Malshej Ghat - Monsoon paradise
Trip Start Jul 14, 2011
1Trip End Jul 16, 2011
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After a gap of several years, we did a two day trip to Malshej Ghat last week. My mother had been wanting to go there again for some time now, and the trip eventually came through.
Malshej Ghat is a beautiful mountain region, approximately 150km by road from Mumbai.
Broadly speaking, Malshej Ghat is spread around National Highway No.222, between Tokawade and Otur. NH 222 runs from Kalyan to Nanded via Murbad, Ahmednagar and Beed.
From Mumbai, we went through Thane where we got stuck in a forty five minute traffic jam despite our early start. Though it was raining incessantly, the blockage was not due to any flooding or accident. It was the sheer inefficiency of the toll collection staff on NH3 near Bhiwandi, which led to such a massive
We took the right turn for Kalyan at the junction on NH3, where a policeman was diverting all traffic to one lane on the dual carriageway due to massive flooding on the other. The divider acted as a bund resulting in water gushing its way into a fancy looking resort [Chokhi Dani] on the other side. There was lesser flooding on our side which our Eeco admirably took in its stride.
The Ulhas River which courses through Kalyan, was in spate. Fortunately it was low tide then or else the water would certainly have been flowing across this bridge.
The Ulhas river facilitated trade from the ancient port of Sopara / Surparaka [present day Nala Sopara] to Kalyan, from where access to the hinterland was through the mountain passes of Nane Ghat and Malshej. Inscriptions record such journeys going back some 2000 years ago. The British too used this channel before Bombay Harbour became available to them.
NH222 from Kalyan to Murbad was potholed and bad for the most part with several sections being inundated with water from surrounding marshes. After Murbad it was superb, having been recently asphalted – all the way to Malshej Ghat , a pleasant surprise from the memories we had of the terrible roads earlier when it was just a State Highway.
The scenery also changed dramatically from industrial grey to verdant shades of green, green and more green …..
The forest began from Saralgaon. At Tokawade we stopped by a picturesque stream. Years ago, we had walked deep into the pristine forest by this very same stream, crossing several more such rain fed rivulets. Now looking down from the bridge it was horribly littered with plastic picnic plates and empty whisky bottles. Not inviting at all … such a pity.
Soon enough came the first of the Malshej waterfalls.
Malshej Ghat's claim to fame are its myriad waterfalls and intense monsoon mist. Regrettably, Malshej is also infamous for the many "bewda gangs" who descend in hordes on monsoon weekends. ["Bewda gang" is a very apt term coined by my young friend on bcmtouring.com - Vic86m] For those who do not know what bewda means, it is sharaabi or drunkard. Not surprisingly, this has led to serious problems of unruly behaviour, broken glass shards from booze bottles and mounds of garbage ruining this once pristine part of the Western Ghats. Why can't people understand that if they filthy a place, it will not be a pleasant sight for them too when they come here next. It does not take much of an effort to take your picnic rubbish back with you, in fact it weighs less. What can one say?
More magnificent waterfalls appeared with one falling right in the middle of the road. Surprisingly with so much rain in the last 24 hours, the falls here were not in full flow. I remember this particular fall from a few years ago, it was like a broad curtain of water flowing over the road to the other side, like a tunnel. Now it was nowhere near its full glory.
We thought we were being very clever by coming here on a weekday to avoid the rowdy crowds. Alas, there is no escaping the “Bewda gang”. There they were under the waterfalls.
Needless to say, families will not feel very comfortable in the presence of such groups. Most of these boys/men may be perfectly decent at other times but here in a gang under the influence of alcohol they get emboldened, dance obscenely on the public road under the waterfalls and behave generally in a rowdy manner, shouting profanities at passers by. The situation has become so bad in recent years that regular platoons of police now patrol the stretch on weekends.
We then passed through a small tunnel through the mountain. Now came the famous Malshej mist, getting thicker by the minute
The government run MTDC Hotel is the only lodging available at Malshej Ghat at present. There is a Su-Shant Holiday Resort further down the road, overlooking the lake but it is currently closed for renovation.
MTDC’s hotel is on a 700m high grassy lateritic table land overlooking a deep green valley with the 1300+m Harishchandragad massif looming ahead. You simply cannot beat this location.
The hotel is a nondescript affair devoid of aesthetics, typical of government run establishments. However the Manager was very kind. Observing how old and frail my parents are, he was considerate enough to offer us connecting rooms in the new block. It was convenient for us and the rooms were large and very clean with nice verandahs, albeit full of mist. Cost: Rs 1200 per room peak season rate.
