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Harnai to Devgarh – hard work but worth it

 Work to reward ratio.
That’s one of my unscientific measures of good cycling.  I’ll happily climb any hills and ride hard as long as the net reward for all that work makes it worthwhile.
The last two days we’ve been cycling south heading from Mumbai to Goa. It will take six days of cycling total to get to Goa, and it’s been challenging riding. Hills, heat, rough roads balanced by views and interesting encounters.  The climbs are steep – think the old roads through the Appalachians – many easily over 10% grade and many several kilometers long.   So this has not been cycling for the faint-hearted – some riders have even bailed on the cycling to go to Goa early for extra beach time. But so far the ratio has leaned to reward – the route today in particular was spectacular.

Beautiful whites sand beaches framed by mountains at sunrise were the early sites this morning after a nice warm-up climb. We followed the coast south through a succession of climbs up a mountain and descents down to the beach or to the mouths of rivers that fed into the sea. There were fishing villages and the base of the rivers, and many had just come in with their catch and were moving fish off boats or laying fish out on the ground to process. Nets were piled up, and boats and boat repair yards lined the waterfront – many of the boats sheltered by woven mats that fit tightly over the top.  At one place I saw them launching a huge wooden fishing boat –on wood rollers with at least men systematically removing supports and letting the boat move towards the water. 
Lava field plateau
As the day progressed the climbs led to old lava fields that formed a plateau.   Black and red lava rocks were scattered about and used for fences and tree circles, and there were a lot of mango trees planted –most young and just flowering. These plateaus were beautiful- rugged black lava sheets topped with red earth, golden/browned out grass and stretched for miles.  
I stopped for water at a little store and met a man who had retired from Mumbai living there. He had built a house there and office and had an orchard of mango trees – said there was a huge market for them now.  He asked where I was from, and then told me all about his daughter who lives in Dallas now and works for Dell.  Then he calls her – its 11:00 at night there – and puts me on the phone to talk with her for some reason.  So I chat with her and say goodbye and ride on. 
I was riding along yesterday and started passing well dressed women with beautiful green saris and delicate flowers hanging in ringlets from their upswept hair.  Turns out they were the fallout from a long procession of pilgrims, marching (we think) to dedicate a new temple.  Then men were in white with bright orange ornate turbans with long tails or simple white caps. The women were dressed in orange or green saris. Many carried pots with flowers and other offerings.  They were singing. The pilgrims were led by a sound truck and speaker. Everyone was barefoot. They were quite a site …. And no doubt thought we were, too, but everyone was friendly with sounds and waves.
Our lunch stop was on the way so after riding by we had a chance to watch the procession come by us.  They cranked up the sound truck started chanting and singing and came by with a lot of energy, dignity and flair. Can’t say it was for our benefit since we were also on the outskirts of a village, but it did feel like they turned it on for us.
Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA