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Old 15th August 2016, 16:20   #1
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Default The Gypsy goes back in the rains to Malvan, Konkan

Life intervened and it has been some time since I was able to do a drive to Malvan and areas around it, and in the rains the Gypsy is the ideal car in which to do this. There have been many drives to Goa in other cars, but those trips are less about the journey and more about getting to Goa ASAP; usually the Nipani/Ajra/Amboli route.

While the Gypsy is in fine fettle, I am not so sure how much longer I/my back can take the knocks it dishes up with unfailing frequency, for extended drives. Add to that the abundant rains, and some recent monsoon travelogues here, and I decided that this is a good time to do the drive in it before it is too late in life to do so in it. I was a little surprised to hear from my wife that she wanted to come as well; she is usually a very reluctant Gypsy passenger. But that meant that a free format drive goes out of the window, and some care has to be taken about where to stay, some planning, booking in advance and the like - alone, worst case, I could easily sleep in the car. With her along, that is easier said than done.

So, some research via Google threw up an itinerary that looked like this:
Day 1: Drive to get to Amboli for a stopover, leaving Pune at a time that isn't the usual 4 am start because of the desire to have a genuine lunch inside Kolhapur city. To do that, an 8 am start sounded about right.
Day 2: Drive through Sawantwadi, spending some time in the market there before leaving for Malwan for lunch. And a post lunch drive back south using SH4 - Sagari Mahamarg - to a beach resort in the Vengurla region.
Day 3/4: Stay in a home in Vengurla, and explore the area.
Day 5: The original plan was to leave early and drive back to Pune, but I am not sure if we have the strength to do a non stop 8-9 hours in the Gypsy. So if the first four days have left us wanting for more, add on this day to drive north halfway up to coast to the Ratnagiri area, allowing for a much shorter drive on Day 6 back to Pune.

Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 14:25.
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Old 24th August 2016, 11:07   #2
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Default Re: The Gypsy goes back to Malvan/Konkan in the rains

Having just come back to Pune after a fantastic 5 night trip, now the record for posterity. And I say that with intent - I am unable to locate the photos of my earlier trips to Konkan except on threads here on TBHP!

Since the plan was to stop at Amboli, we started late by the usual standard and left Pune at 8 30 am. Pleasant enough drive in the occasional rain shower and uneventful arrival in Kolhapur, for lunch at Dehati, at about 1 30 pm.

Dehati is only named as such, the place is well appointed inside and served excellent local food with courtesy. Drivers that tend to want to nap after a heavy lunch ought to be careful about how much they eat if the said nap isn't going to be possible.

After the meal, which felt like a big one, I was unable to figure out why it felt so. In terms of the number of chapatis eaten and the like, it wasn't any different from lunch at home, but this is something that keeps happening and is a puzzle I have to yet figure out - why does one feel a lot fuller eating in a similar way to home, in a restaurant.

We meandered out of Kolhapur after lunch and once the obligatory tea at Goa Ves was done, turned towards Amboli. An aside: there are a couple of shops adjacent to Goa Ves. One sells excellent sweets from the Belgaum region; the kunda which isn't something I like too much, but there is also another recently discovered sweet that is excellent and highly recommended and that is Kardant. More from Gokak than Belgaum and not easy to describe. A sticky and oily chikki is the closest I can think of, but it has a unique and very appealing taste.

Another shop sells Kolhapuri chappals and these are also of very decent quality in terms of how they feel when wearing them and for lasting as ones from Kolhapur would.

Something I just remembered: Uneventful drive till Goa Ves restaurant, except for the one time the Gypsy gave me a truly nasty moment on the high quality stretch from the toll gate at Kognoli to the turn off for Amboli. At a dip in the road there was a patch of broken surface that was much worse than what it looked like from far away and was completely unexpected for that stretch, as anyone that has travelled on it knows. Although I never drive the Gypsy above 90-100 kmph, the road caught out the car badly even so and it wanted to go in at least a couple of directions at the same time! Had I then fought the steering wheel instead of letting it settle down on its own, I have a feeling something more nasty that just a sharp wake up call might have been the result.

The road was fine till we joined the Sankeshwar - Amboli road, which is now in bad shape. Funnily enough, it was excellent in patches and excellent to the level of a magic carpet ride for even the Gypsy. But ever so often, things come back to juddering and back breaking progress on a leaf suspension sprung car. It is very irritating, because it need not be that way as is obvious from other parts of the same road. Another little mystery.

