If you know me, you’ve already seen the places I’ve been on my bike, albeit through my eyes. If you don’t know me, I’ve been to Ladakh, done Bombay to Bangalore in a single day, and traveled most of India on 2 wheels. The only exception is the North East, where I’m planning to set foot very soon.
One road in particular has been on my radar since quite a while, but I never got the opportunity to explore it. The Panvel Goa highway follows the sea-shore, going through 500 kms of mountains and jungles through our beautiful western ghats. The road is considered to be one of the most scenic in India, but also the most deadly. More number of people die on this road than anywhere else in our country.
So, obviously, I had to conquer this stretch and live to tell about it.
Finally I got the chance to do this ride, called upon by the India Bike Week, Goa, in Jan 2014. The biker fest itself was quite a disaster, but the ride was splendid, to put it mildly. Here’s the travelogue of my Bombay to Goa ride.
Bombay to Goa: Day 1 – Navi Mumbai to Vagator via Lonavala, Kolhapur, Amboli.
I have been on the Mumbai-Pune-Satara highway so many times now, it’s too boring for me. In spite of that, I decided to follow this route while going to Goa. I wanted to reach quickly and not miss a whole lot of the India Bike Week.
Started just 10 minutes before sunrise, about 6.45 AM on 17th January 2014. The only luggage I was carrying was a Rynox Optimus M tankbag, which I had modified a bit by removing the magnets and securing it on the tail of the bike using bungee cords. The setup was amazingly successful, the whole thing didn’t move an inch through the whole 1000kms.
I had made up my mind to go slow, as slow as I could, to enjoy the trip and not rush through it. Sometimes when you are on a quick bike, the whole experience transforms to just pushing yourself and the machine to the limit. I am not saying that isn’t fun, but I have had a lot of that on the Bangalore ride, too much actually.
Lonavala arrived quick, I was breezing past thin Saturday early morning traffic, the wind a bit cold but pleasant. Just as I was about to reach Pune bypass, I felt a heavy sound approaching me from the right. I thought it was a reckless truck, but all I could see in the rearview was 2 weird looking headlights. A few moments later, a blue BMW S1000RR and a Red-white Ducati Streetfighter overtook me.
It was obvious that they were also going to the India Bike week. I tried to keep up with them, but as expected, I couldn’t. They must have been doing upwards of 190kmph on some stretches. The sound was like distant thunder.
Crossed Satara, and saw the BMW and Ducati parked at a dhaba. I couldn’t stop in time, so had breakfast at another joint. Here’s a tip for you long distance riders: Whenever you get the chance, the smallest opportunity, get off the bike and remove your helmet. This will allow blood circulation to your ass and your face, which will make your ride so much more comfortable, no matter how long.
It had become kind of a routine by now, the superbikes will overtake me, I will try to keep up and fail, then after a few hundred kilometers they will overtake me again. I guess they were taking more breaks than me, even though they were almost twice as fast.
Kolhapur arrived quick. There had been 1 fuel stop, 1 breakfast break and another snacks break during this time. Just a few kilometers after Kolhapur, there’s a place called Nipani. Once you get to Nipani, 5 kms further you need a take a right turn to get to Goa. The turn is nicely hidden, with no boards or directions. I had asked some people for its location, that’s why I was expecting it and made the right turn.
Suddenly the 6 lane highway becomes a one lane village road, but it is strangely better in every way. There is barely any traffic, there are trees lining both sides, and school kids wave to you as you pass by. My average speed must have been around 60kmph, but it was extreme fun.
Took another piss break under the shade of some trees, just before Amboli ghats start. The road is splendid, the views are marvelous. Just the ghat section has a bit of repair work going on, rest the entire road is well laid. There are quite a few twists and turns, but boards giving directions will help you a lot. All you have to remember is to go towards Sawantwadi.
After the beautiful ghats, small villages and nice roads, you meet the Panvel Goa highway and start going south to Panaji. This road is also well laid, freshly repaired I guess. By this time it was noon, and the sun was bearing down like an angry God.
About 40kms off Vagator, I saw 2 guys on Bullets riding to the biker fest. I always wanted to understand what it felt like to ride at 65kmph for hours on end, so I started following them. I gotta admit it to you, it is boring as pigeon shit. How can anyone do that? Even when the road in front of them was good enough to do 200kmph, they were just ambling about at 69. I don’t think I will ever understand the mentality of Enfield lovers.
Mapusa arrived quick and now I knew that Vagator will take about 30 more minutes. The streets of Goa always confuse me, so it took me about an hour to get to the venue of India Bike Week. Took me a total of 9 hours to travel from Mumbai to Goa, not bad eh?
Got down at a Chinese restaurant and had a bowl of noodles. The guy was helpful and he asked me to go nearby a petrol pump to look for cheap accommodation. I found a house with “Rooms for rent” sign upfront. Asked the lady and she showed me a nice big room for 1500 bucks. A few nice words to the lady and her husband, and I had the room for a 1000. It might sound a bit steep, but the location was really nice, and so was the room.
I had a few extra tickets to India Bike Week, because of the failed promotion I ran. Gotta lean marketing! Anyway, I asked the landlord and he was happy to send the landlady and his son to the fest. We three went in and they were both utterly disappointed, just like me. They told me that last time it was much more fun, I agreed.
