Breakaway from the crowd this Monsoon!

Monsoon is well & truly here. After a long long wait, Mumbaikars (Mumbai Citizens) are finally rejoicing a long spell of incessant rains. Relentless & untiring, the rains have managed to cover a lot of ground on the deficit front.  As I write this, the catchment areas are being lashed with heavy rain bringing a sigh of relief to the city. The lakes have been thirsting for this long overdue spell of rain.

Now that the waters are filling up the mountain streams & lakes, a lot of Mumbaikars are venturing out to enjoy this nature’s gift that it presents each year between June-September. The usual suspects are Lonavala – Tiger Point & Bushy Dam, Waterfall at Bhivpuri, Chinchoti or Zenith (Khopoli) & Malshej Ghat. These areas have been witnessing a large gathering of enthusiasts and has certainly taken a toll on the innocence, charm & beauty of these places. If you wish to try something really different this monsoon, continue  reading. I have thoughtfully listed out, from my experience some wonderful one-day getaways in the monsoon, where you will not only enjoy in the lap of nature but be completely content with the experience! A mix of adventure & calm is what you would experience at these places. I Guarantee that!

Devala – Amidst the waterfalls

This one is probably the toughest to reach. Not because it is too far away from any prominent city or road but the road leading up to it is never in a great condition in the monsoon. To give you an example, we had to work very had to keep our bikes from not skidding in the muddy path. Devala lies to the South East of Igatpuri near a small yet beautiful village of Bhavli. The place is a wonder. It is extremely difficult to explain the description of it in words, yet I will try. There is a dam at Bhavli Village which forms a huge lake. The lake itself is filled by streams running down from the hills that cover the lake almost entirely. The falls are one of these streams coming down the hills.You can circumnavigate the entire area, as there is a road which is built between the lake & the hills. But, as I said earlier, driving or riding may not exactly be easy here due to the bad state of the road. It is difficult to believe the beauty of this place and once there, you just admire nature’s artistry. It’s an unforgettable experience being there.

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One of the falls at Devala.

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The lake and the surrounding hills.

How to reach: If you are driving/riding down, then take Mum-Nasik Highway NH 3 upto Igatpuri, after crossing Manas resort, ask for Ram Nagar. At the exit for Ram Nagar (which is to the left) from the highway, there is a right turn going towards Venkatesh Nagar which would be on the opposite side of the highway. Take this road and drive straight passing Venkatesh Nagar until you reach Bhavli which should be approximately 10 kms after your turn on the highway. You could park your vehicle at Bhavli and move ahead walking and exploring the entire area which would not take more than 90 minutes. Pick a safe waterfall if you wish to drench yourself under it. Be alert and careful all the time. If going by train, get down at Igatpuri and take a shared jeep or rickshaw to Bhavli. My suggestion would be to go by your own or arranged transport, as dependency on public transport can cause inconvenience.

Drive or ride down from Wada to Khodala

This has to be one of the most scenic drives near Mumbai. Its hard to beat the experience and thrill of driving down this road. Once past Wada, the road starts unwinding through a portion of the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary and moves ahead uphill crossing the Pinjal river. At a particular spot where the river is close to the road, you can get down and go down to the riverbed. This is an excellent place to sit down and open some food to satisfy your hungry stomach. Just lie down at the shallow point of the river and stare into the sky and let your thoughts roll on or simply soak in the moment. The road goes through hills & some really dense forest with no sign of human settlements for long periods. Finally, you will reach Jawhar. From there, move ahead to Khodala and then towards the Mumbai-Nasik Highway NH3. You will be able to witness wonderful sights along this road and also the Middle Vaitarna dam. The newly constructed dam to supply water to Mumbai. Once on the highway, you can drive back to Mumbai via NH3. The experience of this drive, will leave you totally refreshed and recharged, that’s the impact of that nature’s beauty has on you on this stretch of road.

Khodala itrekz 2

Photo Courtesy: itrekz

Khodala itrekz 1

Photo Courtesy: itrekz

You can reach Wada via Bhiwandi, take a left on the Mum-Nasik highway at Mankoli. Reach Bhiwandi & ask for the road to Wada. Alternatively, if you are travelling from the western suburbs, take the Mum-Ahmedabad highway & at Manor, take the road going to Wada. At Wada, ask for the road to Jawhar. Carry sufficient food and water & also ensure you fill-up enough fuel as this road does not have a petrol pump after Wada.

