Bhandardara – Scotland of Maharashtra !!!
The planning had already begun almost a month earlier when we were hunting for an ideal monsoon getaway, that would not be too wet for comfort. Deadline was June to avoid the heavy monsoon and locations shorlisted were Bhandardara and Diveagar. We ended up finalising Bhandardara as the greenery excited me more than the serene beaches in rains.
We were targetting MTDC for our accomodation, but soon realised that getting a booking for a monsoon weekend is next to impossible. We somehow managed to get a 12-bed dorm for a Friday night and therefore had to shift the trip to a Fri-Sat combo. As conveyance, we settled for a Force Traveller A/C (Sleek – 17 seater). Basic preparations done, the wait for the weekend was full of anxiety .. with the week full of heavy rains adding to the excitement.
Friday finally arrived and we set off from Mulund @ 9:00 am to pick another family from Airoli and get enroute the NH3 via Thane – Belapur road. We hit a roadblock here at the Kalva subway and realised that going back via Eastern Express Highway would have been a better option. It was now too late to do that and we ended up wasting an hour at this junction. However, once we hit the NH3 it was a dream ride. The highway is well constructed with some widening work going on in patches.
As we approached Shahapur, Asangaon and then Kasara, it started raining heavily. The fog had not settled yet and visibility was reduced to 100m. The driver skillfully maneouvred the vehicle through the Kasara Ghat and we managed to reach Igatpuri and take a right turn into Ghoti @ 1 pm. The road hereonwards to Shendi is a typical village road (tarred but potholed) and although it is approx. 35 kms, it took us just more than an hour to reach Shendi and the MTDC resort.
This drive is very scenic with views of Alang, Madan, Kulang ranges and also passes through Bari village, which is at the foothills of Kalsubai (highest peak of Maharashtra). The MTDC resort is located at a prime location on the shores of Arthur lake with a good view of Ratangad.
Once we had settled down in our room, we were so hungry that we literally gobbled up the chhole-bhakri that we’d carried along. Later we caught hold of a guide who promised to show us the Wilson Dam, Garden, Randha falls in the evening and Amruteshwar temple, Ghatgarh on the next day. After relaxing a bit, we left for sight-seeing @ 4:30 pm.
The first stop was on the winding road immediately after leaving the resort. This gives a good view of the Wilson Dam (opened in 1926). We could see one of the gates opened for irrigation. That caused a massive waterfall, which we were able to see up close from the garden below. Enroute this garden are a lot of Jambhul and Mango trees bearing ripe fruit ready to be picked :) .
The green waters of the Pravara gushing past was a treat to watch. We spent a lot of time here in the ice-cold waters. I’m sure this place will be a treat to watch in late-August.
The next stop was further down the same road towards Rajur. Randha falls is an approximate 50 ft high waterfall formed when the Pravara river collapses into a gorge. The valley below was the location for the climax of the hindi movie ‘Aks’. One can see atleast 25 honeycombs hanging from the crevices of a mountain nearby. Although the Randha fall was just at about 10% of it’s maximum strength it was a fearsome sight. I can’t imagine how murderous it will be at the peak of the monsoon. The still waters gave a good photo opportunity for reflections :)
We were back at the resort before nightfall and after a heavy dinner and some gupshup alongside playing cards/housie, had a good night’s sleep. Next morning was a bit hectic with early rise due to MTDC rules of checkout by 9:00 am. I wonder why they have such weird timings when the whole world checks out at 11. Luckily we completed everything on time and we in the traveller by 10 to move towards Ratanwadi.
Enroute Ratanwadi is a small waterfall, accessible enough to get wet under. Had a good time there. We reached the Amruteshwar temple at 12. This is a very old temple believed to be more than 1000 years old and as legend goes built by the Pandavas in a night. It is built in the Hemadpanti style with intricate carvings and the Shivling is submerged in water most of the times. Shivaji Maharaj’s favourite fort Ratangad can be clearly viewed from here and is the source (ugam) for the Pravara river.
The drive from Ratanwadi to Ghatghar is another scenic one, albeit potholed. Sun-kissed peaks greeted us with warmth. I don’t think these wud be visible in the peak monsoon, when the area would be very foggy and the sky gloomy.
We reached Ghatgarh at 1. This is location to a huge vertical rock face named the Konkan Kada and although it is only half the size of the actual Konkan Kada at Harishchandragad, this one too is awe inspiring. The forest at the end of it is said to house panthers, so we didn’t venture further :)
Ghatgarh to Shendi is another hour’s drive, where we dropped our guide and set off on our return journey. With a sole stopover at Igatpuri for lunch, we zoomed back to Mumbai and touched Mulund at 7 pm. End of a beautiful, scenic and much awaited break from the traffic-ridden hustle of Mumbai.
Planning to go back in September to see a overflowing Arthur Lake :)
W E L L W I S H E R A L E R T !!!
This is for first-timers who rely entirely on Google Maps to find a route to Bhandardara.
The top suggestion from Mumbai to Bhandardara shown in Google Maps takes you through Kasara – SH44 – Ghatgarh.
But this road at Ghatgarh simply does not exist. It is a ridge in the mountain and therefore a dead end. I have tried editing this on Google Maps, but for some reason, the stupid reviewers do not seem to understand the seriousness of this glitch and keep rejecting my changes. Below image shows the part highlighted in blue (click this link to see on Google Maps)