Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pedalling for Peace : From Powai to Bhor Ghat

Ignore the 17 hrs 42 minutes shown for walking the entire stretch in the map...  

I didn't walk.  I cycled. :-)

I participated in the Pedal for Peace Cycle ride   ,  organized by Shri Mirza Saaib Beg , from Powai Police Station to Bhor Ghat , on Saturday 21st Nov 2015.   We would ride  our cycles  from Powai , via Airoli, Panvel, Chowk and Khopoli to the Bhor Ghat.

One of the many Ghats (mountain passes)  in the Sahyadri range, the Bhor Ghat now stretches for 18 kilomters as a path connecting Khopoli in the coastal plains to Khandala  in the Hills of the Western Ghats/ Sahyadris.  In the ancient  days, it was a route that connected the ports of Choul, Revdanda and Panvel on the Konkan coast to the Deccan plains.
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:

History has it that the feasibility of having a motorable road/pass connecting Khopoli to Khandala  through the mountain was indicated by a local Dhangar/tribesman called Shigroba.  The British swung into action  and Mumbai and Pune got connected  first by road, and then by the  Great Indian Peninsular railway (GIP Railway)  with 28 tunnels and old bridges in 1863.

Those zooming by at great speed on the Mumbai Pune Expressway today, miss out on many things that those who frequented the old Mumbai Pune  Rd, NH4 , saw.  

The mandatory stop in Khopoli at a place called Ramakant for Vadas.  The gentle climb initially past the Tata Power station , and loaded trucks, stopping on the side, before mobilizing for a tough climb. Truck drivers , very considerate of small cars, letting them safely overtake after checking oncoming traffic.  Descending traffic giving priority to ascending traffic.  Traffic passing by a famous small temple, with truck drivers and others , alike, flinging coins into the sanctum , and a priest standing outside handing prasad to cars and trucks in motion.  The amazing high gradient hair pin bend in the middle of the ghats, making people admire their own driving,  and emerging from a tunnel just before Khandala , on to a waiting area,  and standing with bonnets open to cool cars, while folks cooled themselves with ice golas.

The modern Expressway foodmalls are not a patch on all this.  But we followed the old Mumbai Pune Road NH4  since cycles are not allowed on the expressway.    

We started from Powai at 4.30 am. Meeting up with riders at JVLR, Panvel  etc, along the way  , around 8.30 , we were 32 people at Khopoli, taking a refreshment break before  attempting the ghat climb.

I have a gearless bicycle, which makes it all the more difficult, and over several weeks , I have  improved my stamina and strength that allows me to successfully climb across steep inclines. But the Bhor Ghat gradient is different .  (Graph courtesy Powai Pedals FB page).

A little bit after the temple , 2 fellow riders and I  got extremely tired and it was not possible to pedal on.  We stopped a tempo , and they kindly took us till Lonavla  after loading our bikes . When we got off,  we realized we would have to travel backwards, cross the expressway and then ride back again to join our fellow riders. After much to-ing and fro-ing, we reached the Bhor Ghat Police Station. 

We enjoyed a Daal Khichdi lunch at Lonavla, after which we decided to descend the Bhor Ghat, a very enjoyable ride, where we hardly pedalled. Just braked every now and then. It had been very hot when we climbed, and it was now getting cloudy. 

At Khopoli, 8 of us decided to return to Mumbai proper by suburban train from Khopoli. We were extremely tired.  Fancy gradients and gearless bikes do that to you  sometimes . Khopoli, the last station  on the central railway in the Pune direction, is a starting point. We took a train till Karjat, loading our cycles (cycle ticket : Rs 100)  and sitting with them in the luggage compartment.

 Another train from Karjat , to points south around 70 kilometres away by train opened our eyes to some social ills.

It started raining outside . 

We were threatened by a posse of milkmen and their leader type (in whites and googles)  and asked to get out of the luggage compartment of the Karjat CST local train. We had valid tickets, for ourselves and our cycles, and had got in like everyone else, and refused to vacate. We were threatened, they even tried to mishandle the bikes,  and  some even tried to cause trouble for me , the only girl in the group of 8, by sitting inconveniently. They were pulled up by my fellow riders, who exchanged places with me, and we watched these "milkmen" non chalantly open up milk cans and pouches, and systematically adulterate them all with water of presumably doubtful origin.  Right in front of us.   Then they got off at Ulhasnagar , presumably to smile innocently and sell bad milk to unsuspecting folks. 

We got off at Ghatkopar, where the motorman of the train must have stopped the train for a few seconds extra , just to have seven cycles disembark from a crowded luggage compartment. 

We rode back to our respective homes, but not before I lost my way in the traffic and rode in the wrong direction of Asalpha (towards Saki Naka) . Till GPS came to my rescue, and guided me back on to LBS Marg , from where I knew the roads.  Very clearly, the bike had not had its fill of kilometres.

A thrilling ride totalling 105.81  kilometres ,  my third 100 + ride,  a good assessment of my own stamina and strength, where I need to improve,  and a confirmation that Mumbai traffic is the pits.

Started at 4 am from home, reached back at 7 pm. 

The group assembled outside Powai Police Station at 4.30 am . (This photo courtesy the Powai Pedals FB page/Nirbhay Singhal. )

 On our way , before proper sunrise , somewhere after Panvel . 

Small towns along the way, complete with more traffic, rumblers and zebra stripes . The day has just dawned.  And the Sun sees us !

Old Mumbai Pune Road,  NH4, still used by light and heavy vehicles.  The day has begun, and we cycle on .

 Me with the youngest rider, Pankaj, still in his teens . Completing his first 100 kms during this ride . Bravo ! 

I don't think the lady in the banner had anything to do with it, but we stopped in Khopoli for some refreshments , before beginning the Bhor Ghat ascent. Our chariots, taking a much needed breather. 

Naturally, this called for a selfie.  Extreme sunlight, heat, often points to evolution in clothes, and this time , for me , it was white cricket sleeves  , by themselves. (I didn't know that such things existed )

 Three of us, super fatigued from the huge gradient, decided to take a tempo instead of riding the last part .  This Ozgur, my fellow rider .

The three cycles must have thanked us for this unexpected luxury. 

 View from near Bhor Ghat Police Station, just before taking the Lonavla/Khandala exit.

On the road leading to Tiger point.  Sai, Avik and Elan in the photo. 

Sai, Avik, Gaurav. Pankaj and Vilas Sawant (behind me)

At Bhor ghat top, overlooking the valley.  L to R,  Pradeep, Vilas, Pankaj, Gaurav, Sai, me, Avik. The photographer is Elan.

Stopping on a road that leads to either old Khopoli road or Expressway . We needed to take the old Khopoli Road. 

 One more photograph, without  humans and machines.

Very clearly,  mere cycle ka ek photo to bantaa hi hai !  Trouble free (touch wood) performance across many rides so far.

What has the world come to, when folks stop in the middle of amazing vistas to check tiny screens beeping here and there? 

Our group that decided to take a Central Railway suburban train back, waiting at Khopoli Station. 

Our 8 cycles , loaded in the luggage compartment, along with us , standing and sitting in typical local train style. 

 Some folks even managed to get seats ! 

No comments:

Post a Comment