Detour from the Murbad-Malshej Ghat road

NH-222 is one of the most scenic highways of Maharashtra. It starts after Kalyan and ends in Nirmal in Andhra Pradesh or Seemandhra now. But, most Mumbaikars know this highway as the one that takes them to Malshej Ghat. This highway isn’t exactly busy except for the continuous movement of ST buses plying between Kalyan & Ahmednagar. The road, right from Kalyan to Malshej Ghat is so wonderful & delightful that you do not feel as though you are driving down a single lane highway (picture & compare NH17). The place I am going to tell you about is actually something that we stumbled upon accidentally. We were heading to Malshej last year & it turned out that the road was blocked by the police near Tokawade, as an accident had occurred on the ghat. We had to then change our plans and thought, why not take a detour and venture inside the village roads. Google Maps showed us a dam near-by, which is the Dhasai dam. The view around the dam was simply breathtaking.

Dhasai Dam

You can see why!

There were some people fishing at the dam and it was just a great feeling to be there. The range of Sahyadris around Naneghat which included the peak of Dhakoba, which we eventually trekked in October, can be seen covered in the clouds. We wanted a waterfall, we wanted the experience of Malshej Ghat. We asked around and a kid told us to head to Singapur which was about 10 kms from the Dhasai dam.

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Once you pass the village, there is an open field just before the road takes a turn to the left. You can park your vehicles here and take local help to reach the waterfall, where there is usually Nobody!

Naneghat

 

View from the place we had parked our car.

This detour isn’t exactly a proper route hence you will need your own vehicle, but, I would suggest you explore this area, if you have the adventurous streak. Its an amazingly beautiful area and you would find very few people coming here. An apt place for privacy & much needed peace!

So, these are some places I suggest you try this monsoon, there are several more places that I have been to and can suggest, but, I will keep it to these 3, as I believe they are ideal for a 1 day getaway.

PS: Please carry your own food and water, as locals do offer to prepare food, but, the experience hasn’t been great. Please be alert and take local guidance when venturing in these areas as they have a better understanding of the risk associated. Also, would request you to maintain the decorum and sanctity of these places that are far away from the popular destinations yet beautiful and enchanting in their own way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Night @ Sanjay Gandhi National Park

When it comes to national park’s or wildlife sanctuaries, we tend to think about the time, travel options and vacation plan that will be required to put in place. There are very few cities in this world that have a national park within its boundary. Mumbai, has the biggest national park within its city limits, and I am extremely lucky to be living in this city.

This has taken some time to write, but, nonetheless, I hope I can put into words, all the experience that I had in this wonderful night spent at the Park.

My friend Kishore Mestry, a keen enthusiast like me, decided that it was high time we explore the possibility of staying inside the SGNP for a night. He found out the options to stay and it was a really good deal. A tent for 6, in a properly set-up and maintained camp area costing about Rs. 2400/- for a night. It is big enough and has beds with 2 Fans.

Tent inside SGNP

Our Tent inside the camping area!

So, the stay was taken care of and now, we were really gung-ho about spending the entire night inside a park that certainly buzzes with animal activity in the night. Incidentally, it was the night, when one of the heaviest rains recorded in the history for the month of June lashed Mumbai, making the stay all the more beautiful. The frogs were out and also the crabs, giving out signals that monsoon was well & truly here. After a decent dinner, we ventured outside the camp area to explore the park. What we experienced for the next 3 hours was certainly some of the most fascinating moments of our lives which will be difficult to forget. Especially, if you are a nature and wildlife lover with that adventurous streak, you know, you live to see and experience such days.

What we saw in the next few hours was, night inside a forest & wildlife in that thick of the night. Deer’s, snake, wild hare, fireflies & some curiously unidentified eyes in the dark. All of this, was so thrilling, that, our appetite for going through this experience was just getting bigger. Taking pictures of these animals in the dark was not easy and we realized how hard those wildlife photographers work, with loads of patience needed for that perfect moment with high levels of stealth. We, well & truly felt like those photographers. Although we wanted to explore a lot more area of the park, we, were certainly not allowed to enter some cordoned off core areas, for reasons of safety. That did not really bother us, as we had seen enough wildlife until then in the non-core area, that we had some sense of satisfaction.

Snake inside National Park

A Beautiful Snake

It is certainly hard to fathom, that, at only about 4 kms away, is the entrance of the Park, beyond which is a mega-city, filled up with a man-made jungle and vehicles. It is certainly a great initiative by the government, to have declared this area as a National Park and for the conservationists to have protected it from the land sharks until today.

There are certainly national parks & wildlife reserves much bigger than the size of SGNP, but, what makes this experience completely different is that you are aware that this is an island of jungle with real and free animals within a city bursting at its seam. Just to think of this fact, makes it so special and to an extent proud, that amidst all the greed outside of this park, there is some hope left yet! 🙂

PS: For staying options and booking, you can contact the office at the entrance of the Park.

