All your life you go to your native place by a certain route and then by accident you discover a new route and what a route! To Alibag via Chirner.
The Old Route via Panvel
View Directions to Thal, Alibag via Panvel in a larger map
The New Route Via Chirner
View Directions to Thal, Alibag via Chirner in a larger map
I was planning to go to Thal on Friday just one day before Ganpati but we all know what a mess the traffic is at Panvel especially during the Ganpati season. Unlike earlier times when people would travel by the ST now most people take their own vehicles. Twenty years ago it was all and all the ST traffic and jams would be caused by trucks but now it is the sheer increase in the number of private vehicles. So I would do anything to escape it, , so I started on the 9th itself. Sumeet told me about a new route via JNPT road. I happily took it and by passed Panvel ST stand yet I still went thru old Panvel town. When he came to Thal he said stupid you could have gone ahead to JNPT rd and bypassed Panvel completely. Ok so I said I will try again when I visit Charu in Mumbai.
Charu had invited us for darshan of Ganpati in her home and lunch. After lunch we visited the Trombay sisters. At sharp 4.30 pm we started from Trombay back to Thal dropping off Dad at Nerul.
We got on to the Nerul-Uran Amra Marg, drove straight tru Ulve till we got a T. Took a right and drove till we got a bridge on the left which was marked with a board "To Almighty Container Yard". The road looked terrible due to the over use by container trucks. At the Bridge there was a left way and one could drive under the bridge too. I got confused and even Mothe Baba who was with me could not help. We just decided to drive under the bridge. All we could see is endless and endless container yards for atleast 5-6 kms I was scared that we might be on the wrong route.
Then after we crossed the terrible section of the container yard we found a well maintained tar road. A couple on a bike told us that the road would take us to Kharpada. Which meant we would by pass not only Panvel but Karnala bird sanctuary too and reach the Kharpada Toll naka just before the Dharamtar bridge.
We kept driving through the hills of Chirner. It is the monsoon and the hills were lush green and roads are traffic free with just a few trucks and local 10 seater auto-rickshaws. This road is good for an adventurer and bikers. However make sure you are not driving at night here. You might not get help in case of a breakdown. Not sure how safe it would be for a single couple on a bike, though you see lot of local couples on bike.
My mind now had stopped worrying and I was enjoying the scenery. The hill peaks were cuddled by the clouds and in the distant I could see the rain falling but the road we were driving on was dry. The unique jutting peak of the Karnala bird sanctuary assured me I was not in unkown region. I was telling Mothe Baba how I had trekked it along with my college friends way back in 1985 when we had gone their for a botanical excursion. As we drove the rest of the way I watched the sundance with the clouds on the hills, the game of Dhup-Chaav. It was nearing dusk and I wanted to touch Kharpada before the night shadow fell.
Passing through little villages and watching people going about their business is the most endearing experience when you have been away for way too long from your roots. There were rainsoaked homes overgrown with moss and little ponds blooming with lotuses. A lady washing clothes with rain harvested water, reminded me that it was not a new concept here in the villages. When it rains women wash clothes in front of the house and don't go to the village well. I saw some men enjoying their evening tea and bhajji at the tiny stalls, you will rarely find women at them. The only type of businesses one sees here are tiny cycle, motorcycle repair shops or other small shops like a grocers. Else it is the gaint container yards. I guess most villager must be employed there. I also spotted some Chinky eyed people in these remote areas. It is heartening to see people moving out of their comfort zone and travelling all over the country to find a job that can get rid of their poverty.
When I told Dad about this route Dad told us that couple of decades ago school teachers refused postings in this area as it was considered as Adivasi dominated and Agri/ Kharkis did not have access to education either. They required very little reason for violence. Now things don't look as bad I realized as I drove through. Mothe Baba commented that he had come to one of those areas many years ago to one of our housemaid's home to attend a marriage. It is so cut off from the rest of Alibag.
After reaching Dharamtar bridge there is no confusion the road goes straight to Alibag and it is the NH 4B. However I was on my way to Thal so took a turn after Teen vira dam into Karle Khind and drove towards Kankeshwar phata and took a left on Rewas- Alibag road and a right at Thal phata after RCF to reach my village.
It took us 1 hour to reach from Nerul to Kharpada Toll gate. It was a thrilling drive through the hills up and down the uneven terrain and a few junctions. The container yards were eerie and got me swearing all the time. Bikers will love this route except the first few kms that are testing the rest of the road is awesome. To me it made a memory because no one in my family or relatives knew that there was another route to reach our native place!