Konkan! The pride of Maharashtra comprises the complete stretch along the coast of the state till Goa. A very unique culture and even more beautiful Western Ghats parallel to the coastline add to the beauty and scenic thrill. The entire coastal line never fails to thrill the travel aficionado irrespective of the season. Comprising of beaches and ghats, it provides the perfect destination for the water baby as well as the trek enthusiast. The coastal highway isn’t one to be missed upon.
The trip to wander the konkan side was decided late Friday afternoon on 05-Oct-12. My cousin, Shankar who is down for couple of months wanted to get away from the city for the weekend. Considering his request and me having leave on 06-Oct-12, decided to head to ‘Ganpatipule beach’ in ‘Ratnagiri’ district of Maharashtra. Catching an ST bus (State Transport bus) on the night of 05-Oct-12 from Chembur was the only option. This proved a boon which saved up on time considering the distance to be covered overnight.
Located at approximately 350kms, a semi luxury ST bus is more than one could ask for. Their best bus, a semi luxury bus was a non air-conditioned one, but with cushioned seats and priced marginally higher than the ordinary bus that ply. The bus wasn’t in that great a condition, but decent enough to travel. Tickets were available online, but I didn’t take that risk since I could only leave work by around 8PM on 05-Oct-12. Wrapping up my work, quickly rushed home to pack my stuff within half an hour and reached the ST bus stand by 10.00PM. The enquiry counter was unoccupied with the fan and electricity being wasted. This was pretty irritating considering the power shortage currently faced in the state. Enquiry wasn’t an option due to personnel’s unavailability. We enquired every ST bus stopping at the stand. After a brief wait of 15mins, we finally got our bus and the fare was Rs. 920.00 for two people. The fare was a little too steep primarily because the bus was of semi luxury nature. The fare is cheaper for an ordinary one, though wouldn’t be comfortable to travel long distance.
Though the seats are cushioned, but not well maintained, all seats aren’t retractable and you could sometimes find yourself sitting in an uncomfortable seat. The peak season for Ganpatipule had just passed; hence very few people boarded the bus. The bus journey was very comfortable through the night without any incidents. The bus driver and conductor wanted a tea break early morning at around 7AM and since my cousin and I were the only bus travelers, we readily agreed for the same. A tea break at ‘Jakadevi’; on enquiry found out that it was the biggest ‘Taluka’ of that region. The drive from Jakadevi to Ganpatipule was pleasant and scenic.
With the rains still imminent, the greenery was in full bloom with lots of palm trees dotting the horizon. We reached Ganpatipule at 8AM. We got a half day hotel stay deal with ‘Krishna Sea View’ resort. This means that you check-in at 9AM and check-out by 5PM, that very same day. It was a very good deal provided our plan was to reach ‘Sawantwadi’ by nightfall. One of the ‘Ashtavinayak’ temple of Lord Ganpati and Ganpatipule beach was just 10 mins from our hotel. A beautiful and well maintained temple, I must add. Hitting the beach, all the rumours about one of the best beaches in Konkan region proved true. Crystal clear water lapping onto our feet with the sun kissing our backs was blissful. Moving away from where the crowds were, we reached a spot which was quite far from the picnic noise one would normally encounter at various tourist spots.
We tried to catch up with a fisherman moving swiftly along the shore wanting to catch some fish and crabs. We came to a lagoon with clear water linking the sea water in between. The stark contrast of the lagoon’s fresh water inspite of mixing with the sea water struck us. A swim with mild under water currents was a chance we didn’t want to miss upon. Spending couple of hours here trying to swim against the current was fun. Beautifully maintained beach, but for parts littered with plastic waste. It just annoys me to find out that the place isn’t respected enough for what it provides to one. A sumptuous lunch at ‘Tarang’ hotel at MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) and we headed back to the hotel for some rest.
