Sun-kissed clean white sand beaches of the Konkan region would surely allure any sea-lover...
05.11.2011 - 06.11.2011 30 °C
Diwali 2011 was an unusually quiet affair. With none of our usual last-minute travel plans falling into place this year, we decided to stay home and while-away our holidays. Adhering ourselves to the umpteen requests coming in from all possible quarters for a noise-free, eco-friendly celebrations, we too limited ourselves to a few sparklers and lesser crackers. Like any holidays - the anticipation of which perhaps gives one more pleasure than the actual holiday itself - this one too came and gone away quickly. We realized it only when we were back to the same mundane home-office-office-home grind.
A hectic week followed, and, by Friday evening we both (Mitali & Myself) were like two restless fishes out of water gasping for some fresh air - to breathe, to live.
Debating over the probable week-end destination, we came to the consensus to go exploring along the serene Konkan coast. As it was just a short two-day week-end affair, we had to settle in for a destination that cannot be too far yet should at least be a 4-5 hours pleasurable drive. Hectically, made a couple of calls to check reservations and was disappointed not to get any in the desired categories. However, was finally relived to get a few affirmations. Over the dinner table we decided to hit the road at the crack of dawn early next morning.
With anticipation of lazing around in one of the numerous mile-long sun-kissed white sand beaches of the Konkan coast, we started out at 6.15 am. Dawn was slowing breaking in as I reset my mile-o-meter, igniting the engine and we drove off. Our target was to cover an offbeat trio-destination in the Konkan coast - Diveagar, Shrivardhan & Harihareshwar.
Smooth Ride Scenic Drive
Driving through the truck-infested Mumbai-Goa National Highway 17 starting from Vashi onwards was painful at times. By 7.20 am we crossed Panvel. We decided to have our first pit-stop at the Vithal Kamath Restaurant. We had our fill with some tasty piping hot Upma served with some thick coconut chutney and culminating with a refreshing cup of tea. Thereafter, we snaked through the serpentine road through the lush Phansad Bird Sanctuary at Karnala.
As it was early morning the mist-filled air gushing through the rolled-down window was truly refreshing. We drove past the semi-urban small settlements of Nagothane and Pen till we reached Wadkhal naka. The road straight proceeds towards Kashid, Alibagh, and Murud. We, however, taking the left diversion, continued towards Mangaon on the NH 17. As it was a two-lane highway one has to apply the right judgment while over-taking in this literally-tiny traffic-filled road, since any miscalculation is not something we wished for.
Autumn Look on the Lonesome Highway
Crossing by Inderpur we reached Mangaon around 9.30 am where we took the right diversion entering the State Highway 97 towards Mhasala. We stopped for a cup of tea in a street-side shack and the tea-seller informed us that the road till Diveagar was smooth. As rightly informed, the road from Mangaon was an enchanting drive.
Driving ahead a couple of kilometers, the road surged up-hill and the sun-burnt yellowish fall look of the vegetation, amidst the back-drop of some lush trees and shrubs were a sight to behold. Driving through the rolling hills was a smooth pleasure except a few bumps now and then.
Land of the Golden Ganesh
Crossing the narrow road of Mashala township, we took a right diversion towards Diveagar. Soon, we could smell the salty, balmy air to realize that the sea could not very far away as we continued snaking up -hill and down-hill. Dotted with betel nut and coconut grooves gave in a rustic village feel as we entered Diveagar.
Diveagar is a nondescript small hamlet which rose to prominence when on the auspicious day of Sankashti Chaturthi, 17th November, 1997; an old lady discovered an ancient buried chest while she was digging in her backyard to plant some coconut trees.
Off Coconuts & Betelnuts
On opening the chest she discovered an ancient half-statue of Lord Ganesh made of pure gold along-with some ornaments. The villager gathered and they considered it a lucky charm and placed the deity in their local temple. They re-christened the temple as Suvarna (golden) Ganesh Temple. Diveagar incidentally was the ancient capital of the Shilahar kings.
We took the narrow lone single-lane metal road and proceeded to locate Dhanaraj Cottages. A signboard giving direction helped and soon we checked in. The first enquiry we made was "how far is the beach?" "It is just five minutes from here," replied the manager. Placing our bags we immediately rushed towards the beach.
A Walk Within...
