Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kelva beach

To take advantage of the surprise holiday in Feb., decided to take a drive north of Mumbai without any destination in mind. After an hour's drive, around 55 kms from Kandivali on Mumbai-Ahmadabad highway, saw this signpost on the left near Varai village showing "Kelva beach - 32 kms" ! With no specific plans in mind, decided to try this and unexpectedly turned out a good outing.

_MG_9344The road from Varai to Kelva is in good condition barring initial patch of 3-4 kms. This journey off the highway towards Kelva would be more scenic in rainy season due to the trees and farms and ghat-a scenery typical of Konkan. After turning left at Varai on the highway, drove straight towards Kelva village with the help of posts.  On the way, around 18 kms from Varai, passed through the town called Saphale. One can stop here for a tea/snacks or small shopping like water bottle though you can get the same on Kelva beach as well. Before I reached Kelva, passed one creek which offered a nice view of small boats returning from early morning fishing. In Kelva village, took left to reach the seashore.

_MG_9405As this was weekday and reached early morning, there was hardly anyone on the beach. So spent time strolling around the beach. Its not a white sand beach but very clean. Walking along the long long stretch of the beach was very refreshing. Walked northwards till the beach was cut by a small river meeting the Arabian sea. We spent time watching larger boats passing the marine catch to small boats and the small boats returning to their village sailing through the river.

After sometime crowd started gathering though in small scale which included tourists and fishermen. We had a nice ride on Horse-cart and Camel. Parallel to the beach is a small trail through the woods which is worth a walk.
There are couple of eateries very near to the beach which serve snacks / Chinese. So called resorts in Kelva village have restaurants but most of them were closed, may be they open on weekends !. These restaurants prepare meals only on order so plan accordingly or visit the small eateries on the beach for quick food.  
After spending 5 hours, drove back to Mumbai with good memoirs of unplanned outing.

More photos at :

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nuwara Eliya - Little England of Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya, Tea Plantations, Visit Sri Lanka

Next stop on our long tour of Sri Lanka was Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is a small town in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. There are a number of Tea Plantations here. The climate here is much cooler than the rest of Sri Lanka. It was founded by a British explorer and was called Little England in those days. A number of buildings in the town look like those from the colonial period.

We stayed at The Glendower Hotel. Have put up a review of the hotel here.

We visited the Mc Woods tea plantation. Here we were shown around the tea factory and the tea making process was explained to us by "guides". There were a number of "guides" here who were specifically assigned the work of showing the visitors around. At the end of the tour we were given complimentary tea which tasted great in that cool atmosphere.

Nuwara Eliya is famous for another reason. The Seetha-Amman temple. This temple dedicated to Sita is believed to be built at the spot where Sita was held captive by Ravana. We were informed by one of the devotees that the Palace of Ravana lay beyond the mountain. Footprints of Lord Hanuman can be seen by stream.

Another important temple nearby is the Gayathri Peetam temple.This is believed to be built at the spot where Ravana's son Meghanath did penance to please Lord Shiva who granted him with great powers.

Though these 2 temples are of religious importance to Hindus, the local tour operator did not seem to know much about these places and we had to ask around to find these places.

We left Nuwar Eliya and started our journey towards the next destination - Yala National Park. On the way we saw the Ravana Falls. These are supposed to be one of the biggest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Behind the waterfalls is a cave which is believed to the place where Ravana kept Sita hidden. For lack of time in our itinerary we were unable to see these caves. But the feedback we got from some of the travellers that we met, was that it was a very nice place.

More photos below ....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guhagar Beach

Visited Guhagar in the month of August. No other period can be at its best than monsoon to visit Konkan. At around 310 kms from Guhagar, it wont be an ideal location for a weekend outing but 3 to 4 days can be sufficient to explore the magics of Guhagar.
Account for minimum of 7 hours journey including short breaks to reach Guhagar from Mumbai. The journey becomes more scenic once you cross Kashedi ghat. The trench of 41 kms from Chiplun to Guhagar is wonderful driving experience.
We had earlier planned to stay in Modi Villa in Guhagar but dropped it and instead preferred a home stay, Shree Pooja ,  right in front of the beach. There are single bedroom cottages, not great rooms but location was perfect. There is no restaurant attached to it but caretaker prepares food on order if order is placed well in advance.

Guhagar Beach
As Guhagar is a bit far from Mumbai, there are no weekend crowds to disturb the nature and silence.  The beach is a long stretch of white sand with absolute no interuption of garbag/rocks. In my opinion this is the cleanest beach near to Mumbai towards South. Guhagar is as such a small but very beautiful town (another reason for it being quite). There are couple of good veg restaurants on the road near to beach which serve a very delicious snacks/breakfast. Annapurna restaurant on the same road is worth visiting for the seafood lovers.

There are couple of places you can visit from Guhagar.