Out of the various sights of that region, one that proved kind of enticing was a visit to ‘Jaigad Fort’. Located at a distance of 20kms from Ganpatipule, it offers a panoramic view of the region. Contemplating our next move, we decided on going to the fort for a quick tour and then headed straight to ‘Ratnagiri’ railway station to either catch a train or bus to head down south.’ Jaigad fort’ wasn’t a fort of much importance, but just known for the views offered by it. Reaching the fort at 4PM, it was a complete disappointment; trees and grass completely outgrown; kids playing cricket and cattle grazing. This was apparently a tourist spot and shocking at the manner of promoting the same. The panoramic view was fabulous. If only, they could maintain the fort, could that also be included for tourism with pride than just a mere request to the tourists.
By 5PM, we headed back to the resort in order to leave for Ratnagiri station on time. The scenic views offered by the State highway SH-106 were mindblowing, especially with the sun setting down that evening. We found out that there were no buses available for Sawantwadi at 7PM and the last train was ‘Netravati Express’ reaching Ratnagiri station at 7.30PM leaving Mumbai that very morning at 11.30AM.
Our hopes were dashed when we learnt that the train doesn’t stop at Sawantwadi railway station, but its next stop was ‘Kudal’. Kudal though located in Sawantwadi district is a good 43kms away from ‘Tarkarli’ beach and with no bus available beyond 7.30PM in the konkan region, we would be at the mercy of the rickshaw guy who would definitely charge us a steep fare in order to reach our destination.
A quick discussion and we bought 2 rail tickets to ‘Thivim’; the station that is closest to beaches in North Goa. Surprised as one could be, we were as well. Saturday night, 06-Oct-12, we were actually in Goa! We headed to Baga beach and though it isn’t the peak season, the influx of tourists hasn’t dwindled. Beach shacks aren’t a feature of Goan beaches just yet, but it hasn’t deterred the tourists. A not so expensive room was taken for couple of night’s right opposite the ‘Tito-Baga’ beach lane. Goa was in party mode until 4AM. Critics would always have a say, but the bottom line is that the party destination never skips a beat when it comes to having a good time. I wouldn’t dare lie saying that we slept early. We actually came back to our rooms only at 6AM. The last 2 hours, we spent in the quietness of the beach by a bonfire. Kids working as helpers in various restaurants who hadn’t completed education gave us company. Felt at peace to be away from the panic street of Baga beach. An extended sleep and a good breakfast on Sunday morning at ‘Nisha Bar and Restaurant’ shouldn’t go unmentioned. Very few places were open for breakfast. A Goan home turned restaurant with sumptuous goan delicacies.
I had to be back in Mumbai for work on Monday and headed towards ‘Mapusa’ to book my bus ticket for Sunday evening which would reach the city by early Monday morning. Underestimating the rush, it came as a surprise when none of the air conditioned bus tickets were available. Ultimately, I settled for a sleeper non air conditioned bus leaving Mapusa at 7.30PM and reaching Mumbai at 8AM on 08-Oct-12. My cousin, though was on vacation and extended his stay in Goa for an extra day and headed down south towards the beautiful beaches of ‘Karwar’ and ‘Gokarna’, Karnataka.
Weekend well spent and worth a mention. We could not cover ‘Tarkarli’ beach, but no regrets whatsoever. This is considering the places covered by the modes of travel used and with the amount of time on hand. The budget wasn’t steep, but could have kept it to a minimum with better time management. Wouldn’t suggest ‘Jaigad fort’ as a must visit to anyone unless they spruce up the spot with a view on cashing on tourism. Not worth the effort for the time and cost. A must visit to Ganpatipule beach. Another place struck off my bucket list.
· Bus ticket from Mumbai To Ganpatipule beach- Rs. 450
· Half day hotel deal at Ganpatipule- Rs. 400
· Hired car to Jaigad fort and back (40kms)- Rs. 1300
· Rail ticket from Ratnagiri station to Thivim, Goa- Rs. 200
· Cab from railway station to Baga beach- Rs. 650 (Rs. 150 was night fare due to our train running late)
· Hotel stay at Baga- Rs. 700 per night
· Bus fare from Goa to Mumbai sleeper bus- Rs. 500