Saturday, January 2, 2010

Arnala Fort & Jivdani Temple - How to go, places to visit, things to do

Jan 2,2010: Arnala, not to be confused with Karnala, was our choice of destination for this early Jan trip.In fact, we had a pretty good discussion, where to go, Arnala or Karnala? Karnala, of course, houses the famous Bird Santuary and the Karnala fort.But, we decided to go to Arnala, which was closer, and was quite a simple trip.

How to get there: Auto ride: Our plan was to explore the Arnala Fort island, which was near the Arnala beach.Virar.So, all of us met at the Virar Station, the west side of the station. Arnala beach is on the West.We all gathered around 11.00 am.Just near the main ticket entrance/auto stand.We took an auto from the autorickshaw stand.We were a group of 5.Its allowed in Virar, i.e. two on either side of the driver, and 3 behind.We asked him to take us to the beach.It cost us Rs.15 per head.It was not the most comfortable ride, especially for two of us, seated ahead.But, we knew it was just 20 minutes of struggle.Yeah,It took us around 20 minutes to reach the beach.
The ferry ride: The auto left us near the jetty.This is where, we get the ferry to the island.This was not the usual ferry ride in many ways, the kinda which you take while going to the Essel World.This was slightly different.It was not a big boat, but a very small one.Usually overcrowded, the entire boat moves, whenever anybody got in, or got out.It didn't dock at the jetty, but, right on the beach.So we needed to walk, towards the boat.The walk meant wading through, the lines of fishes, hanging for drying purposes.Arnala is strictly fishermen's beach,if you didn't know that.So don't be surprised, to see fish,find fish, & smell nothing but fish...Also, another point, the beach is full of human litter all over, so watch where you are stepping.I wasn't lucky though, unfortunately had to celebrate the new year by cutting a human cake..:( Luckily there was water around to clean up.So,finally, when we reached the boat, there was still one minor task to do, to get on the boat!!.The boat is usually a few meters in the sea, so you need to walk through the water.For some of us, who were unprepared, in jeans and shoes,this was uncalled for.They had to remove their shoes, pants, get into shorts and wade through the water.Make sure to keep loose things like keys,purse, money firmly in some bag, as one of us dropped his mobile in the water, while getting on the boat.Luckily, one of the local fisherman on the boat, spotted that, immediately started scouting through,everyone on the boat joining in."It's there..its there.." were the chants, still, there was no sign of it.We all knew, it was a loss,the guy who lost it, admitted, the only thing he needed were the numbers on the phone.And suddenly, eureka, the boy/helper on the boat, found the mobile!!!And everyone on the boat, exclaimed a sigh of relief.Although, each one had a few advices to give,advices like "remove the sim,remove the battery, keep it for drying." followed. The owner, our friend, was just too happy to get it back.The ride cost us Rs. 10. This was the price for return journey.It was going to be a 15 minutes ride to the Arnala Fort island. So much, for the adventure already,now,over to the island...

What is there to see : On our way: Just as geting on the boat, is an art in itself, so is getting out.So once, all of us got out, we were greeted, once again with lines of more fish.If you are planning to take this trip, you better  come prepared, to smell fish.After asking for guidance, to local fishermen, we found our way, which was pretty straight, through the small lane of the fishing village.On our way,we found a local shop, where we purchased some biscuits,water and some chips.For the fort,you need to just go straight along the lane.Nothing too confusing.You can always ask the local people.They are quite helpful.So helpful, that, one of them,assumed himself to be our travel guide, and was actually walking along with us, even joining with us for pictures..!!!After, we got to the fort, and got rid of him,(so much for being helpful,we city people are so ungrateful ;)just kiddin, we did thank him.

