One Hundred Kilometres, One Hell of a Ride
Having successfully completed National Himalayan Mountain Biking Expedition organized by Youth Hostels Association India (YHAI) only last month, I was itching to pick up my bicycle and scale the friendly neighbourhood mountains. The only thing preventing me from doing so was the oppressive summer heat. Thundershowers over the past few days heralded the arrival of monsoon. Air temperature dropped to “a very comfortable” degree centigrade and the weather became conducive to excursions.
I left home at 07:30 hours. The journey till breakfast stop was almost a walk in a beautiful park. The sky was overcast with thick dark grey clouds. The road was flanked by thick lush green vegetation on both the sides. The air was dust-free and there was intermittent drizzling. The scent of the moist soil and that of rejuvenated plants (which were golden dry until only a few days ago) was therapeutic.
I stopped at a place called “Amrale Misal” near a Bharekarwadi having covered about 24 km. It was situated on a hill. I had been cycling uphill for quite a few kilometres. Once I satisfied my gastronomic needs with fresh poha and tea, I set off again. It was an uphill climb for a few kilometres and then downhill all the way until the hill ended. The route was flat until Lhawarde and I made good time having been recently fed.
Lavasa sits on a hill. The road snakes around the hill upwards, beginning somewhere after Lhawarde. The climb is steep and there are many tight hairpin bends. Although the distance is only 17 kilometres, it took me a couple of hours to reach the top. On one of the hairpins a car stalled and refused to start and on another a biker skidded and fell (no serious injuries, only wounded pride). My cycle took these turns gracefully being light and nimble and gave me no trouble whatsoever.
I passed Temghar dam on the way. There was hardly any water in the dam. Hopefully it will fill to capacity over the next couple of months. Vehicular traffic increased considerably as Lavasa neared. I came across other cyclists as well – a young lady cycling in the opposite direction, two gentlemen on a multi-bike also going in the opposite direction. At both the instances smiles and words of encouragement were exchanged. While I was battling the last inclines of Lavasa hill, another cyclist who was going downhill provided much needed encouragement.
It was pouring when I reached Lavasa. There was a long queue of cars waiting to enter. It was about 14:00 hours on the clock. I therefore decided to head back in order to reach home before dark. I started the descent after taking a breather for ten minutes. The rain was relentless and heavy. I continued cycling nonetheless. A local villager exclaimed loudly from under his raincoat how I could be cycling in these conditions. As if his words were a prophecy, the brakes gave up on me only a short distance ahead. Thankfully I realized that the brakes are fading before I could gather much speed. I arrested the slide, or to be technically correct the roll, of the cycle by going off-road into mud and using my feet to come to a standstill (all the childhood experience coming to my rescue).
I trekked dragging my cycle alongside for around five kilometres. As the rain showed no signs of relenting, reaching home seemed a distant dream; so distant in fact that it was blurry. I had to walk off-road as the visibility was low and there was considerable traffic. My shoes were water-logged and therefore heavy, each footstep was leaving a deep imprint upon the soil and my cycle, sans brakes, was impersonating an overly enthusiastic German Shepherd trying to break away from its owner. My glasses were getting foggy. My biking gloves were soaked. I was feeling alive!
The rain finally let up after almost drowning my spirit. I worked on the brakes and managed to get them to work. However, the trust deficit between me and the brakes was high and I never let the cycle gather any more speed than at which I could stop it using my feet for the rest of the journey. As most of the route was downhill or flat the progress was very slow. As soon as there was a climb I would speed up. There was hardly any climb though. I stopped at a different café at Bharekarwadi, called “hotel turning point” for tea (the terms restaurant, hotel, café can be used interchangeably in Maharashtra). While saddling up after having tea, one lady commented “Wow you come here on a cycle, well done!” Thanking her, I sped off.
The wrist watch read 20:00 when I finally reached Chandni Chowk (the one in Pune). My stomach was doing backflips. I stopped and treated myself to donuts and iced redbull at café Peterdonuts.
I reached home at quarter to nine. I had been on the road for about thirteen hours and had covered over one hundred kilometres on a cycle in that timespan. A Sunday well spent eh?