One of the most beautiful routes to cycle along is the Konkan coast. It has some breathtaking views and beautiful beaches! But for me this was a special ride because I had my son Rohan for company, and it was one of the longest rides we had done together.
The additional attraction of this route for me were the various sea forts that line the coast. Though I had visited most of these forts individually, I wanted to revisit them with Rohan.
We did not really plan the trip in detail. All we knew was that we would cycle only during the day and rest whenever we were tired. We did this ride on the long weekend of the 2016 year end.
The following maps track our journey over the two and a half days:
Day 1 (29th Dec 2016) - From Mandwa to Murud:
Day 2 (30th Dec 2016) - Part 1 - From Murud to Diveagar:
Day 2 (30th Dec 2016) - Part 2 - From Diveagar to Kashid:
Day 3 (31st Dec 2016) - Part 1 - From Kashid to Alibag:
Day 3 (31st Dec 2016) - Part 2 - From Alibag to Mandwa:
Here is a more detailed account of our adventure:
We started at 7 am on 29th December 2016 from Andheri with the cycles on the car rack. Sharmila drove us to the Gateway of India and dropped us off there.
Early winter mornings in Mumbai are really quite pleasant, and we enjoyed the sunrise at the Gateway before hopping on the ferry to Mandwa.
The ferry was crowded with tourists who were escaping the city in preparation for the New Year. But we managed to find place to sit on the upper deck accompanied by a gaggle of cackling teenagers
As we pulled out from the jetty, the golden rays of the rising sun cast a beautiful glow on the Gateway and the Taj Mahal hotel behind it
We reached Mandwa and immediately head off towards Alibag. There, we took a short detour from the highway to Alibag beach to pay our respects to the Kulaba fort. But we decided to visit the fort on our way back.
We found a small restaurant at one end of the beach and ordered eggs and toast while we enjoyed the view of the fort, away from the crowds on the main beach.
After breakfast, we continued further to Revdanda fort. Located at the southern tip of Revdanda beach is a large area that is surrounded by ramparts of the Revdanda fort, originally Chaul. The road from Alibaug actually passes through an opening in the rampart.
After asking for directions, we then headed to the part of the fort that is most notable - the tower of the Convent and Church of Saint Barbara.
Besides the walls and bastions, Chaul’s most visible archaeological landmark is the tower of the ruined Convent of Saint Barbara. Next to the tower are the scant ruins of the church and convent, nowadays a palm grove and farmland - (ref)
The Portuguese took over control of the area in the early 1500s from the Sultanate of Ahmednagar and established a stronghold due to the strategic location at the mouth of the Kundalika river that provided trade access to the interior.
We posed for a photograph in front of a broken section of the rampart. Behind us, on the southern shore of the Kundalika river is Korlai fort
The Portuguese rule over Chaul ended in 1740 after they lost the battle of Vasai to the Marathas, and was surrendered to them in exchange for peace in Daman and Goa.
Rohan did a small rock climbing stunt by climbing up one of the bastions on the beach. Once he got back down in one piece, we were ready to continue our ride further south towards Murud.
The ride to Murud was completed with good speed, and we reached Murud beach for a late lunch at Patil Khanawal. We both hogged on fish thali and had a refreshing drink of Solkadi. After lunch, we found a simple room belonging to a temple priest that had a balcony overlooking the beach.
After lunch, we took our bikes to the nearby jetty and took a ferry across to the Janjira fort.
I had already seen the fort when I had cycled to Murud last almost exactly three years back, so I guided Rohan around the more interesting spots. These chambers lie under the ramparts.
The multistoried palace that is now in ruins must have been such an impressive building when the fort was in use! This was the only fort that the Marathas did not manage to overcome and was held by the Siddis till after India's Independence.
By the time we got back to the boat, it was already past sunset and getting dark.
Thankfully we remembered to get our bike lights for the ride back to Murud.
We were up early next morning to ride further. During dinner last night, we had inquired and found out that the best way to cross the creek between Murud and Dighi was to take the ferry at the Agardanda jetty.
This would allow us to pass by the Khokhari tombs. But to our disappointment, the tombs were locked and we only got a glimpse through the gates.
The road to Agardanda had terrible surface, and we were rattled to our bones when we reached.
We had some hot tea and biscuits while waiting for the ferry to arrive, and then climbed in with our bikes while other motorized vehicles drove over the ramp into the ferry.
I climbed up to the roof to get a better view and enjoyed the conversation with some locals who also helped identify the way to get to Diveagar from Dighi.
We reached Dighi jetty and got going immediately towards Diveagar. We were happy to see that the road surface was quite good, and we made good speed.
The good surface was compensated with a steep uphill climb from 5 meters msl to 95 meters msl over a distance of 3 kms.
But just when we reached the top, Rohan's chain gave way and we had to fix it. Without proper tools, all we could do was to use some stones lying around to get the chain link in rough position to get us to Diveagar.
On the way, we stopped for breakfast at a newly opened restaurant by a family with three daughters who cooked up some amazing kanda poha for us along with hot ginger tea.
We managed to reach Diveagar without further trouble from the chain, and immediately located a mechanic who helped put the chain link in proper shape.
We then headed to the beach and had a refreshing drink of fresh coconut water, and looked for a place to relax.
We found a bit of shade near the tree line and took a quick nap while enjoying the cool sea breeze.
Well rested, we set out to investigate the town of Diveagar. We navigated the small treelined path adjacent to the beach, and went in towards the town on a street named Mukyachi Galli or "street of the dumb". On this street, we discovered a beautiful temple in a clearing.
Referred to as the Rupnarayan temple, the construction looks quite new, but there are reports that the original temple was built in the Shilahara era.
We then went ahead to visit the Suvarna Ganesh Temple. Here is an interesting tale about this temple:
In 1998, on the auspicious day of Sankashti Chaturthi (17th November), an ancient looking box weighing around 30 Kgs was found buried deep in the earth in a coconut orchard near the temple. This attracted the attention of not just the locals, but also of people from far and wide. Diveagar became famous overnight. The box was opened the next day in full view of the public. Inside there was a 24 Karat gold sculpture of Lord Ganesh weight 1Kg and 300gms. The golden Ganesh sculpture was carved in the southern style from Shilahar who ruled around 450 years ago in Konkan. It is believed that the sculpture was buried to protect the idol from the Arab pirates who looted and destroyed idols during that period.
In 2012, the Golden Idol of Ganesh was allegedly stolen from the temple. Thieves broke in through the roof, killing two temple guards, and stole the gold sculpture. They tried to melt it with the help of two goldsmiths. Police caught all 4 culprits, but not before the idol was permanently damaged (ref)
In an attempt to get a more reliable fix for Rohan's bike chain, we asked around for a bicycle shop only to find it was closed for the day as the owner had decided to visit his relatives in the neighboring town of Velas - a place that is famous for the Velas turtle festival. Hundreds of Olive Ridley Turtles, one of the most treasured species of marine turtles, come ashore at Velas beach for breeding and lay hundreds of eggs. During the festival, baby turtles hatch and scamper across the beach into the sea. The festival is organized by the NGO Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra with involvement from the residents of Velas.
We found a cute cottage that advertised home cooked food outside, and went in to have a simple freshly cooked meal - just what we needed after a tiring ride!
After lunch, we rode back to Dighi jetty, and this time got a ferry straight to Rajapuri, near the Janjira fort instead of going back to Agardanda. That way we avoided the worst patch of road.
We got a nice view of the Janjira fort as we approached Rajapuri. When we got off, we had a glass of cool sugarcane juice, refilled our water bottles and set out for the return ride to Alibag.
As we climbed the hill past Murud, we stopped briefly at the Ahmedganj Palace, built by the Siddi Nawab that ruled Murud. The Nawab built the palace in 1887 and shifted there from the Janjira fort. The architecture of the palace combines the Mughal and Gothic styles [ref]. Now lying unused, it is still quite an imposing structure!
We stayed the night at Kashid beach at a small hotel that provided a cheap but clean room and a good meal. A stroll on the beach at night was peaceful, contrasting with the crowds that throng this beach during the day on weekends.
The next morning, the beach had already started becoming active with the first tourists. We had a quick breakfast and headed back to Alibag.
We rode with good speed with a few brief stops such as this one on the bridge between Korlai and Revdanda and reached Alibag.
At Alibag, we crossed over to the Kulaba fort for a quick look. The fort was a stronghold of the famous Maratha naval commander - Kanhoji Angre. He mastered the art of naval warfare and ruled the coast on behalf of the Marathas for several years and is still revered in these parts as a hero.
A walk around the ramparts of the fort provides some great views of the sea and of the Alibag coast.
After a wholesome lunch close to the Mandwa jetty, we took the ferry across to the Gateway of India to complete our journey.
The three days journey came to an end with a peaceful evening spent with the family and friends to bring in the new year of 2017. It is surely living up to the promise of adventure!