Friday, 16 January 2015

The Konkan Holiday - Part I

Its that time of the year when a little vacation is a must. Yes children's school holidays- the winter break! Since my husband sails at this time of the year, I hadn't planned anything for the December holidays, For children the break is only 10 days long. Its certainly not much of an issue to plan some activities for them to keep them engaged. Like all mothers I too understand how an empty mind becomes the devils workshop!

It was December 22nd, 2014, learnt that my sailor hubby would be joining back only in January. Yippe!! it was time to plan a family outing. It being the peak holiday season, was extremely difficult to get any hotels. Club Mahindra couldn't give a decent availability at 'a good' 3-4 months notice... getting something at the last moment was unimaginable. We have never managed to get rooms at the resort of our choice in Club Mahindra, I still regret the fact that I said okay for membership to the timeshare when a Club Mahindra associate was sweet selling it to my husband.

I thought of planning a short trip to a nearby place. Hubby loves to drive and my sons are born travellers. I guess its in their genes. Both their grandfathers coming from the defence, their father a mariner and mother a hotelier was a good enough reason to adapt it.
O'Nest Homestay
The initial plan was to go to Devrukh as suggested by a colleague and stay there for two days then visit Kolhapur, stop there for a day on our way back to Mumbai. Also be at home well before the New Year's eve.
I booked a room, in fact a tree house at the O'Nest homestay at Devrukh. The website looked amazing. this was our first experience at a homestay. Also this was the first time we were travelling to the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
So all preps done. We started on the early morning of 25th December, had left home by 7.30 am. We took the Uran road connecting the Mumbai-Goa highway. The roads were good and the journey was amazing. We stopped at Mahad for lunch it was almost 2 pm. Then headed towards Devrukh, the Konkan belt is one of the best gifts to the state of Maharashtra. Blessed with amazing topography, breathtaking natural beauty- the hills, rivers, waterfalls and the lakes, the never ending greenery and hundreds of flowers and fruit laden trees. The roads were winding but the drive was as smooth as it could be. Being a holiday there were so many vehicles on the road. Very true to the saying that if there was atleast 3 days holiday the whole of Mumbai would end up going to Goa!

Chiplun, Sangameshwar and then finally Devrukh. Its a small, very beautiful town almost sleepy and perfect for a getaway. Nestled in the beautiful Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
We reached O'nest at 4 pm. The homestay was actually like visiting someone's home, very true to its name!  It was amidst mango trees, the courtyard beautifully covered in the traditional mixture of mud and dung. The brick- tinge and the fine smell of earth was mesmerising. The place had an amazing rustic charm to it, the staff was warm and friendly. We were welcomed by the ladies who helped us with our baggage. I am a true believer of women empowerment, allowing the women to do their best in the the means available to them. I was certainly delighted to see the village ladies working at the home stay. Managing almost everything. Right from bell desk services to housekeeping, food and beverage to the kitchen.
Talking about kitchen, the menu on offer was authentic Konkan cuisine consisting of a good mix of fish, chicken, mutton or prawn dishes. We simply loved the seafood. That was our staple for almost everyday.

Coming back to what we did there in Devrukh. 25th evening, the day we reached there was just relaxing, having a great time in our tree house. It was nice cosy and very well done up. A bit compact for the 4 of us though. We took a stroll around our homestay. The surroundings were pure, in the lap of nature and giving us a very close look at the life there, the locals carrying on their daily chores.... life goes on as usual for them kind of a feeling!

26th after breakfast at O'nest we left for Marleshwar Shiva temple about 20 kms from there. We climbed a flight of steps,  stood in the queue and finally got a glimpse of the deity inside the ancient cave. We came back to our homestay and took rest in our room and in the evening went to the cashew factory and Swami Samarth Math.

27th morning we left for Karneshwar Shiva temple which was 25 kms from O'nest, believed to be over 3000 years old. After pooja there we went to the triveni, the meeting point of the  rivers Varuna and Alaknanda, they in turn join to make river Saraswati. There was also a Shiva temple called the Sangameshwar at the Sangam (meeting point) of these rivers.

From there we left for the hot water springs at a village 12 kms away, the water was indeed HOT, believed to have curative properties. Then we headed for Dangi, 22 kms from Hot water springs, for boating in the river. As our luck had it, the boat was out for some dry docking work. We spent some time at the bank of the river taking in all the beauty of its surrounding. We were back at our abode for the evening tea and snacks.  Luckily we managed to get a larger family room for the second night at O'nest.

Evening we visited the art gallery at Devrukh called the Laxmibai Pitre art gallery, very close to our homestay. It was small fairly new but had a very good collection of paintings and sculptures quite a few of them donated by renowned art colleges and artists. Then we went to the Ved Pathshala, vedic school.

Ved Pathshala
Ved Pathshala is a  residential school for the students studying the Vedas and learning the religious rituals to become pandits or acharyas the Hindu priests. It was a free education given by the trust. The place was so serene. We met a few scholars and their teachers. They took us around the premises.
Next on our list was the Kokum factory. The fruit is used for making Kokum syrup which is an excellent coolant, we also saw other products made there  like a digestive using various concoctions. This came under the cottage industry and had been awarded for excellence so many times, the trophies sitting proudly on the self in their office. We bought a couple of syrups and squashes.
Ved Pathshala
Got back to our homestay and relaxed for the evening, kids playing badminton and interacting with other children. We spent out time on the swings and hammock.
For food we had to inform the care taker atleast two hours in advance so that he could have the things organised and make amazing authentic dishes Konkan style!
We loved this place and thought it would have been a great idea to have other members of the family with us. We'll surely plan one soon.

We learnt that the owners had two more properties in the region, the Oceanopearl at Ganeshghule close to Ratnagiri and the Nakshatra Resort at Bhandarphule near Ganpatiphule. We love travelling and places that have their unique identities attract us. Wanted to try the other property of theirs at Oceanopearl, we were told that it was right on the beach, a virgin beach, we couldn't resist the idea. Checked with the manager at the homestay and called Mithil Pitre, the owner, (who was at that time managing his newest resort), if it was possible to get a room there. When he replied in the positive, we dropped the idea of returning to Mumbai via Kolhapur; instead headed for Oceanopearl on the morning of  28th December.

Up Next on my blog, our drive to Ratnagiri and stay at Ganeshghule and Bhandarphule.

Check O'nest :