While randomly surfing the Konkan coast on Google Maps, I came across a little protruded landmass into the sea. Upon zooming in, the area read as Korlai Fort.
Intrigued, I googled more about the Fort. Controlled by the Portuguese, it served as a watch tower to the Revdanda creek and the strategically important Chaul Fort. The photos on the internet made me want to experience those stunning seaside views myself. A little bit of back and forth and our weekend was set with a coastal road trip.
Halfway through Tamhini Ghat, the Konkan mood set in. The soil turned red, the coconut trees swayed to a different song, houses were stuck in a time warp. Smiling faces waved back at us on the narrow roads.
As we crossed the Revdanda bridge, the Korlai Fort emerged out of nowhere. Standing atop a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Fort was nothing short of huge!
We followed the direction boards to the tiny Korlai hamlet just at the bottom of the Fort hill. Manoeuvring the tiny crooked lanes brought us to one of the most stunning coastal road that took us up to the Korlai Lighthouse, which is still operational.
A short climb from the Lighthouse, aided with super narrow steps and you reach the top of the Fort. Though most of the Fort has been destroyed, the boundary walls give an idea of its now lost stature.
There are no official guides to walk you through and impart any kind of knowledge about the Fort. So we asked a guy working at the Lighthouse to show us around. He agreed promptly, hoping to earn some extra cash.
Walking through the length of the Fort, there are several sections that are a witness to the Portuguese history. The exterior of the then church still stands albeit in a depleted condition. Faded by time, Portuguese symbols on the wall are still visible to the discerning eye. An old style water tank lies in ruins nearby.
Due to the extensive length, the Fort offers multiple view points. A panoramic view of the Revdanda Beach, Chaul Fort, the open sea, the Kundalika river merging with the sea, the Korlai beach and the fishing village of Korlai sandwiched between Kundalika river and the vast Arabian sea.
Not a long time ago, the villagers of Korlai built a temple on the Fort premises.
Our ‘so called guide’ wasn’t really informative. He knew nothing about the Fort’s or Korlai’s history. His only help came in the form of taking us through doors and passageways we would’ve never thought existed. Every time we thought this was the end, a new route cropped up. He did get his tip though.
It took us a little more than 2 hours to walk the entire length of the Fort, with multiple stops to appreciate the views and click some pictures. I’d recommend not more than half a day to soak in the surroundings.
I could find no authentic source of history but it is believed that this Fort was attacked by multiple rulers but the Portuguese, who built it, defended it effortlessly and as a result has never been won. There are references on the internet of the Maratha’s capturing it for a brief period. But you can’t really believe everything on the internet.
How to reach
The distance is a paltry 150 km from Pune. There are quite a few routes that reach Korlai. While going from Pune/Mumbai, you can either take the Mumbai-Goa highway via Vadkhal Naka or via Durshet/Pali. The other road for Punekars, which we took, was through Tamhini Ghat. Though a little longer (approx. 160 km), the route passes through the eco sensitive Tamhini Wildlife Sanctuary and is scenic all through the way.
MSRTC buses ply to Konkan regularly.
Auto rickshaws are available to reach the Fort from Korlai bus stand on the main road. If you don’t mind walking, it’ll take you not more than 20 mins to reach.
Where to Stay
There are a couple of home stays in Korlai but the recommended option is making Revdanda your base and exploring the area. Home stays, hotels, resorts, camping tents, there are lot of options available. Most of them are listed on Google so you can easily find one that suits your needs. Most of them are no frill places and provide only basics.
We stayed right on the Revdanda beach in an inexpensive beach resort at around Rs. 1500/- per room. As we had not pre-booked, we spent close to an hour hunting for a place and finalising it.
What to eat
Korlai being a comparatively small fishing village, there aren’t any restaurants here. You will have to ask around if anyone is serving lunch/dinner to tourists.
Just outside the village on the road to Borli village is hotel that serves veg and non-veg food. The best option again is Revdanda where there options and small restaurants. There is a slim chance of finding Punjabi or Chinese cuisine as most serve local cuisine only.
Do try Kokam Soda, a drink available at roadside stalls. Made with the extract of Kokam, it mixed with soda and spiced with masalas and its tingling aftertaste will leave you wanting for more.