Hedvi is another small town 20 kms south of Guhagar which has one Ganapati temple (Sri Dasabhuj Lakshmi Ganesh) and adjucent beach. One of the attraction for going to this place is to see the gorge (known as Brahman Ghal) which is fomred by cuts in rocks. During high tide, the water comes out of the gorge like a spring. Check for the tide timings with the locals before visiting this place to enjoy it.

Velneshwar is another beach, around 18kms from Guhagar, on the same road which can be visited enroute. MTDC has a resort on this beach.

View from the lighthouse
The lighthouse and Gopalgad Fort is a must on your itinerary when you visit Guhagar. Drive around13 kms north of Guhagar to reach a small village, Anajanvel. Well placed signboards on the road would help you reach lighthouse which closes by 05.00 pm. With a small fee, you can go to the top of lighthouse. The engineer posted there would accompany you to the top and give brief information about the instrument and the functioning of lighthouse. The view from the top is breathtaking.

Gopalgad..sea facing view
Gopalgad Fort is near to the lighthouse and one can drive to the fort. The seafacing fort on the hill surrounded by lush greenery offers a really stunning view. One can spend hours enjoying the sea downhill and the greenery around. From this place you can view the survived Enron project (now renamed Ratnagiri Power Plant).

IMG_8571From Gopalgad, we drove to Dhopave jetty on the Veldur creek from where you can take a launch to go to Dabhol. If you want you can drive straight onto the launch and cross the creek !
On the return journey, we stopped at the famous Savat sada waterfall on the Mumbai-Goa highway near to Chiplun.

More photos available at :

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kandy - Temple of Tooth Relic

Tooth Relic, Kandy, Visit Sri LankaNext stop on our tour of Sri Lanka was Kandy, the last capital of the kings of Sri Lanka. We were put up at the Swiss Residence. Check the review of the same here.

Kandy is on the UNESCO world heritage sites list. It home to the temple of Tooth Relic which is the most important place for all the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It has been the belief in Sri Lanka, that whoever holds the tooth relic governs Sri Lanka.

First stop in Kandy, though was to the Cultural centre in Kandy for a cultural show which show-  
cased the difference dance forms of Sri Lanka. The 1 hour program culminated with the performance of fire-walkers.

Walking distance from the Cultural Centre is the Temple of Tooth Relic. The entrance to the temple is guarded by armed guards and one needs to go through metal detectors. It seems these measures were put in place after a bombing attack by the LTTE. Dress code is strictly checked and we saw a couple of visitors being stopped for wearing shorts/sleeveless. 

The tooth relic is showcased for the visitors for a period of 5 minutes at around 8:00. Again, the information we got here was that the exact time is shifted forward/backward as a security measure.

Another interest fact regarding Kandy was provided to us by our guide. This was the last capital of the kings of Sri Lanka before being ruled over by the British. The last king of Kandyan kingdom was overthrown through a coup by the aristocrats in  his court. The king was arrested and the aristocrats signed a treaty recognizing the British crown as their new king. The king was held prisoner in Vellor fort along with all the claimants to the throne.

More photos below

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sigiriya - 8th Wonder

Sigiriya, Visit Sri Lanka, UNESCO world heritage site

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and palace which was built by King Kashyap in the 5th century. The complex has beautiful symmetrical gardens, the lion gate and the mirror wall half way to the summit and the remains of the kings palace at the summit. The rock walls of the mountain are sheer on all sides and makes one wonder on how the construction was managed in those time. One would need to spend at least 3-4 hours to see this site. 

The story of King Kashyap who built this complex goes like this. Kashyap deposed his father, the king, through a coup and took control of the kingdom. He went on to kill his father, whom he walled-in alive and denied the claims of his brother who was the rightful heir to the throne. His brother, vowed revenge and fled to southern India to gather an army. King Kashyap, fearing a backlash, shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya. 18 years after the coup, his brother came back with and army and defeated him in battle. Kashyap committed suicide int the battle field. The complex was then handed over to the monks by his brother and the capital was moved back to Anuradhapura.

At the mid level of the mountain it the Lion gate. Huge lion paws carved into stone can still be seen. There was a sculpted lion ahead above the entrance, flanked by the paws. This fell off some time back (though not sure on how far back in history). 

As you go up through the lion gate, you come to the mirror wall. It is said that when this was built, it was polished so well that king could see himself when he walked alongside. Over time the polish deteriorated and the wall was used for graffiti by different people across the ages.

Further up, there are a number of frescoes, depicting women. These have been created in the same style as the Ajanta cave paintings. Though these are not as intricate as the Ajanta paintings, I feel they are better preserved. We were told by our guide that some of the paintings were defaced by the monks as they disturbed their monastic life.

At the top of the summit are the remains of the King's palace. The view from the top is marvelous and you can see miles and miles of green forest around the fortress. One can see the location of the king's throne here as well.

More photos below