Browsed by
Category: Bombay to Goa

Day 1. Home Stretch

Day 1. Home Stretch

Time to read: 6 min

Within moments there was silence. The sweet sound of your blade leaving the water was all I could hear.I passed past the throngs of boats lined outside the Gateway. Out of nowhere I heard a voice saying – “Best of luck”. I turned to see the familiar violet colour of the Yacht club Tandel’s. I smiled at the familiar face and then I was gone.

Assembling the paddles
Putting things together

Just as quickly as it began, I was out of line of the boats. There was emptiness. Commercial vessels scattered far and wide. I altered my course. I knew I wanted to pass through the massive oil rigs. The early morning tide was pushing me out the harbour and I let it. The wind was absent at the beginning but 3 kms in, it kicked up and came straight at me. I was going quickly and I was happy when the safety boat caught me just short of the first commercial vessel out on the water.

Safety Boat catches up
Safety Boat catches up

GC, Shanj, Melanie, my mom and the two boatsmen, Santosh and Vishal seemed to be having a good time. In typically GC fashion, I saw him lying prostrate on the bow of the boat. Go-Pro in hand catching a shoulder high shot of me zipping past. I’ll have to say that it got a little choppy when we arrived at the rigs, but the tide was still pushing me, and I carried on. I completed the first 7 kms in good time. On my last crossing, I’d covered 14.5 kms from the club house at Mandwa to Gateway and I approximated this as mid point. I was glad for my hydration pack and it made short work of stay hydrated. But the mist was insane. At 9 kms in I should have sighted Uran or atleast the high flame, but no. I checked my course. And we seemed to be on track. As affirmation the traffic to Mandwa would pass right past us. A little further came the first big change. The two people on board were woken up as it was time to part ways. GC and Melanie were to leave from Mandwa, and the boat was to take them there. This was to start a series of fun events that had nothing to do with the kayaking. As I bid them farewell, I clocked a good 4 kms before the mist cleared enough for me to realise where I was. I was well past Mandwa and almost into Sasawane. I’d saved 2 kms with the tide and my bearing. I was glad for it.

So began the home run. Having spent 2 weeks down at the BSA guest house in Mandwa, I could do the route down to Kihim with my eyes closed. Having not shut them nearly enough the night before (3.5 hours of sleep) I went with inertia and kept them open though. Despite the comforts of the familiar I had no help with the tide or the wind. When I knew I’d cleared the rocky area at the tip of Mandwa, I paused to look for my safety boat. Not finding them, I decided to move on. Around 9:30 the wind just dropped and with the sun high in the air already, it made for a gruelling hour and a half of paddling. Moving past Sasawane I got a stretch of carrying waves and surfed them for a bit. But it was not nearly fast enough and it felt like a punishment. I fought the dehydration by emptying the other 2 litre bottle into the hydration pack, but that was all my water supply. Somewhere along the stretch I must admit I had to pause for a quick pee break. I glided past Awas the way a sleep deprived, partly de-hydrated and terribly warm kayaker would glide and braced myself for the rocks that litter the south part of the beach. By my calculations I was 4 kms short of my destination. I was glad for it. When I spotted Kandheri and Underi through the mist, I quickened my pace. On the beach I could see people engage in a bunch of beach activities and I paddled clear of them. It’s good to get a moment to cool yourself down when you land, and lets not forget the surf toppling me out the kayak doesn’t make for the great first impression.

I touched Kihim and made for the shade. Something about keeping a boat steady, holding a paddle, shading the gopro and doing your business compels you to wait for shore.

Spotted at Kihim
A good start to day 1.

When I returned I found two workers at a nearby farm house inspecting my beauty. I was quick to take pics with them and then answered their many questions about the expedition.

Two workers inspect the kayak
With the curious couple

 

I was curious to know where my land and sea support were, since I was apparently first on site. I thought they wanted me to tell them the coast was clear. (In a manner of speaking, as Kihim is not the sparsest beach on saturdays) It was just then that Shanj and mom showed up with one of Avnish’s men with a bunch of bags. Dad was nowhere in sight and neither was the boat. As I changed, and plonked myself on dry ground, mom spoke to dad and he had the funniest story. Shortly after offloading everyone at Mandwa, my safety crew ran out in search of me. Somehow I eluded them; the way that a 19 foot white kayak with an orange lifejacket strapped at the back can in clear day. They were prompt in calling my father, who at this time was enjoying his Poha at my uncle’s discussing gymming and where to buy houses. It’s not a fair stretch of imagination to think my dad didn’t digest his breakfast as he tried vainly to contact me on my vodafone number. As is custom, my phone was on silent and lodged in mom’s purse. A good 16 phone calls later, my dad drove with much haste down to Kihim. This, in the company of our august Raikkonen of a driver made for a fun account. So it was sweet relief hearing that I was dry, taking in the para-gliders.

We made a beeline for Arany at Phansad where we are put up for two days. A hot shower and being out in the open here made for a good change from the beach, and the hospitality meant I would probably get good sleep tonight.

Till tomorrow. Paddle Hard.

