Amazing landscapes might leave you jaw-dropped or ancient monuments may transport you to a different era, but it’s only when you meet the people of a destination is when you truly understand and enjoy its many charms. I got a chance to see and feel coastal Maharashtra’s different towns earlier this year, with the ‘Wheels of Wander’ self-driving trip by Maruti Suzuki Alto and Outlook Traveller. I was joined by three friends from Mumbai – Hersh, Rushaad and Sagar. Together, we explored untouched villages, kilometers of unexplored beaches, muscled along with fishermen to help them bring in the catch and swung a cricket bat with local boys in seaside towns. When it came to food, our palates were continually surprised and treated with new flavours. The local experiences of this self-driving trip is what made it special for all of us.
Having started from Pune, we headed south to Harihareshwar, Ganpatipule and finally Tarkarli as the last destination, driving for more than 500 kms over three days. On the fourth day, we traced our way back, getting a second glimpse into the places we had crossed. On the way, there were a number of local villages and pit stops that added to the charm of a driving holiday with friends. We stopped at several fishing villages and pristine beaches that amplified the local experience by many folds. Here are some of the things that made our trip richer and more exciting.
It’s amazing to see different fishing communities thriving together on coastal Maharashtra. There are dozens of fishing villages between Harihareshwar and Tarkarli – a distance of almost 350 kms. On the face of it, each village looks similar to the previous one, but there are many differences between them.
For example, each community is different from the other and has a distinct cuisine style and culture. We spared a good amount of time interacting with the locals at Harnai Beach, about 60km south of Harihareshwar. The fishermen were happy to show us different fishing techniques, from casting nets to throwing in the line. Some men on this strip were busy repairing boats, and we were happy to get a glimpse of that as well.
Our next orientation to the local life at fishing villages was at the fish market. Harnai has one of the largest fish markets in the area. It was thrilling to see a fish auction that happens twice everyday, 8.30 am and 5 pm. As soon as the fishing boats hit the beach, there is a frenzy of activity all around. Pomfrets, kingfish, mackerels, shrimp and calamari are sorted and taken to the market, where they are sold to big shops, or people come in to buy fresh ones for personal consumption.
Other than exploring the natural beauty and fishing villages, a road trip through Coastal Maharashtra throws in a lot for the foodies. Just take a detour in any direction and you will end up in a village, where your taste buds are sure to get introduced to some delicious flavours.
A recommended stop to eat some local Malvan food and experiencing village culture is at Anjanvel, located 60km north of Ganpatipule. The food options in Anjanvel are dominated by the Konkan culture with fish, prawn, squid, chicken and vegetable thali as the most popular dishes. All of us being partial to seafood loved every morsel. Malvani mutton curry, paplet saar (pomfret), phanasachi bhaji (jackfruit dish), kolambi (prawn) and kalya vatanyanchi (black peas curry) were the most memorable dishes for us.
One expects that water sports would be the same in every beachside town, the coast of Maharashtra was special. The beaches of Malvan and Tarkarli are relatively new on the adventure scene. This makes the experiences like scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, and dolphin spotting quite intimate and hassle-free. The glistening waves in the mornings were perfect for parasailing and the jet-ski, banana boat ride full of thrills. The Tarkarli coast is believed to be one of the best for dolphin watching. The other highlight of Tarkarli lies in the fact that the majestic Sindhudurg Fort that stands at the edge of the sea overlooks the water sports area.
Having first-row seats to the local culture of Coastal Maharashtra made all the difference to this trip. All of us came back richer in experience and insights about the region that made us feel like insiders.