Even though Maharashtra is popular for its fast-paced sprawling metropolis Mumbai and other busy hubs like Pune, the state also has ample to offer if you want to pull the brakes on city life. The state offers placid beaches, wildlife sanctuaries teeming with animals, rolling green hills, architecture soaked in history – in short, something for everyone. But I was in for a surprise, when I started my journey towards the south of Pune, exploring the rustic, beach-lined Konkan Coast, and explored numerous fishing villages and miles of uninhabited coastal beauty. Three friends from Mumbai, Hersh, Rushaad and Sagar, joined me for the 4-day self-driving trip, as part of Maruti Suzuki Alto’s‘Wheels of Wander’ campaign with Outlook Traveller.
Roads lined with coconut trees, the company of a pleasant sea, impromptu invitations to homes in fishing villages and water sports on the beaches summed up the four eventful days. If you’re looking to do a self-driving trip on this circuit, here’s a round-up of what all you can expect on this trail.
We started our journey from Pune, while passing through and making night halts in the three towns of Harihareshwar, Ganpatipule and Tarkarli. Though only a 500 km stretch, we drove for not more than 200km in a day while going, for an easy drive. The journey from Pune to Harihareshwar on the SH 97 was smooth, while the rest of the route was a country road, making the trip exciting and naturally slow. On numerous occasions, we even had to cross over rivers on a ferry.
As soon as you hit Harihareshwar, the road offers unbelievable views of surf and sand from atop steep cliffs. Periodically, the road runs inland, across surprisingly barren hills, and through pleasant villages. The most spectacular scenery of the whole trip, however, started after Ganpatipule, as the road descended around a cliff to Aare Ware beach and then climbed back up again to offer mesmerizing views of the coastline.
The first 160 kms till Harihareshwar was on SH97, an amazing highway with virtually no reason to slow down. This is the part that one can enjoy driving consistently, not having to halt on account of bad roads or halting traffic. The entire route had enough eateries on the way. Naturally, we made ample stops to taste local food. Mulshi was the standout spot to take photographs on the namesake lake and start the trip with massive bragging rights on social media.
This route was one to cherish as it included exciting ferry crossings, and driving through a few quaint fishing villages. The road condition was not as smooth as the previous day, but frequent ascends and descends around cliffs overlooking the surreal beach made it up to us.
The two ferry crossings were at Bagmandla and Dhapoli and took 15 and 25 minutes respectively. Passing through the village of Anjarle, we got a chance to have delicious Malvan food at a local home.
About 10 km from Anjarle, is located one of the biggest fish markets in the region, the Harnai Fish Market. The buzz of local people catching, transporting and trading fish made for some great moments to be captured on camera.
Ganpatipule to Tarkarli offered incredible scenery, with the highway taking us to some unsung beaches until Ratnagiri. After that, the road was a muddy red trail on barren hills, a unique topography that I had not expected. We reached Tarkarli in less than 7 hours, with ample stops at local dhabas and photo-op points. It was the Devgad fort en-route, which stands etched in memory. Massive walls ran along the beach, as we stepped in just in time for a spectacular sunset. Ananvadi fishing village in the neighbourhood offered a glimpse into the lives of the locals, where we even witnessed an exciting game of cricket amongst young kids.
We traced our way back on this day, all the way to Pune, but only after giving the water sports like Parasailing and Jet-skiing a try.
What made the Konkan Coast in Maharashtra a highlight is that it represented what travelling in India feels like – colourful, full of local interactions and distinct at every bend. There was a frequent change in landscape and scenery after every 50km. We came across colorful fishing villages, deserted forts, from state highways to country roads, and delicious regional delicacies.