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Tripping on the Konkan November 14, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in ganpatipule, Konkan, road, trip.
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Aah. Am I refreshed or what. You would be too, if you went where I did this time, and ate what I ate, and saw what I saw. All in our very own backyard. Well not backyard exactly, but very much in Maharashtra.

Taking advantage of the long weekend, my wife and I decided to go on a road trip. No fixed plans of arriving, and certainly no plans of where we wanted to stay. Only the direction and a solid intent.

So off, we pushed towards Ganpatipule. The original plan included Goa, but thank fully we decided against it. The drive to Ganpatipule has to be seen to be believed. I tried capturing whatever I could, but the pictures do not do justice to the original setting. It was so green everywhere, and beautiful, that for those three days or so, we did not have to make any effort to relax. We were in nature’s lap, and she was taking care of us. We left from Bombay at around 10 in the morning. We took the Bombay-Panvel-Pen-Mahad-Khed-Chiplin-Ganpatipule route. And it took us about 10 hours of fun driving. With the usual stops for chai and pictures and other things important, and sometimes, not so important.

Fresh Green!


Incredible India. On the way to GPule


Perfect Setting

We reached Gpule at 8 in the evening, and we needed some place to stay. We checked out a couple of hotel ‘resorts’ and finally settled in the Abhishek Beach Resort. We got a room with an excellent view, and service which was really nice. For 2200 bucks a night, we wouldn’t call it a steal exactly, but it was definitely worth it. The first night was uneventful, with us being tired, so we decided to have food in the hotel. We had some really well made Malwani food. Spicy, but very very good!

Next morning, we left for the Gpule Temple. This Ganpati temple is atleast 500 years old, but looks as if it was built yesterday. I was surprised to see the complete absence of greed, and Pandits with real knowledge. No one to hassle you into buying stuff the Lord doesn’t need, and we don’t want. We were lucky enough to reach just in time for the Aarti, and had the fortune of seeing the Lord in all his glory. It is said, that this is the Temple of Wishes, and whatever is asked for, the Lord giveth. It has immense following, and I now know why. The beauty of the temple architecture is such that it captivates one to be there for hours on end. Heedless of time or space. It transcends one into supreme bliss. The temple is on the shore, and the first rays of the sun caress the Lord, and then bless the world. After the darshan, we had some amazing ‘cant be made at home’ tuur daal khichdi as Prasad. And served with so much love and good wishes.


Ganpatipule Temple


Ganpati Bappa!


GPule Seashore

After darshan, we loitered on the beach for some time, and headed back to the hotel to freshen up, and look for some good local places to eat. We could not find many Khanavals (Home made food eateries) so decided to go to a hotel, whose chef is very well known in that area for his cooking prowess. And boy were we impressed!! We had Chicken Malwani and Prawn Masala. My dear readers, I have never cried so much over a meal (because of the spices), and have never recollected such authentic and delightful Malwani food with so much affection as I do now. The memories still tingle my taste bud, and my eyes water! J


The Konkan Coast

After lunch, we fought a terrible urge to nap (who sleeps on a vacation!!), and headed for the beach, and some sightseeing. After much fun and frolic we came back to the hotel and crashed.

Next day we left for Ratnagiri, about 20kms from Gpule. The road that connects the two towns, is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. It runs along the coast, with a sheer 100 feet cliff drop on one side, and lush greenery on the other. Nature resides in all its glory here. Green like you have never seen before, birds that we don’t get to hear in the cities and appreciate in our busy lives. Untouched, unexploited and unspoilt.


Lady in White

We took our time to reach Ratnagiri and explored the city a bit before we checked into a hotel. We went to the Kohinoor hotel, which has an awesome location, overlooking the sea and coconut farms. What surprised us was that here too, we were treated to a plethora of all things natural. Beautiful multi colored butterflies criss crossed our paths here and there, tiny birds chirping everywhere. After hours of clicking away, we moved on.


butterfly-effect

We stayed in the Hotel Vivek, in the heart of city. We had breakfast in a local shop – Kanda poha, onion bhajji, Thalipeeth, and Idli sambar followed with piping hot ginger tea! We went Kokam shopping in the markets of Ratnagiri and came back with hand full and empty pockets. All the stuff was so so good. We picked up Kokum Juice, Thechha (local Pickle), Mango Concentrate, Kajus, and so much other stuff!

Post shopping we visited the Ratnadurg fort, which was again, overlooking the ocean, and cleansed our lungs with all the fresh air we could gather. The location of the fort makes one wonder of the ingenuity of our kings and warriors! Sea on one side, Deep, long valleys on the other that gives a good view of who is approaching and a clean complete 360 vantage point!

Our primary motivation during any holiday is food. Authentic, clean desi food. So after breakfast we were asking around for places that would serve the local delicacies. After much asking around we zeroed in on Amantran, apparently THE place for sea food. We reached at around 9 in the evening, and thankfully got seating immediately. The menu was delightfully simple, and the prices were astoundingly low! Even for a quaint town like Ratnagiri, the prices were low! A Crab Thali for Rs. 80/- only! Beat that! And fully loaded mind you! With Solcurry, Chapatis, rice and the Crab Masala. I am not a sea food fan, but from the look on my face, I gathered it was damn good!!

