● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Road to Goa

30th March – 1st April

Leg 12 – Mumbai to Murud
Distance – 175 kms

Time – 4.75 hours

Average Speed – 36.8km/h

Road – 4 lane highway, 2 lane highway, single lane back

After escaping the build up metropolis of Mumbai, we found the N
H17, the coast road that winds its way to Goa and on to Kerala. The road was surprisingly quiet, apart from when it passed through towns. Following the coast, the NH17 is a scenic ride, but we wanted to get off the highway, and explore the even smaller roads, closer to the coast. We found ourselves riding through luscious green jungle, past golden sandy beaches, through paddy fields (not literally!) and winding around high headlands. Suddenly everyone we passed was smiling and waving – welcome to South India! We expected a couple of ferry rides on the way to Murud, but the rapid development of India’s road network meant that all the ferries had been retired and new bridges had been built in their place. This cut our journey time significantly, and we arrived in Murud in time to head to the beach for the end of the afternoon.

Lots of places were closed for the season, the only place that looked to have any life was an expensive resort. Pleading poverty, we were directed to another place down the road, where we picked up a sea view room for Rs500 (looking back, that was still a lot to pay for what it was!!!).

After a walk down the beach, we strolled into the town in search of food. Murud is not on the foreign tourist trail, and is very difficult to get to by public transport. As we walked through the streets, we felt like we were the first white people to ever have passed through. Ady picked up some delicious pakoras and bhajis to stem the immediate hunger. We failed to find a restaurant, almost got lost in the dark, end ended u
p at the expensive resort eating a mediocre meal. Again, we decided to make a move in the morning, bringing the escape from India that is Goa, one step closer.

Leg 13 – Murud to Ganpatipule
Distance – 299 kms

Time – 8 hours
Average Speed – 37.4km/h
Road – Single lane back roads, 2 lane highway, single lane back roads

The plan to take the single lane back roads most of the way wasn’t really feasible – we fell at the first hurdle when we tried to take a ferry. We would have to wait 2 hours for the next boat, and then navigate a 10 meter steeper than 45 degree incline followed by a right angle corner in order to get to the boat, with deep water on most sides. Not wanting to give the bike an impromptu wash, and keen to keep moving, we decided to backtrack and head inland to the highway. Half way there, we found a new bridge, not on our map, which made the backtracking less than we had expected. 8 long hot hours later, we arrived in Ganpatipule.

Ganpatipule doesn’t see many foreigners. It’s a “local town, for local people” (like Royston Vasey?!), and Indian tourists. On arrival, a guy on a scooter said he would show us his hotel. The room was fine, we took it and went out to explore the town, to decide how long we would be staying. The beach wasn’t particularly nice, and we struggled to see what we would do for more than a day given we couldn’t sunbathe or swim – this would have raised more than a few eyebrows (amongst other things!) as Indians sit on the beach and swim fully clothed.

We strugged to find food too – all the menus were in Hindi (impossible to decipher, with the
non roman script) and people spoke little English. The one local place that had a menu that we could read was deserted, although the menu looked promising. We over ordered big style and had to apologise for sending so much food back. The small tip of Rs10 we left was appreciated as the staff weren’t used to western tourists.

Goa was now firmly in our sights so an early start to try and get there for some afternoon beach time was in order.

Leg 14 – Ganpatipule to Arambol (Goa)
Distance – 289 kms
Time – 9.5 hours

Average Speed – 30.42km/h (including 2 punctures!)
Road – Single lane back road, then 2 lane highway

7.30am, and we were ready to roll - our earliest departure
since we froze in Agra at 6am. As the temperature in the south is higher, we figured it wouldn’t be too cold at that time of the morning. Proud of ourselves for getting up early we only got 500 meters from the hotel when we felt the back of the bike start to wobble, a feeling that we had surprisingly not yet experienced, even though we’d already covered over 3500 kilometers. Our first puncture of the trip, conveniently just outside the town, we immediately expected sabotage! Rolling slowly back down the hill, there were very few people around (have we mentioned how people in India seem to differ from the rest of Asia, as in the most part, they aren’t up at the crack of dawn!) but one guy pointed us in the direction of a mechanic, just over the road.

The mechanic didn’t start work until 9am, so our early start was already at least an hour and a half delayed. When we spoke to the man in the hotel next to the garage, he commented ‘ah yes, you arrived yesterday, you from England, Yes?’ It seems our exact whereabouts were known to the whole population of the town. Wheel off, and tube out, we found the offending nail. The damage was too bad to repair, but the mechanic had a spare old tube which he told us would get us to the next town, 35kms away, where we must change it. The cost of the old replacement tube and labour - Rs16 (about 22 pence!). Sabotage was ruled out, unless someone was expecting us to stay an extra night.

A short way out of town, we felt the familiar wobble again, this time we were going faster and Ady did a good job to keep the bike upright! Pulling over to the side of the road, we took off the wheel and Ady jumped in a tuk tuk to get the tube changed. 300 rupees later, he returned and we were back on our way. Progress was slow for the rest of the journey – nothing like a blown out tyre to knock your confidence when riding.

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