Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Five day road trip into Western Ghats from Pune - day 4 and 5

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway 

Related links:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Day 4: Dapoli to Raigad fort, Kolad
Distance covered: 143 kms

Day 4 dawned cloudy on the beach as we woke up a bit more leisurely and decided to make a move. Our intent on day 4 was to travel less but instead spend time trekking to Raigad fort. The route to Raigad can either be along the beach which we travelled for some distance before heading back inwards towards the mainland. We reached the base of the magnificent Raigad fort by afternoon.

I wish I could say we trekked to Raigad fort. I wish I could say we explored the fort end-to-end and had a scenic view of the entire landscape from above. I wish I could say we did true justice to Shivaji's capital.
The throne at Raigad Fort. More visible is the mist around the same, rather than the throne itself
Unfortunately, amidst heavy rainfall, we were forced to go to the fort in a more-comfortable trolley instead. A trolley can be fearful for someone suffering from vertigo, but that is only when you can see what is around you. Right from the moment we stepped into Raigad, we could only see mist and the clouds descended imperiously to ensure that visibility was at bare minimum.
Water droplets, at Raigad fort

We walked through the clouds, a heavenly experience in itself; but not all that heavenly when one can't even see more than few feet ahead; whilst the intent was to enjoy the scenic beauty.

We spent some time at Raigad fort without understanding too much about the same and chose to go back down in the trolley instead of trekking.

Since it was evening by then, we moved on towards Kolad and stopped at one of the many hotels on the state highway.

Indulging in some photography experiments in the heavy rain, we attempted capturing the falling water stream from the roof of the hotel.

The parallel lines are the sheets of water pouring down due to torrential rains.
Taken at infinite focus, attempting to hide the lamp light; and shutter speed of 30 seconds.

Map for Day 4

Day 5: Kolad to Tamhini ghat, Tamhini Waterfalls, Lavasa, Pune
Distance covered: 185 kms

Discarding our plans for rafting (from Kolad) due to paucity of time, we chose to go on towards Pune via Tamhini Ghats.

Again, we were mesmerized with our last sighting of the amazing greenery and multiple cascade waterfalls flowing from the hills alongside.

One of those many waterfalls, a fairly large tiered waterfall was Tamhini waterfall, flowing from above and turning into multiple streams by the time it reached us at the base of the road. With a sigh  of disappointment that our trip was coming to an end, we moved on towards the city-side.

Tamhini Waterfalls. Enormously tall, the head of the falls are not visible in this picture.
A large-tiered fall!

We planned to visit Lavasa which is a couple of hours drive from Pune, and we then realized where did all tourists from the city typically go on a weekend. 

Lavasa is an upcoming man-made hill station near Pune which is still under construction. The place is wonderfully placed with two dams as sources of water expanse; and at a good altitude. The European styled city itself is beautifully constructed and is worth visiting once. However, it seems to be in the news for multiple wrong reasons too. 

We reached Lavasa by afternoon taken aback by the astounding landscape that presented itself amidst the picturesque buildings that have been constructed therein. We had lunch at Lavasa, with limited time on our hands we couldn't do much more as we got caught in torrential rain as we made our way back to Pune.
Beautiful landscape of Lavasa. Mist and cloud overhanging this European-styled city!

We reached Pune at 5.30pm well in time to catch our respective mode of travel to different destinations back home; capping off a fantastic trip.

Map for day 5


With little knowledge of what to expect, Western Ghats took us by surprise. Travelling around 900 kms over five days, the greenery and the heavenly water-rich state amidst dense clouds and graceful mountains left us salivating for more. But time is always at a premium and we had to head back well satisfied, yet disappointed. 

There are a plethora of beautiful places in this country - some well explored, others unseen and unheard off! Let us respect nature and continue to cherish and enjoy all these wonderful places.

Related links:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five day road trip into Western Ghats from Pune - day 3

There are small streams of water, there are waterfalls and then there is the little known Ozarde Falls.

Related Links: 
Day 1
Day 2 
Day 4 and 5 

Day 3: Satara to Koyna Dam, Ozarde waterfalls, and Murud-Dapoli beach
Distance covered: 188 kms

Lovely eyes! A Large Grey Babbler

Leaving Satara early was important as this was the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. We left early enough with an intent to cross Koyna Dam , Koyna river and eventually head out to one of the many beach towns.

The route to Koyna is via Kashil and Umbraj and we reached the same fairly briskly and spent some time at the large dam and reservoir ensconced over Shivsagar Lake. Truly Maharashtra is a water-rich state! A small diversion from Koyna, was the Ozarde waterfall on a map which we wondered whether to go or not. Eventually we decided to see it through, and how lucky were we.

Ozarde waterfall barely finds a mention on internet compared to the more popular Thoseghar; and I hope it continues to stay clean and a virgin territory for most people.

