I have heard about Alibaug from Neel many times. So, when I was planning to visit Mumbai this February, we decided to include Alibaug to our to-do list, and for good measure (the fun quotient), we threw in a couple of friends on the trip.
Well, the plan was to go to Alibaug beach, but instead, we deviated to Kihim beach. It was told that Kihim is much cleaner and quieter than Alibaug. Sounded good to me. We reserved our rooms at Ghanvatkar Bungalow. At first glance, on the internet, it looked ‘bhootiya big’, but it had relatively good reviews, so we decided to try it anyway.
So, Thursday noon, we boarded the PNP catamaran to Mandwa. The tickets are priced at Rs.135/-, and the cabin is air-conditioned; but I hardly liked the stuffed cabin and stood on the upper-deck during the entire 45mins ride. It’s breezy, open and you can see the greedy seagulls following the catamaran for cheese balls and chips. (We are not the only junk-food lovers)
By the way, PNP’s ticket includes a catamaran ride+bus ride to Alibaug. We boarded that bus and opened our Google maps which showed Ghanvatkar Bungalow near Zirad. #Tip: Google is NOT always correct. It turned out that we had gone past Ghanvatkar Bungalow and rode 10kms further to reach Zirad. Next tip: Always ask locals, no matter how tiring an effort it seems to talk to them. Anyway, we had to ride all the way back in a tam-tam (the big brother of autos) to Ghanvatkar Bungalow. In my head, I thought we’d be ripped off… 10kms, non-locals… but the auto-wala charged Rs. 40 for a 10km ride for two persons. Waah!
Now that we were infront of Ghanvatkar Bungalow, it didn’t look so creepy. The swimming pool was tiny, I noticed, but there was a swing on the porch which was a merit and which was my favourite ‘hang’out for the next 48hours. The so-called reception had a certificate that announced that the Bungalow was recommended on a famous travel website for its food. I was intrigued!
|In bloom at Ghanvatkar Bungalow|
Our room was nothing fancy, but it was H-U-G-E! It had a double bed + a single bed + mattresses on the upper shelf incase I plan to throw a wild party. The sliding doors opened up to the small terrace lawn and overlooked the garden and pool downstairs. Most importantly, the bathroom was clean.
That day, i.e. Thursday, we didn’t do much. We walked a bit to Prashant COOL drinks (we were told by the house-keeper that when asked discreetly, HARD drinks were also available at Prashant’s), had cornettos and came back. We lounged around on the porch the entire evening. The house-keeper tried to make us feel at home by playing Himesh Reshammiya but we thanked him and told him to turn it down. I found the house-keeper very accommodative and pleasing.
Anyway, the highlight of Thursday was the prawn curry they served at dinner. Truly, Ghanvatkar deserves to announce that their food is recommended. I recommend it too.
Meals at Ghanvatkar are simple. They’ll ask you whether you want pohaa or bread and omelette, tea or coffee, chicken or fish. Lunches and dinners are usually a simple affair with rice, rotis, daal, papad, salad and whatever non-veg curry you opt for. The chicken curry is also very delicious. Actually, by the third meal, I couldn’t decide whether to order prawn or chicken because both dishes were equally well prepared. Kudos to the bai who cooks there.
Next morning, i.e. Friday, we took a tam-tam+auto ride to Kihim Beach. It was 10AM, there was hardly a crowd and the beach is relatively much cleaner than average Indian beaches. The beach has similar rock formations like Gokarna (read on Gokarna here), but the rocks are smaller in size. Kihim Beach is full of colorful shells, I picked up a few zebra printed ones; you know, animal prints are in fashion!
|Sea and shells|
By noon, we moved from the Beach since our friends were about to arrive at the bungalow. By now, people were playing beach-crickets, stalls were opened and the weekend crowd was coming in. Anyway, our friends arrived by afternoon, and the rest of the evening is a blur. I remember eating scrumptious pomfrets prepared by the honourable Ghanvatkar cook and I remember a point of time when three cameras were being passed around to shoot four of us! Well, in short, we had a good time. The plates were licked clean; the one who slept without food was not missed.
|Funeral Pyre and a sexy ghost|
The next morning, after breakfast, we headed for Awas beach, again in a tam-tam. Now, this beach is situated near a funeral ground. We passed a pyre. The beach was across the woods. The woods were little creepy. Hehehe… just fooling around… yes, all that is true but it wasn’t like a Ram Gopal Verma set. The beach was really empty though. Not a soul around. It was a flat beach and the sand was too soft to tread on comfortably. Quick-sand-type sand + lonely beach + woods + barks of trees scratched to reveal blood-coloured tree-marks + funeral pyre. This can be a perfect site for a RGV movie. Bhootiya Awas-hawas beach.
|The Silence of the Lambs|
Anyway, we planned to return to Mumbai that day, so after lunch (‘course we couldn’t possibly miss lunch at Ghanvatkar), we headed to Mandwa to catch the ride.
This was a two-night trip and going on Thursday and Friday made us escape the weekend-crazy-crowd. But I can well imagine why this coastal stretch is so famous for Mumbai weekenders. Just an hour’s ride from the most cosmopolitan city in India and you land in a place with tiny lanes for highways, tam-tam rides, cleaner beaches and absolutely laid-back pace of life. We had fun, and Neel says, he shall visit Ghanvatkar again in a few weeks’ time to have some more of their delicious prawns curry! Jai ho, Ghanvatkar chef/bai!