Riding through Konkan on a motorcycle had been on my bucket list for a long time. I was fascinated by it ever since childhood when I read about the Western Ghats in geography classes. It is a rocky mountain range standing tall between the Arabian Sea and the Deccan Plateau with its head held high against monsoon winds. The resulting forests on the slopes are a dream for any nature lover. The beaches on the Konkan coast give the European ones a run for their money. The mere thought of biking through dense forests with the Sun playing hide & seek, and the long stretches of coastal roads with sea breeze caressing one’s face is enough to drive the adrenaline high. Even though the Konkan railway has been built; however, nothing beats a bike (motorcycle) journey on these roads.
I was waiting to travel to Konkan, ever since I shifted to Mumbai in 2011. Mumbai is a good base to explore the heavenly Konkan. I had tried to cover a small stretch of it previously, on a new year’s eve. However, it was a small trip and was not sufficient to completely explore Konkan. Therefore, I kept on dreaming about a long dedicated bike trip to Konkan. The day finally arrived in August 2013 when I planned a week-long bike trip to Konkan with Neha, my wife.
There is a coastal road called Sagari Mahamarg that connects Mumbai to Goa. It is almost a virgin road where you would hardly see any traffic. Driving on the Sagari Mahamarg is a dream for anyone who wants to get away from chaotic traffic in the city. On this road, many hours will pass before any four-wheelers will cross your path. This road is not a continuous stretch and many creeks and rivers cut it across. Therefore, you need to take multiple ferries to cross the sea creeks that adds to the fun.
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 the coastal highway- Harihareshwar to Ganpatipule
- Day 3: Rest at Ganpatipule
- Day 4: Drive from Gapatipule to Tarkarli: dream drive on the coastal highway
- Day 5,6: Explore Tarkarli, Malvan
- Day 7: Back to Mumbai
Day 1, Mumbai to Harihareshwar:
The start from Mumbai:
The monsoon season was on. An ideal time for Konkan Darshan. We started at about 8:45 AM from our home at Andheri.
The overcast sky was there to greet us in the morning. An ideal way to start a bike journey. Despite being a Friday, surprisingly, the traffic was light and we could get out of the island city without much stress. The bike was performing well and both the riders were in good spirits.
As we crossed Vashi, we thought of having lunch at McDonald’s after Kharghar. However, it seemed as if the entire Mumbai had decided to head out today. There was mayhem at McDonald’s. Mad rush! We had to drop the plan to eat at McDonald’s and came out. As a result, we decided to have lunch at some dhaba on the highway.
It was past 12 PM when we crossed Panvel and took a turn for Mumbai-Goa highway that we came across a dhaba and had lunch. Mumbai is a big city. Getting out of it is always a long tiring ride; however light the traffic might be. After a bit of rest, Neha and I decided to drive ahead and the traffic smoothened a bit as we left the city behind.
Crossing Karnala Bird Sanctuary gave us our first opportunity to experience driving through the forests. The road was smooth initially; however, soon, it turned bad and then worse. Potholes were everywhere. The road, NH17, was under construction as the work of four laning this road was going on. Things were not turning out to be as enjoyable as we had imagined. However, the cloudy weather and cool breeze more than made up for the hassles.
Our plan was to ride on Mumbai Goa highway until Mangaon, cross the mountains to the west to reach the coast at Shrivardhan, and then halt at Harihareshwar for the night.
We crossed Pen, Kolad, and Indapur on the way. The ride was easy without any major trouble. The highway was in a bad shape and Neha, for whom it was first bike ride ever, was not finding it very comfortable to ride as a pillion.
We left NH17 at a place called Lonere and headed into the Western Ghats. Until now, the Ghats were constantly accompanying us on the right; however, now we were crossing right through them. This was the start of the dream trip. We were mesmerized by the Konkan. Its beauty left us speechless.
The lush green path was the norm from here onwards:
We were happy with the decision to make this trip. The entire drive here-on was in the mountains and it was a very pleasant ride. It was drizzling intermittently. We put on the rain gear and enjoyed what nature had to offer.
