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Sunday, October 12, 2014

BiKronicles 3: Nashik-Daman and Diu (Wining and Dining)

It’s been > a week since our epic trip to Nashik and Daman and Diu. A complete tangent ball game from our otherwise smooth rides. I was prepared and then not-so-prepared for this trip.

The ironic Monday after the week came with an anchoring feeling. Sinking would mean I could swim back up. This was heavy and leaded. The feeling was slightly eased by changing my shift from 6am-2pm and celebrating Eid-al-adha with my truly. I was glad I worked my ass off prior to the long weekend cuz that meant no anxiety attacks this workweek.

The trip was perfect until the evening before when an evil and honestly useless custom plagued me. Dry day on 02 Oct when we had planned to visit vineyards and thrive under vino-isk magic. Abeer eased my nerves; said, “Let’s just go and see what we can do!” to which I added “Lets buy wine and go to vine country!” Both extremely wise and useful decisions. Having gotten a steal at our choice hotel IBIS, I was pinched about paying more than double the difference to change our dates of travel. Glad I was talked out of it and lured with spirit (literally speaking). After having packed off the cats to foster care, which was a huge adventure in itself, I took off on the bike – this time new and revised gear and better prepared. Riding in the morning has a serene ‘leave this world behind’ sort of theme. There is literally nothing to interrupt you. Even if you need breakfast, you are seriously lucky if you find something of choice in the same route of travel at 6:30am. Starbucks, Powai it was. This was also the 1st trip where the much coveted, hunted and finally acquired Cramster saddle bags made its debut on our bebe’s booty. The bags just slide over the seat, do not interfere with the pillion footing or support and have easy to reach into pockets for quick bites and water bottles. The 48ltr capacity was perfect for packing in 3 days’ worth of whatever we needed and it had room. Abeer joked that I could use 1.5 parts of the bag. I was good and used only 1. J 
Abeer's idea of a flattering pic of me!

The road was relatively smooth with the occasional ‘excavations’ caused by cargo wielding transport. The potholes and speed breakers were the kind that can send you straight up before you even realize what hit you or vice versa. Road condition is something that prompts me to be Abeer’s absolutely 100% fail-safe vision. Even if he is busy sightseeing whilst hitting the 100 speed mark, I ensure that I’m watching the road. There is also the selfish motive that prompts me to watch out for me more cuz the rider will be safer than the pillion who might slip off, fly or just fall off due to obstacle+speed making merry. We tried hard to ignore the near 40°C weather and rode on. The route was scenic and divine and we stopped to get a few clicks inspired by the scores of Instagram handles that glorified biking in all its panache and had us hooked. Maharashtra is truly scenic and beautiful. There is untouched rawness, which I believe is maintained partially by the locals who aren’t plagued by greed and destruction.

Once at Nashik, we reached IBIS, made a smooth check in and were met by the most ergonomically designed hotel room. Perfect use of space with comfort and no short-change on any aspect. I never tend to believe any and every ‘review’ posted on multitude travel sites. People are fussy and imagine the presidential suite at the 4 seasons in regular hotels at meagre shillings. Take a hike buddy. People forget that the room is to rest, shower, and get out of… not LIVE IN. Aaaaaaaarrrrgh. Moving on. We doused ourselves in AC coolness, showered and moved to Sula Vineyards. FYI all other vineyards were shut even for basic dine in or tours. Sula remained faithfully open and that’s where I felt comfort revisit me; that I didn’t cancel/change the travel plans. There was no wine serving or tasting. But there were wine infused dishes on the property’s French kitchen aptly named ‘Soleil’. Although named after its ingredients it was the likeness of coq au vin and lovely prawn bisque followed by fish steak and salsa.

My love and his love (Nexus 5)
in a frame at Sula!
Lazed and passed out like 2 tabbys under heavy quilts and loaded on wine from mid noon to the next morning. We were THAT tired. Well rested, hungry as hell (read pestering front desk for when breakfast service will start); we sauntered down ready for our next pit stop. THIS was something we weren’t prepared for. The route from Nashik to Daman was a dirt road that touches NH8 – calculated at a decent 2.5-3hrs at constant speed. We took >6hrs, thanks to long winding inner roads and near missable exits. I was on GPS and even diverted us once to what was understood as a ‘shortcut’ to NH8. Boy was I wrong. It was riddled with gravel, stones, and sticky clay like mud that made the bike skid. Add to that the heat and high cliffs and no human soul in sight. This was ideally asking for trouble and we wasted 30mins in diverting and then backtracking. After this, the tempers and the heat took turns to soar. Abeer was of course the diffuser for both. He calmed me down and occasionally gave me a sound hearing, which involved a verbal dismissal or a nice speedy dash over a rough breaker (the latter I did not appreciate).

