A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed, and is, thereby, a true manifestation of what one feels about life in it's entirety. . . I believe in photography as one means of achieving an ultimate happiness and faith! - Ansel Adams

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Malshej Ghat, the Prince of Sahyadris! - a perfect weekend getaway from Mumbai!

Malshej Ghat, view from the plateau

Not many would believe it, but Mumbai is still a blessed place! As Mumbaikars we are indeed privileged to have places like Malshej Ghat at a driving distance of only 3 hours.


Malshej Ghat is a quaint hill-station located ahead of Kalyan, at a distance of about 150 Kms from Mumbai. Cosily nestled in the Western Ghats of Pune District, it is a place which has acquired fame (and some notoriety) for the unparalleled sights it offers during the monsoon months. Indeed the best time to visit the place is during monsoons when the swirling wind, heavy showers, verdant mountains and numerous waterfalls weave an atmosphere of magic in these jungles. But, on weekends, these delights also attract a lot of merry makers for whom the idea of enjoying this nature's bounty is to consume bucketfuls of liquor and then create ruckus in broad daylight along the streets and at the plateau beside the MTDC Flamingo Hill Resort. Aside from this, Malshej Ghat is a place where the waves of commercial exploitation are yet to reach. It has only two hotels worth the name - MTDC Flamingo Hill Resort and Su-shant Resort. Consequently, it is an ideal destination for people who want to spend time in solitude and soak in the tranquil atmosphere.

For a slide show of complete set of pictures from Malshej Ghat, please click here.

Malshej Ghat - Panorama
Malshej Ghat Panorama

The place is equally impressive even during the non-monsoon months. In fact Malshej Ghat is a place which has something to offer for every class of traveller. If you are of the adventurous kind, then there are numerous trekking points around here - Harishchandragad (a place which every trekker worth his salt swears by, being one of the most difficult points in this part of the world), Shivneri (birth place of the warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) and the numerous nature trails in the rolling hills around Malshej Ghat.

For wildlife lovers, the place is a paradise of sorts. Located in the Western Ghats, one of the few biodiversity hotspots in the world, it is home to several species of birds (resident and migratory), butterflies, flowers, reptiles, etc. including its most famous visitor - the beautiful Flamingos, who have perhaps rightfully chosen this place to breed during the monsoon months. The area around Pimpalgaon-Joge dam (located about 5 Kms from the MTDC resort) is an excellent birding hotspot which attracts a host of migratory birds during winter. One could even go Leopard tracking in the dense jungles nearby or in the adjacent Junnar area - Wikipedia tells me that "Junnar taluka in Maharashtra has the largest density of leopard population within a 500 km² area", Gulp!

Finally, if you are of the Wodehousian type, looking to spend a quiet day away from the hustle-bustle of the city, just relaxing, repairing and enjoying the simple aspects of life - seeing time fly by, listening to the sweet melodies of the birds, walking bare-feet on cold grass, feeling the gentle wind lapping on your face, reflecting on the how's & why's of life - then Malshej is perhaps the place you need to head out the next weekend.

For the moment we fell in the second and third category. The occasion was my wife's birthday and we were looking to spend a day out without much fanfare. We decided on the place only two days before and thanks to the off-season, managed to get bookings at the MTDC Flamingo Hill Resort (where otherwise getting bookings is very difficult). We got moving at the crack of dawn and as the soft sunlight filtered in through the trees we could see the air and landscape change immediately after we passed Kalyan. Mountain peaks draped in winter mist, monkeys (Rhesus Macaques) waving out to us from the edge of the road, winding and undulating roads, sweet earthy scent of the Indian hinterland wafting from the villages (still unscathed by modernity), and spicy Misal Pav with cutting tea (for breakfast) were some of the pleasures we enjoyed during this small journey.

As we neared Malshej Ghat, we passed through the solitary tunnel and immediately after it, on our left, saw a strange piece of nature's architecture. Overlooking the vast expanse of the Malshej Valley was a lone rock (shaped like Thumbs-up) jutting out at the edge of a small cliffed plateau. There's a narrow passage at the end of the tunnel which leads to the spot. It's a place from where one can photograph the entire panorama and spend a good 15-20 minutes (or more!) marvelling at the rock and the sights. If you are lucky, you could even get to photograph a Raptor flying at eye level!



Malshej Ghat Panorama
Malshej Ghat Panorama from Rock Point

We reached the resort by 11:00AM. MTDC Flamingo Hill Resort is located on a plateau, surrounded by jungles and rolling hills, and it came to us as no surprise as to why it was so popular with travellers - there's no better place to get a good 180 degree view of the valley (save for the rock point I mentioned earlier). However, the place is like any other MTDC property - excellent location, trashy facilities!

At a distance we could see from the hotel drive-in that the waters of Pimpalgaon-Joga dam were beckoning us - it was wonderful to see them glistening in the sun. Since we were before check-in time, we decided to take a stroll on the plateau. There were very few tourists currently and the vast expanse was ours to own. The plateau abruptly ends into a deep gorge with dense jungle at the bottom. The jungle seemed calm from hundreds of feet above, but I am sure it was wild and teeming with activity below! The edge of the plateau is perhaps the best place to spend quality time!


