Jul 05

The monsoon has begun. If you are the kind who says, “Oh, No! It is raining”, switch on the TV and watch a grandmother fight with her daughter-in-law. If you are the kind who says, “Wow! It is raining”, then this is for you! The places around Pune take on an entirely different look during the months of June-August. A road trip is the best way to enjoy the best of the monsoon and if it rains while you are at it, the wow factor just increased. I have given the details of two must-try round trips. Both are one-day trips and would best be enjoyed if you can start early in the day (before 8 AM) to escape the city traffic. Each route also has a custom map created which will also give details on few interesting sights along the route

 

Route 1: Tamhini-Varandha Route. Click here to see a map of the route.

Total round trip distance: Approx 300 kms. Road condition: Average to potholed.

Tamhini and Varandha are the big bad boys of all ghat sections close to Pune. Notorious until a decade back for wayside robberies, they are still not advised for a late night crossing, if alone. The roads throughout are single laned and full of potholes. But, it is this rustiness that lets nature’s true beauty stand out. You just cannot keep a count of the number of huge waterfalls you would see and every turn on the road would tempt you to stop for a photograph. Start early in the day, stop at Quick Bites for breakfast (just before the main tamhini Ghat section), cross Tamhini, get down to the Goa highway, take a left for Mahad, turn left towards Bhor (into Varandha Ghat). As you climb Varandha and take that one U-turn to the right to face the entire mountain range before you, it would be a sight to behold.

Tamhini Ghat

Varandha Ghat

Route 2: Varandha-Mahabaleshwar Route. Click here to see a map of the route

Total round trip distance: Approx 310 kms. Road condition: Good to Average.

Travel the ruggedness of Varandha and then turn to the chaos of Mahableshwar. Go on the NH4, take the turn into Varandha Ghat (at Bhor) , enjoy the waterfalls throughout the Varandha stretch, once on the Goa highway, turn left and go towards the Poladpur Ghat. The poladpur ghat is route taken by mumbaiites to go to Mahabaleshwar. It is beautiful 40+ km long ghat offering great views of the mountain range on either side. The roads are decent with many straight sections, but the highlight of the ascent to mahabaleshwar from the other side are the numerous panoramas on view. Mahabaleshwar is of course famous for its viewpoints, but we will leave that to another trip just to Mahabaleshwar!

Varandha Ghat

Sunset point mahabaleshwar

written by Rajaram S

Jun 14

varandha ghat monsoon rains

The road through Varandha Ghat is notorious for its bad maintenance and it shows up even more during the monsoon. But, it is this rawness that has kept the entire 50-60 km stretch of the ghat almost in a pristine state. This is a photologue from one of my many trips to Varandha during the monsoon. If you get inspired by these pics and want to visit, go over to my original post on Varandha for complete directions and more details.

varandha ghat monsoon rains

When it gets cloudy, the dark clouds almost reach to the ground level. It makes for an ominous scene!

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

If there is even a semblance of a road, MSRTC would have a bus plying there. Every remote nook and corner is covered by state transport!

varandha ghat monsoon rains

Every turn, every viewpoint would make for a good photo-op. Though the 60 km from Bhor to the Varandha should take just an hour, it would end up easily taking more than 2 hours with the stops you would make.

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

The main viewpoint along this stretch, also referred to by the Waghjai temple, is a narrow cliff-hugging road with a 270 deg view of the range.

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

We cannot just ignore the waterfalls on this route. We always stop at this one below as it has ample parking space (along the turn) and you get to walk on the stream for around 10 ms to reach the fall. When we were on our way to Varandha, it wasn’t raining. The white-water snaps are from that time. When we were returning, it was heavily raining. Look at the brown colour of the water and also the volume. The small waterfall was raging with the rain. The rock in front of the fall is not even visible.

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

Even the dirty brown water looks picturesque. On one turn, we saw two small falls, one with clean white water and the other muddy-brown!

varandha ghat monsoon rains

varandha ghat monsoon rains

Waterfalls are a photographer’s fantasy. If you know how to work with the shutter priority mode, you can slow down the shutter speed and get silky smooth shots like the one below.

varandha ghat monsoon rains

It was a wonderful trip in heavy rain. Even the kids enjoyed it. This is a short compilation of few waterfalls we saw along the way. The first one was especially beautiful and the last one shows what a small waterfall can turn into, when it rains.