The distance to Shrivardhan turned out to be about 50 km and very few people were on the road. We got a bit concerned; however, were soon relieved when we had the first sight of the Arabian Sea. Finally, now, we were on the Sagari Mahamarg. This was going to be our route for the rest of the journey, and the sea, a constant companion.
We reached Harihareshwar by 7 PM. We could not get a booking in the MTDC resort. Therefore, we stayed at Harihareshwar Beach Resort. It is a nice little resort which is right on the beach. It gives you exclusivity, peace, and calmness to relax.
We checked in the room and headed for the beach.
That’s the place where we stayed:
And the beach:
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 km on pothole-ridden highways, and on curvy mountainous roads. The time we spent on the beach here more than made up for the effort.
Day 2, Harihareshwar to Ganpatipule:
We started the day with a morning stroll on the beach. Neha was very happy. She had started realising the exclusive benefits that Mumbai has over Delhi with the “Arabian Sea”.
Contented with the morning spent on the beach, we decided to head to our destination for the day, Ganpatipule.
This was the first day of our trip, which was dedicated to the coastal road, Sagari Mahamarg, traversing through the Western Ghats. We were excited about what lied ahead of us. We started the ride from Harihareshwar at 10 AM.
We had our first encounter with the ferry on the trip at Bagmandla just outside Harihareshwar:
The ferry was large enough to carry a truck across; however, it was now carrying two cars and a few bikes.
The weather was awesome and it kept us high-spirited throughout 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 turned right to the Velas Beach.
It was an offbeat track and it turned out to be very beautiful. Driving along the sea was what we had desired and this stretch gave us plenty of that experience 🙂
However, soon, the road changed to a dirt track. There was mud all around. However, Saarthi (my bike, a Yamaha FZ16) held on well and we could continue despite riding on such a tough track.
The route was very little explored by tourists. 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 of my graduation at Solapur in Maharashtra.
The people here could guide us only until the next village. No one was aware whether the road ahead would lead us to Ganpatipule or not. At that time we had to use the technology for the first time. We used the GPS and it was our only guide from there onwards.
Our decision to take the right turn from Bangkot was a mixed experience. It took us to a beautiful sea-facing road. However, later the road had many tough mud patches.
We were frustrated when we saw that there were no ferry services to take us across the next creek (Bharja). Moreover, the bridge was abandoned mid-construction. The creek was not very wide and we could see the other side very near to us. However, alas! There was no way to go across.
We had to go about 5 km upstream riding on some of the roughest roads just to cross over to the other side via the bridge circled in the map below, and again head back downstream to Kelshi.
The trip around Bharja creek cost us about one hour. However, this extra time spent was totally worth the ride, which we had at Velas Beach. In the future also, I would prefer to ride on this road.
We reached Kelshi past lunchtime and were feeling very hungry. However, there was no restaurant in the village. We rode in the village asking directions to a restaurant for about half an hour; however, 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. My stomach was full; however, I was still yearning for more. It was an amazing lunch!!
The drive ahead was very beautiful. It was a repetitive process of going up the hill riding across dense forests and then reaching the top to discover a vast plateau. Meanwhile, the sea was constantly accompanying us on the right. It was a dream come true.
We travelled on the Sagari Mahamarg and crossed small towns like Aade, Hernai, Palande, Dapoli, Ladghar, and Panchanadi to reach Dabhol. At Dabhol, we had to take another ferry across the Vashishti River. This was the second of the three ferries we needed to take on this day. It was already about 5:30 PM when we reached Dabhol. We were getting worried whether we would be able to make it to the last jetty in Tavsal in time for the last ferry of the day.
We were relieved when we got to know that the ferry service is on till 10 PM. Now, the ferry was not an issue; however, the time was. It was getting late and we wanted to avoid driving at night for two reasons: one, the roads were not the best ones and it would take only a slight mistake for both of us to get injured, and two, we were travelling alone so safety concerns were also there.
Anyway, we did not have to wait long at Dabhol because the ferry arrived soon and it dropped us 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. More about that sometime later.
We started the ride from Dabhol and crossed Guhagar. Thereafter, the ride until Tavsal was beautiful and uneventful. Now, we were focused on reaching Ganpatipule before it got dark. Therefore, we took very few stopovers. At Tavsal, we were the only tourists on the ferry and it had started to get dark.
The ferry at Tavsal drops you at Jaigad, which has a fort. We were running short of time; therefore, we decided to skip it and see it some other time if we come here again.
We reached Ganpatipule at about 9 PM. It was already dark and we missed the beautiful stretch of road leading to Ganpatipule from Undi. However, it was not a big issue because we had planned to stay at Ganpatipule for the next two days and we could come back to ride on this stretch.
We stayed at the Konkani hut at the MTDC resort for the first night. Konkani huts were in an under-development part of the resort. The road to the Konkani huts was very slushy. We barely avoided a fall at the fag end of the journey.
Finally, the day ended at Ganpatipule. We drove about 180 km in about 11 hours. Not much of a speed to brag about. However, definitely, it was one of the best ways to explore Konkan. This has been one of my best riding days to date and I was yearning for more. Konkan was not yet over. We were going to ride on the Sagari Mahamarg up to Tarkarli (Malvan) in the next phase of this journey. We were eagerly looking forward to it.
The restaurant at MTDC, Ganpatipule is one of the best. It has plenty of food options. You start getting Goan dishes on the menu from here onwards. I had one of my favourites, Goan Prawns Curry, for dinner. Yummy!
Day 3: Ganpatipule:
Early morning strolls on the beach were our norm and this morning was no different. The beach was secluded and totally undisturbed. These were some of the best moments that we spent on the Konkan beaches.
Soon, we had breakfast on the platform visible in the pic (on the right edge). It was an amazing time.
The Konkani hut was beautiful accommodation. However, we wanted to explore the resort and its facilities. Therefore, we shifted from the Konkani hut to a beach view room during the day and it was such a treat.
The view from the room was amazing:
The room was built in a step-up fashion as per the contour of the hill. When you open the window at the back, the sea breeze would flow at full pace through the room. We loved this accommodation:
We spent the rest of the time at Ganpatipule exploring the Konkan beauty:
Day 4: Ganpatipule to Tarkarli:
This was the final stretch of our Konkan Darshan, which would lead us to the end of the Sagari Mahamarg at the point where Maharashtra ends and Goa begins.
The ride was wonderful from the start. Amazing beauty lay in front of us and mesmerized us.
There were many such lovely scenes on the way. We were lucky that the rains were still with us. The rains were never intense to trouble us. There were overcast skies, cool breeze, pleasant weather, and the sea as a companion. It was heaven and I had a lovely partner, Neha. Could I ask for more? Never. It seemed all struggles of life had culminated to reward me of these days. I was getting emotional and rightly so. I am happy!!
The route was the most amazing and refreshing of all the days until now. Nature had saved its best for the last.
Until today, we had faced mostly pothole-ridden roads, but not now. The roads were the best on this stretch. There were a few other tourists who were travelling from Ganpatipule to Tarkarli. We met them repeatedly on the road. For the first time on this trip, we were on a road with many tourists. A sense of familiarity prevailed.
The roadside was lush green. It simply elated our spirits.
We travelled through towns like Ratnagiri, Pawas & Jamsande.
It was funny when at Jamsande, we took a right turn and after going about 5 km ahead, we realized that we are not on the right track. We checked the GPS and realised that we were at Devgad beach. We were going completely opposite of where we should have been.
At Devgad, we thought of heading directly to Kunkeshwar by crossing Mith Mumbri; however, then we remembered our experience on day 2 of this trip near Harihareshwar when we could not find any ferry and the only bridge across the creek was under construction. Therefore, this time, we decided to go back to Jamsande and take the correct route, lest we lose time again and get late in reaching Tarkarli. Finally, after about half an hour of the detour, we were back on the track. Once again, GPS was our saviour.
Thereafter, the ride was smooth. We could travel the fastest to date on the Konkan ride. We could reach Tarkarli at 4 PM. It was good for us that we reached in time as the MTDC resort at Tarkarli is 7-8 km ahead of the main town of Malvan, the major connecting spot to reach Tarkarli.
MTDC resort at Tarkarli was much smaller; however, more serene than Ganpatipule. I loved driving on pavements from the resort entry to our accommodation in a Konkani hut.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and recuperating from the ride.
The restaurant at MTDC Tarkarli was much smaller and simpler than Ganpatipule. However, its location was awesome. It was located just 20-30 m from the sea. It had an open sitting area that would put you right in the sea breeze. It was monsoon time and the sea was roaring. Winds were very strong. A cup of tea in the open sitting area was enough to rejuvenate even a dead soul.
We were happy that we decided to have the longest stay of our trip in Tarkarli. We had planned to stay here for three nights.
Day 5: Relaxing at Tarkarli:
Tarkarli is a small village abutting Malvan. It is famous for water sports. However, during monsoons, the sea is rough. Therefore, currently, the entire water sports industry was closed. It opens after September when the sea calms down. Therefore, we spent most of the time relaxing at the resort.
MTDC is a government organization. Therefore, it is able to get the most premium locations at any tourist place. This makes MTDC resorts one of the best options to stay at any location. Tarkarli was no different. The time we spent here is memorable.
Early morning walks on the beach had become a norm for us.
During the day, we visited the Malvan town and ate at local food jaunts. However, there was little else to do in the city during this season. Therefore, we came back to the resort soon.
The evenings were beautiful. The MTDC resort had some amazing views of the sunset.
Day 6: Exploring Tarkarli:
Tarkarli is the place where the Karli River meets the sea. There is a thin sliver of land separating Karli River from the sea, which is about 4-5 km long and is inhabited by the fisherman community. A ride along this road called Devbaug Mobar road will take you through many native villages.
This place is also famous for migratory birds, “Seagull”, which frequently visit the beaches here.
Devbaug beach also hosts some water sports. However, in this season, the water sports were closed. We hired a boat and went to a small island in the middle of the Karli River:
The island was swarming with seagulls, however, the moment we approached, all of them flew back to Devbaug beach. 🙂
There was a stark difference between the waters of the Karli River and the Sea. Karli River was calm. However, the moment our boat neared the sea, it started rocking scarily. We decided not to venture into the sea and headed back in the cosy waters of Karli River. The water was barely two feet deep in the river. We spent some time walking on the riverbed alongside the boat.
Neha had a fever for which we consulted a doctor at Malvan. The doctor told us that Dengue is prevalent in this area, therefore, she needed to test for it. Luckily, the tests confirmed that it was neither Dengue nor Malaria.
However, riding back to Mumbai on the bike was now ruled out. Therefore, we started looking for alternatives. We needed to ship our bike back to Mumbai.
Our inquiries revealed that there is only one person who operates a truck service in Tarkarli that could ship the bike to Mumbai. However, he would ship it only when he gets a truckful of goods. This could take any amount of time.
The railway authorities at the nearest station, Kudal, told us that there are no loading facilities at the station. Therefore, we needed to drive the bike to Ratnagiri to load it on the train. With both the truck and the train services ruled out, we were now short of options. 🙂
Luckily, one travel agency “Giroba” in Tarkarli, runs buses that could accommodate the bike in the luggage section. This solved our problem and we booked our tickets back to Mumbai with the Giroba Travels.
Day 7: Tarkarli to Mumbai:
The bus to Mumbai was to leave Malvan at 2:30 PM. We had some time at our hands, therefore, we decided to explore nearby areas. We visited Dhamapur Lake about 15 km away from Malvan.
The roads in the entire Konkan region travel through beautiful terrain and Dhamapur was no exception:
Very few tourists visit Dhamapur Lake. Neha and I were the only outsiders:
There was a temple beside the lake, which was a good place to sit and spend some time:
Soon enough, it was time to leave for Malvan and have the last bit of riding on Sagari Mahamarg before Saarthi (my bike) was loaded on the bus along with its two bikers. The Konkan Bike Ride was coming to an end.