Saturday, October 07, 2006

Konkan Splash .... !!

I would definitely hate myself less, for the simple reason that I have atleast visited Konkan once even though there is still a self imposing huge black spot hovering over me for not having been to GOA yet. But, I have planned to stay persistent in my endeavors and even though I was quite close to GOA, I am not gonna rest until I touch its shores. But Konkan has been a great prelude, the music still serenading, the aura still omnipresent and the grief commensurate to missing your beloved. Konkan, in its grandeur, has left a lasting impression. Who better to explore the intricacies of Konkan than CoV. Maybe, my last hurrah as a proud member of this chain gang of nerds.

This trip was primarily the brain child of Gaurav, who unfortunately could not make it as he is away in Africa. He had floated a similar plan last year but, as demanding as it sounded then, it reverberated almost in opposite fashion this time around. Bhushan had also been away from Pune for 3 months, watching insipidly from Bangalore at all the photographs of other trips and itching to get into the CoV groove. Since he is better accustomed to Konkan than any of the remaining members, he came up with this plan almost 2 months before the long weekend for Dassera. This didnt give any chance to any member of the gang to make any other plans. Initially, proposed as a only bikes trip, it made its way to the debate and dialogue chamber before being finalised as a one car and two bikes trip. Since the trip involved close to 1000 kms of driving, a car made better sense as regards dumping of baggage.

Close to 400 mails on the Yahoo group, chaotic discussion, meandering towards something totally unrelated to the topic, pouncing on every chance to take a dig at someone and finally returning back to the primary topic .... thats been the timeline for this trip for the last 2 months. We were even discussing about this trip on our previous trip that went to Lohgad. Such was the fascination, such was the eagerness. Discussing about the trip over drinks, late night telephonic chats and even an unforgettable night out party at Charan's terrace 2 weeks prior to the trip added more spice to an already chilly plan.

Initially, 8 of us had volunteered to tread on the Konkan terrain that also saw commissioning of 2 new recruits to CoV namely Ameya and Anay from our good old BCS days. Bhushan, Prashant, Charan, Amol, Sabhtarsha and I filled in the remaining slots. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Anay could not make it for the D Day. But as they say, the show must go on. The plan was finalised 3 days prior to the trip and an email was sent out that contained the time table for the trip along with the stuff to carry and a map of Konkan. Personally, I have not seen a better managed trip. I will go to the extent of saying that CoV is coming of age. It gives me great joy to see a professional touch being added to the already glittering palette of CoV.
I cant help but sense an aura of bonhomie.

I must also compliment Bhushan for masterminding such a plan. We were to leave on Friday evening (Sept 29th) which also coincided with Sabhtarsha's birthday. The departure time was fixed at 4 30 pm from Katraj Ghat. We had spent the entire week contemplating a drive from Ambegaon or Saswad coz Katraj Ghat was shut for repairs. Thankfully, it was functional by the time we were leaving. Sabhtarsha and I put fuel and Coolant in my car in the morning and made our way to office. Amol came to office at around 11 am and dumped his stuff in my car. After completing our respective jobs for the day in a hurry, Sabhtarsha and I left for Chandni Chowk at 3 45 pm. We met Ameya outside Apache and then the 3 of us made our way to Katraj. Ameya, by now, had us engrossed with the news of him shifting to Symantec. Couldnt have begun on a more auspicious note.

We reached Katraj at 4 pm and waited patiently for the remaining 4 dudes. It had already become overcast and we were just hoping that the rain should not pose as a dampener. Think of the devil and he arrives. The rain gods were saddened due to some reason and their tears led us back into the car. Charan, Bhushan, Amol and Prashant came at 4 45 pm and after dumping their stuff into the car, we were ready to embark on the expedition. So it was Ameya, Sabhtarsha and I in the car. Amol and Prashant on Prashant's bike. Charan and Bhushan on Charan's bike. On your marks .. get set .. GO!

It was raining literally cats and dogs up and until we started descending Katraj Ghat. As soon as we hit NH-4, it was like switching from beachwear to a Sherwani. The car stopped bumping on the roads, the sound of wind became more prominent and vehicles were overtaken with alarming regularity. In between, some pretty sights showed up. We were all waiting for Khambatgi Ghat that comes just before the turn to Mahabaleshwar and believe you me, it was a living treat. Snaking around the Ghat amidst the setting sun made it all the more enjoyable.

After a plethora of twists and turns, we braced ourselves up for a smooth journey at 100 kms an hour. We decided to halt at Satara for some snacks. Charan and Bhushan were the first to reach following which they called us and asked us to wait at a Tapri surrounded by trucks. Prashant and Amol followed suit and finally the car also made its way through. It was 7 pm. We had left Pune far behind. Vada Pavs, Bhajias, tea and biscuits were gobbled up in almost no time and Prashant also found time to change in the car. It was tough for the bikers since they were drenched in the Ghat itself. We left Satara at 7 30 pm. Amol swapped places with Sabhtarsha and we moved on. Sabhtarsha and Prashant didnt have a cell with them on the bike and hence they were cut off from the remaining fellas. We were left wondering as to how to contact them in case there is a change in plan.

