This blog is about my experience of cycling with pedal power group Vasai which is about 50 Kms towards the north end of Mumbai city.
On a Saturday evening I searched for a place on the internet called ‘Pedal Power Cafe’. My friend had told me about pedal power group a day earlier. I wasn’t aware that the number I am dialing is of the owner Ajay Malik. I inquired to book a cycle on rent from his store. He was friendly during the call and kind enough to offer me to join his group for a ride next morning and I did.
I am not a regular traveller to the north end of the city and sought help from ‘m-indicator’ for the earliest train departing from Bandra to Vasai next morning. ‘Travelling alone’ ‘riding with strangers’ – I was a bit nervous and packed-up my sling bag with some energy bars, bananas, riding kit and went early to bed.
Sunday, at 5.05 am, I boarded a fast local from Bandra railway station which was scheduled to arrive Vasai station at 5.55 am. The rain clouds seemed to be happy and refusing to stop as I looked outside feeling the crack of dawn. Half asleep, half awake and little anxious, I reached my destination and realized that I have left the sipper bottle in the compartment. The rains continued as I figured out my way to reach the meeting point ‘Pedal Power Cafe’.
It was 6.10 am and I sat on a wooden bench outside cafe facade to take shelter and could only see empty streets, heavy showers and a small temple on the opposite end. As the rains started to show it’s might, a young monk arrived at the temple, unlocked the holy place and commenced with his religious rituals. A little cat too made an entry and moved around confidently but the monk had no objection and he continued with his thanks giving! It was a lovely sight and I noticed that my nervousness was gone and felt more refreshed.
Around 6.30 am, a young boy arrived on a shining bright red B-twin, parked it gently as we exchanged smiles. He was completely drenched but full of spirit and assured me that today’s ride is gonna be a memorable one. My emotions were high as we progressed with our conversation. Soon, two more guys joined us and we were now a group of four. At about 7.15 am the owner of the cafe Ajay made an entry with his business partner and wife ‘Kshama’; and cousin all dressed up in cycling suits. As we introduced ourselves to each other the cafe was being opened for us to take our rented two wheels. It was time for me to change into my cycling suit and as I came out from the shower room we were finally a bunch of eight riders, all ready for the adventure to begin.
From pedal power cafe, we started riding slowly forming a herd under heavy showers. Ajay was the lead rider and we were heading towards Tungareshwar, a hilly place known for its scenic beauty, mountains, waterfalls and more popular for a temple of Lord Shiva.
In about 25 minutes, we reached the destination and were welcomed by the green sanctuary with it’s gravel pathway and narrow passages. One wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre swiftly without an MTB and the bikes did sustain the off-roads considerably. We also saw groups of motorbike riders, trekkers and weekend travellers relishing the beautiful weather. After crossing two small streams we took a halt and a lot of pictures. The place was quite serene and soulful. Silently, I assured myself that it was a good idea of visiting this place. Strangers were no strangers, energies renewed, established bonds and in nature’s company… terrific experience.
‘Pedalling can take you to places’ and I further believed in this quote which I wrote about a month ago after riding in Costa Brava, Spain. With happy moments and memories we decided to return and rode back again forming a herd to be safe in the moving traffic. While moods, feelings and expressions changed, one thing was constant during our entire ride ‘Rains’.
Once we we’re back, the herd started splitting with firm hand shakes and greetings filled with a promise to have another ride together. I decided to have breakfast in the cafe and explore its uniquely designed furniture, wall paintings, decorative’s… all inspired from bicycles and packed with a delicious menu.
Sitting in the middle of a sublime ambiance, I felt – “there is nothing on earth that I wish to bring back in my life other than my childhood”.
I would like to end this blog with a quote by Laurie Lee –
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai