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Old 2nd May 2014, 16:59   #16
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

Day 3 – The story, the history and the legend

I woke up leisurely in the breeze of the Shivsagar lake, right in front of the terrace in a distance. After getting burned for two days in the fiery temperatures of highway, this cool morning seemed truly heaven sent. However I wasn’t allowed to experience the relaxing coolness at my own pace, and was rushed to breakfast by the boating man, who was taking the tourists out for boating on the lake.

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So much was his hurry to mount us all in our respective vehicles and take us to the boating spot a bit away from the hotel, I realized that I had left the cameras in my room back at the hotel!

I tried to keep him waiting while I go to the room and fetch the cameras as fast as humanly possible. But the other participants of the boat weren’t too happy to wait in the slowly heating Sun while I corrected I mistakes. I had two choices, to get on without camera, or to return with camera and click the boat somewhere long way in the lake. Grumbling, I started my walk in the mushy road that led us to the boat. The water had receded due to Summer season, and we had to walk a while before getting to the boats. In rainy seasons, I was told, the boats are much closer due to the risen water level. Luckily the small boat was covered and we weren’t left to cook under the direct sunlight.

When the boat moved with its whirr of an engine, I noticed that the boatman was talking respectfully to a person appearing to be someone of importance. After a short while, that gentleman joined me on my bench. A brief introduction session followed, and I realized that he was indeed an important man in the locality. He was related to the person responsible for grooming Koyana Nagar into a hill station. He was now a retired official from Mumbai and had travelled almost all over world in his successful life. But still, he was originally from this area, and his pride was eminent from his talk.

Soon we were deeply engrossed in the conversation, while the great lake shimmered under our moving boat.

‘You know, it wasn’t always like this…’, he began telling the interesting story of the region.

Koyana nagar project is around 65 years old, envisioned by great leaders. The water flown down by Koyana river that originates in Mahabaleshwar, attends great volume by the time it reaches the dam at Humbarli. From Humbarli, the water management that is done is amazing. It is a three stage project, each stage generating a staggering amount of electricity. The power generation from the main dams alone was about 1500mW! It is almost equal to the peak demand of Pune city!

‘How big is this electricity, how long does it last?’ I asked naively, before realizing the foolishness of my question.

‘Electricity can’t be stored’, the man corrected me, ‘The electricity generated here is sent to the national electricity grid and then it is distributed as per need’.

‘Yep. This is the reason of my poor performance in Electronics’, I thought, ‘no understanding of basic principles of electricity.’

The small generators were not even counted in this. I realized this huge power generation was the reason that the hotel manager confirmed yesterday with conviction that there would be power for all the hours.

At no stage after this dam is the water is just randomly released into the wild. Using huge underground pipes, the water is properly moved to desired places, thus bringing the whole neighboring land under irrigation. It is truly an engineering marvel that is worth experiencing.

But the project is not without a dark side. The boatman that was hearing our conversation decided to join in.

‘But it’s not all roses, Sir. My grandfather lost his land for the project, and I am still attending court case for the compensation! And I am not alone either. There are lots of people who were not given fair amount.’ As is the history of many such acquired lands, in this project too there are disputes fought strongly by both the farmers and the government. So the court cases drag on and on, testing the limits of patience of the people in the hope of justice. Some of these are still ongoing in the courts, with generations of farmers routinely attending the cases.

The true development towards tourism too is stuck in the thick government files. The boatman cum guide was complaining that for developing any tourist activity, many government departments had to be consulted. The tourism department would have to ask permission from Forest department whether a particular part was accessible or not, Home department was to be clarified for safety aspect, Revenue department was to be consulted for profits, and working with so many departments while being in the Government wheel is an extremely slow process.

But even with the occasional court cases and the non-flexibility of government officials, this little gem of a hill station is slowly blossoming. The localites are now realizing the tourism potential of the area. Slowly but surely, the area is taking steps towards tourism. The main village looks not much different than any typical hill station. The area is not fully developed as a tourist point yet; there are no memorabilia shops, no ice cream corners, and no Ferris wheels. But one can sense the absolutely great tourism potential that is just waiting to be tapped. A few nice hotels are already up and running.

The main season to enjoy the beauty of the lake is not summers though. My reason to come up all the way to Koyana nagar was I wanted to get away from the maddening heat, so I didn’t care much about the perfect season. The area is green all year around, but in monsoons, the area really becomes a different entity with divine beauty. I definitely look forward to visit this area again after September – October, to enjoy with my family this beautiful hidden treasure of a sweet village.

Soon we were travelling back at our hotels, on our respective rides, and the conversation was playing again and again in my mind. Whenever we see any hill station, we only see its ‘places to see’ and ‘activities’, but we never realize the underlying story. Many people’s dreams might have to be comprehended for making this dream of someone into a reality. As a tourist, I feel that a little knowledge of the history of places that we visit goes a long way in making the tour ever memorable.

Koyana nagar – Humbarli – is a history in making. Our children and grand children will enjoy the hill station in its entirety, but now it is literally taking shape, and it is very interesting to witness its growth.

