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After a good breakfast and thinking we had a short-ish day, we set off a bit later than normal along the main road looking for the turning towards Agonda. At the junction we were faced with a road blocked by hundreds of dusty trucks, bumper to bumper and queuing to get in and out. They made a line as far as the eye could see, in both directions; disaster, there was no alternative route! We took our planned road, thinking at least we could make a detour in about 4km even if it lengthened our ride. This stretch was horrible, and it was a full 2km before there was a break in the traffic opposite, all of it trucks. Congestion was so bad they were forced to stop, while others tried to jump the queue and crossed onto our side. The red dust was everywhere and we could barely see at times. We felt sorry for the only other cyclist, selling ice creams to the standing traffic.
We were very glad to reach the junction and stop off for a desperately needed cold drink at Dabal village store. We spent some time talking to Ganapati Velgugikar, who informed us that the Verdant mining company were extracting low-grade iron ore in biblical proportions at Sanvordem quarry. An estimated 18,000 trucks carry the ore along existing roads, devastating the landscape and health of local people. He complained of bribery and corruption by Vedant Mining and local government to allow this to happen.
From this junction we were able to leave the trucks and dust behind for a while, and although it took us through leafy winding roads it was hilly and tiring. We passed through the busy traffic-choked suburbs of Ponda before a stretch on the highway to Margao, almost at the beach at last.
On and on we rode, getting closer but always a few kilometers away...we had given up on reaching Palolem so were heading for Colva beach, hoping at least for a stretch of sand and a swim. We were passing lots of tourists, in bikinis and not much more... Eventually we got the sand, and it was a bit of a disappointment to end up in a sandy car park with boys trying to sell us ice-cream. You couldn't see the sand for loungers and umbrellas.
We quickly turned round and headed further along the beach, and thankfully were rewarded with a long wide strip of sand. At last, we're here!
The sea and sand had an instant calming effect on our dirty and tired party and we washing the dust and dirt away in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. Later we watched the sun set and toasted the success of our adventure with a glass of locally brewed Kingfisher before pitching the tent on the beach and being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea.
12th Feb 2012, 15:02