With Eric in town, the sleepy heads of Mumbai finally motivated themselves to escape the boredom of city summer. We figured that summer can not be too attractive anywhere, but an outdoor summer is perhaps better than the listless idleness of the couch.
So on a bright Saturday morning, we fled from the dirty, noisy city of Mumbai and headed south. Not without many cans of buds, batteries and cokes. The destination was a small village of Alibagh district called Awas village – a sleepy coastal village that is. Being so close to Mumbai (only about a 140 km from Mumbai), it seemed an ideal weekend haunt.
After some wading through the city traffic for a while (which surprisingly was not too bad), we headed towards Panvel using the JNPT road. It is a beautiful stretch of road – one I had not yet been on in all of my two years of living in Mumbai, and it was sad that we could get only a 10-15 km of drive on it before we were thrown back to the regular run-of-the-mill roads that connect most of the Maharastrian towns. I am not even sure how we got on that road, since that is not part of the standard route to go to Panvel, which goes via NH-4. But the longer circuit was totally worth it. Anyway, after Panvel, we did get on to NH-4, which eventually led us to NH-17, the Mumbai-Goa highway. To get to Alibag, we had to take a detour from the national highway a little after Pen. Having come on road after a long while, we made this journey long, taking a few pit stops along the way to enjoy the arid landscapes, their abrasive wind and the feel of the highway.
So with all this, it was already 3 by the time we reached Awas. We had booked the Jogalekar cottage for stay, which is only about 4-5 minutes walk from the Awas beach. The beach itself is a 10 km stretch lying between the more popular beaches of Kihim and Mandwa. Its hard to stay if I liked the Jogalekar cottage – I had a fun time staying there for sure, but I don’t think any of it had much to do with the place itself. It is a property owned by a couple who have tried to put too many ‘in-things’ in their ‘resort’ – they have a few tents to give the feel of the jungle, some cottage which is now being used to keep geese, a few deluxe and super deluxe rooms with A/C and TV, some swings, an aquarium and an open area for meals. They offer lunch, breakfast and dinner as part of the package, but the food is purely Marathi, and oily. The good thing was the servility of the staff and their general lack of any intrusion which is always a concern in any homestay.
Anyway, within minutes of reaching there, we walked to the beach – which, as expected was a calm, secluded black-sand beach, without a trace of even the customary vendor which generally is the mark of a tourist spot. It reminded me of a Bergman beach, and that perhaps inspired the black & white snaps that you see here. We generally walked about, played in the water, rode the waves – in other words did all the beach things, before settling down peacefully on the sand. In the usual pattern, I fished out a book from my bag – the ideal travel companion for such a quiet place- Soul Mountain by Gao Xing.
In a while, as the temperatures subsided, the local kids came out for a regular dose of cricket, and Rupesh established himself in one of the teams 🙂 Slowly, a few more idlers stumbled upon the beach and by sunset, it did not look so deserted anymore.
The sunset at Awas was a very pretty site, mainly because the beach is so silent that it gives you enough time to savor each moment of sun’s journey. Before going down the sun shines brightly like a huge ball, and then suddenly, as if reminded of some forgotten humility, makes a diminished exit. Then, it is hard to say with certainty whether its the sun or the moon. The hues change and a jarred reflection appears in water. In a while, all traces of the sun’s existence vanish, and the crabs emerge (Ouch!) and run off all the idlers from the beach. So soon we found ourselves in the usual setting – a bed and A/C and the TV. Things we are very comfortable with.
We woke up late the next morning, which was just as well as the sun was in a very hot temperament. Not wanting to clash with him and get caught on the wrong foot, we stayed indoors until lunch, after which we packed up and left. We drove to Kihim, found it to be a super crowded popular beach full of vendors, and got away without stopping. We stopped somewhere on the road to Kankeshwar, so that the ‘men’ could feel useful by tuning the car a bit. And then drove off peacefully.
Our next stop was nearer sunset time again, this time almost after the exit from NH-17. There is a small little village on the side, and I regret that I didn’t check for its name. It was so close to the highway, and still with its hill-lined horizon, hay stacks, cattle and flocks of birds looked quite far removed. We had a few snacks at a restaurant there, enjoyed the swings, captured a little more of the sunset and headed back after an hour.
To home. A place called Bombay.