We went through light showers all the way till Amboli, when light showers suddenly turned into very poor visibility cloud at about 5 pm. It was so dense that it wasn't easy to see the left hand turn off just after the Green Valley resort adjacent to which is Whistling Woods, our destination for the night.

Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 14:35.
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Old 24th August 2016, 14:23   #3
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Default Re: The Gypsy goes back to Malvan/Konkan in the rains

Amboli in the rains is like a ghost town of derelict and abandoned buildings and misty presences. From June to mid September that part of it that is at the highest elevation just before the downhill descent starts, sees no sunlight at all. I was told that there was one July when it rained more there than it has ever done in Cherrapunjee in July.

Some photos of the place and where we stayed. The road to Whistling Woods is a lot easier to see in the photo than it was when we first arrived and had to stop and look up Google maps to be sure we have made the correct left turn. Very nice - though damp - place, run by Hemant Ogale, a man with a hobby of snakes and frogs, in the perfect place for it. I couldn't help thinking how his wife gets her time to pass though; after 24 hours of the place, I would go bananas! One only realises how much one needs sunlight when one sees a complete absence of it.

We walked to the Green Valley resort right next door, equipped with a couple of powerful torches for a very decent dinner in a run down looking restaurant. Then to bed, surrounded by the ribbet-ribbet music of frogs of all sizes but with very loud voices, and every couple of hours, a strong shower of rain.
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Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 14:36.
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Old 24th August 2016, 14:55   #4
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Default re: The Gypsy goes back in the rains to Malvan, Konkan

After a leisurely breakfast in the B&B, we left Amboli at about 9 am. The plan for the day was for a relaxed drive to Malvan for lunch, of which I have many fond memories, and then back track down the Sagari Mahamarga - a misnomer - for many of its kilometres it is neither sea side nor anything close to a highway - to Khavane beach to a relabelled twin room resort that calls itself Klub Khavana, but more on that later.

Driving down Amboli ghat in dense cloud called for slow and careful motoring, with the waterfall more heard than seen as we passed it in the mist. But by and large it was a relaxed drive, the road surfaces are still decent except for a few rough patches, and we were soon at a favourite bio break spot close to the foot hills of the mountain, a right turn going down that is very familiar to everyone that uses this road, evidenced by, if nothing else, the copious amount of trash we leave behind us every time many of us go anywhere.

The first photo is from the sit out of the B&B, looking out into the garden with a couple of pictures at the first halt at the bottom of the ghat. Has anyone every tried the highway assistance numbers that are so often displayed as they are in the last photo, to see if there is anyone at the other end?
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Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 18:13.
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Old 24th August 2016, 15:30   #5
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Default re: The Gypsy goes back in the rains to Malvan, Konkan

While researching the drive, I had come across the wooden toys that Sawantwadi is known for and I looked for these and discovered, sadly, that the phrase "is known" should be corrected to "was known". What we saw in what is the largest shop for these in town is now unremarkable stuff that is caught between two stools - not matching the appeal of the best of modern toys without retaining the skill and craftsmanship in the best toys of the days gone by. Not a surprise really, considering that the present generation of toymakers are close to passing on and no one is interested in taking up the torch.

There was nothing else to do in Sawantwadi, so after circling the lake twice by mistake, we took the road out to Kudal on NH17, for the turn towards the sea and to Malvan. And as it turned out, this was the one part of the drive that was unpleasant and a waste of time. For one, it wasn't raining and with the sun out, the morning was very humid with no hint of a breeze - in case you are wondering why this matters, remember that the Gypsy has no air con! NH17 has been damaged by rain in many parts, as is most of the road down to Malvan from Kudal. And to top it all, the food at Malvan was good, but not exceptional and we could and did have better food elsewhere during the trip. The return run was interesting though, along the already referred Sagari Mahamarg and the surreal looking Sindhudurg airport that is under construction apparently in the middle of nowhere.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

The last time I was in Malvan in 2009, I ate twice at Chaitanya restaurant there and the food was the highlight of the ten day stay in the region. Recent reviews indicate a downhill slide of sort brought about by the distraction caused by opening a branch in Mumbai and similar issues, so this time we tried another well recommended place in Malvan, Swami, that was not at all a disappointment, but not a place I would drive a few hours on broken roads in a Gypsy to get to! We would have been far better off going directly to Khavane beach from Sawantwadi, but we would also then have missed the chance to have to see Sindhudurg airport being constructed at Chippi, apparently by just one JCB machine, but with the highway now being forced to detour on unmade roads around the end of the runway, which runs right across the highway as it existed earlier. And I wasn't joking about the one JCB, in the entire massive airport construction complex there was just one little JCB in the distance, valiantly breaking ground and looking very lost and lonely. Perhaps the rains, perhaps a funds drought?

