Author Archives: Rajesh Deshpande

About Rajesh Deshpande

Traveler, Photographer, Foodie and Blogger.

Krishna River Camp

…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2015. Based upon my personal visit in February 2015.

After a stressful grind over a hectic week at work, a weekend getaway is the most sought after break from routine life by city dwellers. For souls seeking solace, solitude and serenity, Krishna River Camp is an ideal destination in the lap of nature to relax, rewind and rejuvenate.

Tents

Tents

Situated on the banks of Krishna River at village Malatpur, about 13 Kms from the town of Wai in Maharashtra, India, KRC as it is popularly known is the most sought after weekend destination. It is about 240 Kms from Mumbai, about 100 Kms from Pune and about 160 Kms from Kolhapur. The best way to reach KRC from Mumbai, Pune or Kolhapur is by road. From Mumbai drive down through the Mumbai Pune Expressway and ahead through NH4 passing through Katraj, Shirwal, Pargao Khandala up to Surur phata. If travelling from Pune drive on NH4 at Chandni Chowk and drive through Katraj, Shirwal, Pargao Khandala to Surur Phata. From Surur Phata, take a right turn to Wai. From Wai, take the road to Dhom Dam and drive 13 Kms to Malatpur village, about a kilometer before Malatpur stop at Babu Shinde school. KRC  is to the right hand side on the banks of Krishna River. It takes about 5 Hrs. to reach KRC from Mumbai, about 2 Hrs. from Pune and about 3 Hrs. from Kolhapur.

Many private buses ply from Mumbai and Pune to the popular holiday destinations of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar through Wai. From Wai, local taxi jeeps are the best means of transport to reach KRC. Neeta Travels and Konduskar Travels operate daily buses on this route to Mahabaleshwar. Even though, the best option to reach KRC is to take the bus operated by Mahalaxmi Travels which starts daily from Curry Road, Mumbai at 9 PM and reaches KRC at 5:30 AM next day. For bookings contact Mr. Sachin Vare or Mr. Sushant Pol (Mobile Nos. 9223357942, 8888101096).

Placid Krishna River

Placid Krishna River

KRC is a theme river camp for a bit of adventure, lots of fun and for relaxation. The camp has all the essential amenities like tent accommodation for family and couple, common western toilets and bathrooms with hot and cold running water and solar rural lighting. Every tent has a mattress, pillows, bed sheets and blankets for a comfortable sleep. Breakfast and Meals at KRC are home cooked in the village and are served in a buffet. Cooking your own barbeque in the evening is a key highlight of camping at KRC.

View from Boating Point

View from Boating Point

For souls seeking adventure, KRC has many activities to offer – River Rafting, Rifle Shooting, Angling, Archery, Campfire, Strawberry Farm visit, Bullock Cart or Tractor ride, trekking or jungle walk. Some activities are seasonal while some depend upon availability of resources. KRC also arranges local sightseeing at additional cost and upon prior request.

River Rafting

River Rafting

General Tips

KRC is a tent camp for nature lovers who wish to spend a weekend in the lap of nature. It is not a luxury hotel hence don’t expect star rated luxuries. The camp has essential amenities for a comfortable stay. There’s no room service or television sets, the camp has common dining area and common washrooms. Locals speak Marathi and Hindi. The camp has good cellular coverage.

There are many places to see around Krishna River Camp – The mini tableland at Balkawadi and the Balkawadi Dam, the boating pier, Dhom Dam, Narsimha Temple, Menavli ghat, temple of Dholya Ganpati at Wai and the ghats. Mahabaleshwar is 32 Kms uphill while Panchgani is about 24 Kms. The banks of Krishna River are popular for film shooting – couple of scenes of the Bollywood blockbuster movie ‘Chennai Express’ were filmed on the banks of Krishna river at Pasarni village. A panoramic view of Panchgani and Kates point of Mahabaleshwar along with surrounding mountains and forts can be seen from KRC.

