The Real Life

Few thoughts on the experience of Goa-Mumbai Cycling Expedition.

Nihar Sawant
Tumbling Feet


Our 5th day halt was at Harihareshwar. It was 7:30PM, I was sitting alone on the rooftop of our dormitory whilst my fellow riders were at the beach. Very few people were aware of a stairway to the rooftop hence I enjoyed those moments of solitude for a good hour. I don’t remember the last time I saw a sky full of stars. Just a few miles away a maulvi was giving azaan for the evening namaz, crickets were making rhythmic sounds, leaves were rustling to the cool breeze and probably after a decade I got a chance to see a comet. It was a peaceful night.

When I came back to the dorm, I realised that there was enough connectivity to check my emails and other online accounts. 7 Days- this was the longest duration I had been away from my digital life. When I finally managed to log in my Facebook account, I was so disgusted by the artificiality of it that I logged out immediately. Everything was so fake, I felt like I entered an entirely new world of hypocrisy. Then I realised, for the last 5 days I have been living the ‘real’ life. The ‘real’ life of hills, clear blue sky, roaring winds and a peaceful sea, all of which is much more fascinating than our digital life. We all are aware of ‘Digital vs Real Life’ debate but very few people get the precious chance to experience it.

In those 8 days of sheer endurance and willpower; I rediscovered two new faces of life. This writeup is about those two experiences -

Trudging the Hills

Highlight of the whole expedition is undoubtedly the hills of Western Ghats with a constant blow of coastal winds. Everyday we had to ride at least 10 KM climb of Western Ghat. The most challenging climbs used to take place during noon when the Sun and the coastal winds would soak each and every drop of fluids from your body. Your throat goes dry, you run out of water and all you can do is just trudge the hill because you can’t even stop for a shelter as there are very few trees whose shadow is large enough for cover.

No man’s land
Photo Courtesy — Parikshit Jadhav

You just hope that there is an end to the climb and a plateau will start but you are always wrong. By the time you reach the end you see another steep turn with a few hundred meters more to climb. Every vein of your thighs starts pumping like it will tear your skin apart and you have to peddle with those heavy steps. The Sun is so brutal to you that it even soaks last drop of sweat from your face, leaving a ‘visible’ layer of salt on your face. This is the moment when your mind starts to play games with you. It constantly tells you to stop; most people do listen to it but real thrill is in saying ‘no’. It is the test of your will power because that hill is the one which gives you the mental strength to carry on.

As you climb up, you stop believing the illusions of an end. All you do is peddle, peddle and lower the gears. And suddenly that moment appears when you see the clear blue sky and a plateau that spans till the end of the horizon with a calming sea on the west coast. As you look down the hill, you see the spiral road which you were climbing for the past few hours and now you are standing on the pinnacle of it. This is the moment of relief. But the real satisfying moment is the one where you go down the same hill. It only lasts for a few minutes but it lingers in your mind for the rest of the day. You not only talk with the wind but you become the wind. Tears of joy and speed start to fly away, the shiver of wind and fear gives you goosebumps, your heartbeats rise due to anxiety of falling. I guess this is how birds feel when they fly. You take hours to climb a hill and you get the sweet fruit of joy for few minutes.

Plateau of golden hay with calming sea till horizon
Photo Courtesy — Parikshit Jadhav

I guess our life is also like hills. Most of our lifespan goes through failures and frustrations but when we get the taste of success, it lasts for brief time. And these moments stay forever in our mind.

Sands of Thoughts

Whilst coming back to Mumbai from Alibaug, instead of going via Mumbai-Goa Highway, we were coming from a launch via Revas Jetty (probably due to traffic concerns and to save time). When I saw Mumbai from sea, I realised why Mumbai is known as City of Dreams. Here was I, who spent a decade living in Mumbai, went for 8 days of adventure in Konkan. I felt like entering in the mouth of some beast who was waiting to swallow me. Tall and grandeur outlines of Mumbai made me look like a dwarf and worthless like a penny. When I entered Mumbai, it didn't take long to realise that no matter how tall Mumbai is, it is full of dwarf minded people. Ironically, we are also part of that crowd and we proudly call ourselves Mumbaikar.

The sands of the whole Konkan coastline shines like gold and as you move towards Mumbai the same sand turns dark. Thoughts of people from Mumbai and Konkan are like sands of their coasts. People of Konkan have rich thoughts like gold which we experienced in their hospitality, willingness to help and even while waving hand at us in the early morning.

Rich golden sand of Kokan

On the other hand, people of Mumbai brought insecurity and filthiness with their dark thoughts just like sand of Mumbai. Whether it was a gang of drunken youth making quarrels in Revas Launch or remarks of local road romeos who were cleaning our bikes. We live in a shit-hole named Mumbai.

Yet we can’t detach ourselves from it. Because the pace of Mumbai keeps our wheels of life spinning. No matter how pleasant Konkan is, I eventually found my ‘home’ in Mumbai. Sweetness of Solkadhi and Muramba still lingers on my tongue, but I experienced the real taste of ‘home’ when I ate Paani Puri (and a free Sukha Puri) from a street hawker of Mumbai.

It says home is where your heart is
But what a shame
Cause everyone’s heart
Doesn't beat the same
It’s beating out of time

Mumbai is made up of people of uneven heartbeats but there is no denial, it is our home and we can’t live without it. We have embraced Mumbai and Digital Life so tightly that going away from it, is like taking fish out of water.

Nature is our best teacher and those 8 days were no different. Goa-Mumbai Cycling is not just an adventure, it is entirely new perspective about your life.

Base camp of YHAI (Maharashtra Unit) at Campola, Goa

Note — I am sincerely grateful of Youth Hostel Association of India (Maharashtra Unit) for successfully conducting this expedition.

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