My passion for cycling and to serve society...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TOSK & TONM - Tour of Shegaon-Khamgaon & Tour of Nashik-Mumbai

The Joy of Cycling
(1800 kms cycling)

It all began sometime in April 2009 when Deepak (my son-in-law) left his Hero Hawk bicycle with me for 3-4 days as he had to go to Chennai. Although I had taken conventional bicycle ride during my School holidays when I was young, I was never fascinated to bicycle riding. However, my ride on Hero Hawk bicycle for 3-4 days gave me altogether different experience. I was amazed with the kind of joy that a geared bicycle gives to the rider when climbing an uphill terrain.

I had Yezdi motor bike when I was 25 yrs old and had dreamt of having a Royal Enfield Bullet motor bike. Now I am 58 years old and after voluntarily retiring from high pressure job from a multinational Company in mid 2009 I thought of giving shape to my old dream and buy a Royal Enfield Bullet motor bike. However, my wife was not in favour of me buying a Bullet motor bike at this age. Seeing my interest in the bicycle, she said “why don’t you buy a bicycle as that would also help you to go to nearby market and get milk, fruits, vegetables etc?”

My wife’s suggestion started ringing in my head and a thought came to mind as to “why not buy a bicycle instead of motor bike?” This was really a novel thought as by this; I shall be helping the environment besides burning calories instead of burning out unnecessary fuel. This led me to make an intense study on internet and I looked at different kinds of bicycle and finally made up my mind to buy a geared road bicycle. Road bicycle is meant for riding on paved road unlike a mountain bicycle which is good for riding on rough terrain.


I then, in the month of June 2009 bought a Road bicycle having 7 gears at the rear end and 2 in the front. This became my new companion and I started riding it more often to go to market, banks and then in and around Bangalore.

I found this to be the best mode of transport whenever I was alone instead of using my car. I developed a special bondage with this bicycle and started using it to go to any place in Bangalore irrespective of distance / traffic


Deep within me, a thought came to my mind to go on a long ride to a place called Shegaon –Khamgaon in Maharashtra. Khamgaon is a place located around 1200 kms from Bangalore where I had my last posting. Shegaon is just 20 kms away from Khamgaon where thousands of pilgrimages throng to visit Gajanan Maharaj Ashram. The Gajanan Maharaj Ashram Trust is also maintaining a sprawling and serene garden known as Anand Sagar located in a huge land about 4 kms away from ashram worth visiting by anybody.

I thought of visiting my old colleagues in Khamgaon differently on bicycle. I scanned through the calendar and decided dates of visiting Shegaon-Khamgaon in December 2009 as the climate in December would be best suited for the visit. I then scanned through Google map and looked at best possible route to reach Khamgaon from Bangalore by road. I found the route from Bangalore would be via Gulbarga (in Karnataka) – Latur (in Maharashtra). I also noted different villages / towns that falls between where I could spend the night. Based on all information I made a detailed travel plan which I could follow.


I then began preparing myself for the long ride. Every Saturday and Sunday I would go for a long ride in and around Bangalore. Initially I started with 20 kms ride and gradually increased it to 50-60 kms ride per trip. Long bicycle ride planned by me required both mental strength and physical endurance.

I also registered in the net on Indian a Social Network Group for cyclists and started interacting with other members on matters relating to long and safe riding of bicycle. This was extremely useful and gave boost to my confidence.

I had not confided with my wife about my plan to go on a long ride in December 2009 as I knew she would not support obviously at my age of 58.

In Sept - October 2009 both I and my wife went to Mangalore by car and I packed my bicycle and carried it to Mangalore in my car. We stayed in Mangalore for 3 weeks during which I extensively used my bicycle in and around Mangalore. From Mangalore, on bicycle, on 27.9.09 I went to Uppala (in Kerala - to&fro 80 kms), on 4.10.09 to Puttur (to&fro 130 kms) and on 11.10.09 to Udupi (to&fro 130 kms) to visit my relatives. With the attire that I wore viz., ¾th short, Nike shoes, T shirt, Bicycle Helmet and Goggle, none of my relatives could recognize me at the first sight and thought someone has come to enquire routes. It was only after I removed my Goggle that they could recognize who I am. These rides were really towards my preparation for the long ride to Shegaon-Khamgaon that I had set in December 2009. These rides helped me to gain my confidence that I could go on a long ride on bicycle and withstand obstacles as in my trip to Puttur on 4.10.09, previous day at around 10.30 p.m. I found someone had deflated rear tyre of my bicycle. Although it was a frustration I worked on it and after rectifying the problem left for Puttur next day morning.

