Planning for this trip was going on since last two months and the date was decided a month earlier. Initially the plan was to cover these forts and nearby spots in 3 days but due to unavailability of some group members for 3 days, it was cut down to 2 days. Finally, 9 members of our core group started from Mumbai on Friday Night 2nd Oct 2015 at around 10 PM from Kamothe, Panvel. We had 2 Maruti Wagon R's for the considerably lengthy road trip, thanks to two of our group members Mahesh Gavasane and Sarvesh Tawade for making their car available for the trip.
Our plan was to cover all sea forts between Guhagar and Rajapur in Ratnagiri. For that we planned to drive whole night and reach Rajapur first, then come backwards to Guhagar. Before starting the trip we had marked the forts and studied the route well. In chronological order, we were suppose to cover Yashwantgad, Ambolgad, Purnagad, Ratnadurg, Jaigad, Vijaygad and Gopalgad. Apart from these our plan was to cover Kanakaditya Temple at Kasheli (between Ambolgad and Purnagad) and Karhateshwar Temple, Jaigad
As it was night drive, we took necessary precautions like stopping at every 80-90 kms and give few minutes rest to the drivers. After leaving from Kamothe, Panvel, we took the Mumbai Pune Expressway to Khalapur toll naka, immediately after toll naka we took Khopoli exit and brought our cars on Khopoli Pali Road. After crossing Pali, we took our first halt at Vakan Naka, where you join the risky Mumbai-Goa Highway recently named as NH66. The reason why I call risky is it doesn't have dividers, at night time when a hug trailer or a bus comes from opposite side with powerful headlights, your vision is blackened for few seconds and you can't see anything. At that moment, your ability to gauge the width of your car and the road width should be sound, or it would be fatal. But the advantages of night driving are that there are less vehicles on the road, on sharp turns you know some vehicle is coming from opposite side due to the lights. You need to be 110% alert while driving on Mum Goa Highway at Night, all your senses work at their best. After Vakan, we stopped at Poladpur, then chiplun and then Hatkhamba, before reaching Rajapur at morning 6:45 AM. We completed our morning chores at Rajapur Bus Stand (thanks to ST mahamandal) and had breakfast of Chai and Pohe at a small restaurant nearby.
It was 7:45 AM, we started to Yashwantgad which is 30 kms from Rajapur, for reaching Yashwantgad you need to keep asking for Nate Village, Tip: While leaving Rajapur for saving some distance, you need to go through the Rajapur village and Dhopeshwar Ghati. We reached Nate village in 40 mins and just after the nate village there is board "Yashwantgad on left hand side of the road showing left arrow. The fort is in dilapidated condition, no maintenance done by authorities, although there is a board outside the fort stating its "Maharashtra Tourism Site". Immediately, right to the entrance walking 20-30 metres there is a deep well. After going inside the fort you can find fortifications, rock steps to the edge of the fort, you can walk along the edge with sea at the background. In the middle of the fort you can find small structures which may be used as house or storage purpose. As the rainy season just ended, there was thick jungle full of thorns in the fort which was making our exploration difficult.
We returned after exploring almost 3/4 th of the fort. After returning to the vehicles, we asked for directions towards Ambolgad and keeping 6 kms behind we were at Ambolgad. Ambolgad is near a beach and a temple is there at the base. Leaving vehicles near the temple and short walk upwards takes you near the board "Kille Ambolgad". Climbing on few steps you reach to a huge open area in middle of the fort, where there are big banyan trees spreading its canopy all over the open area. Under the banyan tree, you can find a small canyon and water tub like stone structures. The fort walls are in dilapidated condition, we couldn't find any single wall standing. There is not much to see on the fort and you can explore this fort in just 10 minutes.
