Quaint little hill station with a beautiful forest

Trip Start Apr 27, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2012

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Flag of India  , Mahārāshtra,
Monday, April 30, 2012

After around three hours and three buses(Malvan-Kudal, Kudal-Sawantwadi, Sawantwadi-Amboli) we reached Amboli. 
On the way we contacted Mr.Hemant Ogale, whose contact number we found in the map that we had bought at the Sindhudurg fort. He runs a bed and breakfast called Whistling Woods, in Amboli. He is also a member of the Malabar Nature Club. His place being all booked, he sorted another place for us, Sailee-run by Mr. Bal Korgaonkar. 
Sawantwadi-Amboli is a distance of 30km, and you gain a height of around 650 meters.Its a beautiful green ghat. The winding roads give you a headache after a while, but the view of the valley is so breathtaking, you can't help looking out. The sun had set as we approached Amboli, and we could start to feel a chill in the air. 

Every new place you visit, gives you a certain vibe. A hill station, with its sense of isolation, far off lights, quaint little houses and a nip in the air just as you enter it especially around dusk time, is just, oh-so-charming !! It could be because of fond childhood memories of summer holidays that your parents take you to, or the fact that our first honeymoon destination was one such place, the vibe that a hill station gives, has become a personal favourite.

The hotel Sailee was just a couple of minutes from where we got off. The rooms were spacious with two double beds, a seperate changing area, a full length mirror, a wash basin with a platform around it and bathroom with a shower and supply of hot water. After just the basic stuff at Tarkarli and all the traveling, all of this felt like a luxury. I was delighted that I wouldn't have to look into the Ipad screen to wear my contact lenses !

We freshened up and had a hearty dinner. It was again a homely meal, but with coconut not as dominating as in Malvan, and solkadhi. After dinner, we called Mr. Hemant Ogale, to ask if a walk in the forest would be possible the next morning. He said it could be done, he was himself out around the forest then, and gave us a contact number of Abhishek, who could guide us. We met Abhishek at the temple next door and he set us up with a friend of his for a walk the next morning.

Parikshit point trek with Rakesh Deulkar:
What makes visiting a new place most interesting, is the people you meet there. And when you meet someone who is really passionate about what they do, it has a lasting impression on you. One such person we met was Rakesh Deulkar, who took us for the forest trail. He is originally from Amboli, now doing his masters in bio diversity from Pune. He knows and treats the forest like its his home and visits it at every given chance. Rakesh, Hemant Ogale and a couple of other guys, have studied the forest for many years now, and try to protect it in every way they can- sometimes even from the forest department. You get an impression that they are the gaurdian angels of their forest.

We set out at around 7 AM towards Parikshit point, which is the highest point in Amboli, at a height of 980 meters. The way to this point is mostly through a dense forest. Rakesh told us that the forest is actually semi evergreen in nature, but since 70% of the trees- Anjani and Jambhul are evergreen, the forest gets an evergreen forest look. On the way, we saw bear and porcupine droppings at a few places.
Birds we saw were Black Bulbul, Yellow browed Bulbul, Brown cheeked Fulwetta, Indian Scimitar Babbler and Jungle babbler. We also heard calls of Puff throated babbler, Malabar grey hornbill and Orange headed thrush.
At Parikshit point, the forest department had built a watch tower which is now dilapidated. As you approach Parikshit point, the forest clears and you walk through the plains for a while. If you walk a little further down from Parikshit point, there is a flat rocky seat, from where you get a 360 degree view of the valley and the forest. You can spot Amboli at a distance. On the opposite direction, you see part of the road that leads into Goa. That spot almost has a holy touch to it. There were a couple of eagles doing the rounds. We sat there for a long while, just taking in everything around.

