Waking up in Ganpatipule to the sound of the sea coming in through the large wooden doors at the MTDC Ganpatipule. It’s 6 o’clock and I need to be down at the water in an hour. The packet of 4 boiled eggs we’d gotten parceled the night before is awaiting me, and mom comes into the room with a serving of sugar for my milk. Shanj throws in some dates. It’s my museli egg breakfast again.
Rounding everything up, I bathe in some sun screen. The first time Rajiv told me to bring sunscreen to Kayaking, I thought “What a sissy sport is this?” Now I don’t get out without it. The morning air is rich with the sound of my driver’s incompetence, as I hear my dad helping him reverse the car. Mornings aren’t his cup of tea. But then again, I’m wondering whether he’s just a coffee person. We huddle in and make for the beach. I’d stopped just short of Ganpatipule, thanks to the quickly receeding light last evening, which led to the discovery of another pristine beach. Malgund. At waist high I could see my toes. I’m not much for staring at toes mind you, but when a nice wave drags the boat right out of your grasp as you stop to admire the beach, it’s useful to find your quickly drowning glasses. Beach admiration should be a course.
As we pass by the early temple go-ers and the early check-out-ers, that familiar feeling of eye-balls on the car hits me. It’s a small winding road and the going is slow. Finally our driver brings it around and plants us on a beach. Shanj is on the boat today, her last day with us for a bit, and she needs to be ferried to the jetty. After a quick huddle for a photo, I make for the water as my land crew heads on. I drag my kayak to the water and jump in. My fingers are swollen and the skin between my thumb and the palm has hardened from chafing. They bid me a good morning, as I set out. Paddling in the morning, with the sun still over the hill is good. The water is not too choppy and the temperature is apt for some exercise. I paddle out 3 kms. At 4 kms, the safety boat catches up and Shanj lets me know I’m doing good time. She then starts to dance about the boat in a manner to scare most gymnasts. This is worrisome. So I paddle on.
At an hour in, I’m at 7.5 kms and I deem it pretty decent given that I have no wind and an ebb tide. I sip some hydration drink and paddle on. It’s 8:15 and the sun is just over the hill. I have another good hour to paddle until the sun turns me dry like that one time I made Lemon chicken. Luckily I had some nice pesto sauce to go with it, and we had ridden that storm. No amount of pesto would do after 9:30. So I paddled on.
At 2 hours my speed has dropped. Thanks, greatly, to a strong headwind blowing in. It’s slowing me down and like before only my GPS tells me I’m moving in the right direction. When I finally get out of it and come under the shadown of the cliffs, I find my safety boat drawing next to me. That charismatic dancer now asks me to eat something. I think it’s an even trade for her not dangling her legs over, so I take out an energy bar. As I sip my hydration drink, I feel the sun’s glare harden. It’s caught me. I’d escaped this hour by paddling in the evening for the last 3 days, but today it would have its measure.
As my mind was contemplating losing the suit and tanning some, I spot that dark black that is a sea snake. Now I won’t say I haven’t spotted a few on the trip already, but if I see another sea snake in my lifetime, it will be too soon. This one however was either blind or tanning, because by the time I could say ‘Sea sna..’ the bow of my kayak had hit it. I hear that familiar boom in the buoyancy chamber up front when I hit something, only this time it’s a nasty, poisonous, bound-to-be-irritated sea snake. There are a few things in this life I take fright to. But snakes have to top the list. It took me 5 years to watch “Snakes on a Plane”. Obviously, that move helped ease my fear. Back to it, I took a minute to stop paddling. Looking left and right, I made sure the sea snake wasn’t giving chase like the policemen we’ve met on the trip so far. When I couldn’t see it, I paddled hard to make sure I was out of that area. It’s up for debate whether a 7.5 km/hr kayaker would outdistance a rattled up sea snake with a headwind and no tide, but I for one wasn’t stopping to find out.
Cliffs. Now the thing with Cliffs is that while they are perfect for navigation, they have this way about them that makes it hard to gauge how far out you are. Through the haze of the morning mist, you spot one and you tell yourself – “Well, old chap, it seems you are there.” And then you paddle for an hour and a half and as the damn cliff just gets bigger, you spot a goat standing up there quizzically looking at you thinking “Damn he’s slow.” or some such. Goats are a mysterious species. And on the water, next to dancing navigators, they are right up there in the list of species you want to leave to their own devices.
So when I crossed the final cliff that is “Serenity Waves” (I don’t make this stuff up) I was glad of it. I had another 2 kms to get to my mama’s lovely house at the end of Ratnagiri with that sweet pagoda overlooking the lighthouse. That’s obviously when cops give chase. As I contemplate making a run for it leaving the boat and it’s occupants to their fate, I think of that goat. And I turn around. We capricons don’t abandon people. Oddly enough by the time I reach the boat, things have reached a casual phase and the cops are guiding my safety boat to the safety of Bhagwati Bundar(Jetty). My arrival in a white kayak and parrot green skin with a tomato red face was quite a sight and the cops all drew to the bow of their boat to take a photo with me.
As the safety boat did what it does best, stay safe, I paddled straight to the palms and the white sand. I remember from my last stay here that there was a place the fishermen would bring their trawlers up, and that my uncle has palm trees on his property. From 2 kms out I made for the largest bunch of palm trees. When I saw an open expanse with what looked like drying out old boats, I knew I’d found the right place. Paddling in at 500 metres, I saw the pagoda and outside it, as always a beacon of light, a single person that had to be my mom. She waited there the whole time, till I drew up onto the beach and parked my kayak; then she climbed down and came to see me. My uncle’s left hand man came down to greet me, and helped me with my kayak, until the local boys who’d been fascinated by the white, green and red made themselves useful too. My dad’s driver sat up on high and watched.
As the kayak was brought up, I walked through the gates and took my seat in that lovely brown pagoda with a green, cocounut tree laden garden, and looked out onto the calm blue-green waters of Ratnagiri. As we stared out, a school of dolphins welcomed me just 500 metres out. Day 10 is done, and we are that much closer.