DAY 1: December 5, 2015, Saturday.
Even though we got up at 5 am, by the time we had tea and got ready it was 8.20 am. We bundled ourselves into the car with bag and baggage. Being a Saturday there was not too much traffic since many schools are closed, and we had reached Katraj junction and NH4 at 9 am.
At the Khed Shivapur toll we had to pay Rs.80, and reached the BP CoCo pump at 9.30 am. They had only Speed and I filled the tank to the brim. We used the washroom at the gas station and after a cup of thermos tea we were on our way again.
Geeta had packed some sandwiches so we did not stop anywhere for wada pao. We reached Umbaraj (159 km) at 11.45 am and had to turn right under the NH4 highway to go to Chiplun.
The drive to Chiplun via Patan and Koyna was very picturesque. It is a two lane state highway (SH78) and the roads were in reasonably good shape. There were a lot of trees and fields along the route. After passing Koyna the road was following the Koyna River till we reached the Kumbharli Ghat. It is a fairly long and steep descent down the ghat to the town of Chiplun in the Konkan. Chiplun lies midway between Mumbai and Goa on NH17.
We reached Chiplun (246 km from Pune) just before 2 pm and decided to stop at Hotel Abhishek for lunch. It took us a while to find the place since the hotel was in a side lane. They had a dedicated parking space and the restaurant was already quite crowded. We got a table on the mezzanine floor. We ordered fish thalis, Geeta had bangda (mackerel) and I had surmai (seer fish). There was a wati of solkadi in the thali too. This place seems to be the favourite restaurant in Chiplun for Malvani seafood. Their walls were plastered with snaps of celebrities who had dined there.
We started for Guhagar at 3 pm. Luckily I had asked a rick driver and he guided us through the town bye pass route which avoided the narrow lanes of Chiplun town. The road to Guhagar from Chiplun was quite scenic, winding and undulating over hills and down again, with a lot of greenery along the route. We drove up to Modka Agar where the hotel “Shantai by the Lake” is located on the right, and took a left turn a little ahead at the circle, on to the coastal road (SH4). This T-junction is about 4 km before Guhagar town. From here Velneshwar is about 18 km and we passed the Konkani village of Palshet before arriving at the MTDC resort at 4.30 pm. We had covered a distance of 305 km from Pune to Velneshwar.
|Way to beach side entrance of MTDC Resort|
|MTDC Velneshwar cottages|
MTDC Velneshwar is one of the new resorts of MTDC, and the greenery inside the resort has not yet fully matured, but there was a nice round garden with some flowering shrubs in the centre and another lawn with a playground at a lower level. The independent cottages are laid out at different levels, and each cottage has got a sit-out from where you can admire the setting sun with your cup of tea. The non ac rooms are at the top level, with the ac rooms at a lower level near the reception and restaurant.
I was met by Swapnil at the reception and showed him the receipt of my online booking. Alankar helped us with the luggage. We got the non ac room right at the top with a fantastic view of the sea. The room and bathroom were spacious, but there was no cupboard in the room. We got a set of towels, soap and shampoo sachets.
We relaxed for a while. It was a bit warm and we had to put on the fan on full.
The view of the sunset at 6 pm was spectacular from our balcony and we took snaps with our camera and cellphones.
We had to order our dinner an hour in advance on the intercom. We ordered veg thalis @ Rs.120. We went down to the restaurant at 8.30 pm. There was cabbage veg, moong gravy, dal rice, 3 big chapattis, a wati of dahi and sheera and it was quite filling. After dinner we sat out on the benches in the garden and enjoyed the cool sea breeze.
DAY 2: December 6, 2015, Sunday.
At around 6.45 am I left for a walk just as the sun was rising behind the forested hills. There was a slight chill in the December morning air, and a lot of fishing vessels could been seen moving about in the calm waters of the sea.
|Velneshwar beach with fishing boats|
There was a short cut near the reception entrance gate, consisting of some steps on the hillside, leading down to the beach below. It was a ten minute walk to the beach. The path to the beach was adjacent to the ‘Kinara Beach Resort’ which is a hotel facing the beach.
|Steps leading down to the beach|
The beach itself looked beautiful in the early morning. There was a line of tall coconut trees all along the approximate 2 km length of dark yellow sand. There were no rocks except at the base of the two hills at the ends of the beach, and it seemed quite safe for swimming. Very few people were there at the early morning hour, and I enjoyed my morning walk by the waves lapping the shore. At the south end of the beach are the Velneshwar Shiva Temple and the fishermen’s village.
|Morning walk on the beach|
|Velneshwar Beach at sunrise|
We were served with a morning cup of tea in a paper cup by Ram, the restaurant helper. At 8.30 am we went for our complimentary breakfast and had poha and omelet pao, followed by a cup of coffee. The pao was toasted and smelt and tasted good.