View from the Camp

View from the Camp

The check-in time at KRC is 3 PM and checkout is 10 AM next day. KRC also makes arrangement for an extended stay at additional cost and on prior intimation. Typically after check-in, river rafting is the first activity to beat the afternoon heat. Evenings are free to try archery or rifle shooting or just to gaze at the setting sun. As the sun sets on the horizon, embers are torched to fire the barbeque. Dinner is served after a scrumptious veg. and non-veg. barbeque. The day ends with the melody of songs sung by vibrant guests around a campfire before retiring in the tents. Waking up after a dream free sleep on a lazy Sunday morning with a rejuvenated soul is an unforgettable experience.

Mornings at KRC are truly divine, the placid Krishna river, the rising sun, chirping of birds, crowing of roosters and the melody of temple bells all make a perfect setting for a blissful morning experience. For making a reservation at Krishna River Camp, contact Mr. Milan Wadkar – 9819833345 or write to him at milanwadkar@gmail.com

…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2015

Food Culture of Maharashtra

The state of Maharashtra is blessed with nature’s bounties. It’s a diverse landmass with tropical forests, rugged mountains, plains with rich black alluvial soil, rivers and also some arid areas. This ecological diversity is the reason due to which variety of crops, fruits and vegetables are grown in the state. Maharashtrian cuisine consists of food which is mild to spicy yet full of flavor and colour. There’s a right balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety not to forget the delectable sea food. Maharashtra comprises mainly of five regions viz. Konkan, Paschim Maharashtra, Khandesh, Vidarbha and Marathwada. The cuisine in each region is influenced largely by the predominant agricultural produce of the region. There’s also some localized variety like the Malvani and Saoji cuisine, the former from the coastal Sindhudurg district and the later from Nagpur district.

Maharashtrians are much disciplined about eating their meals. In Maharashtrian homes all members in a family prefer to dine together. In urban areas, families dine at a dining table, mainly on weekends. In rural areas, meals are consumed sitting on the floor. On festive occasions food is generally consumed sitting on the floor. Festive meals are prepared and served with lot of pomp. Diners sit in a row called as ‘pangat’ on a well laid seat – typically a wooden stool called as ‘paat’. Meals are served in a silver, copper, brass or stainless steel plate or thaali called as ‘taat’ kept on a wooden altar called ‘chaurang’. Rangoli is laid around the Thali. During the holy shravan month and Ganapati festival, meals are served on banana leaf. It is expected to wash hands and feet before meals. A hymn is recited by all diners, then some water is sprinkled around the thaali and a morsel is set aside as an offering to god, this ritual is known as ‘chitravali’. The diners begin their meal by first eating waran bhaat (dal and rice) followed by puri, chapatti or bhakri with vegetables, thick gravies and curries accompanied by pickles, papad and preserves. Unlike the western system, sweets and desserts are served right in the beginning and consumed during the meal but after the waran bhaat. Eating with left hand, talking or laughing while eating and wasting food calls for undue attention and is not welcome.

Food is served in a predetermined order in the thaali. Dry vegetables and curries are served in the right hand side whereas pickles, condiments and side dishes are served to the upper left hand side of the thaali. Sweets, snacks and breads – Ladoo, Puran Poli, Shrikand Poori, Jalebi, Papad, Bhajji are served on the lower left side of the thaali. Rice – masale bhaat, waran bhaat, sakhar bhaat is served in the center of the thaali. 

Region wise food specialties

Konkan – consists of the state capital Mumbai and the four coastal districts of Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. The region predominantly produces rice along with a variety of vegetables, lentils, millets and seasonal fruits like Chickoo, Mango, Jackfruit, Cashewnut, Bettlenut and Coconut. Fishing is an important means of earning a livelihood along the entire Konkan coast. The vegetarian food here is largely influenced by the use of coconut and cashews, while the non-vegetarian food is primarily seafood which is soured by Kokam instead of lime, vinegar or tamarind. The popular Maharashtrian vegetarian dishes like Ukdiche Modak (steamed rice flour dumplings with a filling of fresh grated coconut, jaggery and cardamom powder caramelized together), Valachi Usal or Valachya Dalimbya (Broad Beans in thick gravy), Bharleli Vangi (stuffed eggplant), Kajuchi Usal (Cashew in thick gravy), Puran Poli, Ghavne or Ghavan (non-fermented cousin of dosa), and Amboli are from the Konkan region. These dishes are typically mild but full of taste. The popular non-vegetarian seafood dishes are Kalvan (Fish Curry), Fried Fish, Kolambi Masala (Prawns Masala), Khekda (Crab) Masala and sundried fish dishes like sukat, sode and javla. These are spicy in taste. The Malvan region in Sindhudurg district has a unique variation called as the Malvani cuisine popular for dishes like Tikla (Sauté of fish or prawns), Vade Sagote a.k.a. Kombdi Vade (Deep fried spiced puris made from flour of mixed lentils and millets with Chicken curry). Solkadi is a popular after meal cooler in the Konkan region.

