Jawhar – Serenity and much more

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About Jawahar

Jawahar is a small hill station, around 80 kms from Mumbai and around 60 kms from Nasik. Unlike places like Matheran and Lonavla, this place is still less explored and hence not much commercialized.

Jawahar was a princely state ruled by Munke dynasty under the rule of British. It is placed in picturesque location with dense green trees all around and adorned with many waterfalls large and small attracting quite a few of tourists these days.

Jai Vilas palace and Bhopatghad fort are two of main attractions nearby. Unspoiled and mostly unexplored waterfalls are the prominent tourist attractions in Jawahar.

Trip to Jawahar

We happened to visit this place last September which I guess is the most suitable time to visit this place. The road leading to Jawhar is quite curvy but in good condition and has very little traffic. Both the sides of the road are covered with jungle or paddy fields. Adivasi settlements occur in between but those are spread far too thinly. The sights throughout the journey are wonderful. We took our time with many halts near streams or river bank or just next to road for a few photographs! It took us around 2 & 1/2 hours from Vasai to reach Jawahar. Being a very small town, we did our sight seeing within a couple of hours. Post lunch, we were a bit reluctant to visit Dabosa waterfall. But fortunately decided to go ahead. 🙂

Dabosa fall, around 12 kms from Jawhar, is a scenic waterfall placed perfectly amidst lush greeneries. The thundering cascade and the white gushing water is breathtaking. The backdrop of the waterfall with hilly ranges full of woods is a real charming view. I can surely say, this is a must see place if you are planning a trip to Jawahar.

On our way back, we had garma-garam chai on a road side dhaba, before leaving Jawahar. For people reading this post especially Mumbaikars, this place is more than worth for a day or weekend trip.

Exploits at Kaas – Valley of flowers

About Kaas

Located 26 km away from Satara, Kaas (Location on Wikimapia) is a huge plateau stretching for more than 10 kms, with amazing variety of flowers and wildlife. This place is a paradise for photographers. The best time to visit Kaas is September to October. The plateau lies on top of a huge mountain. It is surrounded by a huge water reservoir formed behind Kanher dam, on almost three sides. Sajjangad, abode of swami Ramdas, can be seen on the left side of the plateau. Kaas, because of its high altitude, appears to be the highest point in that area. surrounded by valley from all sides. The ghat leading to Kaas from Satara, is quite narrow and appears to be risky at times, because of its steep curves. The reservoir and the forest surrounding it is a natural tranquil for nature lovers. The prominence of this place is increasing every passing season.

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Our visit to Kaas

We happened to visit this place on 2’Oct 2011. We were not very sure about the time of the visit. Most of us thought its quite late in the season, and we would be missing the peak time when the blossoming is at its maximum. But most of these speculations turned out to be incorrect. The plateau was huge, and covered entirely with lush green natural lawn. There is no sign of man made constructions anywhere around. The serene atmosphere of the dawn along with the fresh aroma of early morning dew was mesmerizing. Just saying ‘this place was beautiful’ would be an understatement. It was very very very very beautiful. It amazed us to no limit. It was our sheer luck that there was mild drizzling just a couple of days back which lent a new lease of life to the flowers. Well, some appreciation to our whole team ;), we got up early at around 3.30 – 4.00 and were at the venue before 6.00 in the morning because of which we could capture the early morning dew on the flower petals. There were quite a lot of people already at the venue. Most of them were photographers and nature enthusiasts. Its good to see how these people appreciate the nature. Their affection for nature was quite visible in the way the were moving around admiring the unending stretches of flowers. There were a few who were literally spending hours just to get one good shot of the flower. Well, even we were busy trying to capture as much as possible in our cameras. Never mind the quality of images, but we did our best. The place offers ample variety flowers and that too in huge numbers. When seen from a distance, these flowers give a distinct color to that place. A few variety of those flowers can be seen below.

For those who are planning to visit this place, September to mid October is the right time to visit. Satara is the nearest city to this place. You could find many hotels in Satara. With respect to the venue, try to reach there as early as possible. Primarily to experience the early morning freshness. But apart from that, parking cars is also a major issue at Kaas. We were lucky enough to find a place for our cars, but people coming later on had to walk a couple of kilometers from the parking lot.Local authorities have made provisions for a state transport bus from the parking lot upto the plateau. But those are too crowded to carry delicate items like cameras and lenses. Apart from the above, please carry sufficient amount of water and please keep this place clean. There were quite a few people littering around throwing away chocolate wrappers etc. This place is quite huge and cannot be cleaned every now n then. Also try and avoid stamping over the flowers. For more pics on Kaas, please visit my album Kaas- Valley of flowers Driving Directions for Kaas:

Trek to Sudhagad

Plan for the trek

After our Koraigad trek last month, we had decided that henceforth we will not be planning for treks well in advance. It should be done at the last moment or at the most a week in advance. Since the last time it was just four of us (Hems, Andy, Tara & me), this time we wanted more people with us. Swapnil(Swapya) and Prasad(Po2) were insisting on a trek for quite some time.

So we decided upon a date that is 25th June. The Destination was not to be decided till the very end. On Thursday, two days before the trek we had our conference call amongst the members. On the call were Hems, Sachin, Swapnil, Po2, Andy and me. I suggested Tikona or Naneghat as possible places for trek. Swapya suggested a waterfall somewhere near jawahar. Po2 suggested SudhaGad. Sudhagad, I had never heard of this fort before. Po2 said it is somewhere near Pali(A village near Khopoli, known for one of AshtVinayaks eight famous temples. Lord Ballareshwar is the reigning deity of this village). Po2 insisted about this place saying it is not a very big trek, and would be worth a visit. So we finalised on SudhaGad. The next day we spread the news in our group. By Friday evening we were fifteen of us including five of Po2’s office colleagues. So according to the plan, we were going to start from Vasai. Po2 started from his home. He picked Jayesh, Swapnil & Sachin en-route to Evershine gate. Meanwhile I picked Hemant and Anand from their place and returned to our meeting point at Evershine Gate.

Thane – Belapur road

On our way to Sudhagad (Location on Wikimapia)

According to the plan, we set out from Vasai-Virar in two cars. We picked Nilesh at Airoli. Po2’s office colleagues were coming in the third car from Mumbai. We  met them at Belapur. Pranit, who works in night shift these days was going to meet us at belapur. But due to some personal issue, he could not join us.

We reached khopoli by 9:00 where Amit, the only member of todays team from Pune on his bike, had reached far earlier. We proceeded towards Pali, reaching the temple by in around an hour. After a quick darshan, we moved on towards our destination which was still 12 kms ahead. We lost some time in between coz, Casper, Po2’s colleague had lost his way in between. After a brief search operation by Amit and Swappy, we found them. 🙂  and reached a small hamlet named Pachapur.

Mission Sudhagad

The fort appeared to be huge from the base.  As we left the village behind on our way to the fort, the mud hutments of the villagers were getting replaced by trees. After a while we were actually in a very dense patch of the forest. Since the location of this fort is somewhat remote, and it is not known to many people, there were not many people around us.
This is in sharp contrast to other famous forts like Lohgad or Raigad which always have large number of visitors. Lonely though, but we were enjoying every moment of our trek. The pristine beauty of this place is still intact. After around 20 mins of climbing we reached the first amongst the four hillocks. Local authorities have built a ladder like structure to get over this obstacle. A local guy told us there is a small temple of Lord Shiva on the fort. Every year large number of people from the surrounding area visit this temple during Jatra. This ladder was built for their convenience.

