Monday, 19 January 2015

Malvan Notes - 1 - The Journey

 
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 We spent more than ten hours playing peekaboo in the Western Ghats as the Mandovi Express snaked it's way through the many tunnels - some small and some taking a good five minutes to see the light of the day. Our final destination was Malvan, about 600 kms from Mumbai on the Konkan coast. Chugging through  the foliage, the dense canopy lay below at times or a hill side hugged us into those tunnels. A lake spread out here and there,  red tiled roofs huddled together or a stream broke the monotony. Each bend was captivating, taking us by pretty little railway stations, serene hamlets and a verdant undulating landscape.

                                                   


   We hopped down at one of those pretty, one-minute-stop railway stations, Kudal, the nearest rail head for Malvan which is around 35 kms away. Since we were a group of nine members, ages ranging from five years to seventy five years and as many pieces of luggage, there was a mad rush not to be left behind chugging away. The homestay we had booked ourselves into had catered for a vehicle to drive us back. Otherwise the mode of transportation for others was autorickshaws as far as I could see. Making our way out of Kudal we were assailed with the fresh aroma of the countryside. It was like the deprived olfactory sense seized on the fragrance of the fresh foliage. We could smell the greens all around us. Add to it the strong presence of blue mist flowers growing wild on the road side. We couldn't stop raving at the allure of the idyllic landscape that dipped and rose till we reached the top of the plateau, not knowing there were more surprises ahead.

   As a child, I was told of how the musk deer ran amok in the forest, maddened by a heady fragrance, not realizing that he was the source of it. While traversing the landscape, my thoughts flew to the musk deer when the first sweet smell  teased us gently in sudden whiffs. This soon became so tantalizing that an obsessive desire took over to identify the source. Has it ever happened to you that a hint of a smell, or a strain of a melody so teases you with it's familiarity, making you unlock every door in your memory in a frenzy, to identify it?  The driver soon put this obsession at rest. It was the good old mangifera indica blossoms from the roadside orchards rising in the gentle inclines of the Ghat. And they were no ordinary mango trees. They were the haloed, much acclaimed and revered  kinds called the alphonso, apoos ( Konkani) or hapoos ( Marathi). The alphonso thrives in the Konkan coast especially in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. The birth of this grafted variety has an interesting story. And to put it concisely, it is the result of an experiment by an inquisitive Portugese who took  mango saplings to Brazil, during one of the many sea adventures, and had it grafted with some native plants there. It came back with the Portuguese admiral Alfonso D' Albuquerque  in the 'alphonso ' avatar and found the perfect  home in the Konkan coast.  Never having seen an alphonso in my entire life, I reveled in the sweet and seductive fragrance of the blossoms.

  Malvan is a taluk in the southern most part of Maharashtra, in the Sindhudurg district on the Konkan coast. The driver had already informed us of the etymology of "Malvan". There are two versions to it. The first refers to the abundance of salt in the region where 'maha' means great and 'lavan' means salt. The second derivative has phonetic  origins of 'mad' ( coconut trees) and 'ban' ( garden),  from the abundance of coconut trees in the region. Goa was just 90 kms away but we were in no mood to entertain the thought of dropping by. The tranquility of Malvan was what we were seeking while the rest of the tourists flocked and filled up every available space in that tiny coastal state. We were told that Malvan and the 6 kms away Tarkarli, were most sought after during the New Year's eve. By the time we had arrived on the second day of the New Year, the crowd had mostly gone back or moved ahead to Goa which suited us perfectly.  

               


      With a smile and a happy anticipation of what lay ahead, brought on by the sights and the smells,  we sloped down into Malvan well after dark.The roads wriggled through the many grocery stores, kiosks selling kokum and cashew, little restaurants boasting of the best Malvani cuisine along with the Chinese food. Going down through one such lane and having driven by  the gates of the Malvani homes, the sound of the waves gently crashing on the shores welcomed us to our little cottage by the Malvan beach. With tired and hungry kids, we decided not to rush down to greet the Arabian Sea that very moment and instead let the sound of the waves lull us to sleep after a thorough wash and a hearty  dinner of the local cuisine. Vishal, the caretaker, had his mother cook the most delicious prawn curry, rice, fish fry, and some more fried prawns, the taste of which had us asking for more. Although the place that we rented was termed a 'homestay', it was actually an independent traditional cottage with three bedroom set ups in a fishing village. Vishal's home, from where all that scrumptious  food came, was three houses away. His neighbours chipped in for the hospitality role.  I was already in love with this place! Such warmth and  such food!

     It is always better to place your order for the next meal much in advance since it is a small place and not much commercialized.The hosts prefer to serve food with fresh catch of the day or the vegetables available in the market since they don't stock up. And so, after much confusion, exasperation and sulks, the breakfast menu for the next day, took shape rather shakily. The city bred brats that we were towing along, wanted bread and butter, noodles and the likes! We finally put our foot down  extolling the  wisdom (with a harmless twist)  behind the adage, " when in Rome eat as the Romans do" and agreed to Vishal's suggestion for the local 'ghawane chutney', 'roti sabzi' ( as a safety measure) and solkadi.

  We finally called it a day, promising the children an entire day at the beach.


Read the second part Malvan Notes 2 - A Beach Walk.

 

    

10 comments:


  1. Seems like an idyllic place to holiday in

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  2. You hit upon a perfect place to holiday in.

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  3. its a great place to be. waiting for beach n fort photos

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  4. Suresh, it's a lovely relaxed place! Do give it a try sometime.

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  5. Indu, it was the perfect place since we wanted to avoid the hordes of tourists!

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  6. Your words left me in no doubt about the proceedings of the amazing trip. I have also yearned about similar escapades but have to make myself content with the excellent memoirs of my friends.

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  7. Sounds like an amazing place...well-written!

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  8. Nice to know about a quiet and peaceful seaside settlement. I'm off to the next post for more

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Your words keep me going :)