Friday, 13 March 2015

Mango Picking & Tasting in Ratnagiri

How Mango-Mad Are You? 

by Shruti Karkhedkar

Ratnagiri - A land of virgin beaches, cozy and welcoming home-stays, delicious sea food and yes a land of well known Ratnagiri Alphonso (Hapus) Mangoes. Having said that, it is a given that one would click on the ‘Going’ button immediately when a ‘Mango Tasting Tour to Ratnagiri’ is announced. The three day trip from the 16 to 18 May 2014 was organized by The Western Routes, a Pune-based travel company to Ganeshgule, a small village in the Ratnagiri district.

Freshly cut Hapus Mangoes | Photo: Medha Sahasrabudhe

Day 1

We started at 6 am from Pune all packed for a long weekend by the beach. The journey was rather enjoyable and very scenic, particularly after Karad city from where we left the NH-4 and took the smaller village roads. The recent sporadic drizzle had started painting the forests of the Western Ghats with different hues of green which contrasted with the bright blue summer skies and called for a snapshot by every twist and turn round the Ghats. The six hour drive had increased our craving for the much awaited mango meal by a zillion times. 

When we reached the home-stay, were welcomed by Mithil Pitre our host at Ganeshgule. Mithil welcomed us with glasses of cold Panha; a sweet and refreshing drink made with raw mangoes. Mithil runs a home-stay by the beach at Ganeshgule called 'Oceano Pearl’. Our welcome was followed by a wholesome mango meal with unlimited Aamras (fresh mango pulp), plates full of freshly cut mangoes and the regular Maharashtrian thali delicacies – sol kadhi, bhakri, amti and koshimbir.

After lunch and some rest, we visited the Ganeshgule Ganpati temple. The Ganeshgule temple is about 400 years old and is one of the few south-facing temples in India. One of the villagers at the temple narrated a folklore of Lord Ganesha shifting to Ganpatipule from Ganeshgule after the water stopped surging from his navel! 

Once back at the home-stay the next inevitable thing to do was to head to the beach which is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from the home-stay. The Ganeshgule beach is not known to many and hence the feeling of solace adds to the beauty of this white sand beach. We spent rest of the evening taking photographs of the sunset, swimming in the sea and walking by the sea shore. The thoughts of more mangoes awaiting us at the dinner table lured us back to the home-stay.

Ganeshgule Beach | Photo: Raphael Baumann
Ganeshgule Beach | Photo: Jayesh Paranjape
Ganeshgule Beach | Photo: Shruti Karkhedkar

Time-lapse video of the sunset at Ganeshgule beach by Raphael Baumann

Day 2

We started the day with a sabudana khichadi breakfast. Sightseeing was the agenda for the day and Aare-Ware beach our first pit-stop. The Aare and Ware beaches lie next to one another and are separated by a hill. We stopped at a turning on this hill to admire the scenic horizon over the two beaches. Some strategically located shacks served us kokum sarbat, tender coconut water and bhel with loads of kairee (raw mango) pieces.

We then headed to the Ganpatipule temple which is one the most visited and most revered temples in Maharashtra. Needless to say hoards of worshippers awaited their turn to be blessed by the deity. We decided to skip this and take a few clicks of the temple instead. Although constructed recently this red and white structure is aesthetically very appealing unlike many of the modern temple structures.

Ganpatipule Temple | Photo: Raphael Baumann

Ganpatipule Temple | Photo: Raphael Baumann
A trip to Konkan is incomplete without sea-food. On recommendation by a lot of people we had our lunch at Hotel Amantran in Ratnagiri. The lunch was perfect with its crunchy prawn tawa fry, perfectly cooked pomfret fry and a mouth watering surmai. We ended the meal with a rather generous helping of amrakhand (Srikhand with mango pulp). Visit to the Thibaw Palace came next. The palace was used for keeping Thibaw Min, the last king of Burma (now Myanmar) under house arrest.  The palace is now used as museum and a number of artifacts excavated from the Konkan region are on display here.

Surmai Fry Thali
Thibaw Palace | Photo: Raphael Baumann

Our next destination was Purnagad Fort which is said to be the last fort constructed by Shivaji Maharaj, hence the name Purna (Stop) Gad (Fort). At the foot of the Purnagad fort is a rocky sea side and there wasn’t a better way of calling it a day than by sitting on the rocks and getting wet by the splashing sea waves.

Purnagad Fort | Photo: Vidyuth Singh
Purnagad Beach | Photo: Raphael Baumann
Purnagad Beach | Photo: Raphael Baumann

Day 3

The day started with a session of making sand castles by the beach followed by a breakfast of ambolis (pancakes made from rice flour) with coconut chutney. We followed this with a fun session of mango picking at a nearby orchard in Ganeshgule. We got to select ready-to-pick mangoes and then use an ingenious and traditional technique to pick the mangoes.

Mango Picking at Ganeshgule | Photo: Raphael Baumann

Finally with a heavy heart we said bye to our hosts. But we made sure that we bought loads of ‘food’ souvenirs. The perfect spot to do this was at the Deshmukh household in Pawas village who have a small unit where mango and jackfruit pulp is canned. They also sell high quality Alphonso mangoes which are exported across the globe. The advantage of buying Alphonso mangoes directly at the source is that they are almost three times cheaper than in Pune or Mumbai.

We bought mangoes enough to last us this season and with alphonso sweet memories headed back home! 

More details about the Mango Picking & Tasting Tour for 2015 is on their Facebook page  or on the event page here

This travel story first appeared in the Mumbai edition of Mid-Day in May 2014. Read the full story here

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