We decided to relax for the day and have a lazy Sunday. I moved our car and parked it in the shade of one of the cottages, after a group of about 20 departed in their van. I think we were the only residents of the resort on that day, and we had a quiet and peaceful morning chilling out in our room after it became too hot to sit out.
|Chilling out on a Sunday at the resort|
We ordered ‘bangda’ fish thalis for lunch, but it seems that the fishermen did not have a good catch that day. The restaurant manager Mr. Chandrakant Nagvekar called us on the intercom and asked us if he could serve us with another variety of fish called ‘Soundara’ or some such sounding fish in the Konkani language, and we agreed. This fish was about half the size of a bangda but had softer flesh, like bassa fish. We got 2 small fried pieces and a small piece in gravy with rice and chapattis, and a small bowl of solkadi. The thali was priced at Rs.150. The ‘Surmai’ fish thalis were priced at Rs.250.
After a long afternoon nap we had some snacks and tea in our room, I went for an evening walk on the beach and watched the sunset at around 6 pm. We lazed till dinner and ordered veg thali about an hour in advance. Veg thali rate with a sweet dish was Rs.120, and Rs.100 without.
After dinner we saw the movie ‘Mary Kom’ on their LCD TV. They had a Videocon D2H connection.
DAY 3: December 7, 2015, Monday.
This morning I left at 6.40 am and walked inland towards Guhagar. The road passed through some jungle and a village and came out on some open flat land where some construction activity of new apartment blocks could be seen. I walked up to a newly opened resort called ‘Privilege Resort’ on SH4 near the junction. The resort didn’t seem to be occupied as I didn’t see any parked cars outside, but there was some security manning the gate, which was closed.
We had our cups of morning tea and then went for breakfast at 8 am. We had sabudana khichdi. After getting our room cleaned at 10 am we drove down to the Velneshwar Shiva Temple which is just about 1 km from MTDC. We had a good darshan and found out about two restaurants located next to the beach, ‘Jeevan Sugandh’ which served both veg and non-veg and fish thalis, and ‘Kalpataru’ which is a pure veg restaurant run by a Gokhale family. Both places also seemed to have lodging rooms available nearby. We liked Kalpataru as it seemed cleaner, and we had a cup of tea there before leaving for Guhagar.
|Velneshwar Shiva Temple|
We reached Guhagar at 12.15 pm after a 45 minute drive from Velneshwar. Guhagar is a larger coastal town and it was difficult to find parking near the Vyadeshwar Shiva Temple. We parked near the Chowpatty beach, which had a lot of food stalls, and walked back for a darshan of the temple. The temple was neat and clean but the sanctum with the lingam was closed.
The Ufrata Ganpati mandir was back near the Chowpatty beach. It is a small temple with a white marble murti of Ganpati. We did darshan at 1 pm and went for lunch to ‘Shraddha’ restaurant, which had been recommended to us by Nagvekar.
‘Shraddha’ restaurant was cool and clean inside and we had a simple veg thali for Rs.80 each. It consisted of a dry veg with methi, one gravy veg, dal, rice, 2 chappattis, papad, pickle and a tiny wati of dahi.
We finished our trip to Guhagar by 1.30 pm and were back at MTDC by 2.15 pm for our afternoon siestas. We slept without the fan as there was a power outage at 3 pm. It was very warm in the afternoon without the fans, and they wouldn’t start the generators to conserve the power for the night, if required. So at 4.30 pm we drove down to the beach and had wada-pao and tea at Gokhale’s Kalpataru. Then Geeta visited the Shiva temple again and I walked the full length of the beach and back. I got some very good sunset snaps with the Canon and Moto-G and posted some on WhatsApp.
|Tree lined Velneshwar Beach|
|Gulls on the beach|
We got back to our room at 6.30 pm (power was back), and had some more snacks and tea in the room. We went down for dinner at 8.45 pm and had only a dry bhaji with 2 chapatis for Rs.50 each. Then we sat for some time outside on the lawn and enjoyed the sea breeze before retiring to our rooms.
DAY 4: December 8, 2015, Tuesday.
Got up a bit later and left for my walk at 7.15 am. I walked along the hilly road which leads to the adjoining beach and village (Karul), behind the hillock to the north of Velneshwar beach. The road was rough and gravelly but just about motorable. I passed through a village where a ferocious dog started barking at me. I brandished my dog stick at him but to no avail. Luckily he was tied up.
|View of MTDC Resort from road to Karul|
On one side was hill and on the right was a clear view of Velneshwar Beach with the MTDC Resort nestled on the hillside looking very picturesque. After walking for about 25 min I reached the headland from where I got a good view of the Karul village and its tiny beach. There was a cluster of fishing vessels parked in the calm bay and I took a few snaps of the whole scene with my Canon. I thought I saw some dolphin too, as some black shapes kept bobbing out of the rippling waters in the distance, but I couldn’t be too sure about it.
|Karul Beach and fishing village|
|Karul Beach from the hill|
I reached back at 8.15 am and had a cup of tea, before going down for a breakfast of poha and coffee at 9 am. After getting the room cleaned we left to visit the village of Hedvi at 11 am. On the way we stopped at Kalpataru for a cup of ginger tea. We met young Vikrant Gokhale, the proprietor, and told him to have our lunch order ready at 1 pm.
