I am happy to wave goodbye to Alibaug after being stuck here for 3 days. The weather forecast still says “scattered thunderstorms” and I will be quite content if they remain scattered. The ride from Alibaug to Murud Janjira is sublime. The deluge has ended, skies are clear of any menacing clouds and the beaches are empty. I am travelling along the State Highway (SH) now. Even though the SH is rutted and scarred, I prefer it over the traffic-filled National Highway (NH). I even have Kashid (Mumbai’s favourite weekend beach) all to myself. The fatbike garners attention from everyone and both kids and adults want a piece of the action. The experience at Alibaug stands me in good stead. I have the air pressure dialled in right and riding on the sandy beaches is a breeze now.
There’s no missing the Ahmedganj Palace before one enters Murud town. Built by the Siddi Dynasty in 1885, it is a beautiful symphony of Mughal and Gothic architecture and overlooks the Arabian Sea from a clifftop. Owned by the descendants of the Nawab, it is still a private property. If you’re a Ramsay Brothers movie buff, you will recognise this palace as the Haveli where movies such as ‘Purani Haveli’, ‘Virana’ & ‘Kabrastan’ were shot.
The word Janjira is not native to India and may have originated after the Arabic word Jazeera, which means an island. Murud was once known in Marathi as Habsan (“of Habshi” or Abyssinian). The name of the fort is a concatenation of the Konkani and Arabic words for Island, “morod” and “Jazeera”. The word “morod” is peculiar to Konkani and is absent in Marathi.
I spot a post office on my way and with a postman on a bicycle. He is happy to guide me to what he reckons is the best budget lodging in Murud. The lodge is a family run affair and they are happy to have me aboard. Since today marks the 7th day of Ganesh Visarjan, I am given a free home-cooked lunch complete with three kinds of Modak. My bicycle is secured in their own parking space and I’m free to explore the town and beach on foot. By late evening the entire Hindu population in Murud is out on the beach, dressed in their finest. There’s revelry, music, dance, stalls and colour all over the streets.
I am starting to develop a routine now and by 6 AM I am on my way pedaling from Murud. Today’s plan is to make it to Diveagar beach where I hope I will be able to find a budget lodge.
The ride from Murud to the top of the Janjira cliff is simply the best so far. Early morning with a lush green mountainside, a small Konkan fishing village and the majestic sea fort in the background. It epitomises what Konkan stands for. Today I am making good time and I soon find myself at Agardanda. This is the first of many ferry crossings of my route. The Dighi Queen is a spanking new ferry and is expertly piloted.
Today I get my first taste of Konkan Ghats. The climb from Dighi to Nanavel leaves me huffing and puffing. A dozen bananas and a bottle of Gatorade power me up for this climb and on to Velas beach. I can spot Diveagar across a narrow neck of the sea, but there is no boat to take me across. Instead, I have to ride inland and make it across this narrow neck. Yet, my legs feel strong today and refuse to give in to fatigue. I am at Diveagar by 2 PM and have enough oomph left over to make it all the way to Srivardhan. In hindsight, this turned out to be a dumb decision.
I overextend my water supply on this route and the harsh afternoon sun on these 25 odd kilometres to Srivardhan leave me dehydrated. By the time I limp into Srivardhan I have lost all the will to pedal any more and my legs feel wooden and lethargic. I find a cheap lodge along the beach and crash into my bed, sipping on two litres of Oral Rehydration System (ORS).
Today just isn’t my day. I wake up for dinner and I realise that my Windows Phone has crashed and I’ve lost my trip log for the day. This is the last time I will trust this phone and Endomondo for logging my ride. From now on I will rely on my Garmin Etrex20x for logging my daily adventures.
Till now I’ve been afraid of the rain, but the dreaded Konkan humidity will be my biggest enemy from here on.