If you love travelling, you would agree that some trips are remembered for the beauty of the place, some for the memories you made, while some others for the company you had. But this monsoon trip, with a dear cousin, will be remembered for all three; The perfect spot to watch the sun set into the sea, dreaming of modaks that we never got to have, the cold gushing waters, getting locked up in a palace with hidden artful gems, and the ever concerned driver who even called us to check if we were back in the city and home safe; it was a musical, konkan getaway, with the sounds of rain and the cousin’s ARR hums, in the background.
Our first stop was Ratnagiri, a small port city that’s been on my Maharashtra list for long. At first sight, I was slightly sceptical, but my oh my was I wrong. This city has some hidden tricks up its sleeves to make your knees go weak in love for Mother Earth. The one that tops our list is that perfect spot along the cliff between the Bhavani Mandir and the hike up to the other end of the Ratnadurga Fort; the perfect spot to watch the sun set into the Arabian Sea. From here you can also spot a cave, presumably a secret getaway route from inside the fort into the sea. Ratnadurga fort is horseshoe-shaped, runs for over 1300m, and opens you to many such spectacular views of the coastline as you walk along the fort walls.
From Ratnagiri the rain clouds chased us, while we chased the coastline northwards upto Jaigad Fort. The view enroute is an unforgettable one. It almost seemed like the white waves were pulling back in slow mo, allowing us to count them as they hit the coastline. We stopped over at Aara Ware and in several view points along the way, the mandir at Ganapathipule and Prachin Konkan, a nature trail museum that illustrates the Konkan life.
The Jaigad fort and lighthouse was our last stop for the day. Jaigad is another sea fort that overlooks the Arabian Sea on one side and the Jindal Steel Works site on the other. JSW has also built a private port over here. The lighthouse, although not too tall, offers a good view of the area. The place was almost empty, and we coaxed the caretaker to show us the light on top up close and we headed back before another spell of rains hit us.
Roaming around the quiet city, we found that Ratnagiri also had a couple of historic connections.
Here’s some quick trivia; Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the famed freedom fighter was born here. The charming old world house. with a sloping roof and green backyard, where he was born is maintained by the government. As we walked through this humble house, his vociferous struggle for freedom through his slogan, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”, echoed through my mind.
The city also has a Burmese connection. When the Britishers took over Burma, they arrested and brought King Thibaw all the way to Ratnagiri and kept him under house arrest at the Thibaw Palace. Certain sections of the palace are open to the public, while renovation work is being carried on other parts.
After a good two whole days at Ratnagiri, the mountains beckoned. Amboli Ghat was the next destination. We boarded an early morning Konkan express and enjoyed the scenic 3-hour journey gaping at valleys, rivers, waterfalls and the general monsoon green-ness. The closest station to Amboli is Sawantwadi, and the ghat is a 25 kms drive. Sawantwadi is a quaint little town with not much to do.
We headed out to spend the afternoon at Vengurla beach, definitely not one of the cleanest beaches. But the must visit here is the Sawantwadi Palace, built by Khem Sawant Bhonsle in the 1700s. The town is famous for its lacquer art, and the royal family is known for supporting the local artists. The palace has been converted into a museum and also showcases charmingly colourful lacquered furniture, toys, figurines, artefacts, and the famed hand-painted ganjifa (playing cards). The intricate detailing illustrating the dashavatarams is truly a masterpiece I’d love to own. The intricate art hooked our admiration, so much so that we got locked up, as it was past the visiting hours. Thank god the caretaker let us out after we waved out to him through the glass door. In those fleeting moments though, we really felt like we owned the place and the art.
Amboli Ghat is a good hour’s drive From Sawantwadi. With water rolling down at every turn, this hill station gushes of monsoon love. The Kavale Saad view point defines this perfectly. We walked on the flowing waters, played around to our heart’s content, and waited patiently to get a good view of the valley. My cousin’s little prayer to the nature god moved the dense fog to give us a peek; Spellbinding. Precisely my idea of a magical heaven. In fact, when the winds are strong, the water that falls down the valley is blown back forming a reverse waterfall effect. YouTube is filled with these videos. We too did experience the reverse spray, but not a strong one. Quick tip, try to start early and beat the tourist crowd to this point. We had the place to ourselves for a while before the crowd arrived, and when they did, we promptly moved out.
When you do visit the place, don’t miss out on the chai at the shack, right on top near the landing, run by two women. It is the best cha l’ve tasted thus far in my travels so far in Maharashtra. Added to the cha came a pinch of progressiveness as we listened to the women talk about the importance of clean loos for women in such places. Prema and her friend maintain a women’s toilet here and do a brilliant job. In that altitude, with rains, water everywhere and chilling temperatures, trust us, you will feel the need to use the space. They charge ten bucks a person, but keep the place tidy. We had left all our bags in the cab as it was raining. We promised to walk down and return with cash. When we did, the women broke into a warm and surprised smile. They said we were the first ones ever to keep our word. I agree it’s quite a walk down and up, but these women totally deserve the trouble for their service. Much love to them both.
Although the Kavale Saad experience was our most favourite, the Amboli Falls (R) comes second. You can simply climb up the stairs (L) to this roadside milky white falls. But again, hit the falls early like we did, else the queue will annoy you. While returning, the long line of people waiting on the stairs had us shell shocked and we were so thankful for waking up early that day. The Nangartas falls is another attraction here that offers a rather fascinating view. The water falls into a sort of a shallow canyon, a natural, narrow, walled pathway. The sound, therefore, is deafeningly loud and amusingly captivating.
With howling winds and heavy rains following us, we drove back to Sawantwadi to catch our night bus back home that day. We were quite tired having shouldered the mighty rains all along, but the memories would last a long time. And that’s the thing about monsoon trips, keeps you cold on the outside, but makes you warm and fuzzy on the inside. Sometimes I wonder if my stars brought me to Maharashtra just to give me the monsoon experience.
Looking for more monsoon memories? Go here!