Kingfisher in Kihim

It has been more than a year since I purchased the Mumbai Outlook Weekend Getaway book from a roadside vendor in Colaba and its a real shame I did not put it to good use. Recently, the commercial sale of this book has been stalled for some strange reason and this book is in severe demand among the “Mon-Fri Mumbai working class” who want a quick, cheap getaway from Mumbai. It would be criminal if someone (who happened to own a fresh copy of the book) did not make a weekend trip soon.. that happened to be me… Well.. is that reason good enough for the Kihim trip?

Before I go into the details, I shall clearly state right in the beginning that the travelogue may possibly make me look like the hero of the trip (many travel companions earlier have complained about this).. But hey, if you want to be the hero, write your own travelogue..

I knew I wanted to getaway on the 10th and 11th of February and did not have a clue where. After umpteen searches and tossing for car vs ferry, I landed on the idea of Kihim because the ferry commute seemed least daunting.. (The coin sure did not work in my favour… I happened to leave the car back at home and my neighbourhood ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ aspirants shattered the driver side window… another story shall follow on that). Kelva was another option but I decided to be nice to my cabin mate in office who was celebrating his anniversary and gift my Kelva idea to him..

Next decision to be made was on travel companions… This weekend was not meant for large crowds.. This weekend was not meant to be an effort… Hence, the choice of travel companion was very critical… On seeing Alyas post on my travel forum about her visit to Mumbai, I decided to invite this Russian girl for a trip.. I have always wanted to meet people who can manage with just one jacket in minus 15 degrees and this was a great opportunity…

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Going to a beach also meant one thing.. I had to get my weekend dose of Capoeira… Enters second travel companion Ajay… Well, you can say that he is one of my Capoeira inspirations.. Apart from the fact that he qualified as someone who could try to make me see the world upside down (hand stands), Ajay also has a wicked sense of humour.. A newbie to couchsurfing, you can say this was one of my stunts to get him to be more active on couchsurfing..

Place decided… companions decided.. I searched the internet for a place to crash and stumbled across this tiny guest house called Maooli guest house.. the place was aparently 2 minutes walk from the beach and it was an added advantage that the owner sounded rather enthusiastic about the Maharashtrian cuisine that his wife can whip up in no time.. Well, I did fail to mention the fact that all other guest houses were either booked completely or cost more than 200 Rs a night or just did not even bother picking up my call…

With all this, I was through with the planning phase.. I love to say that I hate to plan but I love to plan and hate to admit that…

Anyway, come saturday, we decided to meet at Shoppers Stop, Bandra at 12 noon.. 12 noon became 12 30 after Ajays sweet pleading message which read ’12 30 plz plz’.. Alya and I took the opportunity to gobble up some cheese criossants and espresso shots. Post Ajays arrival (it took him about 10 minutes to find the Shoppers Stop cafe), rushed to Bandra station. Wanting to give Alya a crowded experience, we all got into the Mens compartment in the Local. Witnessing a guy make a 4 minute sales pitch on how to sell a ball point pen, we were thoroughly impressed at the entertainment value of Bombay local trains. Rest is history. We reached Gateway just in time for the 2 30 pm Ferry to Mandwa.

The view from the top deck was amazing.. much cooler than we expected. I have this theory.. that at the beginning of a trip, everything seems perfect. The weather. The crowded train ride. Hunger pangs. Spent an hour in the ferry just discussing daily things that we do here in Mumbai like eating streetside Vada Pav, which was extremely fascinating to Alya….. And she told us about skiing and wind surfing and such daily things that they do… and it was absolutely fascinating for us.

Approaching Mandwa, the coastline looked beautiful.. shimmerind blue waters and a lovely stretch of sand.. coconut trees bordering the sea… Just could not believe that we had left highrise and rocky seafront of Mumbai to reach such a lovely place in less than an hour. From Mandwa, we took an auto to Kihim.. the ride cost us about 100 bucks but the countryside auto ride was worth it. Also, the auto guy was a rather professional chap in a Safari suit, giving us some Gyaan about Kihim town.. When he dropped us off, he promptly took out his business card which read ‘Uttam… Mobile No’… Great selling skills.. we did call him the next day for our ride back to Mandwa…

Our guest house was this quaint red house with lots of trees around. Our room was on the first floor.. Bright orange walls and a really really large bed was all that we needed to see to make us instantly like the place.. Aunty who ran the place got us some really sweet milky tea… Like I said, we were still in the beginning of the trip and all this was perfect… Sweet Milky Tea, Bright Orange Walls, Bathroom with no light, a cat in the vicinity… I had no complaints : )

We headed to the beach (which was just 2 minutes away) and found a coast line which seemed to be dotted with rocks… A long walk helped us reach a perfectly clean and sandy stretch with just some local villagers….