The fort, was not as we had expected it to be,it was not as huge, as other forts, which we had visited earlier,it was more like an out house, need to research further, was it really a fort after all, it looked more like an watch place.Still, it was big enough, almost as big as the Shivaji park, with boundaries all around.Don't know, how many of you, would agree with that description. We were greeted once, again with more fishes, actually, this fort is extensively being used by the local fishermen, for drying their fish.The fishes, which I presume are shrimps, of all sizes,were laid along the four walls of the fort with a very narrow, line, to walk along.These are walls of the fort, which you can see in the pictures.So our exploration of the fort, was only limited to walking along the four walls,and inside the fort.There were some odd staircases along the way, we did try and have a peek, by going in, but eventually chickened out, owing due the darkness.
The fort within Once, we got down, we moved towards, exploring the center of the fort, which included a temple and a mosque.The local people were busy washing clothes,near a well, which was right in the center of the fort.We moved towards, a large banyan tree.We relaxed under it, chated for some time.One of us had brought some dosas,all of us,enjoyed a quick bite.Banyan tree, meant vines hanging from it, which meant swings, made by the local kids.There were in fact, couple of swings created by tying the vines, few of us, tried their instincts, and gave a shot, at the swing.It was fun,very raw kind of fun, the kind of fun, you had, whenever, you visited your native place.There was no fear of breaking of the vines, they were really strong vines.Yeah, getting to push people around is a fun in itself, especially, if you push them towards the tree.;)
Soon, it was lunch time.we were told there was a resort on the island, only to find that, the resort was actually on the beach and not the island, this made us bring our fort/island exploration to an abrupt end.This ,somehow dissapointed me,as we could have explored some more places on the island,only to get on the ferry for our return journey.It was slightly confusing, where the resort actually was,That's when,the boat operator, told us there was a resort on the island,itself, and it was worth going, which dissapointed even further, as none of us, was ready to get down, i.e. before the boat started ;) So it was a journey back,again.Might have to come again,here,sometime,to explore other parts of this island.The boat, was thought, not to be plying during the noon hrs, but, we found, that's not the case, the ferry is available, even during the noon hrs, but with lesser frequency.

On reaching the beach, we were told, the resort is just too far, and not anywhere close.,which meant, we skipping that resort plan, and getting back to our base, i.e.Virar station.So around 2.30 pm, our trip ended abruptly, and we were on our way back. Learning curve: make sure to make some provisions for food, or explore on food options, before making any trip.
Return Journey : On our way, we decided, to eat at the hotel Shreya just opposite to the station.Also,seemingly dissapointed,as there was still time, we thought,how about, going to the famous temple of Jivdani ? The answer was unanimous...Why not???

Jivdani : After, having our food at the hotel,Shreya,its a purely vegetarian hotel,which served quite good food.We just mulled over, this sudden change of trip, which meant much better, than we had initially planned.Jivdani temple, of course, is the temple made for the goddess Maa Jivdani.The temple, also gives a pictureseque view of the Virar township.For some of us, this was our first trip to Jivdani.For more details on the temple and goddess Jivdaani click here

How to get there : For Jivdani temple, you need to go Virar, East,there are regular autos from there to the temple.It cost us, Rs. 5 per person.Again, five in the auto, 2 ahead.Actually, this  time, we got quite good at it.Traveling, by siting ahead,hanging by the auto comes naturally to us now.Within minutes, we were at the base of the hill.Jivdani temple, is situated on top of hill, if you didn't know that.Getting to the temple meant, climbing up the hill, which means climbing up more than a thousand steps.Well, not an easy task, for people, who have rarely been on any treking expeditions.Let's see how it went.

