Goa calling, again!
If you’d known me 5 years ago, then you’d never have said something like this back then. I’d been to Goa just the one time until then, that too on a family trip where we took Aazo along on a pilgrimage to all the major temples that he wanted to visit in his golden years. While I did make frequent trips deep into the Konkan over the years, the ‘border-crossing’ remained elusive.
Then, I met this girl and my whole life changed. Yeah I know…
Broke travelers that we are, Goa seemed like the best bet for a moto-honeymoon destination & that’s how Goa ‘happened’… Yay!
In the two years since then, the rides and drives became more frequent, and somehow, Goa figured in most, if not all of them. So when I mentioned this trip to someone, I wasn’t surprised when they went: Goa? Again? Weren’t you here less than a fortnight ago?
Unlike most of my recent trips here, that’d begun fashionably late, this one was different. I’d had a relatively easy day before my trip and hence could wake up on time to escape the city before the sun had woken up.
Riding out of Mumbai is always a pain, but doing so in the darkness is another level of hazardous conditions. Goods vehicles without functional lights, no indicators, Commercial vehicle drivers who are clearly ‘under the influence’ and of-course, our infamous, ill-planned/ill-maintained road network. So much so, that 80% of the stretch between the all-important Sion-Panvel highway was unlit.
Thankfully though, I was with our newest baby in the stable, Loki. Royal Enfield have gotten many a things right with their ‘adventure-tourer’ – the Himalayan and I discover new things each time. The sorted suspension and the wide-beam headlight meant that the dreaded Kalamboli junction came up in no time. Usually, I’m already fatigued just getting to this point, on my other bikes but on the Himalayan, I was nice and comfy.
Going past Palaspe Phata, the wonderful NH4 beckoned and both, the Himalayan and me had settled into a beautiful rhythm. It was cold though, and the breeze wasn’t doing me any good. Pulled over by the side at Khopoli to warm up those frozen fingers for a few minutes and I was off.
At Rider Mania 2016, the Royal Enfield Service Team had worked upon some issues that I’d been facing with the Himalayan. And climbing up the twisties of Lonavla, I could tell the difference the TLC had done. Gone was the hesitation and the incessant knocking from the engine in 2nd gear. The gearshifts had smoothened out and the noise levels too were well within acceptable limits.
Stopped over at one of my favourite spots just off the road. Sat here for a good 10 minutes, taking in the scenery and watching the cars zoom along on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Got back into the saddle again and rode in a smooth, easy manner all the way till Pune. Topped up all the way to the brim at the Shell fuel bunk and cutting chai came calling.
Hinjewadi flyover junction is a wonderful spot to watch the world go by. You see all kinds, from newbies & buntaais to the more experienced ones. It’s such a jolly good laugh sitting there. You also spot a few ‘test-vehicles’ doing the rounds there. The hour that went by was a ‘ride-altering’ one. My usual plan of stopping by the coast somewhere for the night and riding into Goa the next day was abandoned. I’d done the Kudal-Bombay run in a day while returning from Rider Mania on the Electra. But the Himalayan had just sparked off the urge to ride down to Goa in one day!
A full-tank of fuel meant the Himalayan was all set to ride, and I decided to follow suit. I typically tend to stop every 100 kilometres on my other bikes as fatigue sets in by then. But on the Himalayan, I did the Poona-Kognoli run, with only the customary stop for a leak and a photo-op!
Just before Tawandi ghat, I caught a whiff of 2T, promptly getting a bit high in the process. Soon enough, I was treated to beautiful twin-trails of smoke and the sonorous ring-ding-ding of a Yezdi. Riding alongside the wonderfully kept Yezdi CL2 was a treat. A quick cheerio later, I reluctantly broke right at the Goa-Wes turn off, the audio-visual and olfactory drama promising to linger on in my mind for some time to come.
The road till Gadhinglaj-Ajara somehow seemed to have improved from the last time I was there, or maybe it was the Himalayan effect, I didn’t know. Overtaking the long line of sugarcane laden tractor-trailers on the way to the Gavse Sugar Processing Plant, I was almost washed out in the literal sense.
I was close to overtaking the 1st tractor trailer in the line when suddenly, there was a blast & the next moment I was soaked from head-to-toe. Thoroughly shaken and thanking the MotoGods for keeping me on the road, it took me some time to figure out what the hell had just happened back there. A water drum kept in the tractor had jumped off on a bump in the road and burst on impact – ergo, the unwanted bath!
I had a date with the gorgeous Amboli ghat and this time I was determined to keep it. Throttling on, I ended up surprising myself when I made it there with plenty of time to spare off my estimated arrival. Decided to make the most of my bonus time and sat down for a hearty snack of kanda-bhajiyas & chai.
Curious folks always seem to make a beeline for the Himalayan and these also include regular folks, beyond the motorcycling world. Met up with the soft-spoken Doctor Sushant & his friends from Kolhapur, who chill in Goa for the evening and return the same day. Dolt that I was, somehow didn’t pick up their contact details. So, if you’re reading this, or know the good Doctor who was in a white Renault Duster, do please put me in touch – I’ll be most grateful. I took my own sweet time riding down Amboli ghat, as the scenery was just too good. The lush green forest cover, the tranquil surroundings putting me on a peaceful high.
Making my way through Sawantwadi, another rider, came alongside to chat about the Himalayan. Swapping motorcycling, he shared his joy at riding his Yamaha FZ during his free time. He’d even picked up a SJCam4000 to document his rides. He was all too thrilled about the Himalayan and mentioned the fine looking white one on display in the company showroom there.
From then on, it was back on the throttle, with Goa well and truly on the mind. Crossing over the border, the beautifully paved tarmac was as good a welcome as any. Stopping by at the fuel bunk just before Mapusa, a celebratory call was in store. The personal best time from Bombay to Goa had been clocked – thanks to the Himalayan!