The onset of monsoons transforms the Western ghats like magic! The barren, dry mountains suddenly turn into lush green covered with forests, with majestic waterfalls cascading down the hills at every turn. The mountains which are frequented till now only by avid trekkers suddenly turn into a hot tourist spot with couples and families from Pune and Mumbai turning out in huge numbers at many of these places to enjoy the magic of the Sahyadris and soak in the waterfalls. This motive behind this trip was to get out and get some good shots of the monsoon - without thinking much about the destination... just decide a direction, start driving, take some good photos on the way have a quick bite wherever you feel like and then turn back. The first day I decided to proceed in the direction of Tamhini ghat. It was just the onset of monsoons and I was banking on there being lesser number of people around. The other day was a quick short drive to Pabe ghat another secluded spot near Pune which I thought would be a good location to try out some good snaps.
Situated around 90 odd km. from Pune towards Mulshi or on the way to Konkan, Tamhini Ghat is still largely forest covered and offers wonderful views of deep forest covered valleys, gurgling streams, gushing waterfalls and above all a scenic road winding through all.
The Tamhini ghat connects Pune to Konkan and can be accessed from the Mumbai Goa highway via Maangaon or via Pune through Chandani chowk - Pirangut - Mulshi - Tamhini. On the way from Pune you encounter the Mulshi reservoir first which offers you scenic views of the backwaters spread across a large area. As you proceed further, the villages sparse out. If you are starting from Pune, the drive will take you a good 2-3 hours depending on road conditions and traffic. There are a few good restaurants / resorts offering good food around the Mulshi area. Paradise resort and Quick Bite being the most famous of them. Once you cross them, the next food you will get is in the Tamhini ghat itself, where there are some makeshift stalls selling hot corn cob and pakodas or if you go further down, a couple of decent hotels / resorts. The Shivprasad restaurant seems a decent one and I have had food a couple of times over here. Further down, as the ghat ends you have a Golden Valley resort which gives you a buffet breakfast and regular punjabi and may be continental food. Tad expensive but if you are a stickler for hygiene and ambience you might wanna stop here.
There is a water pipeline for Tata Power station running through the middle of the mountains and at one point there is a bridge where you cross the pipeline. This is the point from where you have one of the most spectacular view of the Valley. There are a few security guards around this area and lots of CC TV cameras so stay away from the pipeline else you might land into trouble. As you climb down towards konkan you cross a police station ( strict checking for liquor / drunken driving) and from here the actual ghat starts. There are numerous winding turns with waterfalls tumbling down on one side while the a deep valley on the other side. Beware of rockslides and oncoming traffic. Go slow and enjoy the nature. Better still if you can park the car at a place where it won't obstruct the traffic and walk along, nothing like it. These days a lot of people have been observed to come along with liquor, drink and create a ruckus near the waterfalls. Couples and solo travelers specially ladies are advised to be careful. In my honest opinion, can't figure out the need to get drunk in such a peaceful and serene place and create a scene with loud music blaring... but then unfortunately that's what most of the tourists are turning into. A tip to avoid the crowds - Nothing like it if you can make it on a weekday, else Saturday. Start early, enjoy the ghats have good authentic and simple Maharashtrian food on the way and enjoy nature.
The drive back to Pune can get tiring specially due to traffic congestion from Mulshi to Chandani chowk. So its preferable to start back around 5 pm.
My drive started around 11 am from Pune, with a quick stop over near Mulshi for getting an umbrella which I had forgotten. The rain meant that I could not get out and click many pictures but it didn't stop me from getting soaked in it. All along the way, you see farmers getting ready for paddy plantation and its a beautiful sight to see.. the mix of colors - fresh green of the paddy crops and the muddy brown of the rain water with the dark green mountains and cloudy skies forming the background. After driving down to the middle of the ghat and getting a few quick pictures in, I stopped for lunch at the Shivprasad hotel. As luck would have it I placed my order and the sun emerged. :( So I hurried through a plate of egg bhurji ( Scrambled eggs) and a plate of fried Maral ( a local fish) and headed out to the Tata Power Security cabin to click a view of valley. Unfortunately by the time I reached there, the downpour had started heavily and after having a brief chat with the guard over there I decided to try my luck towards the actual ghat section. Luckily the rain had cleared up there and after getting a few good shots I started climbing up towards Pune again. This time I arrived at the perfect time near the valley point and got some beautiful clicks of the waterfall. Satisfied with the outcome, i finally locked my camera in the car, took a quick dip in the freezing mountain stream running nearby and then headed home. On the way stopped at Mulshi reservoir ( which was still empty due to the lack of rains ) clicked a few pictures with my car and proceeded towards Pune.
The next day I planned to head out towards the lesser known Pabe ghat which connects Pune to Velhe district. The ghat is extremely steep and narrow with nothing other than a nice view of villages in the Pune and Velhe districts to offer. The approach is after Khanapur village towards left. There are signboards directing the way. Once you cross Khanapur, there are no hotels or even tea stalls on the way . So in case if you want to refuel yourself do so at the base of Sinhgad Fort. From Sinhgad fort take a right towards Panshet and continue till you cross Khanapur. After Khanapur take a left towards Velhe and continue on the road towards Pabe. The road is narrow and winding through a couple of villages and mostly barren land which turns into meadows in the rainy season. As you start climbing up the Pabe ghat you get beautiful views of the Valley between Sinhgad and Pabe. I had climbed this while training for my Ladakh bicycle trip ( A separate blog to follow about it later) and knew its kind of remote and might offer good view in the monsoons. I kept stopping at almost every turn to click a picture. Once at the top, there is a small temple of Lord Mahadev hidden under a tree. One should just climb on the ridge which separates Velhe district from Pune to get a beautiful view of the valleys on both sides. As I reached the middle of the ridge I could see an oncoming opening between the clouds which might lead to a beautiful patch of sunlight on the villages in the valley. But at the moment I had to bear the rain and protect my camera. So I stood on the ridge for a good 10 minutes with an umbrella, my back towards the rain, my camera bag shielded by me and the umbrella on the front... and watching the rain pass above me towards Sinhgad. The moment the clouds passed overhead.. i quickly removed my camera to get a few shots of the valley and then started the descent. There's nothing much interesting on the other side of the ghat other than the fact that there are roads which connect you to the forts of Torna and Rajgad ( Good trekking options ). So after a bit of roaming around in the rain soaked landscape I decided to turn back towards Pune and have a meal on the way.