Fish Thali with Fish Fry, Kalvan, Bhakri and Solkadi

Fish Thali with Fish Fry, Kalvan, Bhakri and Solkadi

Mumbai technically belongs to the Konkan region but due to the cosmopolitan nature of the city and surrounding areas, many different cultures have influence on the cuisine of Mumbai e.g. South Indian, Gujarati, Punjabi, Mughlai, Parsi along with Continental and Oriental cuisines. The Maharashtrian cuisine of Mumbai region is popular for its fast food – Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Misal and Bhel.

Paschim Maharashtra (or the Deccan plateau) – are the plains rich with black alluvial soil mainly consisting of the districts of Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli, Solapur and Kolhapur. The region is known for its abundant production of milk and sugarcane, fruits and vegetables, onions and potatoes. The popular dishes like bhel, misal, kat vada a.k.a vada usal, pithale bhakri and Thalipeeth are from this region. The popular non-vegetarian Kolhapuri Mutton or Chicken Rassa in two variants viz. Tambda (Copper Red) Rassa and Pandhara (White) Rassa is famous all over Maharashtra. It is eaten with Bhakri (bread made of millets or rice).

Marathwada – includes the seven districts of Aurangabad, Latur, Osmanabad, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani and Nanded. Prior to the rise of the Maratha Empire, this region was largely under the Mughal rule and thus the Mughlai cuisine has great influence on the food of this region. Marathwada is thus popular for biryani and pulav. The cuisine of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka also has influence on food in the Marathwada region being neighboring states.

Khandesh – the four districts of Nashik, Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar form the Khandesh region. The region is rich in the production of fruits and vegetables, especially grapes and banana. Khandesh also produces sugarcane and milk in abundance. The region also grows abundant groundnut and brinjals. Groundnut thus has an influence on the cuisine here. The popular vegetarian dishes of Khandesh are Shev Bhaji, Wangyache Bharit (mashed Eggplant) and Bhakri, Khandeshi Khichadi (Spiced Lentil Rice), Golyachi Bhaji and Gulachi Puri. Popular non-vegetarian dishes are Khandeshi Kala (Black) Masala Chicken or Mutton.

Vidarbha – the thirteen districts of Buldana, Washim, Hingoli, Akola, Amravati, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Wardha, Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli form the Vidarbha region. The cuisine of Vidarbha region is known as the Varhadi cuisine. It has influence of spices, dry coconut and besan (chickpea flour) thus making it a spicy cuisine. Besan is used more in vegetarian dishes whereas the non-vegetarian Saoji dishes of chicken and mutton are made up of spices like black pepper, dry coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. The most popular Saoji dish is the ‘Varhadi Rassa’ which is spicy chicken or mutton in thick gravy (rassa).

Some popular Maharashtrian preparations

Snacks – Pohe or Kande Pohe (spiced flaked rice), Dadpe Pohe, Upma also known as Sanja or Uppit (spiced semolina), Chivda, Vada Pav, Kat Vada, Bhajiya (Fritters), Misal, Pav Bhaji, Thalipeeth, Alu (colocasia) Vadi, Kothimbir Vadi, Suralichi Vadi, Ukad, Ghavan, Amboli, Dheerde, Sabudana Khichadi, Sabudana Vada, Moong Dal Vada, Mirchi Kachori, Bhadang, Bhajanichi Chakli, Kadboli, Talalele Garey a.k.a Phansachya Salya (Jackfruit Fries), Shev and Bakarvadi.

Coolers and Appetizers – Solkadi, Kokum Sherbet, Taak (Buttermilk), Mattha (Sweetened Buttermilk), Panhe (Raw Mango Sherbet)

Soups and Consommés – Tomato Saar, Kokum Saar, Varan, Phodniche Varan, Kadhi, Katachi Amti.