Top 5 beach getaways around Mumbai!

Okay, so you have been planning that oh-so-badly needed weekend getaway from all the chaos and clutter in your life in the maximum city. Your thoughts revolve around a few things as criteria – not so long journey, decent accommodation, reasonable access to necessities and above all, not a lot of damage to the wallet. You maybe planning this with your group of friends, colleagues or family. I have listed out below with careful consideration, the 5 beaches I believe are wonderful getaways around Mumbai. ( I am not ordering them in any form of hierarchy so choose whatever suits best for you).

Heavenly Ganpatipule

This is a fascinating beach front, around the hillocks of coastal Konkan. Although it isn’t really close to Mumbai, it is highly accessible via rail and road and is wonderful for a 2 day vacation. Ganpatipule, as the name suggests is majorly popular for the temple of Lord Ganesh, which is beautiful. It is right on the beach and looks amazing under the moonlight! There are several options to stay here and are quite reasonable ranging from Rs. 800/- to Rs. 2000/- for a couple. MTDC has a staying facility (stunning location) and you can check out availability here.  Additional persons, maybe charged extra. The other relatively lesser known attraction here is the Tourism Department promoted Konkan Village, a made-up tour of the history of Konkan which is definitely worth a see. Your travel options could be rail (preferable) and road.

Beautiful Harihareshwar

Harihareshwar, like Ganpatipule is also a temple town along a fabulous beach. The beach is tranquil with not a lot of visitors. Clean water and sand, strike you first as key attributes of this beach. The Harihareshwar Temple has significant historical importance. A 3.5hour drive from Mumbai will not weigh you down, as you would travel all along the NH17 and take a right turn at Goregaon, which is after Mangaon. By train, Mangaon is the nearest railhead. Accommodation is available via local hotels but you should prefer staying at the MTDC resort. One of the best beaches in Maharashtra, Harihareshwar is definitely worth a dekko! PS: Don’t miss clicking the sunset here 🙂

Quaint Kashid & Majestic Janjira

Living in Mumbai and haven’t been here? You don’t want to miss out on this one. Kashid is the best beach within 150 kms of Mumbai. It has a look and feel of beaches in Goa, with Hammocks, Water sports and the Deep Blue Sea. It is one the finest spectacles near Mumbai, although its discovery by more and more Mumbaikars has led to a really high visitor flow, it still remains one of the better options amongst all the beaches in Alibag. About 40 kms from Kashid, Janjira stands like a gigantic Colosseum in the sea across the Murud beach. A fun ride in a sail boat, will take you to this historical fort. Built by the Siddi’s of Africa, this monument has the distinction of being unassailable until it was handed over to the British. Accommodation is not at all a problem here with plenty of options along the road and up to Murud. The best way to reach is definitely road, as the nearest rail head Roha, is at least 50 kms away. See here.

Serene Bordi

Bordi is the only beach in this list that lies to the north of Mumbai, towards, the Gujarat Border. Close to the town of Dahanu, this beach is peaceful to say the least. If fun and frolic is not your mantra, then you would find plenty of peace in the Dahanu-Bordi stretch. Along with the beach, watch out for various kinds of birds that reside in the trees along this coast and as the visitor flow is not as much as the other beaches, you can spend leisure time just roaming around on the beach and amidst the trees. Accommodation aplenty, rail and road are equally good options to reach here. The only flip-side is that you will not find too many Fish serving joints here. The worthy one is near Dahanu, run by a Parsi Family and called Pearline.

Go Gorai

It wont be a surprise to find a lot of people who know this name but haven’t been here. Gorai beach lies within Mumbai and is accessible via road and boat. Now, why is this a recommendation? Purely for 3 reasons: Accommodation, Accessibility and Affordability. Gorai is cleaner as compared to most Mumbai beaches and has innumerable staying options. If you are expecting 3 or 5 star facilities then this is not the place to go. Gorai beach is also very scenic and pleasurable in the evening. You can drive down to this beach and can get  your vehicle on the beach front and drive down 2 kms of it. Travel by a vehicle would be best recommended, yet, if you would like to save on time, then you have ferry options from Marve in Malad and Gorai in Borivali. For the last minute planners, this is a good option!

Mumbaikar’s are lucky enough to have such wonderful options for beach getaways, so each one of us should make use of it. There are innumerable other beaches near Mumbai and In Maharashtra, that it is difficult to handpick the top 5! Go Ahead and make the most of your weekend!