27.2.13

Guhagar: 6 things you'll love!

Last weekend was the beginning of Rao & my joint exploration of Maharashtra - we figured we might as well tick off all that's on this immediate travel list instead of day dreaming about utopian distant lands (in terms of time as well as miles). We began with Guhagar. Rao had sung paeans about the place and that had sort of made me a tad skeptical. However, on arrival, I realised he didn't do justice to his description. To have a clean stretch of sand in your backyard and staying at a simple cottage is a regular feature of accommodation at several places along the Konkan coast. But even that is not it.

Getting there

Guhagar is about an hour from Chiplun by the rickety State Transport bus (no private ones, or cabs - sorry). It's about 270 km from Bombay. You can take an overnight sleeper to Chiplun and then the hourly ST bus from there to Guhagar. The care-taker of our cottage (we stayed at Nishigandha, more on that here), Deepak told us he could arrange for a cab so we could drive around and go to Hedvi too. But we decided paying a full grand instead of the unbargained 400 bucks was a steal.

Besides, Konkan's beaches are dissimilar not so much for what's right next to the sea, as the things and places you stumble upon in the villages. That is not to discount the beauty and charm of Hedvi, but as a professor once said to me, 'where you have been twice, you must go a third time.' And so perhaps Rao will make it to Hedvi as well next time, and hopefully I'll be lucky to be his companion again!

Stay Put

Surprisingly, even thought there weren't many tourists to be spotted in Guhagar, there were several guest houses all around town. We later discovered that most foreigners on their way to Goa on New Years' Eve invariably break the journey at Guhagar. This little snippet of information made the plethora of places to stay obvious. All these places are more or less cottages and promise access to a little piece of private beach.

In themselves, they're clean and well ventilated. we had access to a fairly spacious attached bathroom as well. Only, the hot water was a challenge on day 1 because the boiler had burst. But our host actually came in early on Sunday and boiled a full two bucketfulls of water so we could dunk ourselves in fresh, hot and steaming peace!

Painting the Town

Guhagar is a small Mahadev & Laxmi-Narayan-worshiping town. In fact, the cottage where we stayed was right across the road from what seemed like an ancient structure. Gargoyles in animal forms were seen on all the outer roof skirting. However, the compound was large enough to house not only two medium sized temple buildings, but also a badminton court!

Guhagar also has quite a few 'kund's or ponds. The water, as you may imagine, is not clean, but green with algae and out of maintenance. Some of these stepwells are quite apparently meant for washing. I saw once in the marketplace that was all marble!

The narrow lanes make walking around town even at midday quite easy with all the share of shade - of both trees as well as shops and houses. We had to walk about 10 minutes to reach the town centre, and realised it was so much easier getting around here on foot! I even got my long-pending revenue stamps at the post office on the way to one of our lunches.

Houses in Guhagar are just the most charming you might ever come across. They all have sloping roofs with drying little premature coconuts fallen from the coconut trees in their gardens. You'll catch an octgenarian or a couple of women in the neighbourhood gathered in the mornings in the verandahs preparing one or the other food item. The compound walls are all moss ridden and thick - the bricks that give them their form can easily be mistaken for red stone - somehow, the holes in them and their texture gives them the appearance. You can see that the people of Guhagar take good care of their abodes.
The shy Starfish - it was actually as big as the outside outline of the sand
that looks all dug out!

Sea Surprise

The beach is a pristine stretch with hardly a soul around. We spotted a few starfish on the shore - tiny ones and rather dull looking. But then, I guess when you look like that, you hardly need colour!

But that's not the only way to take in the vast exposure of Guhagar to the sea. Drive up to the lighthouse for better views - you'll pass steep slopes and a mesh of mango trees growing wildly on them along the way. You have to cross a bit of the goats in a rickshaw and the valley views are as pretty as they come. And then you suddenly rise to a flat table land. The surprise wears off in a while but the cool breeze even at midday is refreshing. You might spot remnants as well as developments on the Enron project. The facility runs for miles and so does heartache. We end up ruining so much in the name of infrastructure. The steep slopes of the valley are all chockablock with mangos trees. You can only imagine how much they've cleared off to build their factories and smoke emitting power stations. The ones that are now out of commission because the company filed for bankruptcy to save the asses of a few suits.

Gobble-de-Gook

It took me a while to begin this section. Not because I had a hazy memory about it all, but because there's just so much to try out. It's not a tourist town, so you won't find any hip shacks like you would in Goa. The Lagoon comes closest to what one might call a diner. We entered the town and had poha-sheera-chai at the first place we could find, Musale, which later turned out to be run by the same people who ran our guest house. But those who've visited Guhagar swear by Suruchi.