We did pick up some very good masalas of the Malvan style in the market, so the trip wasn't a dead loss. Or perhaps it was, only time will tell on comparing these with similar masalas we bought later in Vengurla.
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Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 15:32.
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Old 24th August 2016, 15:48   #6
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Default At Khavane - in Klub Khavana

Heading further south down Sagari Mahamarga - aka SH4 - took us through the interior of Konkan with its typical climb up, plateau drive with the sea visible in the distance, climb down drive with temples and villages en route till the right turn to Khavane beach at Mhapan.

The end of the road is at a cliff with a narrow road down to the beach, where the car is parked at the top of the cliff. As the pictures show, the beach is a very small one, that can be walked from one headland to the other in about ten minutes with a creek/backwater down the far side. And the fancily named Klub Khavana is just two, but extremely well appointed huts, side by side, with a great view of the sea. Amenities include A/C, all wood panelling, TataSky, electric kettle, shower cubicle with 24 hours hot/cold water, and, although more on that later, among the best cooking in the region. The sea is about two minutes away, walking down to it on a clean beach.
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Old 24th August 2016, 16:08   #7
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Default Khavane beach in pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words and at night, there was the close to full moon as well...
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Old 24th August 2016, 16:22   #8
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Default Living off the land/sea and the glorious food at Khavane

The first couple of pictures exemplify the Konkan lifestyle as it pertains to food. Climb the tree, grab a coconut, break it open, while the womenfolk clean the fish or prawns in the background, thrown in some rice and there is nothing missing for a healthy meal. And there is so much up and down walking to be done wherever you want to go to, that fat people aren't to be seen there. Or I haven't see any, at any rate.

On the other hand, it can get extremely boring.

Back to the food at KK though, it was brilliantly simple. Seafood cooked to perfection and seasoned just right. After a couple of drinks, the sea crashing in front, my jazz on the go playing in the background, the full moon risen over the beach, I haven't had a better meal anywhere in the world. And there have been just a few that have been as good.

There is just the one picture, I was just too busy eating...
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Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 16:23.
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Old 24th August 2016, 17:26   #9
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Default HomeStay in Vengurla

We had planned to leave the beach later in the day for our homestay in Vengurla, but with little rain, the prospect of another muggy morning in the Gypsy was a little discouraging, so we thought of making an early start to the hour or so drive.

Nevertheless, the staff turned out excellent Ghavan and coconut chutney, the former being similar to the neer dosa that is well known in parts further south in India. Excellent again, but the green chutney was an hitherto untasted delight. And the kind of breakfast that one can eat like a king without then having to sleep like one, because it is so easily digested.

Our next destination was in a little town/village called Math, a few kilometres north of Vengurla, and at Prashant Dhuri's home there we were treated to a standard of hospitality that may exist in many parts of the world/India, but is rarely found. It got so that I had to stop asking for things for the fear that if it wasn't there in the home, Prashant would promptly hop on to his motorcycle to go to the market a few minutes away to fetch just that - once he did that because I asked for some pickle with the food, and my wife told me to stop asking for things!

It started with him coming to the Math signboard where the Gypsy was parked, to pilot our way to his home, that is admittedly not an easy find, tucked away from the highway to Goa. The house itself is well appointed inside, but the externals are all as seen in many rural homes in the region. Hot water for bathing is via a wood fired boiler at the back, piped to the bathroom tap, and there isn't a TV, but we weren't expecting that anyway, what was there was adequate luxury. All meals are served as requested in advance and the food is cooked very well. It won't look pretty in a picture, Indian cooking rarely does, but it tasted heavenly, and I was a little surprised to even get to eat very good tasting chapatis, since wheat isn't a staple and commonly eaten as far as I know.

At our request, dinner one night included ukdiche modak, a well known marathi coconut and rice based sweet, a favourite of the happiest God in the Hindu Pantheon, Ganesha. They are made smaller in size than the ones seen in Pune, and eating half a dozen takes no effort.

Every night there were the occasional showers leading to rain washed mornings with a pea hen prancing in the distance and adding her voice to the chorus of birdsong. Missing the peacock, probably, he wasn't to be seen anywhere.

No TV, no WiFi - heaven on earth for a couple of days!
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Old 24th August 2016, 17:34   #10
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Default Exploring Vengurla

I wasn't expecting much in Vengurla itself, and the Dhuri home wasn't easy to leave, but having come all the way it seemed that a short exploration was warranted. It turned out some curiosities like a buoy washed up on the beach, an elephant on the main jetty, and the usual disappointing amount of trash on Sagareshwar beach - why? Because it is a "developed" beach.

