My Version of a Leisurely Day in Ratnagiri
Ratnagiri, although gradually changing, is still a quiet coastal town, just off the NH66. Having lived here for many years I love its quiet life. I’d always prefer to live in a small town rather than a bustling city. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post about certain unique aspects of Ratnagiri city. However, what I haven’t mentioned in it is the unique location of the city for weekend travellers. Ratnagiri is almost midway to Goa from Mumbai. That means it is well connected and travellers can enjoy a bit of peaceful life in this town before heading to touristy bustle of Goa. So if I were living in cities like Mumbai and Pune, and decide to take a stop in Ratnagiri before I head to Goa, here is how I’d want to spend my leisurely day in Ratnagiri.
For me, the best place to feel the morning city vibe on a weekend is to hit the Ratnagiri Harbour, right by the Ratnadurga fort. If am super early and want to see the sunrise, I could go to the fort wall first. Given the skies are clear, the I can watch beautiful sunrise from the south end of the fort, near the lighthouse. As the sun would rise slowly from behind the wavy clouds the tiny houses would start appearing from the dark in the valley below. The cove of Mandavi now would be blazing in the orange-yellow glow from the reflection and if I strain my eyes a bit I could possibly see morning walkers on the tiny landing extending into the bay. I might then walk along the rampart to its northern end and get a bird’s eye view of the harbour below.
Ratnagiri waking up
I would decide to leave for a stroll on the harbour. Taking the road through the village that descends near the bottom of the fort, I’d reach the harbour at Mirkarwada. I’d make my way through crowds of fish lovers flocking the open air fish market and bargaining for variety of fresh fish. I’d see the fishing boats bringing in their overnight haul, fishing trawlers with their rusty ragged flags fluttering on their masts secured in the docs and preparing to unload the fresh catch. Not just the popular mackerels, seer fish, crabs, prawns or pomfrets but also relatively local varieties like catfish, sawfish, red snappers, anchovies, squids and many others even I don’t know names of being carefully collected, categorically arranged in baskets and being sold wholesale as well as retail. The Nepali and Bihari deckhands and helpers would be amused and chuckle when I raise my camera to click the scenes. For someone who loves human interactions and observing people from different walks of life, it’s a feast for eyes.
I‘d then head back to the city. If I fancy some quick breakfast, I’d probably hit the famous restaurant Gopal at Maruti Mandir chawk for their delicious Misal. I’d now hit the road for a leisurely visit to Pawas. No, I’m not a religious person, at all. But I love driving on the road from Ratnagiri city to Pawas. Open road, long stretches of meadows on both sides, occasional patches of coconut trees and tiny houses perched in between near villages along the way only to end up in a nice peaceful place like Pawas, it always refreshes my mind. In fact, as I reach Pawas, unlike most people visiting, I’d rather go visit this otherwise unknown old temple of Vishweshwar across the stream. I’d go sit in the foyer of the temple just listening to the sounds and marveling at the wooden carvings on the ceiling. A good place for some really nice homemade vegetarian lunch is close by the name of Mule Khanawal (not on Google map).
I‘m always on the lookout for any interesting activities happening in the city. Ratnadurga Mountaineers is one such organisation of youngsters that arranges adventure sports. One of the unique opportunity for travellers visiting Ratnagiri is to explore the cave underneath the Ratnadurga fort with Ratnadurga Mountaineers. Of course, they would need enough number of people to invest their manpower and resources. So in case I’m with my friends and everyone is feeling high on adrenaline, I’d definitely convince everyone to try this activity. It’s an incredibly thrilling experience when we go crawling under the rocks carefully avoiding hitting ourselves anywhere only to be exposed to the screeching bats and whole lot of marvel. This, folks, is a must try thing to do in Ratnagiri if opportunity exists.
After lunch at I’d probably hit the road again to back to Ratnagiri. Being a local, I have been numerous times to one of the most famous places in Ratnagiri: Thebaw Palace. But the view of the sea from the area is amazing, so I might go again. Thebaw was the King of Burma who was exiled by the British after their capture of Burma was brought to India by ship along with his entire family. He was brought to Ratnagiri, a very quiet and distant town in those days, and helped to build a palace. This historic building has abundant usage of the locally found laterite stone and imported Burmese teak all over and gives it a very beautiful look. There’s a very small museum at the back of the palace and a great place to spend half an hour for anyone interested in history and art. The palace also is the location of a great open air annual performance arts festival which happens in January every year. If you love Indian classical music and different performance art forms, this festival is a great event to look forward to. It is organised by Art Circle, Ratnagiri.
Ronu Muzumdar and Kadri Gopalnath, Jugalbandi. Art and Music Festival 2017
As the evening approaches, there are many places to enjoy the sunset from, perhaps, the Thebaw point garden or it could even be Bhatye beach while enjoying some chaat. The Bhatye beach is the most popular hangout for all, youngsters as much as families and everyone flocks to the beach every evening, more so on the weekend.
To end the day on a good note, a boat ride in the river is in order, another unique opportunity that even many locals remain unaware of. In case I’m with my friends, I would love to take the private boat ride in the mouth of Kajali river. The ride can be arranged from the Karla jetty but needs enough number of people to be affordable. However, if one does have a group of friends, say headed to Goa, they can even take food along and have dinner on the boat right under the stars. It’s a heart-warming experience on a full moon’s day in the company of friends and good food. That’s how I’d like to end the day! And then if I were on my way to Goa, I could leave by the next train.
Distant azān from a mosque mixed with boat engine noise
Ratnagiri is just overnight train/bus journey close from Mumbai or Pune.