Sunday, August 12, 2012

Konkan Yatra - Day 4 (Ratnagiri, Ratnadurga - The Horse Shoe shaped Fort

Konkan Tourism
Other weekend getaways

17th July 2012
Day 4 (Ratnagiri, Ratnadurga, Fish Aquarium)


Rajapur Road Station
          It was time to leave Rajapur. Bidding adieu to Balus parents and village; like stuffed chicken, we 6 sat in 1 small rickshaw plus the driver and heaving the climbs and slopes, the twists and turns on the road to the Rajapur station since we could not find another rickshaw. We were going to Ratnagiri, our next destination by train the Diva Madgaon train at 10:30 am. Konkan railways has a single line, hence two trains cannot go to and fro at the same time. This occasionally causes delays and results in less frequency of trains. At the station, we saw a goods train carrying trucks which is a common sight here since it is a cheaper option for the trucks than to spend on diesel.

Paddy fields outside the station

Goods train carrying trucks
Rajapur station
          It took us hardly 1 hour to reach Ratnagiri and en-route we freaked on typical Maharashtrian snacks - Amboli, something similar to appams, ghavna, Malvani bhel, salted cucumbers etc. etc. in the train. As we reached Ratnagiri station, it started raining like a forgotten open tap from the skies above and all this time Nagesh kept repeating cot system, cot system for accomodation. We knew that most of the accomodations were near the ST bus depot so we took a bus to it and reached it in another 20 - 25 mins. We passed the road to the Thibaw palace (on our itinerary) on the way. The rain followed us wherever we went. So we stationed ourselves at the ST bus depot and went looking for lodging. There are many lodges near the bus depot and accomodation can be easily found. You can also find accomodation in a dormitory for as cheap as INR 100. The bus depot can be treated as the central hub of Ratnagiri city since most of the tourist destinations are also relatively close to it. Also buses go to almost all the nearby and faraway places from here. We booked a room in a hotel called Mangala near to the depot for INR 800 - a decent bargain for 6 people and an okay room though it was leaking in many places. Hot water could be ordered in the morning he said and extra bed would be arranged. You won't get great service in any of the lodges here as it is the general attitude that people are doing a big favour on you.
          We freshened up, had lunch in the restaurant of the lodge itself and ventured out. It was still raining heavily. We enquired for the bus to Ratnadurg/Peth killa/ but would get one only at 4 pm so we took 2 ricks at INR 60 each to the Peth killa. The Ratnadurga fort is 4 kms from the bus depot. There is a fish aquarium en route. We reached the Peth Killa in no time

Ratnadurga/Peth Killa/Bhagvati Temple

Bhagvati temple on Ratnadurg


Kanhoji Angre

The other part of Peth Killa from the Balle Killa

The sea
          The scenery surrounding the Ratnadurga fort is astounding. It is a horse shoe shaped fort and a very long one. It is surrounded by sea on most of the sides. One can view the nearby port and watching the sun set from here would be a very satisfying and sublime experience. It also houses the light house on the longer side. We went to the Balle Killa which in itself seems to be a big enough fort. There is a Hanuman idol at the entrance and as you enter the Balle Killa, a beautiful and big Bhagvati Temple awaits you. Near the Hanuman idol is a board of instructions which had amongst one of its instructions 'Couples should not do unwanted and indecent activities in the fort premises' - as we roamed the fort, we knew why! The fluttering insouciant orange flag in the strong winds was a delight to see. Outside the temple is an idol of Kanhoji Angre, one of the most feared sea-men of the Konkan region. He was a terror for invaders on the sea and an able Admiral of the Navy, hence also called Sarkhel Angre or Darya Saranga. Kanhoji Angre was born in Harnai in the Ratnagiri district and later he created the township of Alibaug which is a famous tourist destination now. Kanhoji Angre has a very detailed and brave history. (Read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanhoji_Angre).
          Ratnadurga is a must visit destination if you are in Ratnagiri. We waddled the perimeter of the straddling fort in the impeding rains and savoured the view of the sea nad the horizon. A carpet of green grass swayed with the wind inside the fort. We were confused if this was the Ratnadurga fort in it's entirety or was it the long stretch of another fort that we could see from here since the two were seperated by quite a distance. Later we understood that both the forts were not two but one long fort and fitted perfectly the description of a horse-shoe. Since the roads were built later, it is difficult to comprehend. We got down from the Balle Killa and walked towards the longer stretch of the fort. As we were walking the bordered walls, we saw a huge giant turtle being washed ashore and banged on the rocks. It was already dead. It was a huge one!! We climbed to the summit of part II of the fort. Though a steep climb, we reached it in about 15 mins. It again started pouring very heavily and we were completely drenched, hence voted against roaming the entire fort which would easily have taken 2-3 hours. There is a light house in this part of the fort. From here, one can see naturally formed caves by the waves of the sea and they look like caves big enough to harbour mid sized boats. Also from the Balle Killa one can view spots from where the enemy was pushed from the mountains as punishment. The rains wouldn't allow us to see it, so we descended. There is a small playground built here, don't know why? The fort divides the sea into what is called the white and black sea or beaches.
History of the fort:
          This fort was constructed during the rule of Bahamanee. After that it was captured by Adilshah and from Adilshah Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (founder of Maratha Empire in India) took the charge of the fort in the year 1670. Ch. Sambhaji raje (sun of Ch. Shivaji Maharaj) stayed at this fort in the year 1680. In subsequent time this fort was controlled by Karawir Chatrapati. Then the fort was hand over to Aangre family. During the war between the Aangre and Peshva, Peshva won this fort with the help of britishers in the year 1753. But unfortunately in the year 1818, the fort was captured by the Britishers. (Source: http://www.ratnagiriinfo.com/tourism/ratnadurga.html)

A carpet of green

Ratnadurg

Free!!
          We decided to walk down to the Aquarium and then to our hotel. Anyways, didn't see any transportation around. The walk was pleasant but roaming the village didn't give much of a coastal village experience. As you leave the fort behind and walk towards the city, you come across many fisheries. You need to take a right after having walked for about 2 kms to visit the Aqarium or Matsalay as it is called. As you enter the Aquarium, you feel agitated by the sorry state of affairs. The building is in a dilapidated condition leaking all over. As we entered, there was no one to collect tickets or to show around as we waited for more than 10 minutes and then started raoming inside. There is a huge blue whale skeleton and this is one of the highlights of this aquarium but the whale must have died many times over as each unscrupulous stupid Raja, Rani, Pinky, Shinky, Aslam, Rubina and hundreds of others had etched their names on the skeleton. Guys and gals grow up! This is national property. It's pathetic to see it being spoiled in such a manner. We went ahead and saw the rest of the aquarium with sea horse, turtles, sting rays and some interesting big fishes. There is a huge boat outside the aquarium which is one of the first boats to have traversed the Konkan coast and has the best of machineries as engine.
          As we walked back to the hotel, it was raining elephants and hippos. the roads were flooded and we were drenched to our innerwear. Staggering, on reaching the hotel, the first thing we ordered was tea and bhajiyas. After another round of Mendicot and watching TV, when we ventured out for dinner, it was another sorry state of affairs. Most of the restaurants didn't have proper dinner and we had to move on and where we had dinner, the food was pathetic and maybe the previous days. You will hardly get any options in the menu even though there is a menu card. Don't even think of ordering Chinese or other things, stick to the basics. Here again we tried ordering for sol kadi with no for an answer.
          We missed seeing the Thibaw palace nad the Thibaw point and Lokmanya Tilak Smarak due to time and rain constraints. The Thibaw Palace held the King of Burma in exhile by the Britishers and the king died looking at the sea in solitude away from his people. 'The Glass Palace', a book my Amitav Ghosh, on of my favourite writers has his story based on this exhile.

A newly hatched chicken at Balus house


Balancing act at Rajapur station

Rajapur station

Outside Rajapur station



Scenic beauty outside Rajapur station
At Rajapur station

Which way?

Symbol of victory

Port view from Ratnadurg
Cloudy sky and the sea from Ratnadurg

Swaying to the songs of the wind

In thought!!
View of the rest of the fort from the Balle Killa
 
Crash, Boom, Bang!!




One end of the Balle Killa...there is a cave below, though not visible in this pic


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