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I also visited the small garden named Nehru Garden some distance away from the boating site.

Testing the flexibility of the Silver Shield collection:

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For some reason, there was no photography allowed in the garden! It surprised me why would someone oppose photographing a garden? So put off by this, I clicked it from the outside, and made my way back to hotel to move out.

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I kept on getting thoughts to jot down, and would stop whatever I was doing to get my laptop or my diary out to jot them down. Unaccounted thoughts are just like electricity, I thought. If not used immediately, they go to waste.

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After lunch, I planned to head to Konkan now. From Pune to Konkan, one has to cross at least one hill. Be it either Khopoli, Tamhini, Koyana Nagar, Amba, Gagan Bawada or Amboli; one has to cross the Sahyadri range to get down to the Arabian sea. I had already crossed it when I reached Koyana Nagar. So I decided to move on to Konkan via Chiplun. One touches the Mumbai-Goa highway, and then by taking right somewhere on the highway, he ends up in Konkan at one point or another.

I thought of riding ahead till my heart would get enough of highway, and then I would turn in to whichever area of Konkan was the closest.

The road towards Chiplun are good, with nice twists along the way.

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Old 2nd May 2014, 17:02   #17
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I had a quick detour in mind – Dervan. It is about 3 kilometers from the main highway. It houses a museum sorts of a complex, that houses many murals depicting scenes from Great King Shivaji. The murals cover many of the important events in life of the King, right from the birth to his crowning ceremony.

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I will not post all the murals here, because I want the readers to witness something unseen as well. Also, on paper the photography was not allowed. However in reality they turned a blind eye on the quiet photographer as long as he or she is not disturbing anyone or the peace by any antiques. However, should one dare to pose next to a mural, he gets his rear kicked out!

Some interesting murals:

Shaista Khan’s finger cut off during a daring raid on Lal Mahal

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A great story about humbleness. When King Shivaji mentioned to Ramdas Swami that the populace of his kingdom was doing well due to good governance, as the King was providing them enough resources to survive and flourish. Ramdas Swami pointed him towards a stone and asked him to have it split into two. The King ordered a stone-crusher to do so, and when the stone cracked open, there was a frog living inside the tiny gap in the stone. Ramdas Swami asked the surprised king, who supplied this frog the necessary resources to live in this rock? The king or the God?

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A most famous mural from this complex, the crowning ceremony, or Rajya Abhisheka

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This mural is about 20 feet wide, and has 3d faces that show the expression of each face very clearly, ranging from happiness, wonder, shock or even anger!

Lastly, the mural of Mata Jijabai, the mother of King Shivaji, blessing her son, grandson Sambhaji and the King’s first wife Saibai.

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I would get to see another place that history marked for Sambhaji later in the day, but I did not know that yet.

There are a lot of other murals depicting big and small events in the Great King's life. If you are passing on the Goa Highway, Dervan is definitely worth a visit for an hour or two.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 17:08   #18
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After the visit to Dervan, I turned back to join the Mumbai Goa Highway to resume my quest towards Konkan.

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The Mumbai - Goa highway is excellently maintained. I was constantly ripping Vesta at 90-100KMPH, and she too was running happily ahead. There are some villages enroute, where one has to slow down, but later on the empty road it is just a chat with the wind with the needle pasted to 90 or above.

Soon I was flying off from familiar names, and a name started popping on the milestones – Sangameshwar. Sangameshwar is famous for two things. One, the ancient temple of Karneshwar. And second, the capture of King Sambhaji – son of the Great King Shivaji.

I kept an eye on the milestones as they reduced the distance between myself and Sangameshwar, one kilometer at a time. Soon I was taking the left turn just next to a river bridge, and landed in Sangameshwar.

Getting in the village from the speedy highway, one gets a shock while negotiating his way onwards on such tight road, which keeps on getting narrower and narrower. Soon you are turning around cows and avoiding suicidal hens running around on the road. I took the even smaller by-lane of the Kasba village, and parked Vesta in front of the Karneshwar temple.

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Karneshwar temple dates even further back than yesterday’s Bhuleshwar. It is located at the confluence of two rivers, Alaknanda and Varuna. It is about 1600 years old, twice as old as Bhuleshwar! I have seen it very falsely related to the Karna of Mahabharata, and it can’t get more imaginative than that! This temple was built by Karna, but not of Mahabharata, but King Karna of the Chaulakya Dynasty. This was the capital of the King’s empire, bejeweled with not just a handful, but a total of 360 palacial temples! In the turn of history, many of these temples didn’t last, but Karneshwar temple holds its fort strong even today.

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It is a beautiful temple, and should be seen with great attention and a watchful eye. There are numerous detailed carvings of flowers and such geometric designs, alongwith the Gods playing various musical instruments. The ‘Salunki’ that is the outlet of the water used to bathe the Gods inside are created in great details.

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It is more exposed to the extremities, which the Konkan region is much more prone to than the Yavat region. However, one can’t directly compare two old temples directly with each other. One has to see everything in its own light and not in the shadow of other.

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Also, I noticed the top of the main temple is not carved, but rather a block of stone. I wondered why the top was not carved as well, when rest of the temple was carved in details. Maybe they didn’t get time or funds to complete the work, or more likely, the top was damaged beyond repair and was renovated with lesser resources.

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There is also a small Sun temple in the compound with twelve moon-signs (rashi) carved around.

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Just across the river is another small temple of Shiva. There is not much information available about this temple. One has to walk down a few steps into the dark room that contains the Shiva Lingam.

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There was hardly anyone in the large campus of the Karneshwar temple. The surrounding was notably clean, there was no rubbish or any sign of old leaves shaded by the huge tree in the campus. I sat in the hall of the temple and closed my eyes, to try and connect with the painful past this region had experienced.

Sambhaji was the eldest son of the Great King Shivaji of Maharashtra. While his life is a subject to great controversy, his death remains a sad chapter in history. It was at this place, Sangameshwar, that King Sambhaji would get caught alongwith his friend and advisor Kavi Kalash. They both would be put on camels, wearing Joker hats and torn clothes, and would be humiliatingly paraded all the way from here to Tulapur, about 300 kilometers from here.

At Tulapur, he would be tortured daily, with the increasing degrees of pains. For showing him how much pain the next torture would cause, first Kavi Kalash would be subjected to the same, and then King Sambhaji would undergo the torture. Their nails plucked, skin peeled, eyes pricked, toungues torn out, the horrors kept on mounting day by day. Aurangzeb would keep on asking King Sambhaji to convert his religion, and upon his denial, he would go on torturing him. Finally in April 1689, exactly 325 years ago, Kavi Kalash and King Sambhaji would meet their deaths by axe at Tulapur.

It is a dark chapter in the Maharashtra history, that the son of the Great King Shivaji would meet such a humiliating end by his biggest enemy – Aurangzeb. King Sambhaji was later named as Dharm veer – The brave man of religion – for keeping his faith in his religion despite the sufferings. Aurangzed is rumored to wish in vein ‘I wish one of my own sons was like Sambhaji’. Aurangzeb would face strong uprising from the Marathas, who would join forces in an unprecedented manner against him, outraged by the murder of King Sambhaji. And it started at this very place.

I opened my eyes, and found it was already half an hour since I first closed them. The ripples of the history started and witnessed by this place are alive even today. All it requires is a calm mind to connect to them.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 17:10   #19
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After paying my respect to the memory of King Sambhaji, I mounted Vesta and made by way to the Goa Highway. I was already in Konkan belt, and all it would take now was a right turn at any point to land up near the Arabian sea. The views were terrific now on, and it required an open set of eyes and mind to see the beauty lying next to the highway.

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The place Ganpati Pule, famed for its Ganpati temple and golden sand beach, was very near to Sangameshwar. However, legend has it that the Ganpati was not originally from here. It was in a place named ‘Ganesh Gule’, and due to reasons unknown, it went to Ganpati Pule. I had never been to Ganesh Gule ever, and I thought it would make a good halt to explore the unknown origins of the God Ganesh.

As the light slowly started fading, I gunned Vesta towards her destination of tonight. I passed Ratnagiri on my way to Ganesh Gule. Ratnagiri is a very developed town, and took me quiet by surprise. The nice buildings, the wide roads, the unruly traffic akin to Pune, it showed signs of a city and not a rural area. Hence I crossed it with a hurry, as I had no interest in experiencing a city life again on my tour.

The Bhatye beach is very near to Ratnagiri town. It is a favourite recluse of families and groups of friends. I reached there by 6.30pm, right in time to witness the sunset.

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There were many bats that had pitched their single person portable tents up the trees at Bhatye beach. An old story says that bats indicate the wealth of the region. Can one connect Ratnagiri’s astonishing growth and wealth with the lots of bats hanging on the beach?

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I am eternally surprised by sunrises and sunsets. Such daily occurrences in one’s life, that you would expect many would lose interest in such daily activity. Yet every sunrise view point is crowded and sunset view point even more so. For me, Sunrise marks the fresh beginning of things, while Sunset helps me close out my mistakes of the day, and would plan for a better tomorrow.

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Once the Sun went home, I too started to find my way to my bed tonight. The village of Ganesh Gule is around 15 kilometers from Ratnagiri. The road consists of straights and bit of twisty hill roads, but the surface was smooth and I made good speeds.

Finding Ganesh Gule from Ratnagiri was bit tricky, due to no street lights. Here the HIDs on Vesta supported me fully, and I found my way to the Home stay at the village without any trouble.

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The home stay deserves a special mention. For such far-out village, the home stay is neat and clean. The room I took, the tree house, was one of a kind. I had stayed in tree houses in past, but this was actually a part of the tree itself. Some thick branches of the tree underneath were making their way towards the sky right from within the tree house! The sea could be heard very clearly, but it was out of sight due to darkness. The sky was littered with shiny stars, and thunders of the sea made sure I did not venture out much from my room, except for the tasty dinner.

