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Biking down the Konkan Coast
Parikshit Vaidya

Janjira beach
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July 06, 2007

A two-day holiday at my office in Pune was a great reason to take off for a bike adventure down the Konkan coast.

I headed out in the morning by 9. My bike was already tanked up with 10 litres of petrol. I armed myself with a few bananas, a pair of shorts, a jacket, my lovely Woodland trekking shoes and some nuts and zoomed off to Mulshi. The plan was to go via Tamini Ghat towards Kolad and Roha.

The bike's odometer was clocking 27,300 km. I was all alone with just my Yamaha RZX when I hit the open road.

The road was deserted, so I could do speeds upto 70 kmph to 80 kmph and maintain that speed. But I didn't speed. I wanted to enjoy the scenic, virgin beauty all around me.

I took my first break -- a banana break -- just before Tamini Ghat where the roads fork -- one for Lonavla and the other for Kolad.

Tamini Ghat is a downhill ride. I shut off the bike engine and coasted. The ghat is around seven to nine km long, full of twists and turns, a biker's delight and riding a good road was icing on the cake.

Near Roha I called my friend from a call box to update him on my travels. He cursed me, "Kya aadmi hai tu? Akele nikal gaya (What kind of man are you? You went a alone)?"

By Roha I had covered 135 kms and there was another fork to negotiate ahead. Both pointing to Murud. I chose one and discovered it to be a dusty road winding through the mountains. A little boy and later two policemen very helpfully set me on the right track. A while later, as usual, I ended up giving a lift to a scruffy young man. I thought, since he was a local, he could perhaps show me the places I should visit. He worked at the Birla Temple and so we stopped to see the temple. It was a really lovely break after riding non-stop on parched, bumpy roads.

Next stop: at Alibag bridge I parked my bike, sat on the rocks jutting out of the sea, had some peanuts and then headed on. The scenery after that was amazing -- on one side farms and fields and on the other the Arabian Sea.

I felt like I was the king of the world. The scenery continued like that for about five kilometers. I savoured every moment of it.

Soon I was at Kashid Beach. The sand on this beach is nice and white. But I've been brought up in Mumbai and Goa [Images] and beaches don't fascinate me unless there are some bikini-clad ladies. I love the sea though!

After a 10- minute stop at Kashid, I headed to Murud. A few metres later I gave another ride to a middle-aged Muslim gentleman from Murud this time. I asked him how to get to Janjira which is an island about five km from the shore. He was quite surprised that I had ventured these 200 km alone!

On Murud Beach I had some nariyal pani (coconut water). I met two French tourists and spoke some French with them. I once learned French for about four months. I have since forgotten a lot of what I learnt but they were very impressed with my petit French. The French guy liked my bike a lot.

I soon headed on to what I thought was Janjira Fort but it actually was Kasa Fort. Well guys a bit of history: Janjira was a fort which the great Maratha warrior king Shivaji could never capture. That's why his son built a fort on an island close to Janjira in order to capture Janjira, but that never happened.

I finally came to the dock from which you get a boat to Janjira. Janjira Fort which was majestically located in the Arabian Sea. It has stood there for 950 years.

The boatman would not take us to the island until he had 20 passengers in his boat. A family of villagers and I already on board waited till he got 10 more. In the meantime I became the family's official free photographer and clicked some holiday pics for them (I hope they come out good else they would end up cursing me). Very soon a horde of 20 guys all from Pune, like me, arrived, so in a few minutes we were sailing towards Janjira Fort.

And amazing piece of info for you dear reader: the fort is built in such a way that till you get about 100 or 200 meters from it, you just can't see the huge entrance.

On the boat, two of the Pune bunch told me we could ferry our bikes and sail to Dighi on a launch and then go to Devgarh and Harihareshwar from there! I loved the idea.

But first some trivia on Janjira: It's huge and you can easily get lost. There is 20 acres fully fortified. I have never seen a complete fort ever on all my earlier treks in the Sahayadris. Inside the fort there were amazingly two huge sweet water lakes. We drank water from a deep, deep well. It was crystal clear. What a miracle! Salty water all around and sweet water on the island! We explored the fort. The stones used to build the fort have taken a battering over the centuries but the joints used to connect these stones are still as they were. The Nizam of this area also built an underwater tunnel right to his palace on the shore. We ventured inside the secret tunnel but it was too dark. Next time I will take a powerful torch and try going deeper in.

Back at Murud, we (me and the two other bike guys) immediately found a motorised launch and headed to Dighi. We saw some amazing birds flying close to our boat. They would dive into the sea and come out with fish.

At Dighi we headed straight for Devgarh since we didn't want to miss the sunset. The road is really nice and we did make it to see the sunset. We biked along the beach too and then went hunting for a place to stay overnight. I could have actually slept on the beach listening to the waves! But we were lucky and found a nice bungalow to stay in. The owner had amazing coconut and betel nut orchards.

Dinner was on the beach again. Chicken and beer. The next morning was also spent on the beach sunbathing. We visited the Golden Ganpati Temple and then headed for Srivardhan.

Srivardhan was again a nice, sleepy town like Devgarh, but Devgarh with its old bunglows and coconut trees, was prettier. From Srivardhan it was time to head to our final destination Harihareshwar.

Since it was a holiday the highway was fairly busy. We visited a temple at Harihareshwar. The deity is located on top of a hill and the views from the rear of the hill of the sea and the rocks is awesome. I enjoyed the scene totally and sat admiring the battle between the rocks and the sea -- the waves lashed and the rocks held their ground.

From Harihareshwar it was time to head home. The ride back was accomplished smoothly. I was back home in Pune by 6 pm. My bike's odometer read 27,756. I had done 450 km over 30 hours. I had planned to just see Murud-Janjira but had done three more places as well. I plan to go again!

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