24th January to 31st January….Same time Last year we had done a ride in the Rann of Kutch , of which I have already published a blog!This year around we signed up for a ride where we could touch a few coastal points of the Kutch Region. This ride was organised by the same agency, #Curiouswheels. This time around we had a few repeat participants and just the lone new participant!! Last year we were 12 of us ..this time we were just the 6 of us…Last time we had used rented cycles this time around we decided to pack our cycles and carry it to the location. Last time we had cycled 250 kms this time the distance to be covered was 450 kms….. But there was absolutely no difference in the Excitement in both the years!! We (me and Rahul nene) were as excited for this ‘anniversary Kutch ride’ as were last year. So we booked out travel tickets (All the way by Train_ to and fro) and started our preparation for the ride.
“Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.”
The first and foremost preparation was to pack our own cycles in a box and ship it to the assembly place in Bhuj. This was a first time experience for us and we were helped to a great deal by #Cykler, a Marin bike agency in Kothrud, Pune. Since both, me and Rahul are Marin customers, it was pretty easy for both the parties!!! We were given a demo of dos and don’ts while packing the cycles. Boxes were provided by Marin. Once packed, we coordinated with the courier service to deliver it to the desired address…..
All set for the ride, we left Pune on the 23rd jan evening…A train journey to Mumbai form Pune by the Intercity ,a quick dinner outside Dadar Station and then we boarded the Bandra Bhuj Express at 23.45 pm to reach Bhuj on the 24th January afternoon.
After checking in the stay facility at the Vishranti Bhavan, Bhuj, we got to assembling the cycles that had already been delivered at Bhuj by Safe Express. This was a first for us so, Neeraja (Curious Wheels) and Neerav Ghosh ( a new found friend and fellow rider) helped us to assemble our bikes. To check our abilities off assembling the bikes, we set out for a short ride upto the Bhuj airport which was not very far off just to get in the groove…..a few minor tuning to our bikes and we were all set to zoom off to the magical Kutch region from the 25th of January.
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination.” -Roy M. Goodman
Day 01_ 25 Jan 2019_ Bhuj to Mandavi
After a group picture early in the morning of Day 01 of the tour, we set out towards Mandavi at 8.00 am…A fairly relaxed start since the distance to be covered was not much. The first stop would be at 72 Jinalay, the staying facility for the day, just 10 kms before main Mandavi town. A jain temple complex with rooms for stays. It is about 45 kms ahead of the start point. So we were scheduled to reach here for lunch and then proceed to Mandavi for the further ride of the day which was majorly a sightseeing schedule.
A random stop at a wayside tea stall got us to a small lake which had alligators in it!!! What a location…Middle of the highway, right beside an unassuming tea stall was this small water body which had a few alligators swimming!!! wonders will never cease to fascinate us during such rides!!! After a leisurely stop we proceeded towards Mandavi again.
A debut for the first puncture of the ride for me awaited us…By now, I am quite well versed in repairing the punctures myself so there was no stress but just a few minutes of stoppage time…..But we made it to the scheduled stop at the scheduled time such that we had an hour of forty winks!!! another round of tea to wake us up and we headed towards Mandavi city to make a visit to the Vijay Vilas Place which is a major tourist attraction. Its a royal palace which has been converted into a residential museum for middle class people like us and get amazed!!! Of course, there were a few tourists amazed by our cycling efforts as well so we too felt pretty important!!!
Post the palace visit we headed toward the Mandavi beach to immerse ourselves into the sunset after covering a total distance of almost 70kms in the day. We passed the ship building yard along the way in Mandavi town and were impressed by the scale and the technique of all of it. We reached Mandavi beach just in time to see the evening sun drown in the horizon over the Arabian sea.
A quick bite on the local Dabeli refreshed us. Since it was sundown and we did not have any headlights with us, we decided to pack our cycles and load in on our back up vehicle instead of cycling back to the accomodation place. We decided to have an early dinner at a local place in mandavi called the Osho Hotel.
