Goa may have just lost an opportunity of making an impression to project itself as a great jungle cycling destination.
On Thursday, March 2, 2023, eight cyclists from Lithuania, Europe, who are exploring jungle routes on their bicycles across the county, were turned away from the Collem forest check post despite there being a dedicated cycling trail for them to ride and explore the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and the Molem National Park.
The cycling trail was inaugurated in October 2019 with much fanfare by then Dharbandora MLA Deepak Pauskar with the avowed objective of projecting Goa as a jungle cycling destination.
The cyclists, who wanted to ride to Dudhsagar waterfall, were left disappointed when the forest department personnel at the Colem forest check post insisted they use the jeep service to get there.
When the Lithuanians pointed out to the cycling trail, the personnel said cyclists were not allowed on it but could not give a valid explanation.
According to Joseph Barreto, owner of Jungle Book resort in the area who was accompanying the cyclists, the trail runs parallel to the jeep route and after 2 kms merges with the latter. "After the trail was inaugurated in 2019, I rode on it on a few occasions and had a great experience," Barreto added.
He said by not allowing the Lithuanian cyclists to go inside the sanctuary, the Goa government and the forest department have sent a wrong message to adventure lovers. "Cycles do not cause any air pollution like vehicles," he remarked.
When Gomantak Times digital contacted Chief Wildlife Warden Saurabh Kumar, he said the cycling trail has been closed because there is a movement of carnivores in the forest. Keeping in mind the safety of the cyclists, they were not allowed inside the sanctuary, he maintained.
Joseph Barreto, owner Jungle Book resort
If that's the case, said Baretto, the entire sanctuary has to be closed for even those going to Dudhsagar in jeeps. Those who have to get to the waterfall have to walk around a kilometre from where the jeep ride ends. The carnivore could be anywhere, so this justification of carnivores is absurd, he added.
He said the forest department personnel never mentioned about any danger from a carnivore at the forest checkpost, so it looks like the top officials have not passed on this message to the lower-rung guards and foresters, he stated.
In the end, the disappointed Lithuanian cyclists availed of the jeep service to get to the waterfall. One of the eight cyclists, Razmaratus Darius, said they had come excited to cycle on the trail. "We tried calling different authorities, but no one gave us a valid explanation why cyclists were not allowed to ride on the trail," he stated.
The Lithuanians left Goa for Dandeli today and are also keen to explore Hampi in Karnataka. While world over, nations are cashing in on cycling tourists, Goa doesn't seem very keen.