The Road to Panshet…

If even a few months ago, someone would have told me that maybe I’d come up to Khadakwasla cycling someday, I would have laughed out loud. But here I am, writing this after an estimated bike ride of about 70 Kms from the backwaters of Panshet.

I called up Sir from the office on Friday afternoon to tell him that we (The team) would like to put in a few extra kilometers this weekend as ‘The Race’ was drawing near. When I said a few extra, I meant about 60 Kms, because Sinhagad was about 40 Kms and we’d come out fine after that. But of course, Sir being Sir suggested “Let’s do Panshet, its just  40 kilometers one-way”. I managed to squeak out a confident ‘Yeah sure’, only because the real route was supposed to be about 75 kms.  So why not, let’s give it a shot.

So Saturday morning at 5:15 AM in the morning I set out of my house, into isolated roads illuminated by the translucent light of the moon.  I cycled up to Sancheti Hospital, got into a rickshaw and reached the main gate of Cummins College at 6 AM. My teammates, Sir and the three more juniors from our college who were also participating in Enduro, arrived by 6:30 AM. We started our journey towards Panshet via Warje- Shivane-Uttam Nagar- Khadakwasla-Kondhwa Gate-Dhonje Phata . From Dhonje Phata, we took a diversion towards Rule Gaon  that led to Panshet.

The road up to Dhonje Phata was common to the Sinhgad route. And our performance up to that point, showed a noticeable improvement. We took fewer stops and felt less exerted. Well, then another lap of cycling started, the next and last twenty kilometers. It was quite OK. The uphill patches through the mountains were trying but manageable. We reached Panshet at 10 AM after a good three and a half hours of cycling . We took a Chai-Wada Pav break at Panshet for exactly half an hour. At 10: 30 AM, we started our journey back to Pune. But this time, we took the route through Varasgaon.

This is the part of the journey that actually needs description. All was hunky dory until this point; yeah the onward 40 Kms stretch was actually great. As we started out on the way back, the road (if it could be called that) was a bed of stones and dirt. As if making our way through those stones and pebbles wasn’t hard enough already, there were slopes too. See, on a normal road you love the slopes, the wind in your face, your legs placed elegantly on the stationary paddle and all that jazz. But on this bone-rattling road, the ride down the slope was ‘aw…awww…aaaawww….AAAWWW’. And these sounds were mouthed out loud by everyone, and trust me it got louder with each slope.

The dirt road didn’t end for quite a long patch, say about 10 Kms and the sun was shining bright on this long long road totally devoid of trees.  At the end of the dirt road, I saw both my team mates taking a break by a pulpit. We chatted around for some time, had some water and got back on our bikes. A few meters after this rest point, was the beginning of the much anticipated pucca road. This road, after eternity (read 20 Kms) would lead to Pune.  My ideas about the journey backward had been smashed to the ground, I had thought (rather hoped) that it’ll all be one simple downhill ride like Sinhgad. But alas, that wasn’t meant to be….

Few more slow patches later, I spotted one of my team mates lying down on the roadside….yes, lying down on the roadside ….Normally, my first reaction would have been concern, but not after these 60 odd kilometers. Suddenly life sprang into my dead limbs and I paddled faster to get there, so that I could throw myself on the very same road side and rest. :). Needless to say, our third teammate followed suit, only difference is that she sat, while we both were spread flat on the ground, like jam on a slice of bread. The passersby were giving us bewildered looks, but it’s too hard to care when you’re that tired. :)

After about a kilometer, we did something that none of us are actually proud about. We put our bikes and ourselves in a Piaggio. After about a kilometer, we saw Sir with the other girls, and we made a vain attempt to duck quickly…..But damn! It didn’t work. We got off that gaadi at NDA back gate.  Just as we were getting our bikes down in a hurry, to avoid facing sir, we spotted him. And he zoomed past us with a totally unimpressed smile on his face. Anyway, we were back on the cycles and our entire group took a break at Shivane. We were rewarded with chocolates for the efforts each of us put in and the three of us thankfully gobbled it up. (Thankful for the chocolate and also him not bringing up the whole gaadi incident). Also, this was the point we split ways as we’d almost reached Warje and we could get back at our respective speeds from here on.

Well, precisely 200 meters after all this, again we did something we’re not very proud about but we did it anyway. We again piled up our cycles into another Piaggio and this time we asked the driver to wait before we started, so that we didn’t have to meet sir on the way again. :)

Music played a good part on the onward journey. But on our way back, I just ripped out those ear phones; nothing helps with the hot sun and tired muscles.

Riding through this stretch my player on shuffle picked up the perfect song : Country Roads take me Home by John Denver

I mean surely I would’ve been happier writing this article minus the two Piaggio’s….. But C’est la vie. .  Good thing being, we could at least pull off a 70 km long cycling expedition.

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