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The water was amazing.. we tried some funny Russian diving trick where two people were meant to lift up the third person and the third person uses the arms of the two people as a diving board and dives into the water. It took us almost 4 almost drowning instances before we got it right. I also managed to do an underwater handstand and then Ajay enlightened me that I only weighed 1/6th my actual weight and thats probably why I was able to lift myself. Terrible thought.

After our swim, we decided to let the sun dry us.. Relaxing and sharing towels to watch the beautiful sunset, we realised we suddenly had company. A whole bunch of locals, who wanted a picture with Alya (aka Russian in a bikini)… They were being polite and asked me and Ajay to be a part of the picture… Just to be a part of the fun, we obliged..

Nearing sunset, we played some Capoeira on the beach.. Ajay and his stunts.. flips, hand stands, cartwheels et all.. Alya (aka Flexible Russian in a Bikini) bending all the way backwards to do a bridge.. Two of them psyched me so much…

I decided to lie around and watch the sunset… the horse carriage taking people up and down the beach was just a silhouette against the setting sun.. the people carrying firewood were silhouttes too… It was beautiful.. Faraway, through the smog, you could see the Nariman Point buildings. And here I was, lying around with the salty air hungry lazy feeling..

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It was dark by the time we started walking back to the guest house… Well.. the landmark to get to the guest house was a stranded catamaran, which we were confident of finding in the dark… the trees swayed in
the dark guiding us back… quite eerie looking.. This was a perfect opportunity for scary stories, but this travel group did not comprise of any ‘scary story teller’… After 30 minutes walk, we hit a curve and realised that we had overshot out guest house… we decided to just cut across through a lovely property with two lit cottages to hit the road… Cut across aka Trespass but the owner was this nice old man who politely but quickly guided us to the exit..

Reaching the guest house, we realised we were starving.. After a shower by candlelight, we headed into Kihim town to get some food and beer for the night. The little restaurant we ate at seemed to be the only restaurant in the town. Indian food was the only option and it suited us fine as we wanted Alya to try some Indian stuff.. Naan, Greasy chicken masala and not very well cooked chicken tikka were polished in no time..

Armed with a few bottles of Kingfisher, some masala peanuts, potato wafers and a bottle opener, we ventured into the beach again.. This time, we decided to stay right next to the guest house exit lane so as to prevent midnight trespassing… old man may not be kind the second time around…

The beach was perfect… garbage was not particularly visible… the sand seemed softer… the sky was a magnifcent black.. the stars popping out and twinkling… the sound of the waves on one side and crickets on the other side (as rightly pointed out by Ajay)..

We did a little moon light cum flash light dance around the 4 bottles of beer before we hit drinking mode.. The night was spent laughing over Russian and Indian idiosyncracies… and a word guessing game called ‘Contact’, taught to us by Alya. After expanding our vocabulary and drinking ample beer, we just lay in the sand staring at the stars till the beach was suddenly invaded by a bunch of mid 40 males singing terrible outdated Desi music… we decided to call it a day and head back to the guest house..

I slept blissfully late.. I think Alya woke up a couple of times to turn off the fan.. and Ajay woke up a couple of times to turn it back on.. Alya found the fan noisy.. Ajay found it sultry without the fan.. Either way, I think I got a great nights sleep..

Next morning, we woke up in time for Maooli breakfast – some more sweet milky tea and bread omlette. Second day was pretty mcuh spent in a similar fashion – a walk to the less crowded part of the beach, braving the heat, a swim (not very enjoyable because it was low tide and I managed to get bruised a bit thanks to the sharp rocks), some more photo sessins with some local people… we skipped a walk back to the guest house and took a horse carriage ride…

Reached the guesthouse in time for some home cooked food, which tasted about 10 times better than restaurant food..

Bags packed and ready to head back to Bombay, we were pretty tired… Like i had mentioned, the same landscape looked a bit dry on the way back, the auto ride a bit bumpy, the wait for the ferry never ending and we did not even manage to walk up to the top deck… the ferry took forever to reach Gateway of India and we had to get through 5 boats before we reached the exit… After a hunt for ice cream in Churchgate station, we lazily walked to catch a slow train back.. It was still early evening and we did not know what waited… Know not where we’ll end up, the slow train just chugged ahead…

What a wonderful time we had in the 30 odd hours that we had spent with each other.. a lil bit of Russia.. a lil bit of India.. and a backpack full of memories..

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