Then on 22 Nov 2009 I along with my friend Karthik went to Mysore from Bangalore on bicycle covering a distance of around 160 kms in a day.

After I was back from Mysore I confided with my wife that I will be going on a long bicycle tour to Shegaon-Khamgaon covering a distance of 1200 kms in about 11 days and then from there to Nashik & Mumbai on bicycle covering a distance of another 550 kms. I told her that on my way back from Mumbai I would come by bus placing my bicycle in luggage compartment. When I confided to her my plan she was shocked and next few days she tried all ways and means to dissuade me from going ahead with my tour plan. All the members in my family; my wife, daughters including my son-in-law were against my going on such a long ride alone at this age of 58. Obviously for them my safety was more important than my craze for such long journey on bicycle. But I had firmly decided to go ahead with my tour plan. I told them not to worry and assured them that during my journey at any point in time, if I feel weakness in my body (as opposed to tiredness which one can overcome with rest) or develop a symptom of flue then I would suspend my journey forthwith and return home packing my bicycle in a bus or any vehicle. Although this gave some silver lining for me, still they were not in favour of my going on a long ride alone. But as I had firmly decided to go ahead with my plan, every one realised that nothing would stop me. Looking at my firm decision, my wife then started assisting me genuinely in my preparation on what clothes to carry, what to eat & drink during the journey, how to keep minimal weight in the shoulder bag that I carry since my bicycle being a racer bicycle it does not have a carrier.


I then began my long bicycle journey on the morning of 8th Dec 2009 from my residence in Whitefield, Bangalore. My daughter and Deepak (my son-in-law) who stays just 10 minutes walk from our residence came downstairs of our building to flag off. It was an exciting moment for me. I was flagged off by my family members with all good wishes.

Initially I had planned to ride 125 kms / day with a complete days’ rest on 4th day. But I then changed it to covering 100 kms / day average on all the days which I successfully maintained throughout my journey.

I had planned to take route of Hindupur – Anantpur – Gulbarga – Maharashtra where I would be mostly going through Andhra Pradesh (AP) stretch but since Telangana issue had cropped up in December I decided to change the route. I took Tumkur – Shira – Bellary – Gulbarga route (this route is around 60 kms longer than AP route) as on this route I would be mostly riding in Karnataka stretch with very little part of AP getting touched at Oblapuram near Bellary.


Getting on to mental strength and physical endurance during the first 3 days of bicycle journey was very critical. On the first day (8.12.09) I peddled covering around 130 kms and reached Shira and stayed in a lodge. On the second day (9.12.09) I peddled and covered around 90 kms and reached Chellekere and stayed there for the night. On the third day it was really tiring and I was wondering whether I would be able to succeed with my target. But deep within me I had developed confidence and I gained both mental strength and physical endurance and I reached Bellary pedalling a distance of 110 kms. Thereafter, there was no looking back and I gained tremendous confidence. My body also responded very well and I could literally see through reaching my target successfully.


I had kept strict regiment on my diet. My daily food intake was as under:
- 6-7 litres of mineral water
- a bottle of Maza (mango drink)
- 3-4 Five star chocolates
- 5-6 Glucose biscuits
- 3-4 bananas
- a tender coconut
- 4-5 almonds
- Morning breakfast – Tea, Idli – Sambhar in Karnataka and Pova in Maharashtra
- Roti – Chapati, Daal, Curd & fresh vegetables masala, if available, for lunch / dinner


My bicycle is very light weighted (weighs approx 8 kgs) and locking the bicycle has no meaning as it has Quick Release system where front and rear wheel can be removed in seconds and, being light weight, can be just lifted in one hand and stolen away from the site. I therefore, in night halt, requested the hotel / lodge manager to allow me to keep the bicycle in my room. Although with initial hesitancy, on seeing me that I am riding the bicycle all the way from Bangalore, they responded to me positively and allowed me to keep my bicycle in my room and I could comfortably sleep in peace in my room.

On my way I came across some wonderful and kind people who were either vendors or local people
who offered me tea, breakfast, fruits, tender coconut, sugar cane etc and did not allow me to pay for it once they came to know that I am riding bicycle all the way from Bangalore. Wherever I met such kind people, I told them that in acknowledgement of their kindness they should have themselves photographed with me and I was happy to capture their photographs in my camera.