Driving off towards Ozarde, we passed a couple of smaller waterfalls (Ghadav Ram waterfalls and one other); leading us to believe Ozarde would be similar to these. We persevered and finally reached the same, a sign of desolation was the closed eatery outside the same indicating not much business in that area. Still there were a few other people around.

To reach the falls, however one has to go through a small half an hour trek right in the heart of the jungle amidst dense trees and undergrowth. To compound matters, the steps were slippery to say the least and we had to be quite careful while walking. After a zigzag uphill and downhill, during which the stream from the fall flowed alongside us, we reached Ozarde, some of us grumbling whether this was worth the effort.
Trek through the jungle for reaching Ozarde Falls.

And then we finally reached the falls. There are small streams of water, there are waterfalls and then there is the little known Ozarde Falls.We were quite taken aback on seeing the falls, period!!! 
The stunning Ozarde Waterfalls falling from a height of more than 100 meters maybe.

Ozarde waterfalls was the best thing that happened to us in the entire trip. Imagine how one feels on seeing a sheer gigantic drop of maybe 100 feet right next to you. Yes, this was a plunge waterfall with stunning amounts of water falling with a tremendous force and roaring noise.  We had trekked very near to the base of the same. The water hitting the surface with ferocious intensity at such close quarters causes a lot of mist and we got wet happily off the droplets.

Gazing mesmerized at Ozarde Waterfalls and feeling the water droplets of the thudding water force

Eventually we moved on hitting the main road back on our way towards Kherdi and Chiplun where we stopped for lunch. Our original intent of going to Kashid beach, would have been difficult, so we chose to go to Murud-Dapoli instead.

Dapoli is a town adjacent and the corresponding beach is named Murud beach. We reached Dapoli by around 4pm, and got a resort stay which was decent enough amidst dense trees and a direct access to the beach. The beach itself was a quiet one, albeit not very clean. A typical small town beach, with limited number of people most of whom were fishermen; our only wish was that it could have been cleaner.
Pleasant, quaint Murud-Dapoli beach and the violent waves of Arabian Sea

Star Fish

Following the adage of respecting the sea even more so during monsoons, we spent some at the beach till nightfall and moved back to the resort.

Related Links: 
Day 1
Day 2 
Day 4 and 5 

Map for day 3

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five day road trip into Western Ghats from Pune - day 2

Related links:  
Day 1
Day 3
Day 4 and 5 

Day 2: Mahabaleshwar to Satara, Kaas Plateau, Thoseghar waterfalls and back to Satara
Distance: 147 kms

We left Mahabaleshwar early on Thursday, and met our other fellow travellers at Satara. With a full house of six people, all luggage moved upwards with a covering tarpaulin to protect the bags during rain.

Continuing our journey, we stepped forth towards Kaas Plateau. Kaas Plateau is renowned to be the Valley of Flowers for Maharashtra where one can beautiful colourful flowers blooming from the second week of September.

We were two weeks early in our visit, however we still saw a few buds and flowers which left a taste on what it might be cometh full bloom.
Greenery at Kaas Plateau!

What we did see however was absolutely green grasslands on a hill with a stunning view of Kaas Lake. We proceeded on towards Kaas Lake, a pleasantly vast expanse of water amidst the clouds.
Kaas Lake

There is a large waterfall (Vajrai waterfalls) near Kaas lake that we missed seeing due to lack of awareness for the same.

On our way further, we made a brief pitstop at Sajjangad fort, choosing to climb for half an hour to the fort top from where we got a splendid view of the mountains.

More greenery! Almost looks painted

View from Sajjangad Fort. The fort was not much to speak of; but the view is excellent

From Sajjangad Fort

Thereafter, we continued our journey on to Thoseghar falls (going back towards Satara for the same); and reached the same by evening. Near the falls, we got lost while trying to find the same but eventually reached there by around 4pm.

Thoseghar has a small complex indicating different directions for different falls. The waterfall sighting happens across a mountain where the falls are seen and heard roaring down the cliff. The deep gorge in between us and the falls makes for an unreal landscape. There were multiple waterfalls at the same place, couple of them tiered (and falling in stages); while one was a free fall (plunge) from maybe more than 100 feet and making a stunning amount of noise.
Thoseghar Waterfalls
This pic does an injustice to the thudding water from 150 meters or more; and the deep gorge in front of us
which is not well captured.
  After drinking in the falls with our eyes (from the distance of the opposing mountain) we finally reluctantly moved on before it got dark. We also had our first encounter with leeches as one of them happily camped on my neck, but I was fortunate enough to feel it before it had done too much damage.

Given the delay, we were no longer in a position to go on towards Chiplun, and chose to go back to Satara to stay for the night.

