This is a particularly blessed land. As you go north to Goa, you get the sea on your left and masses of open, rolling country on your right. And to make it all very agreeable, the train runs over innumerable rivers and goes through long tunnels that have the exotic smell of damp red laterite soil; the same smell that greeted me in my grandfather’s house deep in the Keralan country, every morning when the dew was fresh on the ground.
And, now for my 10-second primer on the Konkan railway. The four Konkan coastal states (Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka & Kerala) hold 49% and the Indian Railways hold 51% of the Konkan Railway corporation. About 20 odd scheduled passenger trains run on Konkan railway in addition to a number of cargo trains. It has about 1900 bridges and 91 tunnels. The celebrated Mr Sreedharan, who then went to do a number of Metros in urban India, was the first head of the company. His team got the job done in about 7 years time and if other Indian government projects are anything to go by, this verges on the truly miraculous.
So, I am off again. The idea is to get to Mangalore and work my way up to Goa and then from there to explore the beaches of Sindhudurg in South Maharashtra. It is a non-plan, plan. I have a train ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore. I have a ‘second sitting’ booked from Mangalore to Madgaon. (I think www.IRCTC.co.in is a blazing wonder – I just booked, very effortlessly, a 71 buck ticket for the MAQ – MAO journey and even have a window seat allotted to me; need to see whether seat allotments hold on passenger trains on the Konkan railway). I also have a return ticket to fly back from Goa to Bangalore. Hopefully, serendipity will help me fill the rest.
Sindhudurg is the southernmost district of Maharashtra, just north of Goa. Sindhudurg is supposed to have some of the best beaches in India and Tarkarli beach in particular is mentioned by many as a particularly lovely beach to go to. Tarkarli’s reputation is one of clear waters that allow one to snorkel and scuba dive, which is interesting because to the best of my knowledge there is no other mainland beach in India that is good for watching the world underwater.
Goa does offer Scuba, but even the operators themselves agree that Goa’s murky waters are not the place for it. The best snorkelling & diving in India is in Lakshadweep, where Mitali & Prahlad Kakkar run Lacadives (the other option is to dive with Goa diving in Agatti Island; I have come across some vague rumours of safety here, so do check well before you go) . After that is the Andaman Islands, particularly Havelock Island. I haven’t been there and so do not have first hand experience – but many members of HolidayIQ swear by Havelock which is very reassuring.
Anyway, to come back to Tarkarli beach. I do know that a few years ago, a couple of well known boutique cruise operators (Seabourn, I am almost certain was one of them) had an interesting halt offshore at Tarkarli beach from where they brought guests by boat to the beach and then took them on a cycle tour of the local Konkan region. My impression is that this is not done anymore – certainly not at Tarkarli beach. Not sure why.