Going ahead we crossed one hill after the other. Each one was different from the previous one. There were plains covered with lush green grass cover. Various types of seasonal flowers were adding to its beauty. The perimeter of the fort is very well fortified with its formidable walls still in reasonably good shape. The path which we had taken was actually the rear side of the fort. The main entrance is not very accessible. After about an hour or so, we came across steps which were leading to a huge Darwaza (Gate), covered by two bastions of the fort around 150-200 meters away. The bastion is built in such a strategic fashion that if enemy is trying to intrude inside, he can be fiercely  defended. There are vents to pour  boiling oil on the enemy, places from where archers can hit enemy troops. Standing on the bastions edge, one could see almost half of the forts perimeter. It also gives a very wide view of horizon, whereby a watch can be kept on approaching army. Such minute things were thought at a time when there were no cranes or vehicles to carry construction material, no advanced communication mechanism, no computer to design a blue print of the structure. Those great minds who envisioned it and the strong hands which built it, certainly deserve a manacha mujra (Salute).

Bastions at Pachapur darwaza

After spending some time over the bastion, we proceeded towards the main fort which was still half an hour away. Nilesh, amongst us was very exhausted. But like all of us he made it to the top.

The perimeter of this fort is quite big. The fort is spread across 55 acres. There are many lakes on the fort. There is a palace of Pant Sachiv on the fort, where 50 people can stay comfortably. Also there is a temple of Bhorai Devi, where 25-30 persons can be accommodated. Different kind of medicinal plants and trees can be seen in the surrounding forest. The entrance from where we had come is called Pachapur Darwaza. Another fort named Tella-baila can be seen from one end of the fort.

On top of Pachapur darwaza

Twin forts : Tella- Baila can be seen in the background

Many aspects of this fort match with those of Raigad. Like Raigad, sudhagad also has a machi called Tak-mak-tok. The main entrance called the Dindi darwaza is very much similar to Maha Darwaza at Raigad. Like raigad, sudhagad has ample supply of water. Because of these similarities, Sudhagad is called a Replica of Raigad. Legend says that Sudhagad was one of the few forts shortlisted by Shivaji Maharaj for his capital. But he selected Raigad due to its proximity to Arabian sea.

We had some snacks which we had carried with us. But we had exhausted all water we had on our way up the fort. There were couple of streams which we came across. But the water didn’t appear to be potable enough. The lakes on top had water, but it was quite murky. A villager took us to a place behind the Pant Sachiv palace. There was a small water stream flowing. This place was kept clean by the local people. It is their source of water in monsoon. Water from this stream was crystal clean.

After roaming around on the fort for a couple of hours, we started our way back. It took us around 45 mins to reach the base village. On  our way back, we had some snacks at khopoli after which Amit went his way to Pune. We proceeded towards our home. By 10.00 we were at our home… Tired, but with a sense of accomplishment…

A Saturday, well spent!

Life has become so hectic nowadays. People like me, staying in suburbs of a Mega city like Mumbai, spend most of their time either in their office or while traveling. They hardly get any time to spend with their family and friends. Well, I am no different. So, a break from the daily schedule is always welcome.


At the Ganesh Darwaja

Last Friday my friend Hemant called me asking my plans for Saturday, he was thinking of an outing on Saturday. Since I had nothing else planned, I conveyed my availability. We first thought of Kelve beach, which is around 60kms from Vasai. We called up others in our group, but most of them had their plans. Expecting everybody to come at such a short notice would be asking for too much. Finally we were just four of us. Hems, Sachin, Anand & Me.

On the highway near Panvel

We had a conference amongst four of us late in the evening and concluded that going to Kelve beach for four of us would be a bit boring. Meanwhile Sachin came up with an idea to go to Lonavla. His grand parents stay in a small village named Karla over there. His grandfather has put in a lot of effort on his mango garden. Sachin said it would be worth a visit. On top of that I suggested a small trek to Koraigad. So now, we had a long drive plus a small trek plus a visit to the Mango garden as an option! The decision was simple. We decided on Lonavla. This would be the first trek for this season!

We had to start as early as possible. But Anand had some important work in the morning. So we decided to start at 7:00 am in Hemant’s car. Hems, Sachin and Andy came to my place by 7:40.

