The long and winding road: Fun and adventure in South India
Something about a driving holiday lends itself to adventure. And
though adventure and uncertainty may not make the most relaxed
vacation, they certainly have their moments. Driving without a
clear itinerary, not knowing what lies around the next bend, wondering
where you will spend the night, and realising that what looks
like a straight and easy run on your map is actually a gruelling
mountain road: Such hellish compensations make the trip so much
Our trip, over 20 days, took us south of Bombay. Whether this
meant as far south as Bombay's extended suburbs, or as far south
as Kerala was not known to us at the time. What was known, however,
was that we would generally try to follow the Bombay to Mangalore
highway, in whatever distracted manner we chose to.
The first stretch of the drive was the Bombay to Goa road. We
broke our journey at Ganpatipule beach, 375 kms south of Bombay,
near Ratnagiri. The road to Ganpatipule involves a detour of around
30 km from the highway. This detour goes through barren, inhospitable
terrain, until a sudden bend in the road brings you onto a sweeping
beach, backed by sandy cliffs.
Accommodation here is restricted to a few hotels, the largest
of which is the MTDC resort. Bland, with the usual cafeteria and
pokey rooms, it is not a place worth travelling the distance for.
Also, quite out of character for a government enterprise, the
resort does not have the best spot on the beach.
But better accommodation is available. The simple and well maintained
Hotel Abhishek is just a few minutes away. Though the building
is a squat pista and orange railway platform confection, don't
be put off. Set atop the cliffs, each room offers a panoramic
view of the coast. At Rs 300 for a double, the rooms are spotlessly
clean, service is friendly and food good. It is a much better option
than the MTDC resort. What's more, it offers such unique facilities as
a brass bell hung out on the balcony of each room: the Abhishek's
version of an intercom system.
A short walk from the hotel takes you down the cliff, to the chief
and only attraction: the beach. Powdery white sand and crystal
waters make for the perfect swim. But beware, the waters are rough.
If you have the energy, it is worth doing the coastal drive from
here to Ratnagiri town (via Nevre). Though Ratnagiri town is best
avoided, the road there winds through endless mango orchards that
roll down the hills and into the sea.
Ganpatipule is well worth a visit. The Bombay to Goa stretch is
an almost unbroken ribbon of sand and surf, untouched and unnoticed
by the hordes that move between the two. What many tourists may
never know is that Goa is only a point on the map, just a few
ordinary beaches lying between other truly magnificent ones.
Goa, Honavar and Jog