Vegetables and Lentils – Batatyachi Bhaji, Aluchi Patal Bhaji, Phanasachi Bhaji, Kelphulachi Bhaji, Valachya Dalimbya, Bharli Vangi, Pithale, Matkichi Usal, Vangyache Bharit, Shev Bhaji, Valache Birdey, Masurchi Amti, Chauli (Kidney Beans) Batata (potato) rassa, Kurma Bhaji, Kobichi Bhaji, Methichi Bhaji, Palak Shepuchi Bhaji and Panchamrut.

Rice preparations – Masale Bhaat, Narali Bhaat (Sweet coconut flavoured rice), Phodnicha Bhaat, Khichadi, Kolambi Bhaat (Prawns Biryani), Sodyachi Khicadi (Rice with sundried prawns).

Non-Vegetarian and Seafood – Kolhapuri Chicken or Mutton Tambda Rassa and Pandhara Rassa, Varhadi (Saoji) Chicken or Mutton Rassa, Khandeshi Black Masala Chicken or Mutton, CKP, Pathare and Daivadnya style Mutton and Chicken. Kalvan (Fish Curry), Fried Fish, Tikla (Sauté Fish), Barbequed Fish (Prawns, King Fish, Pomfret, Salmon, Bombay Duck, Red Snapper, Oyster, Squid, Clams, Lobsters and Crabs)

Pickles and Condiments – Mango, Lime, Chilli, Prawns pickle, Thecha, Panchamrut, Dry coconut and garlic chutney, Kuleeth Chutney, Raw Papaya Chutney, Curry Leaves Chutney, crushed groundnut chutney, Methamba, Papad, Sandage, Mirgunda, Kurdai, and Chikodya.

Jams, Jellies and Preserves – Moramba (Mango jam or Murabba), Sakharamba (Sugared Mango), Amba poli and Phanas poli

Sweets and Desserts – Shrikhand (Sweetened and flavoured Yoghurt), Sheera (Sweet Semolina), Aamras (Mango Pulp), Basundi (condensed milk), Mastani (popular milkshake of Pune), Jalebi, Puran Poli, Gulpapdi, Santra Barfi, Amba Barfi, Coconut Barfi, Sutarpheni, Kandi Pedha, Masale Doodh (Dry fruit flavoured milk), Ukdiche Modak, Bhoplyache Gharge, Anarse, Karanji, Gulachi Poli, Malvani Khaja, Chirota, Motichur Ladoo, Besan Ladoo, Rava Ladoo, Dinka Ladoo, Shev Ladoo, Kharvas, Sevai Kheer, Alepak, Shankarpali, Mahim Halwa, Dudhi Halwa, Gajar Halwa and Badam Halwa.

Velas Turtle Festival 2014

Velas is a quaint little village on the northern most tip of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Over the past few years, it has become popular for the annual Velas Turtle Festival. The Olive Ridley is an endangered species of marine turtles worldwide. The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM), an NGO along with local villagers and the Dept. of Forests begun turtle conservation in the year 2002 by harvesting turtle eggs and preventing their accidental mortality. This year the NGO has handed over the Turtle Festival to the villagers of Velas.

The natural habitat of Olive Ridley Marine Turtles is the tropical coastline across the world. Velas is one such coastline where the adult female turtles dig nests and lay eggs every year in the months of November – March. Typically it takes about 55 days for the eggs to hatch. The turtle festival is held in the month of March – April during the peak hatching season. Once the eggs are hatched, the hatchlings start crawling towards the sea on their own, a moment truly amazing. While the hatchlings are on their way to the sea, they are at risk due to predators like vultures and falcons waiting for a feast . The conservationists ensure that the predators are kept away and maximum hatchlings make their way to the sea. The female hatchlings would return to Velas beach on reaching adulthood for laying eggs, a phenomenon yet unexplained by science.