After Ambolgad, our next target was Purnagad which is 35 kms north of Ambolgad. From Ambolgad, you need to come again to Nate village and ask for road to Purnagad, any local villager will direct you correctly. Between Ambolgad and Purnagad, we had planned to cover Kanakaditya (Sun) Temple but before that we stopped at Adivare's Mahakali Temple as it was family diety of two of our group members. Mahakali Temple is a beautiful wooden temple, before going inside you should take out water from the nearby well and wash legs. As photography was not allowed inside, we could only get the temple's pic from outside.
After taking darshan of Mahakali, we stopped at Kanakaditya (Sun) Temple, Kasheli. For going to this temple, after Adivare you need to go little off main road, around 6-7 kms towards west. Renovations works were going on in the temple, so we couldn't see the temple in it's full glory. Again, photography was not allowed so we could only take pics from outside. History of this temple dates back 800 years, where a fisherman was travelling in a boat from Veraval in Gujarat to south India and was having a idol of God Aditya (Sun), after coming to Kasheli, the boat stopped and was not moving further. Therefore the fisherman kept the idol in Kasheli village and then continued his journey towards south. A great devotee of Lord Sun was residing in Kasheli called 'Kanaka', who later built a beautiful temples besides the idol, this is how the temple is called 'Kanakaditya'. There are very few sun temples in India, Kanakaditya is one of them, a must visit place in this range.
Kanakaditya Temple, Kasheli, Ratnagiri
Just after leaving the temple, 2 kms away, you need to take left and after 2-3 kms you come on the main road towards Purnagad. Talking about Purnagad, I still have the images of that beautiful fort in front of my eyes. With sea washing the feet of this fort, it is one of the scenic sea fort in this range. We took our cars till the temple and parked it as further road was stony and uneven. As it was lunch time, we took home made food which we carried with us to the fort. After walking 10 mins from the temple, you come to the entrance of the fort. On the left hand side to the entrance there is a small hanuman temple, which is acting like a protector of the fort. As you come inside, there is huge open area in the between with fortifications on all side. The fortifications are in good condition as compared to Yashwantgad and Ambolgad. At proper distances, there are steps to climb to the edge of fort. You can walk on the fort wall, just you need to be little careful while walking on the sea side or one wrong step can make you fall into raging sea. We had a hearty lunch on of the fort tower with sea gulls and eagles hovering over us. Weather was too good for photography and the fort was looking beautiful as the time was passing. We would have love to spend more time, but it was time to say good bye to Purnagad and move further to our next destination Ratnadurg Fort.
After Purnagad, we took directions for Ratnagiri city and decided to visit Thibaw Palace before going to Ratnadurg Fort. Purnagad to Ratnagiri is 25 kms and a very scenic road. After entering Ratnagiri, you come to a chowk where left turn takes you to Ratnadurg and right to Thibaw Palace. We visited the Musuem at Thibaw palace, which has lot of stone and metal artifacts, also there is a room where King Thibaw use to stay. The ticket charges to this museum are Rs. 3 per person.
We reached Ratnadurg around 4 pm and cloud cover had opened making it way for the scorching sun. Ratnadurg Fort is 4 kms from Ratnagiri city and contains two forts Ratnadurg and Bhagwati in a single fortification wall. Of all forts in this range, Ratnadurg is the most neatly maintained fort, but during renovation, the contractor has failed to keep its natural look and it looks very artificial, also less ancient. Vehicles go directly to the fort entrance and after entering the fort you can see Bhagwati Mandir on right side. You can take a walk on the wall of the fort, every tower on the fort is named as 'Markya Buruj', "Telkya Buruj' and many such funny names. View of the sea from Ratnadurg fort is amazing with waves crashing on the rocks ferociously and going back silently. There is a small Shivaji Maharaj statue on the fort sitting with royal style and pride. As you can see from top of ratnadurg, the actual fortification is spread in huge area, so the main fortified area consists of two forts Ratnadurg and Bhagwati. Also you can see a beautiful light house at one end of the wall.
