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Text and Photographs: Nilesh Korgaonkar
The Konkan coast is now much more accessible with the new Konkan Railway. This new railway line begins from Bombay and can take you all the way to Trivandrum in Kerala, through Goa and Mangalore.
To start the Konkan coast circuit by train, travel by the Konkan Railway from Bombay’s Victoria Terminus to the station nearest to your destination. Tickets can be purchased at any reservation terminal in Bombay. From there it is possible to take a State Transport bus to your destination. To get away, make your way by bus again to the nearest Konkan Railway station and catch the next train either back to Bombay or southwards to your next destination.
Advance booking and reservations are advised.
Maharashtra boasts of one of the most efficient bus services, both intra-city and inter-city and justifiably so. The red coloured buses, popularly known simply as ST (State Transport), ply to practically every nook and corner of the state. You will find an ST terminus in almost every village, with the timetable painted on a sheet metal board somewhere. Unfortunately, it will be in the local script and probably inaccessible to the tourist. People at the terminus may be able to tell you what time the next bus arrives to take you to your destination.
Head north from Bombay and get on to National Highway 17 for Goa via New Bombay and the Thane Creek Bridge. At a village called Vadkhal, get off the highway. Instead of taking the left turn for Goa, continue straight for Alibag or Kihim and you are on the coastal curcuit.
In my opinion, the quickest and most convenient method to travel down the coast would be on a two-wheeler, preferably a sturdy and reliable motorcycle. Though NH 17 goes all the way from Bombay to Goa, it does not go quite as close to the coast as one would like.
This is because of the numerous, picturesque creeks that crop up ever so often through the entire length of the coast. Coastal roads almost always end and begin at these creeks; to cross over, one has to make use of government-run ferry services. These are small, but safe boats that cannot carry a four-wheeler but can easily take on motorcycles and scooters. Though there is some amount of heaving on and off board involved, you will always get willing and cheerful help from local commuters.
Travel by car involves frequent doubling back to the highway every time you encounter a creek. Members of the Western India Automobile Association or its sister associations should contact local AA offices for assistance on how to do the journey by road.
For a nominal fee, WIAA can provide a detailed route chart from Bombay to any point in Maharashtra. Unfortunately, the Association does not sell road maps. The WIAA office is at the Indian Merchants Chamber building next to the Churchgate railway station. Phone: 022-2041294. It is open daily, Monday to Friday, from 1030 hours to 1600 hours, and on Saturdays from 1030 hours to 1300 hours. Bombay has several car rental outlets too.
The quickest and cheapest way to get to its northern tip, is to take a cross-harbour ferry from the Ferry Wharf (Bhaucha Dhakka) to the jetty at Mandwa on the mainland opposite. It takes about an hour. By privately run catamaran from the Gateway of India, the run across the sea takes only 20 minutes.
If you want to lug your two-wheeler across you will have to make your way to Ferry Wharf in south-central Bombay and make use of the ferry service. It plies hourly throughout the day, seven days a week except during the monsoon.
From Mandwa, ST buses and autorickshaws ply on the coastal road. Departures are in sync with the arrival and departures of the ferry to and from Bombay. Make sure to negotiate a fare with the autorickshaw driver before commencing one's journey; the rickshaw drivers will not go all the way, and may only take you to Alibaug or Kihim.
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