Like every Indian male Goa had long been a dream destination. Immortalized through movies and pop culture and more recently a haven for motorcycling enthusiasts Goa has long been an idyllic destination famed for its white sandy beaches, leisurely life and of course cheap alcohol. Thus it was that I decided to ride to Goa.
Contrary to all my previous rides this time I had a pillion – Sreenivas, a dear friend of mine had been insisting on accompanying me on one of my long rides for quite some time now. He suggested we ride to Goa one day, however I suggested we ride to Goa, a new destination for both of us. So finally last Friday (8th of May, 2015) we started off from Bangalore at 3AM – Destination Goa. We were lightly packed, after all it is only a three day ride and we just carried change of clothes and me a couple of books. The said luggage were all stowed on my Cramster saddle bags.
Exiting off Tumkur Highway I however started noticing that Srini is occasionally dozing off. The humbug belatedly told me that he had hardly slept properly in the preceding three days. Now this alarmed me. I know more than anyone the value of good sleep before a ride especially for a person who has never been pillion rider for a long distance ride before. The rider always has the adrenaline rush to keep him awake however the pillion rider has absolutely nothing to do. Besides the Obelixesque person that I am and the heavy bike that my Bullet is, it is not inconceivable for me not to notice if the rather lightly built Srini ever fell off the bike.
Thankfully we proceeded without further issues and a few chastisements later a much more awakened and invigorated Srini started enjoying the ride. A few kilometers after Harihar we saw a sign towards West saying “Sirsi – 99 kms”. We knew that the main road towards Sirsi is after Haveri but possessed of the impulsiveness of the ride we just took the detour. From six/four lane super highways to single track country roads, the kind of terrain change the Bullet is made for!!
Going at leisurely 60-70 kmph through the country roads was an absolutely awesome experience. I have always maintained that the real India cannot be seen by flying over it, by going on rails or by speeding past on these super highways. You have to go through these country roads with constant twists and turns, the occasional sheep and cattle causing traffic blockades, the horrible speed breakers before, during and after village limits and of course the farmlands, forests and the various rural landscapes. All these make a biker’s paradise. We rested for a while underneath the welcome shade of a huge tree and while Srini slept I watched clouds making innumerable formations.
As the day progressed the heat started building up and a couple of wrong turns later we finally reached Sirsi. A very helpful shopkeeper gave us directions to navigate Sirsi and bypass Kumta to go onwards to Karwar. The bypass to Kumta is a narrow mountain road on crossing which one gets a wonderful view of the Gokarna backwaters before joining the NH17 traffic towards Karwar. By now we had crossed about 550 kms in odometer and as we were bracing ourselves for the final 100 kms of hard riding to Goa navigating the heavy NH17 traffic and battling exhaustion and trying to blank out the soreness in posteriors I suddenly saw a sign board which said ” Karwar- 50 kms; Gokarna – 10 kms”
I stopped and asked Srini whether we should head to Gokarna. After all it is just 10 kms from here. Srini was non committal, he was bone tired and just wanted to get to the beaches of Goa. As we set off towards Karwar Srini asked me what is there in Gokarna and I replied “Beaches. Om Beach”. With an exclaim Srini expressed his enthusiasm for the change of plan, the bike took an about turn and off we were on our detour to Gokarna. However Gokarna proved to us to be tantalizing and elusive as the roads to the Om Beach were tough to determine. After having to take a U Turn because of one ways in Gokarna town we finally climbed another mountain road and finally we took the last sweep up to reach the apex part of road to finally see a magnificent vista open up before us. We finally saw the beach. Though the road works were going on we were not hindered and enjoying the unique perspective of riding down to a beach at the base of a hill we arrived at the Om Beach.
Parking our bikes we walked down to the beach and immediately there I spotted the establishment I had heard about previously “Namaste Cafe”. A few acquaintances had made me aware of this choice establishment when they educated me about the awesomeness that is Gokarna. Walking in we got ourselves a decent two bed room ( only Rs 1500/- ) and divested of the riding gear we finally made towards the beach. While Srini straight away jumped into the water I needed some bracing up which was duly provided for by the staff of Namaste Cafe. As I was carrying my camera bag I did not venture into the water.
One very interesting thing I observed about Gokarna beach was the plethora of bovines and canines I saw on the beach. These bulls and cows were clambering all over the rocks jutting into the water and were placidly patrolling the beach, certainly not in a nuisance way like their more urban counterparts do in our cities and towns. We also went for a boat ride to see the other beaches and the resident lighthouse. The Half Moon and Full Moon beaches were apparently deserted except for a pack of dogs and one solitary Caucasian male. The Paradise beach was completely abandoned with the bright colors of demolished structures presenting a poignant testament to the fury of the seas which the calm and pleasant sea were were sailing through was belying.
