Riding high to the Satpudas: Toranmal

Posted: by Pulsurge in Labels: , , ,
6

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." -- Jawaharlal Nehru

After two years of all the day dreaming and plans of visiting Toranmal eventually transformed into reality. All thanks to Independence day and Raksha Bandhan preceding a Sunday giving a “dream-come-true” three day break to enjoy. Raigad was planned earlier, but certainly not for a three day venture. A break such as this requisites some more roll of the wheel to justify its importance- at least a 1000 kms, so there it was- heading nowhere but to the northern point where the three states chit chat in neighbouring proximity. Toh sochna kya bhaiyo…..Chalo Toranmal!

Raigad trekking plans go out of the window and before sketching a comprehensive roadmap for the trip- I disclose the prospective plan to a few people whom I know are ever-eager to get rolling if convenience aids their attendance. Was glad to see all of them reciprocate a positive response and my plan was up, but not before a bunch of confusion as regards selection of the route. After slogging out with MSN Local Live, Yahoo! Maps and MapMyIndia, concluded a proper route – thanks to Google Maps, but only till Shahada. It was expressly understood from references on the web about the only escape to Toranmal was from Shahada- hence didn’t bother my brains much on that.

With the dates nearing for the trip, the probable list of people for the ride emulated the current trend of the sensex and came crashing down to a list of 4 which at one point of time stood at 12. Amit, Alkesh, Vinod and me summed up to the final four and were all geared up for the ride awaiting the D-Day.

15.08.2008

Vinod and Alkesh both from Jogeshwari coordinated their leaving plans for the day and so did the Thaneites Amit and myself. Poor Abhijit! Woke him up at 4.00 in the morning for an alternative contact for Amit who wasn’t responding to my calls. Amit called back soon and I was at his place in no time and we both met up with Vinod and Alkesh at Ghodbunder. Sipped on tea to pass time and let daylight break out as it was too dark to ride with NH8 at its worst during monsoon. Few moments later a mild scatter of light readying us up for the long ride ahead. As usual Vinod leads - followed by Amit, Alkesh and me dragging. Not to mention the GPS was already ticking on NST (Nokia Sports Tracker).

Ride till Manor made us feel like Pathfinder on Mars- bumps and bumps and bumps. Wish we had the Rocker-Bogie suspension on our bikes too. Once past Manor despite the rains pouring, it was a rip-session till Charoti Toll Plaza which came up before we could realize. Even with my watermelon-sized AGV making all kind of noises, the sight of the rain drops on the visor being swept away by the wind drag was pure bliss. Caught sight of a decent restaurant and made one corner of it absolutely wet and dirty with our dripping raincoats and totally soaked up smelly socks and shoes. NST was ticking and very well hooked onto 6 satellites. Paused the ticker and went inside for a sumptuous treat of Udipi Menu. The stopover session carried on like there was no tomorrow. Seemed as we all three would end up narrating our autobiography sitting there. Good thing was my N95 was gaining extra charge while the discussions carried on. Well at last it folded up- everyone padded up ready for the roll ahead, except my phone. Bugger simply refusing to connect- wasted 15 minutes of time and patience of the other three trying to fix up the connectivity but in vain. That was the end of NST on the trip. We were off towards our next stop…Navsari.

“WELCOME TO STATE OF GUJARAT” says a signboard and we have a bunch of crazy riders around to welcome us too. More than half of the people were riding as if they were least bothered about their lives- 4 people on one bike, then another busy on the cell phone with control of his bike only by the accelerator, one fellow on a 100cc bike daydreaming of a Ducati 996 under his ass trying to imitate the chase sequence from Matrix Reloaded and his ridiculous sounding horn. Aaaaaah…..had enough of the rubbish. Took my mind off them before it could disturb my weak riding composure. Engines revving in their comfort zone cruising along around 90 kph and occasionally taking a 100+ dash once the roads used to open up and was turning out to be a “heat-and-cool” ride. At one moment the sun would beat down as if it was summer, the next moment rain came thrashing down wetting us all, later you have the sun hiding behind the clouds with absolute cool weather drying us up- but then again we’re all drenched completely. Enjoying the transitional games of weather, we reached Navsari.
Each one of us carries on with the tradition of making a mess of the restaurant. With all kind of dirt sucked up from the road, our wearables made even a more terrible sight before the restaurant owner poked in and asked us to keep all the drippy chaos outside. No glancing at menucards, everyone wants a common snack - so what do we have here? Hot stuffed parathas, fresh curd and pickles….yummieeee! The hunger hurricane rolls over and everything’s been literally wiped off leaving no trace behind. 

Was about time to bid good bye to the sweet-n-sour NH8 experience. The State highway connecting NH8 to NH6 was wonderful. A blend of something experienced while scampering through Dharampur towards Saputara and Jalna towards Lonar. Drenched and narrow but clean stretch void of any bumps under a cloudy atmosphere and later you are passing through this beautiful stretch with trees on both sides like a tunnel hugging and shielding you from eyes of the rain. A small patch of bad road in between cited realisations of the wonderful stretch of ride we had a few moments ago. Eventually from one NH to another... welcome to NH6.
I goof up on the directions even after guidance from Vinod that we need to take right towards Dhulia. Silly me, though Dhulia had to be completely avoided, it was NH6 that would take us towards Nandurbar. Owing to my stupidity we cross over and into the inner-skirts of Bardoli. Asking the locals doesn't always help when you're lost. Literally everyone including rickshaw drivers gave us different and confusing directions. In the end we relied on the direction signs and were back on the right stretch, not before wasting 30 minutes taking a detour- would have been a visual joke if NST was working.

Back on NH6... good stretch I should say, very similar to NH17 without curves- narrow though clean and easy enough for a constant cosy cruise. But these two rookies ahead of me were too quick for the taking- am sure they were 120+ and signs of having a comparatively lesser powered bike was showing up on my part. I was trailing really bad and thanks to the traffic I was able to hold back on their tail, but they disappeared again. The fun filled catch up game carried on till Nandurbar. Glance at the odo and realised that Mr. Vinod had pushed us for a non stop 175 kms and in approx 2 hours- woah that's pretty quick. Great job leading the pack plus the roads were so good, we just carried on and on before our empty stomachs forced a halt.
Found a good restaurant and it served equally good food. Look up and you discover an eternal smile on the waiters' faces :) Maybe our ride was something that amused them. Turned out to be a very lengthy halt- we were a bit stiff and our gear was still damp. More than an hour since we had checked in, the sky was already getting darker. The waiters and the restaurant bid us a very warm good bye. "Phir aate hai" I said- thinking it would be on our return too. Wrapped up again and closer to our target, we were extremely eager to land at Toranmal. 

Scenic village routes and occasional twisties gave exciting company till a crowded and completely chaotic town called Shahada. Felt as if everyone walked and crossed the roads using their sixth sense rather than their eyes and god the decibel levels....aaaaah! Thankfully I was wearing my helmet or else I would have pulled all my hair apart. Who would want to stop at such a place but unfortunately we had to.... for cross confirming directions and road conditions. Here comes an equally unfortunate answer... "Aage rasta bahut kharaab hai" and how right it was. Actually there was no road, just pieces of rocks layered with soil- good god didn't last long though. Villages disappear in our mirrors and for now ladies and gentlemen- the adventure begins. 