Related Links: 
Day 1
Day 3 
Day 4 and 5 

Map for day 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five day road trip into Western Ghats from Pune - day 1

Related links:  
Day 2 
Day 3
Day 4 and 5

Waterfalls, greenery, lakes/reservoirs - all in ample abundance!

I will probably run out of adjectives to describe the lush greenery and beautiful waterfalls by the time I end writing this post. There are different types of waterfalls - horsetail waterfalls, multi-step waterfalls, cascade waterfalls, free fall (plunge) waterfalls, tiered waterfalls and many more. We probably saw the lot.

Below described is day 1 of this fabulous trip!

Itinerary: 27th - 31st August, 2014
  • Day 1: Pune to Varandha Ghat, Shivtharghal Waterfalls and Mahabaleshwar
  • Day 2: Mahabaleshwar to Satara, Kaas Plateau, Thoseghar waterfalls and back to Satara
  • Day 3: Satara to Koyna Dam, river, Chiplun, Dapoli
  • Day 4: Dapoli to Raigad fort, Kolad
  • Day 5: Kolad to Tamhini ghat, Tamhini Waterfalls, Lavasa, Pune

Just for academic purposes, the original plan which we had started out with-
Day 1: Pune to Varandha Ghat, Shivtharghal Waterfalls and Satara
Day 2: Satara to Kaas Plateau, Kaas Lake, Koyna Dam, Chiplun
Day 3: Chiplun to Murud Janjira, Kashid
Day 4: Kashid to Raigad, Kolad
Day 5: Kolad to Tamhini ghat, Tamhini Waterfalls, Lavasa, Pune

Day 1: Pune to Varandha Ghat, Shivtharghal Waterfalls and Mahabaleshwar
Distance covered: 188 kms

  We (six of us in all, out of which three joined us on day 2) entered Pune with a sense of anticipation and not really sure what to expect of our sojourn into Western Ghats. We reached Pune early morning, which is an added advantage as it allows one to start off straight away. Having booked a Xylo (with a friendly driver), we were all set to enter the ghats.

We left towards Satara stopping for breakfast on the way at a Dhaba, and then took a right turn midway for Varandha Ghat. Varandha Ghat is not a specific point but an area in the Western Ghats. We crossed the Nira-Deoghar Dam and were greeted with a vast expanse of shimmering calm water on its reservoir side. Our Xylo went through the multiple twists and turns on the hilly road as we were treated with sights of beautiful lush greenery and dancing streams of water falling off multiple cliffs.
Nira-Deoghar Dam, on the way to Varandha Ghats

We crossed the point marked as Varandha Ghat on the map and continued onwards amidst the greenery. We were greeted with a new waterfall every kilometer or so, in some cases at an even higher frequency. Many of these unnamed beauties are what gives the glow to the entire Western Ghats along with the greenery.

Vast reservoir, and exquisite zig-zag flowing water amidst the hills. On the way to Varandha Ghats.

As we continued, we emerged in a vast opening from wherein we could see around four gigantic waterfalls on the opposing mountain and a deep gorge in between. The exquisiteness of the place needs to be experienced rather than read about.
Varandha Ghats!
This photo doesn't do justice to the actual scenery. Four gigantic waterfalls (two in this pic) streaming down the opposing cliff amidst beautiful lush greenery. Don't be fooled by the smallness of those waterfalls. They were easily 100m tall.
A more closeup view of one of those unnamed giant forces; from a super-zoom camera.

We eventually reached our second destination, Shivtharghal waterfalls after following a treacherously poor road and after passing through a village, we finally reaching a temple through which one could get close up to the powerful stream of falling water known as Shivtharghal.
Shivtharghal Waterfalls. Height: 20-30 meters

There were barely any one else, and the temple keeper, an old lady was surprised asking how came we know about this place. The temple has a cave passing which one can see the waterfall closeup (though the entry to the waterfall was barred shut).
Cave inside the temple, adjacent to Shivtharghal

After Shivtharghal, by which time it was the late hours of afternoon, we had to decide where to stay overnight. Choosing between Satara ( a typical city), and Mahabaleshwar was a fairly easy decision to make as we headed towards Mahabaleshwar.

Mahabaleshwar, not originally on our scheduled trip list is a beautiful hill station meant to be visited post monsoons. We passed through the clouds as we visited the heavenly hill station of Mahabaleshwar. However, we didn't intend to visit any of the points; and just stopped over for the night.
Lush green!
Through the clouds! Mahabaleshwar.

Persistent rainfall and a tyre puncture notwithstanding, we thoroughly enjoyed our day having got a glimpse of everything that we most craved for in a single day itself - greenery, mountains, waterfalls and the like.

Related links: 
Day 2 
Day 3
Day 4 and 5

Map for day 1