July 26, 2014

Konkan Darshan on Bike - A ride on Sagari Mahamarg

Biking through Konkan has been on my bucket list ever sinch childhood when I had read about western ghats in geography classes. It's a rocky mountain range standing tall between Arabian sea and Deccan plateau with its head held high against monsoon winds. The resulting forests on the slopes are any nature lover's dream. Beaches here give filmsy european ones a run for their money. The mere thought of biking through dense forests with sun playing hide & seek and long stretches of coastal roads with sea breeze caressing one's face is enough to drive the adrenaline high. Even though Konkan railway has been built, but the nothing beats a bike journey on the roads. 

I was excited to travel to Konkan, ever since I shifted to Mumbai which is effectively a good base to explore heavenly Konkan. I had tried to cover a small stretch of it on a new year's eve, but that small trip was not sufficient to completely explore Konkan. Hence, the dream of a long stretched dedicated bike trip to Konkan was always coming up. The time finally arrived in August, 2013 when I planned a week long bike trip with Neha, my wife, in this region. 

There is a coastal road that connects Mumbai to Goa often called Sagari Mahamarg. It is almost a virgin land where you would hardly see any traffic bothering you. It's a dream for someone who wants to get away from snarling traffic in Mumbai. On this road, long hours will pass before any four wheelers will cross your path. This road is not a continuous stretch and it involves taking multiple ferries across sea creeks that act as  interesting water rides for the travelers. 

The ride was a seven day tour (Aug 9 – 15, 2013):
Day 1: Drive from Mumbai to Harihareshwar via Mumbai Goa Highway
Day 2: Drive along coastal highway- Harihareshwar to Ganpatipule
Day 3: Rest at Ganpatipule
Day 4: Drive from Gapatipule to Tarkarli: dream drive on coastal highway
Day 5,6: Explore Tarkarli, Malvan
Day 7: Back to Mumbai


Day 1, Mumbai to Harihareshwar: 

Konkan Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa

The start from Mumbai:  

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa

It was monsoon season and the best time to explore the lush green Konkan. An ideal time for Konkan Darshan. We started at about 8:45AM from our home at Andheri. 

Overcast sky was there to greet us in the morning. An ideal way to start a bike journey. Despite being a Friday, surprisingly traffic was light and we could get out of island city without much stress. The bike was performing well and riders were in good spirits. As we crossed Vashi, we thought of having lunch at McDonald's after Khargar. But it seemed as if almost entire Mumbai had decided to head out today and it was mayhem at McD. Mad rush. So, we dropped the plan to eat at McD and came out. So, we decided to have lunch at some Dhaba on the highway itself. It was past 12 when we crossed Panvel and took a turn for Mumbai-Goa highway that we came across a dhaba and had lunch. Getting out of Mumbai itself tires you however light the traffic might be. After a bit of rest, Neha and I decided to drive ahead and traffic smoothed a bit as we left the city behind. 

Crossing Karnala Bird Sanctuary gave us our first opportunity to experience driving through forests. The road was smooth for some distance but soon it turned bad and then worse. Potholes everywhere. NH17 was under-construction as the work of 4 laning was going on. Things were not so enjoyable as we had imagined. The only saving grace was cloudy weather and cool breeze which more than made up for the hassles.

Our plan was to ride on Mumbai Goa highway till Mangaon and then cross the mountains to the west to reach the coast at Shrivardhan and halt at Harihareshwar for night. 

We crossed Pen, Kolad and Indapur on the way. Ride was easy without any major trouble. The highway was in bad shape and Neha, for whom it was first bike ride ever, was not finding it very comfortable riding pillion.

We left NH17 at a place called Lonere and headed into the Western Ghats which were till now constantly accompanying us on the right. And that was the start of a dream trip. We were mesmerized by the Konkan beauty and left speechless.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats

Lush green path was the norm from here onwards: 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

We were happy with the decision to make this trip. Entire drive here on was in ghats and was very pleasant. It was drizzling intermittently. We got the rain gear out and enjoyed what the nature had to offer. The distance to Shrivardhan turned out to be about 50 odd kms and very few souls were to be seen on the road. We got a bit concerned but were soon relieved to have the first sight of Arabian sea. We were finally on the Sagari Mahamarg which was to be our route for the rest of the journey and sea as constant companion. 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

We reached Harihareshwar by 7PM. We could not get a booking in MTDC resort hence stayed at Harihareshwar Beach Resort. It is a nice little resort which is right on the beach to give you certain exclusivity, peace and calmness to relax.

