Continuing the stories of my Konkan journey here is the next chapter – Konkan Diaries 2.
Our second day in Konkan is my favorite with some unusual activities and unexpected surprises. We had decided to visit Malvan and see Shivaji’s famous fort of Sindhudurg that we all had read so much about in our school history textbooks. In ancient times, Malvan was known as ‘Mahalavan’ meaning a region rich in salt (“Maha” means salt and “lavan” means plantation of salt). Per Wikipedia another possibility is that it’s a phonetic derivative of the word “Mad” meaning “coconut” and “Ban” meaning “gardens” for the large number of coconut trees in this area. And if I was to decide between the two based on the current scenario, I would go with the latter.
We started the day with a quick visit to the local village’s small weekly bazaar and post that left for Malvan.
Malvan was a quick scenic drive from Parule. We drove through the backwater region of Konkan and stopped at multiple locations to capture some beautiful shots of the Kari river, the small islands in it and the gently swaying coconut trees with their reflections in the water. With a late start we reached Malvan mid-morning and decided to visit the Sindhudurg fort and left the rock gardens, temples etc to be done later in the day.
Sindhudurg is a fort on a small island called Kurte around 1km in the sea and you can access it only by a quick motor-boat ride. There are options to do snorkeling and scuba diving here but we decided to skip all of that for another trip and just visit the fort. Since I have grown up in Mumbai I have studied Maratha history in school and was somewhat familiar with the historical significance of this fort during the Maratha reign. It was built in 1664-67 AD by Shivaji Maharaj (one of the strongest Maratha rulers in this region) with over 4000 mounds of iron in the casting and foundation stones. These foundation stones were laid down in molten lead. Built over a period of three years (1664-67), this fort is spread over 48 acres (190,000 m) with a two-mile (3 km) long rampart, and walls that are 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 12 feet (3.7 m) thick. The massive walls, which are still intact, were designed to serve as a deterrent to approaching enemies and to the waves and tides of the Arabian Sea. This fort has many salient features – the main to entrance is concealed in such a manner that only those who know where to look can find it, there are drinking water reservoirs that never dry up, there is a hidden passage that acts as an escape route into the village, etc etc.
However for all its design marvels and past glories, today only its outer walls and ramparts survive and the interiors are largely in ruins. We went around and saw a couple of temples, a unique temple dedicated to Shivaji that has his sword, some wells etc. Impressions of Shivaji’s palm and footprint have been persevered under two small domes near the entrance, but we missed them. But what we loved here was walking on the fort walls.
At one point we found some steps leading to the ramparts of the fort and we decided to climb them and walk along the walls to see the views of the sea. We imagined ourselves as soldiers of long long ago patrolling the fort walls and walked along nearly half the fort enjoying gorgeous views of the Arabian sea, sea wind blowing through our hair and small beaches along the fort walls for company. By the time we finished our fort wall walk, the sun had gotten pretty strong and we did not want to die of a heat stroke or dehydration. Hence we decided to take a boat back to Malvan and refuel ouselves with some local delicacies.
Alas being vegetarians in Malvan is not easy. We went to nearly every restaurant in Malvan but couldn’t find anything that didn’t smell of fish or wasn’t actual fish. Tired and hungry we decided to ditch everything else in Malvan and head back to our homestay in Parule for some food and respite from the midday heat.
In the early evening we decided to head out for a quick boat ride and explore the Konkan backwaters. We headed to a small jetty in a local village and met our boat guy who asked us if we want to see the local wild dolphins. We literally laughed at him and said that many people have duped us on showing dolpins in the past (happened to me in Orissa) and we wouldn’t go through it again. But he said that he was just coming back from seeing them and it was a 100% guarantee; we could pay him only if we see him. Since it was pay only if we see, we agreed and got on the boat. When we sat in the boat we saw that the boats here are slightly different. On one side they have an extra support built in for additional balance and after 5 minutes in the sea we realized its purpose. Once the river joins the sea the ride gets quite turbulent and boats starts rocking heavily.
The boat ride reminded us all us a lot of the topography of Kerala with swaying coconut trees all around, river inlets, hills, clean empty white sandy beaches, greenery all around and absolute serenity.
We also passed by numerous islands. We first passed the Tsunami Island where all the local water sports happen, but we decided to skip these activities. We then saw the seagull island where there were hundreds of sea gulls pretty much as far as the eye could see. A little further we saw the Bhogwe beach ending into a nice crocodile beak. But the best was the sight we saw after that. A little further into the open sea from the Bhogwe beach we caught a slight activity in the water. A quick fin here and a small jump there. Seeing this the boat guy stopped the boat and in a few minutes we saw an entire pod of dolphins all around us. Some were swimming in groups and we saw 3 triangles go in and out. Some were rolling in the water and showing off their pink and white under bellies. But the best sights were the ones playfully jumping out of the water rolling in the air and then falling back into the water. We also heard the sounds that they were making to communicate amongst themselves. We tried capturing them on camera for a bit but just didn’t know where to focus and hence gave up after a while and simply enjoyed this beautiful spectacle. They continued like this for a bit and then swam away and this time we didn’t pursue them.
We then saw a beautiful sunset in the sea and returned to our homestay for dinner and some more lounging in the hammock.
After dinner Bapat Bhaiya suggested that we go for a night safari. All of us were pretty mystified by this suggestion as we didn’t know that there were wild animals around in the area. Then Bapat bhaiya told us that this area was earlier a forest and there are quite a few wild animals still around that you can spot in the night. On multiple occasions they have seen leopards, wolves, wild cats, hare and many more animals. Intrigued we all waited till 11pm and then sat in the car armed with torches for the night safari. The method was very simple – we rode out of the village into the open areas near the upcoming airport and started flashing the torch around to spot animals. The easiest way is to flash the light in their eyes that then glitter like bright green like emeralds. We drove around for quite a while and saw numerous wolves, crabs, local birds and stray cows but alas no leopard. Then on our return journey we stopped and saw 2 wolves walking down a hill stop, nothing else of them was visible in the darkness around but just the two pairs of eerily glittering emerald green eyes. It was quite a sight. By then it was pretty late and we were all very tired after such a long day. So we decided to call it a night and returned to our homestay only to have a small lone wolf follow us into the darkness and bid us goodbye near the homestay gate.