One of the best meals in the tour was had here. I asked the owner about the origin of the unique name. His response was ‘ humare father ne sanyas le liya na….. isliye jagah ka naam Osho rakha…..!! A very very jolly owner who was serving the food himself made us enjoy the meal even more. After a heavy meal we huddled in our back up vehicle and proceeded towards our accommodation. Neerav was carrying a headlight and hazard lights as well so he chose to cycle back again. Once back at 72 jinalaya we freshened up and regrouped to schedule the next day before drifting off to a sound sleep.
“Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jamie Lyn Beatty T
Day 02_Republic Day_Mandavi to Naliya via Pingaleshwar
This was to be the longest Ride of the entire tour since we twisted the original plan a bit so that we could cover other distances better. So as per the itinerary we were supposed to stay at a place called Suthri which was comparatively closer from Mandavi but we decided unanimously that we would push ourselves a bit more so that rest of the tour would be convenient. So after a yummy roadside breakfast of Kachori Ragda just outside 72jinalaya we made our way towards Naliya, a total ride distance of 110 kms + ride. A diversion was to be included in the route towards Pingaleshwar beach.
Heading towards mandavi we were on the lookout for a cycle repair shop to fine tune Rahuls cycle’s front brakes which we were thankfully successful!!! We started cycling in the strong sun and soon had made a good distance. We passed a lot of school grounds where Republic day functions were on in full swing and we could hear all sorts of Patriotic songs and speeches in the distance. So we too were feeling energetic and enthusiastic. The only downside was that a lot of tea stalls were shut for a public holiday but the bright side was the traffic on the roads was also comparatively lesser. Soon we reached the outskirts of Suthri, where there are lots of windmills installations. It was like passing through a farm of windmills…Though the sight was beautiful, you can guess the presence of wind which made cycling a little tougher. A quick photo op under a towering windmill and we proceeded further.
We reached a place called kothara which luckily had a dhabba running where we stopped for lunch to regroup and refresh. After a basic thali and lots of butter milk we headed toward pingaleshwar which was 16 kms from Kothara….. This was one of the best stretches where we did a good average speed ride clocking well above 20 km /hr. Soom we cut those pleasant 16kms and reached a lovely stretch of one of the most pristine beaches, Pingaleshwar. Since there were another 30 kms to go we really could not soak in the beauty of the beach for a long time since we had to reach Naliya well in time before the sunset. So after clicking a lot of snaps and soaking in the breathtaking views of clear blue waters we set out towards Naliya. It seemed to be an endless road with no sign of any human life for long stretches. We came across some random small water bodies which had a good amount of water birds and a lone Flamingo as well!!!!
We finally reached naliya at 6.30 pm .As soon as we touched the market area where we were to stay, we found a rare sight…Hand carts serving egg omelettes…Me, Rahul, Neerav and Rohith had our eyes lit up at the sight and immediately refreshed ourselves with a few ‘healthy’ omelettes!!! Soon Neerav found out that there was a restaurant serving non veg food which was like an Oasis in the ‘vegetarian desert’!!! So we made our dinner plans and checked in Hotel Himalaya, Naliya. Soon Neeraja and Lavanya arrived and also did our Toofan- the back up vehicle. After storing our cycles ‘safely’ in the hotel’s storeroom we checked in to our rooms and had a much required hot shower and refreshed ourselves. Dinner was followed by a quick daily regroup to decide the plan of action for the next day.
We came to know that the Bustard Sanctuary is in Naliya (which was another reason to come to Naliya in the first place) So after some phone calls we got a permission to visit the Sanctuary the next day at 7 am. So after good nights and setting the alarms for visiting the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary everyone drifted off to much needed peaceful sleep.
An early tea ,as was the daily routine at 5.30 am, and we were up and ready to visit the Sanctuary.After the formalities , we entered the sanctuary only to get disappointed since the last remaining few Bustards had flown off to a nearby area. the sad part is that those birds are on the verge of extinction, a few handful of people are really taking efforts to conserve them but there are some factors which has started rapidly declining them. A walk in the sanctuary in the hope of a few sighting was in vain. Although we spotted a small herd of Nilgais in the distance, unability to sight the GIB was obvious. A group Tee shirt Photo op was the only highlight of the excursion.
