Monday, February 26, 2007

The Beach

Just over a week ago we headed to the coast for a long weekend. We chose to stay in Maharashtra, rather than Goa, partly because San and I have been to Goa a couple of times before, and partly because we wanted to see what the Maharashtra coast had to offer. The main attraction was the advertised lack of crowds; Goa at this time of year can be pretty crowded. We chose to stay at the MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) resort in Ganapatipule.

Ganapatipule is a small town on the Konkan Coast about 100 miles north of Goa. Apart from the beach, it has a Ganesh temple, and not much else. It took us about six and a half hours to drive there, leaving shortly before sunrise. The first part, along the Pune bypass, was in the dark. Once we had turned off onto a road heading over the Ghats the first hints of light were beginning to appear. By the time we reached the lake at Mulshi dawn was imminent. It looked very photogenic, so we stopped to take some pictures.

From the lake onwards the road headed into the hills. Monsoon damage was evident, and the journey was somewhat bumpy. This, combined with more than a few hairpins, didn't agree with Roshni's stomach. Fortunately she slept for a great deal of the journey, and the Ghats were soon dispensed with. On the other side of the hills we joined up with NH 17; the main Bombay-Goa highway. this was a single carriageway route, but wide, straight and fairly traffic free for the most part. The width and traffic stayed more or less constant, but there were still some fair sized climbs to pass. good fun for the driver, less so for babies!

Most of the destinations were signposted in Marathi. This uses the same script as Hindi, except it has an extra 'l' equivalent: 'ळ'. This meant that I could read it without assistance. I still can't read that quickly, so it sometimes took a few signs for me to be sure where we were. Soon though, I could recognise our destination 'गणपतीपुळे'. However, since NH 17 wouldn't take us there directly it wasn't posted that often during the 200 kilometre stretch. Still, we noticed the turn off, but not quickly enough to avoid a swift u-turn. This led us on to a narrower, but still good quality road, that took us the remaining 25 miles to the coast.

The MTDC resort is right on the coast with the beach immediately accessible down some steps from our sea view cottage. The name was appropriate, as the main room had windows on two sides offering a great view of a palm lined and golden beach. As promised there were no crowds. Apart from a slight gathering near the temple in the evenings, there were vast expanses of empty sand to lay down your beach towel. The sea was warm, the coconut trees aesthetically pleasing, and the sun strong. How's February in the UK?

The resort had a restaurant where we went for most of our lunches and dinners. One evening we ventured out to see what else was on offer. Not that much! We had a decent chicken thali; but there wasn't a great deal of choice. Nights were warm, so we could eat outside, and then retire to our cottage and sit on the balcony until bedtime. The sky was very clear and, as the moon was new, it was very dark at night. The Milky Way was just about visible from our balcony, and I am sure it would be clearer still if we had taked a night time walk along the beach.

As well as sunbathing and swimming during the day, the beach was a good place to walk along in the late afternoon and early evening. There were horse and camel rides, much to Roshni's delight. She gives every impression of wanting a pony when she's older. I will look up the price of donkeys, I suspect they are pretty cheap! Whilst she was riding her horse, San and I could watch the sun set over the sea. Then it was time to drink the water from a coconut at one of the beach-side shacks near the temple.

All very relaxing, and a very enjoyable break. Sadly though, we had to go back to Pune. We headed back up NH 17, but turned off a bit earlier, in order to take an alternative route over the Ghats. This route, over Varandha Ghat, turned out to be higher and twistier. A long sequence of hairpins took us up to about 850 metres, and some spectacular views. We maintained altitude for many miles along a narrow, and very monsoon wrecked road, before heading back down south of Pune. The dual carriageway NH 4 took us back at high speed. Well 100kph feels fast in a Maruti 800.

More Pictures
Ganapatipule.kmz - Locations and route information for Google Earth.