We checked in the room and headed for the beach. 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

That’s the place we stayed: 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

And the beach: 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

We spent some time in the evening walking on the beach. It was an ideal way to end a tiring day. We had driven about 200 kms on pothole ridden highways, on ghats and the time spent on beach here more than made up for the effort.

Day 2, Harihareshwar to Ganpatipule: 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

Started the day with a the morning stroll on the beach. Neha was very happy. She had started realising the exclusive benefits which Mumbai has over Delhi with “Arabian Sea”. 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar

Contented with the morning spent on beach we decided to head to our destination for the day: Ganpatipule.
This was the first day dedicated to coastal road, Sagari Mahamarg, traversing through Western Ghats. We were excited for what lied ahead of us. Started from Harihareshwar at 10AM and had our first encounter with ferry on the trip at Bagmandla just outside Harihareshwar:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule Bagmandla
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule Bagmandla

The ferry was large enough to carry a truck across but was now carrying 2 cars and a few bikes. The weather was awesome and had us high spirited for the day ahead.

The ferry dropped us at a wharf across the creek where all the passengers headed left towards Shipole-Umroli whereas we decided to stick to the coast and headed right to the Velas Beach.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule

It was an off beat track and it turned out to be very beautiful. Driving along the sea was what we desired and this stretch gave us plenty of that experience :)

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule 
However, soon the road changed to a dirt track. There was mud all around. Saarthi (my bike, a Yamaha FZ16) held on well and we could continue despite such a tough track.

The route was very less explored and there were only local people around. Neha and I were the only outsiders. We met very few people who spoke Hindi. We were lucky that I could converse in Marathi courtesy my graduation at Solapur in Maharashtra.

But people here could guide us only till next village. No one was aware whether the road ahead would lead us to Ganpatipule or not. Then we used the technology for the first time. We used the GPS and it was our only guide from here onwards.

Our decision to take a right turn from Bangkot was a mixed one. It took us to a beautiful sea facing road but then through tough mud patches. But we were frustrated when we saw that there was no ferry service to take us across the next creek (Bharja) and the bridge was abandoned mid construction. The creek was not very wide and we could see the other side very near to us but alas! no way to go across.

We had to go about 5 km upstream riding on few of the roughest roads just to cross over to other side via the bridge circled in the map below and again head back downstream to Kelshi.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule

The trip around Bharja creek cost us about 1 hour but this extra time spent was totally worth the ride which was had at Velas Beach. I would any day trade in favor of it.

We reached Kelshi past lunch time and were feeling very hungry. But there was no restaurant to be found. Rode in the town asking directions to restaurant for about half an hour but to no avail. Finally one person guided us (in fact accompanied us) to a home where the owner served us one of the tastiest Maharashtrian food I had ever had. Stomach was full but I was still yearning for more. Amazing lunch!!

The drive ahead was very beautiful. It was a repetitive process of going up the hill riding across dense forests, reaching the top to find a vast plateau with sea constantly accompanying us on the right. A dream come true.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule   
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Harihareshwar Ganpatipule

We traveled on this Sagari Mahamarg and crossed small towns like: Aade, Hernai, Palande, Dapoli, Ladghar, Panchanadi to reach Dabhol where we had to take another ferry across the Vashishti river. This was to be second of the three ferries we needed to take on this day. it was already about 5:30PM by the time we reached Dabhol and We were getting worried whether we would be able to make it to last jetty wharf in Tavsal in time for last ferry for the day.

We were relieved when told that ferry service is on till 10PM. Now ferry was not an issue but time was. It was getting late and we wanted to avoid driving at night for two reasons: one, the road were not the best ones and it would take only the slightest of mistakes for both of us to get injured and two, we were traveling alone so safety concerns were also there. 

Anyway did not have to wait long at Dabhol as the ferry arrived soon and we were dropped at the other shore. We could see the massive Dabhol power plant, the nemesis of Enron, standing tall in front of us. I had read a lot about Enron & Dabhol and seeing this plant in person, refreshed all the memories. But more about that sometime later.

Started the ride from Dabhol and crossed Guhagar. Ride till Tavsal was beautiful and uneventful. Now we were more focused on reaching Ganpatipule before dark, therefore had very few stopovers. At Tavsal, we were the only tourists on the ferry and it had started getting dark.

Tavsal ferry drops you at Jaigad which has a fort. We were running short of time and decided to give it a skip and see it some time later if we come here again.

We reached Ganpatipule at about 9PM. It was already dark and we missed the beautiful stretch of road leading to Ganpatipule from Undi. But it was not much of an issue as we were to stay at Ganpatipule for next 2 days and could come back to this stretch.

We stayed at the Konkani hut at MTDC resort for first night. Konkani huts were in a underdevelopment section of the resort and the road was very slushy. We barely avoided a fall at the fag end of the journey. 

Finally the day ended at Ganpatipule. We drove about 180km in about 11 hours. Not much of a speed to brag about. But definitely one of the best ways of Konkan Darshan. This has been one of my best riding days till date and I was yearning for more. Konkan was not yet over. Sagari Mahamarg was to accompany us to Tarkarli (Malvan) in next phase of this journey and we were looking forward to it.

The restaurant at MTDC, Ganpatipule is one of the best. The food options are many. One starts getting Goan dishes on the menu here onwards. I had one of my favourites, Goan Prawns Curry, for dinner. Yummy.!!

Day 3: Ganpatipule:

Early morning strolls on beach was our norm and this morning was no different. The beach was secluded and totally undisturbed. These were some of the best moments we spent on Konkan beaches.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule 
Soon we had breakfast on the platform visible in the pic (on the right edge). It was amazing time.
The Konkani hut was a beautiful accommodation but we wanted to explore the resort and its facilities. We shifted from the Konkani hut to a beach view room during the day and it was such a treat.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule

The view from the room was amazing:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule 
 The room was built in a step up fashion as per contour of the hill. Open the window at the back and it was sea breeze flowing at full pace through the room. Absolutely loved the accommodation:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule

Rest of the time here was spent exploring the Konkan beauty:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Ganpatipule

Day 4, Ganpatipule to Tarkarli:

This was the final stretch of our Konkan Darshan which would led us to end of Sagari Mahamarg where Maharashtra would end and Goa begins.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Ganpatipule to Tarkarli

The ride was amazing from the start itself. Amazing beauty was lying in front of us and we were mesmerized by it.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Ganpatipule to Tarkarli 
Such lovely scenes were aplenty on the way. Our luck with rains was still with us. Never did it rain too much to trouble us. Overcast skies, cool breeze, pleasant weather and sea as companion. It was heaven and a lovely partner, Neha. Could I ask for more? Never. It seemed all struggles of like have culminated to reward me of these days. I was getting moved and rightly so. I am happy!!

The route was the most amazing and refreshing of all the days till now. The nature had saved its best for the last.

Till today we had faced mostly pothole ridden roads but not now. The roads were the best on this stretch. There were a few others who were traveling from Ganpatipule to Tarkarli and we could meet them again and again on the road. For the first time on this trip we were on a road frequented by tourists. A sense of familiarity prevailed.

The road side was lush green. It simply elated our spirits.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Ganpatipule to Tarkarli

We traveled through towns like Ratnagiri, Pawas & Jamsande.

