|BEYOND THE HORIZON: The Jaigad port around sunset
A drive down to Ratnagiri during the Hapus fruiting season was an unfulfilled wish since my wife would never agree to stepping out in the scorching May heat. I dreamt of lounging in a hammock under giant trees laden with golden ripening Alphonsos and like Newton waiting for a juicy one to drop, not onto my head but into my upturned wide open mouth. In real life, I ate Hapus out of generic cartons labelled “export quality best Alphonso mangoes” which were anything but.
Out of the blue, one hot summer afternoon, I was told to prepare for a drive to Jaigad for a family event. My fantasy was finally coming true!
En route towards Haapus
The Pune–Peth–Shirala–Chikhali– Bambavade–Amba –Hathkhambha –Nivali Phata–Chafe–Jaigad route was a 378 km dream drive with just four kms of poor quality surfacing. At the Peth intersection, we left NH4 and hit RM 111, a state highway to Shirala.
To my surprise, the winding country roads were of very good quality and the scenery stunning. The contrast of Gulmohurs in various hues of red under a cloudless blue sky with the rich green of sugarcane fields was striking. At Amba which has five-six holiday resorts, lunch for drive-by tourists is available only at Jungle Resort.
The 30 kms Amba Ghat drive was a visual treat considering that it was May. The hill sides were lush green with tree cover and the temperature was a comfortable 32 degrees C.
Where the highway passed through orchards, owners were selling mangoes and jackfruit to passersby including passengers of an ST bus whose driver had considerately made an unscheduled halt close to the vendors. We overtook a Mahindra jeep so heavily laden with jackfruit that the hapless assistant was standing precariously on the rear footboard
Jaigad itself is a small village with a 15-16th century fort, a lighthouse, Jindal’s thermal power plant and a minor port on the confluence of the river Shastri and the Arabian sea. The village overlooks the river and the seaward side has a couple of secluded pristine beaches.
Mango, kokum and jackfruit orchards dot the landscape. Without exception the villages are very clean with not a plastic garbage bag to be seen. Street lights are solar-powered and upmarket cars parked in porticos speak of the high income of the residents.
To my surprise, I could not find a single shop selling hapus. So we trotted off towards Kachare beach where the mango orchards were pregnant with fruit. We walked into a farmhouse and asked the owner “piklele ambe ahet ka?” (Do you have ripe mangoes?).
A shy smile and voila, an aluminium vessel full of ripening fruit appeared as if by magic. None of your carbide washed stuff here. We bought two dozen hapus for Rs 200! Locals claim hapus grown near beachside and on the hillside taste very different — much like lowland and highland single malts! I was in heaven — hapus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hamare Beach Mein
|SCENIC POETRY: The idyllic Jaigad village
The pristine Undi and Malgund beaches, each 2.6 kms long, are unspoilt by human habitation. You can sunbathe, swim and relax to heart’s content. Malgund has two resorts — the moderately priced Nishi’s Tranquillity plumb on the beach and Blue Ocean Resort and Spa across the road for the well-heeled.
The bridge at Varavade between Undi and Malgund is a photographer’s and painter’s delight. The water-hugging village with fishing boats lined along the pier is an explosion of colour and movement and at night the twinkling lights under a moonlit sky will make you pause on the bridge and drink in the sights.
In terms of food, the fare we got was disappointing. Overfishing has resulted in poor catches and only surmai and prawns were available. Barbecuing on the beach was a unique experience. Ratnagiri’s famous fanas chips consists of small and tender slivers that turn golden and crispy when fried.
|Barbecue on Malgunde beach
For the return leg, we decided on the 323 km Jaigad–Velneshwar–Chiplun–Patan–Umbraj–Pune route. We went to Jaigad jetty, drove into the waiting landing craft (ferry) and crossed the Shastri to Tavsale.
Sameer, the ferry master, told me that though the ferry timings are on the hour between 6 am to 10 pm, he, like a doctor, was on call 24 hours a day.
“Anytime you want to cross, just give me a call,” he said. That’s what I call service. We drove on through winding ghats to Velneshwar and hit the Guhagar-Chiplun highway and continued towards Karad via Kumbharli Ghat with green vistas, cool weather and fresh unpolluted air.
Descending the ghats, the highway turns into a picturesque riverside drive along the flowing Koyna for a long stretch. At the end of the toll road, we turned left and joined NH4 north at Umbraj. The drive took us six and a half hours. And yes, we brought back eight boxes of hapus to make heaven last just a few more days!