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Text and Photographs Nilesh Korgaonkar
A picturesque lighthouse located on a prominent rocky promontory just south of Murud-Janjira is basically what Nanwell is.
If you are travelling on a two-wheeler, it is possible to take a ferry and cross the Rajpuri Creek at a point from where the boats take tourists to the island fortress. There is also another point further down the road from where one can take the ferry. You then disembark at Dighi on the other side. The road from there goes west and climbs up a bit before it comes to the village of Nanwell.
To get to the lighthouse, park or alight from your bus at the village, then trek through it and beyond. It's a longish walk. But on a cool morning it can be invigorating. The lighthouse itself is solitary with its own tiny colony. The lonely lightkeepers there will probably be too glad to have you for company, even if for a short while. I was treated to hot poha, tea and an invitation to make use of the guest hut for the night – if I promised to keep the information to myself! Instead of keeping me awake, the constant crescendo of crashing waves on the rocks below the promontory lulled me into deep slumber like nothing else could.
You can get a good view of the lighthouse for a good photo from afar when you motor down further on the road to Srivardhan. Srivardhan is a sleepy town with an unattractive beach. To add to its unattractiveness, the RDX for the Bombay blasts of ’93 were said to have been unloaded here. When I drove past, a rusting beach container that was said to have contained a consignment of TVs could still be seen!
A little south of Srivardhan is the temple of Harihareshwar, situated right on the beach. It's worth the visit if you have the time. You can treat yourself to some delectable and spicy fish-curry-and-rice at any of the two eating places in the town.
The conventional route to the town of Dapoli bifurcates from the main NH 17. But if you are heading there directly from Srivardhan, it is better to take another parallel road that comes up through the town of Mandangarh. Just before the town of Goregaon turn south for Ambet and Mandangarh. It's a great shortcut. But Dapoli is not on the coastline. Head for the fishing villages of Harnai and Anjarle, which are beyond it. The Suwarnadurg fort is located on an island not far off from the mainland, near Harnai.
The stretch of coast west of Dapoli is apparently popular with the locals. If you carry on beyond the main town towards the fishing village of Harnai, just before the road turns north along the coastline, about four km short of Harnai at Murud, you will come across a group of signposts advertising hotels. It's approaching road is three-four km long, unmetalled and pretty rough with steep gradients. The hotels are near the village of Karde and are probably illegal constructions as they are locate bang on small but very scenic beaches. They offer very basic, but comfortable accommodation and good coastal cuisine of fresh fried fish. The road peters out south of the last hotel. But beyond there are gently rolling hills, an ancient seaside temple and some tiny hamlets -– ingredients that make for some good solitary walks.
There is another minor, smaller road that goes to the village of Burundi from Dapoli. The Hotel Sagar Savli, with just four rooms to let, is located just short of the village where the road ends. The drive is picture perfect with a good road. Local cabs also ply along this road. The beach is beautiful and though you have to book in advance -- preferably from Bombay -- even if you cannot find place to stay, its worth the trouble to visit.
Another road from Dapoli goes to the south where it ends at the mouth of the Vashishti river at the town of Dabhol – of the Dabhol Power Corporation and Enron Power Project fame. The project is coming up on the other side of the river, though it takes its name from this town.
If you are on a two-wheeler or travelling by bus, this is the town to head for to cross over to the other side of the Vashishti and continue down the coast using the ferry. The ferry services from Dabhol commence from 0730 hours to 1800 hours. However, it is better to check the exact timings at the port office near the jetty. The ferry takes you to the jetty at Veldur and the arrival and departure of the buses from there is synchronised with that of the ferry. If you have bypassed Dapoli completely, then you can take a ferry service from Chiplun and sail down the Vaishishti river right up to its mouth at Dabhol or Veldur. The ferry departs from Chiplun early in the morning at about 0400 hours and returns later in the day sometime in the late afternoon.
Dabhol itself is not much of a place, consisting of just a solitary road and a fishing jetty. But with the coming up of the power project, it is slowly gaining importance and is quite likely to be completely transformed in a few years. There isn't much to see and one can just while away time by taking lazy walks along the road. In the evening, the jetty comes alive as fishermen with their catch come in and auction it to middlemen, who immediately load it into trucks for transport inland. A local market sprouts up nearby at this time and if you have the wherewithal to cook your own meals, you can get a bargain price for some of the freshest fish you are likely to taste.
The village of Anjanvel lies on the opposite side of the river mouth. To get there, take the early morning ferry to the jetty at Veldur as Anjanvel does not have its own jetty. The bus that goes from Veldur further south, first goes to Anjanvel to pick up more passengers. Alight at the bottom of the steep slope where Anjanvel’s makeshift bus stop is located. Ask for the fort of Gopalgarh and the lighthouse of Tolkeshwar. Scamper up the slope through the village to battlements of the fort.
As you emerge through the trees and fields, and negotiate the final gentle plateau, a breathtaking view of the ocean dashing on the rocks below awaits you. The sight of -- ramparts of the ruined fort snaking downwards, rugged cliffs reaching out to sea and the lighthouse with two ancient temples nearby -- completes a truly stunning sight. The gentle chugging of a passing fishing trawler only adds to the beauty of the scene. I fervently wish that the construction of the project nearby does not, in any way, disturb this pristine scenery.
When I usually visit Anjanvel, I drive from Chiplun and Guhaghar. But during our last visit, we left our car at Dabhol and took the ferry to Veldur and the bus to Anjanvel. It was the last week of November and the fishing season was in full swing. From our high vantage point next to the Tolkeshwar lighthouse we could see the fishing trawlers hard at work hauling their nets. I couldn't but help comparing the scene to a typical busy day at the business district in any of todays large cities, where city slickers similarly went about their business. Only here, there was no noise, no pushing and shoving, no sweat and grime -- just turquoise waters and a blue sky and every trawler minding its own business.
Places to Stay
Srivardhan has only lodges with basic amenities. None of them can be booked in advance for want of any contact numbers in Bombay. But you should not have any problem in finding accommodation if you are not too fussy and are only interested in spending a night or two.
Harihareshwar, a temple village south of Srivardhan and not very far away has a tent colony run by the MTDC (phone: 02147-26036). Bookings are better done at Bombay before starting your trip.
Surprisingly Dapoli and the area around it has plenty of accommodation to cater to the budget traveller. Staying in Dapoli should not be a problem. But the hotels located along the coastline that we found were almost always full up. Here's a list of these hotels with their addresses and contact numbers in Bombay where available. It is better to check up from the contacts in Bombay before starting your journey if you intend to stay at any of these places.
Hotel Sagar Savli, Tamas Tirth. Phone: 02358-88047, 82271. Bombay # 022-8723249,4378801
Tal: Dapoli–415 712
Getting Around.There are plenty of local buses that ply from the main bus terminus at Dapoli further to the west to the villages of Anjarle via Harnai, to Dabhol and Burundi. Check the timings for your destination on the timetable that will be displayed prominently or ask at the enquiry counter. If you are not on a restricted budget avail of the a chauffeur-driven rickshaw cab. Buses may not ply to all the hotels mentioned here, especially those that are on the rough track. You may have to get off and walk a little from the main road. Ask the bus conductor to let you know when the junction approaches.
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