Tried to take a peaceful walk towards Vagator beach, but hordes of Harleys thumping around at full throttle on the narrow streets made it rather impossible. Had lovely dinner at a Punjabi restaurant and went to sleep.
Bombay to Goa: Day 2 – Making a friend and ride to Malvan
My day 1 experience at India Bike week had left with me with no choice but to get out of there as soon as I could. I had heard about Malvan and Tarkarli beaches a lot, just 100kms north of Goa, so I thought what the hell. But before that, I had to meet up with someone who got introduced to me through a mutual acquaintance on Facebook, the kind of stuff your mom warns you about!
The guys name is Peter Trinidad. I thought he must be some dopey foreigner living near some beach and puffing on some weed. Turns out he is a pakka Goan, a well groomed gentleman and photography aficionado. I met him at Mapusa, from where he took me to his home, and what a beautiful home it is. I have no idea how these guys get up in the morning and go to work with THAT view in their windows.
There are some people you meet who make you feel small, others make you feel happy, and some others make you feel comfortable. There I was sitting on a table, surrounded by Peter, his lovely wife and his gamer cool son, talking about my Ladakh ride and love for stupid stuff, and I felt at home. Peter’s father wasn’t keeping well, and as much as I would have liked to see him, I am so bad with words in such situations that I decided against it.
We talked a lot, about bikes, photography, guy stuff. I had never expected the meet to last more than an hour, and about 2 hours later I was ready for more. But then I had to get going for Malvan, so big goodbye to the Trinidad family and went on my way. Good memories, definitely the pick of the lot from this Bombay to Goa trip!
I got lost on the way to Malvan, I am quite certain I wanted to get lost. I asked nobody for directions, just kept riding wherever I felt like. A few hours later I was on the Panvel Goa highway again, with Malvan showing up as 40kms away. Took a short stop for lunch, and then took the left turn towards the Arabian sea.
The road from the highway to Malvan is in pretty bad shape. It doesn’t look like it is going to get better anytime soon. Plus the lack of any direction markers made it a record setting day, the most number of times I lost my way in 12 hours.
Once I reached the Malvan city, all I could see was congested roads and shops upon shops. With no sign of beach anywhere, I simply headed for Tarkarli. The road to Tarkarli gets even more narrower, and even more difficult to stay on.
I had planned to stay at the Maharashtra Tourism hotel, because I thought it would be cheap. They said for a single guy they had nothing but a big cottage that would cost me 5000 for the night. I laughed in their face and got out before they could get angry.
Found a room just next to the beach for 600 bucks. The room was quite run down, but I just had to spend the night. My spirits were a bit down because of the bad road, plus I was told that there is no scuba diving in Tarkarli, and I had to go back to Malvan for that. So I missed out on that adventure too.
Tarkarli and Malvan are over-hyped. There isn’t anything special about these places, except the lack of people. You can stand at the Tarkarli beach, shout the choicest expletives at the top of your voice, and there would be no one to listen to your for kilometers on all sides. I was feeling rather bored and lonely. Had home-made food for the night, oh I stuffed myself to the throat. Bad idea.
Bombay to Goa: Day 3 – Malvan to Mumbai via Panvel Goa highway
I wanted to start at about 7 am in the morning, but it was so damn cold! I woke up at 8.30, and got going by 10 am, with majority of the time spent on the shitter. Met a whole bunch of people going back to Mumbai after the biker fest, people on Harleys, Ducatis, Hondas and Bullets. I don’t know what was up with me, but every time I saw a bunch of bikers resting by the road, I stopped and chatted them up. I have never done that in my life.
Met three guys who were riding to Ahmedabad. A guy in his 40’s was riding Bangalore-Kanyakumari-Goa-Mumbai-Bangalore on a Duke 390. A guy on a Thunderbird, who almost saw me crash as I tried to stop on a curve to talk to him. It was a weird ass day.
The Panvel Goa highway is just amazing, riding that piece of asphalt feels like playing a video game. The road is smooth, with little traffic, with such gorgeous curves. I thoroughly enjoyed the 300 odd kilometers, before the bad roads started about 150kms off Mumbai.
The three guys riding to Ahmedabad finally caught up with me, they were super quick on the twisties! Had an unbelievably awesome lunch with them about 250kms from Mumbai and then I started riding solo again. It was getting dark, and I hate riding at night. I wasn’t pushing the limit, but was a bit quicker than my usual self.
As hard as I tried, it was pitch black by the time I reached Panvel. My dark goggles made riding a very risky affair, so I put on the clear glasses and continued. Reached home after 9 hours of splendid ride.
For someone planning to do the Bombay to Goa trip, I would suggest taking the Panvel Goa highway rather than going through Kolhapur. No doubt the latter road is much faster and with lesser potholes, but the western ghats, their beauty and the twisties are just amazing. It a must ride road for any serious biker.
Here are some stats of the ride:
Total distance: ~1110kms
Total time: 21 hours
Average speed: 52kmph
Top speed: 153kmph
Total stops: 12
Total fuel: ~35 liters