After a simple lunch, my husband and I went for a walk while my parents rested. It was drizzling
and not much fun walking along the rubbish strewn road, constantly having to avoid being splashed by oncoming buses and trucks plying National Highway No.222.
We were tempted to walk into some forest pathways but were put off by the sight of picnic plates and glass shards from broken alcohol bottles. It was somewhat disappointing. Malshej Ghat was not what we remembered it to be
The rain had eased off by the time we got back to the hotel. We picked up my parents and drove towards Junnar.
Torrential rain ensued the moment we left the hotel premises. Murphy’s Law in action if ever there was need of any proof!
Fortunately it stopped as soon as it started.
Farm workers were busy transplanting rice along lovely road to Junnar
A meadow full of orchids – Single Leaf Habenaria - made us stop to admire natures priceless bounty.
Shivneri came into view, an interesting shaped mountain about 1000m high with a fort and a temple. This is the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. A signboard indicated a motorable road of 6km going all the way up.
Junnar is a small town of considerable antiquity, lying at the base of Shivneri. It is a good place to stay for there is much to see in the beautiful surrounding countryside. Some places of interest: Shivneri fort, Lenyadri ancient Buddhist caves, Ashtavinayaka Ganapati temple of Sri Girijatmaka, Narayagaon wineries, Manikdoh lake, Nane Ghat, Malshej Ghat, radio telescope site which is probably off limits to the public.
We intend returning here sometime in the future. For anyone who is interested, here is the website of a Junnar hotel suitable for families: http://hotelplatinum.biz/
At Junnar, we enjoyed a reviving cup of tea and some yummy batata wada with authentic watana
missal – so fragrantly spiced. The restaurant owner was very pleased that we liked his food!
Returned to Malshej Ghat via the Otur route along a beautiful banyan tree lined road surrounded by fertile farmland and dramatic mountain scenery.
Otur is known for its flavoursome onions [kanda]. On a previous visit we had bought a couple of sacks @ Rs.2/kg!
We passed by farms on the backwaters of the Pimpalgaon Joga reservoir. This is supposed
to be the home of flamingoes but I was highly sceptical, never having seen them on previous visits. Now we saw a woolly necked stork.
Dense fog had enveloped Malshej Ghat by the time we reached our hotel.
The next morning was overcast but clear, affording lovely views from our room. We hurried out for a walk on the plateau before it started raining again as it surely would. Incredibly there was not a single piece of garbage to be seen on the plateau. At least, not at that early hour when we had the plateau to ourselves. The MTDC or someone else had obviously done a thorough cleaning up fairly recently, and hats off to whoever did such an excellent job. I wish visitors would also do their bit by not contributing rubbish.
The clouds played hide and seek every now and then, revealing beautiful views of the valley below and the mountains looming ahead. For about an hour we had the table land all to ourselves.
Harishchandragad appeared momentarily through the clouds. Some time later, a jeep drove up and an obviously newly married couple set off on a romantic walk ..
We suddenly spotted a flamingo high up in the sky above us, presumably on his way to the Pimpalgaon reservoir. So there really are flamingoes here!
After breakfast, we drove towards the Pimpalgaon lake. The morning was bright and clear. We were fortunate to sight a flock of flamingoes again, far away in the distance. I was so happy that we finally got to see them. It was Murphy’s Law again – on every trip we take binoculars – except on this one, just
when we needed to see those elusive pink birdies!
About an hour later, we had to turn back. The MTDC was fully booked from today for the next four days so we reluctantly commenced our journey back to Mumbai. Monsoon time is peak season here.
The waterfalls which were shrouded in mist yesterday, were in clear view today. Caught an unexpected quick glimpse of a whistling thrush and some cute monkeys
The green densely forested valley appeared as we drove out of of the Malshej tunnel again.
A JCB was clearing overnight rock fall from the road. A troop of Golden langurs jumped from tree to tree as picnickers revelled in the series of falls.
The biggest of the waterfalls comes from the Pimpalgaon lake overflow, dropping a good 200m to the valley below. To see this from the front, you need to walk down about 3 km, not possible on this trip with my parents. Anyway, we had seen more than our fair share of waterfalls.
Drove past beautiful rock formations after Tokawade. One of them is Bhairavgad.
We had decided to take the Murbad Karjat road joining the Pune Mumbai Expressway at Shedung. Though this is longer than the Kalyan route, we felt that the road might be better. The scenery was.
The road was worse than the Murbad Kalyan stretch. Every 200m or so would
be good, followed by 200m of pot holes, alternating good and bad almost
all the way upto Karjat. Halfway through it started pouring
Eventually we passed Karjat, joining NH4 at Chowk and the Expressway at Shedung.
Thus ends another monsoon trip.