What is there to see :The first few steps of the climb, din't seem much to bother.It was quite easy.There are shops on both sides, selling pooja prasad,flowers and other puja offerings.You can buy them,there, or at the top, there are a lot of options.You can even keep your chappals at those shops, or at the shoe stand at the base, if you wish to make the climb bare foot.We made our trip with our chappals on.There is a railing, which at the centre of the staircase for the devotees, for support while climbing.Soon, after a climbing 100 steps, fatigue started showing.So we took a break for a breather.Its surprising,climbing steps tires you much quicker than any other activity like sports, running or even lifting weights.There are shops offering water and cool drinks and some eatables too.But, we stuck to just drinking water along the way..It was so tiring,, it was draining each one us, except for one.He looked quite fresh even after climbing the top.He had  done the smarter thing, instead of climbing a lot, he just stuck to walking a few steps and then taking a break."smart boy".There was quite a crowd along the way,same was the case for each of them, little climb, little break So, finally after 40 minutes of climbing, we reached the top of the hill.
After purchasing some offerings,and placing our chappals, at one of the shops,we were headed for the temple.The temple at the top had a further, staircase, which led you into the temple.There are signs everywhere.Right in the center, it was the goddess Jivdani,.There were other gods as well around.Its really,an enriching experience, after climbing so much, to pray at the temple.Almost a Vaishnavdevi kind of experience, a trip we wish to take some time in the future.There was one more storey, just to the  right side of the temple, where devotees can relax. It had some shops selling tea,some cold drinks.But, it was more for relaxing and enjoying the view.

Yes, the view from the top was absolutely breath taking, very surreal,very unlike any view anywhere near the city.It was almost a hill-station like feel to it.We spoted a very beautiful view of the township of Virar.But, the thing that disturbed us was the garbage, thrown there.The environmentalist witin our group, was really pissed at the sight.In his own words, "this is garbage which will not be recycled in a 100 years".Yes, it was all plastic. He quickly grabbed a camera, and clicked some pictures.What bothered him the most was, pollution in itself is wrong, that too so close to the temple is something very bad.When will we realize, this is going to hurt us in the long run.We agree, with our environmentalist. here.Soon, the sun started sinking, for the day, which us gave a fanastic view of the clouds and the rays of the sun.So it was time for some more pictures, and finally, we started our descent.

Return journey :The descent was easy, the breaks were lesser,and within no time, we reached the base.There was a Hanuman temple at the base, we prayed for a few minutes there, and after some account settling, we got into an auto, with six passengers this time.Dont ask me how was the ride. And with that, our trip ended.It was again, a sudden trip, made, changed along the way, which is quite normal.In the end, it ended well.As they say, "all's that well, ends well" or should we say.."aal izz well" ;) Have a good time at Jivdani and Arnala.Hope this was useful.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Vasai Fort - How to go, places to visit, things to do

Vasai Fort : June 27, 2009: It was a sudden decision to meet, a few phone calls we (a group of 5).decided to meet at Vasai station, we planned to meet at 1.00 but ended up meeting at around 2.30 p.m.  So after having a meal at one of the hotels near the station Vasai (West), we began our journey to Vasai Fort.

How to get there : When you reach the station, you need to go to Vasai(west) to catch an rickshaw which shall take you to Vasai(Fort).There are S.T. buses which ply between Vasai Fort and station, and the frequency is not too bad.We, however, took an auto.(4 can be accommodated in an auto). Although, in our case, it was just 3, as the other two(a couple) came via their bike, which was following us closely.So, the journey began, after few minutes of getting out of the hustle and bustle of the station area, we were on our way to Vasai Fort.On the way, you come across the station Naigaon,on the left, open fields on both sides, you call it "khaadi" by the way. The journey was smooth, nothing to talk about, until you get into Vasai fort, where the autorickshaw driver stops i.e at the S.T bus stand-cum-auto rickshaw stand.It cost us around 40 rupees. Our biked-couple had parked their bike nearby, its safe to park there by the way.As, we found our bike in its place, when we returned from the excursion. :). The Vasai Fort exploration begins.....

What is there to see : There are four parts to explore in and around Vasai Fort.As you reach, Vasai Fort, the autorickshaw driver takes you to the left, and parks it there, for the first leg, you need to walk in the opposite direction i.e towards the right, you come across the church, actually you can see it from a distance, so not a problem locating it. On the way you see trees(must be banyan trees, not sure) with large vines hanging. Also, there is a small ground on the left hand side, where you see some local kids trying their hand at being a dhoni or sehwag, yeah playing cricket, very often its the case.