Charan, Bhushan, Ameya, Amol and I reached Karad at 8 30 pm. We found time to click some pics here and Amol wanter a NATURAL photo of his. Natural can have a different meaning for a person like Amol. His natural pic was with him having his right leg off the ground. Kudos Amol. We waited for Prashant and Sabhtarsha but they had no clue where we were and rightly so as they didnt have a cell with them. It wasnt planned that we will halt at Karad. After about 20 mins, we left Karad.

Sabhtarsha called from a local number and informed us that they had already reached Peth. By now, Charan, Bhushan and I were in the car. We were supposed to meet Sabhtarsha and Prashant at the ascent point of the Peth flyover but we somehow missed the flyover and realised it later. We halted instead after we descended the flyover. Amol and Ameya met us there. Charan walked all the way back to the other side of the flyover and got Sabhtarsha and Prashant with him triple seat. Phew !!.

We were just 25 kms away from our first destination ... Kolhapur. Quite a homecoming of sorts for me considering Im gonna get married to Amruta who hails from Kolhapur. Anyway, first things first. We reached Kolhapur at 10 pm and Bhushan led us to Hotel Opal. We were treated to authentic Kolhapuri style food that included Tambda Rassa and Paandhra Rassa to go with delicious mutton and chicken preparations along with lip smacking vegetarian food. We finished savouring the moment in another half an hour. In the meantime, I found time to wipe my hands on Prashant's shirt .... ;).

Considering it was Dassera time, we preponed the plan of going to Mahalaxmi temple. It was scheduled for morning but we thought otherwise. We reached the temple at around 10 45 pm. I had seen the Mahalaxmi temple at Mumbai with the sea splashing the rocks in the backdrop. The one at Pune was also serenely situated bang opposite Saras Baug. But the one at Kolhapur takes the cake ... in fact it takes the bakery as well. It is situated within a huge area spanning almost 3 Mahalaxmi temples at Pune. Immaculately lit, it made my jaw drop. Prashant purchased some sparkling object he wore on his wrist that irritated us no end.

Bhushan met a friend of his over there and together they led us to Rankala lake, one of the pretty sights of Kolhapur. Some of us took time off to have a fag while others just idled around looking forward to some sleep. The beauty of Rankala wasnt quite evident in the night and we decided that we will pay a visit in the morning again.

We headed to Bhushan's place and were received by his parents. I must say he lives in a great area. We changed into night wear and sat down to caculate the expenses for the day. After jotting it down, everyone was more than happy to hit the bed. But with the prospect of getting up quite early in the morning looming large, we said Good Night to Day 1 of this Konkan escapade. Kolhapur is charming.

Day 2.
We got up at 5 30 pm. Thanks to 2 bathrooms at Bhushan's place, we could load balance the activities of letting out human excreta and having a bath ... ;). Everyone was up and running by 6 30 am except for Charan. He was quite particular about the way he kept his stuff in the bag, properly folding each piece of clothing before laying it in his bag. That itself may have taken up close to 15 minutes. For some strange reason, he was wearing a vest labelled as "Jeans" ... :). We had tea and biscuits before clicking a parting pic with Bhushan's parents. Bhushan's Dad explained some cool fundas regarding marriage and life. He also cautioned us to be safe in the Ghat sections since it was quite slippery.

Originally, the plan was to go to Malvan via Gaganbawda ghat but Bhushan's Dad advised us that Fonda Ghat would be better. We left the place at 6 50 am and headed straight to Rankala lake. It looked prettier than the previous night and again, people took time off to have a fag.

We didnt idle around too much and Bhushan guided us out of the city on to the road that led to Fonda Ghat. It was a mixed bag of a road with clean, smooth sections punctuated by horrible potholes filled stretches.

We encountered a small Ghat on the way and found Sabhtarsha and Prashant urging us to wait. All of us promptly decided to take a halt to find what the matter was. Sabhtarsha had just seen a peacock but it had run out in the forest. We tried hard to find it but could not have a sneak peek at the National Bird.

We moved out of that small Ghat and headed towards a town called Radhanagri. Incidentally, Radhanagri is famous for 2 things - The Dam and the Wild Life Sanctuary better known as Bison Park. Our manager had been to the sanctuary and had suggested that we should go via Radhanagri. Amol was also reciting tales about the time he last came to Radhanagri as a kid in 6th grade. I must admit his memory is like an elephant. Almost everything that he said was true .. ;). We reached Radhanagri at around 8 30 am. Charan and Sabhtarsha had us scared by saying that Charan's bike is punctured but he was just checking some other stuff. We decided to visit the Dam and took a diversion off the highway. But the patrolling officer didnt allow us to enter despite Prashant's valiant efforts. We left the Dam and moved onto Dajipur.

Charan and Bhushan had gone far ahead by now. The remaining 5 noticed a scenic spot on the way and decided to pay homage to it. It was overcast and it was actually surprising to see even hills in Southern Maharashtra laden with fog at this time of the year. We clicked quite a few pics over here. Prashant and I also made our way through some thorny bushes and thick vegetation. We left the place within 15 minutes and moved on.

