Imagine a train running through a landscape of mountains, rivers and towns and suddenly a tunnel appears through which the train has to pass. The train is engulfed with pitch darkness and the passengers wonder what happened suddenly, only to realize that they are passing through a tunnel. But if the tunnel is longer than the usual ones, some of the passengers wonder if the darkness will ever end? But some who have passed through similar tunnels in the past or have faith that ‘this too shall pass’ look forward to what lies beyond the tunnel. In the earlier months of year 2020, all of us were travelling in their respective trains of life, journeying the landscapes of our choice. Suddenly we all entered the ‘pandemic tunnel’ which made us go through a ‘dark’ phase of our lives. Besides the fear psychosis of the pandemic, health issues due to disturbed metabolism and melancholy of being socially disconnected, created some challenging moments for all of us. But like there is light at the end of every tunnel, similarly we all are now witnessing fresh light after passing through the ‘pandemic tunnel’ with added wisdom and life experiences.
As the conditions in Mumbai relaxed in December 2020, I was looking forward to visit the country side and experience nature, something I was missing since almost a year! Exploring the nature at Orissa in January of 2020, was my very last trip before the pandemic restrictions started in Mumbai. Recently, exactly a year later in January 2021, finally I managed to travel to a nearby destination to experience the raw beauty of nature. The best part was that it was a family trip where the warmth of closeness too was experienced which acted as an anti-dote to the ‘cold bites’ of the pandemic.
Though I have travelled to Mandwa and Alibag for a 100 times and more, this time the journey was special for number of reasons. There were a many first-time experiences that the trio (my mom, brother and myself) witnessed in the one-day outing. It was the first time after the pandemic we travelled as a family. Also, the Ro-Ro (Roll on Roll off) ferry service between Mumbai to Mandwa (that started in August 2020) was experienced for the first-time ever by us. Yet another first-time experience was having delicious lunch at a cosy Countryside restaurant, nestled in a small village near Madwa.
Since we didn’t get Mumbai to Madwa Ro-Ro ticket we decided to take the road route to Alibag. The road journey (9am-1.30 pm) was very exhausting as road diversions and dirt roads messed up with our timeframe that we had decided to reach Alibag. After a 4 & half hour exhausting journey to Alibag we hardly had time to rest or have lunch, as we had to rush back to catch up with the pre-booked Ro-Ro ferry service to Mumbai from Mandwa. The moment we reached the Madwa jetty at 3pm, we realized that we had missed the ferry by 15 minutes. We had no option than to wait till the next ferry scheduled after 3 hours! Though we felt dejected with the fact that we missed the ferry, we then started exploring food outlets to calm our rumbling tummies. We had no idea of any good restaurants around but had seen an advertisement of a place that promoted a Garden Restaurant at Countryside Resort, at a nearby village called Saswane.
We followed Google map instructions to this restaurant and reached the place around 4pm. The owner, a senior lady, who is also a good cook, was very welcoming. Though she had shut her kitchen for lunch that day, she attended us and served us with warmth and compassion. The chicken gravy & mixed vegetable mini thali that was served to us was not only delicious, but it also felt like a blessing too! More about the resort in this link: http://countrysidefarm.in/ After relaxing in the premise of the tree cladded restaurant we headed to a nearby plant nursery named ‘Go Green’ to pick up some plants. More about the plant nursery in this link: http://www.gogreennursery.com/ My mom and brother love to grow plants and the nursery was a ‘fun place’, especially for mom who misses her childhood which was spent in midst of greenery and lush fields of Konkan area of Maharashtra. As we waited for the ferry, I decided to have an evening walk at the Mandwa beach. I had a beautiful time reflecting on the ups and downs of the bygone year, as I played with the waves. Finally, we headed back to Mandwa jetty to experience the Ro-Ro ferry commute, where the entire car enters the huge vessel that carries the passengers & vehicles over the Arabian Sea that fills the land between Mumbai to Madwa. The red floating vessel has been imported from Greece which has been branded as M2M Ferries. Its also referred as ‘The Ro-Pax Ferry service’ which is a joint private-public sector initiative by M2M Ferries Private Limited collaborating with the Maharashtra Maritime Board and the Mumbai Port Trust. Due to this service Mumbai-Alibag travel has become mere 2 hours and if one values time, then the cost of the ferry is worth it! More details of RoRo ferry service in this link: https://m2mferries.com/ The distance between Mandwa to Mumbai is mere 16 kilometres, which is 9 nautical miles. As we entered the ferry, we first parked the car and then explored the decks and watched the sun setting over the horizon. Within an hour, as the Mumbai coast was nearing, I experienced a moment of epiphany. I realized that the fun experienced in that 1 day of our outing was luminous enough to fade out the dark experiences of the ‘pandemic tunnel’ that we just had left behind!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar