July 31, 2017

Guhagar- As Pristine As It Gets


As you travel on the road parallel to Guhagar beach, it seems like this small coastal town forgot to move beyond the 80s. A visit to Guhagar seems like time travelling to the old times when the best connection that humans had was with nature. However, few shops, restaurants and hotels are what make you realize otherwise and get you back to the present age. Though the coming of the Enron project to this tiny fishing hamlet years ago shook its image, the village still encapsulates you with its charming beach and surroundings.

Beyond the casuarinas that separate the village from the beach, are the white sands of Guhagar where the waves thrash itself onto the shore relentlessly.  The beach is all yours especially in the mornings with the sands spreading and blending with the blue sea for a long stretch between the hills on either ends. The casurinas and coconut trees in the backdrop cut it away from the main road making this endless sandy beach an absolutely serene one. There are absolutely no shops or a shack on the beach and that makes sure that the beach remains pristine. How I wish all beaches could take up such an initiative. There are no water sports here, which is another great rule that helps to maintain the beach. However, camel rides are on offer in the evenings when the crowd strolls around. Wyadeshwar Shiva temple located in the centre of Guhagar and a few meters away from the beach is the other attraction which brings people here.





Half an hour away from Guhagar is Velneshwar, another serene beach town which gets its name from a popular Shiva temple nearby. Though it isn’t as pristine as the one in Guhagar, the beach is neat and cove shaped with hills in the backdrop. You would hardly find a crowd here except for the fisher folk and that makes it all the more serene. Except for a couple of hotels and shops, Velneshwar is almost devoid of commercialization. The temple has quite an interesting architecture with spires and domes, and is quite popular in this region.





A couple of kilometers away from Velneshwar is another small coastal hamlet of Hedavi, known for its Ganesha temple and rocky beach with casuarinas lined up in the background. However, more than the quiet beach and the colourful temple, what brings visitors here is Bamanghai, the famous crevice of Hedavi. Located behind the temple, this narrow strip between the rocks shoots sea water up to a great height every few minutes which is a sight to behold. This happens because of the air that gets trapped beneath the waters and the pressure is so immense that it sometimes shoots up to even 25 feet.




The 17th century Gopalgarh fort is a short ride away to the north of Guhagar. While it is mostly the tall outer walls that remain, a climb up them offers panoramic views of the blue sea.  Inside the fort, it is thickly vegetated with numerous mango trees.  Near the fort lies Anjanvel lighthouse located in the fishing village by the same name. Located atop a hill, the lighthouse offers nice vistas of the surroundings.  Dabhol, the harbour town near Anjanvel is where River Vashishti disgorges into the Arabian sea. The setting sun and the bobbing fishing boats form a beautiful frame here.




Navigator:

Guhagar is 300 Kms away from Mumbai via Chiplun (NH- 17). The closest airport is in Mumbai and the nearest railhead is at Chiplun (44 Kms). There are buses plying between Guhagar and Chiplun.

Food and Accommodation:

Small restaurants and eateries are present near the beach in Guhagar. Hotel Suruchi and Hotel Annapurna are well recommended. In Velneshwar a small eatery is located overlooking the beach. Both basic and mid range stay options are available in Guhagar and Velneshwar.

July 28, 2017

Shrivardhan, Harihareshwar and Velas- A Photo Essay


Located 190 Kms south of Mumbai, the coastal towns of Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar are known for their beaches and temples. While the temples are a favourite with pilgrims, the long brown sandy beaches are for solitude seekers. The road runs parallel to the beaches for long and it's an absolute delight to ride on them. Velas is popular for its Velas Turtle festival held every year in the month of February/ March when numerous olive ridley turtles come ashore to lay eggs. Conservation of the turtles and their eggs are taken care by the locals and an NGO. The dilapidated Bankot fort near Velas is another attraction here.

Shrivardhan beach

Kondivli beach

Kondivli beach

Kondivli beach

Shekhadi beach

Harihareshwar beach

Harihareshwar beach

Harihareshwar

A large stretch of casuarinas form the backdrop for Velas beach

Velas beach

Velas beach

Bankot fort

Bankot fort offers nice aerial views of sea and beaches below

July 27, 2017

Meandering through the Hills



River Savitri snaking its way through the western ghats in Maharashtra. April 2017.

July 26, 2017

Beaches and Forts of Palghar


Palghar’s beaches are not your typical beach towns which are full of activities and resorts. Instead, there are long sandy stretches, palm and casurina trees, chikoo and banana plantations nearby, and forts dipped in history apart from the lovely fishing hamlets and its people. It is mostly the locals who frequent here and is fairly an unexplored stretch of beaches located to the north of Mumbai. Though the beaches may not be quite pristine, being secluded and away from the crowd makes them quite attractive.

While Kelwa beach was my first destination for the day, direction markers to Bawangad fort made me inquisitive and I headed there first. Tough to locate, it took a while and a couple of enquiries with locals to locate the fort. Totally in shambles with dilapidated walls, very little of the fort remains. The fort does offer nice views of the surroundings. There is also a temple within its premises.



Though a few kilometers away from the town, Kelwa is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Palghar. The long black sandy beach with casurainas in the backdrop had visitors even in the mornings. The sea had receded during summers and the people had to walk deep to get into the waters. The tonga (horse cart) was already out and a group of school kids gleefully enjoyed the wonderful ride. Amidst the casuarinas stands Kelwa fort with just a few fort walls remaining. Further down in the waters stands another crumbling fort of Kelwa, probably a better vantage point to track sea attacks during those ages. Kelwa dam is also quite a popular place to visit in Palghar.