The Long Drive:

As always, we started our journey with the groups favorite slogon – “Ganpati Bappa, Moriyaaa…. Undir mama ki jai“.  This was the first time we were going for a long drive in Hemant’s car. He has good control on the car. But has a habit of driving a bit too fast. It needs a bit of effort to keep his Peppy car, the A-Star to run on lower speed though :).  We all, including Kaka-kaki,  had told Hemant to avoid over speeding. His conscious effort to keep the speed in check was quite visible.

A view of the valley ahead of tiger’s leap

We refueled our car on the Ahmedabad highway. After a while we were on Ghodbunder road. The small ghat section followed by the road aligned with the creek, looks more beautiful at early morning.  We took the Thane-Belapur route via kalwa as it avoids two road tolls. None of us had a proper breakfast while leaving in the morning.  By the time we had crossed into Navi Mumbai, every body of us was feeling hungry. We were looking for a road side tapri for a quick chat-patta breakfast, but ended up at McDonalds just before the Mumbai – Pune Expressway.

McDonalds, need a special mention over here. Coz, this made me nostalgic thinking of the old college days outings with this group. With limited pocket money, our entire picnic budget use to be bit more than what we spent here at the Mcdonalds for a single breakfast. Then it was the  great Indian burger – Wada Pav which was our staple food. Good or bad I am not sure, but the wada pav is much more tastier than this videshi khana.

We took the Express-way and reached Lonavla in around 40 mins. We were heading towards Koraigad. Very few people are aware of this place. It is around 20 kms from Lonavla, near a hamlet named Peth-Shahapur. The road is very curvy and has steep turns. With dense forest on one side and valley on the other, the experience was overwhelming. We made a quick halt at one such curve. The blowing wind from the valley was too strong making it difficult to stand on the edge to view the valley. We left this place soon to reach Peth shahapur by around 11:30.

First Trek of The Season – Koraigad:

Before writing about the trek here is some information about the fort:

Korigad (also called Koraigad, Koarigad or Kumwarigad) is a fort located about 20 km away from Lonavla in Pune district, Maharashtra, India. Its date of construction is not known but likely predates 1500. It is about 929 m above sea level. The closest village is Peth Shahpur.

Almost the entire fort is visible

History: This fort was incorporated into swarajya by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj along with the forts of Lohagad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona in 1657.

Fascinating Spots : Koraigad appears like a wall from Peth Shahpur. On the top of the fort is a huge plateau. The ramparts on this fort are around 1 ½ kms in length. While coming up from the Peth-Shahpur route, we come across many caves, some cisterns and an idol of lord Ganesh.

A cave, Must have been used as a store house.

Now because of the Mulshi dam, a lake has formed close to the base of the hill on which Korigad stands. There are two lakes on the top of the fort. A temple to its patron goddess Koraidevi also exists along with several smaller temples to dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva. The former has been recently renovated and has a 3 foot high Deepmala(tower of lamps).The interesting part of the fort is that its wall is completely intact and one can walk along its entire perimeter(about 2 km). Its massive gate is also intact. Several ruins of older structures within the fort still exist. It has six cannons – the largest of which called the Laxmi Toph is located near the Korai devi temple.

The steps leading to the fort

We parked our car near the village and started the trek. It was summer time, but fortunately the atmosphere was a bit cloudy. This spared us, to some extent, from the harsh heat we would have had to face otherwise. The main entrance is from the left side of the fort. It takes around 20 minutes of walk through the forest before we reach the steps that lead to the fort. Despite the summer the jungle had a lot of greenery. As usual, Sachin and Anand were plucking fruits like karwand, jambool etc,. The final stretch before the foothill had thick cover of shrubs and tree branches. Every year trees and shrubs grow and encroach the path when it is not used much. Since the trekking season is yet to begin,  probably we were amongst the initial groups visiting the fort.  The route will become clear when the actual season begins. We made our way through the forest to reach the steps. In the next 45 minutes we were at the Ganesh Darwaza. There were some caves en route the ganesh darwaja. Since this was our first trek of the season and the summer heat, we had got a bit tired. We took some rest at the Darwaza before roaming around on the fort. We were the only group on the fort at that time.

