Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I have been searching for an English word that means better than picture-postcard-perfect. It has been a futile search, and I totally forgot about the same when I embarked on a railfaning trip on theMumbai Madgaon stretch of the Konkan railway during the monsoon. An hour into the journey, as you cross Panvel, the landscape changes dramatically. Greener than verdant green mountain sides, valleys, the rocks and the winding train, all play out a rare symphony for the eyes.

The Konkan Railways innovation of nets spread across large tracts of mountain side to prevent rocks falling on the tracks instill confidence.Tall mountains, deep valleys, all green, and paddy fields with saplings ready for transplantation are the sights one sees during this enjoyable trip. The train is slower, thanks to the precautionary monsoon schedule, and this lets you soak in as much of the scenery as you can. A short while after Roha, the Jagpudi and Vasishti rivers make an appearance. Now here, now off as the train meanders through the tracks, the rivers along with the green fields and the mountain side play hide and seek till Chiplun, interrupted only by the numerous tunnels that dot the route. The rivers never meet, but disappear ou tof view after Chiplun.

The Chiplun - Ratnagiri stetch is pockmarked by wonderful tunnels, playing hide and seek with alternating deep viaducts. The train dances through the tunnels, some very well lit and long, some short and dark, and waltzes across the viaducts, with waters gushing below.Entry into every tunnel is with a liberal shower of rain water gushing down the roof, and so is the exit. The wonder called Karbude tunnel-the longest in India at 6.5 km is on this stretch. It took awhole 10 minutes to cross - huge exhaust fans compete to keep the air fresh and circulating, the diesel exhaust works hard to neutralize this. A heady concoction for any one, let alone a rail fan.

Make sure not to miss the tallest viaduct across the Panvalnadi – another marvel of how man has tried to tame nature! The last of the season's Alphonsos are still inviting - no matter the timing of mid July. The route beyond Ratnagiri to Madgaon is no different. Shiny rain drenched dark roads snaking through, tunnels, viaducts and what not. The bridge on the Zuari is another treat to behold just before you reach Madgaon. If you love good food as well, make both the onward and return journeys by the Mandovi Express, a late morning departure at either ends, and a late evening arrival in Mumbai –about for the 550 kmstrip. The range of food is simply amazing - the specialities being the tomato soup, the chicken lollipops, methi kababs, Sabudana Vada-mostly specialities not found on trains!

Well, as I came back to Mumbai, I suddenly discovered that I had found a phrase that equaled better-than-picture-postcard-perfect. It was'Konkan Railway' during the monsoons.


Blogger Tantalising Tycoon said...

SJ.. This is simply superb. Made a great read..


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