Kokan Photologue – Forts, Beaches and Coastal Roads!
Welcome to the photologue of my solo Kokan trip. It was an extremely pleasurable spontaneous escapade with pristine empty beaches, imposing and rustic old forts as well as mindblogglingly picturesque coastal roads. The best part is, most places I rode through were completely untouched and off the typical Konkan visiting tourist’s radar. Virgin and beautiful. At times you could almost fool someone that you are on some European Coast rather than India.
The day started off as usual. Getting up half-hearted, grinding through the morning tasks with half opened eyes and then getting ready for work letting out soft grunts every few minutes. Then something cracks in your head, almost loud enough to be heard by people even living outside it. In this moment you suddenly know this is not going to be a normal day. And my word, it wasn’t. It’s a rare occasion when you suddenly know that you just have to succumb to your wanderlust. Even your wife sees it in your eyes and says, “Just go! Have fun”. You know you’ve married the right woman.
In considerably less time than I took to get ready that morning, I had already packed my overnight bag, put on my riding gear and even researched and booked a wonderful, small farm house for one night’s stay. Bag strapped on the bike and a manically huge smile plastered on my face, I was off.
Rode non-stop from Pune to Khandala on the old Mumbai-Pune highway finally stopping in the Old Khandala Ghat for a few photos of the valley and the Expressway. The ride on the open highway was relaxing and smooth. Continued on through the town of Khopoli towards what I used to call, ‘Pen-in-the-ass’. The Lonavala-Khopoli-Pen stretch is quite a nice B-road and fun to ride with a few twists and turns. But Pen itself is usually very crowded, slow to ride through and then the road for the next few kilometers is potholed with many traffic jams. But I was surprised that the road has improved a lot and the traffic too was managable, which may be because it was a weekday.
Moving on, the road gets quite nice as you approach Alibaug, with more greenery and twisty roads with occasional peeks at the sea. Just before Alibaug I took the bypass towards Revdanda, which can be a bit confusing as there are multiple right and left turns before you finally get on the right road. Now this is proper Konkan territory. Small winding roads making way through tiny villages, lined with coconut and betel nut trees, picture-perfect homes and temples. I made my customary stop at Nagaon beach for lunch.
I had left with literally no plan, except to explore as many coastal roads, use the ferries as much as possible and stop and explore anything I found interesting. As I was passing through Revdanda, I found exactly that – Revdanda Fort! I’ve never seen it before though I had passed by many times, so I went for it. Just a little ways from the main road, it is right on the Revdanda beach. The fort itself is mostly in ruins, but it still is imposing, though small, and really a sight to behold. You can see the Korlai fort from here too which was next on my agenda.
I met a few guys there who were travelling through Konkan and kayaking on various beaches. They were carrying their own kayaks and all. Badass!
I crossed over the brigde and rode along looking for my farm house near Borli village just after Korlai. I found it and I was so chuffed! The Devrai Farm House is a small property just off the main road. It’s clean, well maintained and extremely beautiful. A local couple are the caretakers who are very sweet and gracious hosts. The cottage is facing west towards the sea, which you can just about see beyond some farmland. (Tariff – Rs. 1000. I got a discount as it was a weekday and I was travelling alone)
The room is quite decent too, nothing fancy but with all amenities and very clean and comfortable. I dumped my bag and left for Korlai fort. Korlai is a small fishing village and you drive to the fort through fish drying areas (close your nostrils if you’re not used to it! I like it though). The road is a trail really, not a tarred one but still manageable for all manner of vehicles, both big and small. You reach the lighthouse, where you can park and then trek to the top of the hill.
This fort too is in ruins, but this one is bigger spread over the top of the whole hill. It’s very beautiful, especially basked in the orange glow of the evening sun. I trekked and checked out all corners of fort and then made my way back to the farm house for some freshening up and tea. I lounged on the hammocks for a while, taking in the fresh air, the trees and the blue sky while the pet dog and her adorable little puppies gave me some company!
I changed into comfortable clothes and went to Korlai beach for the sunset. I wanted to go for a swim, but Korlai beach is a bit rocky and not suitable for swimming. So I hung out on the rocks, with my feet in the water, watched the sun go down and then decided to turn back. As I was about to leave, the sky burst into a brilliant pink and orange glow. Then suddenly I was viciously attacked by two more little puppies on the beach! They jumped and played until sadly, I had to ride away.
I went back to the farmhouse, had another cup of tea and sat on the terrace of the cottage as it went dark and the stars came out. It’s nice to see stars actually appear in the sky as opposed to the city where we don’t seem to see anything apart from the moon and the glow of the city lights against the smog!
Soon I heard a growl from my gut and I asked the caretaker about some good seafood. He gave me the address of his friend’s restaurant just down the road – Shree Samarth Krupa. I called before hand for some crab and then rode down there. I gorged on some prawns fry (Rs. 180) and crab thali (Rs. 160!!!). Man, it was so good! The prawns were spicy, chunky and juicy. The crab curry had two medium size crabs in a spicy coconut based curry with 2 chapatis, rice and sol kadhi. Nothing like a nice leisurely dinner under coconut trees with the cool winter breeze.
The next morning after a solid peaceful sleep, I left just after 7.30 towards Murud, where I planned to catch the ferry to Dighi. On the way I stopped at Kashid beach for breakfast. Small shacks are usually open early. Further down the road, there are couple more beaches that are devoid of crowds. I stopped first at Chikni beach, which basically is the southern end of Kashid beach. The beach is extremely clean, great for a dip with a small river opening up into the sea with a hill on the left. It’s very pretty and peaceful. The beach is lined with many luxury villas which are empty most of the time and the locals have much gossip to tell about the properties as well as the owners!
A few kilometers down the road is a fishing beach called Danda. No one stays there but fishermen have their storage huts and boats on the beach. This beach is less clean but beautiful nevertheless as it arcs into a ridge and continues on the other side.
There is a huge bungalow on top of a hill on Danda beach which currently has been closed off. Locals had told me an interesting story about this house on my last trip. They said that some Don-type guy from Mumbai used to live here and carry out smuggling from the sea to Mumbai from this house. It was complete with a secret entry for boats and internal passages! But soon he was caught and the house is under police custody as part of evidence. The villas on Chikni beach too apparently were owned by him and his lawyer, some of which they sold, but with their activities caught, everything is just lying unused. Interesting!
I rode along the very picturesque coastal road towards Murud to catch a ferry from Rajpuri port to Dighi. I had asked multiple times to multiple people for exact ferry timings and frequency. I learnt the hard way that the Kokani people, though extremely sweet, hardworking and friendly, aren’t exactly reliable! They never say that they don’t know something. They will just give you completely wrong information in a very matter-of-fact way, making you believe it instantly. So basically, the Rajpuri-Dighi ferry was at 9 am and the next one was at 10.30 am, but I was told it was at 8.30 with ferries every 10 minutes. So I was relaxed and reached late just missing the 9 am ferry. But then I found out that another ferry from Agardanda to Dighi was at 9.30 which I was told by two local boys, who too were in the same boat as me – literally. They too had missed the Rajpuri one and wanted to catch the Agardanda one. So we rushed to there!
I parked my bike on the boat and sighed in relief. After about 10 minutes the ferry departed. It is a decent sized vessel with space for about 6 cars and few more bikes. The ferry is quite clean and well maintained with good staff. The trip along with my bike cost me Rs.50. The view of the sea is amazing and really saves a lot of time. It is the ideal way to travel through Kokan.
Within 15 minutes it was time to disembark at Dighi. I got off and had tea at a small shop and confirmed the coastal route via Nanavli on Google maps as well as the owner of the shop. I set off expecting an average road all the way to Diveagar but was shocked to see that it actually was a fantastic black strip of tarmac winding over the hills and along the pristine coastline. There was no traffic with really mindblowing views. The sea was sparkling in the sun, brilliant blue in colour, with white sandy or rugged rocky beaches along the way.
There were tiny villages every few kilometres which were completely untouched by commercialization. Then I reached Adgaon beach – I was blown away. The beach is so beautiful and there are houses right along the beach. Not a single restaurant or hotel in sight but extremely picturesque. Just beyond the village is the Adgaon koliwada or the fishing village.
Adgaon Village and Koliavada
Next is Velas Agar, another untouched village with a huge white sandy beach. From here on to Divagar the road becomes a bit rough, but Diveagar itself is beautiful. Tiny lanes winding through typical Konkani homes with sloping roofs, dung front yards with huge coconut and betel nut plantations. Every lane apart from main roads is a tiny trail, red from the soil. I rode on the massive beach which extends for kilometres on either side. It is a lot of fun. The bike slides around a bit in the sand and leaves big rooster tails behind. At a beach stall, I had some tea and took in the view of the vast sea. Diveagar is a very popular beach and is a bit crowded even on weekdays, so I moved on towards Shrivardhan.
The road from Diveagar to Shrivardhan via Bharadkhol and Aravi is another gem. It winds it’s way right on the coast over hills providing excellent views of the sea and the rocky coastline. Aravi beach is another beautiful beach. I reached Shrivardhan, had some refreshing lemonade on the beach and hung out for sometime. The beach is very clean and has been developed quite well. A nice walking plaza has been constructed with benches and lighting. There are good toilets and bathrooms too. Kudos to the local government.
After a little while I left for Harihareshwar, my last destination, before I started my return journey. I wanted to take another ferry and visit Kelshi, Anjarle etc but I realized it would be too late. I would have done that if I could stay one more night or if I would have left early in the morning the day prior. The ride to Harihareshwar is not exactly the best one as there is no coastal route. The road goes through Shrivardhan town and then a B road. The village of Harihareshwar too isn’t that pretty. But the beach is quite big and beautiful with many hotels near the beach. But it isn’t suitable for swimming as the sea floor is very steep and the currents are very strong. I again hung out for a while, had a refreshing kokam drink and decided to eat lunch and leave.
There was a nice home-style mess near the beach which was suggested to me by the juice vendor. But being Kokan, they refused to serve lunch before 1 pm, which was almost an hour from now. So on the way back I stopped at another restaurant and ordered pomphret thali. Unfortunately the place wasn’t a Kokani style place so they served me North Indian style curry, rawa fry and tandoori rotis; but it was tasty and some welcome change in flavour.
I wanted to return to Pune via Mahad and Varandha ghat but due to some road works and resultant confusion, I ended up back on the Shrivardhan road. So, I decided to take the Mangaon-Tamhini ghat route which turned out to be a brilliant decision. Being afternoon, it had started getting quite hot and tiring. But once I crossed Mangaon and began the ascent of the Tamhini ghat, the air became very cool and fresh. The road surface was smooth, with amazing twists and turns and the lower temperatures put a huge smile on my face again. I had a lot of fun putting my knee down on tight corners after all the bad roads and mostly straight line riding for 2 days.
I stopped for tea one last time and rode back home before sunset, completely refreshed by my 2 day impulsive trip!
I hope you enjoyed this photologue. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you’ve done a similar trip, your experiences and any similar routes. Thanks for reading and don’t forget – “Keep Wandering, Keep Driving and Keep Eating!” Cheers.