Photography. Good food. Cycling. These are a few of my favourite things in no particular order. Manna for my soul. And the previous Sunday I had the opportunity to feed my soul all three.
I live close to Dabolim airport, a good 23 kilometres away from Madgao in South Goa which was the starting point of my ride with the Xaxti riders, a cycling group in South Goa. Xaxti derives its name from Salcette (Xaxti in local parlance), a taluka in South Goa and home to the Xaxti Riders.
I drove down to Madgao with my bicycle mounted to my car – since most of the group live in Madgao, it made sense not to tire myself out before we even began.
Our starting point was the Bolshe circle in Madgao. We soon left the city and were surrounded by lush paddy fields on one side and well-forested hills dense with foliage on the other. A set up as serene as a picture postcard. South Goa has managed to retain pretty much all of its green cover because it hasn’t been discovered yet by the tourist trade. Narrow, well-tarred roads with minimal traffic that are ideal cycling terrain meant, I was on the right track and in excellent company.
Meandering through Rawalfond, Panzarcone, Ambaulim and other small villages; the roads pockmarked with steaming cow patties. Negotiating them was quite like navigating an obstacle course. We arrived at a lovely farmhouse belonging to our fellow rider John. Nestled amidst plantation land and adjoining the Caurem forest, John’s farm produces chikoos amongst other farm produce. When we stopped, I realised we’d already covered 25 kilometres. How time had flown. John, swell guy that he is, had laid out a sumptuous breakfast for all the cyclists. Assorted Goan bread, mix bhaaji, apples, bananas and chikoos. Fried eggs even. What else could a cyclist ask for?
Stomach stuffing accomplished, John took us for a quick look around the farm. I noticed a large ‘swimming pool’ which was a natural spring had been carved out to look like a pool. I would have jumped in but then cycling…
Refreshed, we resumed our ride. We zipped past Succorna, Rivona and Zambaulim. The other riders are all accomplished cyclists and for me, a relative novice this was turning out to be a relatively long ride. I had to stop occasionally to catch my breath, and I used these little micro-breaks to take a few pictures. As we reached the Quepem market, I lost my way. Probably because I was way behind everyone else. But my fellow riders noticed almost immediately I wasn’t among them and a couple of them waited for me to catch up. Thankfully we were headed back, and our starting point was just 15 kilometres away. I arrived red-faced and gasping for air. I had cycled 72 kilometres in just over 4 hours.
Check my route here
I have never been happier to see my car. Ever. Most of my fellow riders had already left for home for a relaxed Sunday spent with their families. Glutton Nitin was starving by this point. The feast at the farmhouse had been vaporised by 72 kilometres of tar and rubber. I jumped into my car and raced home to steaming hot biryani. And my family of course.
I spent my Sunday in the company of some fantastic people, terrific bikers all. My only regret is that you’re looking at photos taken on an iPhone 5s, which has a terrible camera. (I need an upgrade, I know, but they don’t make them in that perfect 5s size anymore).
Most of the route we cycled will be a part of the Xaxti 100; a 100-kilometre ride passes through villages in South Goa. I will be riding in the 2017 edition on November 19. I barely managed to finish last December, but this time, I plan to do myself proud. If you are a cycling enthusiast, you must participate too. You can register here.