On the way, we encountered a nice little bridge of sorts overlooking a lake. We hadnt eaten a lot, so we decided to relax a bit and enjoy nature's bounty. Charan had complained that he couldnt shit properly in the morning due to inadequate pressure ... :), hence he decided to bless Mother nature with his invaluable excreta. He took an empty bottle from us and borrowed some water from the lake and there he went ... no stopping him. Prashant and Amol were busy capturing this hilarious sequence of events with Bhushan and I playing the euphoric audience. This has been captured on my camera ... this is CoV.

We has Bhadang and Chakli bought by Sabhtarsha that silenced our tummies for the time being. Sabhtarsha disappeared into the forest and clicked some great pics. We left the place and concentrated on reaching Malvan as soon as possible.

Prashant and Amol were left far behind owing to the fact that they had stopped by near a lake to click some tantalising pics.

The remaining 5 finished the uphill drive at Fonda Ghat and were ready to descend when we saw a breathtaking view of the entire descent of the Ghat. Thats it. Out of the car and off the bike. We were gonna be here for a while. We positioned ourselves on the brink of the support wall and sipped every drop of the take-your-breath-away-beauty earnestly. Prashant and Amol joined us in 10 minutes and we clicked some really weird pics with all of us performing a similar action in synch. After some time, we braced ourselves up for a great drive down Fonda Ghat.

The twists and turns worked well for the forearams as the screeching sound of the tyres echoed through the Ghat. We had decided to stop at Kankavli, supposedly the constituency of firebrand politician Narayan Rane. The change in climate was quite apparent once we shifted to the other side of the Sahyadris. It became more humid and the wind also caused a different effect.

We reached Kankavli at around 11 am. Charan had committed to meeting a friend of his over there that didnt go too well with some of us. I guess the moment got to me and I feel I was quite rude in telling Charan that it was wrong. Though I may have been right, the manner was kind of unacceptable. Knowing Charan as a person emotionally attached to his friends, I feel I over reacted. But, we urged him to visit his friend and reach Malvan an hour later than the rest of us. Sabhtarsha gave him company. We heard from Charan's friend that there was some sensitive situation in Malvan and there could be a problem. Bhushan called up the lady who runs the lodge we were going to stay at in Malvan and she informed us that there is nothing to worry.

The remaining 5 set off for Malvan via Kasaal and reached Malvan at 12 30 pm. Only Airtel users were able to get any kind of mobile coverage and we had 3 Airtel users in Amol, Ameya and Prashant. Ameya promptly recharged his cell and we decided that from here on in, every vehicle will carry one Airtel cell. Great advertisement for Airtel. For once, even the doggy of Hutch couldnt reach Malvan since Bhushan didnt get any coverage for his Hutch cell. We checked into Swastik lodge at 1 pm and offloaded all the baggage into the 2 rooms reserved for us. The car was stinking profusely and we were more than glad to confine ourselves to anywhere other than the car.

We changed into beachwear and headed towards Chivla beach within 20 minutes of checking in. We also informed the caretaker of the lodge to inform Charan and Sabhtarsha of our whereabouts once they come. Malvan resembled DiveAgar in some sense but not its total area. I guess we under estimated the size of Malvan. We enquired close to 6 or 7 people for directions to Chivla beach and each time it seemed as if we were going nowhere. At one instance, we even came back to the same place from where we had started. We had some pista ice creams on the way but encountered a small little problem. We has one 100 rupee note and the ice cream fella didnt have any change. Each ice cream cost us Rs. 2. So Prashant volunteered to get some change but the best he could do was get 2 Rs. 50 notes. The ice cream boy gave us 5 ice creams and we all went ahead with the exception of Prashant. The ice cream boy had only Rs. 36 as change. So Prashant didnt have any option other than take 2 more ice creams. It was quite funny to see him carry 3 ice creams at one time and eating from all 3 as well .... :)

We finally reached Chivla beach at 1 30 pm. Bhushan, Ameya and Amol headed to Hotel Silver Sand on the beach for drinks while Prashant and I headed straight to the sea. It was surprising to find that the it wasnt shallow even at the beginning of the sea. We were just starting to get into the groove when Charan and Sabhtarsha made an entry on Charan's Pulsar. Charan and Prashant drove the Pulsar through the water and it made great viewing seeing the water splash against the tyre of the Pulsar. Charan got a beer with him to the water and the 4 of us enjoyed a lot in the water. Floating, diving, sand slinging and sitting facing the sea became the order of the day till we decided to pay attention to our hunger and headed to Silver Sand. Bhushan, Amol and Ameya were already gulping down beer with Baangda fish at their disposal as snacks. We even had delicious Kaanda Bhajias after washing away all the sand stuck to our body. But Baangda, by nature, is a species that contains lots of bones (kaata). Silver Sand didnt have any other variety and we didnt want to stay hungrycoz not everyone had a penchant for Baangda.

We decided to go to a hotel called Bamboo that was prescribed by quite a few of Bhushan's friends. Charan and I went to Bamboo on his bike and ordered 5 Non Veg thaalis along with 2 Veg Thaalis. Bamboo serves 4 different species of fish but we went for Surmai that has just one small Kaata. The others joined us soon and food was the top prioroty for the next half an hour. No one spoke a lot and we ordered more fish. Sabhtarsha also tried out fish considering he is a Veggie. Way to go dude. Fish and Sol Kadi ruled the roost for us throughout this trip and it wasnt a surprise to see these 2 being ordered the most. There was considerable difference between the taste of Sol Kadi in Kolhapur and Malvan. Eventually, we weren't complaining for either of them. Have Sol Kadi, will drink.

We trudged back slowly towards our room and relaxed a bit. It was a tough schedule but we had decided that sleep was not the top criteria. After around 40 minutes, it was time to meet the sea again. This time it was Tarkarli beach, that was about 5 kms from Malvan.

Since we had offloaded the baggage, we could fit in 5 people in the car and take just one extra bike. The road that led to the beach was also soothing surrounded by tall trees all around the place that was embellished with red soil all over. We even saw a stage show over there. Some small girls were dancing wonderfully well with an avid audience lapping up every step. We parked our vehicled in the MTDC parking lot and made our way to the beach. If anything, Tarkarli was better than Chivla. In fact both of them shared the same beach space as Chivla was close to 2 kms to the right of Tarkarli.

There was a Firang couple on the beach. Charan asked Bhushan if his tummy isnt showing up a lot. Bhushan asked him the reason. Charan replied saying that there was a Firang lady on the beach and she may not be impressed by a stout fellow. Bhushan advised him to try out Indian chicks before taming a Firang blonde ... :).

Ameya and Sabhtarsha headed for a walk towards the left of the beach. I guess Amol walked right upto Chivla towards the right ... :). Charan also walked a long distance to the right collecting shells. Bhushan kept himself on the sand. Prashant and I were already floating in the sea. An official from MTDC asked us to shift our base to 100 meters to our right and we obliged. Bhushan also made his entry in the water soon.

After playing for half an hour, Bhushan, Prashant and I started walking left and decided to relax in a boat parked on the sand. Prashant and I entered the boat calmly. There was a thin log of wood kept to enter the boat but it required some balancing to get in. Bhushan opted for that but everytime he came onto the log, either we shook the log or made him laugh and he fell off. He finally nade it after 6 or 7 attempts. Bhushan challenged Prashant to jump off the tip of the boat. Knowing Prashant, this was not going to be tough and he jumped off without breaking sweat. But Bhushan just wanted to sit on the tip. Prashant didnt wanna come back from the normal way. He wanted to come back from the same place he jumped off from. This was gonna be tough. He tried in vain. Looking at his commitment, Bhushan branded him as "John Gapat" .... :).

We entered the sea again and this time for a long time. Charan came back from his shell sojourn and saw another pretty girl on his way back. To his dismay, she was accompanied by a guy and a bodyguard like fellow. He had quite a story to tell us about this girl and her partner. It can be called sleazy by most of the people but for CoV, it was just honouring a fellow CoVian's feelings. Charan is great with his description about girls. It can go from lewd to sublime to lewd again ... :).

Ameya desperately wanted to visit the bathroom and we promptly picked ourselves up and headed back to the room. Almost everone had a bath and washed away all the sand still sticking to the body. Ameya and I went out for a walk while others got ready for dinner. We were ready for dinner by 9 am. We were scheduled to go to Hotel Dariya Sarang. It was on Chivla beach but further away from Silver Sand. Again, we asked a host of people for directions. Bhushan and Charan led us to Dariya Sarang. The walk from the room to the hotel drained us off all our enery since it took close to 45 minutes. In hindsight, I should have taken my car but I was bored of driving.

We made ourselves comfortable in the hotel and ordered food and drinks. Fish again, was the undisputed choice among Non-Veggies. Ameya, Amol and Bhushan gave me a drinks treat as a mini Bachelors party token. Thanks guys. A heated debate ensued regarding various topics like : Does Kerala really have 100 % literacy (Bhushan and Ameya Vs Charan and I), Should we have opted for a hired car instead of driving on our own with bikes (Bhushan and Charan Vs Prashant, Amol and I) and finally Why did we get bikes (Bhushan and Charan Vs Prashant, Amol and I). It seemed like we would come down to blows any moment but it was never meant to be. I can safely pledge that it was one of the best debates I have ever been part of. Gaurav was sorely missed here as he takes get pride at debating. After the initial round of food and drinks, we idled around on the beach. Every single soul was begging to hit the bed. It had been a long day. 5 30 am to almost midnite. We entered the hotel again and had rice and finished off with the bill in a hurry. The walk from the hotel seemed like it would never end and once it did, we were all in dreamland pretty soon. End of Day 2. Malvan is peace personified.