And this for a place that isn't a mainstream tourist destination and in the off season.

There is an interestingly designed for a Maruti temple in one of the pictures, and he seems to be a favourite in the area, we saw many temples dedicated to him.
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Last edited by Sawyer : 24th August 2016 at 17:36.
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Old 24th August 2016, 17:51   #11
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Default Heading back

My original plan was to either come back non stop from Vengurla, or to drive for another night to the Ratnagiri area and then come back to Pune to allow for two shorter drives instead of a long ten hours or more in the Gypsy.

The poor state of the main roads, specifically NH17, called for a change of plan; so we decided to go back via Amboli and halt in Kolhapur overnight, a city we rarely visit.

That allowed for a relaxed drive back on a very good road from Vengurla to Amboli including, unusually, stopping to see the waterfall antics. I was surprised to note the official endorsement of the dancing under the water in the form of changing rooms provided by the side of the road!

And the wife had to have her obligatory bhutta in the rains, although her forlorn hope to NOT get American hybrid corn was again dashed.

We have often sped past Ajra, and noticed all the rice on sale by the roadside; the relaxed itinerary meant that this time we could stop by one and pick up a few varieties.

Traversing the same bad road was a little painful but the heavy rain and lack of sun made for a very pleasant experience overall, all the way till reaching Kolhapur by about 1 pm.
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Old 24th August 2016, 18:08   #12
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Default Last lap of a very good drive

In Kolhapur we thought we will check out the Sayaji hotel, that is easily found. Excellent infrastructure, courteous service, but a little rough around the edges. And the meal was a disappointment - I suspect they don't employ a local cook so the rest of the menu is probably better than the local specialities.

There was a prominently displayed No Tips notice - which is not rare. What is rare is that an offered tip was politely refused and that too out of sight of management; not too many places are able to pull that off!

Using an autorickshaw to go to buy the local masalas and the obligatory chappals seemed the sensible thing to do, and it was a pleasant surprise to see the auto guys run by the meter, no questions asked and courteous to boot. The beaten up auto in one case did not seem a bother then.

And given the lunch experience at Sayaji, the food at Opal next door found it very easy to taste good.

We left the next day after breakfast, and another pleasant and occasionally rainy day drive brought us back into the noise and crowds of Pune and home as well, by around noon.
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Old 25th August 2016, 08:39   #13
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 25th August 2016, 09:16   #14
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Default Re: Last lap of a very good drive

Nice travelogue Sawyer, and awesome photos! Thanks for sharing.

The spot where SH4 ends is really beautiful. Also, from your picture, looks like the Amboli waterfall had a lot of water. This seems like a very nice spot to go on weekdays (in the hope that there will be nobody around there on a weekday).

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Originally Posted by Sawyer View Post
There was a prominently displayed No Tips notice - which is not rare. What is rare is that an offered tip was politely refused and that too out of sight of management; not too many places are able to pull that off!

Using an autorickshaw to go to buy the local masalas and the obligatory chappals seemed the sensible thing to do, and it was a pleasant surprise to see the auto guys run by the meter, no questions asked and courteous to boot. The beaten up auto in one case did not seem a bother then.
My experiences exactly. I found everybody in Kolhapur to be extremely courteous. I am very impressed by that city.

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Originally Posted by Sawyer View Post
If by the end of SH4 you are referring to the airport construction, it isn't the end, although that is a nice enough wind swept place. After the detour around the end of the runway that is under construction, SH4 continues south to Vengurla and beyond.
No, I did not mean the airport area. I meant the beach near Vengurla where the SH4 ends. I was referring to your picture of that beach. That is the really beautiful spot is what I meant :-)

Last edited by Dr.AD : 25th August 2016 at 09:44.
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Old 25th August 2016, 09:38   #15
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Default Re: Last lap of a very good drive

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post
The spot where SH4 ends is really beautiful. Also, from your picture, looks like the Amboli waterfall had a lot of water. This seems like a very nice spot to go on weekdays (in the hope that there will be nobody around there on a weekday).
If by the end of SH4 you are referring to the airport construction, it isn't the end, although that is a nice enough wind swept place. After the detour around the end of the runway that is under construction, SH4 continues south to Vengurla and beyond.

As to the waterfall, in my experience there are ALWAYS people there! We passed it going down in dense cloud on a Friday morning and did not see them, but very definitely heard them.
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