It was funny when at Jamsande, we took a right turn and realized after going about 5 km ahead that we are not on right track. GPS indicated that we were at Devgad beach, going totally opposite of where we should have been.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Ganpatipule to jamsande Tarkarli

At Devgad, we thought of heading directly to Kunkeshwar by crossing Mith Mumbri but then our experience of day 2 near Harihareshwar refreshed infront of us. This time we decided to go back to Jamsande and correct the route, lest we lose time again today and get late reaching Tarkarli. Finally about after half an hour of detour, we were back on the track. GPS was the saviour once again.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Ganpatipule to Tarkarli

The ride was smooth and we ended up traveling the fasted till date on Konkan ride till date. We could reach Tarkarli by about 4PM. It was good for us that we reached in time as MTDC resort at Tarkarli is 7-8 kms far from main town of Malvan which is the major connecting spot for reaching here.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Tarkarli 
MTDC resort at Tarkarli was much smaller but more serene than Ganpatipule. I loved driving on pavements from resort entry to my accommodation a Konkani Hut

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli

Rest of the day was spent in relaxing and recuperating from the ride. 

The restaurant here was much smaller and simpler than Ganpatipule but its location was awesome. Just about 20-30m from sea. Open sitting area would put you right in the sea breeze. It was monsoon time and sea was roaring. Winds were strong. A cup of tea here was enough to rejuvenate any dead soul. We were happy that we decided to have the longest stay of our trip at Tarkarli. We were to stay for 3 nights here.

Day 5: Relaxing at Tarkarli:

Tarkarli is a small place abutting Malvan. It is famous for water sports but as the seas are rough during monsoon, entire water sports industry was shut currently. It opens after September when sea calms down. We spent most of the time relaxing at the resort.

MTDC being a govt. organization, is able to get the most premium locations at any place. This makes MTDC resorts one of the best options at any location. Tarkarli was no different. Time spent here is memorable.

Early morning walks on the beach had become a norm with us:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach 
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach

We visited the Malwan town, ate at local food jaunts. But there was little to do in the city during this season and we were back at the resort soon.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli 
Evenings were beautiful and the place had amazing views of sunset. 

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach

Day 6: Exploring Tarkarli:

Tarkarli is the place where Karli river meets the sea. There is a thin sliver of land separating Karli river from Sea, which is about 4-5 km long and is inhabited by fisherman community.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli beach

A ride along the road here at Devbaug Mobar road will take you through the native villages. This place is also famous for migratory birds “Seagull” which frequent here.

Devbaug beach also hosts some water sports but there was none in this season. We could hire a boat and go to a small island in the middle of Karli river:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli devbaug beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli devbaug beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli devbaug beach
Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats MTDC Tarkarli devbaug beach

The island was swarming with seagulls but the moment we approach, all of them flew back to Deobaug beach.. :)

There was stark difference between waters of Karli river and Sea. Karli was calm and the moment our boat neared the sea, it started rocking scarily and we decided not to venture into the sea at all and headed back in cozy waters of Karli. It was hardly 2 feet deep there and some time was spent walking on the river bed along the boat.

Neha had started getting fever for which we consulted a doctor at Malvan. Dengue being prevalent in this region was the first thing to be checked. Luckily tests confirmed that it was neither Dengue nor Malaria.

Biking back to Mumbai was ruled out and we started looking for alternatives. We needed to ship our bike back to Mumbai. Enquiries revealed that only one guy operates a truck service which would accept the bike but ship only when he gets a truckful of goods. That could take any amount of time. Railway authorities at nearest station Kudal told that there are no loading facilities there and we need to drive to Ratnagiri to load out bike on train. With both truck and train services ruled out, we were really short of options now :)

Luckily one travel agency “Giroba” plies buses which could accommodate bike in the luggage section. That solved our problem and we booked our ticket back to Mumbai with Giroba.

Day 7:

Bus was to leave Malvan at 2:30PM. We had some time at our hand and we decided to explore nearby areas and headed to Dhamapur lake about 15 km from Malvan. The roads in entire Konkan region travel through beautiful terrain and Dhamampur was no exception:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Tarkarli Dhamampur

Dhamapur lake is not frequented by tourist and Neha and I were the only outsiders:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Tarkarli Dhamampur

There was a temple beside the lake, which was a good place to sit and spend some time:

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Tarkarli Dhamampur temple 
Soon enough it was time to leave for Malvan for some last bit of riding on Sagari Mahamarg before Saarthi (my bike) was loaded in the bus with bikers. The Konkan Bike Ride was coming to an end.

Konkan bike ride trip Sagari Mahamarg Coastal highway Mumbai Goa western ghats Tarkarli