Day 3.
We got up at 6 30 am only to be greeted by medium to heavy rain outside. The plan was to visit Sindhudurg fort before heading to Shiroda. Bhushan got up with a headache and that dampened the spirits a bit. But we decided that we will not skip breakfast today. Maybe that would help everyone. The rain stopped by 7 15 am. Amol and I drove down to Zantye's. This is a Cashew factory quite famous in Malvan. Amol wanted to buy some cashew from there but the person in charge didnt quote a price too less than the price in Pune. So we retreated from there. By the time we came back to the room, everyone was raring to go. We hopped into the car and onto the bikes. We reached a hotel near Malvan Bus Stand. Thats when the rain started pouring down once again. We enjoyed a great breakfast comprising of Misal, Puri Kurma and Omlettes to go along with tea and biscuits. The difference in body language was quite evident since we knew that we are not gonna think about food for some time. Bhushan's headache had disappeared by now. We headed to a place from where we could hire a boat to go to Sindhudurg fort. By the time we reached the place, the rain had subsided considerably.

We enquired about the boat fare that amounted to Rs 27 per head. But the boat had a capacity of 12 people and it wouldnt leave until there were 12 people on board. It was a hard constraint but we decided to budge and paid the amount for 12 people since we didnt want to slip in time. The rain again started pelting down, this time, for good. It didnt stop for half an hour and we could just sit there and hope for it to stop. Finally, when we had had enough, we decided to call it quits and reclaimed the amount for the boat before heading back to our room.

We loaded the baggage back into the car. Sabhtarsha and I got some incense sticks to get rid of the smell in the car. We paid the rent and moved out of Malvan at 10 am. Charan's friend from Kankavli had suggested that we go from the "Sagari Mahamarg" when we go to Shiroda. We did just that. At first, there was a stretch of one km that was bad, but what followed can surely be termed as an engrossing Konkan crusade. The road went through forests, hills, typical Konkan villages submerged in an odour of fish, red soil, palm trees and water bodies.

We were looking forward to driving alongside the sea since the term "Sagari Mahamarg" means Sea Highway. But all that we could garner was just a cool breeze blowing from right to left that suggested that the sea was always very close to the road. We halted at a bridge that overlooked a lake and plenty of palm trees and clicked some snaps. We moved on from there and the Konkan magic was growing by the nanosecond.

Shiroda wasnt too far away from Malvan, hardly 50 kms. Ameya and Sabhtarsha saw a long black snake on the road but the others were spared of such a sight ... Phew ! We sought refuge at a astonishing sight from where we could see the sea. That was the first time the sea actually came to within viewing distance of the road. It was an extraordinary sight to view the sea in all its splendour. We moved on and reached Vengurla at 11 15 am and headed straight to Vengurla beach. But we forgot to take a left turn and went ahead. The locals informed us about Vengurla Bandar and we decided to check it out. Im glad we did.

Vengurla Bandar was situated at a decent height overlooking the sea. There were quite a few rocks present there. But the topmost rock caught our fancy and we decided that all of us will go and sit on it and gaze right into the sea from there. The rocks were a bit slippery and there were quite a few crabs also present. The sea was striking the rocks with alarming ferocity, so we had to be careful. As always, Prashant and Charan were the first to reach the topmost rock. Sabhtarsha, Amol, Bhushan and I followed while Ameya decided to give it a skip considering that it was a bit risky.

When we reached the rock, it gave us an amazing sense of achievement and peace to accompany it. It was quite soothing to just sit over there and admire the sea. No one spoke a lot, all we did was just look out in the distance and ponder over some thoughts. Prashant, Charan and Sabhtarsha went a bit further ahead and enjoyed the splash of the sea from close range. Not quite far off was a fisherman getting his daily catch. It was a good and bad sight to see a fish struggle to breath once out of water. After close to half an hour, we decided to head back. We saw Vengurla beach from a distance and decided that we would skip it and concentrate on Aravli beach at Shiroda later in the day.

We had booked 2 rooms at Sagarteerth resort at Shiroda. But Bhushan heard that a resort named Dolphin was better. We asked some locals about both the resorts. They were of the opinion that Dolphin was better. So we decided to check it out. We enquired at Dolphin about the rent, food and drinks. Everything sounded reasonable. The only sour point was that there were no Dolphin rides available. Dolphin rides comprise of hiring a boat that would take you into the sea where you can see dolphins. But that feature wasnt functional during the monsoons. So we had to be content with just the beach. We were presented with 2 huts (called tents in this region). The huts were also quite 'Konkan' in nature made of bamboo sticks with a layer of thick plastic covering its roof. We got all our baggage and dumped it in our rooms. The fan was not functional at one of the rooms, so we shifted to two other rooms. One thing good was that the tents were directly on the beach. So we didnt have to walk a lot as we did in Malvan. The sound of sea remained with us until we checked out of Shiroda. We were just itching to answer the call of the sea.

