Life is an open road
It’s the best story never told
It’s an endless sky, it’s the deepest sea
Life is an open road to me………………
Bryan Adams, Coldplay and Taylor Swift were my companions on this Konkan road trip. This pan family trip, planned long ago, turned out to be more essential than I had thought. It helped ease some, no actually, most of the melancholy set in by the Goa reunion. Killing it at the gym, meeting new friends, staying in closer contact with old ones, even a really hot bod at the gym hadn’t helped. But this trip did. And for that alone, I am indebted to the husband .
Oops! I hope he hasn’t read this! Dangerous bit of information to leave lying about. Anyways, 3 days at the Konkan coast turned out to be my savior as staying low is not my thing. This time it was Guhagar near Chiplun that captured our fancy. While the original plan was misty Malshej, we couldn’t get MTDC there; and other hotels cost as much as Europe. So we sat with the Konkan India website and randomly picked this place. Cool way to plan a trip!
The trip almost didn’t happen! Heavy rains the previous week had led to collapse of the Mahad bridge and landslides and till the last minute, we weren’t sure of going. Fortunately, God was on our side and the heavens eased up in the days leading upto the trip. And so, with great excitement, 6 adults and 2 kids piled into one Ecosport and one Duster and hit the dust.
The drive was touted to be the best part. 300 km, part on the expressway, and then on the national and state highway on the Mumbai-Goa road in the monsoons, is the kind of drive dreams are made of. Lush green countryside, paddy fields along the road, dark green mountains just behind, and the grey clouds were floating alongside our cars, with a sudden appearance of the sun as the golden lining! We lost count of the number of times our jaws dropped open. Having just taken the best road trip of our lives (Croatian Coast), we hadn’t thought we would have another to match up to that one. But this almost did. Light rain all along just added to the beauty, making it look as though someone had scrubbed the trees clean and then poured vivid green paint all over.
The first leg was my drive. It had taken a good fight with the hubby to get to drive, which was, of course, well worth it. The expressway in the rain, with the dark clouds overhead and the sunrise was pure magic. And again, no camera could capture the water falling on the windscreen and the sheen on the road.
As we pulled into Pali, we made our first pit stop, first to the Ganesh temple to satisfy the mil’s soul, and then, for delicious, piping-hot bhajjis and tea to satisfy our soul. Yum yum.
We drove on ahead, past fields after fields of paddy. The bright green grasses were nodding happily in the water as my head was nodding along to Collective Soul. As we entered Mahad, the river wove on alongside our road and small bridges crossed across at regular intervals. We passed the site of the recent bridge collapse and saw the jetties in the water still looking for people. A time to utter a prayer for those who lost their lives.
Soon we drove over the mountains towards the coast. As we climbed higher and higher, we had a clear view of the valley with thick green trees on the slopes, leading down to paddy fields interspersed with small ponds of water. The hubby saw a tiny waterfall on the side of the mountain and promptly stopped to let the kids touch the rushing waters. The gurgling water dashing down amongst the green mountains and the valley on the other side….just amazing.
As we drove over the mountains, it began to rain again. A gentle drizzle with an overcast sky, and just us for miles and miles. A road that twisted and turned, and happy hearts on the move. A drive so beautiful that we didn’t want it to end.
And finally, in good time, we made it to Guhagar. Our cottage, aptly named Nisarg (meaning nature), was a no-frills series of rooms amidst trees and flowers. Home made fresh food simply added to the experience. Their labrador Bruno was certainly the most exciting part of the trip for the kids. This gorgeous, golden-yellow, friendly, happy dog wagged his thick tail the minute he saw us and jumped about crazily when he saw the dog lovers of our house.
We set off for the beach that was no less than any Goa beach. Miles and miles of soft golden sand to squish our toes in and endless coconut trees lining the waterfront; waves crashing down on the sand; grey clouds in the sky; a closed off pier that led to the sea; I don’t know what bit caught my attention more, but this sure was beach heaven. While everyone else busied themselves with sand castles, football or Frisbees, I simply walked back and forth on the sand, letting the waters soak my feet, and dreamed away.
