My head did a full one-hundred-eighty. There was no one in sight other than the three fishermen who were going about their business. My son and I played in the sand -- collecting shells, chasing crabs and watching small fish in the shallow waters. We came back counting butterflies on the street.
This is the thing about Bordi. It is private, secluded and gives you a sense of being one with the sea. It's the silence here that keeps drawing me and my family back, away from the chaotic lives we lead in Mumbai. My memories of Bordi go back to 1994, when I was taken there for a five-day martial arts camp. I spent some of my most memorable nights there, sparring on the beach with my childhood friends, thanks to the coach who took us for a boot camp (of sorts) to a location which was nothing more than a village in the '90s. In 1994, the best way to reach Bordi was to take a rail-shuttle from Borivali and alight at Gholvad station, then walk to Bordi.
After 30 years, I no longer walk to the village, and my trips have changed considerably. Instead of sparring on the beach, I now collect sea shells with my son, which is a different, yet endearing experience. My memories of Bordi from childhood were vivid and specific, so much so that I was able to rediscover its beauty again much later, after we had our son and resumed road trips.
Situated in Palghar district, Bordi is just a stone's throw away from the Gujarat border, and merely 150 km from Mumbai city. Once you pray to God (preferably all Gods) and cross the Dahisar Check Naka toll gate and the bridge near Hotel Fountain on Vasai Creek, the first 3 km are painful due to the infamous potholes, but after that, it is fairly easy to get to the destination. There are two routes to explore, but thanks to my multiple trips, I can easily say that taking the left turn after Charoti toll gate into Dahanu city, and then over the Dahanu railway flyover, is the best route which brings you to the wonderfully secluded and scenic coastal road to Bordi. The other route -- via Talasari -- is longer and crosses into Gujarat, before bringing you back to Maharashtra near the border at Umargam, and then descends into some hills surrounding Bordi.
It is a very scenic route, and I would recommend it to first-time visitors for the return journey. The drive itself is quite easy The highways till the Gujarat border, barring some odd stretches, have been well-maintained by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). And one also does not need to worry about places to halt. From fast-food outlets to smaller dhabas and kathiawadis, you'll find everything. One can even find fuel stations every few kilometres. My advice: check your tyres and verify the stepney before you enter Dahanu as you may not see pumps or tyre-repair shops for long stretches in the villages as you swerve into Bordi.
After you take the left at Charoti towards Dahanu, the lanes become full of villages, where farmers on bikes and women and children walking long distances on the side of the road are a common sight. This is the ideal stretch to slow down and to enjoy the scenery and beauty of northern coastal Maharashtra. I've driven on these roads at 1am too and felt completely safe all through, with village women walking home in the dead of the night. There are village homes on the main road for emergencies, if any, and the locals are quite helpful. I also suggest not forgetting to stop at the small farsan shop near Ganjad village for poha and batata vada.
On the roads up to Dahanu railway station, you can spot large rivers and many small tributaries, some of which you can step into. There is also a small check dam near a temple right after the cut-off. After the first market where you can alight, park the car and explore, if the local women are not accessing it. This dam is perennially overflowing and is clean enough to walk across safely if you're courageous. Watch out for snakes in the shallow areas where the water is largely stagnant. Along the same road, there are some truly beautiful private farms right next to a river to spend some time, but beware of small wild animals and serpents.
After crossing Dahanu's railway station flyover, you'll be faced with a dilemma. Google presents you with two choices at the main intersection -- a right and a left, both of which can take you to Bordi via distinct routes. My pick: Take the left and get on to the coastal road. For the next 30km, you will see nothing but beaches and fishing villages after the loud and boisterous Dahanu beach, all the way to Bordi. For those who like people, noise and crowds, Dahanu beach is a decent stopover. A few kilometres and some patience will lead you to a few truly secluded and empty beaches before Bordi that one can explore, especially in the mornings and afternoons if you don't mind the sun. There are multiple spots where you can click photos, wade in the water and stop for snacks. Beware of potholes -- there are some nasty ones on this road which have not been repaired for years.