We hit Aravali beach with quite a bit of zest and enjoyed for half an hour in the sea playing cricket. Amol accidentally threw the bat in the sea 3 times. Well, if you throw it thrice, it shouldnt be called accidental. Sabhtarsha and I also followed suit by throwing the bat accidentally in the sea. It looked like the bat was keener to enjoy in the sea than us. We had already ordered food for ourselves and we sat down to eat at the Dolphin cafeteria. Fish and drinks were again a common commodity on the table but only Amol, Bhushan, Ameya and I were drinking. This time, Vodka also featured along with Beer. The hotel manager asked us to have a peek at the sea. I dont know how we missed it but the climate had suddenly changed. Sunshine has disappeared behind the clouds and the sky had become pitch dark. We got up and walked a bit towrads the passage that led us to the beach and saw clouds advancing from distance. It was quite a horrific sight in some respect but sounded more like adventure to us. We finished off the food with the sand blowing in the air due to the excessive wind that was slowly gaining momentum.

Except for Ameya, everyone else was on the beach in a jiffy. It started raining very heavily, almost torrential. It was not the safest of beaches as the force with which the sea pulled us in was decent. We decided not to venture into the sea a long way and played casually only along the sand. The sand here was also unlike the sand at other beaches. It contained more stones, more pieces of broken shells and other particles. Mud slinging could really hurt you with this kind of sand as most of us found out. Bhushan went back to the room after playing for about half an hour. But the remaining 5 of us just didnt want to leave the sea. Cricket, catches and even Golf (with our own weird rules) ruled for the next 5 hours and we didnt realise when it was 7 pm. We ventured into the sea somewhat, holding hands for support but most often than not, the sea either threw us out or pulled us in with its sustained force.
By the time it was 7 pm, we were dead tired and dirty. We went back to the room and had a bath but the sand being coarse, we found it tough to wash it away completely.

It was the last night at Konkan for us and we decided to make it count. Earlier, plans of a bonfire were squashed coz most of the wood lieing on the beach was wet under the spell of rain. After we got ready, we went back to the cafeteria and ordered drinks and fish. 3 quarters of Vodka were gulped down by Bhushan, Charan, Amol, Ameya and me. Amol also had beer. Prashant and Sabhtarsha were happy with their soft drinks. We chatted and laughed and giggled. It seemed for a moment that we would sit through the night. But we had hardly had sleep for the last 2 days, hence we decided to sleep early. Plans of going to Arambol in Goa in the morning were discussed but since I didnt get the papers of my car, we cancelled the plan as we didnt want to encounter the Goa police. Charan was the first to leave the dinner table. I followed but I found one hut closed from outside and the other empty. Where had Charan gone ? I came back to the cafeteria and told the guys. Bhushan also checked the first room to be closed from outside and the second one empty. We were shit scared at this point. Bhushan and I went to the beach to see if Charan is not upto some nuisance but he wasnt there either. Charan had also been eyeing a pretty lady in the cafeteria. We wondered if Charan had entered her tent. That would have been devastating. We went back to the hut. We told the manager about it. He told us that sometimes, the guards close the hut from outside if they find it open.

We went back to the room that was closed from outside and opened it. On switching on the lights, we saw Charan safely deposited on the bed. That was close. I hit the bed immediately and I didnt know what time the others came back. It was midnight. End of Day 3. Aravali is sublime.

Day 4.
We started getting up at 7 am. It was Dassera. But that didnt dawn upon us till the time we left Aravali. Charan and I sat down to shit in adjacent bathrooms and were chatting away to glory as if we were having a face to face conversation. We even wished each other in this position. Weird ... !!. Except for Charan, everyone had decided not to have a bath. That was kind of odd for a Dassera. We were ready by 8 30 am. Bhushan and I tidied up with the payment of food and drinks bills with the manager while the others frollicked around the beach for the final time. Later, we saw some fishermen assemble their catch. This is indeed a skillful job. It is an art to even get the fish out of the net. We gathered our baggage and headed towards our vehicles.

If I was to pick the best of the 3 nights, I would choose the night at Aravali without any disrespect to the other two. The huts on the beach and the fun on the beach have influenced my decision to pick Aravali. Anyway, the next job on hand was to complete the trip with a bang. We knew it would be the toughest day since we had to cover the distance we covered on the first 3 days in one day. The plan was to head to Kolhapur via Sawantwadi, Amboli Ghat and Nipaani.

The person incharge at Dolphin guided us to Shiroda village from where we could go to Sawantwadi. We realised that it was Dassera and there weren't any garlands around the vehicles. So we halted at Shiroda to complete the formalities. We asked a garland vendor about the price of the garlands. He mentioned that a big garland for the car would cost Rs. 40 while the two small garlands for the bikes would cost Rs. 20 each. Being born bargainers, we told him that we would pay him Rs. 50 for all 3. Initially, he didnt say anything and we took the garlands and started putting them on the vehicles. Thats when the better half of the garland vendor started yelling at him for not having taken the full amount from us. There was something she said that annoyed Prashant and Charan. So they asked me to pay him the remaining money. I paid him the money as we didnt wanna do anything stupid on Dassera day.

The road from Shiroda to Sawantwadi was also very picturesque. We encountered another Ghat while driving along this road. If anything, the forest surrounding the Ghat was almost on parallel with the others we had experienced, if not better. We also met Konkan railway once again in between. We reached Sawantwadi at 9 15 am and put fuel in all the three vehicles. It started raining again, following the norm of the previous 3 days around this time.

I had heard a lot about Amboli Ghat. Incidentally, Amboli receives the highest amount of rainfall in Maharashtra. As soon as we started the ascent of Amboli Ghat, I realised the fun of converting hype into hoopla. Amboli was everything that was anticipated of it, if not better. In fact, it crossed our expectation way beyond what we could have ever imagined. Seconding Ameya, I would say that it has been the best drive of my life so far. I haven't moved my hands clockwise and anti clockwise with such an alarming frequency ever in my life.

Brimming with fog, U turns, S turns, snail turns (U turn followed by a sharp left or right), waterfalls and dense forests, it was like driving through the bylanes of heaven. I guess we stopped atleast 3 times, not being able to resist the tantalising beauty of Mother Nature exposed to us. Bhushan urged us not to waste time coz there was a pre defined SPOT further ahead that would allow us to quench our thirst. And Bhushan wasnt wrong.

When we reached that spot, it lookeds surreal. A waterfall suspended from a great height and winding its way through rocks. To top that, there were steps made to reach the waterfall upto a certain extent. Since Bhushan, Charan and I reached before the others, we didnt want to waste time assaulting the waterfall. Bhushan and I made our way to the top climbed all the steps available. After that, we needed to trek a bit. The rocks that followed were also well placed in a way that we could easily visualize them as chairs and sit down with the waterfall gushing down our back. But we couldnt trek any further coz there were lots of crabs at places where we would have had placed our hands for support. So we decided to retreat. By now, the others had also reached and had some snacks. Sabhtarsha, Charan, Prashant and Amol also joined us in the waterfall later. It was getting very cold and we didnt want to drain ourselves considering we were still 350 kms away from home. Time was also gaining on us. We trekked down from the waterfall and had Vada Pavs, Omlettes and tea at a tapri. There were lots of monkeys around and at one instance, a monkey even threatened to pounce on Sabhtarsha since he was walking in a way that resembled him carrying something close to his tummy. The monkey mistook it for some food and followed Sabhtarsha and Prashant for some time. But later, he gave up. After around half an hour at Amboli, we decided to move on. I regret not having clicked any pics at Amboli but it was raining quite heavily and we couldnt risk the camera.

Bhushan led us to a small town by the name of Hiranyakeshi, known for its temple and more famously for its leaches. There was a 4 km road off the highway that went through a scenic backdrop although the road was pathetic. We reached the temple and I for one was very conscious of the leaches. I had heard tales from my fellow trekker friends that leaches can be a real nuisance. We perfomed darshan at the mandir and didnt wait for a long time before getting back to the vehicles and got back to the highway just before 1 pm.

The plan was to reach Kolhapur via Aajra, Gadinghlaz and Nipaani. The map that we carried stood us in good stead as it helped us with directions throughout the trip although the distance it showed between towns was incorrect. Charan, Amol and I were in the car. We switched from songs in the CD to songs in Charan's cell. There were some great Marathi songs that kept the spirits high. This was a very patchy road as there were sections that were smooth and others that were downright messy. We reached Aajra quite quickly and were on our way to Gadinghlaz. We had a diversion on this way for Kolhapur and we promptly decided to take that route. This road was also bad and we were now heading towards Nipaani. In between, we answered nature's call on the way to Nipaani.

The road that led to Nipaani also contained a steep climb. This was quite arduous since the condition of the road was also not helping our cause. But when the road started descending, we could see something magical in the distance. This road we running perpendicular to a road slowly coming ito sight on which vehicles were zipping away at a high speed. The road wasnt quite visible but it made us eager to reach there soon. When we finally finished the bad stretch of road, we were at the crossroads of NH-4. We also realised that we were somewhere in Karnataka with all the milestones appearing in Kannada. NH-4 is like a dream. You have to see it to believe it. When we were heading towards Nipaani, NH-4 was 6 lane for close to 25 kms. Even at 110 kms an hour, you feel as if you are driving slowly coz other cars easily overtake you. After a while, we passed Nipaani and also saw the 6 lane road abandon us for a 4 lane one. Even this was top class. Bhushan called us and asked us to wait at Raigad Dhaba on the way. We were just 20 kms from Kolhapur and fortunately for us, as soon as Charan finished speaking to Bhushan, we saw Raigad Dhaba on the left. We stopped there waiting for the others to join since they were still 60 kms off Kolhapur.

We were very hungry by this time. Charan and Amol didnt want to eat sub standard food at a Dhaba. So we decided to change the plan. While coming from Pune, Bhushan had mentioned about Hotel Gandharva at Kolhapur that was famous for good non veg food. Since we knew that Amol and Sabhtarsha would not mind eggs, we decided that we would opt for Gandharva instead of Raigad. We departed from Raigad and on the way, Charan called Bhushan. But Bhushan iformed us that Gandharva serves Non Veg only in the night. We couldnt help but laugh at our folly. Bhushan asked us to wait outside the main gate of Shivaji University in Kolhapur. Luckily again, we found Shivaji University just after finishing talking to Bhushan. We pulled up our car outside the main gate of Shivaji University and waited for the rest to arrive. It was already 3 15 pm.

The remaining 4 arrived at 3 45 pm. Bhushan swapped places with Amol and guided us to a hotel called Gulmohar. But that was shut coz it was already 4 pm. We then moved onto another hotel by the name of Padma but that was shut too. We were very hungry and this was becoming very frustrating. Bhushan asked us if we would be OK with Veg food. We just wanted food. We replied in the affirmative. We moved on to a hotel called Damini that was purely vegetarian. And .... deja vu ... Damini was shut too. Bhushan hopped out of the car to book his tickets to Pune since he was gonna stay back at Kolhapur. He asked us to check out a hotel called Sahyadri. That was shut too. We were slowly running out of energy. We decided to drop Bhushan at his place and head to the highway and get hold of some Dhaba. We did just that. Sabhtarsha and I dropped Bhushan at his place in Kolhapur and came back to join the remaining 4. Since Prashant had been on the bike up and until now and Ameya and Sabhtarsha had also suffered on the bike, we decided to adjust 4 people in the car and one each on the bike. So Prashant, Sabhtarsha, Ameya and I were in the car while Amol and Charan got behind the wheels of the Pulsars.

We stopped at a Dhaba after leaving behind Kolhapur by 10 kms. As soon as we entered the Dhaba, it started raining heavily again and this time, it gave an impression that it wouldnt stop. We had good food at the Dhaba although the rotis were not upto the mark but we were so hungry that we didnt mind. After a sumptuous meal, it was time to hit the road again. It hadnt stopped raining yet and the watch showed 6 pm. We decided to meet at Satara after which Charan and Amol sped off almost immediately.

The rest of us tidied up the car a bit and then drove off. We were constantly driving at a speed of 100 kms an hour which is a tribute to the excellent driving conditions as well as the state of NH-4. Satara is close to 105 kms from Kolhapur and we reached Satara at 7 15 pm. Amol and Charan had called us and asked us to wait at the "Satara 2 km" milestone. But we didnt see anyone there. They later called us to say that they are waiting at a place where the flyover of Satara completes. But they werent there too. They called a third time saying that they are waiting at the point where the side railing of the road ends. Confusion and a tired mind. What else do you expect. We finally met the both of them and got off the car. We had tea and biscuits which arrived after around half an hour. It was 8 15 pm when we left Satara and headed towards Pune which was another 110 kms away.

Its a treat to return to Pune via Satara coz you dont encounter Khambatgi Ghat on your way back. Its smooth sailing all the way. Ameya, Charan and I took time off to sing some songs in their entirety with "Mai Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata Chala Gaya" and "Ramaiyya Vasta Vaiyya" ruling the roost. NH-4 deserted us with about 20 kms remaining for Pune. It started raining again which made visibilty very tough keeping in mind the high beam being flashed by vehicles coming from the opposite direction. We had decided to meet at Katraj chowk when we left Satara. We reached Katraj at 9 45 pm and found Prashant and Amol already waiting for us albeit at the wrong place somewhere further down that decided. They retracted later.

Charan, Prashant and I required some more money for the petrol that was promptly dispatched to each one. We had a budget of 2 K per person for the trip and I was glad to see Rs. 1600 still remaining. I distributed the money among ourselves. Everyone removed their baggage from the car and it was time to bid good-bye.

Sabhtarsha headed home from Katraj bus stop itself. Charan was supposed to drop Amol at PSPL and later accompany him for dinner and potentially some drinks ... :). Prashant was supposed to drop Ameya at Kothrud before heading home. I waved out to all of them nad headed home. The reading in my car showed 984 kms. This distance was covered from the time I left my place on Friday. I reached home at 10 20 pm and had a bath before falling off to sleep.

What a trip. What a farewell to CoV. I am saddened by the fact that I wont be part of the future CoV trips. But as I begin a new innings in my life, I am assured of exploring something new, something enjoyable and something worth an experience. It gives me a lump in throat to think about not accompanying CoV henceforth. I wish I could be part of the growing up days of CoV. I hope someday we can transform CoV to CFoV with F standing for Families. I pray for the longevity of CoV. Cheers CoV ... !!


Prashant said...

Gr8 job Pratik.
Definitely Konkan trip was another jewel in CoV's crown.
Ur blog will always remind those precious moments in future
& help CoVians laugh, feel proud or may be cry for a moment.
I would say thanks buddy for making the trip memories live long ,
long than our lives.

Ameya Agnihotri said...

Hey beri,
A great account of our voyage...
Will remain fresh in our mind for years to come...
Also, special congrats this article " Konkan Splash .... !!" figures fifth in google search for "aravali beach"

Rock said...

Sahi collection aahe rav. really its something unforgettable! :)