Backpacking in Ratnagiri

My wife had 2 weeks of break before she could join new organization and wanted to go for a refreshing holiday somewhere. What could be more refreshing than a place where the fresh breeze of air from the sea hits you while you are soaking the sun on a secluded beach fringed with palm and casuarina trees. With 2-3 pairs of shorts and t-shirt each, sunglasses, sunscreen, to and fro train tickets and a cash of 10000, me and my wife set out to explore Guhaghar and Ganpatipule which offer some of the best beaches in ‘konkan’. The budget of 10000 may seem to be too much for all boys/bachelor groups, I myself have fond memories of 8 days holiday in the same region for a sum of 900 Rs back in college days; but gone are the days when we could stay in cheesy hotels and eat at unhygienic places. I was married and spending on good quality hotels and food was unavoidable.

Ganapatipule_MapThis was going to be a break from hectic daily routine and hence we planned the trip with enough leisure time, the days were not loaded with site seeing, all evenings were planned to be leisurely spent mostly on beach in the shade of palm tree watching the sun setting in the horizon. On day one we would start our journey by Konkan Railway, get down at Chiplun and head towards Guhaghar. We planned to spend our first night in Guhaghar and then move southwards to spend a night in Velneshwar and 2 nights in Ganpatipule before starting our return journey from Ratnagiri. In and around Guhaghar and Ganpatipule there are many interesting points which we would be covering.

This was not my 1st visit to the region, I luckily belong to Konkan; the slowness and simplicity of life here has always amazed a city dweller like me and it starts getting all over as you stay longer. Konkan has not blessed the inhabitants with wealth but the people are good at heart and always ready to help. During our travel by public transport all the people we interacted with were more than eager to help us out. From the fisherman at Ganpatipule who could net only 1 fish after 3-4 hours of hardwork to the auto drivers who transported us, all of them looked so happy and satisfied with their life. Travelling in konkan is an experience which every one should have first hand, the words or camera can not do justice with the beauty of this place. Read on for our experience of the different aspects of sojourn in konkan.

 

View from Ratnadurga fort - 3

View from Ratnadurga fort – 3

Night stays:

There are very few plush hotels here, however true konkan can only be enjoyed in homestays. There are plenty of homestays available at rock bottom prices to experience rustic touch of konkni lifestyle. We spent one night in a homestay at Guhaghar and that was the cheapest night stay we had in recent years. With big and neat room and hardly 100 meter from the pristine seashore of Guhaghar, this homestay was a great value for money.

Rest of the nights we spent in Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) resorts in Velneshwar and Ganpatipule respectively. All MTDC resort are so ideally located that no other hotels in the region can match the views provided by them. In these resort you can experience the magic of watching the sun going down in the sea while you sip tea in your balcony. At dawn when you open the door, orange sky makes a wonderful beginning of your day. From both the resorts you can hear the roaring sea all night long. Velneshwar MTDC resort is located on a hill near Velneshwar beach and offers splendid views of the sea from a height whereas Ganpatipule MTDC is a beach resort.

Traveling to and through Konkan

Reaching konkan is one thing and travelling within konkan is quiet another. There are many convenient options to reach konkan by rail and buses however the travel within konkan is a different ball game altogether. You can not rely on the ST buses as the frequency is very low and most of the roads are in bad condition all year round. The network of shared auto/jeeps is decent but sometimes you may have to wait for an hour or even more for the auto/jeep to fill seats and start the run. During our backpacking tour we travelled using train, bus, shared auto and jeeps, we also used ferry twice. The local travel tested our patience when we had to change mode of transport 5 times (ST-Auto-Ferry-Jeep-Auto-Auto) to travel from Velneshwar to Ganpatipule. It took almost 6 hours to travel this distance of 36km. On top of it the shared autos/jeep exceed their passenger capacity which makes a business sense for them. Having said that its fun to travel like this as you feel more connected to the place. Undoubtedly we would have covered more places if we had travelled by our car, but we had fun travelling this way.

Bon Appetite

While we were there, we had the best fish preparations of our lives. After trying multiple hotels we came to a conclusion that all the restaurants serve amazing fish delicacies. Would like to make a special mention of Hotel Shraddha in Guhaghar, the surmai and pomfret we had there was out of this world. Being a coastal place coconuts are available in abundance and finds its place in almost every preparation, may be that’s the magical ingredient used in the konkni food.

 Meal

Residents of this wilderness

Legend has it that Lord Parshuram reclaimed this land (konkan) from the sea, the sea gods got angry and as a curse they filled this place with poisonous snakes. We could not see any of them during our trip but as per the localites they are the most feared animals here; the jungles are full of poisonous snakes like cobras and vipers. Though it was not a wildlife trip, we saw many birds and animals for first time in our life. Apart from the regular mynas, bulbuls, skinks and geckos ; In velneshwar while on a morning walk we saw a woodpecker pricking the tree. In MTDC resort of Ganpatipule we sited a pair of kingfisher, green bee eaters were a common site across Guhaghar and Ganpatipule. Langurs locally known as ‘kaaltondya’ were also seen but the highlight of the trip was a full size monitor lizard which we saw in Guhaghar near Tavsal but before we could click a picture it vanished in the jungle. A local auto driver mentioned about the tigers and leopards of this region but unfortunately we could not spot them.

Beaches, temples and more

During our 5 days trip we saw 9 beaches, 11 temples and 8 others such as fort, palace, museums, lighthouse. Though it’s very difficult to come up with top 3 spots in our itinerary let me make an attempt of listing them one by one.

Top spot in our list will undoubtedly goes to Ganpatipule beach. By grace of god who sits on this beach despite being a famous tourist spot the beach is amazingly clean and serene. Sitting in the temple looking at the sky over the sea at dusk leaves you enchanted. There are good eating and stay options which every tourist would need. The sand art show on the beach was a surprise to us which added to the goodness of the beach.

A very less known place called Siddheshwar temple near Anjanwel in guhaghar becomes second best spot which stole our hearts, this place was suggested by owners of the homestay we stayed in Guhaghar. A rough road cutting from the Anjanwel takes you to this beautiful temple. Autos won’t take you till the temple, you have to park it and walk 15 minutes to reach there. While walking you have to cross a small water reservoir which is a perfect setup for monsoon picnic. To our surprise even our auto driver who was a localite had never been to this place.

 There are many contenders for the third spot; thibaw palace, Guhaghar beach, Anjanwel lighthouse, ratnadurga fort, prachin konkan museum etc. were all amazing but arey-warey snatches this spot from others. Arey-Warey road connects Ganpatipule to the city of Ratnagiri and offers mesmerizing coastal views you may have ever seen.

We had exhausted our budget of 10000 on 4th day of tour itself mainly due to costly stay at MTDC and daily splurges on sea food, however every single rupee spent was worth the experience. With a heart full of memories and tanned skin we started our return journey, would have been great if we had more time and could continue our trip southwards to the beaches of Devgad, Tarkarli and vengurla however my roots there will provide numerous opportunities of travelling to this coastal heaven.

Detail itinerary

Day 1 : Reach Guhaghar and local site seeing

  • Mumbai to Chiplun by Jana Shatabdi exp. Chiplun to Guhaghar by ST, Reached Guhaghar by 1 PM by ST.
  • Lunch in Guhaghar and check in to homestay.
  • Visit Vyadeshwar temple and Ufrata Ganpati which are walking distance from ST depot/homestay/beach.
  • Sunset on Guhaghar beach

Day 2: Siteseeing around Guhaghar

  • Take an auto for whole day site seeing and visit
    • Chandikadevi temple, Dabhol
    • Siddheshwar temple, Anjanwel
    • Anjanwel fort and lighthouse
    • Hedvi Ganesh temple (post lunch)
    • Hedvi beach and bramhanghal
    • Velneshwar temple and beach
  • Check into MTDC Velneshwar

Day 3: Velneshwar to Ganpatipule

  • Travel as per availability of public transport and reach Gapatipule.
  • Visit Prachin Konkan museum
  • Visit Ganpatipule temple and beach
  • Sunset on Ganpatipule beach

Day 4: Siteseeing around Ratnagiri

  • Local siteseeing by shared jeep/cab
    • Kavi keshavsut smarak, Malgund
    • Ratnadurga fort and lighthouse
    • Bhagwati temple
    • Ratnagiri matsyalaya
    • Mandovi beach
    • Tilak smarak
    • Patit pavan temple
    • Swaroopanand Maharaj temple, Pawas
    • Bhatye beach
    • Arey-warey beach and view
    • Bhandarpule beach
  • Back to Ganpatipule for night stay
  • Visit the beach and sand art exhibition

Day 5: Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri

  • Transport to Ratnagiri by bus.
  • Shopping
  • Late afternoon train(Janashatabdi) to Mumbai
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