30th December, 2015
The golden fresh, morning rays hit me as soon as I took a turn on the deserted road. The road was going up. The passage of Phonda ghat had finally begun. I had been riding on pathetic roads for last 2 hours. I had left Malvan early in the darkness. My plan was to have lunch at Kolhapur and take the route back to Mumbai. Reaching Mumbai in the evening during peak hours was something I wanted to avoid. I put that decision on hold and thought of taking that decision once I reach Pune. It was my brother Milind’s birthday. I made a mental note to call him up to wish him once I take a halt for breakfast.
The road quality of the Phonda ghat was really good. I was pretty sure the road was made very recently. I was back in the road trip mood and started enjoying the ride. On the highest point of the ghat section and realized that I’m the only one riding on this road. From the point where I was, I could see the road far behind as well as ahead and spotted no other living soul except for trees and bushes. It was kind of scary, but I really enjoy such scary feelings. On moments like these I imagine that I’m the only human being in this world.
Riding on top of the Phonda ghat was bringing back memories of Zozilla pass in Kashmir. I had crossed that pass two years ago during my month long road trip in Ladakh. My day-dreaming was abruptly shaken off when a huge red, rusty thing appeared in front of me out of nowhere. It was S.T. bus. I saw species of my own kind after many hours. The road started descending down. I could see small villages in the valley with smoke coming out from many chimneys. Far off on the distant road a bullock cart was carrying long sugarcane. I crossed that village and then another and then one more and then another. Narrow roads and daily hustle and bustle on the village roads slowed me down. I was observing the village life as I was passing by. Men were mostly dressed in white clothing and white Gandhi topi while women were dressed in mostly pink or green sarees. Tea stalls had many customers gathered around and some were chewing tobacco or smoking beedi (desi cigarates), including women. Tractors were rushing towards farms for their daily work and small children were carrying huge khaki school bags on their shoulders. Some kids didn’t have foot-wares on their feet. They were walking barefoot. I felt sad for them but was sure that if they take their education properly, one day they will be wearing expensive shoes. And by education I don’t refer to the education taught only at School. A curious mind receives education from anything and everything happening around.
Soon I was in Kolhapur. The roads were very confusing but somehow I managed to reach the other end of the town and arrived on the National highway. It was late in the morning and it was way past the normal breakfast time. I started searching for a place to munch over a brunch. The highway did not have much options for food. I spotted a ‘Vitthal Kamat’ restaurant as came near a toll plaza. But the restaurant was on the other side of the road. I felt there must be another restaurant ahead on my side of the road. I rode ahead. And for next 5 kilometers I saw nothing but the highway passing through barren lands. I took the next U-turn and arrived at the ‘Vitthal Kamat’ restaurant I had spotted earlier.
I got freshened up. Called up my brother and wished him ‘Happy Birthday’. I ordered my food and after finishing it I realized that I had over-estimated my hunger. I was already full and yet to make things worse, the waiter served a glass full of Lassi as soon as I was about to go the wash basin to wash my hands. I had forgotten that I ordered Lassi too. I gulped it down. Payed my bill and was back on the road.
Lassi was a huge mistake. I was feeling drowsy. I felt like I was riding for hours but when I checked the time, it was only 45 minutes since I left the restaurant. I was sure that I would definitely hit someone if I continue riding in such drowsy state. I stopped at the next Dhaba. There was road repairing work going on nearby and the machines were making annoyingly loud noise. I ordered strong black coffee which took another 30 minutes to appear on my table. I drank it and felt refreshed. From there the ride became pleasant.
I stopped straight at 4 pm. I had arrived at Pune. It was time to take a decision, weather I should go to Mumbai or I should not. Ending this amazing road trip in the traffic of Mumbai did not sound like a good idea. So I decided to spend the night at Lonavala and then head for Mumbai the next day. Mumbai is just 80 kms from Lonavala. So I would reach Mumbai by afternoon.
I checked-in into ‘Hotel Revineer’ near Mumbai-Pune Express way. It offered a pleasant view of the surrounding hills. The bed was comfy. Even though I was tempted to crash onto the bed after a day long ride, I decided to enjoy the sunset view from the balcony of my hotel room. I hit the warm shower and ordered hot cup of coffee. Sipped it while enjoying the Sunset. Just the last day of the trip.