Growing up, the cycle was our best exploring buddy. India’s first E-cycles now bring that childhood joy to the eco-conscious traveller, beginning with Goa. By Ruth Dsouza Prabhu
Goa to me has always been about lazy days on beaches, sipping King’s beer and having endless plates of Goan pork sausage masala. Little else makes it to the itinerary besides eating and perhaps some street shopping to flex those bargaining skills. But this time round, Goa beckoned for a whole new reason – a chance to experience this holiday hotspot in a novel way – on an electric cycle (e-cycle). This is India’s first foray in Electric Vehicle (EV) Tourism promoted by Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) through B:Live in partnership with Arcis Tours Pvt Ltd.
Why an e-cycle when you can easily hire a motorbike or a car for a well bargained rate and traverse the roads of Goa? Well for one, it can’t get more eco-friendly than an e-cycle that can go a distance of up to 50 km on a single charge. And secondly, the curated tours take you through an immersive experience in Goa, slowly, with a chance to stop when you want and take in the sights, interact with the locals, shop and eat at places that have been around for generations.
Here is what I mean – all of us have pictures at the steps of the famous white Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim. I know I have plenty. But standing on the steps this time, facing the crossroads ahead, our guide took us back to the 1500s when this church was just a chapel. It was then built into what we know today as part of the then religious expansion to make it noticeable and symbolic. Moving into the 1800s, what was essentially a hill, with a few isolated buildings began to be developed and a road was built in the early 1900s. The mud and stone excavated from here were used to reclaim the salt water moat and the marshy areas around the nearby Adil Shah museum. Incidentally, in the 1940s, this area was famous for cycles on rent, one that you could have for 4 annas (today’s Rs 0.25) for an hour!
On another tour to Divar Island, we parked our cycles outside a Portuguese bungalow for a home cooked breakfast. The conversation at the table with our host drifted to the tradition of buying fresh poee and other breads from the podar (bread maker) who would visit homes in a locality, on what else, but a cycle!
Riding to the over 400-year-old St Mathias Church, Malar-Divar was like going back in time to when we were kids. The church, though functional, stands as a weathered structure. Next to the church is a manmade cave. Legend has it that it was made for a hermit. We parked the cycles in a corner, and half-walking and half-sliding down the rubble path, off we went to explore.
From taking in the panoramic views atop Maruti Mandir, to looking in awe at what were once pure gold altars and pulpits in the Lady of Piety Church, to gorging on Bolinhas and Bebinca at the old Confeitaria Bakery the only one in Panjim to use a wood fire oven, I did and saw things on the e-cycle that put Goa in a different lens.
The B:Live e-bikes come in three variants based on the kind of rider you are – choose from the Easy Bike, The Adventure Bike, or the City Bike. You are given some time to adjust to the idea of riding a cycle that has an accelerator and a pedal, which is easy enough. The cycles have digital screens for multi-information display and electronic disc brakes for safety. As a rider, you are constantly monitored from the command centre via GPS. Hubs across key points for medical aid and technical assistance during emergencies are easily accessible.
The e-cycles are currently available along with 4 curated tours, where a tour captain will have you experience Goa through Culture Trails, The Making of Panjim, Rediscovering Old Goa, or an Escape to Divar Island. The tours are priced between Rs 1,799 to Rs 2,799 based on what you choose. Bookings can be done online at B:Live.