Ready for a Beach Ride
Moving through a patch of Saru & Palm trees, through an opening, we could see the beach. Venturing in we realized that it was a 4-5 kilometer long virgin beach. As far as our eye could see it stretched along with the virgin deep blue sea in the backdrop. The waves splashing across the beach was so tempting that it could not hold us anymore. Soon I plunged in...
Couldn't Resist Anymore
It was a secluded beach, with a few limited souls, making the experience totally personal, unlike the crowded beaches of Goa. Some locals, half a kilometer away was providing some para-sailing experience to the desired few. Adventurous Mitali seeing that could not stop herself and soon she was soaring high into the air strapped in the para-sailing suit.
Colours of Life
Strapped - Ready to Soar
"Oh what and experience," was all that she said as she landed back on the ground with a thud. Being in the beach and not sipping some fresh coconut water would not have completed the experience - we did indulged thoroughly.
Tasty Khana of Local Khanawals
Thereafter, as the noon heat started soaring, we thought we go back for lunch in one of the many "khanawals" we saw while approaching the beach. "Khanawals", unlike restaurant, are basically an extension of local homes offering home-made Konkani sea-food delights. In most of the front courtyards, one would notice small signboards announcing the name of the particular khanawals.
One just has to walk in and it is preferred that you make a prior order so that the food is cooked fresh in their kitchen and dished out. We soon entered a quiet khanawal but as we did not make any prior order were little apprehensive whether we would be served. But to our delight, our host, an elderly lady agreed that she would prepare our lunch and we should be back in an hour's time. Placing our order we walked back to our cottage for a bath and returned fresh for the much anticipated Konkani home-cooked meal.
Soon, we were gorging on a spicy Konkani lunch including fresh surmai and pomfret fries. After that sumptuous meal we returned back and picking up Ruskin Bond's The Blue Umbrella, kept reading till it took me to a deep slumber.
Waiting to Gallop
Late afternoon we returned to the beach again and waited for the sunset. As the sun gradually came down, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunset that we ever saw. Felt a calm feeling in my inner self.
Oh so Beautiful
Time Stood Still
Thereafter, we explored the nearby beautiful Roopnarayan temple - an ancient stone temple - currently witnessing a make-over.
The Bard to Sing no More
As dusk set in we returned. Switching on the TV we got shocked to see a news-flash that legendary Assamese versatile son of the soil - the bard, the singer, the composer, the lyricist, the film-maker, the music director, the writer, the editor - Dr Bhupen Hazarika has passed away. Instantly, we recall meeting him last in the Mumbai airport that wintry January morning a couple of years back when I introduced myself as being the son of his university-days' friend.
"Sisir's son, oh my goodness" he uttered, as I bowed, touching his feet and took his blessings. "Is he still practicing law?" he inquired. I could clearly observe his facial expression change when I mentioned that dad has passed way. Both studied together in the Kashi Hindu University (Benaras Hindu University) and shared a close-bonding witnessing and jamming quite a few musical evening back then at Kashi. They even resided in the same hostel as well. But as it happens in many cases, time drifted them apart to different directions.
Thereafter, we kept ourselves glued to the TV watching the footage floating in. Being in the sea coast, it made us remniscent of his famous song Sagor Sangom. Around 10 pm we reluctantly moved towards the dining area and had a quiet Konkani dinner and called it a night.
Frolicking Dolphins Dancing Away
We woke up fresh early next morning as dawn was slowly breaking up. The chirping of the birds in the betel nut groove wherein our cottage was located was very welcoming. We freshened up fast and rushed towards the beach since we were promised by a local the previous evening to take us on his speed boat for some dolphin spotting in the sea.
We boarded up the 6-seater boat wearing the mandated life-jackets and off we speeded away. We did not had to go far, as we soon saw to our amazement the first grayish-whitish dolphin popping out its snout soon to disappear within.
We were told that it is after the monsoons, around the month of October-November, dolphins appear in the costal water of the Konkan region and we thanked our stars for being fortune of our trip timing.
The driver stalled the engine and soon we spotted another one though for just a few seconds. We all were getting excited as we started scanning the water to be fortunate to see more. We anxiously waited for the next 10-15 minutes when suddenly up ahead about 100 meters away yet one popped to disappear immediately.
