Monsoon Travel: Driving Through The Sahyadris

{0 Comments}

45
Roadside Waterfalls, Bhandardara
Monsoon Drive Image: Garima Sharma
Monsoon Drive
The Western Ghats occupy a special place for the coastal folk of western India. They are responsible for the fantastic monsoons that we experience. The ghats act as barriers to the heavily pregnant clouds that drift from the south west which eventually give in and we are blessed with rainfall. This climatic condition has greatly influenced not only the lives of humans but also denizens of this green region. Home to a wide variety of birds, animals, reptiles and thousands of species of plants, the Ghats are a biodiversity hotspot. Recognizing the value of this unique region, the UNESCO has recently designated the Western Ghats as a world heritage site! This is not only a moment of pride for us, but also a great privilege. The Sahyadris as the Ghats are known in Maharashtra are at their prime during the monsoons! In our Monsoon travel series, we bring to you three best ways to explore and experience this region in its most pristine form. This week, find out all the great spots to go on long drives for this season. Long Drives/Bike Rides Around Mumbai In The Monsoon I am sure most of us have driven down to Khandala-Lonavala and experienced the magic of the mist filled ghat while munching on a hot bhutta and sipping on chai. But this dream sequence is interrupted by unnecessary honking, loud playing music and clogged roads. Fret not, there's more to monsoon than Lonavala.
Monsoon Drive Image: Garima Sharma
A drive in the monsoon
1. Igatpuri-Bhandardara-Nasik The newly constructed two way Kasara Ghat has turned this erstwhile nightmarish route into one of the most enjoyable driving locations. One can visit any of these places individually or combine all three over a weekend. The Camel Valley at Igatpuri is quite famous for its waterfalls and random trails that you can explore. Take a detour from Ghoti and you will find yourself ascending the winding road to Bhandardara. Home to Arthur lake and Wilson Dam, this quaint hill town offers a relaxing gateway in the monsoons. About 10 km away from the town, lies Randha Falls where River Pravara plunges about 170 feet into a gorge creating one of the most awe-inspiring sites. From Bhandardara, you can also drive down to Nasik - the wine capital of India. On your way, stop by at Pandavleni - the ancient buddhist caves of the Satvahana period and then spend the afternoon lounging with a glass of wine at one of the many wineries that abound in this region.
Roadside Waterfalls, Bhandardara
Roadside Waterfalls, Bhandardara
2. Tamhini Ghat via NH17 The National Highway 17 would be familiar among folks who drive down to Goa often. This small highway is connected to Pune via the beautiful Tamhini Ghat. Abounding with waterfalls that spill onto the road and home to plenty of birds, this is an ideal spot if you would like to combine a trip to Pune over a weekend. It culminates at Mulshi Dam which offers some good accomodation options facing the lake. 3. Malshej Ghat Malshej Ghat was thrown into the spotlight when Raavan, the film was shot here. Unmatched in the rains, the dense fog cover that engulfs this area is not only the reason to drive all the 140 kilometers from Bombay, but the drive in itself is quite inviting. The route goes via Kalyan which is a perennial haven for potholes but as one leaves the city and enters the outskirts via Murbad, the scene is terrific! Lush greenery surrounds you, dotted only with small hamlets and typical highway dhabas. Pimpalgaon Joga Dam located close by plays host to flamingoes that migrate here during the monsoons!
Drive to Jawahar
Drive to Jawahar
4. Jawahar The hill station of Thane district, holds its head high as it tries to compete with its cousins in the Raigad District. Drive down towards Wada via Bhiwandi (which isn't much of an exciting route but tread on nevertheless), and take the Khodala route via Parli after Wada. This will lead you to Khodala via Suryamal, the highest point of this region. This route is replete with curves and thus gets exciting after every mile! After passing Khodala, the road condition might deterioration a bit but only for a small stretch. The majority part of the drive is smooth and you cruise into Jawahar. Jawahar is home to the Jai Vilas Palace, belonging to the erstwhile king of the Warli tribe, the indigenous people of this region. Also worth visiting would be the Dhabosa waterfall, about a few kilometers away. The fuel rates have soared and such journeys might be luxury to many. However, the MSRTC (State Transport) bus network is quite strong and if you plan your journey well, then you would still experience the joy of driving through the green ghats without spending a lot of money.
Road to Jawahar
Road to Jawahar
While driving down, please follow all safety instructions as the dense fog cover and steep inclines on these routes make the ride slightly risky. Avoid late night drives and note down helpline numbers of the nearest police stations and hospitals for emergencies. A GPS device would be helpful but if you can string a few words in Marathi, then getting around the ghats shouldn't be much of an issue. Know of other interesting long drives around Mumbai, do let us know below! Next week: Trekking through the Western Ghats All Images By Garima Sharma  

Rushikesh Kulkarni

Rushikesh Kulkarni
Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.