Absolute slices of heaven enroute to Daman via interior roads
I kept reminding myself to focus on the route and the scene because THIS was something we would not get to see too often. There was absolute pastel color beauty everywhere. The kind you see in nature paintings capturing ideal settings: a brook or stream, lakes and ponds, sunrise and sunsets, shades of brown from the tree trunk to the surrounding soil, a quaint lil poetry bridge (very romantic), water flowing musically over rocks and shiny pebbles, valleys of colorful flowers in patches… I may sound like I’m losing it but it sincerely was such. Interior Maharashtra is likened to an uncorrupted virgin in mind, body and soul. We periodically whizzed past tiny near insignificant villages and then the occasional large village townships as I would call it. The latter if cemented and founded with bricks to define housing and living structures. Everybody walked. Vehicles were a rarity and 2 wheelers a probable life saver here. The locals were friendly and always appeared blank on conversing as the Marathi dialect I belted out was nowhere close to what they spoke. Surprisingly Gujarati was a winner when all else failed. I constantly wondered what this place would be like in the rains and the answer will be visually astounding if I ever do return for an encore. There were structured and manmade roads but no light installations or provisions that made me realize that unless you know the terrain like the back of your hand, DO NOT travel or explore post sunset. It is indeed asking for trouble as there were many detours and routes; the main road itself a narrow 2-way for traffic which whooshed by and rattled you for a few seconds.

A good 3hrs into the ride and I was tired and hurting all over. The heat wasn’t helping and distractions were few to none. We barely communicated and used music to calm the nerves – EDM. Locals were helpful in pointing out the route but it was all guesswork. One said NH was 5kms away and in typical Indian fashion, “Haan haan seedha jaao mill jayega” (yes yes keep going straight and you’ll get it). Another said the same except he calculated 10-11kms and made it sound like it was around the next bend. India… Lol. Ultimately, after all the riding we touched NH8 and it felt exactly like Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) meeting Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) in Zihuatanejo. There on the roads and highways could put Maharashtra to shame. We cruised an easy and smooth 120 without so much as a break or a glitch. The speed breakers also break speed but without the risk of hitting and turtling if not caught in time.

The Daman Fort that encapsulates all Govt. buildings
and heritage sites.
Daman is THAT part of Gujarat that is no longer a part of Gujarat. It is quaint and little and has a stark contrast to architecture and crowd across the Daman Ganga river. We stayed put on the Devka beach part of town and explored it on the bike. Point to note was that we stuck out from the crowd and that drew a lot of attention. When we stepped out of the hotel we were followed with barely a foot’s worth of distance. Abeer didn’t want to compromise our safety and I didn’t think that in worse situations he would be able to defend us against half the drunken population of Maharashtra and Gujarat who had driven down here for the long weekend (read dry days). So we took the bike around, ate seafood and drank beer in a few upscale places, stayed away from dimly lit and isolated spots and returned back to our abode, Hotel Gurukripa (I recommend). It’s a decent place to stay with all the amenities, good breakfast and reasonably priced. My sights were set on The Deltin, Nani Daman. Someday baby someday.

Next morning we drove down to Jampore beach at 6am to watch the sunrise and that other part of town. It was very domesticated, beautiful smooth roads, administration and policing, housing, shelter, and a whole little Daman community tucked away. Our exhaust rattle must’ve woken most of them up but we just cruised along. People usually kept to themselves but when approached they wholeheartedly helped and spoke at length. Suddenly I felt safe and wanted to explore. A quick semi-continental breakfast, packing in and leaving we cruised through Moti Daman’s architectural and historic offerings of a fort, lighthouse and churches and went on our way. We touched Mumbai in a stupendous 3hrs. Nonstop at a speed of 120 and not once did I feel rattled or unsafe. The roads were THAT good. Once in Mumbai, smoke, smog, heat, anger, impatience and general annoyance settled in a matter of minutes. I dread this feeling ALWAYS.

Came home, cleaned up and unpacked and thanked our stars we had a whole Sunday to recover from this mini adventure of ours. I just hope our life (Abeer and mine) are always full of these <3.
Us 2 and our bebe at the Daman Fort and Lighthouse.