Saturday, February 9, 2013

A trip to lesser known - Kanhoji Angre Island

Winters are the best season for any outings or treks before the onset of summer when it becomes hot and humid and practically end of trekking & outing season for 3-4 months before the rains starts in June / July in Mumbai. I wanted to get the best out of the winter season this year. So when Dr Ajay invited us to join a different group for a day outing to lesser known Kanhoji Angre island trip, I along with Bharti & Aparna jumped to join it.

Kanhoji Angre island also known as Kandheri is approx 20kms off the coast of Mumbai, built by Shivaji in 1660AD and is part of huge fortification around Mumbai along with small sister fort of Undheri and Murud Janjira fort.

It was decided to gather at Gateway of India around 7.30am on Sunday morning, the same day Mumbai hosted the famous Stan Chart Mumbai Marathon. Dr Ajay dropped the plan due to personal reasons but B.A.P (Bharti, Aparna & Paresh (me) continued. Mumbai was in midst of cold spell and it was too chilly on the Sunday morning. We met at Churchgate station at 6.30am in the morning and it was still quite dark but could see lot of hustle & bustle from the organisers of Mumbai Marathon going on outside Churchgate station with Mumbai Police doing last minute security checks. Roads leading to Gateway were empty and it was so surprising to find the empty roads as fort area being a business district, it full of people during business hours. We three were the first in the group to reach and it was beautiful to see the Mumbai harbour with yachts and boats docked on sleepy winter morning. Gateway of India being one of the prime tourist areas of Mumbai is practically filled with tourist during the day but in the wee hours, it had a deserted looks.

The group lead by Vishnu Mestry and Rehan Malik, calling themselves "Servants of Nature" slowly gathered.It was bunch of nature enthusiasts like us who organise and go on such outings & treks. Mathesh, Priyanka, Nikhil, Sanjay and total of 16...

We boarded the ferry to Alibaug from Gateway at 8.30am, huge and massive boat with upper deck, can easily accommodate more than 300 people. It was wonderful 40 minute boat ride to Mandwa port with breakfast bought by all, whole range of snacks from dhoklas to sandwichs to biscuits to khakhras..... On reaching Mandwa, we boarded the bus to Alibaug .... best part "Boat ticket ke saath bus ticket free" ...LoL. We got down at Thal village junction on the way to Alibaug. From the junction it was another 15min ride passing through narrow by lanes of fisherman village of Thal. The stench from dried fish was too much for veggie like me and others but was really a feast for non - veggies in the group. For first time in my life I saw a factory to dry small fish (jhinga)... tubs and tubs full of small fish. One of our group member also lay hands on dead snake.... yuk !!!

Walking on road laden with stones towards our boat, we had a pure bliss, surrounding was so beautiful, sea waves reaching the rocks on the shore, fishermen boats waiting to take them deep into the sea, one could also see smaller fort in middle of sea called Undheri - sister fort of the one we were going to visit. 

Our boat to the fort was custom made for tourist visitors, as we drove in water towards our destination, clicking pictures of whatever we could sight we drove past the smaller fort of Undheri - one couldnt stop thinking about how our rulers had constructed such magnificent structures in those times, which still stands tall today. Fort was huge but compared to one that we were planning to visit, it was smaller version of it.....It was another boat ride of 30minutes and we could see our destination. My first sighting of a lighthouse ever !!!! The island was full of visitors today, with loud music and some kind of festive atmosphere every where. On reaching the shores, we found that today was some annual sacrifice day for fisherman folks and they come to this island to sacrifice and enjoy with families.

We had hot cuppa of tea, poha & sheera as breakfast, tea was much needed after the long journey of almost 2hours and 30min. After being recharged by tea and breakfast, We moved towards lighthouse our first destination on the island tour, climbing stairs on the small hillock, one could get clear view of the island and it was just amazing. On reaching lighthouse, the guard informed we could have a tour of lighthouse and also can take pictures from the top for a small entry charge of Rs 20. Super excited at the idea of getting to know how the lighthouse works and a 360 deg view of entire island we all climbed the spiral staircase inside the lighthouse. The guard gave us the first hand tutorial of how lighthouse works. It was amazing to know that this has been a daily routine from the time the light house was constructed in 1867 !!!!!!  Imagine 147 looooooooooooong years of doing same job of giving directions to the ships at sea ...................


We also got opportunity to view the island from the top of lighthouse. The entire place has not changed at all from the time it was built except getting fresh paint every 3-4 years. It also housed staff quarters, a typical chawl type houses with staircase to climb. Place was so serene that I just could stop thinking how wonderful it would be to just come here and stay for few days, away from daily routine of work and home. But unfortunately staying overnight on the island is not allowed. After some rest we decided to do a round of the fort island before our journey back home.

As we climbed down, guard showed us a huge rock which emitted metallic sound when hit on one side. Nature at its best !!!!!!!!!


We moved further and came across fresh water tank carved out of the rocks with a temple close by. There were many such fresh water tanks we came across as we moved on the fort walls. The fort covered entire island with huge stones walls, stones perfectly laid one above the other and water tanks carved to store fresh water, small windows carved out of the walls at strategic locations to keep a watchful eye on the enemies coming from the sea and huge canons lay unattended at various points....having served their rulers in their prime. It was pity that nothing much has been done to preserve our heritage which if not taken care today would be a thing of the past soon !!!!! 

It was quite a long walk on the walls of the fort, but it was beautiful to see the waves hitting the shores from the windows carved from the walls of the fort. One could only marvel at the sheer size of the fort and meticulous planning and construction done around 1670 AD. The island fort today had lot of visitors apart from us due to annual festival. History says that Khanderi fort and Undheri fort seems to have served Shivaji to keep watchful eye on British and their counterpart Siddis of Janjira. History also says that British Royal navy had first taste of defeat here in hands of Shivaji. After Shivaji, it was conquered by Siddis of Janjira with help from British and then moved back to Marathas. Angre family ruled it till 1818. Hence the name of the island "Kanhoji Angre Island" Such a historical place needs to be preserved and made a tourist destination for younger generations to know about our rich history.

Back in our boats we moved back to Thal village. Our guide informed us that Kihim beach famous for its water sports was close by and we could also see it while on way back from the island fort. We decided to walk down the entire coast line till Kihim. We were informed it could take 20min but it was more than we were told and what we expected. It took almost 1hr 30min walk along the beach but fortunately sun was not at all harsh and there was cold breeze so walk was pleasant, with some of our group members indulging in shell searching on the beach while Bharti and Aparna had their gala time by playing "Antakshari" while walking... Finally we reached Kihim beach from there we took tumtum ride back to Mandwa port. Tired and exhausted we reached jetty only to find that there was mad rush to enter the boat to Mumbai.It was as if it was last boat to Mumbai. We still managed to get in the boat for our journey back home. Our boat ride was sheer pleasurable one, thanks to seagulls who followed our boat in search of food. These birds really had a eye to die for as while flying they could catch the food thrown in air by fellow travellers. It was fun to see them and I also managed to capture some of these birds in my lens. Back at gateway by 6pm we all bid each other goodbye, happy to have had a memorable and safe trip to island fort and promising to be back again for some other adventure trip to some other adventurous place .....