The next day we checked out in the morning and headed off to Goa. We had barely gone some 30 kilometers towards Karwar when the heat of the day started making itself present with a fury! Some friends had told me that in Karwar it was possible to see warships almost near to the road. However those chaps might have visited the place long before a series of rock walls were built all around the naval base. The INS Kadamba is located in a mountainous beach valley south of Karwar. The mountain road snaking north of the base towards Karwar certainly would offer one a splendid view of this Naval base however cognizant of this fact the Navy had walled off the entire stretch of road across the mountain pass with huge rock walls making even a strained peep across impossible. Well then there is always Google Earth 😉
We reached Karwar about mid day and we were steadily on towards Goa, the borders of which we crossed cheering and whooping in triumph. This cheer did not last long as the incredible heat of the mid day sun, combined with the incessant traffic of NH17, occasional narrow roads becoming a hazard in themselves and of course our visual thirst for seeing a Goan beach started taking its toll. I was quite curious about Canacona but on passing through we did not even see a hint of a beach. So a few kilometers after Canacona we stopped for a much needed water break and I saw that hidden from the side we came from was a sign board proclaiming :
“Palolem Beach : 3km”
Rehydrated and rejuvenated we set off towards Palolem and guided by some simply divine beauties we reached Palolem beach. A tout nearby offered to show us some beach side shacks with bike parking which we found to be quite good. The establishment called ” D’Costas had shacks right by the beach with the basic amenities we required ( Just Rs. 900/- ). Having deposited our luggage we jumped right into the water. The whole day was spent just about swimming in the shallow waters of the Palolem beach. At one time we hired a two seater Kayak in an attempt to row to a rocky Island we could see some distance off. Rented at Rs 200 for an hour we wondered how much he would charge if we over extended it. That however turned to be too much of an over estimation of ourselves.
Just a few minutes into rowing we were spent out. Me and Srini and our antics on the Kayak could give the venerable Laurel and Hardy a good run for their money as far as comic capers of two drastically different sized people goes. Panting and tired we pushed the kayak back to beach barely 20 minutes into the renting period. God bless the proprietor and his wife for not smirking at two abject losers like us.
Then it was just cavorting and relaxing in the sea. We played in the sea until well past the sun set and after a leisurely dinner we retired for the day. While Srini was completely spent out and crashed and slept like a log I was in the mood for some more of the night. So getting out the Kings and the King (s) I sat out the shack chumming it out with Lord Emsworth. Regaled as I was by the hapless antics of Lord Emsworth the beach suddenly woke up with fury. Some kind of storm had hit and we had gale force winds which were ripping apart a few coconut branches nearby. True to the fashion I ran out to the beach to experience the elements properly as a true pluviophile must. Watching the storms clouds brewing in the distance and watching the thunderstorm strike the ocean was certainly a wondrous experience. I could have sat on the beach for any number of hours that night however prudence dictated that I go to sleep at a reasonable hour if I am to have any hope of riding back the 650kms + distance to Bangalore the next day.
The morning of Sunday, 10th May we set off from Palolem fortified by couple of bun omelettes bracing ourselves for the long hard ride to Bangalore. Re-tracing our route to Karwar we took the detour to Hubli before Ankola. The road to Hubli was a well laid tarmac going through bush jungles and later farm country. At Yellapur we were surprised to see several people of Negroid race and we realized we were in Siddi country. Siddis are people of African Bantu origin who had settled in these regions for several hundred years. I remembered seeing about them on a Hero Honda advertisement several years ago.
After a huge lunch at Hubli we got back onto the four lane highway towards Bangalore. From now on it would be four lane highways and it would be more of a struggle to keep awake and maintain alertness than anything. Sure enough a few kilometers before Haveri I had to crash at a toll plaza to grab a few winks. Leaving Srini to guard the bike I laid down on a garden adjacent to the road and slept soundly for half an hour. Then it was the slow and steady slog towards Bangalore..
We finally reached my home at Bangalore at 2AM on Monday, the 11th of May.
It certainly had been a memorable ride. The craving for beaches far from being extinguished has just been whetted and is likely to amplify in a few months. It also showed me that while I do prefer solo riding riding with a pillion would not be as inconvenient as I feared it would be. Good portents for the future.