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Month: March 2015

RadioOne covers the expedition

RadioOne covers the expedition

I dropped a line to Erica at 94.3 to tell her I was done with my expedition, and before I knew it she buzzed back to invite me down to the studio. It was a lovely afternoon and mom and Shanj accompanied me to the studio.

For all those who missed listening to it yesterday evening, here are the recordings:

After the Break:

In Conclusion:






Day 15 Malwan

Day 15 Malwan

Devgad to Tarkarli

12:35. The phone rings. As I fumble in the dark, I find an incoming call. It’s Shanj. Deepak has finally gotten a hold of her and brought her to Devgad. Great.

In that groggy state of ‘let-me-sleep’ and ‘show-me-my-new-mobile-pouch-and-glares’ I find dense loaf. Water to the parched. Let’s talk about Dense loaf for a minute. If Theobroma made a more complete meal than it’s own English Breakfast, it’s Dense Loaf. An ammalgamation of chocolate and endless goodness, it’s a must for anyone who’s fed museli and boiled eggs for 2 weeks.

I sleep sound. For 4 hours. Then it’s museli and eggs again. Bags are packed and go-pro’s are cased. I have my sunscreen bath and slip on my green skin. It’s turning into my favourite. Sorry for all the shots of me in green. It’s holding back the chafing and with half sleeves, a wind atleast keeps me half dry.

We are a little late with packing and getting out and by the time we get down to the lobby, it’s close to 6. My kayak that is nestled between the local liquor shop and our hotel is cased in her plastic sheet. As a Devgad drunkard this is probably comforting, because seeing a 19 foot white hodi parked behind the new hotel in town, is not everyones cup of ‘whatever-they-drink-in-devgad’.

We strap on the kayak. This takes time, because there are slopes we have to take. It has to be done right. It’s 6 and sleepiness is a thing. Legs in. Cars on it’s way. While I’ve landed at the pristine Mithmumbri Beach off of Devgad, the boat is back at Taramumbri jetty at Devgad. In what is becoming a regular occurrence, I will start ahead of it. This cat-and-mouse game gives the safety boat something to do. It also helps keep everyone on edge. Wish I was on edge. I yawn.

The Early Start
The Early Start

As we draw parrallel to the creek, the good samiritan who’d alerted the cops and subsequently given me a cup of tea comes down to see me off. He shows his three girls the kayak. I explain the trip. Then he helps me take it down the steep sandy slopes. It’s in the clear water. I could probably drink this water if I got the salt out. I can’t so I paddle away. Wave good bye. Devgad was good.

Windmills from the water
Goodbye Devgad

It’s a beautiful beautiful day. Shanj had remarked it was a lovely sunrise. But it was so much more. The crimson is exquisite and there are clouds stretched right across the canvas of the horizon. As I paddle past the first rock face that corners this beach, I’m stunned. Nestled in a valley facing the water is Kunkeshwar. From 2 kms out, the lovely white structure that can only be a temple looks magnificient, and massive. Paddling to sights like this is a pleasure. Even with the wind hitting you you feel everything stand still. Like I could pass by Kunkeshwar for years and be trapped in this sunrise. The day only gets better.

Birds showing me the way
Bird of a feather, go south together

I’m doing good time and I have little to worry about. I clock that we left a little late, and I’ll have 2.5 hours of paddling before the sun hits me. It’s almost an hour and half of paddling in lovely weather when the safety boat catches up. I’ve done a good distance. The water is that pristine blue you get when the sea and sky meet in reflection of the other. It’s also calm and pushing me down south. Nothing could be more perfect. Except maybe if the sun hides behind a cloud. So it does. I paddle past lovely white beaches with dense woods. I paddle past the big fishing trawlers that have small row boats attached to their stern. I paddle past the sun.

It’s 9:15 and I don’t need to don my hat. The tide is doing the rest. If I had music it would be Seal’s I believe I can fly. I rack up the kms. I’d done 35 yesterday but today’s a longer stretch. I’d planned this in 2 parts. Devgad to Munage beach and Munage to Malwan. Tarkarli, a little south, is cut off by a bunch of rocks and the safety boat can harbour at Malwan. Only thing is, I have bad network. I haven’t been able to change the 2 stretches into one. It’s good news in a way, because I don’t have to do the additional 3-4 kms I’d lose pulling into and leaving Munage beach. The other thing is, we won’t be caught off guard like Godavne. So when I paddle right past Munage, I switch navigation to Malwan. I reckon a good 20 kms more. It is. As I draw parrallel to the course, things are going well. The sun is a little higher now, so I can’t escape it, but the hat gives me good protection. Thanks Ali. It does sap out some of the energy, but it’s partially eclipsed.

Paddling past the fishing Trawlers
Paddling past the fishing Trawlers

By the time I turn 32 kms, I’m a little tired. But mostly because we seem a little lost. If I followed my GPS, I would have been fine, but the safety boat adds that additional panic of ‘Where-is-the-jetty’. That’s when it’s important to look left. If I’ve said Maharashtra is beautiful, I was probably lying because this is quite exquisite! Rocks tempered by the sea with white waves hitting them. The shore is littered with palm trees and just then, a small white rectangular house adorned by a white cross. It’s beautiful. To the right Sindhudurg fort is tall and strong. I’ve to pass right though it.

Fishermen asking where I'm headed
Chalking up an audience

I paddle peacefully into Malwan. Between the rocks and the fishing boats and the ferries to take people snorkelling. There is a jetty, and my parents waving. Everything is perfect.

Landing at Malwan
Landing at Malwan

I land at the beach and as I do my stretches and change into warm clothes, a group of tourists swing by. One of them says – ‘Hey, I’ve heard of this. He’s going to Goa in that thing.’ Yes, it’s a good day.

Day 14 Spotted

Day 14 Spotted

Much refreshed after a day’s break, we woke at the right time. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the garden, we called Santosh. In light of our evening adventures, Santosh and I decided to do longer forrays in the morning. I can’t remember how many times we’ve changed this plan. I think everyone on the team has been brilliant about accomodating these changes. But finally it’s one thing we all agree on.

I’d hit a 32 km stretch getting into Divegar. And I was fairly confident, if we got out earlier we could do bigger stretches before the sun caught up with us.

They also serve who lie and wait
They also serve who lie and wait

So I got down to the garden. My kayak was waiting. She looked refreshed after a day’s break too. So we carried her to the beach. The owner of the resort has a really sweet mother, Mrs. Parkar, who insisted on taking pics with me and the kayak. As she explained it, she loves it when someone pursues studies to a good extent. She told me how her son was an electrical engineer and then chose to study computers and is now in the US. The night before she told me about the time he took her to North India. It was the sweetest thing. She’d promised to be up for my launch. I told her it was going to be an early day, and she said she woke at 4 everyday.

And there she stood. Early in the morning, ready to bid me goodbye. We took the kayak out of the resort, and Leo, the great dane barked his goodbye. For the first time ever, I’d seen mom pet a dog. So odd it should be a dog that will shortly be bigger than her. They’d gotten along fabulously.

Mom and the Dog
Two of my favourite things

We got on the beach. And it was pitch dark. The moon was nowhere in sight, and in the distance I could see the lighthouse that had guided me the day before yesterday when I was stranded, half blind, and half naked in Godavne beach. I planned to use it again. But mom panicked. She insisted I wait till some light shows so that, on the rescue boat she can keep a tab on me. I wasn’t going to refuse her today, so I suggested that they board the safety boat and make for me as the resort was fully lit. Once I see them, we can head towards the lighthouse together.

Dad and the driver went to drop her off. As the car approached the jetty, I stood talking to Ajji(grandmom, Mrs. Parkar). When they got a flashlight on the safety boat, I took off from the beach. Paddling in the dark was fun. The air was nice and cool and I felt no strain.

I was happy to be out early, so we made the most of it. We were passing through the creek that divides Ambolgad from Vijaydurg. And it was a little choppy. As we passed that all important lighthouse I bid it farewell and a thank you. Once we were clear of it, it wished me luck in the form of a carrying tide.