We had to leave the nex day, and it was raining heavily as it was. We left Ratnagiri at around 10:30 still undecided if we wanted to go to Pune (because apparently the Mumbai Goa route was closed due to heavy rains) or Mumbai. We made our decision at Chiplun. We decided to take our chances and headed towards Mumbai. On the way, we came across a dhaba. And had yummy omelets and bhurji pav! From the dhaba, we could see below into fast paddy fields and the Konkan railway track! Just when we were finishing our meal, a train crossed the fields. It was a sight we only see in movies. Not in real life!

It took us about 9 hours to reach back to Mumbai.

A very strongly recommended road trip.

Cost of Fuel – 5k

Cost of Stay and Food – 6.5k

Discovering India on your own – Priceless!

Some of the Best Books I Have Read – Part -3 November 14, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in animal, bram, code, dracula, farm, feynmann, god's debris da vinci, riots, shantaram, shashi, stoker, tharoor.
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Finally. After a long long time I am back. And with the third part of the series. And maybe the last. So here goes…

* Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts – Genre – Autobiographical: I believe that not many books have been able to capture the attention of Indian readers mind as fiercely as this one did. The exploits of Australian convict in Aamchi Mumbai is filled with moments of joy, despair, fear and courage. Part fact and part fiction, it is remarkable what all a man will do for survival. This is one such survivor’s story. Replete with funny moments, this book is captivating to say the least.

* 1984 – George Orwell; Genre – Fiction: This book published in 1949, painted the societal picture that would exist in 1984 – a good 35 years earlier. It portrayed the society to be living under a totalitarian regime in 1984, where all citizens would be under constant surveillance. Everyone would have a single job, and would be expected to behave in a particular manner. Any deviations would draw severe punishments from the government. The protagonist is a civil servant whose sole job is to modify historical records to suit the current propaganda. Tired of his monotonous life, the protagonist plans a rebellion. After reading this book, you will thank your stars for having born in a democracy- however corrupt it may be. I do.

* Alexander – Valerio Massimo Manfredi; Genre – Historical Fiction: The story of one of the greatest warriors and statesmen of all times. Alexander is a series of three parts, each describing the different stages of the warrior’s life. It is an inspiring and very well told account of a man, for who, honor is above all else. Loyalty, honesty, courage, betrayal, love are at the core of this narrative. The author has done his research thoroughly, and has presented us with what I call ‘Gems for Generations’ to come. Don’t miss this series.

* Animal Farm – George Orwell; Genre – fiction: – Animal Farm is political satire at its BEST. It cannot get any better than this. Picture this – a bunch of animals living in a farm. They have some level of intelligence, and hence decide to form a government. All hopes of Utopia are squashed because of the corrupt, stupid, and highly selfish interests of some animals. This book has parallels with humans, specifically our politicians, and draws on their innate characteristics to tell a story that will never go out of style. Because Politicians will never change. 🙂 And guess what, this book, was banned in the Eastern bloc till 1989. Imagine what must have been the significance of its publication on the government there.

* Riots – Shashi Tharoor; Genre – Fiction: A beautiful story of hope and hopeless-ness. The story of a riot ripped town, and an American student who is a victim of the riots. The uniqueness of this book lies in how it is written. It is in the form of multiple diaries, which bring out the inner most feelings and thoughts of all characters, lending the book an almost living quality about it. You can feel the book’s heartbeat between the pages, and the shallow breathing emanating throughout the story.

* Dracula – Bram Stoker; -Genre – Fiction: – So you think you know who or what Dracula is? You think he is only the greatest blood sucking ‘thing’ in the world? Well you are in for a surprise then. Dracula, or Count Dracula is nothing like the general perception that has been created about him. Sure he drinks blood, and has immense powers, but he is also a romantic at heart, smart and very very difficult to get hold off.. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is what I call a masterpiece. It is spooky, dark and full of moments where you WILL reach out for the nape of your neck; look around to see if there is anyone behind your back, getting ready to bite into you, and turn you into the living dead. Beware, read at your own risk, and keep plenty of garlic on you. Best of Luck.

* Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman -Richard Feynman; Genre- Autobiographical: Who said Scientists cannot be fun? This one sure had a lot of fun in between discoveries. The book is the life story of a Richard Feynman- a Nobel Prize winning Physicist. The book is peppered with funny instances and eccentricities that can only come from being a scientist. It is a light book with plenty of ‘ I wish I could do that do’ moments. Enjoy.

* Da Vinci Code – Do I need to say anything? Anything at all for this one?

* God’s Debris – Scott Adams -Genre – I don’t know: So you thought this guy was good with Dilbert kinda stuff only. So did I. And boy was I mistaken! This particular book, is about a lot of things, and as the author like to point out in the beginning, suitable for people only above 14 years of age, since they would (hopefully) have the maturity levels to understand the discussion. Like I was saying this book is about beliefs, religion, philosophy, good arguments, judgment and everything in between. This book will force you to question what you think you know. It will make you question your beliefs and the validity of those beliefs. I will make you wonder if you really have a free will. Or if you have been pre-programmed to think the way you do, act the way you’re supposed to. A quote from the book that does not leave me- “When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing.”. Go figure. And read it.