As we pulled out west in our quest for the Maharastrian coastline, the Deccan Plateau felt eerily like Portland. Swamped by a mountain range on one side and the coastline on the other, nostalgia swept me to the extent that I exuberantly dubbed the narrow, pot-holed road along the coast “Highway 101”. That could just be a song, methinks.
This was a three-day weekend of many firsts. A first for exploring four beaches in two evenings (read on for how). A first to walk into the sea at low tide to a naval fort (after all the ones perched on precarious cliffs!). A first for a homestay in India, which came with a large and fun host family and authentic home-cooked Maharashtrian food. A first to sit on a swing and read for hours at the farmhouse. I haven’t had such a vacation hangover in a long while, Britain included.
Beaches in this region aren’t anything to write home about, at least during the monsoon. There were no activities, and the plastic washed up at low tide made me retch. While we did take long walks and soak in a cloudy yet colourful sunset, there was nothing that made us want to come back. Maybe we should give it a shot in the summer, but I’m skeptical of much change. Kolaba Fort, on the other hand, was such a novelty – an imposing, ruined naval fort sitting far-ish out in the sea at a relatively cleaner Murud Beach. It’s quite an experience to walk out to it in ankle-deep water with an irrational fear of being stranded on the fort if we didn’t come back before high tide! We survived.
The icing on the cake for the weekend was the rustic farm-style homestay – complete with dog, cats, bugs, baby frogs, grasshoppers, crabs, chameleons (among others, I’m sure), a bubbling seasonal stream and a tree-through-a-house. A civil engineer’s hobby project, this haphazard cluster of 12 rooms organically grew from throw-aways from his building sites. It’s a zero-waste house, with a sincere attempt to pay for anything they take from the grid with what they grow on the land. To see an entire house after my own tree-hugger heart – enough to make me smile so much that I did not scream at a single bug!
Authentic Maharastrian food was something we hadn’t got our hands on till now, thanks to knowing no one here. This kind family made up for this in thumping style! The traditional staples – pithla bhakri, sabudana khichidi, poha and piping hot masala chai – were accompanied by the staid sabjis, daals and a sneaky vada pav. Our souls took a trip to Maharashtrian food heaven and back.