A view from the main machi

The entrance leads us to the center of the large plateau on the fort. Standing at the center you can easily see both the ends of the fort. The temple of goddess Koraistands very close to the entrance. There are two lakes on the fort separated my thin land mass. Surprisingly both of them had ample of water even in this season. The area surrounding the lake has a carpet of green grass, which is quite soothing for eyes. The entire Fort perimeter has wall which is still intact.

Steps on the perimeter wall of the fort

We started walking on the wall from the Mulshi river end.  The Sahara Amby valley covers the fort from three sides. A dam has been built on the mulshi river. This has created a very large reservoir which is adjacent to the Amby valley. We kept walking on the wall to reach the Peth-Shahpur End of the Fort. This is one of the main machi (Bastion) of the fort. The road from lonavla to Peth-shahapur is visible from here. As we moved towards the other end of the fort, we could see the private runway of the Sahara Amby valley. A helicopter was landing on the runway.

The edge of the fort on this side is uneven compared to the other side. We found Cannons mounted on its support structure along with the wall. As we reached the other end, below we saw the main section of the Amby valley. A huge super premium colony of bungalows, separated by lush green lawns, swimming pools, golf course, club house and much more.It was beautiful, no doubt. But this man made beauty pales when you compare it with what nature has given us. The structure on which we were standing has stood there for more than thousand years without any one to maintain it. The forest around it is not cultivated by any human. Yet it makes you forget your day to day concerns. This is the way I perceive it. Different people might have different opinions. From here we started our journey back from the fort. We were back to our car within 30 minutes.

The Mango Garden:

It was around 3:30 by now. Our next destination was Sachins native place. We took lunch in a dhaba, on our way to Karla. Sachin was eager to take us to his grandpa’s farm. He had visited the farm just a couple of weeks back and was very impressed with the effort his grandpa had put into the farm. On reaching there we were offered a traditional maharastrian cold beverage called Panha(made of boiled raw mangoes). After an exciting but tiring drive and trek, we couldn’t have expected anything better to drink. We then proceeded to his grandpa’s farm just behind his home.

His Grandpa had always dreamt of having a Mango Garden of his own and that is how he started his research on kalam(A process where the trees roots and bottom stem is of an ordinary mango tree and joining it with a branch of a good variety of mango tree) mango plantation. He succeeded after 3-4 attempts.

Grandpa, with one of his tree

His grandpa is 82 yrs old but still takes care of the mango farm himself. He started cultivating these trees around 10 years ago. At an age when most of us would probably even find it difficult to walk around, if at all we survive till then. And again, for people of his generation, it is not that easy to get information and do research. For most of us, information means getting to the nearby computer and searching on the internet. But for him, it was a difficult journey. He himself had to roam around places like Ratnagiri, Malvan and Goa etc, to get good quality plants. As most of us must be aware, Mango trees are more commonly found in the coastal areas. The atmosphere there is more conducive for the fruit to grow. The temperature near lonavla is comparatively quite high. Grandpa had to protect his trees with shades when they are small. This along with many other small issues like, time it takes before harvesting, fertilizers, pesticides etc, are part of his research. There are around 10-15 mango trees in the garden. There are around 4-5 types of mangoes, namely, Hapus (Alphonso), Ratna, Kesar, Bitti, Goa Manhurd and so on.

There are some other plants like cashew nut, jaam, jambhul (java plum), avala (Indian gooseberry), etc. Grandpa shared with us some of his experiments. His latest being on how to grow 2-3 different varieties of mangoes on one single tree. He is working on getting hapus, kesar and ratna grow on one single tree.

Looking at his energy level, enthusiasm, dedication and excitement to learn at this age, certainly deserves a salute from us.

It was worth spending time there. We started our journey back  reaching home by 9:30. What a fruitful day it was. Physically tiring, but gave us all the much needed break. With time utilized so efficiently, I can certainly say, it was a Saturday, well spent!

The Gandhian Hypocrisy

Mr. Gandhi (Jr) took so much efforts to reach the village in Uttar Pradesh, where farmers were agitating for there own land. He says, he felt ashamed to call himself an Indian, by looking at the plight of the people over there. We have farmers fighting for their land here in Jaitapur, Maharashtra too. Why can’t he come and fight for these people? Are they not human? Are they not being deprived of their livelihood? Don’t they have the right to decide whether they want to sell their land or not? Or Is it because the Congress is ruling Maharashtra?

Trek To Raigad!

Finally the date was finalized. 17th July! This was a long overdue Trek for me with my college frenz! Po2(Prasad) & Kesto(Ketan) had done all the arrangements. I received a call @ 4:00 in the morning. It was Tara(Sachin), he said the car would be coming to my place in 15mins and it did! ….. and thus begins an exciting journey to Raigad!

The Journey Begins

The First car started from NalaSopara from Swapya’s (Swapnil) home, they picked Tara & Tari(Yugandhara) and came to our place. Me (Panga) and Pangi(Sangeeta) were late a bit ;). But we did start at 4:30!

Po2 with his car picked Babu (Nikhil), Andya (Anand) and Chingya (Hems)!

We refueled our cars and our first halt was at Thane. Kesto and Nilu(Nilesh) were waiting for us. We took our next halt near Panvel, where we had Misal Pav. After many small halts for photo sessions n all we finally reached the base of the fort @ 1:00 in the afternoon. We had to wait for our other frenz to come from Pune.

During a break @ Panvel

About Raigad

We started the trek @ 2:00.  Before going any further, let me just brief u bout Fort Raigad! It was Chatrapti Shivaji Maharaj‘s Rajdhani (Capital) from 1674! The amazing fort is at the height of 2700ft. The total area on the fort is more than 100 acres. It is star shaped with three machis. One is known as Hirkani’s machi. second Tak-Mak-Tok. Third is towards Fort Torana.

The Trek

SHivaji maharaj's Statue in front of the bazaar peth @ Raigad

Going up to the fort is quite easy on normal days. But today it was raining like nything. we were hardly able to c 10 feets ahead and as we were going higher it was getting colder! After around an hours walk, we reached the Maha Darwaza We reached the top in @ around 4:00. Visibility was nex to nothin. we made our way to the Darbar. It is a huge hall which people say was decorated with gold and silver. But the british took everything away. They torched the roof. Here we saw Maharaj’s Sinhasan.

Then we went to Bajaar Peth. Its a huge area with shop like structures on both the sides. Behind is the area where horses n other animals were kept. From there we went to Tak-Mak Tok. It is a cliff from where criminals and thieves were thrown down in the valley. The valley below was not visible. n we were required to hold on to the railings as the wind was too strong.

Shiv Ling at the temple on Raigad

From there we went to the third machi i.e. towards Maharaj’s Samadhi. there is a Temple of God Shiva near the Samadhi. Just behind the temple is the Samadhi. Opposite the samadhi is the samadhi of Maharaj’s Pet dog. Legend says that he jumped into Maharaj’s cheeta and sacrificed his life..

Megdambri- Shiv samadhi near the wagh darwaza at Raigad

We could not go further down towards Wagh Darwaja as it was getting late. So we started our way back. Though we were not able to c the entire fort, the effort for going up there, so close to nature and shaking hands with our rich history, was worth it. While coming back few of us came back in on the Rope Way. Swapya, due to some miscommunication came down the fort alone. 😦 The rest of us came back taking the same route. We came back to our rooms.
Everyone of us was tired. But we had this feeling of Fulfilment. Mission Complete. 🙂 Har har Mahadev!