Except for our engines revving it was complete silence. The width of the roads shrunk but offered twisty ascends to compensate, blanketed by trees on both sides some slide-around patches to shake us up.
Up up up and down you go again. Here take this right hairpin.... now left... quick downroll on a gradient assisted by gravity then a steep right climb- go left, go right, go up, go down- similar was the state of the blood flow inside. Woohoo! Heavens am loving this, enjoying my own private roller coaster and controlling it too! The tree cover was over and now we're riding under an open twilighted sky. Too much concentration on the roads and we failed to realise that there was no boulders or barricades- an unlucky slip and you'll land at least three hairpins below if not kissing mean sea level- consequently wrists went easy on the throttle.
The twilight's gone with our headlights performing their real duty- they were anyway on for the whole day but for a different purpose then. A small straight stretch and phew... the Saat Paayri ghats are finally over- well that was just my thought, it hadn't even started yet. No sooner the formal announcement comes through a sign board, yo fellas.... some more adventure in store. Not exceeding second gear, we start our climb. How about some more thrills? here you go riders.... lights off! I mean the darkness here, but then one actually does…... Vinod's low beam is gone. Still not enough?........ How about valleys on both sides?...... Wait there's more, thrills done…… now some suspense to gauge how far and sideways can you see the road? The rain clouds arrive for company. Minute water droplets on the visor blurring the already poor vision- up they go. If not for the 220 headlights, I could hardly even see Vinod's tail light. Thrill's out, scare is in.... feet off the pegs and down on the road and we’re walking with our bikes.
Clouds getting thicker and sight getting worse, we were braking every now and then, grasping all that we could see ahead and move on. Switch to high beam, and you have your own light refracted back into your eyes. Toranmal is still 13 kms away, at this pace it will take us two hours. A puncture is enough to mess up the entire ride. You do get this feeling when the last puncture repair you saw was more 50 kms away. Am praying within "We'll handle this scare god, but please bless the tyres". The struggle carries on in similar manner. Distance indicators were appearing after ages showing what a crawl it was. I was screaming at Amit who was venturing too close the edge in an effort to provide escort lights to Vinod. I wish I could have clicked those scary and anxious moments, but then couldn't think other than getting lost off that place.

The cloud cover resides and for now in actual the serpentic ghats are over. Could feel the blood circulation and heart beat return to normalcy. Took us 2.5 hours to complete this 35 kms stretch- that’s done. Now where’s the bloody resort? Like Lonar, it took some time to hunt for the place. Might would have been that the bales of apprehensions that we were carrying on our heads had some more space. "Rooms are full" is the prompt reply. "Whaaaaat! We had already confirmed in advance from the Rajput brothers for a dormitory." me said. "Thats fine, but we wait only till 5 or 6 in the evening and loose on business due to no-show of guests. Hence its first come first serve basis in the evening" he said. Where do we go from here, we asked. He told us to get back to the village- we might find a place. Bad luck strikes at the PWD quarters too, the caretaker was ready to give us the room but we need to check out before 7 in the morning. Not done! We ride back to the village and good luck strikes, we find a place for the night. One storeyed house converted into a make-shift lodge. Who cares, we just needed a roof over us and this toh had proper equipped beds, a working fan, a few mosquitoes for company and a free coil to drive them away.
The owner's going to dig a hole in our pocket seeing our state of desperation. How much- we ask him. 30 bucks per person per might. Wow thats really cheap, but gulped down all the excitement. You never know- not many good things happening, this might take a tumble. The entire luggage is dumped in quick time. Had to inform back home about we reaching. No cell network and not a single PCO- boy this place is still stuck in the paleo-age. Good news, we come to know that far away from the village on a hillock we might catch up on BSNL frequency- now how funny is that. Thanks to Amit's thoughtfulness he carried a BSNL simcard. Now here's a bigger joke, you need to hold the phone high in the air to get a signal, pull it down and the network shows you a BIG THENGA! We plugged the sim into Alkesh's phone and passed on the intimations back home using the speaker phone. Funny sight that was- if not for the darkness it would have added a nice humour video to the memories collection.

In the meantime rats attack Vinod and Alkesh's stomachs. Finding an eatery at such a far flung place at late night was next to impossible, but still decided to hunt around and found one. Not a restaurant, similar to the lodge, it was a make shift structure. Check out these rates- one rice 25 bucks, another 25 for dal and another 25 for bhaaji. Great news- we're here to be looted eh! Vinod goes ahead with ordering one portion of this exquisite recipe. The order shrinks- not enough dal in store, khichdi milega……. Woh bhi chalega. Vinod sir suddenly in a mood to have omlette, another good news- those people didn't know how to make an omlette and Vinod had to make all by himself, and he gets through with it really quick giving big omlette making lectures- boy how difficult it is to make an omlette! The food arrives and these two chaps enjoy the feast with Amit and me staring at their faces- we weren't hungry anyways, I swear ;) We're back to our room and our sleep marks the end of an eventful day. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