If you want to visit Varandha, go over to my original post on Varandha for complete directions and more details.

written by Rajaram S

Jan 02

While 2010 new year weekend had a disastrous start with a miscalculated and unsuccessful trip to Raigad fort and the Pune zoo the following day, 2011 new year weekend was exactly the opposite. We went to Daman and Silvassa for a 3-day weekend and it was a great mix of lot of stuff – beaches, forts, water sports and even a lion safari!

places to see near pune daman

places to see near pune silvassa

Then, we went to Pataleshwar Cave Temple and Ayappan hill temple near Dehu Road. These two were on the radar for quite some time as we had passed these two temples en-route to many other places.

places to see near pune pataleshwar cave temple

places to see near pune ayyappan hill temple

The first big trip of 2011 was a weekend trip to Murud. This set a nice precedent for 2 more trips to the Konkan region over the year. The murud trip had many beach visits including Murud beach, Kashid beach, Aakshi beach and the imposing Janjira sea fort (post pending!).

places to see near pune murud beach konkan

places to see near pune murud janjira sea fort

The next Konkan trip happened soon after, with a 3 day trip to Diveagar and Harihareshwar. The Diveagar beach is one of the best on the coast (among the one closer to Mumbai/Pune) and the coastal drive from Diveagar to Shrivardhan is too beautiful to be described!

places to see near pune diveagar beach

places to see near pune diveagar beach

places to see near pune harihareshwar temple beach

In March, i went on a trek to Tikona fort along with colleagues. We started pretty early in the morning and it was a good decision as it got very hot by around 10. The trek to tikona fort is moderate, but offers wonderful views of the surrounding areas including Lohagad fort and Pavana Dam. Also, the final ascent on the stairs is wonderful.

places to see near pune tikona fort

Then, we had a get-together of friends at Splendour Country club. This was my second visit to the place (post pending!) and it is quite a mixed bag. The condition/cleanliness of the infinity pool depends on your luck, but the location is awesome.

places to see near pune splendour country club

There was a weekend when Vidhya and Akshara were out of town. So, i went on a local sightseeing trip to places which Vidhya might not come along. I went to Shinde Chhatri – architecturally good , bur was undergoing renovation, a butterfly park about which the lesser said the better and then to Chaturshringi Hill Temple, a gem of a place within the crowd of the city(posts due!).

places to see near pune shinde chhatri

places to see near pune chaturshringi temple

Saturday was gone and i went for something more adventurous on the Sunday – a trek to Kalavantin Durg (post due!). This turned out to be most exhausting day of my life. But, not because of the nature of the trek. It is an awesome trek and the final climb on the rock-cut steps (some more than a metre high) is mind-blowing, particularly for the slightly-acrophobic ones like me!

places to see near pune kalavantin durg trek

The monsoon had arrived and it was time to go-green! Our first monsoon trip was to the ever-enchanting Neelkanteshwar temple. If you have never been there, make sure you do (not in the summer though). A place straight out of Amar Chitra Katha, you can not only admire the natural beauty of its location, but also learn a lot about indian mythology.

places to see near pune neelkanteshwar temple

Though very scenic, i try to avoid lonavala and its surroundings during the monsoon as it gets very crowded and insane. A trip to Korigad fort where i had pass through Lonavala reaffirmed my faith in avoiding the place. Korigad fort though was a revelation. Relatively easy to climb and in midst of nature, it was a wonderful trip with friends.

places to see near pune lonavala lions point

places to see near pune korigad fort

No monsoon is complete without a visit to Tamhini Ghat and thoseghar waterfalls. I have been so many times to these places and yet, i am not tired of them. The visit to tamhini was, as always, combined with a visit to the broken roads of Chalkewadi windmill farms.

places to see near pune tamhini ghat

places to see near pune thoseghar waterfalls

places to see near pune chalkewadi windmills

Then came a visit a beautiful temple in a beautiful place – hadshi temple. One photo of this temple on some forum convinced me to pay a visit and i wasn’t disappointed and neither have been all the people to whom i have recommended this temple. I have been there twice, once during the monsoon and another time just after – on a clear and sunny day.

places to see near pune hadshi temple

places to see near pune hadshi temple

We tried yet again on 15th August to go to Raigad fort, but our calculations proved wrong once again with a 3.5 hr wait for the cable car. So, we had to return (for the second time) with just a view of the cable car and the mighty fort beyond the horizon.

places to see near pune raigad fort

But, all was not bad with the trip. We came back through Varandha ghat and we got to see the best of what Varanda is famous for. Outstanding greenery as far as the eye can see and more waterfalls than we could keep count of!

places to see near pune Varandha Ghat

places to see near pune Varandha Ghat

Then finally, in October with some meticulous planning, we were able to see the king of all forts, Raigad fort (post due!). It was worth the wait, as this fort is an exemplary example of the might of the Marathas. The amount of history within the walls of his fort is amazing. We had combined a trip to Raigad with another new destination on the konkan, Karde beach.

places to see near pune raigad fort

places to see near pune karde beach

End of 2011, beginning of 2012, lots to look forward too. Starting with a trip to Rajasthan, courtesy my company. So, what’s in plan – Malshej Ghat, Bhadandardara, Ganapatipule or Goa, some lesser known temples around Pune, Shivneri fort and more…

written by Rajaram S