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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.