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I slept neat and tight tucked under the blanket, while the sea provided the lullabies to drift me away to dreamland.
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Old 2nd May 2014, 20:16   #20
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Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd May 2014, 08:38   #21
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Nothing to mention about the Koyna valley. Awesome place. Be it winter, or be it mosoon. Once drove through the plateau from Thoseghar to Patan with no roads for about 20km but only rocks and windmills for company. And Koyna kept peeping at us from a long distance.
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Old 9th May 2014, 13:54   #22
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pudhe kay jahala. please share the rest.

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Old 9th May 2014, 17:42   #23
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Day 4 - Becoming one of the people

I woke up early to the sea’s roar. Sleeping next to the sea is a different experience than sleeping next to, say, a waterfall. The waterfall, especially in full bloom, will always scare you by its thunderous loud noise all the time. The sea has this rhythmic melody of waves hitting periodically on the shores, it lulls you to sleep.

However the morning sea was something different, as it was calling me to come and greet him. And I obliged ever so willingly. I ran to the sea first thing in the morning, and it welcomed me with open arms.

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It was a Sunday, and I thought the beach would be little crowded. Surprisingly, there was no one on the beach, except myself, the wind and the sea. I couldn’t remember a time that I was alone on the beach, especially in such perfect weather!

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This photo took a lot of retakes, and once I got the shot I wanted, I really needed that dip in the water!

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I really enjoyed my time running in the sand, dipping in the sea, and then finally just laying flat in the warm sand in the morning sun with my eyes closed. As the beach was mostly uninhibited, I need not worry about my cameras or the clothes to change ownerships.

I started planning for today. Now that I was in Konkan area, there was no reason to run away to the Ghat area just now. One can’t just do touch and go with the grand beaches that Konkan offers. A visit to Goa was slowly marking its way on my thoughts. Goa is called Biker’s paradise. Of course, the meaning of paradise in this context is much different than the true biker’s paradise – Leh. But still, Goa holds a particular attraction in the minds of many bikers who mark their yearly pilgrimage to Goa from all corners of the country.

But I decided to take it slowly. Goa was about 250 kms from Ganesh Gule, and reaching there today would mean I’d have to leave soon and do a fairly fast ride just to reach Goa at a reasonable hour. But I was not on this ride to do any speed runs or break any land records. I was here to wander, and that’s what I decided my itinerary to be. I’d roam around from here towards Goa, and wherever the night would fall, I’d stop at the nearby village, and would head to Goa tomorrow. So whichever routes would feel good, I’d follow, whichever attractions seemed good on the direction board, I’d see.

‘That’s it, then. Today, I’ll wander on the roads to Goa.’ I decided, grabbed my towel and clothes and headed back to the room.
After check out and breakfast, I visited the room again for taking photos. The tree-house stands on the support of heavy metal columns, and is surrounded by a large tree.

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The tree’s branches find their way inside the room and grow out of the roof!The view too is grand, and the sitting in the balcony looking at the roaring sea is a rejuvenating experience.

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Old 9th May 2014, 17:48   #24
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Before moving on with my itinerary of the day, I paid a visit to the temple this small village is famous for. The Ganesh Gule temple, the one from which Ganpati left and ended up in Ganpati Pule. The road towards the temple were not so good in condition, as it was too much an interior area, but the calm breeze blowing from the coconut trees and fields on both the sides was very refreshing, and me and Vesta didn’t mind the bad roads at all. The short travel is extremely scenic, and I enjoyed every meter of it.

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After some climb of a few kilometers, I found the temple, and parked Vesta under a tree, the only shadow in that area. I saw some structure in front, so went ahead to see it. It was a very deep well, about 100ft deep, with a hole to draw out water at one end, and with steps that reach to the bottom of the well at the other end.
The steep climb down looked bit scary, and a claustrophobic person would have a hard time. The moist walls around you slowly encompass you as you are walking towards the little bit of water at the deep end of the stairs.

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However, it is not actually scary or ‘left alone’ etc. The water from this well is used daily for the idol’s daily abhisheka (holy bath). Legend has it that this well was built by the Pandavas of Mahabharata! I found this curious support for many structures with unknown owners. Who dig this well? The Pandavas! Who carved those caves? The Pandavas!! In their years of exile, the Pandavas sure worked hard, it seemed.

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The Shri Mahaganesh temple at Ganesh Gule is not much known, much lesser than the famous Ganesh Gule. The few people that visit, though, know about its legacy. Some even believe that one has to visit this place before Ganpati Gule! I heard this for the first time here though.

The temple campus is small but clean. A few steps take you to the main hall of the idol, which I enthusiastically entered in. The main idol is not a shapely one, but rather resembles a stone.

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Some say that if you want your work to be done, you don’t directly talk the boss, you talk to his subordinate. Similarly, for having your wish fulfilled, one doesn’t directly apply to the head office, one goes through proper channel. No prizes for guessing what I wished from Undir Mama (rat uncle, as the Lord Ganesha’s vehicle is fondly called.)

