Monsoons are on their way, in fact they have already made their presence felt in Bombay and around, so it is time to get on the road again and enjoy all the work they have done.
For this weekend, our destination was Murud of the Murud-Janjira fort fame. We were of course more interested in the sea, but an additional excursion doesn’t hurt.
As usual, we set out to drive not so early in the morning. This time in stead of taking the long-winded route of last time for the Awas trip, we took the Vashi route leading to Sion-Panvel Highway via the Palm Beach Road. The Palm Beach Road drive was a rather delightful surprise – since when do such roads exist in the vicinity of Bombay?! After Panvel, the route was pretty straight forward – the Goa Highway up to Penn and then the diversion to the state highway which leads to Alibagh, Kashid & Murud.
The road from Alibaug onwards is a little painful. However, about 10 km before Kashid, the road starts along the sea, in between meandering high and low. The pit-stops on this part of the drive were for us one of the best features of the trip. The place felt isolated, serene and self-absorbed.
After some 5 hours of lazy driving, we reached Murud. We had booked ourselves in a resort called the Sand Piper resort, which is slightly on a height from the sea front. The access to the resort, even though only about 300 meters, is not yet made into a road and it was quite a task to get the car up.
However, from the height of the resort, we got a beautiful panoramic view of the sea against the backdrop of surrounding hills, which were laden with the lush green of fresh rains. It helped that we had a large balcony to sit in and admire the view.
After a while, we climbed down to the beach, which was about a 5-7 min walk. We entered the Murud beach from the remote end, which was great, since the other end was the Chaupati end and thus terribly crowded. Thus we got an undisturbed access to the sea where we could run around, play, walk, sit. I was surprised by the number of people in the Chaupati end – it seems Murud has caught the tourist fancy in the last few years. And of course where there are crowds, there rush the usual fanfare – the hawkers, the horse-rides – but somehow, if remote, they do add to the charm of a beach day.
After a leisurely time at the beach, and see the sun hide behind the clouds instead of setting down over the horizon, we came back to the resort for a dip in the pool (which had a sea-view too btw) and then a nice meal, followed by (of course) a bit of reading and lot of chatting.
The next morning, after the breakfast we set out to the Murud-Janjira Fort, which was about 5 km from the resort, along a really bad road. To reach the fort, we had to take a sail-boat from the Rajpuri village, and I was wondering all the while as to how these boats were being allowed in the monsoons, as they will definitely not be manageable at all in the rain. Anyway, the sail boat ride was not too long – perhaps 15-20 min, and we landed at the fort from an entrance which had been efficiently hidden until landing. The landing was quite a feat, as the boat keeps moving violently, there is no jetty, and you have to jump accross the stairs, barely being able to maintain balance.
Inside the fort we hired a guide who gave us a brief overview of the history and construction of the fort. Built first in the late 15th century, the fort was strengthened later by a Siddi king. After that the Marathas made several attempts to capture it, and being unsuccessful, built an alternate fort (Padamdurg) some distance away, which now stands in 3 parts and can be seen from the Murud beach. The Janjira too is quite in ruins now, with its main building halved, unable to withstand the large gatherings in the palace. Apparently the fort was still inhabited till as recently as 1972 (or was it ’92, I forget), after which its 2000 inhabitants moved to Rajpuri. The access to Padamdurg is banned and requires permissions from Customs and navy for a visit, as apparently it was used as the landing ground for RDX during the Mumbai bombings.
Packed with all this history, we returned on our sail boat after a 25 minute halt at the fort. The task of getting into the boat was quite another adveture – thanks to some villagers who helped to load us into the boat, else I would have hardly made it in un-drenched. Do be careful with your electronics in the process, as two cameras and cellphones from our boats were sacrificed to the sea that day 🙂
So that was it, we headed back, always on the lookout for food and regretting not eating lunch at our resort, for it is quite difficult to find restaurants on the way. We finally found one at Alibaug – Patang, which was a decent fare.
And oh, we did experiment with the route back, taking the JNPT (awesome road) up to Uran instead of turning right towards Mumbai – we finally landed again on the Palm Beach Road miraculously, though I will really appreciate knowing a straight forward route from Panvel to Palm Beach without taking the JNPT! Anyone?