This year, the Turtle Festival originally set to begin on 15th March 2014 has been rescheduled by SNM to begin on 20th March 2014. From this day till late April, the turtle hatchlings will be released from their nests. Typically the hatchlings are released at dawn around 06:45 AM and in the evening at around 06:00 PM. Velas is about 220 Kms from Mumbai and it takes around 6 – 7 hrs. to reach by road. There are direct State Transport buses from Mumbai to reach Velas. If travelling by your own vehicle from Mumbai, take the Chembur, Vashi, Panvel route. On reaching Palaspe junction after Panvel, take the NH-17 (Panvel – Kochi highway a.k.a. Goa road) route to Pen, Vadkhal naka, Kolad, Mangaon, Lonere, Goregaon, Mandangad for reaching Velas. There are no hotels in Velas. The local villagers make food and homestay arrangements at a nominal cost. Their contact details are available on the website of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra. There are many travel and adventure groups in Mumbai who arrange a weekend tour to Velas during March and April which are quite economical and exciting.

So take out some time from your busy schedules to witness an unforgettable moment while the Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea. The scenic Velas beach, Bankot Fort and the Harihareshwar Temple and Beach are few other attractions. Down south, the coastal villages of Kelshi, Ade, Anjarle and Harnai are fast gaining popularity due to their unspoilt beaches, also worth a visit.

To know more about the Velas Turtle Festival and Olive Ridley Turtles, visit the blog page ‘Velas’

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Irani Cafes of Mumbai

Irani Cafés are the old world charm of Mumbai. They are in Mumbai for more than hundred years, perhaps even our Grandpa’s weren’t born then. The Irani’s who migrated from Persia brought in their unique food culture to India and soon became ubiquitous in Mumbai due to the Irani Chai and brun maska. The USP of Iranian Cafés is the honest price.

Irani Cafés typically serve ‘brun maska’ (bread and butter) and ‘paani kam chai’ (a strong Iranian tea), or khari chai (very strong tea), mutton samosas, and Kheema Pav, Akuri (a scrambled spicy egg preparation), berry pulao, vegetable puff, vegetarian/chicken Dhansak (a spicy broth with lentils, pulses) and Biryani, cherry cream custard, cheese khari biscuits, plain khari biscuits, coconut jam and milk biscuits and Dukes Raspberry drink. The Parsi Bhonu (meal) is available at most Irani restaurants. Many Irani cafes offer sweet and salted biscuits like Rawa (semolina), Til Rawa Coconut, Nankhatai (sweet, crisp flaky Irani biscuits), Tutti-frutti biscuits. (Source – Wikipedia)

“The Victorian ambience of these Cafés is basic with a subtle colonial touch, high ceilings, round wooden tables with chequered table cloth and four wooden chairs, glass jars (called ‘barni’, a slang in Mumbai parlance) that allow a sneak peek into the sweetmeats inside, white bone china cutlery and huge glass mirrors on the walls to create a feeling of space.”

There were many Irani Cafés in Mumbai till the 80’s, however the numbers gradually depleted and today only a handful of them are operational … with the century old B. Merwan & Co. about to shut shop on 31st March this year, the Irani Cafés of Mumbai are on the brink of extinction.

Dining at a Irani Café can be a nostalgic experience for many. Here’s a list of popular Irani Cafés frequented by young and old generation of Mumbaikars.

Café Address Must Try Timings
Kayani & Co. 657, Jer Mahal Estate, Opp. Metro Cinema, Dhobi   Talao, Mumbai Brun   Maska and Chai, Kheema Pao, Caramel Custard, Akuri 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM
Sassanian Boulangerie 98, Anandilal Podar Marg, New Marine Lines, Mumbai Mawa Cake, Chicken Puff, Akuri 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM
B. Merwan & Co. Ali Bhai Premji Road, Opp. Grant Road Station, Grant   Road East, Mumbai Mawa Cake, Pudding, Caramel Custard, Omelette Pao 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM
Café Britannia Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road, 16, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai Berry Pulao, Dhansak, Caramel Custard, Mutton Cutlets 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM, Sunday Closed
Koolar & Co. 541, Noor Mahal, Kings Circle, Matunga East, Mumbai Akuri, Kheema Pao, Brun Maska and Irani Chai 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM
Café Military Behind BSE, Opp. HSBC Bank, Fort, Mumbai Kheema Pao, Bheja Masala, Caramel Custard 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Sunday Closed
Yazdani Bakery (Veg. only) Cawasji Patel Street, Fort, Mumbai Apple Pie, Brun Maska and Chai, Khari Biscuits 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Visit one before they become a lost heritage.

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