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Chatted a while with the priest at the temple. He too said the same story, that the Ganesh left this place for whatever reason and people found him on the sands where they placed him again and built a temple. A sand place is called ‘Pulni’ in Marathi, and hence the name formed - Ganpati Pule. However, there is no official documented story of Ganesh Gule, and it remains open to interpretations and imaginations.

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After a brief chat and a photo session, I moved back to my homestay for collecting my luggage and moving on with my exploration today.

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Old 9th May 2014, 17:53   #25
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I took the coastal highway, which is really enjoyable. Most of the time you are riding on barren lands with hardly any populace. Whenever you pass through villages, there are many small attractions that keep on popping on either side of the road. The attractions were so many, that each of them called at me and ate up time, happily so.

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I too enjoyed stopping at random beaches, trying to see how much near the sea can I ride and so on.

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Generally, a Konkani person is a very religious, irrespective of his religion. So there are many big and small temples and masjids sprawled across the countless villages. I halted at two such major temples. The first one was Kanakaditya temple at Kasheli. A folklore tells us the story that the idol originated in Saurashtra (today’s Gujrat), which was being carried away by Sea due imminent attack on the town. The boat got stuck near Kasheli, and once the idol was removed and placed into a cave, the boat moved ahead. This idol was instated in the Kasheli village, and has become one of the rarest and oldest Sun temples in India.

Kanak means gold and Aditya means Surya, so literally, this temple was of the Gold Sun. This fitted perfectly with the task of the week by Wrangler, ‘Chase the sun’!

The construction of the temple was typically Konkani, with red laterite stone found in abundance in this region; the two stepped mud tiled roof that helped maintain cool in the scorching heat and helped get rid of water fast in storming monsoons, both very typical to this region.

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The prayer hall of the temple was completely wooden and neatly carved. The roof of the main hall of the temple was made out of pure copper sheets, as if to complement the Sun God. The main idol itself was carved out of black stone, and was beautifully adorned. There was also an 850 years old copper plate, which had inscriptions in Sanskrit.

The beautiful paper design in the prayer hall

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I came out of the temple and headed towards Goa. The next temple that I went was at Adivare, just on the main road of the coastal highway. This temple consisted of three Goddesses, and is considered one of the major temple of Konkan area.

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After getting blessings from the three Goddesses that reside in the campus, I started receiving missed calls from the crows in my stomach. The nearest big town was Devgad, so I decided to push on till then, in hope of finding some good authentic Konkani food. Today I had decided that I would eat only authentic home made food, or I’d go with the biscuits I was packing along.
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Old 9th May 2014, 17:57   #26
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While riding Vesta towards Devgad, I couldn’t help but notice the tourist friendly avatar this area was taking. When I toured the Northern Konkan 5 years ago, I had noticed that the area had not yet awakened to its tourist potential, and to its responsibility towards tourists. There were hardly any notice boards, even if there were, they’d be in Devnagari and not English. Hotels were something of a rarity.

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However I could see many tourist friendly changes while I was riding fast on the unbelievably smooth tarmac of the interior of Konkan. The bridges have connected many parts of the lands that were separated by a gorge of sea-water.

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The roads are widened, so you are no longer playing the chicken game with oncoming traffic.

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The hotels were much more frequently seen (still not anywhere near the established tourist areas). But I felt happy that this beloved area of mine was finally realizing what it could become, and was taking slow and steady steps towards the same.

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I entered Devgad at 3 pm. I first asked my way towards ‘Windmills’ (or Pavanchakki, when you ask around in local language). I got directed into various streets and lanes, before landing on the a path that would lead me to the site of the windmills.

For past 25 years, these HUGE windmills were gathering rust and counting their days in the world, and not a single watt of electricity was produced by any of these windmills ever. They stood without any maintenance looking sadly into the Arabian Sea. However, it was terrific site for clicking photos though!

I had read that the windmills could be seen from a long distance. However I couldn’t spot a single one! So stopped at a house to ask whether the windmills were there, only to be informed that the project was getting renovated! Only last week, the old windmills were scrapped and another brand new set of shiny windmills, twice in number that the previous one, was in the offing. I was disappointed by the news, but felt happy that finally this project might produce some output.

I suddenly heard a loud noise ‘oyeoyeoyeoye’ from my grumbling stomach, and realized that if I didn’t put up some fuel to the empty tank, soon it would start shouting loudly and would tell anyone and everyone who listened how lousy its owner was. So I hurried back from the now-empty site of windmills, in search of a home-made meal. There were some hotels on way that offered all the city-menu, but I didn’t want any of that, no matter what my empty stomach threatened to do.

After asking around and scouting up and down the tiny by-lanes, I found a handmade board ‘Homemade food’ (Gharguti Jevan) with an arrow pointing to the rocky road. Would there really be a place that would serve food on this day with hardly any tourist? Or was it a coy to lure stupid hungry tourists?

Well, I’d never know if I didn’t venture, I thought, and turned Vesta on the rocky road. After a few hundred meters of bumpy ride, I came across a house with an old man snoring on a threaded bed, evidently deep in his afternoon siesta.