Once the drive is completed, you will arrive at a police checkpost, after the old Bordi village, nestled under a large banyan tree. This is where the actual adventure begins. To stay the night, our usual pick would be the Florian Homestay, which my wife and I discovered on our fifth trip. Managed by the immaculate Shahrukh Irani and his octogenarian mother Shirin Irani, the family's strong and cheerful matriarch who is 87 years old, and their army of housekeepers, you'll be hard-pressed to find a homestay accommodation as clean as this, anywhere in Bordi. They are extremely warm and supportive people, and the stay comes inclusive of bed and breakfast.
They have a private pool which is available to guests upon special permission and if the local guidelines permit. Next to Florian is a great bhel puri and pani puri stall, Jai Jalaram, flocked by visitors from all over the taluka and even people from Daman. Only a few feet ahead of the road is the main Bordi beach. One can hop, skip and jump on to the beach from here.
When it comes to activities, like Seinfeld, the show about nothing, Bordi is a quaint, quiet and cosy place to simply unwind and not engage in any tedious tasks. There are a few caves listed here, but the trip to reach them may be complicated, owing to the lack of any network. The results will be anticlimactic to say the least. Wake up slightly early, walk on an empty beach, have a chat with the local fisherfolk, maybe learn fishing with them during the morning walk and then go to a chikoo farm nearby for a tour. Bordi is known as one of the largest chikoo cultivation towns in Maharashtra so there are loads of chikoo farms around, which also promote agrotourism treks and tours.
The next big thing one can do is to drive down to Daman and spend a day. And if you wish to tread on the road less taken, take the back road connecting Bordi and Daman along the coast which doesn't require one to return to the highway. A 50km coastal road, straight down Bordi village crossing the police checkpost, can take you into Daman in one-and-a-half hours and the route is quite scenic with fishing villages, cheap vegetable markets, Nargol beach (another quaint Parsi village in Gujarat) and many ponds, including a half-a-kilometre long one full of lotus flowers -- a mesmerising site if you catch them blooming.
At Daman, one has the option to dine at the legendary Veera's Dhaba, one of the best and truly authentic Punjabi dhabas on the Western seaboard. An institution in Daman for over 40 years, I used to frequent this place in the '90s when it was still a small, ten-khatiya (rope-bed) restaurant. Now, it has grown exponentially into a two-acre property. Yet, the food quality and portions have not changed. In Daman, one c an also explore the black sand beaches, or visit some beautiful heritage sites like the Church of Bom Jesus in Moti Daman which draws the interest of history lovers. Established in 1559 and consecrated in 1603, the Church of Bom Jesus is a hidden example of the brilliant engineering skills of the Portuguese.
You will also find a lot of heritage structures in and around Daman which are more than a century old. For those with larger budgets, the Deltin, Daman, is an option. And for authentic Gujarati thalis, one can visit Hotel Sovereign.
Returning to Bordi in the evening, you will find a few more people on the clean beaches, some camel rides and a lot more noise from local families and outsiders. It is best to use Bordi as a hub and drive down to Daman, instead of the other way around. Bordi is not your regular weekend getaway spot. Historically, it has been a Parsi settlement, with a lot of refined and highly educated Parsi families staying here in harmony with the local, indigenous Maharashtrians for over a century. Within the village, you will find a lot of old, decrepit houses and some immaculately maintained heritage properties.
Since 2015, I have done the trip thrice in an entry-level small car, four times in a compact sedan and four times in my current vehicle which is a mid-size hatchback. In fact, the first time we visited was when my son was just three months old, and we weren't even looking to go to Bordi. We had spent two days in Daman, but Google Maps showed me the destination, and all my memories rushed to rediscover the place. My dependency on Bordi is so high that when we visit next, it will be our 12th trip to the location. Our child was always a travelling baby, and we have done close to 35 road trips in six-and-a-half years with him. An elder friend once advised me that if you train children early, they adapt beautifully to the rigours of life on the road. Now, six- and-ahalf years later, he knows what to do, what and when to eat, when to sleep and when to harass his parents in the car