Monday, 26 June 2017

Weekend Gateway, Alibaug

Alibaug! Most of those who are staying in Mumbai have been to this place and but I still feel the need to write my experiences, and you ask why? Because I had different experiences than just living in a resort or chilling by the pool or a beach. Yes, I did chill on a beach too, but this was something to remember. I had some clips from this trip which I have compiled in a video below.

I and my colleagues were looking for a weekend gateway in December and after surfing (on the internet) through many places near Mumbai like Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani and Lonavala; we tabbed on Alibaug. I never had been to Alibaug before and surprisingly none of my colleagues did. We started searching for economical hotels or places to stay. After searching and making calls at few places, we found someone very welcoming. It wasn’t a hotel or resort, it was a cottage. We did go through the pictures of that cottage on their website, and it looked pretty decent to stay. So we booked the cottage with some advance money through bank transfer and we pack our bags.
We stayed there for a day, but it was one of the memorable trips. If you do not know how to reach Alibaug, here’s how:
Step 1: Wherever you are in Mumbai, Reach Churchgate Station.
Step 2: Call a taxi and ask them to take you to the Gateway of India.
Step 3: At Gateway of India, ask someone where to buy the ticket for ferry rides (Most of the times there are plenty of police security around Gateway of India, so they will surely help you.)

As I remember, it cost around 150/- rupees to buy a return ticket to Mandva. Yes! To go to Alibaug, you take a ticket for Mandva. You can take a public transport bus to Alibaug after getting down from the ferry. The ticket for that public transport bus is included in the ticket you bought at the Gateway of India.
If you find that the buses are too crowded, you can opt for a six sitter vehicle; tell them where you need to go and they shall tell you a price. (Make sure to bargain) they call that six sitter vehicle as “Sitara” (God knows where that came from?)

Anyways, the place we booked was pretty much away from Mandva, so he charged us 750 rupees, and the whole Sitara was ours. It took over an hour to reach the place. FYI, we booked a cottage in Chaul (which is in Alibaug). Chaul has a very interesting history, which you can find on Wikipedia. We told the sitara driver about cottage and he knew where it was. Mostly the Sitara drivers are locals, so they know where the cottages, hotels, and resorts are.
On our way to Chaul, Alibaug, we had no idea where the driver was taking us, because we were just traveling through an open space, in some areas there were no roads. Sometimes we were driving through farms, sometimes we were driving through a village. (but we were not as scared because we were 12 people together!)
Anyways, after wondering where we are going for an hour, we finally reached the cottage at Chaul. And everything that we saw at that place was pleasing. We were happy with our choice. It was spacious and most importantly, Clean! there were swings to play, there were places to chill and play outside.

The place was surrounded by betel nut trees. Basically, it was the cottage that was situated in a “wadi”. A wadi is a place which is like a farm. But on this farm you don’t grow crops, instead, you grow trees, hundreds of coconut trees, or flowers or vegetables or betel nut or doub palm trees (locally known as taadgollas). Basically, everything that is grown in wadis is used to make money by the locals. In short, that’s the crop they produce in bulk. 
Best part, there was no dining table inside the house. The dining table was outside the house, right under the palm trees.
There was a special house in the same premise that was ‘only’ kitchen. The rooms were only for sleeping and yes there was a TV, but who cares about the TV when it’s so beautiful outside. You just have to tell the manager, what you want to have for your meal, whether it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, but in advance and he shall manage it. All meals were cooked on a chullha! That made the meals so delicious and you can have as much as you want!  In villages like Chaul, people have home grown chickens, and freshly caught fishes (whichever fish you demand, it’s going to come right from the sea) We were so happy that the manager and the owner of that cottage were such a humble and warm person! And even if it felt like the middle of nowhere, it was such a safe place to be! We were out in the night till 1:30 AM, that too with only moonlight and torches. What were we doing? Making seekh kababs on a koyla sigree and making a bonfire all by ourselves and dancing around it (needless to say, it turned into a Garba after sometime).
Our day’s schedule was something like this, we left our house in the morning, reached Chaul by afternoon, had delicious and unlimited food, relaxed a bit, had our evening tea, and we decided to stroll around the village to see what else do we find there.
After we walked a through the village looking at people’s colorful houses and their gardens, mandirs and stepped wells, we were tired.
 We asked a villager about the places we should visit. They suggested us to see the Revdanda beach which was nearby from wherever we were (god knows). So we decided to keep walking. We walked almost for an hour since we left our cottage. After all that we reached the Revdanda beach. It happened to be Heaven on earth. There was no one except us on the beach. The beach was pristine clean and untouched.

The air quality, the sound of the waves, pleasing sunlight, the cool and soft sand under our feet; It just felt like some sort of cleansing therapy. We laughed, ran around and collected shells; saw little as well as big crabs. We felt so pure, we forgot all our worries. Our hearts were at peace. Even now, whenever I think about that experience, I smile. Well, that’s why we travel you know; So that in the times of restlessness and despair, we could cherish and relive such moments and get the energy back.
There is also an old fort on Revdanda beach. It isn’t maintained and is only remains of the fort. 

We moved ahead on the beach and got on a bus to Birla temple.
You cannot take any belongings inside the temple, not even your wallet. So, someone had to wait outside with all our belongings. The temple is made up of marble and is surrounded by a well-maintained garden. Birla temple was another place where we felt peaceful. Our bodies were tired from all the traveling and walking but we were happy with all these experiences.
After visiting these two wonderful places, we decided to head towards our cottage. This meant we were going take a bus to the Revdanda beach, walk the entire beach, exit the beach and walk for another hour to reach our cottage. When we left home, it was daytime, but by the time we reached back to the Revdanda beach, it was evening. We witnessed an amazing and most memorable sunset ever! 

And when we started walking towards by our cottage, it was dark, and there were absolutely no street lights and we didn’t realize it while we were going to the beach. As colorful and cheerful the village looked in the afternoon, the spooky it looked after sunset. The dogs were barking at us and we were walking as fast as we can. Plus, we found it too difficult to find our way back in the dark! We were scared but still laughing at our own situation.
Finally, we reached our cottage to find the uncle setting up our delicious dinner!
Next day we headed to the kashid beach, which was again, far from chaul.  We played water sports like banana rides, parasailing, and speed boating and horse riding. We also chilled on a shack and had food on the stalls.

That was our last day in Alibaug, we went back to our cottage freshen up, had our last chullha cooked lunch, and headed back home. While we were riding back home on a ferry we saw a beautiful view of Gateway of India, and the Taj hotels.

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