Soon after a sumptuous lunch (the food is ok if you stick to the basic items) we headed straight towards Pimpalgaon-Joga lake. The lake has been created by halting the waters of River Pushpavati by constructing a bund or an earth-fill dam. There's a crude road on top of the dam which leads to Khireshwar village - the base camp for trek to Harishchandragad. Stretched expansively under the blue sky, the waters appear azure as far and wide as the human eye can see and one feels like getting lost in that moment. It's one of those perfect postcard lakes - rolling mountains on either side, a village behind us and the waters disappearing on the horizon - mesmerising! The lake is peppered with rocks which serve as perching point for cormorants, terns, egrets, kingfishers, and other water birds. Every now and then a cormorant would do the sorties and keep us entertained.




We slowly traversed the entire cross-section and finally settled down at a small piece of land that merges into the waters at the end of the dam. Once here, we waited for the evening - the crucial twilight time - when all the colours of nature would be on full display. The simple charms of rustic life were there for us to savour - smoke billowing from the stacks on the horizon, buffaloes bathing in the waters only a few feet away from us! We also met a villager who told us tales of misery of the people of the land. His eyes were intense, but there would be a glint whenever he would mention the prices that some pieces of land were fetching! We spent our time chatting, throwing pebbles in the water and photographing birds, including the Common Kingfisher who would intermittently come and perch on a rock few feet away from us.





Evening is when nature's magic show begins...





Time flew fast... soon evening fell and we were joined in by a large family group at this time. It was an absolute riot of colours. Sky was the canvas and God was the painter - from shades of yellow to golden to blue on nightfall - we couldn't have asked for more! With a very heavy heart we left the place and trundled back to our car. Back at the resort, a bunch of college students were having a campfire at the plateau. Amidst all the cacophony of these revellers, we could hear songs like Munni badnam hui blaring from mobile phones... wonder what the resident Gods must be thinking of them! Meanwhile, the night sky was beautifully lit up by the near full moon and countless stars.

Bee-eater readying to take flight
In the morning we ventured out early onto the plateau, hoping to catch some birds and capture panoramas in the soft morning light. The Long-tailed Shrike, Green Bee-eater, Pied Buschat, Blue Rockthrush, Crested Lark were all there for us - somehow shy this morning! Soon the butterflies also joined in and all around us it seemed like a song & dance party of nature! Good things don't last for long and the check-out time was looming upon us. In the courtyard we saw people playing volleyball and badminton. Finally by 2.00PM we bid Malshej Ghat goodbye but not before enjoying another sumptuous lunch, this time from the restaurant's upper deck from where the whole valley is visible!





All in all it was a day well spent. Perfect blend of some nature-watch activity and relaxation! Truly, Malshej Ghat is the 'Prince of Sahyadris'!


"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes" Edward Estlin Cummings

As always, I look forward to your comments / suggestions / feedback. Do write in...
Thank you!

19 comments:

Team G Square said...

Amazing photos ...........

The Legend Returns said...

@Team G Square: Thanks so much :)

joshi daniel said...

gorgeous pictures! happy new year :)

The Legend Returns said...

Thanks Daniel for all the comments!

Sumedh Prasad said...

Wow!

The Legend Returns said...

Thanks a lot Sumedh!

Kevin said...

Very beautiful landscape ! Well done !

The Legend Returns said...

@Kevin: Thank you so much :)

Md Mudassir Alam said...

Really a wonderful piece about Malshej Ghat...I too have written a crispy article about the beautiful place. check out at http://indiatraveldirectory.blogspot.com

Wandering With Intent said...

where did you stay?

The Legend Returns said...

@Wandering With Intent: Thanks so much for visiting my blog. We stayed at the MTDC Flamingo Resort.

Anonymous said...

How was your experience with the resort? I have heard quite a few bad reviews.

The Legend Returns said...

Well it's an OK types... it has got the best location...food is also quite Ok if you stick to basic fare! The other places to stay, I believe, are equally god-forsaken...but more importantly their location is a let down.

anju said...

The post is very informative. It is a pleasure reading it. I have also bookmarked you for checking out new posts
damdama lake

Anonymous said...

Just plain beaut, thanks for sharing your view and amazing photos

Sri

joona roshi said...

Amazing pics..........

http://delhiweekendtrip.weebly.com/

Shridhar Mhatre said...

nice photos... specially that blue 1 ... Amazing Maharashtra

The Legend Returns said...

Thank a lot to each one of you for visiting my blog and appreciating the content. Apologies for the delay in replying. Cheers!

ramdin khan said...

Hi,
Great Blog,
I like the way you written the post.
You written very nice information on Hill stations,
It will very useful for new traveler.Images are very clean and easy to optimize. I like to visit Malshej ghat hill station.
Thanks for sharing such a nice blog...

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This work by Maneesh Goal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.