Gulbarga is around 630 kms from Bangalore and I reached there on 13.12.09 (6th day). I left Gulbarga on 14.12.09 via Aland (which is in Karnataka) and entered into Umarga in Maharashtra and reached Latur same day around 9 p.m.
Normally I would not pedal beyond 7 p.m. but in order to reach my target I pedalled from Gulbarga to Latur covering a distance of around 150 kms in a single day. A very interesting thing happened while I was 15 kms away from Latur when it was around 7.30 p.m. It was a highway and I was resting for a while sitting on a ‘katta’.
I was not aware as to how to go from Latur further to Shegaon – Khamgaon. At that time a villager who is unlikely to be found on highway came there and sat beside me. I started conversing with him and told him about my visit to Shegaon –Khamgaon and that I do not know which route to take from Latur. The man was crystal clear of the route. His name was Uttamrao. Since I had all my childhood in Mumbai in Bandra and professionally too since I dealt with labour in most parts of Maharashtra, when I speak Marathi, people seldom can make out that I am a non-Maharashtrian. The villager Uttamrao said to me “PEN GHYA. PAPER GHYA. LIHA” (TAKE PEN, TAKE PAPER. WRITE) –LATUR – AMBAJOGAI KARKHANA – CHAR RASTA.......He also advised me not to take the flyover once I reach Latur as that would take me inside the city but to go beside the flyover so that I could stay in Dwaraka lodge and next day morning I can continue with my journey on the same road further. I felt very relieved and found him like a God messenger. I took his photograph and then he left the place.


On 15.12.09 I left Latur at 6 a.m. and reached Bheed same day late evening around 8.30 p.m. which is around 130 kms from Latur. The hotel where I was to check in for the night stay was hardly 5 minutes when suddenly my bicycle gear came into spoke and got jammed. It was a very frustrating moment for me as I did not know anybody in Bheed and moreover it was already 8.30 p.m. At that time, a young boy by the name Anil Ade came there and started conversing with me. He told me that now all the cycle shops are closed and they would open only next day around 11 a.m. Anil told me that he is studying computer science and staying alone in a rented one room. I told Anil that I have absolutely no problem in staying with him that night and requested him if he could take me to the best cycle shop next day. The fact of the matter was that I did not want him to be away and search for the help next day. Anil’s room was just 2 minutes away from there and I went with him to his house. Anil told his landlord about my journey on bicycle all the way from Bangalore and the problem that I was facing. His landlord by name Wani was very sympathetic and offered all the help. Since it was nearing 9 p.m. and I had not taken my dinner yet he asked me if it was OK if I could eat Jawar ka Roti and sabji prepared by his wife. I had no words to thank Anil’s landlord and his wife. As I was tired, after freshening up I had Jawar ka Roti and Maharashtrian sabji with onion and chilli chatni which were mouth watering. Although I was not sure next day whether my problem would be rectified, I had good sleep that night.

On the next day (16.12.09) around 10.30 a.m. both me and Anil after putting my bicycle in an auto left for the city market where cycle shops are located. Bheed is a district place but a congested one. We reached a best known cycle shop by the name JINESHWAR CYCLES. The cycle mechanic tried to repair the gear but it had broken from its support and could not be fitted back. The owner of the shop then arranged to get a local multi gear bicycle system fitted into my bicycle. The mechanic struggled to fit it but it would not. He then said “SAAB NAHI BAITHEGA”. After pedalling almost 900 kms on bicycle from Bangalore successfully, returning back to Bangalore without reaching my goal was most frustrating and hurting. I am not a mechanic but unknowingly a thought came to my mind and I said to the mechanic “VAISHER DAAL KE DHEKO BAIT THA HAI KYA?” The mechanic then used 4-5 metal washers and was successful in fitting the gear system. He then went out with my bicycle for a trial and came back after half an hour signalling to me thumbs up on way back. On seeing my bicycle repaired, at that time, I felt it was a most joyful moment in my life. After thanking the shop owner & the cycle mechanic and paying them respectfully for their dues I thanked Anil for all the help he provided to me. As Anil was most helpful to me in an unknown place, I requested Anil to join me for lunch and both of us had lunch in a nearby restaurant. After bidding bye to Anil I left Bheed around 1 p.m. to Jalna which is around 85 kms from Bheed.

I reached Jalna around 7.30 p.m. and called up Anil to once again thank him and say that I have reached Jalna safely. Thereafter, my journey was without any problem. I left Jalna on 17.12.09 morning and reached Chikli around 4 p.m. Chikli is around 110 kms from Jalna. On 18.12.09 morning I left Chikli for Shegaon – Khamgaon and as I started seeing milestone of Khamgaon on my way, I felt great of reaching my goal.