I didn’t know how to awake him. ‘Should I pass by him and see whether anyone is in the house? What if the old man wakes in panic, and hits me sneaking up from behind? Should I give a honk or accelerate a little?’ questions clouded my hunger-panicked brain.

While I was thinking my next strategy, Vesta’s silent growl of idling engine slowly brought him back to the present, and he stared at me with empty eyes, mind still wandering in dreamland.

‘I read the board about lunch’. I mumbled.

‘Yes, yes, come in’. The old guy fully returned to his physical form and sprang to his feet. He showed me a parking spot for Vesta for cooling her off, and ushered me inside his house, where I almost banged my head onto the mantle thanks to the limiting upward view of the helmet.

‘Low height door, bow down before entering’, he informed me almost too late.

The inside of the house was contrastingly modern. It was a ground storey house with tiled roof, a dining table, and quite out of the place was an LCD tv. I was welcomed with a glass of water, and was asked my preference about food.

‘Anything you may be having, preferably vegetarian’. I requested (as ‘ordered’ seemed too harsh a word to say about the lady of the house who asked me my meal preference).

‘My daughter in law cooks complete meal in 15 minutes’, the old man proclaimed proudly, and I eyed him with suspicion.

‘Hope he means she cooks good food in 15 minutes.’ I wished.

I removed my armor and breathed the fresh air with all my body free from any hindrance now, and took a small stroll in the backyard of the house. There were few fruit trees and some flower trees. These cute little pineapples were ripening in one corner.

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When I returned from the garden stroll, I indulged in a chat with the old man. I always find it fascinating to chat with the prior generations. It seems to me that everyone lives by some ideals, some motto, and by talking to old people of various stature, you can learn how the values tend to lead people’s lives into. The old man had a satisfied past, kids learnt in cities, one now helping him in business while others were on job in Mumbai. The lament of the past generation is always the same, how the world has gotten busier. Wonder how it would be when we would be seen as past generation.

Soon I could smell delicious flavors rising from the kitchen side. The Prabhu Deva movie that was blaring on the LCD notwithstanding; now my brain had supplied additional blood to my nostrils and my taste buds. I felt as if I could almost taste the food just by smell!

In no time a piping hot lunch was in front of me.

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Munching down the lunch contently, I had a nice chat with the old man. A meal with someone to talk to is always an enjoyable meal, and when it is an authentic home made one taken on a tummy carving for food for a long time, the experience is simply marvelous. I listened to how the political stance of the people of the village was now changing, how the new windmills project was anticipated warmly by the locals, and so on. After a while, I took a leave of my chef of the meal – the lady of the house and the old man who proved to be such a wonderful company over a meal. I was reminded of a quote by famous Marathi comic writer Late Pu La Deshpande – Konkani person is like a jackfruit, he doesn’t get sweet till he is ripened a lot!

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Old 9th May 2014, 18:06   #27
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With bulging tummy and the belt loosened a few notches, I halted at a joint at Jamsande, a small junction in the village. There were many mango sellers. Devgad Alphonso are famous world over for their rich taste and sweetness, and I could not pass the opportunity of tasting the delicacy at its birthplace.

Bought this plate and I found out why the mangoes have made their name in the tough market of brands! Absolutely delicious, even a non-foodie person like me could appreciate the difference between this mango and the ones we get in cities. And I was told that it would get even better once the season sets in!

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I moved on to Kunkeshwar - the Kashi of South Konkan. As it fell right on the way to Goa, requiring very little detour, I planned my next halt in the temple.

I parked Vesta in front of a shop, and walked the few stairs up to the temple. Old women from the village were selling the usual pooja thali, along with the local delicacies such as home made mango rotis (aamba poli). Had I not had my fill of mangoes that day, I’d definitely have devoured a few.

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I walked up in the temple, awed by its grandeur and strikingly different architecture. Unlike the typical Konkani temples or even carvings like the previous ones, this temple was remarkable in its Southern architecture style. The temple appeared quite colorful in appearance, partly resembling the multi-color Gompas (Tibetan temples) in Ladakh region. I wondered how a thousand year old temple could have such an Eastman color structure.

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I got the answer from the priest there, that the temple was painted in present bright colors a few years ago, when they renovated the campus. The temple was originally made out of black stone, the reminiscence of which could be seen in the main hall of the Shiva lingam. I was startled to see the thousand year old black beauty of the temple hidden behind the granites and the colorful exterior, but I believe the management must have had some strong reasons to change the historical look of the temple.

I spent some quiet time in the large campus overlooking the 5 kilometers of sparkling golden beach and the Arabian Sea. Some say there were some rocks in the sea that resemble the Shivalingam, and they appeared when there is a low tide.

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It was a high tide when I was at Kunkeshwar and the low tide was quite some time away, according to the Timex on my wrist. So I moved on without witnessing this wonder.

