Deccan Herald: Far from the madding crowd

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Monday 11 March 2013
News updated at 11:42 AM IST
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Far from the madding crowd

Arefa Tehsin, March 10, 2013

Beach holiday

“What do you work for?” my mom, who’d come visiting me, asked me the other day. “To take a break,” I replied. When the breaks come, they have to be anything but routine. If you’re visiting one of the destinations around a city like Mumbai, the holiday invariably becomes a routine, especially on long weekends — queuing up at McDonalds for breakfast, queuing up to climb a dam at Matheran, stuck in a traffic jam for two hours at Lonavala, waiting to jump in a swimming pool at Khandala, awaiting your turn for water sports at Alibaug. 

With our Swedish friends around, we were sure not to visit one of those destinations on a weekend. After a bit of research and consulting our travel aficionado friend, we zeroed in on Dapoli, a small town in Ratnagiri. Around 240 km from Mumbai, this was a long drive; but well, whatever it took to go away from the crowds.

Dapoli lies on the western side of the Sayhadri Range. The drive to Dapoli takes five-and-a-half to six hours from Mumbai with a half an hour break. You’ve to take the Mumbai-Goa Highway, turn right after passing Mangaon towards Mandangad, which is 15 km before Mahad. The last leg of the journey through hills, valleys, rustic countryside and winding rivers more than makes up for the bumpy ride. Alternately, you can also travel by Konkan Railways to Khed, and cover the remaining 30 km journey by road.

When you reach Dapoli, the climate gets a bit cooler. Dapoli is around 8 km from the Arabian Sea, and at an altitude of around 800 feet. A beach town with cool climate all round the year, Dapoli is a unique place. There are some beautiful beaches in the vicinity, other than the main Murud beach, like Harnai, Karde and Anjarle. For those who are not looking at ‘happening’ places with a lot of commercial activity, Anjarle is a tranquil, off-beat option. The road that snakes uphill from Murud towards the Anjarle fishing village gives a bird’s eye view of the Anjarle beach from the top of the hill. The hillocks slope down to meet the Jog river, where the river joins the sea. A long sleepy beach, flanked by palm-clad hills, lies lazily like a long stretch of imagination.

Once you cross the river and drive through an undulating terrain, you pass the famous Kadyawarcha Ganapati Temple on a cliff. This ancient temple was constructed using wooden pillars in 1150 AD. The trunk turns on the right side of the idol, making it a relatively rare representation of the elephant God.

Among the other places to visit around Dapoli is Suvarnadurg Fort at Harnai. Although it is not as stunning as the Murud-Janjira Fort, it is worth a visit. Built by the Adil Shahi dynasty and captured later by Shivaji, this fort can be reached by hiring a ferry from the local fishermen. There is a land fort, Kanakdurga, on the shore, which gives a fantastic view of the Arabian Sea and the remnants of the once fortified coastline. There is a lighthouse on the top, from where a small path, overgrown with bushes, leads to the other side of the hill. There is a magnificent view of the expansive grey waters on the other side. But the scene that made our day was a school of dolphins playing, flapping and enjoying in the waters at a distance.

Dapoli has many stories to tell. Lokmanya Tilak, among other well-known personalities, was born there. Ambedkar studied at a high school located near Jalgaon village. There are many untold stories as well — of the laughing waves, walking tides, sandy dreams and the timeless horizon. If you choose to go there, a story can be yours too.

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