I reached Shegaon evening around 3 p.m. After checking in MTDC hotel at Shegaon I went to Gajanan Maharaj Ashram and to Anand Sagar.


On the night of 18.12.09 while I was in MTDC hotel at Shegaon I called up my old colleagues at Khamgaon. Although they were aware of my visit, they were unaware of how I am travelling.

I told my old colleagues that for the last 6 months I have a new companion and my association with her goes like this.......










On hearing the story of my association with CYNTHIA, my new companion, my colleagues would have felt that I am seductive at this age. Little did they know that it was my passion for cycling with which I got associated for the last 6-7 months?

On 19.12.09 (Saturday) I left Shegaon at 7.15 a.m. pedalled 20 kms and reached Khamgaon around 9 a.m. I entered housing area where my colleagues stay. Two of my colleagues were sitting on garden chairs inside housing area. I rode straight and stopped my bicycle close to them and said “Good morning”. Although they reciprocated to me by saying “Good morning” they could not recognize who I am. When I removed my Goggle they were stunned for a moment and then in unison they said “OH BHATJI KAHA SE AA RAHE HO?” When I told them of my bicycle journey from Bangalore to Shegaon – Khamgaon, again for a moment they were stunned and looked at me in disbelief. On realizing who Cynthia was they had a big hearty laugh and hugged me. We exchanged pleasantries. Next 2 days I had a very peasant stay with my colleagues which gave me reminiscences of old memories.

I also met Mr.Tiwary, past President of Rotary club of Khamgaon. As my other Rotarian friends had gone out of Khamgaon as part of RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awareness) program I could not meet them.

On 21.12.09 morning I left Khamgaon for Nashik via Buldhana district. Buldhana is an up terrain and has some 10 kms ghat section. Though there are sign boards from forest dept showing wild animals, I could not find any wild animals. The Buldhana ghat section is covered by teak wood trees and a bit deserted area and there is hardly any traffic. From Khamgaon I pedalled a distance of around 130 kms and reached Shillod taluka at 6 p.m. Next day (22.12.09) morning I left Shillod and reached Vaizapur around 6 p.m. pedalling another 120 kms. On 23.12.09 I left Vaizapur and after pedalling a distance of another 120 kms reached Nashik at 4 p.m. to my elder brothers’ place. My brother and sister-in-law could not recognize me at the first instance until I removed my Goggle.

On 23.12.09 and 24.12.09 I had good rest in Nashik. On the morning of 25.12.09 I left Nashik for Mumbai at 6 a.m. and after zooming through Kasara ghat reached CBD Belapur, New Mumbai at around 7.30 p.m. pedalling a distance of about 150 kms. I stayed in my co-brother’s house for the night.

On 26.12.09 I left CBD Belapur, New Mumbai at 6.30 a.m. and reached Bandra (East) to my youngest brothers’ house around 8.30 a.m.
My brother deals with selling/servicing of electronic items. When I rang the bell, my brother opened the door and as expected he could not recognize me. I told my brother in a typical foreign accent that I am coming from Carter road, Bandra West and that a friend of mine referred his (my brother) name where I could get my imported TV repaired /serviced. My brother genuinely thought that I have come from Bandra West Carter road and then took out his usual diary for noting down the contact address. I then removed my Goggle and my brother too was stunned after recognizing me.

On 26.12.09 afternoon I pedalled from Bandra to Goregaon riding on Western Express highway and spent the night with my, another brothers’ family whom I could not meet at Dombivli as he had come to Goregaon to his daughters’ place to stay.

On 27.12.09 I pedalled back from Goregaon via SV Road and reached Bandra in just 45 minutes. Finally on 28.12.09 after enjoying 3 Idiots movie in a multiplex (morning show) with my brothers’ family, in the afternoon I pedalled to Sion and took Volvo bus to Bangalore by putting my bicycle in luggage compartment.

I reached Bangalore, KR Market on 29.12.09 around 11 a.m. and after taking out my bicycle from luggage compartment and putting back front wheel of my bicycle I pedalled (25 kms) to my residence at Whitefield safely reaching home around 1 p.m. Seeing me back home safely after a gap of 20 days from a long cycling tour my wife had a big relief.

This tour resulted in me losing 3 kg weight and my trouser size got reduced from 34” to 32”. But what was most satisfying for me was a memorable and joyful cycling where I could meet some really kind people and finally leaving me with a feeling of achievement and a great feeling of satisfaction.