After spending a good time watching sea at Ratnadurg, we started for GanpatiPule which is 25 kms away. We spent a great evening at GanpatiPule beach with great photos as sky turned golden after sunset. After sunset we took darshan with aarti, then we had mahaprasad sponsored by one of the devotee. Around 8 pm we bid goodbye to Ganpatipule and moved to our night stay which was 2 kms away in Malgund
We stayed at night at one of typical Konkani house in Malgund, all members retired early as we hadn't slept last night due to long drive. Next day 4th Oct, after completing morning chores, all members were ready by 7:30 AM. Our first target for the day was Jaigad Fort which was 17 kms away from Malgund. 30 mins drive besides sea took us to Jaigad Fort, you can take your car directly near the fort entrance. We skipped Karhateshwar Temple as we were short of time. With the efforts of local people, Jaigad fort has remain in somewhat good condition. Besides the entrance there are two big trenches, as you enter the fort you can see its strong walls. There is a ganpati mandir, storage structure, horse stable, sabha mandap and ammunition store on the fort. There is a chor darwaza to the north, which directly takes you to the sea. Besides the main entrance there is one more entrance to the right which takes you to the nearby village. Overall, Jaigad has all characters of a sea fort and during old days would be strongly protecting and monitoring the nearby areas.
After Jaigad Fort, we moved to the other side of the sea by getting into Jaigad Tavsal Jetty. As Vijaygad Fort is on other side of the creek and there is no bridge, Suvarnadurg Marine Services run big boats which can take upto 12 four wheelers on it and take them to the other side i.e. Tavsal. Per vehicle with driver is 140 Rs and apart from that per person is 20 Rs for Jaigad Tavsal jetty. The service is continuous from 7 am morning to 10 pm evening
Crossing the creek, we reached Tavsal and immediately after 1-2 kms uphill we reached a board which said "Vijaygad Fort" but it was hardly looking like fort. For 5-10 mins we were wondering how and from where to get inside the fort. Although from local villagers we had heard that there was nothing on Vijaygad but we still wanted to explore. We were not able to find a proper entrance to the fort, some villagers passing by told us to come in summer when there is no jungle on the fort, you will be able to explore better. One of them told that there is a cannon at the sea end of the fort, but in current conditions we couldn't go further as the fort was wholly covered by jungle.
Keeping the mysterious Vijaygad behind we moved fast in direction of Guhagar which is 45 kms away. Gopalgad fort in Anjanwel, Guhagar was our next target. Finding route is not a problem as there are enough direction boards on the road. Around 12:30 PM we reached Gopalgad, where you can directly take the vehicle near the fort entrance. To our surprise we found a big metal gate at the entrance of the fort and the caretaker of the fort was just leaving for lunch. With little persuasion, we convinced him to remain for 15-20 mins until we explore the fort. Coming inside we found that the fort is a personal property and has a Mango Farm inside, still the owner of the property is big hearted enough to allow tourists to sea the fort. But then also I found it very strange that why government doesn't take over the fort as national property and is OK with the historical fort being a private property. Nonetheless we started exploring the fort and the caretaker also accompanied us. There are watch towers at each corner of the fort, in the middle there is a well and a square structure. After you enter the fort, towards right there is a huge public bath like structure. You can easily walk on the wall of the fort, from where you see the Dabhol port on other side of the creek and the infamous Enron power plant on other. There was a mention of Parsi ShilaLekh on the fort, but we weren't able to find it due to lot of grass and shrubs. You can also see 2 more door entrance towards the sea side.
Our trip ended at Gopalgad and it was time to drive back to Mumbai. Instead of going to Chiplun, we decided to again take a jetty boat from Dhopave - Dabhol and move to Mumbai via Dapoli. Dhopave Dabhol Jetty charges you 120 Rs per vehicle with driver and 10 Rs per person.
We reached Dapoli around 3 PM and had a good non veg lunch in Kisan Bhavan, Dapoli, driving in heavy rains reached Kamothe, Panvel at around 10 o clock night. This is how our beautiful trip ended with great memories.