The further plan for the day was to ride upto Narayan Sarovar, another 75 kms from Nailya so we could not waste any more time. Hence with heavy hearts we proceeded to the hotel to begin the ride of Day 03.
“To Travel is to Live” – Hans Christian Andersen
Day 03_ 27 Jan 2019_ Naliya to Narayan Sarovar
So after a heavy Breakfast at Hotel Himalaya, we set out towards a place called Narayan Sarovar. If anyone takes a look at this place on Google maps its a pretty exciting sight. The place is surrounded by water on all sides. It is said that in earlier days you had to take a ferry to reach this place but nowadays a road has been constructed. This was a pretty tough ride on this day. Although the distance was not as much as the earlier day, the headwinds was really strong. it kept pushing us back in fact!!! We had to take extra effort to cut the strong headwinds. Our average riding speed definitely dropped by 3 to 4 km/hr this day. Since we had a heavy breakfast, just the mandatory regrouping stops at tea stalls were the order of the day till we reached the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary through which a road passes to reach Narayan Sarovar. We hoped to catch some wildlife sighting but did not find any movement for miles together.
Finally negotiating the head winds we reached Narayan Sarovar just to find that the water had dried up robbing the place of its full beauty. The relief was the accommodation facility. We were put up at Toran, a GTDC facility which was the best stay in the entire tour.
The Narayana Sarovar light house and the shoreline was just 2 kms away from Toran so after freshening up a bit we took our cycles and headed to the lighthouse and the beach. We tried to access the Lighthouse but were unsuccessful. Watching the sun go down at the beach we made our way to the Koteshwar Mahadev temple which is the North Western most Shiv temple in India. It is situated in such a beautiful location that we were mesmerised with the overall setting….The arabian sea with lovely hues of twilight, the profile of the temple complex, a few fishing boats moored to the small jetty.
We returned to Toran in the fading light and then had a nice chat session in the huge courtyard here with the starry twinkling sky right above our heads. After a ‘government dining hall’ dinner we retired to our rooms and the chat session continued for a long time till we were ready to hit the sack. As per the routine, plans were made for the next dyas schedule and we retired to the warmths of our beds.
“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.” – Lovelle Drachman
Day 04_ 28 Jan 2019_Narayan Sarovar to Mata nu Madh via Lakhpat
Another exciting day awaited us. We were to cycle to a place called Lakhpat fort. This is heritage city within a fort which is the last point of our great nation on the Arabian Sea. post Lakhpat is a BSF post after which is Pakistan. So this was a highly anticipated ride.
Also today was a India New Zealand which thanks to Neerav’s Jio network was being followed through out the ride!!!We also got a puncture repair shop in the way where I got my spare tubes checked for punctures . After another round of ‘mori’ chay (non sugar tea) we proceeded towards Lakhpat. It was a pretty flat road with occasional climbs and slopes.Soon the sea came into view and far off we could see the fort wall. As we approached Lakhpat we realised the scale of the walled city. Its an amazing construction of local stone walls with ramifications which encloses an entire village within. You can climb upto to fortifications and see the ocean beyond. On a clear day, if you are lucky, one can view the BSF post as well, guarding us from unwanted neighbouring intruders.
We were supposed to have lunch here. Unfortunately someone had passed away in the village so most of the villagers were out at the funeral and hence the 2/3 dhabbas around lakhpat were closed. but it turned out ot be a blessing in disguise. We were offered a Langar lunch in the age old Gurudwara which is within the fort. As a rule , one is not allowed to enter the Gurudwara if you are wearing shorts…but since we were cyclists the Sikhs were a little lenient to allow us and treated us really well. Times like these make you feel that you are doing something worth while that people are ready to tweak a few rules for the efforts that you are taking. We also met a few bikers from Mumbai who were also doing the tour of Kutch on their motorbikes and had halted here for some refreshments.
