I have a confession to make, I like planning trips as much I like taking them and I had a great time planning this trip, for almost a year and I think I went a little overboard. The other left me to my devices and then woke up to the fact that I had planned a trip for 66 days!!! In truth I don’t think I would have got that much leave either but he threw a fit and we had to chop chop chop… and make it a 40 day trip, which meant in Maharashtra we had to make a choice between the ocean and the ghats, and we chose a bit of both, we had plenty of time in Goa later to be beach bums. So I have the itinerary for a coastal Maharashtra trip ready, we just need to find the time and money to do it later. But we really need not have worried so much, because this is where the Western Ghats begin, and they are really close to the ocean, so you cannot do one without the other, there were so many places where we were are riding with the mountains to our left and the ocean to our right! It was mind blowing and a very different coastal landscape than what we are used to in the East.
With all that beer and decadence during our last evening in Bombay (refer previous post) we didn’t even try leaving early, and rode out to explore the rest of Maharastra at a terribly sunny 11 0 clock.
If you are on a bike you need to watch out for the expressways while leaving Bombay, bikes are not allowed on them, which we didn’t know. There are no clear boards, so we didn’t even know when we got on, but soon we were amidst whizzing traffic on an elevated expressway. A cop car slowed down and told us we weren’t allowed on it and signalled us to ride on the shoulder. Having heard the worst things about Maharashtra cops,we were happy we didn’t pulled over, but the worrying part was the expressway seemed never ending, and we didn’t know how to get off.
We should have turned off the motorways option on google maps, but as I said earlier we didn’t know.
Our relief and worry was short lived, a round faced short policeman on a bike, the perfect caricature of the evil Bombay cop you see in the movies, was waiting for us down the road and asked us to pull over and took away the Other’s driving license. We apologised and told him we didn’t see the board and explained our trip to him. He saw that buttercup had a Tamil Nadu registration and we had big bags and realised we were probably telling the truth. I also told him we didn’t know how to get off this expressway there seemed to be no exits and needed his help. I think our honesty melted him a little, but he wasn’t going to let us go without a quick buck, he wrote our names, Buttercup’s number, the Other’s license detail, got us to sign on it and took 200 RS. This seemed legit till he refused to give us a copy, and came up with a story of how this violation requires him to hold on to the license for 7 days, post which we had to come back to court and sign it, but if we don’t take a receipt we would be waived off. We would be in Karnataka in 7 days, and we couldn’t leave the license behind, so I think we paid a bribe which was made to look legit. 😦
He then looked at us with scorn and contempt, he had already judged us and mockingly asked if Goa was our next stop? In his mind we were good for nothing young people (with gray hair and the beginning of wrinkles, but young nevertheless) on our way to Goa to splurge in all the vices. I sweetly let him know that we had just gotten married, and were on our way to Harihareshwar, a temple town on the coast. We were going there for the beach, but he assumed we were going there for the temple, and his opinion of us flipped around. He wanted to reconfirm that we were good kids, so he asked me again if we were married, and then smiled widely when I nodded. Now we were in his good books, he asked us to wait by the side while he confiscated the license of another couple, who weren’t so lucky, they looked like college kids so were obviously not married, had a Maharashtra license so they knew about the expressway but were trying to find the fastest route to their destination, which happened to be Lonavala, a beautiful little hill station. So they were unmarried and on a day trip to spend some time together and our cop wasn’t going to like that so he pocketed the license. I am not condoning their stupidity in breaking the law, if they really wanted to use the expressway they should have hired / borrowed a car, but now they were going to pay for more than the breaking of that rule.
So once he had all he needed, the cop asked us both of us to follow him. The other couple were dropped at a corner where there were several police cars and police men waiting to grill them but we had a moral green card and were taken down the exit. He gave us directions to the old Goa road, which pretty much follows the coastline, wished us well and asked us to visit the Shirdi temple too for additional blessings.
Me and Other did our practiced smile and nod routine to perfection, it is even easier when you have helmets on.
It is so strange and funny, but religion and marital status gets you approval from strangers, we were married and going to a temple town so we must be good human beings as opposed to unmarried couples going to Goa !
Since we were off the expressway and on the old Ga road, google maps doubled our time, the road is really bad at this stretch. We reached the beautiful Kashid beach for lunch, it is just 135 KM from Mumbai but took us 3.5 hours. When the trip was 66 days long, we were going to stay here, and I for one definitely want to come back, this is one beautiful beach, but for now we had to power through.
The road from Kashid to Murud is a lot better and extremely beautiful and dramatic, there are sudden changes in the landscape, we were riding by the sea for a bit, and then through some woods, and we were constantly climbing up and down the Western Ghats, with glimpses of the ocean here and there between the trees, and then the road will turn and we would be greeted with the magnificent expanse of the the Arabian Sea.. bang !! Sometimes we had the mountains on one side and the ocean at the other, it is beautiful, but slow. It sometimes took us an hour to cross 20 KM, but we weren’t complaining, we were having a visual feast.
Murud has a very pretty beach too, and you can see the Murud- Janjira fort of the coast. The Siddis who ruled the fort, gave the Europeans a run for their money, and remained undefeated despite several attacks. They are considered freedom fighters by many, but the Europeans thought of them as pirates, as they believed they were only after the goods in the ships and had no idea of India as a nation at that time. This could be true as well, as the Marathas also waged wars on the Siddis and the Mughals supported them as they were Muslims. Whatever may be the truth, it seems like they were very brave men, fighting and bringing down large ships and remaining undefeated despite the combined efforts of the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese.
We had to take a ferry from Murud to Dighi, these ferrys are large barges which take cars, bikes and people across the ocean for 50 RS. If you avoid the ferry and go around the coast, it can cost you 20 – 30 KM more.
We were really excited to be on the ferry with buttercup, and the people around us were more excited, they wanted to take pictures with buttercup the whole time, we were ignored as they conducted an elaborate photoshoot, taking turns to stand next to her, to rest their arms on her handles etc as we watched in amusement.
We like to stop every 100 KM or every hour for some tea, or a snack and stretch. The trick is to stop before your bum begins to get sore, for once its sore no matter how many times you stop, it will hurt as soon as you get on the bike again. I have lost count of my tips, but this is one for your future bikers, stop before your bum gets sore.
In Gujrat we didn’t have to look twice, there was a tea stall even in the most remotest village, sometimes we would stop just because it was cute, or quaint even if we didn’t need to, but we just couldn’t find a tea shop in Maharashtra. The tea stalls seemed to have been replaced by beer shops, in the middle of the mountains, in a idyllic isolated beach, even where there was no civilization in sight, there would be a beer shop.
A local later told us, that cattle were scarce in this region and traditionally milk was not part of the local diet, except for the Brahmins and Marathas. He however asked us to ask for black tea, which all shops have, but don’t offer to tourists. Boy was he right, we spent the whole part of this journey running on delicious black tea and vada pavs. These vada pavs are very different from the ones we get in the city, the potato fritter is almost all potato and no batter, and the chutney is a delicious coconut – green chilly spread. Our record stands at polishing off 8 vada pavs in one stop.
From Dighi we were on a the hills for a while, and moved away from the ocean only to loop back in again and reach the ocean surrounded by hills at Harihareshwar just in time for another beautfiful sunset.
The pristine beaches of coastal Maharashtra have a few places to stay, but most of them are not online. If you don’t want to take the risk of finding or not finding a place to stay, the MTDC ( Maharashtra tourism development corporation) resorts are a good bet, but even they aren’t there in all the beaches.
The MTDC Resort at Harihareshwar has a bunch of log cottages and one concrete building which serves as the restaurant. It is located on the beach, but designed poorly in typical government fashion. The balconies from the cottages don’t face the sea, but are angled. You can hear the ocean sitting there though, and a tree frog came out to hunt at night and entertained us for a bit. The restaurant is also poorly designed, it is by the sea, but what should have been open or atleast glass is a wall, and the windows are placed in the wrong overlooking other buildings. I could write a book about how governments choose architects and contractors and the 101 malpractices there, but I will save that rant for another day.
We were shown to our log cottage by a man whom we thought was the manager, but the next day we found out he was the sweeper filling in for the manager who had to take a personal day, and that’s how our government works :). Our cottage was very very warm inside, as log cabins are meant for cold places, and the hotel guy put on the AC with a sheepish smile and said it would be fine in 10 minutes. Once again, government buildings and poor design and choice of building materials ! But the cottages were quite huge inside with a sitting area, a bed, a dressing area, a large toilet which had smelt like a bad sauna and a balcony angled to face away from the sea. But for 2500rs a night, it is quite a steal and the beach is just a stone’s throw away. On the downside drinking water and breakfast are not included as part of the deal and to our utmost dismay they didn’t have a bar. There are bars in the town though, but we decided to give it a miss.
The food at the resort is your typical dhal – roti – sabji, and is quite good and you can have poha or toast for breakfast. I had the poha which was quite good with plenty of peanuts. The cooks were really accommodative too and made delicious hot onion pakoras which were not on the menu along with our evening coffee because we were feeling a little peckish.
Therefore weighing everything, I would give this place a 4 out of 5
There is absolutely no signal in the resort unless you have BSNL and are willing to pace up and down holding your phone high.
We spent the evening pottering around the beautiful beach which is in two parts. Steps from the resort lead to rocks with a several tide pools with little fishies and other molluscs. It makes a great place to sit and watch the sunset, but you cannot swim or get into the water here. A little mud path to the left leads to a beautiful white sandy beach, a sort of cove with calm water. It is perfect to swim in and there was no one but the two of us there both in the evening and the next day morning.
Unfortunately, everything we put in the oceans ends up somewhere, and geographically this cove is at the bottom of a deep U, you can see land on both sides, so the beach is littered with washed up trash. It is almost a pattern, trash lining the high tide lines – shampoo bottles, detergent packets, things we use everyday. They don’t disappear once we put them in our dust bins, they end up somewhere, and sometimes they end up somewhere beautiful. So you can’t lie on the beach, but when we went it was low tide and the water was clean and good wallow in.
So Harihareshwar is a good place to stop in, for the scenery and if you fancy a temple visit it is around the corner along with another beach.
We could have stayed another night, but an organic farm on the mountains was calling.