A bridge on the way over the Kali River was a soothing sight and somehow managed to get over the bone rattle. Through with the amazing scenery, carried our onward journey and rolling distances we finally...phew....we were in Karwar. Pulled out the phone to see if the GPS is still ticking...but damn, it’s off..the battery's drained completely. Stopped over at a restaurant-cum-ice cream parlour which looked posh from the outside, but equally horrible from the inside. Couldn’t stand the sight of people having food- seemed like they're fasting since birth. Fresh lime soda was a safer bet and got two for us. The climate was indeed hot and decided to relish a portion of ice-cream and ordered Gadbad Falooda. Stood true to its name- it was truly gadbad.. and the worst falooda I tasted till date. In the meantime plugged the cell-phone for a recharge and thankfully it was able to recover the GPS data with minimal loss of distance (cross checked the P220's tripmeter and it was only a loss of some 7-10 kms). Asked for directions towards the beach and off we are getting between two faces of a drilled rocky hill.

We touch the Sadashivgad bridge and wow...here we are!!! It’s blue and blue all around...the clear blue sky above and the equally blue water underneath. Coconut trees lining the shore in the distance on the left with house boats ferrying their way and a lonely white-sand shore on the right. Boy....Karwar is beautiful..absolutely beautiful!

Couldn't simply get enough of the beautiful sight and spend a long time staring into the horizon and the two small islands in the distance.

With satisfaction in mind, got over the bridge and touched the clean sands (no idea which beach it was). Clicked a few pics of the beach and INS Chapal now converted into a Marine Museum.

Temperature was on the higher side and we had reached our point of U-Turn. As planned earlier we had to reach as close to Amboli before dark and Sawantwadi was the place. On our bikes passing through the lovely beach scenery and again over Sadashivgad bridge bidding adieu to the beautiful place. Passing through Goa was a headache with traffic jams at places and with so many intersections and no proper directions we lost our way thrice. For some personal reason I don’t like Goa and had pledged that I would never visit this place in my life (no offence meant to Goa-lovers), now it was my majboori, I was suffocating and wanting to get out of this place as soon as I could. Was riding as fast as I could...annoyingly had to slow down again and again- this place certainly got a record number of speed-breakers. The temperature was melting us inside and we took a break some 34 kms before the Maharashtra border. Again a horrible restaurant- totally crowded and serving nothing but batata wada and pakoda. Managed with whatever was available and hurried off. NH17 started getting narrow and hell lot of time was wasted following a bus which was halting every now and then, couldn’t even overtake with the traffic rushing from the opposite side. Somehow managed to pull ahead and thankfully we roll into our state border- Goa's gone and I take a deep breath.

A few moments later we touch Sawantwadi and the only thing on our minds was a flat surface to rest our backs. The process of hotel hunting made me lose Alkesh again in the market area, but thankfully he didn’t move from the place and caught up with him. Found a cheap lodge in the market area at Rs. 350/-. Good ventilated room with a working TV though a common bathroom and toilet- it was maintained really well. Spent half an hour under a hot shower easing the stiff muscles (thankfully the tanks didn’t run out of water) before going into temporary comma for a few minutes. Got up feeling fresh and relaxed and now with rats running round in the stomach, was about time to find a good eatery. Didn’t take our bikes along and turned out to be a big mistake, the restaurants were some distance away from the lodge and every other person was showing us his own route to reach. Restaurants were completely occupied and had a bit of more running around to find some morsels of satisfaction. In the end we did bump into a good outlet and enjoyed our rightful portions of near-about home made food. Stomachs full and eyes getting heavier, we dash off to our lodge and snore away into the night.

The sun is up and so are we- through with all the morning rituals and all luggage packed up and we're eager to head out on a new day. Dosa for breakfast and a small shoppie around for the famous wooden toys concluded our stopover at Sawantwadi.

Getting directions to Amboli was easy and we were on our way passing through the winding roads and villages which ended after a certain distance and thereon the ride was absolute bliss. We had been through some great roads to ride till here, but this was the best we had on the entire journey. It felt like a one way route with whatever traffic all heading towards Amboli- don’t recollect any vehicle coming from the opposite side. Perfect blend for a enjoyable ride- great grippy twisty roads, cool climate, greenery all around, minimal traffic and with the rear Michelin digging itself into the tarmac- it was confidence all the way.

Stopped on the way to take a few shots of the valley below- it was truly beautiful barring one place where a truck had dived into the valley. I was clicking the misfortuned truck when two villagers came trotting on their bikes and stood next to me. "Don maansa meli ya gaadit". "Oh Shit" I uttered.... and guess what..the other replies back "OH F#$%"..I stare at his face (our country's truly progressing huh!) he gives me a witty grin.

Alkesh was a bit slow on the ghats and stopping for photography made sure that he catches up with me on the halt. Carrying on with our serpentine ride we reach "Amboli Gurusthan". Laze around the "Purvicha Vas" temple staring down the valley for a few moments. Time for a GPS check....oh yeah its ticking! 19 odd kms of pure joy.