Food was a surprising highlight of our trip. All meals were simple home-cooked fare. Breakfast, in particular, was at a different level altogether. Poha, sabudana khichdi and thalipeeth, topped with masala chai and toast butter; were enough to sway me from any plans of weight loss. Yet it was OK, this was the recovery trip.
Early the next morning, bro in law, sis in law and I went jogging to the beach. I’ve never run barefoot before but one jog-walk on the beach and I was sold. Now I understand Milind Soman’s obsession for it. We also crawled under the wire mesh to the cordoned off pier. Standing there with the waves crashing hard on to our feet, we could be one with the water, one with the waves.
The next day took us to the neighboring beach town of Velneshwar. The drive to Velneshwar that we chose was a coastal road that Google didn’t approve of. Drat Google, we said and set off. As we climbed the nearest mountain, the air got fresher, the road narrower, the grass greener, and the only people to be seen were the odd farmer and few goats or cows. At the very top, the road looked down to the Guhagar beach front with the waves hitting the shore, with the green fields and the entire village beyond.
Driving on, we reached the end of motorable road, where suddenly the road dipped downwards and turned into a dirt track. With no way of knowing how safe this road was, we chose to leave it as the road not taken and drive back to the Google recommended route. Well, the silver lining was that we could see the beautiful view again. At Velneshwar, we visited the 10-armed Ganpati temple with a great view over the trees.
On we went to Hedvi, where there is a gorge where the water rushes in and spouts up 10 meters into the sky. Though we didn’t see the water spouting up, the place was charming enough. Large rocks that led out to the sea with the waves crashing hard on them, and the whole bay with green mountains behind, were well worth the long drive there.
As we climbed up to the place where the gorge was, I was holding onto whom ever I could. What with my clumsiness, I could have been a penguin clambering up. The view from that higher point combined with the salty sea breeze was enough to make us forget our rumbling stomachs, till the hubby decided to climb towards the exit point of water from the gorge. While all of us held our breath, our nimble mountain goat merrily walked till there and took a selfie of his grinning self with 7 terrified looking people in the background.
On our way to Velneshwar beach, we stopped at the MTDC resort for lunch. It was easy to see why this place was always full. Individual cottage blocks interspersed with gardens and swings overlooked the beach directly. The only sound was that of the waves. A dreamer’s paradise for sure.
Lunch here and endless pictures took so long that we maafed the beach and drove another great drive to see the guhagar light house. Despite Google maps, we weren’t sure of this being the correct road but we didn’t care. We could have happily gotten lost. The road curved up and down, and snaked through villages, over cliffs overlooking miles and miles of beach and mountains. The fresh air was something we wanted to store in our noses forever.
Finally we ascended higher and higher and reached a plateau high up on the cliffs. Perched at the edge of a cliff, was the Guhagar light house. After waiting forever for the gujju gang to finish, we finally reached the terrace of the light house and understood the meaning of the phrase, “sabar ka phal meetha hota hai.”
A nice long drive back awaited us the next day. There were parts of the road where there was no one but us and the trees, the trees forming a canopy through which we drove, as if we were playing oranges and lemons. As we drove through the rains on the cliffs, the water droplets on our outstretched hands and the windscreen, and the cold air filled us with joy
And suddenly, we took a turn and saw a huge waterfall and lots of people rushing there. 7 children (actually 2 under 12-years children and 5 above 40-years children) ran almost to the base of the fall. People were actually sitting under that tall fall, screaming as the entire power of the water landed on them. No, I didn’t have the guts to do the same, but edged close enough to feel the spray of the water. And then, almost reading our minds and desires, the wind changed and the entire spray turned to splatter us thoroughly.
Happy as could be, 7 ageless children got back to the cars and peacefully drove back home. The almost 7 hour drive was easy to take with all the green wonderland about us. So we got back home, the fresh air and sea smell firmly stuck in our noses, and peace in our hearts. All rejuvenated and ready for the big bad mumbai life. And me? Yes, I could now see the goa trip as another happy memory, not anymore as a sad one. The melancholy was gone. I was smiling again.
I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright