Its seldom about the destination, its the journey that really matters; something that I realized after almost 500 kms on a bike from Pune to Karde beach; with an aching back, locked shoulders, and legs numbed to the point of becoming a paraplegic.
We started before dawn when the sky was still dark, the moon had dipped away into oblivion and the sun rays hadn’t hit the sky yet. While moving away from Pune, on the highway with a pitch dark sky above us, intermittent twinkly stars and a dark road ahead lit up occasionally by the lights from other vehicles, we crossed a bridge with a lake spanning out under us. From the turn on the bridge, in the wee hours of the morning, you could see the city, speckled with tiny pinpricks of lights like a thousand incense sticks lit up together.
We were riding towards west, and the sky had turned blue and slightly pink, I turned and looked back and my sleepy eyes registered the scene before me. The sun rays had just come up from behind the hills and suffused the sky with a color that was the palest of pinks and the dark blue hue was slowly leaching away to a pale powder blue. It was amazing, and to my sleepy eyes it was like the perfect dawn. The cool air on my face, cotton cloud covered hills to my right, the pale blue sky above and the long stretch of grey ahead.
We made our first breakfast stop a little after a village named Bhor. My stomach was rumbling with hunger, so was everybody else’s, plus my bladder was full too. So we stopped at a small dhaba, where a small cup of tea cost twelve rupees! The breakfast cost was a blow to everyone’s pockets and plus for me, there was the added benefit of an open air bathroom. I was truly in the lap of nature . 😛
Through villages and farms we rode, and without stretches of civilization in between. I wonder how the lives of the people in those villages are. So far away from what we consider to be our daily comforts. We crossed so many villages with mud houses and roofs made of hay stacks, women sweeping the veranda , old men huddled at the dilapidated tea shop and dirty children chasing after chickens and goats, running along with us for sometime and waving with glee. 😀
The ride through the ghats was a different experience altogether. For a stretch of 60 km of sinuous roads without a sign of civilization, with nothing but hills and forests. No electricity towers, no network in our mobiles. Thank god for GPS or we might not have made it out of the forest. We could have just gone into the ghats and kept on riding till I don’t know when and might have reached the other end of the country without even having a clue of where we were headed. It was all lush, verdant hills and the air felt so fresh and new. We stopped so many times to admire the view and that possibly could not have been the only reason because I would be so glad every time we stopped, just to relieve myself from my throbbing butt 😛 .
Around 3pm in the evening, after riding for almost nine hours, we reached our destination, Karde beach. The beach wasn’t that spectacular with black mud instead of sand. But like I had mentioned before, it was the journey that had really made the difference to our psyche, the exhilarating ride through the ghats, the deep twisting roads, sheer valleys and mountain tops that felt a touch away; it was this headlong rush into the unknown that makes you feel alive and that anything could be possible on those sinewy roads, anything or something that is almost supernatural. You feel something that is akin to freedom.
One of the best things of being single and living on your own, you get to savor things in your own good time. Like starting back in our own sweet time, taking as many detours from the main road as we wanted; like the time when we stopped at a rickety old bridge that shook every time a heavy vehicle passed over it, the bridge railing was chipped and crumbling with age and the lamp-posts were rusted beyond design, yet we stood there, quietly for almost an hour and watched the sun go down.
It was almost eight, an hour after sundown when we reached the ghat roads,this time it was Tamhini ghats which we had to cross to reach home, there were no lights on the road, just the bike headlights and obscure forests and hills on both sides. The sky was pitch dark and so was the road, so you could not even make out where the sky ended and met the ground, everything was too dark. Almost felt like the faceless lady in a white sari would ask for a lift on the next bend of the road. On top of that the riders kept switching off their headlights to just enjoy the unfathomable darkness surrounding us, it was then that we spotted it. Against the pitch black darkness, where you could just understand the outlines of the line of trees along the road, there were trees that were so full of fireflies blinking and flying around that it looked better that any tree bedecked with fairy lights on any Diwali. It was a thousand fireflies around a tree and against the black canvas sky it was an awe-inspiring sight. We just stood under one such tree and gazed up, the twinkling, flashing lights getting reflected in all of our eyes. We were so silent, lest one of our noises broke the spell-binding sight before our eyes.
Despite all the back ache, it was a ride that I would never forget. Experiences define us, and that journey was probably one of them.