So being through with Amboli- the objective now was to reach home as early as possible. chose the exit on NH4 towards Nipani, as the last time experience via Kolhapur was horrible and time consuming. With the exception of a few bad patches it was a comfortable ride till NH4- didn’t realise we were back into Karnataka again.

The site of the runway-type of road forced us to simply go flat out. Crossed Sankeshwar and we're back into Maharashtra and in no time we were at Kolhapur. Alkesh suggested that since we were here, we should visit the Goddess Mahalaxmi Temple. As mentioned earlier, I've had really bad experiences of riding through Kolhapur and wanted to simply avoid getting there. Asked a gentleman on the distance and 10 kms was his answer. Not very far- we decided to go. Stopped over again for distance and direction confirmation- 4 kms comes the second reply. 2 kms is the third and 8 kms is the fourth. Hell with the distance- we carry on asking only for directions. Round and round we finally reach the temple.

There was no facility at the shrine to dump our luggage- it wasn’t possible to carry our huge bags, jackets and helmets inside the temple. Thankfully one garland-stall offered us some space to squeeze in our stuff. That still got us worried, an unlocked compartment from where anyone could just pull out your things and walk away. We carried our helmets with us, with my earlier jacket already stolen I was worried about this one. Bought a garland thali and got into the long queue with some over-smart people pushing their kids in between and later squeezing themselves in. Some cheap habits and practices simply don’t tend to go.

The temple was a wonderful piece of architecture and the darshan of the Goddess was serene and soothing. We're out and by the grace of Goddess Mahalaxmi, all our stuff was totally intact :) It was already 5.30 p.m. and we had to head back. Hurried over with a light breakfast and shopping for some sweets. Everything's done- here we come Mumbai!

We reach the highway again after lot of confusion. Whack! on the throttle and in a few moments Alkesh has disappeared. Need to ride as fast and as long as possible, but to our bad luck we face horrible crosswinds which keep getting worse. Being a bit apprehensive, we decided to take a halt at Karad and shelter behind a few stalls.

Back onto our bikes with the same objective in mind- ride fast, ride long- and here comes another obstacle... touch Satara and it starts drizzling. We slow down yet don’t intend to stop- but then we finally have to. The rain gets mighty heavier and we rush for cover.

I witness some of the most amazing display of lightning I have ever seen in my life, unfortunately couldn’t capture them. It’s almost half an hour and its still raining- it takes another 20 mins until it’s manageable to ride. Hell lot of distance to cover and we're riding at what? 40kph! Stopover for a fill with the pump only vending premium fuel- damn. A wet and slow ride for another odd 20 minutes brings us to dry roads again. On the momentum and we carry on non-stop till ;Pune except for one stop after the Khambatki tunnel as had Alkesh dropped back. Have light snacks at a dhaba in Pune and later it’s a non-stop run till the Airoli flyover. Look at our watches and its 2.30 in the night- its the splitting point and though we're extremely desperate now to reach home, we conclude the entire journey with a cup of tea at a bicycle tea stall. We thank each other for the company and head in opposite directions- Alkesh towards Jogeshwari and me towards Thane. Reach home, dump all the luggage, wash up and on the bed in no time awaiting Alkesh's sms confirmation that he reached home. Half an hour later a loud beep on the phone- he's reached safe. Am dead....and I stay dead till 9 next morning.

All of the rides till date had something bad or the other, and this was no different. And similar to the earlier ones, I enjoyed this too. Got a new riding companion to tally on the list in Alkesh- am indeed lucky to have so many to ride with. I still remember those days when his comments denoted that riding was a waste of time, money and efforts. But now he's transformed- could never imagine he could ride this long without any issue. And it was the second time he proved me wrong- earlier being he buying a P220 when I had placed a bet that he never would. Of course I did lose the bet and had to distribute sweets in office on his behalf, but then I was feeling good too- as I was sure that a P220 in his hands wasn't for commuting. It had arrived to ride long...really long. And both of them did really well on their first attempt- didn’t they?


This was our route and the distance covered:

Mumbai-Pune-Satara-Karad-Kolhapur-Belgaum-Khanapur-Londha-Karwar-Margaon-Panaji-Sawantwadi-Amboli-Aajra-Nipani-Kolhapur-Satara-Pune-Mumbai: 1432 kms.

Some keedagiri on the Nokia Sports Tracker:

Mumbai to Karwar

Karwar to Sawantwadi
From Sawantwadi to Amboli


  1. Neha says:

    I am highly overwhelmed with your adventurous spirit and the way you are passionate about biking.
    What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self. Passion is all that is other from self. Sex is only interesting when it releases passion. The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so."

  1. Congrats...I have no words to say...simply amazing...

    Y can't u try a car charger in ur bike to charge ur mobile.


  1. Pulsurge says:

    Thanks James,

    Well its the lazy-me who's delaying it. Thinking since long to fix up a ciggy-lighter on the bike.