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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

A Long Weekend at Alibag - Part 1- Getting There, Settling In...........

Trains, buses, planes and cars – we have traveled by all of them often enough for Samhith to be comfortable with all these modes of transport. Water transport so far had been restricted to short boat rides in rivers and lakes, and we have been yearning to travel by a boat or ship for a long time. The best option for sea travel is of course a cruise, but unfortunately, that is one mode of travel that is currently out of my budget, and I had better not think about that. Our choice therefore was narrowed down to one – a catamaran ride to Alibag from the Gateway of India. We had been planning this trip for more than a year, and finally, the dream came true last weekend, which was long one on account of the Gudi Padwa or Ugadi holiday on Friday.

From Alibag
All Set for the ride.....

Alibag is a 45 minute ride by catamaran from the Gateway, and there are 3 operators to choose from – PNP, Maldar and Ajanta. PNP is the most expensive, offering the AC lower deck and the Non-AC Upper Deck for the same price of Rs.110/-. Maldar offers more choices – Non AC lower deck for Rs.70/-, Non-AC upper deck for Rs.90/- and AC upper Deck for Rs.100/-. Ajanta is the cheapest, offering both lower and upper decks (non-AC) for Rs.55/-. Since this was our first venture into the sea, we decided to spend a little more money and try out the options by going by PNP and choosing the upper deck for the journey to Alibag and the AC lower deck for the return journey. We found the upper deck the most enjoyable, and in fact, on the return journey, the enclosed AC lower deck actually made me quite queasy. Of course, the afternoon sun does make the upper deck a much warmer option, but the wind in your hair and face makes you forget the heat and enjoy yourself! You can find detailed timings and fares of the catamarans and bus timings here.

The Catamarans........

From Alibag
Maldar........ and

From Alibag
Samhith was fascinated by the various ships we saw anchored off the coast, and kept asking us about them. For the first time, he learnt the difference between yachts and sail boats, ships and ferries, boats and catamarans. It was quite a learning experience. We also saw a lot of seagulls flying overhead, swooping down to catch a fish. What really made our day was the sight of a pair of dolphins frolicking in the water. They were gone in seconds, but it was long enough for the sight to be etched in our memory, if not in my camera!

From Alibag
A Sailboat

We alighted at Mandwa and boarded the connecting bus (provided free by the operators for their passengers), and were dropped at our home-stay, which was on the main road itself.

From Alibag
Shree Holiday Resort

Alibag, being a popular weekend destination, has a number of hotels and resorts to choose from. We had been apprehensive of finding a good place to stay, the long weekend certain to attract hordes of tourists to Mini- Goa, as Alibag is called. As far as possible, we try to avoid hotels, and prefer resorts and home stays, and here, we had plenty of options, but few choices, thanks to the rush. The Maharashtra tourism website has a complete list of bed and breakfasts and home stays at Alibag, but the first few we called, turned out to be booked. Finally, I found a website My Great Stay, through a fellow blogger, where I got lucky and found accommodation at Shree Holiday Resort, a home stay with the Raut family.

From Alibag
The Rauts' Ancestral Home
The Raut family’s ancestral home is right on the main road from Mandwa to Alibag, just after the village of Choondi. Till recently employed in Bombay, they have now shifted to their hometown and have built a new section to their home, so that they can invite people for a home stay.

From Alibag

“Home – stay” is a word that expresses our stay at Shree Resort perfectly. It was just like home. Within a few minutes of arrival, Samhith decided that he liked them, and disappeared into their home to talk to them and their 15 year old son. For the rest of the two days, he spent most of the time in their house, except when we went to the beach or sightseeing!

From Alibag

As to us, we spent the two days lazing around in their garden – not too big, but certainly big enough for us – going into the room just to sleep at night! There were 3 hammocks, which were at once captured by Shankar, me and my mother-in-law, while my father-in-law took over the sofa placed on the verandah. As to Samhith, he just loved the small swing-cum-hammock as well as two swings put up in the garden. There are also other arrangements for games such as cricket, a dartboard, a carrom board, Frisbees and also a scooter (the play scooter, which you ride with one leg on it and the other on the ground). The two days we spent there, we did not use the electricity except for the lights in the evening (that too, only the light outside the room) and the fan at night! The weather was pleasant, and in the outdoors, one realizes that electricity is something that can be dispensed with! It was a fitting that Saturday was Earth Day and we did our bit for the conservation of our resources by minimal usage of electricity. I may add that we kept the lights off during Earth-Hour!

From Alibag

Mrs. Raut kept us sated with the wonderful food she prepared – mostly simple but tasty food, typical Maharashtrian cuisine…. The food was the final topping for the home-like atmosphere, which we enjoyed thoroughly.

From Alibag
Samhith with the Raut family

The fact that the house was right on the main road came with its advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, being on the road, it was easy for us to get to the place by the Catamaran bus, which dropped us and picked us up right outside the house. Secondly, it was extremely easy to get autos to go around Alibag, as the nearest village, Choondi was just a couple of minutes walk, and there was an auto stand there. Share autos (8-seaters) were available from the gate itself. On the negative side, the road being the main connection to the ports of Mandwa and Revas, apart from being the connection to the Kihim Beach, there was a continuous flow of traffic along the road, which led to quite a bit of disturbance, especially since we stayed out in the garden most of the time.
We spent two whole days there before getting back to our routine life on Sunday afternoon, by the catamaran again. While I put together an article on the places we visited, you can take a look at some photographs that I clicked.


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