After a quick breakfast at one of the many stalls near Kelwa beach, I headed to Shirgaon known for its 18th century fort and beach. The tall outer walls and minarets look attractive.  The upper levels offer nice views of the surroundings and the beach in the distance. However, the sad part is that there was construction happening inside the fort which in no way seemed related to restoration.  The long ramp to the beach was nice, and Shirgaon beach with sea weeds all over has an interesting setting.





Further ahead lies Satpati beach, known for its light house. The beach which is lined with boulders isn’t accessible, but has a small park adjacent to it. Mahim Temba beach which is a short detour away is home to a fishing hamlet, but isn’t well kept. Tarapore fort is another point of interest in Palghar. However, it was quite difficult to locate and even locals found it tough to help me. After much enquiries two young boys guided me there. It was surprising to note that the fort has now become a private property with a large coconut grove inside, while just the tall fort walls and the large entrance gate remain from history.





To the north of Palghar lies the beautiful Chinchani beach. The long beach with casuarinas is quite well maintained and is an ideal place for an evening stroll. The beach becomes alive closer to sunset and there are a couple of eateries too to make the evening an enjoyable one.



Navigator:

Palghar is located 45 Kms from Dahanu (via Boisar) and 109 Kms from Mumbai (via NH- 48). There are frequent trains between Mumbai and Palghar. The closest airport is located in Mumbai.

Food and Accommodation:

There are small stalls near Kelwa beach and Chinchani beach. Other places are devoid of eateries. Kelwa has a few hotels and resorts near the beach. 

July 25, 2017

Dahanu and Bordi- A stretch of beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets


I sat amidst the casuarinas, gazing at the silhouettes of the tall trees against the setting sun. Slowly the crowds strolled in and push carts did brisk business while camels and horse carts made their way on to the beach.  The sun was all set to retire for the day and myriad hues of red, orange and pink splashed across the horizon. People strolled on the sandy beach, kids played cricket and the camel trudged on the sands carrying one visitor after another. Dahanu beach is probably one of the best beaches in Maharashtra, north of Mumbai. It offers one of the best sunsets along the Konkan coast.

It was a nice ride on the western express highway from Mumbai, past the traffic at Mira Bhayandar and onto the open road that headed further north. A diversion at Kasa from the national highway took me to Dahanu. Enroute, just before the small coastal town, I had the most delicious mango juice ever. That too for just Rs.10/-. I couldn’t resist the urge to have one more and gulped down one more glass before riding further to Dahanu.  It was summers and the coastal towns are flooded with the country’s best mangoes during this period. 


At the southern end of Dahanu, past the colourful houses lies the fort of Dahanu. Dilapidated and with branches of trees clambering all over its walls, the fort has now become a government office. The fort was built during the times of Portuguese when they had control over this region.  The region also has numerous Parsi families who had settled here years ago. I strolled around for a while before heading to Parnaka beach, the main beach in Dahanu.



Lined with casuarinas, this long beach is pretty well maintained and with the sea receding during summers, it’s an ideal place for an evening walk. Despite being a small town and a weekday, the crowd swelled up as the evening progressed. The beach also offers numerous activities such as camel rides, horse carts and ATV rides in the evening.  Sunset here is absolutely mesmerizing as the sky slowly turned into a painter’s palette. From gold to orange to pink, the sun splashed lovely colours across the horizon and the silhouettes accentuated its charm. It was a memorable way to end the day.







Next day, I headed to the more popular Bordi. The stretch between Dahanu and Bordi is a beautiful one and has the sea on one side and innumerable chikoo (sapodilla) orchards on the other. Golvad, a small town in between is known for its excellent quality of chikoos. Though the sea runs parallel for a long stretch, Chikkale beach is the most popular one. A long beach with casuarinas trees, it was absolutely devoid of people when I visited.




As the sun mellowed, I reached Bordi, which has one of the longest beach stretches in this region. At almost 15 Kms, Bordi beach is an absolute delight for beach lovers. The casuarinas trees are comparatively lesser and the beach is quite well maintained. Another attraction on this black sandy beach are the numerous semi submerged trees on its left which look gorgeous. The similarities between the beaches of Dahanu and Bordi are its crowd and stunning sunsets. There were evening walkers, kids playing cricket, families on vacation, pushcarts, camels  and lot more. However, that did not make Bordi beach any less attractive. Once the sun spread its hues over the horizon, all other distractions stayed away from the frame. All that I could see were the glistening waters, the setting sun and the colourful horizon.






The stretch of Dahanu and Bordi might not offer lots to the visitors and with a couple of power plants that have sprung up, they might not be up on the travel list of holiday makers. Despite all that, the long sandy beaches and the breathtakingly beautiful sunsets are definitely reasons to head to these coastal towns which are a short drive away from Mumbai.

Navigator:

Dahanu is 142 Kms away from Mumbai.  It is well connected by roads (NH-48) and trains. Bordi is 18 Kms from Dahanu. The closest airport is in Mumbai and the nearest rail head is in Dahanu.

Food and Accommodation:

There are numerous hotels and home stays available in Dahanu and Bordi near the beaches. I stayed at Sea Crest beach resort. Most of the hotels have restaurants that are open to non- guests too. Crazy Crab restaurant serves delicious sea food.

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