We got back to Sailee at 11AM and ordered fr some poha. Over breakfast, Rakesh told us a bit about his study course and how he developed this great passion towards nature and wildlife. Amongst other things, we were enlightened about the negative effects of social media over wildlife everywhere in general. One person gets a good shot in the forest and posts it on a social network. There is then a mad rush to get a similar one. And people apparently go to great lengths to get a good photograph. All of this is not necessarily always in the best interest of the eco system around

Sight seeing in Amboli with Anil Narvekar:
After Rakesh left, we headed to our rooms to rest for a while. We had asked another guy, Anil Narvekar to drive us around Amboli for some sight seeing, later in the afternoon. After a light lunch, we headed out at around 3.30PM. Anil was already waiting for us with his car, outside our hotel. The first point we went to was Nangartas waterfall on the border of Sindhudurg and Kolhapur districts. There is a temple at this point as well, called the "veshiwarche deool"(temple at the border). The water had almost dried out by then, so we could see the terrain of the rocks. It was a deep and narrow crevice with really pointed rocks poking out. There were a lot of butterflies flying out of this deep crevice and heading into the forest. The only one we could identify was the Blue Mormon. And we were really lucky to spot the Emerald Dove just passing by. 
From this point we headed towards a vantage point called KavleSaat. Its an open ground from the edge of which you see a deep valley and several mountain cliffs.It is quite windy at this point. The cliffs and the wind create an interesting echo. When you shout in one direction, you hear the echo from the opposite side. You can play of game of "identify which cliff the echo came from" here. 
After this, we went to the place where the river Hiranyakeshi originates. Thats the river that provides water to Amboli. As always, the origin in marked by a Shiva temple. The approach to this temple is through a small bridge with a lot of guava trees around. We saw a few local kids selling these guavas. We saw people of a jungle tribe called Dhangar, who live close by in a place called Dhangarwadi visiting the temple. The temple has a  cow's mouth spouting out water in a small pond, where you wash your feet. Behind the temple, are seven low roofed caves. You have to crawl through them. And you need a bright torch to see your way. Anil advised us to not go beyond the second cave because we could start feeling breathless. We took his advice and proceeded out. There is nothing to see inside the caves, but just the idea of being in "tiny dark unknown spaces in the rocks" is exciting.
The next point was Mahadevgadh. It is actually a road made through the forest. The road leads to steps taking you downward to a point from where you see the valley leading to Sawantwadi. One one side, you see the winding road that leads into Amboli. On the other, you see tiny specs of the villages near Sawantwadi. On a clear day, we were told, you get to see the coconut trees lining the sea shore. 
At all of these vantage points, Anil told us a lot of instances, when people had got drunk and out of control, stepped past the railings and had either had severe injuries or had died.
It was almost sunset time by then, we drove down to a place where we could get a good view of the sun, and saw the sun set into the valley. 

A problem tourists can face in Amboli is the absence of an ATM machine. They do not funaction too well in the cold and humid climate there. The closest ATM machine is down in Sawantwadi. Unaware of this, we were short on cash when we arrived. So we decided to net transfer Anil's charges directly into his bank account. We asked him to give us some cash if possible, and transferred that extra amount as well. However, it would take atleast the next 12 hours for the money to actually to be transferred. Anil said that was not a problem at all, and gave us Rs.2000/- It was refreshing to see this sense of trust he had on us.
Night safari with Rakesh, Hemant and others:
That night we went on a safari, with Hemant Ogale, Rakesh and another friend of theirs. We headed in two cars, first towards Mahadevgadh and then in the opposite direction. We saw a Nightjar hatching its eggs. And just the eyes of a bison and deer. Even though we didn't see much, just the experience of being in the forest in pitch darkness and trying to spot movement through glistening eyes is extremely thrilling.

Mahadevgadh trail and up close with a Bison:
The next morning, we again set off for a walk down Mahadevgadh trail, with Rakesh. The Nightjar from last night was still at the exact same location and extremely well camouflaged. Mid way through, we came face to face with a young bison on the side of the road, waiting for us to pass so it could cross the road and go to its mother, who was on the other side. The valley was covered in clouds that morning. It was so quiet, we could hear the radio being played in the villages at the foothills. On the way back, we saw a flock of Jungle Babblers playing on the trees and heard calls of the Whistling Thrush. 
We got back into the village at around 9Am, had some breakfast and said our goodbyes to Rakesh. We quickly freshened up, checked out of the hotel and headed to the Amboli depot where we had a 10AM bus to catch for Kolhapur.

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