16.08.2008

Vinod was up early but went back to sleep again. I'm up and through with all the morning rituals- pull out Amit's DSC-50 for an early morning photographic surveillance. Amit wakes up too and we head out towards Yeshwant lake.
A round photographic tour of the lake with Amit and all over again with Vinod striking poses at the lake.
A curious and meowing call leads us to a peacock perched high up a lamp post and no sooner flutter flutter down he comes. Personifying splendour and grace in every movement! But way too restless, took a few shots with great difficulty.
Vinod enjoys a few goti moments with the bachaa party and later we're back to our rooms to find the other two absconding.
Clicked a few pics of the local people. Fell in love with this chhoti- naughty innocence all over her face.
Keeping us worried for more than an hour, the two maharajas finally arrive after a satisfying breakfast from the resort. Site see time- we pick up two bikes to take a site see in faster time than on foot. Vinod and me relish over delicious portions of poha and refreshing tea for breakfast on the way.
Soul soothing moments at Khadki Point. And a few wonderful foggy snapshots to add to memories, then it was off roading from one point to another.
The sight of Sitakhai falls was exhilerating, streams reeling off the cliff and hammering down hard on the surface below. If the sound of the ocean waves is nature's poetry, this one was hard rock. The gushing sound was wild.
Lingered around for quite some time trying to visually fathom the steep drops. At the edge of a cliff leaning off the railings feeling how small and insignificant we were, in front of those huge mountains.
Toranmal is beautiful and thank god its not commercialized- hope it stays the way it is. Alkesh and me enjoy a few moments under a chilly waterfall on the way back.

Site seeing was done and Vinod decided to head back on the day to save on time and distance towards the return journey. Packing and loading took an extended duration, and we kiss good bye with a heavy heart to this lovely place. Unfortunately we missed the Machhindranath Caves.
Clicking pics all the way and inspecting the roads that scared us so much a day before. My bike was nervous and all over the place- thanks to valve leak in the rear tyre. Amit stayed back and gave me ride and photography company. We could see Vinod and Alkesh crawling their way down the Saat Paayri Ghats from far up.
Swinging every now and then, we're down to sea level passing through the muddy section concluded the descend. Honking through an army of cattle, a scenic lake view on the way stopped us for photography, and that was the end of the major photography sessions. The ride from thereon was to roll as max distance as we could.


Crossed over the Tapi River which we failed to take note while on our journey towards.
We reached Nandurbar and dropped back into the same restaurant, not to mention the waiters were smiling again. Very cozy atmosphere and good food - this time we took even longer time to move. It was already dark now- and started drizzling. I toh totally forgot the route- thankfully Mr. Mhetar was leading and he’s good at memorizing roads. We’re back on NH6 and the 4 bogied train starts running at full blast. We had already seen the road while coming- so we were least bothered about hitting potholes- only problem was the high beams from the opposite side. Though there was trucker traffic but overtaking was easy and we never broke formation.
Just carried on riding as long as we could under the full moon and took a short chai-stop at Songadh with lot of insects for company. 

Moving on we come across a railway crossing and had to wait pretty long for the train to pass which seemed as it if was on its last run. In between Vinodbhaiya got an alternative and shorter route from a car driver towards Mumbai from Vyara via Unai devi. “Rasta kaisa hai?” we asked. “Ekdum toap to bottam first class road chhe” he responds with an affirmation that accommodation will also be available aplenty on this stretch. Good enough we said and took left from Vyara. Aage kya bolu- we were absolutely shaken up completely from top to bottom, such horrible were the roads. We cursed that driver so much, am sure he would have banged his car somewhere.
The only pleasant feeling was the number of rivers we were passing over, every now and then you have one river- and the moonlight reflecting in the water made a beautiful sight. After some serious butt torture we manage to reach Unai past midnight. Not a soul around except for some stray dogs chasing each other. Fortunately caught hold of a tea-stall and asked him for stay arrangements. The Dharamshala and a lodge near the Unai Devi temple were the only means of accommodation- cursed that driver again. Vinod went inside the guest house for a check- and came out finding no one. The doors were open, everything so silent- and with those dogs howling in the background, it seemed like a haunted town- but the temple was a consoling and saving grace.
Vinod took to the Dharamshala to enquire, in the meantime Amit already went in and woke up the guest house’s owner- Amit’s fluent Gujarati speaking skills helped. Despite we spoiling the owner’s sleep, he was very polite in guiding us to the room, arranging drinking water, mosquito mats, extra pillows and mattresses. Memories of a few horror TV serials came to mind- we were the only four in the complete lodge and at that point of time at night the politeness showed by the owner was something very surprising. Vinod and Amit went to sleep, in the meantime Alkesh and I went up the terrace to shoot a few glimpses of the Lunar Eclipse. Got a lucky shot when the clouds cleared for a few seconds. Back on the bed and it’s the end of another day.