The Beacon that guided
The Beacon that guided me off Godavne

A mild breeze picked up behind me and I had a clear day of paddling. It didn’t grow hot too early, but by 10 the sun was high in the sky. I didn’t contemplate losing the skin though, because the wind kept me company. It was a good day to paddle. On the safety boat, mom was keeping well, and keeping the boat close to me. Girye, our first halt was just around the corner and I passed it uneventfully. The going was easy, but long. Today was one of the long stretches we had saved for the last leg of the expeditions. Now fully rested, I needed to step on it. So we did. A break to get some food and restock my hydration drink and we were off. I estimated I’d do 32 kms today if we skipped Girye, so when I finished 30 and I couldn’t spot Devgad easily on the landscape, I called over to the safety boat. I asked Santosh whether he knew where the jetty was. Not for the first time, the answer was as prompt as it was wrong. Yes. So I switched off the navigation on my watch. Never again. As I passed a lovely lighthouse, I couldn’t help but stare at…Windmills.

The windmills of Devgar
The windmills of Devgad

If there’s one thing that has me up and about, it’s windmills. During an internship in Germany, I was so awed by them, and taken by the concept of renewable energy that I took up a course in it when I returned to IIT. It’s a different story that it entailed me measuring the sun’s intensity and being made to admire the sustainable, naturally lit mud house that is the shining jewel in IIT Delhi’s renewable energy department. I didn’t see a single windmill.

But atop a hill, 1,2,3..6. I counted 6 windmills from where I was. As beautiful as they were stationary. Very. But in their defence, it was not very windy. And it wasn’t fully afternoon yet. As we rounded them, I counted my GPS. It showed 33 kms. Tad odd. I had done the math and I should have done 30-32 max. But in our boatsmen we trust. So when the boat turned left and made for the beach, I grew suspicious. My suspicions turned out to be justified, as Santosh turned to tell me we’ve over shot it. I wasn’t too disturbed or surprised, but I did decide to park it on the beach here. I’d studied this stretch and this beach looked A. Motorable B. Motorable. So I made for it.

That singular mill

The wind had picked up in this part and I was carried to shore faster than I could say 35kmsinlessthan5hours. I had done well I reckoned. So I took off my skin. And did my stretches. Barely had I gotten off the phone with dad, that people showed up.

In a parrallel universe, Shanj had called dad at around the same time. As she asked if I’d landed, Dad told her – ‘Landed? He’s gotten himself lost at another beach again.’

Before dad could show up, two people came over and started asking pointed questions. So I asked them who exactly they were. Caught off guard, the provisional police officers identified themselves. It was smooth going after that. They even posed for photographs.

A local had spotted me and informed them. I have to say their response was very spot on, and were I a RDX smuggling kayaker, he probably wouldn’t have had time after his stretches to get to the getaway vehicle and tie his kayak up. A couple of tourists made the mistake of telling me they were from Mumbai too within earshot of provisonal-police-officer who responded by asking them their names and what they were doing here. The weight of the law. The tourists moved on.

Finally the real policemen showed up. Big smiles on their faces. I figured they didn’t get a lot of traffic here of the sea kind. He came right around the kayak and shook my hand. ‘Abhinandan.’ or Congratulations. I felt right at home. Dad called while the quieter of the two took down copious details including “PaddleHard – Epic 18x”. I could spot the car from where I was and I suggested the policemen come with me and I’d answer all their questions. So they helped me lug the kayak.

The place dad was standing at, apart from being 500 metres away, was 18 kms away by motorable road. How this happens is a story of much pride, and the local policemen pointed at the big bridge that was being built so that the good people at Devgad can cross over and enjoy the fruits of this pristine Mithmumbri beach I’d landed on. Seperating dad and me, was a small creek that was actually just 20 metres across but ran so wide they had to make this phenomenal bridge over it. As they set the kayak down in the clear water, I got on and gave them a show of strength with a quick 20 metre sprint.

As the kayak was loaded onto the car, the local who’d alerted the cops came and happily confessed. He was extremely jubilant and had a hot cup of tea for me. As I strapped the kayak on top of the kayak, I let dad tell the cops about the 10 years he’s worked with the mumbai police. It’s safe sailing after that, and as dad heads over to the police station for a cup of tea he insists they give him for his trouble, I retire to the newly built hotel in Devgad that overlooks a Bus stand. Mom is ecstatic to not have a sea view today.

