Monsoon in Bhandardara
The trip was totally unplanned, and sudden of course. Just to bring a break to the daily schedule of shuttle cock life between the courts of office and my rented apartment. But surprisingly, it turned out to be pretty well organized. The budget never created in issue when I was determined to go somewhere near the city, and again, the trip ends with a happy pocket as well. Bhandardara is a place to visit only in the monsoon. It has all its charm only during this part of the year. Its just like the peacock spreading her wings with the first downpour. Its entire charm is the frequent waterfalls and the lush greenery. Specially, a tourist going from a concrete jungle is sure to enjoy that.
There is always a difference in a foodie and a hardcore traveler. The monsoon always gives a feeling of lying back at home with some unhealthy snacks with tea and favorite music; pretty romantic may be for the former. But the later will always like to utilize the extra pour. I was in Mumbai at that time, which already holds a record of heavy rainfall. My personal experience has found out several locations nearby the city which are ideal during this time. One among them is Bhandardara. It is on the western coast of India, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, which is about 180km from Mumbai.
I was new to my job, and cash wash always a crunch in that new city. Didn’t manage to create a huge group and hire a car for the ride, but that couldn’t kill the plan. That Friday, I carried my bag, with stuffs like a couple of shorts, umbrella, and my camera. As per the plan, we three will be leaving for the destination right from office. We boarded a local train, and reached Kalyan by evening 7pm. Rushed at the ticket counter to buy a ticket. There is a train named Panchavati express from Kalyan at 7:15pm, which stops at Kasara, and then the second halt is at Igatpuri. One and half hour of journey took us at Igatpuri by 9pm. We had no prior bookings, and mostly sure, of not required, as the monsoon has already eaten up most of their business. But I was wrong. There were three small guest house near the station, two of them were all booked. It was pretty strange, yet, I felt happy that I am not just the only one to think different, I have competition. The third one turned out to be lucky number for us, and we got a cozy room of two double beds and attached bath. The owner was kind enough to give us a minor discount as we were only three. I mentioned him specifically, that we are dying out of hunger, and we will be back downstairs just after a shower. Unlike city hours, they tend to shut down the shops by 9, but the prior request worked. And trust me, when you are hungry, you do compromise with the available food. However, that brought some life and energy back. Back to room, and some rounds of playing cards, and a sweet nap.
Morning I woke up with the sound of a thunder. It was just 5 in the morning, and it was drizzling outside. Took out my umbrella and went out for a walk, without disturbing the other snoring bugs in my room. The village was awake, with smokes oozing out the kettle and mixing with the fog, the chilling drizzle pinching my bare legs below the knee. I gazed at the station beside, which seemed to be of a dreamy land. I was getting engrossed in my own imaginative world, when a sudden “Good Morning Saab” woke me up. With popped out eyes, I again brought myself back in reality, and yes, he is none other than the auto driver who helped us in giving the room information last night. Before google, I always trust the local guys when directions and informations are concerned. I made a quick decision, and booked his auto for the entire day. He asked for something, but I bargained it to 600. We have a train to catch from Igatpuri Station at evening 6. So he needs to drop us back by that time. He seemed to be convinced, and before he changes his mind, I thought of getting ready and start. The two were still sleeping, need to push them too.
We checked out the room, and started in the auto rickshaw. It was still raining, and the rickshaw had to be properly clad with curtains all the side. Fortunately, the plastic in use was totally transparent, which didn’t obstruct the view totally. The vehicle turned towards the Mumbai Nashik expressway. Not to mention, the road was superb even for a three wheeler ride, and soon we reached Ghoti. This is a major junction. We took a sharp right turn, where the road was full of potholes and there is a congested market that we need to cross. But that stretch was not long, soon we found ourselves between stretches of green. The color seemed to have brighten up with the drizzle, which took a small pause. There are innumerable small waterfalls at every corner, which makes the road wet with a small stream intersecting the path. We came out for a short walk and asked the vehicle to follow us. Perfect lush of greenery, mountains making the barricading of land and sky, and the interrupting streams and falls. I envy those people who get to see this view every morning, unlike the concrete jungles.
With that, we reached our first spot, Wilson Dam, which is on river Pravara. This is one of the oldest dam of India, at about 150m above the mean sea level. The view is excellent, but it got even better when we reached the circular garden located at the base of the dam. From there you get a picturesque view, which we utilized to the most in clicking our portfolio. This place is called Umbrella falls. The same river descends from a height of 170feet at Randha falls. This falls is beautiful only during monsoon. The lake beside the dam is called Arthur Lake. The clear and placid lake is bounded by thick canopied forests of the Sahyadri hills. We found some boating facility available there, which we felt too cheeky to opt for. But, we found few families enjoying the ride. The water was crystal clear, with no dirt harming the visibility of its bottom through the liquid. From there, we had a bumpy ride till Ratanwadi, of Ratangad District, which is 17km away. In between, we traced a waterfall, which seemed to be the longest of all viewed by us in our stretch of journey. We couldn’t drench ourselves, but there is tea stall right beside that falls, which forced us for a stop. I met an old man, with a jute cloth shading his head, selling some local sweets, which we normally offer to gods. I bought a packet for my own stomach god, to satisfy his greed in my temple dome. Couldn’t recognize the language, but still, we conversed since long. The journey starts again, until we reached Amriteshwar Temple. The temple premise is vast and expanded. Specially the small water body encircled by the masonry structures were amazing. The temple is small, with a trishul outside. That was enough to make out that it is a shiva mandir. The downpour has made some stagnant water inside the temple. But still, it gave goose bums due to the echoing silence. We boarded our mountain ranger, for a drive back to the station of Igatpuri where we had started from.
What have we missed out? Kalsubai, the highest peak of Shayadri. This is a hot spot for all the one who loves trekking. I wished I could too, but time and energy questioned, and the reply was obvious. We even knew, that there is a fort at Ratnagad, which was captured by Chhatarpati Shivaji. We enquired about that fort, but our guide couldn’t drive us to that location, as he hardly knew much about Ratnagad. We even missed out the Agasti Rishi Ashram. This age-old dwelling is mentioned in the scripts of the Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Rama and his brother Laxmana visited Shri Agasti Rishi to seek his blessings. The Rishi gave Lord Rama an arrow, which he used to kill Ravana and rescue his wife Sita. The Ashram, situated on the bank of the Pravara River, continues to attract visitors. Even though we missed out many things, still, it was a day well spent under the clouds, with the nature and series of waterfalls. Back to Mumbai, just the reverse route by which we had arrived. Like all, even I had a hangover on the following Sunday, but, of different dimension and perspective.
Accommodation: MTDC Holiday Resort, Yash Resort
Peak Season: November to April
Best time to visit: Monsoon
Places to see: Wilson Dam, Arthur Lake, Mount Kalsubai, Agasti Rishi Ashram, Ratangad Fort, Amriteshwar Temple.