17.08.2008

The place that looked like a haunted place earlier night was a riot next morning with the lane bustling with people and shops overflowing with things you could ever imagine.
The hot springs were amazing- Vinod got a taste of the more mild tank- the one on the other side was closed and water was on boiling point.
We had dhokla and phaafda …though I hate eating fried stuff for breakfast and to add the cleanliness of the restaurant was least impressive.
Spent some time shopping around and back to our rooms for packup. Passing through narrow lanes, we hit the main road and took to NH8 at Valsad via Dharampur.
It was a continuous ripping session till Kaloo Punjabi-da-Dhaba at Charoti. Great lunch there and with lot of time remaining we lazed around a bit.
Back on the road and everything was ok till Manor- after that it was a punishment nearly neutralising all the fun that we had on the trip. Terrible traffic jam- very bad roads…..ok, but a few oversmart cookies had jumped onto the other side of the road- and what you get is a perennial jam for miles. Pathetic sight it was – just for weird time-saving ideas of a few idiots everyone had to suffer. It took more than an hour to come out this 5 kms stretch of hell.
Reached Ghodbunder completely exhausted than we had been on the entire ride. Sad ending for such a amazing ride- nevertheless it was amazing after all. We thanked each other for the wonderful company and split for our homes. As for recollecting the Toranmal experience, I wish it retains it present state and commercialization doesn’t burden this beautiful place with litter.
Though it lacks facilities even at basic levels- still its fun to mingle and experience a village life for a day or two, your cell-phone doesn’t irritate and no SPM dissolved air to breathe….but where you’re part of one mysterious and powerful force called nature. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment of having experienced it with a pure sense of freedom and serenity- and you’ll remember it for years to come.

So that was it guys- again a long one at that :)

Courtesy Vinod, here’s the distance log (he keeps a better track of distances):
Jogeshwari to Charoti = 104 Km
Charoti to Navsari = 148 Km
Navsari to Navapur = 100 Km (Via Bardoli – NH6 )
Navapur to Nandurbar = 75 Km 
Nandurbar to Shahada = 40 Km
Shahada to Toranmal = 54 Km
One way distance = 521 Kms

Toranmal to Home = 501Km 
(Via Shahada–Nandurbar-Navapur–Vyara– Unai–Dharpur– Valsad – Charoti-Ghodbundar road)

Both ways distance covered = 1022 Km

The COMPLETE SET OF PICS HERE.


6 comments:

  1. Amit says:

    Deepak you forgot to mention my again slackness adjusted by u.

  1. David says:

    Found your blog while searching throught Khpoli. The trip you guys made looks awesome! Makes me wanna get a two wheeler and do something on those lines! Keep Blogging.

    http://david-desouza.blogspot.com/

  1. Pulsurge says:

    @Amit: I dont keep track of samaaj seva...LOL

    @David: Yeah get one soon...The number of wheels on a bike is half on that of a car...but its twice more the fun :)

  1. Anonymous says:

    interesting.i am visiting toranmal next week hope to find as mesmerising as mentioned

  1. Jagdish says:

    Gr8....... Earlier we were planning it with a car, but now..... deduct two wheels... and get double fun!.....

  1. Pulsurge says:

    Yeah Jagdish...a car won't match the thrill of a bike except that you'll feel much safer. But then that is where the fun is. Since its been raining buckets, Toranmal would be heaven now. Try to keep staying arrangements confirmed and reach early so that you don't land up like us ;) All the best and I wish you get even thicker fog than what we got :P