Konkan… A strip of land along the coastal stretch of Maharashtra and strategically located between the hills of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. This unique geographical position has endowed this entire coastal belt with hills, beautiful golden sandy beaches, pristine backwaters, lush green fields, swaying coconut trees, coves and lagoons and so much more. I have lived in Mumbai all my life and heard many amazing reviews and stories from fellow bloggers and friends returning from a road / bike trip in this region. But somehow my trips never materialized.
So when we (Priyanka, Netra and myself) started looking for options for a 4-day trip for the new year’s; Konkan somehow seemed like the perfect choice. But similar to all holidays, where we are first quite ambitious and then get a reality check, planning Konkan was no different. We first wanted to do a road trip from Mumbai to Sawantwadi, a small town before Goa, and see everything along the way. But then a bit of research knocked some sense into our heads and instead we decided to select one village in Ratnagiri or Sindhudurg as a base and explore the area from there. Our criteria for the locations were – offbeat with little or no tourists (so basically unexplored), decent stay options in a modest budget (this entire belt is not very commercialized yet and thus there are limited stay options) and a mix of things to see and do.
After a lot on internet research and recommendations from Saffronstays we decided on Parule, a village near Kudaal. In Parule we came across an interesting stay concept called the Aditya eco-resort in the village of Bhogwe (1 of 32 villages in Parule). There were no reviews or pictures of it online and no one we knew had ever been to this place. But it seemed to fit our criteria, had a sea view as bonus and post a quick call with Mr. Samant (the owner) we finalized our stay. Priyanka then booked our train tickets and with that we were all set for a smooth trip. But alas, that was not to be and a little adventure is always guaranteed!
Our adventures started a day before our actual journey. The train we booked had a scheduled departure at 00.10am. So if we wanted to leave on Dec 31 night our journey date should have been Jan 1. But we made the classic rookie mistake and booked the ticket for Dec 31. Thankfully we realized this error a day in advance and not after boarding the wrong train. As getting confirmed train tickets in India at the last-minute is a far-fetched fantasy Priyanka booked an overnight luxury bus by “Eagle Travels” through Redbus. And on the right date and the right time we went and sat at the Bandra bus stop (near Bandra Court) as given on our ticket. But like all things Indian; the bus was not on time and we kept calling and pestering the driver for over 30 minutes. After about 35 minutes the bus conductor called us saying that the bus was at the Bandra bus stop (but near the entrance to BKC) which is on the other side of the road. Everyone familiar with Mumbai would know the traffic on this road but we still made a mad dash across the western express highway and finally managed to board the bus.
Thankfully they had waited for us and we finally took off. The bus was really nice with spacious beds and nice furnishings. But 5 minutes into the ride they told us that just we three had to change buses as this bus wasn’t going to our destination, Kudaal. And somewhere before Chembur we three were transferred to the other bus. However on boarding the bus we realized we had two big problems – (1) we were the only 3 girls in an otherwise completely empty bus with 4 male drivers and conductors. (2) the bus was very old, dingy, broken in places and definitely not upto the mark for the “premium” that we had paid. And though those 4 men may have been the best of gentlemen, all three of us were not comfortable and our instincts were telling us to disembark. And that’s what we did! So, we got off at the Chembur bus station, it still wasn’t late, and everything was crowded due to new year’s eve. Priyanka then fought with “Eagle Travels” for our bus mess-up and they said that our original bus had broken down and so they had sent a replacement bus only for us. Initially they also refused a refund. But Priyanka made sure we got our refund, which was no mean feat. By then we also started evaluating other available options. Trains and renting cars were out but as we were at a bus station we started checking with other bus operators, there are several private bus operators in Mumbai with counters at these bus stops, for available tickets to Kudaal. And, as luck had it, a Neeta volvo bus was going to Goa within the next 15 minutes. The reason there was availability on that particular bus was because it had broken down 2 times earlier that evening and was running late, but we didn’t care as now we at least had an option. Since beggars can’t be choosers, we said a silent prayer and boarded our third bus for the night, which was full. And finally our journey truly began.
This was my first overnight bus trip on an India bus and I was quite surprised by the smooth ride. A “sleeper-bus” is similar to a two-tier Indian train with a double bed on one side of the bus and a single bed on the other. There are also two levels – ground and first. There was a small rack to keep our hand luggage and the big luggage went in the trunk of the bus. There was also a reading lamp and a full glass window to see the beautiful views outside. Unlike the international long route buses, this bus did not have a wash room but made two stops during the journey at small hotels to allow passengers a break.. At around 12.00am the bus stopped near Lonavala for a quick meal and we saw many people around us celebrating the new year by releasing Chinese lanterns in the air. I was elated that I started my new year with a journey and hoped for many more such journeys and learnings throughout the year. And so far it has come true..
Though it was not the most comfortable of journeys – the quality of roads was bad and bumpy in places and many times in the night I woke up just in time to save myself from rolling off on to the floor. But we did manage to sleep for a bit and finally woke up to see the gorgeous green fields and villages of Konkan. And this first sight convinced us, that our decision was right and no matter how the trip commenced, nothing else could go wrong. Lessons from the trip – 1. Always double-check your bookings for accuracy of dates, times especially for early a.m. tickets. The mistake we made is an extremely common one especially when booking international flights. 2. If you are traveling by an overnight sleeper bus you can call the bus company and ask for the cell number of the driver or the attendant. You can then call and coordinate with them on the exact time of pick-up, bus stop etc. 3. This is my travel rule and believe it to be true for both men and women – always trust your instincts and never compromise on your safety. Being brave can be foolish at times and taking a chance with your safety is not worth anything. 4. In case you have to disembark a bus / cab, always get off at a station or in a crowded place. Crowded places make it safer and stations make it easier to figure out other available options. 5. Whenever you face an issue on the road, always keep a cool head and an open mind. This will help you figure out other available options and before you know it you will be all sorted out. Have you faced any similar situations? Do share below or tweet at traveler_budget… It will be good to know that we are not only ones making such mistakes… 🙂