It’s about three months since I posted my last travel experience. Thanks to all the readers and a beautiful lady from DNA Mumbai, my last travel blog on Sanjay Gandhi National Park went to printing press to get featured in 23rd June’s Mumbai DNA. Unfortunately, since then, my hectic work life has given me a little chance to explore more of morning places to be in Mumbai. But yes, that will resume for sure.
Sometimes the journey becomes more interesting then destination. In this case, it is difficult for me to judge that. It was around mid-June that I came to know about Igatpuri, a less explored hill station among many around Mumbai. While I have been exploring many places within Mumbai, it was time to move out a bit. In an attempt to gather a group, I approached Abhishek, one of my old friends from Hyderabad, and he agreed. Another common friend Vipul, also agreed to come along with his cousin. While the initial idea was to have a thrilling bike tour to the place, but with monsoons on full swing, safety took priority over adventure.
However, some people require more than humans to convince them. With two people threatening to pull out if the trip was not a bike ride and given the economics of taking a cab for just two people, we agreed to take out our bikes for the trip. So, Sunday morning 5:30 it was, as I woke up to meet Abhishek at the designated place at around 6. As I looked out of window the heavy rains were on. As I expected, at 5:55, Abhishek called up. “Hello” – “Sirjee, Vipul bol raha hain cab lete hain” (Vipul is saying let’s take a cab). It took a demo by Varundev (God of Rains) to convince Vipul. So, Abhishek booked the cab.
Since we are not Gandhi sons, it took about an hour for the travel agent to send a cab at such short notice. With cab picking all of us from our places, the journey started with rains still on. As it had to happen, we started to deliberately nag Vipul throughout the road on how the bike ride idea would have backfired. Crossing JVLR-Eastern Express Highway-Thane, we entered NH3. It was surprising to see such ill managed highway even after paying tolls at, almost, every 5-10kms of the road. The tolls were actually taking toll on our pockets – we felt!!
With stomachs still empty, we stopped for the morning breakfast at Kamat (having very good food according to the cab driver), which we certainly disagreed after. But for a true Gujarati, a good tea in the morning is what is all required for breakfast. So, for me, that was enough to kick-start the day.
It was the second time that I experienced the rich natural landscape of Maharashtra (the first time when I traveled from Pune to Mumbai). With rains still on and dense fog wrapping around the mountains, nothing else could give peace to the eyes of an everyday Mumbaikar.
We reached Igatpuri while watching the landscape, cracking jokes, office gossips and all the fun. As we reached, we stopped at a Pan Shop to know more about the place and what’s in there to visit. Surprisingly, the paan wala was surprised to see us coming to visit Igatpuri. He, instead, suggested us to visit Bhandardhara, some 40-50kms further down from there, which had waterfall, beautiful landscape and many water sports options – which eventually turned out to be so very untrue. With another cup of tea, third for the day (clearly annoying for Abhishek), and a paan, we went ahead to explore the unexplored. For Abhishek, what mattered was the water adventure sports – which eventually didn’t happen – but enough to keep the trip going.
After taking a right from NH3 at Ghoti, we entered Nagpur-Aurangabad-Mumbai highway for a small distance and took another right to Ghoti-Bhandardhara road. The hilly road with picturesque landscape and mountain had it all to amaze us. Capturing everything in our cameras, we saw other tourists stopping their cars, having fun and pictures (mainly for their FB profile picture). Four bachelors having best time of their weekends – how can they resist making fun of the families (even when we know we have been on the other side of the door sometime in the past and would be as well sometime in future)? With people making all kinds of gestures and postures in their pics – it was just a matter of finding a chance.
The place, in and around Bhandardhara dam, is full of small and big waterfalls – mostly small. While Abhishek was looking for THE WATERFALL, it was a test of patience before we find one. As we reached Bhandardhara, there was a long queue of cars on the small road. Navigating our way through, we reached to Yash resorts, few kms before Bhandardhara dam to see the road bifurcate – one going to Bhandardhara and another one to some weird name that I don’t remember. We took the one to Bhandardhara and finally reached the dam. Much to our disappointment, the distant view did not provide any encouraging vibes about the rest of the place. After asking the tourists who were returning back, we came to know that there is a waterfall but nobody is allowed to take a bath in there since some people died few weeks back. After investing few thousands into a trip, you won’t like to come back empty handed. With a hope of still finding something more exciting, we marched ahead to the Umbrella falls. As we reached, the place was buzzing with tourists. The artificial waterfalls (water falling from the top of the dam) weren’t really encouraging and after spending few minutes, we returned to the cab.
While there was nothing much left, as we thought, after the dam fiasco (heaven for families – not so much for us), there was a final attempt to salvage the day – the other road at the bifurcation we encountered earlier. As we entered the other road, we encountered another line of cars – mostly for the Anandvan Resort. Surprisingly, there was an entry fees to the route to Backwaters (as they call it). Desperate to get in – we paid and entered. Within first kilometer, we realized that we recovered every penny we paid.
It was one of the best natural sceneries I had seen in my life. Surely, a heaven for photographers. We stopped the cab. For the next 15-20 minutes, we completely forgot where we come from, where are we going – completely living in the present, enjoyed every bit of what Mother Nature had to offer in front of our eyes. While the place was as beautiful as it could be, we soon realized WHY. As human beings, we love natural beauty, dense forests, high mountains, snow, picturesque landscapes, open fields, foggy skies and what not. But, at the same time, we are also too lazy to conserve it. Let’s just say we bring our city habits to the non-city areas – throwing empty water bottles, uneaten food leftovers, empty plastic bags, spitting and so on. That was exactly the difference we found between Umbrella Falls (buzzing with tourists) and Bhandardhara Backwaters (quiet, less populated and clean). This lake is also the one that provides water to Mumbai (although it’s the irony that the villages near the same lake do not get water from the lake since it is reserved for ONLY MUMBAI).
Setting off from there, the hunt for waterfalls was still on. While there were many small waterfall streams flowing through, we weren’t sure if taking bath in them would be a good idea (as human beings, we always look for support before doing anything weird and it holds true for groups as well). After about few kilometers of travel, we saw a waterfall with some of the tourists taking bath and having a great time. As we jumped into the natural mini-pool under the waterfall and the pristine water falling all over the place, I realized the gifts that nature has given us – which our generation is missing these days in our busy city lives. The next 30mins were pure fun under the waterfall as the families watched us go mad (probably the male members were recalling their bachelorhood days).
After drenching ourselves, as if never taken bath in life, we head further to explore more. Now was the time (4:30PM) when our stomachs were talking and we realized that it was since Kamat, all we had in terms of food was a plate of pakodas at Umbrella Falls and 3-4 cups of tea. Unfortunately, we discovered that there was not a single dhaba in the entire area and the first diner would be on Nagpur-Aurangabad-Mumbai highway – which was some 40kms from where we were. The only thing we had for our rescue was some biscuits, sweet gooseberries and apple. Content with that, we had some time at our disposal before we could head back – although the appetite for more explorations was lessening.
As we moved ahead, the fog and rains began to engulf the road and the visibility became poor. Some of the other tourist cabs coming from the opposite end told us about some beautiful peaks and points that we can see on our way ahead. We went ahead and stopped at a place – which appeared more like Mandva of Agneepath (the Hrithik Roshan one). As we saw the dense fog slowly moving ahead and reducing our visibility – the group enjoyed every bit of the moment. Few meters ahead there was another peak, what appeared more like Tiger Point in Lonavala. With cars parked everywhere and loud music on from some of them, it was more like a party point. After spending few minutes there, it was evident that our kilometers were over. It was time to get back and have some food. But the experience of mother nature and some of the best landscapes we witnessed today made our day, which is what we took from Bhandardhara.
It was a non-stop drive back till the first food shop we encountered at the junction of Bhandardhara-Ghoti Road and Nagpur-Aurangabad-Mumbai highway. As if testing our patience, the stall wala took some 15-20 minutes prepare vadas for Vadapavs. Meanwhile he made a sale of some biscuits, cigarettes and tea (probably that was his STRATEGY!!!). After adding fuel to our stomachs, we drove back to Bombay (in the dense fog for the first 20-30kms where we drove behind a truck).
While there is a lot Maximum City has to offer, there is some reason why is it not called Complete City!!!