Holy Church About the church, you can see that its being renovated, by the ASI. Not sure what the name is, from the web, I could find out that , its called the Holy Name church.As you enter, you see the church is actually in quite good shape.The empty altar, the ceiling which was restructured by ASI.The size of the church is so huge, you would know that, when you hear, the echo of your whispers.The backside of the church is a place worth exploring.The ruins are vast.You can actually climb to the upper tier, but be careful, don't try from the staircase on the left, the staircase ends mid-way. -columns missing But, if you try from the right side, you can climb up, the stairs are good,and actually you can see the inside of the church from the window/door there. We tried pushing one friend from there ;) (Only through images though).It never fails to amaze how people used to build, live in these forts.And how time has got the better of them and these structures.

Kambakth Ishq After exploring the back side of the church,we start walking along the trail on the right side of the church.i.e. going even further from where we initially started.There you take a turn, and keep walking, until you come across another part of the ruins. Its a church like structure with an open space, in the center with graves all around. The graves dating back to the 14th century. Obviously belonging to the Portuguese kings and queen.This fort was built by the Portuguese, if you didn't know that.Did I mention this is the famous place where the famous Urmila song "Kambakth Ishq" was shot.Its only then you realize they actually shot all the dance sequences on the graves!!!!Well, the portuguese are not going to like it!!!The rock structures are unique here, i.e. the walls. We ended up shooting a lot of pictures against this background.

Staircase to Heaven From there, we walk back to the ST/auto stand, going past the church on our way.From here, we walk further left, its a small walk, along the trail, make sure you do this journey in the day time.Well the entire journey should be made in daylight.Anyway, dont be too confused, as you may be, you just need to turn left, and right again and keep walking by the trail, until you come by another beautiful part of the fort. A ruin, yet again being renovated by ASI.Well, they are getting cement to fill all the cervices..must be lack of funds, the entry in this is restricted, no, we didn't have anyone stopping us, but all the entrances to it was covered with thorny plants, must have been done by the ASI. Or may be just to prevent any vehicles from getting there. However, a small gap in the through thorny bushes, helped us get it.On one corner, you find a small opening to a stair case.Mind your head here, its not the usual staircase.So, be careful as you go up. Its 3 storeys high.You are sure to find some lonely couples on the way up.Vasai fort is famous for such visuals. ;) But ,when you reach the top, the view is just spectacular..!! You can see the arabian sea.,the Vasai-Bhayendar rail bridge, Utan . The view just too serene, beautiful.After spending some time, we explored other parts of this section. Serene is the word. Waves washing away at the mangroves,the sun almost down,the clouds.It was a surreal experience. After spending some time exploring, and just enjoying the place.We got into other parts of this section,one section being better thatn the other.We started clicking some beautiful pictures.Some of them really came out well,especially the ones which were of DCH-style.

Jetty and temple Finally we began our last and final leg, walking further ahead, we reached a Hanuman temple right inside the fort. After praying there for a couple of minutes, we came across our exit. In olden days, there was never a sign saying exit, but a huge 10-15 foot iron gate!!!Yeah, its a unique piece of structure. And actually it still holds strong.No, its not used, but it doesn't appear to be rusted or anything.
As we came out of the fort, the all we could hear was the waves of the sea. We walked towards the jetty, which was to the right. There were a lot of people there. Just enjoying natures gifts to the planet.There were some boats on the sides.Not sure if they are used now.After, clicking a few pics, we started our trip back.

Return journey:We walked back through the iron gate, walking past the hanuman temple, going past  the staircase structure, turning up at the ST bus stand.We heard a ST bus roaring, this made us all run towards it. It was frentic chase, and we got into it, by the whisker.We love doing these kinds of things. And thats it, just like that, our trip ended. It was a simple trip filled with history, exploration and fun-filled and  we ended with a lot of picturesque photos and more importantly with great memories.

If you are looking for a simple trip, make sure to make it to the Vasai Fort.Hope you have a fun time.