After the langar and taking some nice pictures from Lakhpat fort, we headed for Mata nu Madh. This was a fairly straight and uneventful ride. Mata nu Madh is a temple complex dedicated to Ashapura Mata ( incarnation of Goddess Durga ),which is very famous. It is said that some prominent personalities have taken blessings here before starting their illustrious careers. It was fairly easy ride upto the staying facility at Mata nu madh, a very decent hotel. After checking in and dumping our luggage, we freshened up and headed for ‘darshan’. A taste of the local Dabeli here as well and then we proceeded for dinner before retiring for the day to embark the next day on our last leg of the journey.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”
Day 05_ 29th Jan 2019_ Mata nu Madh to Bhuj
We all woke up really early to take an early start since we had to reach back to Bhuj well in time to disassemble our cycles , packing it the transport boxes and be ready for a celebratory dinner which was looked forward to!!! Also, the hotel guys gave the ‘generous offer’ to make our own kickstart tea of the day!! So me, Rahul and Neerav got to the task at 5.30 am and made tea for everyone.
once ready to ride we set out at the first light of the day before the sun was up on the horizon. We rode into the rising sun soon and were riding very smoothly on excellent flat roads. The target distance from point to point was exactly 95 kms ..So we set ourselves a target of doing an average speed of 20 kms per hour so we could reach Bhuj well in time to do the next planned activities. So we were planning mid stops / regrouping stops after every 12 kms and big breaks after 25 kms so to break the journey into 4 parts of 25 kms……. We were pretty successful in doing so the entire ride.We also crossed the Tropic of Cancer during this ride enroute Nakhatrana.
Breakfast halt was decided at a place called Nakhtrana, exactly midway in the ride. Me and Rahul were the first ones to reach and we found that all we could get was dabeli in the morning at 10 am!!! But we had not choice but to eat the freshly made dabelis. Soon neerav with his ‘ hunting’ skills found a place called Royal which served Chicken Biryani in the morning. This place is very unique because it the only place serving non veg food in the 3 talukas around Nakhtrana!!!! So a brunch of Chicken biryani and we were off to complete the balance 50 kms till Bhuj. After riding for another hour and some breaks we stopped at a place to finally have the local authentic lunch comprising of Jalebi Fafda, Samosa and Dhokhla!!!
Finally Bhuj was in sight and we cycled with renewed energy and excitement to finish the ride well in time and also at our target speed. Once back at the camp, we celebrated our completed circuit by immediately taking photos, calling friends and family back home, cheering and clapping.
Without resting for a bit, we were dismantling our cycles and trying to fit them back in our transport boxes. Once done, we checked into our rooms ,freshened up and were all set for the mandatory celebration dinner and desserts!!!!
“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
Day 05_ 30th Jan 2019_ Homeward bound……
We had a train back home in the morning at 8.55 am from Bhuj station so again we were up to an early start of the day.
Saying goodbyes to fellow travellers and companions who become close friends in a short period of time is always hard. The five days spent together with each one encouraging the others to push and pedal towards the destinations, the leg pulling which each one was comfortable with, the chit chat sessions on the road as well as in the camps, the endless discussions over a wide range of topics, countless stoppages for ‘mori ‘ chay made the journey extremely enjoyable.
The excellent sights along the entire route, the high points like Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar, Pingaleshwar beach, the GIB sanctuary, cycling through the crazy headwinds, the relief of knowing that there is a back up vehicle in case anything goes wrong, the harsh sun challenging us all along the road and giving us sunburns, the breath taking sunsets from different shores of coastal Kutch made this ride another unforgettable experience which shall linger on for a long time in my Cycling Diaries!!!!!
Hope to have a hat trick of the amazing Kutch Cycling diaries next year with another of an exciting journey like this where we travel on non motored two wheelers keeping ourselves fit as well as the environment!!!