Pilgrimage is the favourite form of travel for Indians. Whether you’d agree or not, it is true for the smartphone generation as well, yours truly included.
Only that Tirupati, Golden Temple, Velankanni or Vaishno Devi have now been replaced by the spiritual mecca of our times- Goa.
It is a trip that must be taken by every young Indian. It is almost like a rite of passage. If you haven’t been to Goa, people will question your loyalty to hedonism.
I decided to take my annual pilgrimage towards the end of 2014.
But I also decided to explore what lies between my home in Mumbai and Goa. The best way to do this was on a bicycle.
The 12 day journey ended in the Konkan coast revealing some of its secrets to me. Here I share some of them.
Day 1: Chic Antique Furniture
Alibag is a smallish beach town, but also a weekend pad for loaded Mumbaikars.
Kelebec & Nostalgia are two shops catering to this specific class. Their furniture wouldn’t just give Bombay Store a run for its money, but beat it too.
Day 2: Brazil On The Konkan Coast
‘Tujh Nom Kiev?’, a young girl might ask you. Getting you all confused into thinking you are in some exotic Brazilian village.
800 people in Korlai, a village with a beautiful fort and a prettier beach, speak Christi. This language is a mixture of Portuguese and Marathi. It is spoken only in the few hundred square metres in this village. You won’t get to hear these words anywhere else in the world. These villagers are said to be direct descendants of a Portuguese community and that’s how this interesting language developed.
Day 3: Waiting For The Golden Ganesha
The main temple in Diveaghar houses only a picture of a golden version of the Elephant God. The golden statue of Ganesha actually resided in this temple. Until the day it was stolen. The thieves were nabbed but by then they had melted the gold and managed to sell all of it.The government is now locked in a legal battle with people who bought the gold to retrieve it. But the state has promised Diveaghar that the Golden Ganesha will be back. Soon. The village now waits for its harbinger of good luck to return.
Day 4: Where Turtles Rule
In this village of dreams called Velas, Olive Ridley turtles were fast disappearing. Villagers would take away eggs their eggs if foxes or birds hadn’t already found them. But now the same villagers are vigilantes protecting the turtle eggs. In the last few years alone, Velas has helped hatched 16000 turtles. Thanks to conservation project and travelers who visit the village to adore this special species.
Another big bonus, the village has the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see.
Day 5: The Mother Of All Fish Markets
Nothing can quite prepare you for Harnai. Either for the beauty of the village or the madness of its fish market. As I entered, we met kids who were busy with a game of Kabaddi with a beautiful temple for a backdrop.
Later, I witnessed the loudest & most chaotic markets I have ever been to. No pretense, no need for infrastructure – deals worth lacs of rupees are made right on the beach. This is the probably the place why fish-markets became a metaphor for loud places.
Day 6: Temple And The Beach
Utopia exists. If your idea of it involves a beautiful temple, a quiet beach and lip- smacking bhramin vegetarian food. That is exactly what Guhagar offers.
Day 7: The House From The Movies
If you watch Marathi movies, then you would recognize this house nestled in the greenery of Palshet. Made famous by a movie called Kaksparsh this house is built in traditional Konkani style with a well that would beat any other in the world.
Day 8: Ganesha’s Abode By The Sea
Ganpatiphule is known both for its temple and the beach. What was an idyllic village by the beach a couple of decades ago has now transformed into a bustling tourist town.
While it is still worth a visit, it did make me wonder how it would have been before it became popular on the tourist trail.
Day 9: Adivare:
This temple dedicated to Kali in Adivare probably has some of the finest carvings on the ceiling you will ever come across in the country. Just for this, it should be a stop on this journey.
Day 10: The Cult Of Shiva
If there is one God our country can’t get enough of, then it has to be Shiva. This dude is everywhere. Some of the most scenic settings are dedicated to this hermit of a god. Kunkeshwar is one such temple. Situated right by the beach, this is as special as any place of worship you will stumble upon.
Day 11: Where The River Meets The Sea
Tarkarli or Deobagh will cause beach lovers experience ecstasy. A narrow stretch of land, white sands, confluence of the river and the sea, dolphins, nice people, narrow roads and the cool evening breeze. There is nothing not to be liked about this marvel of the Maharashtra coast.
It also gave me one of the best moments of my trip. On the penultimate evening of this trip, I was lying on a boat, gazing at the stars with the waves of the sea and the river to keep me company at Tarkarli.
Like they say there are some things that money can’t buy. I count such evenings to be one of those things.
Day 12: Breakfast in Goa:
It was the last day of the journey. Before I made it to Panjim, my final destination, I decided to treat myself with breakfast.
Arambol, the first beach stop in Goa after you leave Maharashtra behind has many nice restaurants. But I had a specific one in mind. Shimon Falafel. This is how I treated myself
I can safely say that these 12 days were the best of my life. While it revealed sights from a beautiful coast, it also made me to take an internal journey.
With this journey, I know the western coast a little better. That I understand myself a bit more too, is a great bonus.