When you travel to a place most people haven't heard of or been to, you come back with an essence, of life, that is far more relishing than they have experienced. When I told my friends and family about my plan to visit Igatpuri, most of them seemed at sea. On my return, when I shared my experiences with them, they were awestruck by the wondrous Igatpuri.
Igatpuri is a two hour drive from Mumbai, Maharashtra and located in the Western Ghats. This station is a perfect weekend getaway from Mumbai. Surrounded by the highest peaks in Sahyadri, this place is famous for the Vipassana Centre called Dhammagiri, supposedly the largest. Igatpuri is also recognized for its myriad waterfalls, most of them visible during the monsoon, which is the finest time to visit this place.
The picturesque route surrounded by mountains, irrespective of whether you take a train or car makes your journey more genial. We took the road, kind of a road trip. Entering Igatpuri from Mumbai, a rugged road on the left leads you to Ghatandevi Temple, which according to the beliefs is the Protector of Ghats. Further ahead, while climbing down, are the five waterfalls formed by the rain waters. Exploring Igatpuri after 3 pm yields you more according to the inhabitants as the weather becomes murky around this time.
Our first visit was to the Bhavali Dam situated very near to Igatpuri. It is around 8 kms from Igatpuri and you have to pass through Pimpri village to reach it. Roads on the either side are luxuriantly green with freshly cultivated fields and the shady orange sun rays bailing out from the clouds painted a quaint picture. Finally we reached there and found ourselves in between a road without which every road trip seems incomplete. We chose to hike up on the dam rocks instead of taking the steps to reach the top. And WOW! As if we were in Ladakh if the water had been clear blue. The clouds floating over the mountain, the birds finding their way back to home, the cattle quenching their thirst and some new camaraderie with the cousins, I couldn't have asked for more. We were now en route to Camel Valley.
Before packing the bags, you decide one place you wouldn't miss on the trip and Camel Valley was one such place. We used the GPS to reach the valley and it led us nowhere but in the middle of the road. The valley was to the left of us and facing Ghatandevi Temple according to the GPS and when we asked the locals, most of them didn't know the place. We decided to head back to the hotel as it was getting too gloomy and took a U-turn. A few meters ahead, on the left, we saw a railway bridge in between the mountains, with achromatic mountains in the background. Every one of us gaped. We started seeking to reach closer to the place. A few meters ahead, besides the fuel station, a jagged way took us to the summit point. And the view was more captivating than it looked. A railway bridge surrounded by the mountains with more mountains in the backdrop trying to come in the picture and the sunrays peeking out of the clouds created a harmonious milieu. On the right, the golden coloured Vipassana Centre gleamed amidst the greens and on the left, the sun tried to disappear into the woods. The sight of a train coming out of the mountains with the sun playing peekaboo had the charisma in it. The very moment had the energy that invigorated each one of us and we sat there till the sun found its home and we found a novelty in life.
Next and the last on our list was Vaitarna Dam which is located about 45 kms from Igatpuri. It is located up on the hills on the way to Trimbakeshwar, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga. Surrounded by the Sahyadri Mountains, dense forests and cascading waterfalls, Vaitarna Dam is at its peak in the rains. Driving laterally to the train, passing through the verdant fields, the route has everything that tends to turn you into a story teller. The mise-en-scène around the dam is perfect to nestle your camps and immerse yourself under the sky filled with gazillion stars. Little rain drops on the car window, and some warm music made the journey even more beautiful. On reaching there, we witnessed some extraordinary chemistry between different forms of nature. The mountains and the rain clouds joshing about their designs, with the water smiling from a distance and the rocks gazing at them, painted an alluring memory in our minds. The drizzle tried to convince us to go back home, when none of us wanted to leave the place, more so none of us wanted to leave each other.
Exploring the city, the bond grew stronger and the unexplored paths gave answers to the life meanings. Quoting Daranna Gidel to sum up the trip.
"You lose sight of things...and when you travel, everything balances out."