I’ve still got the blues for you
cross country cycling with Prateek Deo

My Mumbai to Pali cycling journey experience
19th to 20th Dec 2020

“ So many years since I’ve seen your face.
Here in my heart, there’s an empty space
where you used to be.
So long, it was so long ago,
But I’ve still got the blues for you.”

A lovely Garry Moore song , words which fits my love for long distance cross-country cycling

It’s been really long since I did a long distance cross-country cycling trip. The last one being Vietnam to Cambodia – 500kms cycle journey.

I wanted get out of this city, ride along rivers, glide on the mountains, talk to the birds, and sing to the tune of the forest.

I realised, i needed the countryside badly.

I have a friend Umesh Nambiar , who has a very beautiful farmhouse in the countryside of Pali , around 100kms from Mumbai.
So that’s how the plan to cycle to Pali was made. I would cycle to my friend’s farmhouse, stay there and come back the next day.

As usual, I mapped my whole ride; I chose the least traffic routes, avoided the highways as much as possible and took the non-asphalt countryside route, wherever possible.

I carried my luggage in my pannier bags which contained all necessary things like: puncture repair kit, tool kit, medical kit, sleeping bag, extra clothes, some food stuff, torch etc.

A wonderful ride of 100kms the first day through some beautiful landscapes and few mountain sections. I was content with todays ride.

My friend’s farmhouse was near Wagoshi village, besides a small hillock. Exactly the place I was looking for rejuvenating. It was so quiet that one could hear villagers murmuring, the birds chirping, the local dog barking, the tractor sound and the locales singing. It was beautiful. Absolute zero traffic noise.

AS the sun went down, the smell of the wood burning for making dinner was out of this world.
 Thanks to my friend, a local invited me for dinner at his house. I have eaten dinners in the best restaurants in Mumbai, but none could match the dinner in this villager’s house. Simple food in the simplest environment makes the food most delicious. There was no electricity, I sat on the floor and had the most fulfilling meal in the world. It was just 7pm.

I cycled back to the farmhouse in pitch dark and chill cold,wondering how much we pay to live in the city, but somehow the true happiness is derived here. Nothing gave me more joy, than to thank the villager, who then came half the way to see me off.  They don’t close the door on your back , I observed.

I had planned to start early morning at 5 am the next day, since there was a long ghat section to be covered. But when I woke up,  it was impossible to even step out, it was pitch dark and no street lights whatsoever.

Bid farewell to the villager, who greeted me with hot milk mixed with haldi – he said “ Sir aapke city ke packet ka nahi hai doodh, its from our cow directly, taste and see “.( Sir, the milk is not from the packet like in your city, its directly from our cow here)
I would say it was a warm goodbye and an awesome start for the day.

Day 2 ride was full of mountainous roads, right from the start. But I don’t regret this route, rather it was planned and I was waiting for it.

I cycled through teak forests & mango plantations. It was the most beautiful part of my journey. A  sense of fulfillment filled me as I pushed my cycle on the mountains.

I crossed small mountain hamlets on the top, very peculiar of Maharashtra. People seemed to be very content with their lives. They seemed happy in whatever they were doing. Small farmlands grew chilies and kept it in the open for drying in the sun. Few hunters were cutting wood, cows and buffaloes were grazing and often crossed my path, and rather I crossed theirs. I could hear the sound of the distant tractor ploughing the fields, small kids riding cycles often waved me goodbye.

Sitting under a banyan tree , on top of a mountain and having a guava.. whats more to life.

There was so much romanticism in the air. My pedalling was like poetry in motion.

I often stopped in between, had a drink and embraced the pure wind of the mountains.

It took 4 hours to finally to end the mountain range and reach Pen, almost half way of my journey back.

The dream ride ended and then onwards it was a straightforward highway ride back to Mumbai.
I completed 114 kms while returning.

At the end, I was fully rejuvenated, full charged up, and made a promise to myself – be yourself no matter what they say…

Important note for all those who can’t afford an expensive cycle or cycling gear and clothing.
Don’t worry …
All you need is you will and desire to take u up there and some meticulous planning.

And yes do try and cycle in the countryside at least once, try to talk to the butterflies and the squirrels u meet on the way , wave to the mountain kids, and swim in the rivers… trust me you’ll find a new you.🙂

I realized after all…
I’ve still got the blues for you …

Written & pictures by Prateek Deo

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