“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle
Dotted with tiny fishing villages and swaying coconut trees, enveloped by the lush green Sahyadris and decorated with magnificent ruined forts, I found a surprising quietude in the bustling lanes & beaches of the Konkan coast. Free from the shackles of commercialization & known to a few, the slow-paced & simple Konkan life is what an urban dweller like me craved for!
My road trip to the Konkan took me from the picturesque strips of shorelines to the majestic naval forts, spiced up with some smacking seafood; so here are some of my favourite spots that I would recommend you don’t miss during your visit to the Konkan belt.
Parule: Maachli, Nature Trails, Beaches & More
The settlement of Parule, once known as Parulya Gramam, was built around a Surya temple, where the rays of the setting sun touched the idol before disappearing over the horizon. Though the temple’s renovation has undone this phenomenon, the magic of the place remains intact.
Peppered with picture-postcard views, we (my college gang) began our road trip from Navi Mumbai, reaching Parule in about 10 hours. We had booked an affordable but comfortable cab from Mumbai to Malvan and we kept it for the rest of the remainder of our journey. Travelling through the tropical backwaters was sheer bliss, but what added more colour to our journey was our stay at the Maachli Farmstay.
Tucked away in dense plantation and right in the middle of the jungle, Maachli is a hidden getaway and located in a very remote area of Parule village. An interesting fact about the homestay is that there are no signs or markers guiding visitors to the place; the hosts provided us with directions over call and directed us to the location. On arrival, the Samant family (our hosts) gave us a tour of the entire place and introduced us to our cottages. No ordinary huts, these were Maachli huts – a traditional term for huts built on high grounds (by local farmers to safeguard the crop and water it).
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up the next day to sounds of the farm – an amalgamation of mooing cows, barking dogs and singing birds. Curious to experience rural life, we headed straight to the farm to indulge in some early morning activities. We began our day by milking a cow (intimidating at first, but an overall exhilarating experience) and then were ushered into a well-guided plantation walk amidst the coconut, betel‐nut, spices & mango groves. We also learnt how to use a laath (the traditional method of drawing water for irrigation), after which we savoured some delicious Malvani cuisine, served by our friendly hosts. Having filled our stomachs with a surfeit of Kokum sherbet and Kombdi Vade (traditional Malvani chicken curry and fluffy fried bread served with coconut milk soup), we decided to venture out and explore a bit of Parule.
We began our Parule expedition with a visit to the Kille Nivati Fort. Constructed by Shivaji Maharaj as a naval base, this once magnificent structure was dilapidated & worn out. But the breathtaking views of the Kille Nivati Beach & Bhogwe beach from either side of the fort made this visit totally worth it!
A small stretch of white sandy beach and clean water with local crabs & fishermen as our only company, we spent the evening on Kille Nivati Beach collecting seashells with the climax of a sunset trek back to the farmstay.
After a hearty Malvani dinner of Prawn Curry & Phanasachi bhaji (a Jackfruit preparation), we had an interesting conversation with Mr. Samant about the history of the place and the region around. And after finalizing our plans for the next day, we called it a night.
A trek to Devrai (sacred grove) was the perfect post-meal (breakfast) walk. Devrai is one of the few virgin forests that have maintained a delicate ecological balance. The deep-rooted beliefs of local communities preclude the cutting or damaging of trees, even prohibiting the picking of fruit. According to Mr. Samant, for any such transgression, the visitor had to donate a gold leaf to the forest community. What an idea!
Through the dense undergrowth and creepers of Devari groves, we arrived at a place so thick with foliage that it was even difficult for the sunlight to penetrate. This was the open shrine of Devchar – protector of the tribal community and master of the jungle, where locals offered bottles of alcohol and beedis (cigarettes) as propitiation. While offering a brief prayer, we noticed that the fishermen were praying to the deity for a good catch and safe return from a fishing expedition.
At Konkan, I met some of the friendliest locals, experienced village life in all its charm and heard mythical stories and legends that the village folk swore by. A place where food with coconut was inevitable, where not falling in love with rural & coastal India was impossible and where the humility of the locals was unimaginable.