I continued my journey on the coastal highway. The highway was very nicely laid, but it did not have much traffic yet. I later found out that some of the locals tended to avoid taking this route in evenings, precisely because of this reason – hardly anyone on the road. I felt this was a catch 22 situation, not much traffic because of people avoiding the road, and people avoided the road because of less traffic! A text book example of self fulfilling prophecy.

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I rode hard, and saw my shadow stretching longer and longer due to the setting sun. Finally I halted at a nice empty stretch for a photography session.

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It started to become dark, and I was approaching the village of Tarkarli. I had been to Tarkarli many years ago, back when it was a sleepy village like many on the coastal Konkan. I was surprised to see it turned into a mini Goa! There were lots of signs for hotels and almost every house was a homestay. I could see possible accommodations for all budget ranges, right from the bottom of the pile to all the way to the top.

The road was nicely marked with proper arrows, but it kept on getting narrower and narrower once I rode inside Tarkarli. I passed Malvan on the way with Sindhudurg fort in distance, and marched on till the end of the road.

After Tarkarli, there was another sleepy village some 10 kilometers away, named Devbagh. Literally, it meant God’s Garden. It was right at the confluence of the river and the sea - a straight land surrounded by water on three sides, and hence the name of Devbagh. The beauty of this tiny village was out of the world. Just after the tar road finished, the sands started. The houses at both sides of this narrow road were literally built on golden sand. There were many options of hotels here too, but not as much as Tarkarli. As the road approaching Devbagh got narrowed down a lot, the tourist buses tended to halt at Tarkarli, and there were comparatively less tourists here.

I checked in one of the many homestays that Devbag offered. After a filling dinner, I laid on my bed and I started thinking about the day I had. Today had been a completely Konkan day. I toured today not just as an outsider, but I felt I had managed to get a glimpse in Konkani life as well. I shared their faiths and prayed along with them, I ate their meals, respectfully interacted with their seniors and now sleeping in their homes. What a day!
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Old 11th May 2014, 10:47   #28
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Day 6 – Birds and storms

Today I created a new record in the tourists of Goa – woke up at 4.30 AM! Got ready, and took out sleepy Vesta. The watchman eyed me suspiciously, what the hell is this guy doing so early when the city stays awake all night? I gave him a thousand watt smile baring all 32 teeth in order to assure him of my sanity. I don’t think he was convinced though, but I didn’t linger to find out.

Few of the locals were already up and sleepwalking to their destinations. I halted near one and awoke him from his waking dream:

‘Sir, how to go to Charao Island Jetty?’

‘Charao…island…jetty?’ He took his own time to analyze every single word, and once he was satisfied with their accuracy, he directed me properly. I reached the empty jetty with the ferry parked in front of me.

There were a few dogs sleeping around, but their batteries were drained by overnight talking and barking, it seemed, so they just growled at me in their sleep before dropping their heads back down in slumber.

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What was I doing up at such an early hour in the lands of Goa? There is a Bird sanctuary called Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, located on the banks of Mandovi river. The river’s fertile grounds had made the island of Charao a beautiful jungle, and it is made home by many Indian and migratory birds.
The best time to watch these birds is very early morning, or late evening, as for the rest of the day the birds prefer chilling out in the deep woods.

However in morning, the yummy insects at the river side call to them. Many beautiful birds leave their safe house in the jungle and come outside for breakfast. This would be the best time to see them, and this was why I was up so early.

I waited for some time in front of the huge ferry boat that looked big enough to carry bigger vehicles across the island. In distance, the island was blinking its small lights, as if it was awaiting the arrival of the first visitors of the day.

At sharp 6 AM, the boat’s engine started with loud groan, and I put in Vesta onto the ferry.

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Across the river, I met the guide who would take me in his boat in the waters of the Mandovi river. I rode Vesta for a few hundred meters, taking myriad of turns and parked her under a shade of a big tree. The guide joined me, and led me to the boat.

The path to the boat was extremely slippery and mushy. The villagers had put some large stones in order to have some walkway in the slippery path, so I tiptoed my way across them. The birds were already up, and I could hear some unbelievably beautiful melodies from the birds hidden from view.

When we reached the boat, it was looking like it was sunk tight in the mud! It was a low tide, and the water had receeded. That’s why we had to wade through the slippery mud path. Unfazed by the sight of the boat gripped by the mud; the guide pulled up his trousers, entered knee deep into the mud and began rocking the boat to and fro with unproportional strength to his diminutive size.

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Soon the boat was free from the clutches of the mud, and we were set to ride ahead. Surprising even myself, I managed to get into the boat without any fall, and sat tight in anticipation on the seat next to the guide.

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Old 11th May 2014, 10:57   #29
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The guide was upgraded with hawk eyes, it seemed. He could spot birds from great distances despite of their camouflage. Without a guide or a trained eye, your boat ride in this river would be more ordinary than a boat ride in a swimming pool. But once you start seeing birds, then the true enjoyment begins.

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As we moved on, the guided began pointing clearly and telling the names of the birds that were out for their early breakfast. We saw kingfisher, blue kingfisher, lots of brahmini ducks and many other birds.

