Who doesn’t love roadtrips!? I absolutely do. Many a times I’ve left home on my bike early in the morning just to get on the road and feel the gusts of invigorating fresh air rush past me. The whole idea of carrying just a backpack and no-itinerary-whatsoever-weekend-road-trip itself is so exciting for me that I jump at every opportunity. All I need is a free weekend and enough fuel in my bike! Sometimes, it’s with friends, but many times it has been just me and the wide open road.
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the most favourite routes of mine for a weekend road trip is along the coastal highway in Konkan. The coastal highway or the sāgari mahāmārg as is called locally, has been in the making since many years. The highway starts in Raigad district almost close to Alibaug (read Mumbai) and continues southward on a grueling route involving ferries on the rivers through the less known towns romancing the beautiful countryside and the Arabian sea along the way. It gets especially breathtaking near Ratnagiri. Someone who has substantial time on hand can in fact start from Mumbai and drive along all the way to Udupi and beyond. If you are a cyclist, this route is definitely challenging and equally rewarding. I hosted a British cyclist once who was on her way to traversing the world on her bicycle and she said this was one of the most arduous patches she had ever endured (except maybe those places close to equator in Indonesia she passed through later on).
So one fine Saturday morning I left home on my bike with a tentative objective to touch the southernmost tip of Maharashtra taking the coastal highway as much as possible. The plan was to discover beaches along the way and return by Sunday late evening. Continuing southward through Pawas, I crossed the bridge over the beautiful creek near the beach of Gaonkhadi, (about which I’ve mentioned in another post about marine turtles). If I ever am around this place close to sunset, the Sūrūban (or the Australian pine plantation) along this beach is a great spot for some “profile picture enthusiasts”. But since it was early in the morning, I continued to be on the road. Having had sumptous breakfast before leaving, I didn’t dillydally and passed the famous Adivare Mahalaxmi temple and Jaitapur along the way. If I felt like off-roading occasionally as I moved southward, there were plenty of options like Godavane beach or Madban after crossing Jaitapur or even to Vijaydurg which is quiet a detour but absolutely worth it. However focused on beaches in Sindhudurga (and having been to these places before), I pushed on along the coastal highway passing by the lined mango plantations protected by blackened laterite stone hedges, clusters of typical Konkani houses with red clay tiled tilted roofs, ponds lined with coconut trees, crossing bridges over creeks and coming to abrupt stop to let the cows cross the road perhaps even sulking at the occasional dusty red state transport buses that’d zip past close to my bike. In about 5 hours of very slow but steady ride I reached Devgad, another hotspot for the world famous Hapus mangoes. Of course to savour the mangoes, this would have had to be one of the (very) hot summer weekends. Having some quick supper in the town I quickly moved to the picturesque twin beaches of Taramumbri and Meethmumbri. These beaches are along the two sides of the creek of a small river and are otherwise not connected. The short road, an offshoot of the coastal highway, to the Taramumbri beach is really beautiful too.
Before the sun would start setting, I had to find a nice spot to enjoy the sunset. I made some quick calculations of time and speed and decided to go hunting for this nice beach a friend had shown picture of. And I found the spot just in time for sunset: the Morve beach. The approach road through the village was underdeveloped and led me to the Morve jetty. The pathway from the jetty to the beach was a tad bit scary, as it brushed the base of a small cliff with waves reaching almost at the feet. But with unbridled confidence I moved ahead on to the beautiful crisp white sand and towards the unknown sea shore. Spent some time trying to capture some red-rumped swallows and then returned to the jetty. I thought of spending the night close to Devgad as I might get a chance to visit the Devgad fort if I manage to wake up early in the morning. The Devgad lighthouse opens at 8 am and allows visitors till evening. The view of the town and the new jetty in the late evening hours is mesmerizing.
Unfortunately it was a very hazy in the morning the next day, so no photographs were worth posting. Instead I decided to visit another nice spot with a great view: Gajabadevi temple at the northern end of Tambaldeg beach. The beach itself is very short in width but from the temple premises it looks pleasing and really quiet in the wee morning hours. As I move further south, I’d reach Achara. Achara has a really long beach and continues as Tondavli beach. But I had been to Achara beach before and I’d probably avoid it if I plan to touch southern tip of Maharashtra by noon. The Talashil beach also is really nice and beautiful as you move further in the same direction as the Achara beach. But that’s secluded and much off the coastal highway besides being a bit touristy to my taste so I’ve almost always avoided it. As I reach the historic town of Malvan, I take a lunch break at my favourite restaurant “Atithi Bamboo” (yes, hilarious name, for Atithi means “Guest“, but the food is really good) which is a really nice place for some delicious and sumptuous seafood. With my belly full of satisfaction I’d get the urge to catch the boat once again to the Sindhudurg fort. Sindhudurga is a major maritime fort of Shivaji’s era that stood steadfast guarding the naval borders of Mararha empire from the enemy. It’s a magnificent fort and until few years ago it used to have a coconut tree with two branches! Visiting the fort and coming back would take at least 4 hours. Maybe this time, I’d head to do something more adventurous… like, say… Scuba Diving!
Malvan and Tarkarli are really close and very touristy towns. Especially, when it comes to now famous adventure sports of scuba diving and snorkeling, there are many operators here and offer 15 minute experience for real bargain price. The first time I did Scuba diving with one of these guys I felt really sad that it was nowhere close to my satisfaction. On the other hand I also felt better knowing that this experience restricted to a certain area protected the corals elsewhere in the nearby sea. I am all for tourism but I am of the firm opinion that it should be responsible and sustainable. Rampant misuse of the opportunities for some quick bucks doesn’t get us far in the long run. On one such road trips with friends to Tarkarli I did find a great place for Scuba Diving away from all the flashy touristy Malvan. The Indian Institute of Scuba Diving is located at Devbag and offers PADI Diving certificates and this is a definite 10/10 experience. When we did scuba diving with them, we started off late in the morning and went to the dive spot near the lighthouse in the open sea. The whole underwater experience excluding the essential life saving training lasted more than half an hour. I loved every second of it and literally didn’t want to come out. Unfortunately don’t have any underwater photos but I’m sure the photos won’t do justice to what a terrific feeling it is being surrounded by so many different fishes. This is absolutely worth the money experience and I always recommend only this place to everyone interested in scuba diving near Malvan. So in the morning, when I was pondering over whether to ditch driving ahead and going scuba diving instead I had the epiphany to call these guys first and check if this would at all be possible. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough people that day to carry on the dive trip. It looked like I was meant to continue southward.
…continued to Part II