This is Kaustubh. Paddling hard and hitting Devgad.

Day 16 Clouds

Day 16 Clouds

Day 16 Clouds.

I once wrote a note on rain. It was an opinion piece on rain in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Apart from our differences in weather, a friend’s response to my early morning question today, brings us to the topic of discussion.

In a group on Whatsapp, I voiced – ‘It’s raining. What (TF) is this about?’
To which I got a prompt and succint answer – ‘Clouds.’

I think it’s a fair assessment of the situation.

Today morning I found myself at Tarkarli. In this lovely MTDC property that opens onto the beach, it was 5 o’clock and time to wake up. I round up all the essentials and put all the things coming onto the kayak together. Gopro-s, energy bar, mobile in it’s all new mobile pouch, glares, hat, hydration bag, shoes. Today’s a short run to Vengurla. Just 28 kms. Having averaged 7+ km/hr for the last 15 days I think I can have this wrapped up before anyone in Bombay was in office. I step out and notice that the nice chaps at MTDC had washed my front porch. They’d even throw a bucket or two on my tiled roof. Wait, what? It had rained. Hmm.
Interesting. As I explained to my friend on whatsapp shortly after, this could mean some inclement weather on the water.

Tarkarli MTDC Resort
Maharashtra Paddle Hard

I walk over to my parent’s and they’re absorbed in watching the news. Weather reports. As we leave it to the real experts, our boatsmen, to confer. My mom’s first response is – go get some rest. Now Pavlov was a smart chap. So I down my 4 eggs and start on my museli. Every once in a while the MTDC chaps follow your instructions to the letter. But it wasn’t today. The milk is bad. So I get down to mom’s advice.

For the first time in days, I wake up at 7:30. Wow. What a godly hour. Heaven must smile down on people who wake at this hour. Not us silly chaps who wake up at 4 and 5 in the mornings to embark on missions of solitude. There’s a rainbow outside. So barefoot, I make for the beach. I catch the dying glimpses of a lovely rainbow running between Malvan beach and Sindhudurg.

Breakfasts at Tables!
Breakfasts at Tables!

I head for a second breakfast. Sleep between breakfasts is a luxury. As everyone readies for the day, my driver and I bring the kayak out of parking and plonk it down opposite my cottage. As a crowd assembles to enquire about it, I start my stretches. I’m not departing from Malwan, a few kms from here, for a number of reasons, transport of the kayak back through the one way streets here being one, the other is the big set of rocks that later diverts my safety boat right around Sindhudurg and then back down. I can’t afford the delay. Shanj convinces dad to let me head out before he boat gets here. Good call.

Smiles All Around
Smiles All Around. All so close.

So down by the water, another crowd assembles. The good people at MTDC come down to see me off. I put my paddle together. Pose for a couple of tourist photographs. Answer some questions. Slip on my earphones. I have music today! Gorillaz – Feels Good. Perfect.

Through the breakers, in the clear, I switch the count on my Suunto. Put on navigation. Rp very kindly drew my course last night when I didn’t have the connectivity. As I stare at the map, I smile a little. He’s drawn me hugging the coast since I told him I keep 2-3 kms off the coast. Only south of Tarkarli, I can make a straightline dash down to Vengurla and save myself a few kms. I’ll work off the end-point navigator.

Now, clouds. White, wispy clouds that part just the right amount to stream sunlight down in bundles. Malwan’s very own search light from heaven. The water is calm and brilliantly blue-green. Every cocunut tree that lines the coast slants and drapes the coast in a rich, newly washed green. The beach stands still as I paddle furiously past houses of every color Asian Paints could never think of. Green, Red, Yellow. Bright. The fisherman / women occupants of these picturesquely perfect houses come down to see me in white and black. Thinking back, could they have the envy I had at that moment? I contemplate changing the #gettogoa to #movetomalvan.

Colours of Malwan
Colours of Malwan

A host of tourist boats ferrying people closer to the islands to my right go past us. Everyone waves. Happiest place ever. Overhead a flock of birds fly over. It’s leader knows RP’s route, because they fly right on ahead pointing the way. It’s 10 am and the sun is not to be found. The music is just right and I’m doing a great pace. I clock 7.5 kms in the first hour. Things are grand. As I pass past the last of the paragliders, I round the rock. By the GPS, it’s a dead left. By my corrections I need to adjust 60 Degrees.

Paragliders off of Tarkarli
Paragliders off of Tarkarli

As I do that, a sharp wind whacks me. I figure someone isn’t happy about my change of direction. I prepare myself for a little headwind. That’s a collossal understatement. Looking up, I see clouds stretch for miles. Lovely white clouds, blowing on a lovely collossal wind. I’m caught. I tell myself it’s a bad stretch, the wind will abate. 20 minutes later, I’m checking how far I’ve gotten. It isn’t flattering. I’m out in open water, and the wind, and with them, waves are falling right at me. I’ve come down hard from a wave on the trip, but not this repeatedly. Every minute I climb a big swell and fall off it. Apart from straining the back, it massively kills my speed as the bow of my kayak dips into the water. I’ve switched to a longer paddle to keep the going slower but surer. After two
hours, I’ve clocked just 13 kms. That’s a meagre 5.5 kms in the last hour. Luckily with the corrected course, I’ll shave off 2 kms. I have another 13-14 to go. The safety boat has caught up. On the boat, everything is wet. They’re having a tough time too, with Santosh bailing out more water than he’s covering.

Storm Clouds Approaching
Then Everything Turned Gray

I whip off my hydration pack and open my energy bar. Every 5 second halt brings me 90 degrees around and parrallel with incoming waves. Correcting it with the rudder is almost useless. I have to paddle. As the gopro goes out, I signal the safety boat. As I hang on and get the gopro out and the new one on, I spend a little more than 2 minutes. I stare at my GPS while Shanj brings the new one out of the bag. With every 10 seconds we drift 10 metres. I keep getting further away. I can’t afford stopping. As Shanj offers me a fruit, I refuse it, opting for a quick swig of juice instead. I take the paddle back in my hands. On the go-pro I’ve wasted 1 minute 40 seconds and my kayak is again 90 degrees to where I want to go.

Up Again
Down Again

I paddle away, and straighten course. The wind is not done. It’s just as strong and still bearing down right at me. Relentless. It’s akin to a bumping kart ride with the swells and the falls. Only I can’t get off after 15 minutes. And I can’t stop paddling. I’m well into the middle of the route. I’m wondering whether hugging the coast would have been calmer. But it’s a little late for that. After 3 hours are done, Shanj and the safety boat draw alongside. She’s wondering how far we are. I tell her the truth. We are about 10 kms away. But in the last hour I’ve done 4.5 kms. 4.5. It’s going to be a really long day.

I get back to paddling. I drink my hydration drink fast. I drink water fast. I pee fast when the wind dies for just a bit. Then it’s back to paddling. As the waves are coming in, I’m trying to weave past them as best I can. After 3.5 hours of it, I finally open my leg up for a bit. My toes hurt from changing directions. That’s definitely a first. When it’s finally under 7 kms, I breathe a little. That could be done in an hour normally. It doesn’t feel that far. My Suunto tells me otherwise. I’m averaging 5.7 km/hr after doing a 7.5 in the first hour. If I make it to the nearest rockface, I could probably find less wind. After about 30 minutes of paddling, it starts to pay off. The wind is a little calmer and Vengurla is 4 kms away. I switch to a shorter paddle and crank up the pace.

Kayak covered by waves
Lost in the waves

As we approach Vengurla, the safety boat asks me where the jetty is. I can’t be sure. Again, it’s a long beach. Great. As I battle it out, I pass the lighthouse. It’s a small white red thing, and I get the feeling the worst is over. Shanj confirms the jetty is right around the rock. This is good news. As we weave around the rocks, I see it. It’s a small jetty attached to the beach. As I take waves on my starboard side, I think about that one small stretch today that I will have the wind behind me. As I round the last rock, I finally get the wind. It lasts me 50 metres.

I’m now at Vengurla. Having done 26.5 kms in 4.5 hours.
If the heavens don’t part, we will paddle hard into Goa.