Our gang totaled 24 – an equal number of men and women. The initial plan was Harihareshwar-Shrivardhan-Diveagar-Raigad (all on the Konkan coast), but what finally materialized was Mulshi-Shrivardhan-Diveagar. It went like this...
Saturday dawned wet and cloudy. We were surprised as it was drizzling (the seasons are going haywire!) We were supposed to leave at 5 am (which I knew wasn’t happening, but still I stuck to the given time as I was an “outsider”). My doubts were confirmed. For future reference, do remember : No official picnic (or any other, for that matter) takes off on time. IST (Indian Standard Time) runs an hour behind the clock. (Mayura, I know you are punctual, and came in second after us. And thanks Mayank for helping us out!)
We left at around 6.15 and our first stop (unscheduled, but amazing as always) was Paradise café in Mulshi. The short trek to the lake was enjoyable and as it was everyone else’s first time, it was nice showing them around. The toilet zone was THE hot-spot at the venue, as the guys very enthusiastically and calmly unloaded themselves in the woman’s washroom. (Won’t forget that awesome style and gait, Vivek!)
What I also won’t forget is the fabulous insect we saw there. I don’t know the name, but it looked exactly like an autumn leaf. The absolute pinnacle of camouflage! God rocks, man!!
On we journeyed through the mountains and ghats; the tranquil sight of the picturesque lake a feast to our eyes. (Reminded me of the Teesta near Darjeeling – my bestest holiday spot ever!)
As we wound around the Tamhini Ghat, I hit on the perfect setting to do some soul-searching and reflection. (Like I can’t share what I believe to be mine – whether things or people – unless I, myself, give it away. That is why I get possessive and crabby when someone I love gets personal with someone else, or something that I like is handled by another person. Also, when one is new to a community, the easiest people to approach are those in the lower rungs. These simple folks welcome you to their group, and when you find a firm footing and move up the ladder, you tend to overlook these very same members. Don’t ask me why I realized this, but I’m sure you’ll see light at the end of the tunnel if you think about it...)
A frugal breakfast of bread-jam-sauce aboard the bus was as delightful as chhappan-bhog and the eggs were an absolute treat. The drive was anything but smooth (what bumpy roads!), but fun was extreme as the gang sang and cracked jokes on the way to Shrivardhan. Also for future reference, pls keep in mind : Guys are pakka cheaters and can’t play fair. The antakshari was riotous!! (Sharad, this goes out specially for you.)
The driver was unfamiliar with the area, so we had to guide him and watch out for a place to lunch as the clock struck 3. (Not a very tourist-friendly and commercial place, the Konkan area, but that could be a boon in disguise for travelers.) (The way you took off on a localite's bicycle was amusing, Mandar!) But one look at the beach and we all went berserk! Lunch was the last thing on our mind as the guys commenced their game of football and the girls our childhood game of jodi-sakhli. (Notice how typical these gender preferences are?!! It’s in the bones, I tell you.)
After our 5 o clock meal, it was decided that we’d skip Harihareshwar as time was running out. Diveaghar was a short distance away, and searching for a place to put for the night occupied a major part of the evening. (Thanks, Pooja, for the effort!) I managed to visit the Suvarna Mandir (the temple has a golden image of Shree Ganesha) that is famous at Diveagar.
When we reached the location of our night-halt, the first thing the women did was sprawl out on the beds and rest their aching backs! (Didn’t that feel awesome, Afreen, Swarupa, Sneha I., Mugdha, Pankita?) When hunger and exhaustion strike, luxurious demands go out of the window as we find heaven in the simplest forms. The minimally furnished room had a decent attached bathroom (thank heavens for that! But no thanks for the commode that had no flush) and we soon freshened up and set out for the eatery that would serve us dinner only between 8 and 8.30 pm. Our plan to have a campfire on the beach was unsuccessful as the route was dark and inhabitants warned us to stay away from the secluded beach at such a late hour. The walk was pretty fine, though, and so was the chat that took place after several folks had retired for the night. (Thanks for songs on your lappie, Saumik, and also for your entertaining, romantic tale, Ranjit!)
With plans to reach the beach by 7, we went to bed, and needless to say, we all woke up only by that time. (You gave us quite a scare, Deepa, by disappearing in the darkness!) After an adventurous walk through the woods (wasn’t it exciting exploring the path, Sneha K. and Reemo?), we reached the sun-kissed seaside with white sand and not-so-white water. We saw pretty flocks of birds circling the water, and I felt so much at peace. Beaches have always topped my pet preferences. Sitting on the sand, staring at the sea, sipping a coffee or cola, thinking a million thoughts or just gazing placidly – and voila! That’s my idea of a perfect vacation.
My initial hesitation of getting soaked from head to toe evaporated as the entire crew went gung-ho playing dodgeball and other games in the rising tide. It started drizzling, and we had a gala time playing with the waves. The pain is well worth the whale of a time we had!
The hike back to our lodging was tiresome as we ambled along the “hypotenuse” and thorny trails. Lola Kutty never left my mind as the Mallus in the gang prattled about their festivals and customs (Hey Preethy, hope the Marathi crowd at Satyam is conversing with you in English and Hindi!)
Queuing at the bathrooms, we got ready in a reasonable span of time, and set off for the next destination (which none of us was sure about! Raigad was dropped as nobody was too keen.) Lunch happened on the way (Dipak, you looked great when you were posing as a shy lady! And Rewati, that “pop” sound of the Bisleri was crazy!) As the crowd at the back of the bus engaged in Truth-or-Dare (Mahesh, keep your Dostana proposals to yourself!) and fish ponds (good dance, Prashant! And good dedication, Premjit!), me and “Seebee” played a lengthy game of Battleships in the front. (My head is still swirling with the "moon" songs that were coming in from all corners!)
Aiming for a journey of 600kms, we traversed less than 300kms, and so there was a debate of going to Lonavla. Finally, we decided it would be an overkill, and hence, headed back to our asylum – Global Sourcing Group aka GSG near KNP. All dog-tired and yearning to be in bed...
A brilliant excursion and a memorable tour. Thanks, buddies! Won’t forget ya and will talk of this outing for many years to come!
Hip Hip... Hurray!