Thereafter, we moved to another spot but were not that lucky. It was however an experience that was totally 'out of the world' and we thoroughly relished.
Scenic Drive, Smooth Ride
Returning back, having a tasty breakfast misel paw and poha we checked out of our cottage and started towards Shrivardhan. The lonesome road from Diveagar to Shrivardhan was undoubtedly one of the most scenic that we have perhaps have driven through till date in Maharashtra.
Curves & Turns
Flanked by high hills on one side and the open blue sea dotted with coconut palms swaying through long isolated beaches, we stopped countless time, passing by many sleepy fishing villages, as we snaked up and down the serpentine coastal road to soak in the breathtaking landscape both in our minds as well in our lens.
Sea Fishes - Sun Dried
Fishing Community - All Afloat
Each turn seem to be prettier than the last and this mesmerizing views continued till we nearly entered Shrivardhan.
Shrivardhan is today home to the Peshwa Smarak, a memorial that memorializes the contribution, life, and times of the Peshwas. The Bhat family of Shrivardhan served as the Peshwas or Prime Ministers of the Maratha kings and supervised a period that witnessed the greatest expansion of the Maratha Empire.
We halted at a road-side shack and had some chilled local kokum juice and inquired about the direction to the ancient Jiwaneshwar Temple. We took the approach road towards the beach and soon, we located the temple. Jiwaneshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and we were amazed to see the inner intricately-carved wooden pillars inside the temple.
Carved so Real
These pillars that originally stood inside Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, the seat of the Peshwas until 1818, were later installed in this holy temple. Inside the inner sanctum was a huge Shiva lingam, which can be approached through a small door. Paying our obeisance to the Lord we moved out. We also visited another temple Somjai temple believed to have been established by Augusta Muni, an ancient sage.
Kashi of the South
Thereafter, we moved towards holy Harihareshwar christened also as the Kashi of the South. The road again from Shrivardhan onwards was a scenic drive through lines of Saru trees and open beaches. As we approached Harihareshwar the road inclined up-hill and soon we saw a huge congregation of people, with parked cars, buses. We realized being a Sunday, many people has turned out to visit the famous, twin Kalbhairab and Shiva temple. We too parked our vehicle and started out on foot.
Kalbhairav Temple - Harihareshwar
We walked through lines of small shops selling from puja items to hundred other items, including sweets, shoes, garments, sun-glasses etc. This ancient temple was witnessing a huge footfall yet a serene calm was felt by us despite being amidst a sea of humanity. Situated just adjacent to the sea-coast, it has two temples one after the other. Bowing our heads we sat inside for sometime seeking blessings. The view of the open sea from the temple is also truly amazing.
Driving Through a Lush Patch
Docks of Baghmandalam Beach
Thereafter we made our way outside Harihareshwar and moved towards the white sands of Baghmandla Beach. From here we saw many huge ships, ferrying people with vehicles on board, towards Bankot. At Bankot one can visit the ruins of the Bankot Fort. As we had to return back to Mumbai, we decided to give Bankot Fort a miss and drove back to Harihareshwar MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) resort.
Relaxed as we waitied for the Konkani Lunch
Perched atop a hill and set within a huge area overlooking the open sea, this MTDC resort has perhaps the best location among many of the MTDC resorts we visited including, Ganpatipule, Karla, Malshejghat, Bordi, Panchgani, Panhala, among others. The open dining area in the form of two open round shacks, at the cliff-edge, the roofs covered with palm leaves would leave anyone spell bound with the view it offers. Down below is the rocky beach beyond which the open sea extends wide.
We were hungry by now and decided to have a big sea-food spread for lunch including tiger-prawn tawa fry, pomfret fry, surmai curry and rice. We gorged on the tasty Konkani delight to our satisfaction. Stomach satisfied we reluctantly made our way back towards Mumbai.
This short but activity-packed trip charged us up totally.
We promised ourselves soon to be back again to explore further the scenic Konkan coast...
How to Reach
Harihareshwar is approximately 250 kms form Mumbai. Driving out from Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Goa National Highway 17 and drive along passing by Panvel, Nagothane, Pen till Wadkhal Naka. Continue on the NH 17 till Mangaon. From Mangoan, after crossing ST Bus stand take the State Highway 97 towards Mhasala. Cross Mashala and take right to Diveagar and left road goes towards Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar.