Well am writing this one quite late. To be precise, almost about 2 years late. We had gone on this trip during December 2011 but the memories of it are still fresh in our minds.
The trip had been a long planned one; we wanted to have a good break during the Christmas – New Year vacation and had planned for a week-long trip.
The journey began with a bus journey from Bangalore to Kolhapur. We had booked tickets on a sleeper coach and thus had a good sleep during the journey. We had arranged for a travel cab in Kolhapur to take us around all the places we had planned to visit. We reached Kolhapur early in the morning and started our journey to our first destination Tarkarli around 9. On our way, we stopped to have sumptuous breakfast at a highway restaurant. Considering that my friends had never been to Maharashtra before, I suggested them to try out the Kolhapuri Misal Pav (A famous dish made in these regions). They absolutely loved the dish and yearned for more of it during our entire trip 🙂
We had not arranged for any accommodation beforehand as we didn’t expect much rush at the place. Tarkarli being very close to Goa, the public usually prefer going to Goa than exploring this virgin beach in Maharashtra. After a bit of searching around, we managed to find accommodation at Pilankar Guest House where we negotiated on accommodation for about 800 per person per day. Though we thought this was a little on higher side, we liked the place and its location and decide to stay in. The home stay was just about 2 mins walk from the beach. We reached the place in the evening and after a bit of rest, we decided to hit out on the beach.
Oh boy!! The beach was a real beauty. We never expected to see such a beautiful, clean and virgin beach in India. We could see almost about 2-3 km of the beach and there were hardly about 5-10 people in the vicinity. Though some may not prefer such isolation and calmness on a beach, we absolutely loved it for the reason that its isolation helped maintaining cleanliness on the beach. As we found later during a beach walk, there was not a single piece of waste paper, cans, plastic… absolutely nothing; just the white sand, crystal clear waters and the palm trees in the back. We were able to see the famous Sindhudurg fort in the distance. For those who are unaware, Sindhudurg fort also called as the Malvan fort is a beauty in construction for it is surrounded on all four sides by the sea. One needs to rent out a ferry to reach the fort. I will share more insights on this fort later. Back to the beach, we were enjoying the cool breeze and the clean waters. We were almost about 500m inside the sea and yet we were in just in chest height waters. Being inside the sea at such a distance, we were surprised to notice that we could still see the sea bed and even notice few star fishes on the bed. This just goes to show how clear the waters were and the advantages of a virgin beach. After enjoying in the water for 3-4 hours we decided to head back to the home stay.
The next day started with visiting other locations in and around the place. We visited the Sangam point (where the Tarkarli river meets the Arabian Sea), rented out a ferry to visit Tsunami Island and Crocodile point. The crocodile point is nothing too great but just a bunch of coconut trees forming the shape of a crocodile snout. Beyond this point is the Devbaug beach, Vengurla and then Goa.
The Tsunami Island, as the name suggests was created when the great tsunami hit the Indian coasts in 2006. The story goes that when the Tsunami hit the coasts, a part of the land was pushed inside the Tarkarli River by the huge waves. The pushed in land created a sand bed about 50 ft. in diameter in the middle of the river. Later, when the waves receded, the water just covered about 1 feet on this sand bed forming a submerged island. This island thus got to be famous as the Tsunami Island. The island is now famous for various water sports and water activities.
After engaging ourselves in a couple of water sports, we headed to the Sindhudurg Fort. The Sindhudurg fort is the pride of the Malvan region and is an architectural masterpiece. The Fort is surrounded on all four sides by the Arabian Sea. To reach the fort, one needs to rent a ferry for about 200 bucks each person. The Sindhudurg fort was built by the famous king – Shivaji. The story goes that Shivaji conquered all the forts in Maharashtra during his regime except the Murud- Janjira fort. The Murud- Janjira fort is also surrounded on all sides by the Arabian Sea and due to this, the entrance of the fort itself is not easy to identify. Since the fort was amidst the sea, despite repeated attempts by the Dutch, Maratha and English East India Company, the fort remained unconquered. Following his unsuccessful attempt at conquering the fort, Shivaji built a replica of the fort in the Sindhudurg region which is now famous as the Sindhudurg Fort or the Malvan Fort. Though most of the fort is now in ruins, it has the following attractions (Source: Wikipedia)–
- There are three sweet water reservoirs in the fort ramparts. Even if the water in the nearby villages dries up in summer, these wells always contain water.
- There is a hidden passage (that starts in a temple that looks like a water reservoir) that goes under the island for 3 km, under the sea for 12 km, and from there 12 km to a nearby village. The tunnel was used as an escape route for the women if the enemy entered the fort. However, the British partially closed this passage after the fort was abandoned.
- The entrance gate is almost invisible, and only regular visitors are likely to find it.
- A hand-print and a footprint of Shivaji Maharaja are also embedded in one section of the fort. There is also Atmeshwar Mandir, a famous Shivling, and is beautiful place for adhyatmik sadhana (spiritual activities).
- It also houses a temple of Shivaji Maharaja, the only one in the world; the temple was built by Shivaji’s son Rajaram. Festivities such as Shivaji Jayanti (birthday of Shivaji), Ram Navami, Janmashtami, Mahashivrathri, Ganesh Chaturthi, are celebrated.
After visiting the fort, we went for snorkeling near the fort. The snorkeling was pretty cheap at INR 250 per person and though it was for just about 30 mins, was pretty good experience. We were able to see schools of fishes and corals during the dive. The folks there also arrange for scuba diving at about 1500 per person. They claim to take an individual about 25 ft. underneath the sea. Though we were interested initially for the scuba dive, we didn’t participate as one of our friends developed cold feet after snorkeling 🙁 . After this we headed back to the homestay and after relaxing for some time, we went back to the Tarkarli Beach for another round of sea dive 🙂
We had good night’s sleep at the home stay and played out some cards to spend time before hitting the beds. The next day morning, we left for Ganapatipule, a famous beach temple in Maharashtra. The temple houses Lord Ganesh and is commonly referred to in Marathi language as the “Navasacha Ganapati” and “Swayambhu Ganapati” (Self formed Idol). People visit this temple very often when their prayers to the god are answered. However, of late this place has become a tourist hub and is visited by people all over the country who have faith in Lord Ganesh. This deity faces the West, so as to guard the western gates, unlike deities in other Indian temples who face the east. The temple is at the base of a hill, and pilgrims walk around (pradakshina) the hill as a mark of respect. The sunset at this place is also quite beautiful, however the beach is unsafe as the sea bed is not flat and has a tendency to drag people enjoying the dip along the shores. After enjoying for so long at the Tarkarli beach, we didn’t feel interested to have a dip in the unsafe waters and just had a walk on the edge of the beach. Finding an accommodation here was quite a challenge as this was a popular and tourist hub along the Maharashtra Coastal line. With great difficulty, we managed to find a decent hotel to stay put for the night.
On the 4th morning of the trip, we set out to Mahabaleshwar. The route to Mahabaleshwar was exciting and beautiful. We were welcomed with fog covered highways along the route. En-route, we stopped at the Garam Paani Zaara (hot water spring). The place is quite a mystery, for irrespective of the season, you will always see hot water flowing in a small stream here. After spending few minutes here, we resumed our journey and prior to reaching Mahabaleshwar, visited the majestic Pratapgadh fort. This fort was built by Shivaji and has a golden statue of Shivaji at the fort. The fort was famous for the battle with Afzal Guru whom Shivaji killed with his cleverness and sharp intellect. There is a small camp towards the base of the fort where Afzal Guru was killed by Shivaji. Visitors are not allowed here. After spending couple of hours at the fort, we started onward toward Mahabaleshwar which is just about 25 km from the fort. We reached Mahabaleshwar late in the evening and just in time for the beautiful sunset. We spent the night relaxing at the hotel. Mahabaleshwar, being a commercial tourist center was heavily crowded as was expected during this time of the year. We had a late night dinner after strolling around the Mahabaleshwar market. The next day we visited some of the nearby places in Mahabaleshwar such as the Venna Lake, Arthur Seat Point, Panchganga Temple (This is the birth place of 5 different rivers – Koyna, Krishna, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri which together are referred to as the Panchganga), and Wilson Point etc… and set out to Panchgani. In Panchgani, we visited the famous chocolate factory, strawberry plantations, table land (This flat large expanse of laterite rock is the second longest mountain plateau in Asia), Sydney Point and the Mapro gardens. After having lunch en-route, we also visited the Wai temple which apart from the deity of Lord Ganesha is popular for Bollywood movies. Several Movies have been shot here such as Omkara, Mrutyudand, Swades, Gangājal, Dabangg etc… After visiting the temple, we started our journey back to Kolhapur and reached Kolhapur late in the night. Unfortunately we were completely out of money by now and were left only few hundred bucks after paying the hotel advance amount. Having run broke, we planned to spend the next day at the hotel itself. Fortunately, the next morning welcomed us with the three most awaited words –“Salary is credited” 🙂
At Kolhapur, we visited the famous Lakshmi Temple and had another round of the famous Kolhapuri Misal Pav. The rest of the day was spent at leisure at the hotel and at the night we started back to Bangalore, thus bringing to end a wonderful and memorable trip for all of us. We reached Bangalore on the 31st night and after a New Year party celebration at the famous Bikers and Guzzlers Pub, we rounded off the Christmas – New Year vacation with beautiful memories. 🙂