Being from Delhi, I must admit, I have no regard whatsoever for the ‘weekend getaways’ from Bombay. You call Lonavala an effin’ hill station?! I could drive to Manali from Delhi, and that’s a hill station! Or Alibaug for that matter. Somehow I just don’t get the feeling of getting away until I’m a good 300 kms away from the city. Maybe it is just a notion in my head, but eh whatever!
And that’s why extended weekends are gifts of god to corporate world. While the good ole’ Saturday and Sunday off is nice, but those mega-rare days when you have a Friday/Monday off, you can consider those >300 kms+ destinations. And that’s when my friend, life is really good!
One such extended weekend, me and Ru decided to embark on the very famous Konkan belt and drive through the western ghats to Ganpatipule. Given Ru’s love for driving we didn’t take NH-4 and went with Google maps and NH-17. Google Maps was my idea and wasn’t a very helpful idea I must add. Between finding a prayer house and finding a catholic, we somehow got out of Bombay and reached NH-17 and then to Pen in the open arms of a 2 hours long traffic jam. Pen truly was a pain and we had to take a 50 kms detour because even after 2 hours, we couldn’t see any end to the jam.
Net net, the journey that was ‘supposed’ to take 8 hours (according to Google Maps) took 12 hours and we reached Ganpatipule at 9:30 PM in the night.
The route we took: Panvel->Pen->Nagothana->Utekhol->Tempale->Mahad->Potadpu->Chiplun->Ganpatipule
(with all our detours we reached Ganpatipule in about 430 kms and 12 hours)
Disclaimer- Never underestimate the distance Bombay folks will travel to get away and always book a room.
Disclaimer 2- Also leave the scope for the destination to surprise you. The place where we ended up staying wasn’t available online but it was the highlight of the trip! And we pretty much always never book a hotel in advance.
Okay so as I was saying, we reached Ganptipule at 9:30 in the night and we had not booked any hotel. So as soon as we reached there, we started our hotel hunt. By 10:30 we had seen 14 hotels and either they were full or unlivable. So we decided to move base to Ratnagiri (around 22 kms from Ganpatipule), but before that in our last ditch attempt we decided to check the few hotels in Malgund (6 kms from Ganpatipule).
As luck would have it, all the hotels in Malgund were occupied and right before we were to take the U turn for Ratnagiri, we saw a non-lit Sagar Darshan. In our tired stupor, growling stomach calls we thought- the place is worth a shot. So we drove in. Lucky for us, the hotel had a vacant room and we thought at 1500 INR/night- it’s not so bad, and we could shift to a better hotel next day. The only catch, the room didn’t have an A/C. Honestly, at 11:30 in the night, after 12 hours of drive, no dinner- we really didn’t give two flying frocks! And the hotel owner- Mr. Sandeep Kasar said the hotel was ON the beach. In the noir of the night, we couldn’t see but definitely by the sound of it, the sea wasn’t too far. We checked in the room, freshened up, ordered dinner, had wine and we slept like no one’s business.
Next morning, we woke up with one agenda- The sea! As soon as we woke up, we rushed to the sea. Mr. Kasar was right. The resort (as it was called ;)) was on the beach. We could just walk out of rooms and hop skip to the beach. Pure #strategiclocationwin it was! Obviously we didn’t waste our time looking for another hotel as we could totally live without air-conditioning for two days.
After some early morning beach sunny, we freshened up and drove off to tick Ratnagiri, Ganpatipule and Jaigarh off our agenda. While Jaigarh and Ganpatipule are easily skippable, Ratnagiri was about traffic, lunch and a fort. Oh and also about a beautiful stretch right outside Ganpatipule. For a second, I thought I was back in Koh Kood (Thailand), with blue clean sea, white sand and coconut trees. This is why I say, it truly never feels like you’ve gotten away from unless you are good >300 kms away from the main city.
To catch the sunset, we reached our ‘Beach resort’-you know, it is not really a beach resort unless it is ON a beach and not perched on a hill with a view of sea. I being me, love sunsets. I love to see the sun go home, be it into a sea or behind mountains. A good sunset is a memory that lasts. So we ordered some beer and ran to the sea. Ru for some reason, transforms into a water baby every time he’s taken close to sea. Case in point:
While I was ogling the sun set, clicking photos and taking care of some business.
In the night we drove back to Ganpatipule, to visit the ancient Ganesha temple that gives the place its name. I’m not a temple person and definitely not a big, crowded temple person. To me, any temple that takes away the intimacy needed for a prayer could well be an airport terminal for all I care. So that sums up my view of Ganpatipule temple. We ended up having ultra mega oily and spicy dinner at Naivaidyam (Ganpatipule), which pretty much ruined our stomach. But our dessert included fresh off the tree Ratnagiri alphonso mangoes, which was yumminess overdose. I have been a mango-lover-in-denial for 5-6 years. As a college kid, I read somewhere that mangoes make you fat. So I stopped eating mangoes. But in that mango filled night by the sea, it all came back to me. Plus I can always give up chocolates if I have to indulge in mangoes. The choices I make! 😉
Next morning our extremely affable host Mr. Sandeep Kasar showed us around his mango plantation, other hotels and Konkan life in general. This post and trip would be incomplete without mentioning Mr. Kasar- our insanely hospitable and large hearted host. I made a passing remark about Ratnagiri mangoes, he didn’t have to pack a dozen, but he did. Ru whined a bit about the highway journey and how bland it was, he didn’t have to spend an hour explaining an alternate but scenic route, but he did. A month after our return to Bombay, he didn’t have to send 4 dozen mangoes, but he did. Now he calls me ‘beti’ and Ru ‘daamad ji’, of course he doesn’t have to, but he does 🙂
On our way back we took the virgin route along the Ghats, as suggested by Mr. Kasar:
(We reached Bombay in about 360 kms and 12 hours)
Somewhere between Jakadevi and Guhaghar, we confirmed the way to Guhaghar with two men on a bike and sped away. As the road was empty and the valley scenic, we slowed down and for good 30 minutes just enjoyed the view. Realizing we have a long way to go, we started our drive again only to run into those two bikers, who were waiting for us as they thought we had lost our way! Being from cities, both me and Ru couldn’t quite comprehend why just everyone we met in our trip was so incredibly unreal and sweet. But guess that is how simplicity in life transcends and makes everything simple.
After 12 hours of beautiful drive, we reached Bombay in the same traffic, horn ok please and pollution. Bombay’s first moment of truth after a road trip is always the same- horrible, you just want to take a U turn and run away!
The Konkan belt lived up to its name and fame and we are already planning to go back again. But in my experience apart from the sun, the sea, the mangoes and everything else- it is the people that make the place. Go there as one of the people and see them give you an experience of a lifetime!