And while this unremarkable-in-appearance place has a community kitchen sort of seating, with everyone in town (from local affluent middle aged businessmen to young Bihari labourers) and the tiller attended by 3 different people depending upon the time of day (the owner in the morning, the caretaker/ waiter/ steward in the noon and the missus in the evening). Suruchi serves classic Maharashtrian fare - thali-pith, misal, vada, bhakhri, puri-shrikhand, sol kadhi (which I have finally come to LOVE) and the standard limited thaali.

Rao had more than his fill of the local sea fare at Annapurna. His Kalamari and prawns even made me salivate! The sol kadhi competed with Suruchi's, however the difference was stark - this was quite apparently made of fresh ingredients while Suruchi's was some sort of a pre-made concoction. The service at both places was unintrusively attentive.

Round and about

Ah! This is my favourite part - the juicy bit of the whole trip. There's the Anjanvel lighthouse about half an hour from the town. A pleasant drive along the river that ultimately meets the sea at Guhagar, you can hire a local auto-rickshaw for about 400 bucks. The chap should be willing to wait and also take you around to the nearby fort.

On your way to the little lighthouse, you encounter hundreds of mango trees that grow on the steep slopes of the hillside. Much like other parts of the Western Ghats, you'll definitely spot the trademark red mud. What you'll also see is a combination of that and yellow and black soil. Something that flummoxed me beyond words. However, a sight that is both overwhelming and hurtful both at once, is Enron's now-dysfunctional plant. Just their cooling towers occupied the length and breadth of a whole table land! The only thought that raced through my mind was... what a waste. Of time, money, resources. Such a compromise and deep impact on the environment this scam made. What was the outcome?

You leave this cry for help behind as the road finally yields you to the coast again - through a little town and then a dust track upwards again to the light house.

I was perhaps singularly unfortunate in not being able to get entry into either the lighthouse or the fort. The lighthouse at Guhagar is open to public only between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, which no auto guy chooses to tell you. But we did get to walk right up to one of the many tips of the land mass and take in the mighty ocean in its entirety - its currents, its colours, the fishing boats and the crooked rocky coast.

If you go there later in the evening though, may be after your lighthouse visit, you can walk down to a site that seems to be in the preliminary stages of development as a particularly fine viewing point. Situated just 10 minutes away this viewing point is at the end of a long dust track that is currently being flattened and concretised. You'll find a railing only at the end (they were probably hoping that will prevent a truck from sliding on and tumbling over). The pathway itself if the upper slope of the hill parallel to the road that leads to the lighthouse, and the other side is yet another steep slope that overlooks more of the rocky fa├žade that runs along Guhagar. In short, don't venture there with your kids or even wobbly, accident-prone adults (like me). I imagine that as one of the many tips of land spilling into the Arabian Sea, this would be breath taking - with the water shimmering and the mellow breeze. Actually, it'd make for a swell sunset point!


View from the temple outside the lighthouse

Our information on the Shivaji Fort nearby too was outdated. Apparently it's closed to the public since someone has actually claimed ownership of the property and cordoned it off as a private mango plantation. You can still take in breath taking views of the sea from around both these spots.


So that is Guhagar. With its decent men, hardworking women, coastal weather, views of the hills and some awesome food even for vegetarians this little town really set the tone for our series of sojourns!

7 comments:

Parth said...

Have to confess that I had never heard of this place till date, despite being a Maharashtra boy. Was fun to read this.

Priyanca Vaishnav said...

thaaaaank yoouuuuu Paaaaaarth :P may be next time you're in India you should take time off to visit the place. it's lovely

Krittika Barua said...

I wish I could travel to such places! :)
You have a really nice blog btw!

Love,
Krittika

xx

http://krittikabarua.blogspot.com

Priyanca Vaishnav said...

Oh sweet thing you - such places aren't hard to come by. ust buy yourself a bus ticket and hop on! the adventure awaits you and it's just a weekend away, my love :) thank you for your heartfelt praise and appreciation for the blog.
god bless! :)

Krittika Barua said...

You are most welcome! Hopefully I'll be going on a road trip with a few friends this summer! And if I do, I'll definitely blog about it!
Would love for you to check out my blog btw! :)

Krittika Barua said...

New link btw! :)

http://krittika-barua.blogspot.com

Trav Themes said...

Really amazing place, I like it.

I must say the once you visit Tarkarli beach It is world famous white sand beach in India