Cycling Goa, India with Hostelling International

[Published in the August 2009 issue of Goa Today Magazine]

Backroads “Slow Goa” tour targets cyclists and activists

YHAI cycle expedition takes an early start out of Assolna, Goa

YHAI cycle expedition takes an early start out of Assolna, Goa (click to view photo gallery)

Visitors have toured Goa by car, motorbike, bus, boat and train; but now – thanks to the Goa Branch of Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) and Sports Authority of Goa – adventurers and activists can learn about the state’s natural beauty and social issues from the seat of a bicycle.

Says Panjim-based Program Director Manoj Joshi, who added a series of seven-day, 360-kilometre bike expeditions to YHAI’s popular trekking programmes last year, “We wanted to create a tour with the activist in mind. Cycling is a sport for people who have an awareness of environmental and development issues. This expedition shows beaches, nature, and water falls but it also shows how Goa is being deforested; how the greed of the few is displacing families, and the rape of the nature.”

To that end, Joshi and his team volunteered months of their time researching equipment, attractions and routes. In 2008, they provided five groups of twenty cyclists with knapsacks and 24-speed mountain bikes for a circular route that reached as far east as the Karnataka border. Starting from Panjim (Goa’s capital city), youngsters and grandfathers alike pedaled south along the Arabian Sea on Colva-area beaches, east through Balli’s terraced paddy fields and Cavrem’s mining villages; up into the ecologically significant Western Ghat mountains; and then west along the freighter-trafficked Mandovi River past Old Goa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and back into Panjim.

Along the way, cyclists stayed in rooms in Assolna’s sports complex, lodges in Netravali’s Tanshikar Spice Farm, tents near Dudsaghar Falls in Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, and dorms in Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. Extra side trips included Budbudyanchi Talli (Bubbling Lake) at Gopinath Temple; a forest trek and swim at Savari Falls; a zoo tour of cobras, guars and leopards in Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary; and a visit to the Bom Jesus Cathedral in Old Goa.

The YHAI Goa Biking Expedition runs December/January of each year and is open to anyone who is a member of Hostelling International or Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI). Joshi estimates the 2009/2010 fees will be Rs 3000 ($61 USD) for Indians and Rs 5000 ($102 USD) for foreign visitors. Bicycles, rucksacks, safety equipment, accommodation, and meals are all included in the price of the trip. For more information contact Manoj Joshi, Sports Authority of Goa,
or visit YHAI’s web site at www.yhaindia.org.