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Day 2: New shores

Day 2: New shores

Today I snoozed it. For 5 minutes. I woke in 3.

The good people at Arany woke up at 3:30 to have breakfast ready. I felt a tad guilty shovelling the double egg omlette and 3 toasts down. A bunch of fruits and a tea later, I was feeling much relieved. The drive down to Kihim was longer than I imagined, and our driver, a regular columbus meant I was awoken multiple times to find the right path.

I hurried down to the water as the land party found parking. At the beach, I found the beached boat with my Kayak safely towed on board. As I warmed up our two boatsmen undid the kayak and set her down. There were a inordinate number of joggers at the beach, and only after the 20th person slowed down did I realise I’d upset some Kihim Beach run. (There seem to be more runs than cricket matches these days, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing)

In the midst of changing my playlist, I lost my precious blue bailer. It was a sign that I needed to keep the kayak dry?

Changing my music at Kihim
Changing music can be a gruelling thing

I didn’t wait for the grounded boat to get clear. (The beach party had a fair bit of fun getting the boat out, I later learnt and my mom’s maternal instincts, or her inkling for fun, made her tug at the boat too)

Pulling the boat out to the water
Mom gives it a go!

It was 7:25 and from yesterday’s sun, I would need some sun block today. I dove a km straight in before tacking and made for the gap to port of the islands. I immediately felt the jolt as the rising tide drove me further and faster. Assisted by it, and not bracing, I clocked a good 8.8 kms in the first hour and 8 minutes. A simple wave and a friendly hello made a bemused fisherman point me through the rocks and out towards Alibaug. The mist was the same, but a silhouette of the distant hillocks made for easy redirection.

Just short of Alibaug, is the Kolaba fort. Apart from being a lovely fortified island, and playing harbour to some colourful fishing boats, Kolaba fort is occupied by all of 5 fishing families. Talking about knowing your neighbours, my safety boat caught up with me here, and it gave us our first shots of the day.

Kolaba fort it is
Coasting past Kolaba Fort

I was doing just fine, and the tide really funneled through this stretch. I was keen on making it work for me, so I sipped some more water and carried on. Alibaug was our first big marker, though the mist made little of the beauty that everyone flocks here for. I stuck to my fishing boats and weaved through. Past Alibaug, Revdanda was the next big point of call and we’d decided to stop here today. After about 17 kms of paddling and roughly 2.5 hours on the water, I felt pretty good though.

Feeling good paddling
Feeling good paddling

So we skipped Revdanda. Shanj and Santosh rerouted me to skip past the inlet at Revdanda and it helped shave off quite a few kms along my current path. The current was strong here, and I used it right to the point of breaking off and headed onward. At around 25 kms I started to feel it. And we had our second refill of the hydration pack. I had just just 2 500ml bottles, so we stopped to draw from the 20 litre barrels. This gave mom and Shanj, who are taking surprising well to being on water, the time to feed me a bunch of things including an energy bar, dates, and anjeer. I’m pretty sure there was a point of time that I was fed some Gulkand Barfi (But I couldn’t complain)

Now, the thing with this GoPro-ing is. It’s great for quick trips, but when you’re out on the water for 5 hours straight and you leave it on video, you tend to run out of juice in 2 hours. Swapping one go-pro for another gave an adventurous Shanj a bit of the sickness of the sea, and gave mom one more person to worry about. The shade of the boat was a great respite as the sun was really turning it up here. And it was only 10:30.

Having had my fair share of injesting and outletting water, I had just about had it with the sun, when the mist cleared. And I could see the coast of Maharashtra in all her beauty. Endless rows of trees in varying shades of green adorned the landscape and hillocks that dotted the coast. The water turned a deep shade of green and the wind picked up. Deliverance.

I was 4 kms off the shore paddling into the beautiful water when I saw the beach that had made me skip Revdanda. I was at Kashid. As I crossed the last turn I remembered that it was a sunday, and banana boater after banana boater welcomed me to what appearde to be the holiday destination for 2015. I distanced myself from the crowd and found a nice patch to land on.

Feet on the ground. 32 Kms.

A good run. A good start.

Going solo
Going solo
Day 1. Home Stretch

Day 1. Home Stretch

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.

