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Baby steps: With the Renault Kwid at Velas beach      
Kwid Adventures

Baby steps: With the Renault Kwid at Velas beach     

We take the Kwid to a beautiful beach far off the beaten track to witness an amazing spectacle orchestrated by nature for a few weeks every year     

By Suvrat

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Way too often we chase The Thrill of Driving in our stories. This time, we sought to slow down the pace, as we took the Renault Kwid to coastal Maharashtra. Yes, we did kick up some dust on the Konkan coast and had loads of fun driving on the narrow and twisty roads of the coastline. We couldn’t rein ourselves in! But we were there for something else entirely. Something that mother nature might approve of. You see, all along in the 'Renault Kwid to the Hinterlands' series, we have looked for stories tucked away, stories that the Kwid with its familiar and smiling face always stumbles upon. This time though, we stumbled upon a story that Mother Nature herself wrote.

Velas beach was where we were headed and even to people who have spent a fair share of time exploring the beautiful west coast, it is unheard of. Less than 20km away from the major tourist hotspot of Harihareshwar, Velas is a little village with a small patch of sand attached to it. 40km from the nearest fuel station and a ferry ride away from the nearest ATM, it is a village with very little to show for when compared to the popular Harihareshwar and Srivardhan nearby. Small cow-dung plastered houses dot the tiny trail-like road that leads to the beach and tall coconut trees make you feel like you are in the south of India despite the fact that it is a mere 200km to the west of Pune. There are no restaurants, or big stores nearby and the only source of livelihood for most people here is the little farming that they can muster without any source of irrigation. Sounds like most impoverished villages in rural India, right? Wrong! There is something about Velas that is unlike any other village in India. For a month and a half, every year, Velas beach welcomes thousands of visitors for a special event. And Velas rolls out the red carpet for them.

Baby steps: With the Renault Kwid at Velas beach      

So what’s so special about Velas beach?

In the months of April and May, Velas hosts thousands of Olive Ridley turtles. For those unfamiliar with these incredible sea creatures, Olive Ridley turtles are fairly common in the Indian Ocean and every year in the summer months, females swim thousands of kilometres to the same beach that they were born on. And it is not just a few turtles that come back to lay eggs at the beach. Tens of thousands of these turtles visit the beach in what is called an Arribada, a mass nesting specific to only a couple of breeds of turtles. Judging by all that we had heard, it was a sight to behold.

We simply had to witness it. So without another thought, we trooped into the KWID a little before dawn and headed to Velas. Apparently, the beach is slowly growing into a popular tourist spot and in order to beat the crowds, we decided to head there on a Monday.

Thankfully our photo and video crew had the Renault Kwid to take us there. You see, Velas is barely 200km from Pune but horrible roads ensure that the drive is a good six hours long, and millions of crater-sized potholes away. The Kwid, though, had no problem tackling them and with its pliant suspension ironed out the sharp edges of what could have been a harrowing ride.

After reaching the town of Mahad, we soon found ourselves on country roads so narrow, that the KWID barely fit. Little traffic on the stretch however meant that we could enjoy taking the bumpy, tight corners at speeds that few other hatchbacks can. An hour of spirited driving later, we had our first sight of the Konkan coast.

Deep in the Konkan that amazingly remained lush green even in the sweltering heat of May, we could really appreciate the Kwid’s air-con that kept us comfortable. The roads that we travelled on soon turned into a broken trail of sorts and that’s where the KWID’s agile handling came to the fore. The light steering was particularly useful in navigating between the broken patches. Soon, we were in Velas.

Now, we had no idea of what to expect and were bracing ourselves for disappointment when the elderly woman who ran the homestay we were staying in informed us about the fewer hatchings this year. Sleep eluded us that night and we walked through the canopy of mangroves that led us to the spot on the beach where hatchings take place.

An enclosure constructed on the beach holds thousands of eggs painstakingly collected by local village folk in collaboration with an NGO (Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra) and the government. The ‘vulnerable’ Olive Ridley turtles’ eggs are protected by the enclosure from natural predators like wild dogs and the odd not-so-nature-loving human being.

Baby steps: With the Renault Kwid at Velas beach      

A rush of activity

Precisely when the clock struck six, members from the NGO started digging up the sand that was meant to keep the eggs warm and only a few handfuls of sand later (no shovels can be used), we witnessed, the first baby Olive Ridley making its way out of its shell. Soon, one turned to two and two to three and in no time there were twenty of them taking their first steps. Instinctively, the baby turtles know that they have to make their way to the sea moments after they are born. The waves soon took all of them into where they belonged. Some required a helping hand, which the animal lovers were more than willing to lend. Roughly half of these turtles will never come back to this beach, while the rest, a few years later, will travel for months to reach this very beach and usher in the next generation.

We spent a few more moments at this beautiful, largely empty beach, wondering what it would be like if the rest of the world cared as much about the environment. The locals here do a thankless job of ensuring that most of the eggs can hatch in a safe environment and the only reason they allow the touristy kind to visit this spot is to spread awareness about this humble conservation effort. And we are grateful they do.

On the way back, we drove with a decidedly lighter foot and the Kwid, delighted by our concern for the environment, returned remarkable fuel efficiency. The lighter foot also ensured that we weren’t bouncing around in the cabin and had a relaxing drive back home. Adding to that was the wonderful AMT that just makes it so easy to deal with traffic on your way back home after a long day.

The Kwid also helped us in unexpected ways. The roads around Velas have their fair share of Kwids and the locals immediately bonded with us and identified us as different from the selfie-hungry urban tourists. Why, you ask? It is because the Kwid excels in tackling these tight and pothole-ridden roads and is easily the right choice here, something most of those tourists are unaware of. Or maybe it is all about the camaraderie that the nature lovers of this village shared with us, beginning the very moment they saw the smiling, approachable face of the Kwid. We had a conversation about the environment and a few cups of tea together. And as we left, the quiet 1.0-litre engine of the Kwid we were driving did its bit in maintaining the calm of this quaint village by the sea.

As we drove into the sunset, we thought of ways that we can take care of the environment better and the small deeds that we can all do, hoping that Mother Nature can maybe someday forgive us petrolheads.