From the Velneshwar Shiva temple the road to Hedvi is the one on the right and passes through the quaint village of Velneshwar. It then goes winding up the hillside and one can get exquisite views of the temple town and beach from up above. The drive is very beautiful. It joins with the SH4 highway and the right turn at the T junction leads to Hedvi.
|Bird's eye view of Velneshwar|
About 8 km from Velneshwar there is a junction. The straight road goes to the beach and Baman Ghal. We took this road first as we didn’t know that the Ganpati temple closes at 12 noon. We reached Hedvi beach at 11.40 am, after passing through a village along a narrow and rough road.
|Hedvi Beach with small temple|
Hedvi Beach is a small one, but beautiful and deserted. I don’t know whether it is safe for swimming because there are many rocks on the side. There is a small temple on the rocks dedicated to Lord Shiva, and behind this temple there are more rocks which you have to climb a few feet before you can see a cleft in the rocks which is called the 'Baman Ghal'. At high tide water rushes in to the gap and creates a towering fountain of spray when the first wave cannot flow back due to another incoming wave. I did not get to witness this phenomenon as it was low tide at that time.
We then went to the Hedvi Ganpati Temple and reached there at 12.30 pm and had to pay our respects to the idol from outside the locked sanctum. The temple itself is very beautiful as it is located on a hilltop surrounded by lush greenery and dense forest. It reminded me of the Ganpati temple at Ganeshgule. Geeta bought some coconut modaks from a stall in the temple premises and we had this as prasad.
|Hedvi Ganpati Mandir|
We were back at Gokhale’s ‘Kalpataru’ exactly at 1 pm for our lunch. We had a cold ‘Rimzim’, a bottled jal jeera drink to refresh ourselves. I had a veg thali and Geeta had wada masala with pao. After lunch we had a Mother Dairy choco-vanilla cone ice-cream. The veg thali was Rs.100 and our lunch bill came to Rs.238.
We were back at MTDC at 2 pm and rested for an hour and a half. Then we had some snacks and tea in our room. At 5 pm we went out for a stroll in the resort grounds, and took some snaps using the tripod. Later we sat on the terrace above the reception, ordered a cup of tea from the restaurant, and watched the sun set.
|Rooftop view from the resort|
|Sunset from the rooftop|
We relaxed till dinner. We had bhindi sabji with 2 chapattis and a wati of dahi for Rs.60 each, for dinner.
The Airtel signal was very weak in our room, so we would sit out on the benches in the garden to make phone calls after dinner. The signal was slightly better outside.
DAY 5: December 8, 2015, Wednesday.
We had to check out today so I didn’t go for long walk outside the resort. I strolled towards the garden and around the resort keeping an eye on the sea to see if I could spot any sign of dolphins on the waves. No dolphins, but I certainly spotted a group of big birds flying low above the coconut trees. They weren’t water birds, but a group of hornbills flying inland towards the forests.
|Panoramic view of Velneshwar north end|
Ram, the tea boy came around at 7.30 am and we had our morning tea. I gave him a small tip for serving us well in the restaurant for the last four days. We went for breakfast at 8 am before packing and getting ready to leave for Pune. Both of us had omelet bread and coffee for breakfast. We filled our thermos with 4 cups of tea for the journey. We left at 9.30 am from the resort.
We passed Guhagar junction (Modka Agar) at 10 am and reached Chiplun at 10.50 am. I missed the bye-pass route and had to wade through the town and market traffic at a slower pace till we reached the Karad highway. From here the driving was smooth and we started ascending the Kumbharli Ghat at 11.10 am. Mid way up the ghats we stopped at a look-out point for some snacks and thermos tea. We passed Koyna at noon and Patan at 12.25 pm and reached Umbaraj on NH4 at 1 pm. There were many diversions on the NH4 highway due to road construction work.
|On the way back, near Koyna|
We were thinking of stopping for lunch at Surur, but kept pulling on. Ultimately we stopped at the Kamat’s at Kikvi where I filled petrol at the HP pump. We had masala dosas and a Vithal special wada, a big batata wada in masala gravy and topped up with dahi and sev.
Total toll on NH4 was Rs.135 each way. The difference in ordinary petrol (Rs.65.92) and Speed (Rs.68.60) was considerable. We reached home at 4.30 pm, after covering a total trip distance of 675 km, including sight-seeing.