 

Flagging off

Flagging off

Time to read: 6 min

(more pics to follow)

I woke on the first ring of the alarm. It was 4 a.m. and I was vastly disoriented. I put it off. I had no time to ponder on how much I could snooze. 3.5 hours. That’s how much I’d slept. A host of last minute changes and running around meant I finally had everything packed and tucked into bed by 12:30. Ideal for the first day of paddling. A flurry of activity followed and by the time the driver showed at our door, we were running late. Bundling food, clothing, equipment, paddles and ourselves in, we rushed to Gateway. When I say rushed, I meant meandered like a river in the flat plains, as our driver is one hell of a cool cat.

By the time I was at the Yacht Club, I had received a bunch of calls. A wake up call to Rajan and our kayak was out the back door. Homi had come down to see me off, and as we strolled up to the Gateway, I observed my high school seniors Akash and Suven were helping dad put up my banner on the perpetually pestilent police barricades that marr Gateway’s morning beauty. Mom was content watching it unfold. Good mom. Nikhil and his wife were a welcome sight and as we started to set up things, a good crowd
started forming. Our local policeman was not to be left behind as he came asking for permissions at the first sight of a congregation of more than 5 people. This must be a habit evolved from the Raj, of which he was clearly a strong believer. Content with our papers, he left us to it.

I have to say that it was a real pleasure having Zubin Dubash, one of the strongest supporters of my expedition, at the flag off early in the morning. Just as with all these months, he was full of that miraculous energy he just exudes. Thanks Zubin.

Zubin & Fali
Where the nickname/brand KK came from.
IMG_6864
Ze Old Gang
IMG_6867
Mom & Dad. Being their supreme best.
IMG_6843
The delightful Avnish Dhall bringing morning cheer to the flag off

 

 

One of the biggest surprises was Avnish Dhall walking right through the crowd to announce he was there. It’s been a relationship that has been a cornerstone of this journey and despite his crazy travel schedule, his advice and help has been pouring in constantly for the last 2 months, so it was great of him to shuttle straight from the airport down to the flag off. Melanie and Patrick were quick to tell me it was a bloody brilliant expedition and I had to agree.

IMG_6850
Paddle Hard & Monjin 🙂
IMG_6840
Goa is That way.

And just like that, the flood gates on well wishers blew right open. The old gang was there with Meds, Pooja, Arun and Swati driving down for their cups of chai and Ali (minus Zoya) walked up to tell me he would rather sleep off my next launch than kayak out with me.(I’m going to have you on the water next time man) Anurag Aggarwal, a spitting image of his brother and dear friend Ankit came all the way from goregaon to see me cast off, and it was a very sweet gesture indeed. Fali, the christener of my

nickname KK, and a rock behind me in tough times, came down and it was great meeting him after these months. Hermann, one of my oldest sailing friends was kind enough to get my mom a PFD, and as always brought a smile to everyone there. Ninad and Mithu, both seasoned sailors and great people to hang with, came by to wish me all the best and it was really good to
get their backing on this expedition.

I had been hoping that the promise Joieta and Jaideep, both stalwart of the cause, had made would come true and then, right in the middle of it all, making the chai conversations a full blown party were the children of MagicBus. Adorned in their lovely blue t-shirts they made for the biggest and loudest and funnest contingent to see me off. It was fun being introduced to the gang again, a ceremony everyone should do in their lives. And I wasted no time in showing them the shiny new kayak and explain to them what I was about to undergo. Just like at Shivaji Park, I could see it spark their imaginations. The white kayak eventually took center stage, and we spent a good deal of time posing and cheering in front of the kayak and the banner. One of the nicest gestures of the day, was that they brought a big cake out for MagicBus’ 16th birthday. Yes, it’s been fighting the good fight for 16 years now. And along with the youngest of the fray, I cut the cake. Thanks so much for being a part of this. It’s been a real honour and a pleasure working and doing this event in support of you.

IMG_6828
Happy birthday MagicBus
IMG_6817
Bright early smiles on the Bright kids at MagicBus

 

Shanj and GC were both the most active people at the event making sure every moment of the event was captured and without them, Tarun, Cam & Shreepad, I’m not sure this would have been a success.

Finally, my mom and dad, who’ve from the moment ‘Goa’ have said ‘Let’s do it’ were on set and we took some shots with the banner and the kayak.

A round of photographs ensued. A moment to spend some time with all the people who’d attended the event and it was time for warm up. There’s a different charm to doing your stretches between the Gateway and the Taj as the morning crowd swept past. The kids who’d taken some time to take in the Gateway were back in time for the Pooja of the kayak and the journey. Family comes first and when my aunt or chotti-atya as we lovingly call her, my cousin Prasad and his father showed up, we took a moment to ourselves.

Finally it was time to hit the water. The jetty was open, and as I lifted the Kayak, I could feel the collective eyes on me. I walked it down to the water. Stretched my legs a little. Assembled my paddle. And got in the seat. As I swept my feet in, I looked back to a crowded slipway, and the walls surrounded by well wishers. I must be doing something right.

So I paddled hard.