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 and discovered that controlled by the Portuguese, the fort served as a watch tower to the Revdanda creek and the strategically important Chaul Fort in the past. The photos on the internet further fuelled my desire to personally experience those stunning seaside views. A little bit of planning and our weekend was set with a coastal road trip.
Halfway through Tamhini Ghat, the Konkan mood set in. The soil turned red, coconut trees swayed to a different song and the houses seemed 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 in sight. Standing atop a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea, it was really huge! We followed the direction boards to reach the tiny Korlai hamlet at the bottom of the hill. Manoeuvring the tiny and crooked lanes, we were on one of the most stunning coastal roads that took us up to the Korlai Lighthouse, which is still operational.
A short climb from the lighthouse, aided with super narrow steps and we were at the top of the fort. Though most of the fort has been destroyed, the boundary walls give an idea of its past glory.
There are no official guides to walk you through and impart any knowledge about the fort. So we asked a guy working at the lighthouse to show us around. He agreed promptly, hoping to earn some cash. But soon we realised that this ‘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 known existed. Every time we thought this was the end, a new route cropped up. He did get his tip though.
Walking through the length of the fort, we chanced upon several sections that are witness to the Portuguese era. The exterior of the then church still stands, albeit in a dilapidated condition. Faded by time, Portuguese symbols on the wall are visible to the discerning eye. An old style water tank too lies in ruins nearby.
Due to its 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.
It took us a little more than two 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. The Portuguese, who built it, defended it effortlessly and as a result it has never been conquered. There are references on the internet of the Marathas capturing it for a brief period but nothing to substantiate it.
How to reach
The distance from Pune is just 150 km. 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 throughout.
MSRTC buses ply to Konkan regularly. Autorickshaws 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 minutes 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 as Revdanda offers many options — home stays, hotels, resorts and camping tents. Most of them are listed on Google so you can easily find one that suits your needs. They are no frill places and provide only basics.
As we had not pre-booked, we spent close to an hour hunting for a place and finally settled for an inexpensive resort right on the Revdanda beach.
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 a hotel that serves veg and non-veg food. But again, Revdanda has more options in terms of small restaurants. There is a slim chance of finding Punjabi or Chinese cuisine though; most serve local cuisine only.
While in Korlai, do try Kokam Soda, a drink available at roadside stalls. Made with the extract of Kokam, mixed with soda and spiced with masalas, it leaves a nice tingling aftertaste.