 

Kihim or a beach just like it

Kihim or a beach just like it

Me, Kayak and the untouched beach of Awas
Selfies that must be taken

I woke up rather rested today. I have to admit, I stayed off the water entirely yesterday. (My lower back hasn’t fancied carrying the kayak everytime there is a low tide, and I felt it needed to lay low yesterday) The day rest had done me good and as I eased out the muscles at warm-up, I felt like there was a fair bit of paddling ahead of me. I was on the water the earliest I’ve been in my last week, and at 9 o’clock I was rounding the bend at Mandwa.

Map of Mandwa
The where’s where of my training camp

Taking the advice of seasoned kayakers, I stopped mid-way to chat up some fishermen. This is something like asking for directions in Bandra, minus the condescension at not knowing pali-hill. I’ve learned fishermen are most helpful, and these chaps were quick to point out where I’d meet some rocks and what time I should look to head back unless I meet headwinds that would render me useless. Since trudging seems to be the order of the week, I trudged on. Saw the breakers and steered clear off them. They seemed harmless enough and after rounding the rock face, I started my quick trip down.

The wind was a little high here, and the uncertainty of the swell around the face meant I had to stay sharp. Generally, I don’t mind head wind. I can feel the wind change better and I tend to see the incoming waves. It’s where two waves meet that one has to brace. A km of paddling cautiously meant I was out of this area and headed down further. I could feel a small tail wind and the waves wanted to drag me onto some rocks they had a fancy for. I decided otherwise and paddled deeper out into sea. At 5.5 kms I came across the fishing ships of, what mama at the BSA club house would later point out, Sasawane Beach. As Google confirms this, I must remember to slap mama on the back and tell him what a good old chap he is. (This might eventually lead to my ousting from the club house, as mama is a good chap just as often as I take a strong dose of sugar in my tea.)

I tried my best to amble through the fishing boats, but the following waves meant I steered clear and kept all of these boats well to port. At this stage, I might remind you that my fishing friends from mandwa had given me a strict mandate for when to return. And at 8 kms out, I felt I had another 15 minutes before I started back. I found a nice stretch of beach that didn’t look very threatening, and I made for it through the waves. Waves don’t always think highly of your plans so when I had my two legs out for a nice swift dismount, they decided to throw me out and fill my boat. Nothing quite like getting a little wet in the morning, and I laughed as I pulled me kayak out the water.

I let the water out the kayak and stretched my legs. I took a few minutes to appreciate the untouched beach I’d found myself on. The lone person walking the beach, I found, was some random pole 500 metres off. The trees lined up 20 metres from where I’d landed and things looks surprisingly white and green. I paused long enough to readjust my food and water, and take a few selfies. Then it was back in the kayak. There were a few strong waves and I waited for the large one, and then ducked into the water. Marathoners at the finish would have been proud, and I found myself on the other side of the waves in no time.

Then it was back to paddling and I braved the first 2-3 kms in full headwind. Nearing Sasawane, I heard the unmistakable hum of an overhead chopper. Having had enough of their antics, I was in no mood to stop for the Navy. At first, I felt the Navy thought the same of me, and they ran right over head. A little over the fishing boats, still a km in the distance, they turned and ran past me. Circled around and then went overhead into the sea. It’s that mixed feeling of relief and anguish at being deemed ‘small fry’. Paddling back was good fun, and I enjoyed the wind in my face. By the time I rounded the turn for Mandwa, I’d better the tide and wind, and wasn’t overtly concerned about he breakers near the coast. The last 2 kms, the wind died entirely, and the high tide carried me slowly and surely home.

Abandoned fishing boat
Everyone looks for a reason to avoid mondays

18 km in a little over 2.5 hours. It was a good start to the day.

In the afternoon, I admit I snoozed the alarm a little longer than intended and was out on the water at 5 p.m. It allowed me to catch a nice tailwind and coast down to the picturesque fishing village called Bodani.

Bodani on a map
Good to know where these fishes are

I passed bodani and decided to stop to chat up my fellow maharashtrians. I found they were busy mending their boats. And it made for a sight indeed. On one of my roadtrips, from Manipal to Panjim back in 2010, I’d chanced upon a fishing boat factory where they were making these fine boats, and the warmth of the people there always brings a smile to my face. I encountered these people toiling away at their boat were no different. They were quick to pose for a photo and full of question about where I came from.

Here are some pics from that lovely little village.

Hard working people mending the ship
The ship and it’s lovers
Beached fishing boats on a low tide.
Beached!