Whenever I plan to take a trip to a new place, I tend to do a lot of research online on sites like TripAdvisor, travel blogs, articles on Nat geo traveller and Conde Nast…the list goes on. Things to do, eat, see, and buy, little known nooks and crannies, maybe places to party as well. I think the research just adds to the excitement.
In the olden days I used to visit bookstores and hang around the travel section, amidst piles of Lonely Planets. You’d find me tucked away in some corner or hunched over books in the aisle, making surreptitious lists and mapping out routes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s done this.
But it’s ironic how a lot of times people tend to overlook all these amazing must see must do lists for the places they live in. I’m guilty of that as well. I think I’ve explored just a fraction of my hometown of Mumbai. But, I try my best whenever I can.
One such interesting location is Madh Island. I’ve had the opportunity to visit it by:
Ferry– You can catch a very inexpensive ferry from Versova Jetty, located inside Versova Fishing Village. The ferry takes a couple of minutes, and they transport certain types of vehicle like bikes as well. It’s not for the faint of heart though. Boats are packed at full capacity and there is a chance that you’ll have to stand the entire way. But I think it’s the more adventurous way to go. You get to see all sorts of interesting people as well as cargo on that short trip.
By road– And by that I mean either your own vehicle, or BEST buses, or perhaps even rickshaws or taxis. It’s a fairly long drive but it’s very scenic. Lots of greenery. If memory serves me correctly, you also get a glimpse of the Global Vipassana Pagoda.
What was most interesting about Madh Island for me were the fishing villages. We decided to set off via ferry one day, and caught a rickshaw that took us through the narrow winding by-lanes of the Versova Fishing village. There were several colourful houses that we decided to explore once we were heading back home.
The wharf itself was a bit of an assault on the senses. Although it was interesting, with a riot of colours and people, dozens of tiny fishing boats docked along the water’s edge, it was also incredibly dirty, and smelly. But we braved it out and decided to ignore the bad parts to focus on the beauty of it all. And well, see for yourself.
Getting into these sort of overcrowded boats are always a challenge for me- because of my overwhelming fear that I’ll slip and fall into the water, but once you’re in and get comfortable, sitting or standing, it’s all smooth sailing from there (no pun intended).
Once you land on the other side, you go through a sort of narrow turnstile and reach the ticket counter, where you have to pay to exit. But don’t be in a rush to leave just yet. Look around the Madh Island wharf area, it’s pretty interesting.
Now when you go online and check up on Madh Island itself- the things to see and do, you’ll find on the list, among other things, luxurious hotels, an old fort, as well as a beautiful old church. But our agenda was very different. We wanted to explore the fishing villages. And we weren’t disappointed.
After a short rickshaw ride and we decided to continue the rest of the journey on foot. There were so many tiny by lanes, and interesting houses, all belonging to the villagers that currently reside there. We spoke to several people along the way- from children, to the local fishermen and women, all curious to see what we were up to. A lot of people there were happy to pose for us, and even tell us their stories- about their kids, spouses and their day to day lives.
We finally managed to make the kid on the right smile after several unsuccessful attempts. His brother was the cheerful one of the two that day
The women and children we met and spoke to where incredibly warm and sweet, so were many of the fishermen. We got a chance to document their day to day activities outside their home- washing clothes at a large community well, sorting out the nets, cutting fresh fish, and most interesting of them all- the drying of the fish.
Since this area, along with Versova, has always been a fishing village for centuries, they continue with tradition, and the time tested methods of catching and preserving fish and shrimp in the open air and the sun are still carried out here.
I wouldn’t recommend wading into the water for a swim though. And a word of warning- if the smell of fish is off putting to you, think ten times before coming. The smell is everywhere, and it will permeate into your pores, your clothes and your shoes (We went out to run a few errands after that and realised we smelled like dried fish only after several people started inching away from us). But it’s nothing that a bath and soaking your things in soapy water won’t fish..I mean fix.
Several hours of walking around in the hot sun, and a few invitations from some really sweet women who were welcoming us to their homes for hot, home cooked meals, we had to peel ourselves from there and head back to the main land. We chose to go the ferry route again. The Versova wharf is even more fascinating around sunset. You feel like you’re outside the city.
I’ve gone to another part of Madh Island by road as well. It’s a different view, and we managed to catch the sunset from one of the many beaches. The one we visited was considerably cleaner, but less interesting in my opinion. If I could pick one way to travel to the island I’d recommend the ferry.
There’s a new annual Sea food festival that occurs at Versova Village for around 3 days and it’s supposed to be brilliant if you’re a sea food lover. You can check out the details on their Facebook page.