Cycling in Goa, Day 2: South and east to Tanshikar Spice Plantation in Netravali village
Up until this point, the road had been stunning. An early start out of Assolna had rewarded us with morning mist over village streets, rice fields and meadow creeks. A few of us stopped frequently to photograph cycling school kids, swooping eagles and a coconut toddy tapper stopping his cycle to climb a coconut tree and collect its liquid.
We’d stopped and hammed it up for increasingly goofy group photos, then gasped at short, steep uphill climbs to deserted plateaus. While the ride continued on quiet roads on mostly rolling roads, the hills around us become steeper.
The route took us on a roadway that – while relatively untrafficked – became increasingly wide to accommodate the space taken up by two mining trucks passing each other at full speed. Each time an orange oversized truck passed the cyclists, it stirred up clouds of dust made orange by the traces of valuable iron ore inside it.
Writes journalist Frederick Noronha in his book Picture-Postcard Poverty,
“Mining in the tiny State of Goa contributes in a major way to India’s iron-ore exports, with nearly one-third or more of iron export from the entire country coming from this small State itself. But the open-cast activities, which started during Portuguese colonial rule in the early 20th century, have been criticised by environmentalists and villagers for adversely affecting the local ecology, ground-water resources, and causing a range of other problems including flash floods.”
He goes on to say that there are more than 27 major mines in the Mandovi River basin, and that villagers have a love-hate relationship with mining. It provides jobs, but it takes away arable land. Mining also requires a great deal of fresh water – water that is taken away from villagers’ wells and crops.
By cycling that route, we were able to witness first hand how the trucks and the industry was affecting the villagers’ environment. Once out of the mining area, we were also witness the drastic change back – from wide, rough roads back into peaceful lanes with teak farms and rice paddies.
A few of us stopped on a remote section to admire a paddy field and the workers bent over in the wet squares. We hadn’t stopped for lunch and were starting to crave a snack when an ice cream vendor appeared on the road on his rusty one-speed bicycle. We’d been congratulating ourselves on the backroad twists and turns we’d been manoeuvering on our 24-speed mountain bikes, and then he rolled up with a big grin on his face, knowing he had a captive market.
“You’re late,” said one of the four Pune riders who’d become the speedsters of the pack. We’d dawdled to our night’s accomodation at the Tanshikar Spice Plantation in the village of Netravali and arrived a good three hours after them.
“No we’re not,” I countered, “We’re just later.”
> Day 3