Saturday, March 29, 2008

Road Trip Deux - Shrivardhan (Konkan)

Ever since we got back from our Rajasthan trip we've been aching to hit the road again and we'd been thinking about heading to the Konkan area for a while now. This is not the season but there was a long weekend and we figured what the hell! However, being the lazy, last minute folks that we are - we waited till the last minute to get reservations and figured that ALL of Mumbai had taken up residence in the Konkan for the weekend.

Starting with Alibag, we worked our way down to Murud-Janjira and then down to Kashid and then finally we found a place in Shrivardhan - by chance - but hey we weren't complaining! Shrivardhan is about 6 hours away from Mumbai - the route to take is to head down towards Pune, take the Panvel exit, then take the Panvel by-pass and point towards Goa(Panaji) - there's a fork in the road for Alibag which you skip and head left towards Panaji - after which your next marker is a town called "Goregaon" - after which you travel over the hills to lovely Shrivardhan. The road is awful and it takes a long time to get there, even though the distance is just 50KM.

We discovered on our way back that we could have taken a fork from a town called "Mangaon" that had a MUCH better road to Shrivardhan, well at least a big part of it.

Shrivardhan is a sleep little town, even on a big weekend, there weren't THAT many tourists in sight - we visited during Holi, which sees a big local festival in town , so there was a buzz - we also found out that the local fisher folk take those days OFF - so NO FRESH FISH! :((( Big disappointment on the food front.

We stayed at a place called "Niwant Sagar", which literally translates to "Tranquil Sea" or "Peaceful Sea" - and really, this place we pulled out of a hat from an internet search was simply phenomenal - they have a minor online presence - here - and the photos don't even tell you half the tale.

Amazing place. The photographs don't show it, but they have separate rooms, amenities are basic - but clean. The location is amazing and its very very peaceful - a great place to go if you want to get away from it all. Reservations recommended - their policy is to give off the entire place to one group - they can house only 10 people in their rooms, although if more people went and didn't mind putting out in the ample covered courtyard - its a good option. Food was average. Beach was lovely, huge - and not super crowded. Highly recommended in Shrivardhan, where most of the other places are run of the mill hotels - this is something different. Definitely on the re-visit list.

Unfortunately, we were only able to get bookings for one night at Niwant Sagar, and had to move off to another place called Shiv Shanti Holiday Inn - newly done up and run of the mill hotel - rooms were clean - the management was all over the place - its been a while since I saw such inept management - but OK - we had a place to crash.

The Shrivardhan beach is loooooong, clean and yes, it has black sand. One can go a good distance into the water, and the beach is not at all rocky - very nice. Again, even on a long weekend, the beach did not appear super crowded. Shrivardhan is not very tourist friendly, the locals that we ended up interacting with behaved as if we were not welcome in their town - we had dinner at a place recommended in a guide book (Sagar Darshan), was very ordinary (perhaps due to the lack of Fish), it was run out of someone's home and we could hear the lady of the house essentially telling the servers to wrap us up soon - like I said - locals were not that warm.

The majority of the places to eat are of this form - run out of some locals home - food was pretty basic - we had some really nice fresh Kokam the next day when we were leaving - not made from syrup. We made a trip to Harihareshwar which is very close from Shrivardhan - avoid it if you are not into religious locales - really tourist central and quite boring.

On the way back we decided to take the route up the coast to get to Mumbai - we turned off the main highway and headed into the interiors, we had a strange experience where at a village called "Shimga" - there were about 50/60 local kids / teenagers and some adults who essentially blocked the road, we hadn't seen too many passenger cars - so I guess its not the road oft taken - but still - so they blocked our way and some guy was demanding 10/- per head to pass - we argued with him - but the crowd was turning hostile and clearly it was a "mugging" of sorts - beyond a point we decided it wasn't worth the Rs. 50/- to get into a fight in the middle of nowhere - knowing that the villagers would totally band behind the locals - terrible experience in our own country - so be aware if you are driving from Murud to join the highway or going to Murud from the Shrivardhan highway. Very disappointing really.

Anyhow - we managed to reach Murud, everyone was decidedly in low spirits due to the freak experience at the village and hungry! Murud was nice, small town - we had some good fish FINALLY - at "Patil Khanaval" - which is famous in the guide books - again, nice food - but I've had better in Mumbai. Murud has some nice resorts, we saw the "Golden Swan Resort" which seemed very nice.

Our way back threaded through some nice little towns, Kashid was lovely, I'm told "Prakruti Resort" in Kashid is a must-go resort - jotting that down for a follow up trip - Kashid has been completely bought up by private investors - so you cant even see the beach front till much later.

The landscape gets more urban near Alibag, at which point we joined the main highway up to Mumbai - road back was mostly uneventful - was a good quick break away from Mumbai - we would definitely like to return to Niwant Sagar and Murud for prolonged breaks - Murud is nicer - closer to Mumbai - quicker to the beach! :)

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