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There were many green and red herons, which looked pretty same, and the difference came from the color of their legs. I must confess that I had never been a bird watcher ever. But here I was not required to be one, to appreciate the beauty radiating from such birds, tiny and large both.

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We saw a lot of Kingfisher birds. It is a beautiful little bird with a splash of colours. For its size, it packs a lot of confidence and isn’t much afraid of humans. However if one gets too close to it, then suddenly its confidence takes a dive and it flies away. We also saw a blue version of the same, which was something of a rarity.

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There were many other birds which I forgot the names of, and it was not possible to document it as the birds kept on coming and the guide kept on pointing. I found it more enjoyable to let the names flow over my ears, and take the beauty of the bird in by a careful look.

The bird sanctuary was a very beautiful place, and I felt as if I was being ferried around for the birds to look at me, rather than the other way around!

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We ventured into a few small by-lanes of the Mandovi river where the gorge was narrow and the speeds had to be slow.

The sun had slowly risen, and yet it had not put on the full burner. So I was enjoying the little warmth it spread out, with the birds chilling out on the sides of the river. It was a peaceful world, where one did not disturb another, and all were content in their own presence.

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It was surprising to realize that I was so near to Goa, the happening place for all the night long parties and booze and chicks. Here I too was looking at chicks, but they were of literal meaning and not figurative one!

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Along with the birds, we also saw many varieties of shrubs and plants growing in the mud. There were various types of mangrove trees. Some of them had fruits growing straight downwards, so that when they ripened, they’d fall like an arrow and would get mounted into the mud, giving rise to a new tree.

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Some had their fruits nicely tucked into a star like structure!

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The flora and fauna in this world was amazing, and it was very different than the usual trees we were accustomed to see in the beach belt.

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Saw this bird drying its wings in style, caring two hoots as to who looks at it.
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We took a U turn, and crossed the river to look at other side. The guide took the boat into a narrow gorge, where a fisherman had set up a hut. The guide halted the boat in the middle, and jumped from one boat to another to get to the hut. I remained seated in the boat wondering how deep the river would be. The guide soon returned with a happy face and a potful of fresh river faces. I did not recognize any one of them, though, as I am more of a sea fish person.

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We returned to the village very satisfied with the bird watching. The experience of riding calmly in the river watching the birds go about their business had been very invigorating. The fresh air free from any pollution and the amazingly melodious bird songs had fully recharged me for my final leg of this ride – the homewards journey.

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If you are in Goa for some period, I would definitely suggest to wake up early one morning and do this exercise. It would be a new side of tourism and you would be recharged to enjoy your rest of the journey. There is also a walking path for the sanctuary, but you are more likely to see birds in your boat trip.

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Old 11th May 2014, 11:10   #30
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We returned to the guide’s house in the village, and sat in the sun chatting for a while. His mother, in typical Konkani attire, was praying to the Holy Basil (Tulsi) plant. It was a daily ritual, and I felt lucky to witness it.

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I mounted Vesta and found my way back to the jetty. I saw a peacock in a field grazing in distance.

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Also saw this small church on the island.

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The jetty was having bit of a traffic waiting for the ferry. It was a bumper car ride for two wheelers. Just like the bumper cars in fairs, here the bikes were using other bikes to halt. I too bumped my way around and stood in the herd waiting for our turns to get on the ferry. Once I was on the boat ushered in with a hurry, I noticed I was facing the inside of the ferry! I wondered how I was going to get off without turning Vesta towards the way out. However once the ferry reached the opposite shore, all the bikes around me took synchronized turns, and in no times the ferry was emptied for the next lot.

I came back to the hotel via some narrow lanes with typically Goan buildings. I noticed that the Goan architecture was notably different, and one could identify the buildings from Goa as being separate than at other places.

Many late waking moms were scurrying up their kids to schools on their buzzing scooters, and I had to ride carefully in order to not come in their paths. Rest of the traffic was quite orderly.

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I filled up Vesta’s tank, and got a pleasant surprise. The petrol was Rs.60 per liter, as compared to around Rs.80 all over India!

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I rocked Vesta to and fro and filled her every gap and crevice in the petrol tank.

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Returned to hotel, breakfast and after blogging for an hour, I began wondering where to head next.

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I went through my journey for past 5 days, and reviewed the places I had visited. I realized I had covered a number of aspects of the beauty of Maharashtra. I had been to natural wonders, the fields, the vast sea line, the jungles, the temples; but one most important aspect was still not covered in my itinerary. How can anyone claim he has seen the majestic Maharashtra without seeing even one of its many grand forts?

Maharashtra is known as the land of the forts, and I had not yet been to one on this journey. I had only seen Sindhudurg from the outside, but the visit was not for the fort, but rather for the diving. The wandering was not yet complete, and I was not yet clear to return home unless I paid a visit to a fort.

Keeping this point in my mind, I checked out of the hotel and moved on. While leaving Goa, I noticed my speedometer, and clicked a photo at an interesting moment. I had completed 1000kms on this tour.

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