The plan was to take a two day break and visit an empty beach because my friend, Deepa, loves beaches. We chose Srivardhan, a little town located between Harihareshwar and Diveagar, all along the same stretch of the Konkan coast.
We headed there early morning, in a rickety state transport bus. Three long hours later, during which time we decided we would need more than an overnight stay, we were there. At an empty bus stand. Diveagar was a 16-km tam tam (a bigger autorickshaw) ride away, through roads that snaked around mountains, cutting through tiny villages and then open expanse of sea.
Diveagar begins from the gram panchayat junction. Our host for the night was the Joshi family, who had converted their ample courtyard into rooms-to-let. The Joshi’s house had a huge mud courtyard sparsely furnished with a jhula, a table and two dogs. The rooms were separate from the main house and had attached baths. The place was close to the beach and the only other attraction there, the Ganesh temple.
We dropped our bags and immediately set out for the beach. The path to the beach was interesting – sprawling mansions, guest houses, and banana and coconut plantations on either side creating a leafy canopy above our heads. The farm was blocked from the road but there were a few holes through which we could scurry in and wander about, soaking in the neatly spaced trees, the irrigation system and the sudden colour from flowers. The entrance to the beach was scary. It looked like someone had set the trees on fire, and with their burn out spindly branches, they looked like burned out corpses.
The beach, however, was empty barring certain spots which were filled with horses, camels, dogs, coconut vendors and small motorised cars, the rest was empty. The lack of people proved to be a blessing. We could roam around undisturbed. It was low tide when we reached; the water was cool and the waves gently lapped around our ankles. We sat and watched the sun go down, scaring away little crabs that had covered the beach with millions of holes.
By 7 pm, remembering our hostess’ warning to be back early, we headed back. The roads were empty and we could hear were crickets and stray dogs howling. If this was a movie, this would’ve been the time when something terrible would happen. In reality, we were more afraid of being stopped and questioned for being out ‘late’ and not finding any place open for dinner!
It took us a couple of inquiries at the gates of a couple of places before we found a home stay willing to feed us. The food was delicious in a way that all home-cooked food is, made with generous helpings of coconut and kokum and simple spices. My Tam Bram friend was pleased to find a vegetarian thali on offer – beans in gravy, potatoes and capsicum sabji, dal, fluffy rotis and white rice.My pomfret thali was better – the fish was lightly spiced with chilli and haldi, had crispy edges and was extremely soft. The thali also had a bangda (mackeral) curry, orange and made with coconut, it brought back memories of similar curries eaten in Goa.Our breakfast the next morning was equally delicious- soft and yellow poha, dusted with ground coconut and coriander for that extra texture and flavour.
Contrary to what villagers, and many blogs told us, there was enough to see in Diveagar. The next morning, we visited the local temple dedicated to Suvarna Ganesha was the main attraction. The main area had a reception counter that sold framed photos, offerings and other memorabilia of the temple. The outside section had a seating area and walls covered with photographs of donors and newspaper clippings. The story goes that in 1997, a woman from the village found a copper trunk containing the gold Ganesha mask and a few ornaments, while working in a coconut and betel nut garden. Later the ‘idol’ was deified and instated in the temple.
We got a good glimpse of village life and the countryside – fisherwomen arranging fish out to dry, small houses with cow dung courtyards on which clothes and red chillies were left to dry, open fields dotted with haystacks and an endless stretch of beaches.
There are direct buses to Srivardhan (6-7 hours) and to Mangaon (also accessible by train). Mangaon has regular buses to Srivardhan. From there, you take a shared tam tam to Diveagar (Rs20).
- The bus ride takes about five hours so head out early in the morning.
- Most home stays don’t serve food too late so carry along snacks for those midnight cravings.