The monsoon is arguably the best season to experience along the west coast. With the cloudy skies and fresh greenery of the Western Ghats, I cannot just sit and home and admire the rains. Rather, I find myself a cab (if I don’t feel like driving) and head out for a road trip to nearby places. Sometimes, it’s an aimless trip to the countryside, and sometimes, the trip has a specific agenda. From Pune, I usually like to go westward towards Lonavala and around, to enjoy the rains and the refreshing natural environment. But a few weeks ago, my parents made an impromptu decision to drive down to Shirdi. I found the taxi fare from Pune to Shirdi to be quite cheap so we decided to keep the car with us for the day and come back the same night.
On the road
It was going to be a five-hour drive on NH 60 on a cloudy morning. It had rained overnight and the tar roads were washed clean. As soon as we crossed Hinjewadi, the natural landscape became more prominent. It was not really a pilgrimage and yet, everything around felt so divine. The hills of the Sahyadris came alive with new foliage and the rain-fed streams cascading through the mountain bluffs made it an amazing visual. I have probably seen this countless times, but somehow, the sight of the misty mountains, the feeling of cool air on the skin, and the smell of the soil, never gets old.
The road from Pune to Shirdi passes through the interiors of Maharashtra and exposes one to its rustic countryside. We continued on NH 60 for a couple of hours, until we reached Sangamner, where we stopped for a short break. Although Sangamner is a town, we were skirting through its perimeters, which was quiet and less populated. We enjoyed a cup of tea at a small roadside shop and soaked in the atmosphere. That was when my father suddenly commented that it would be a waste not to explore the area a little more in such amazing weather. It is usually me in the family who comes up with such random ideas. It was pleasantly surprising coming from my father who is known to be a well-planned, organized individual. We asked the driver about a detour towards Bhandardhara.
A brief tour of Bhandardhara
The further we moved away from the highway and into the interiors of the district, the shades of green seemed to multiply. I had been to Bhandardhara once, but never during the rains. They say the monsoon is the best time to visit this hilly town. When we reached, I could see why. Tucked in the folds of the Western Ghats, Bhandardhara is said to be one of the best but the least commercial hill destinations of Maharashtra. It is home to the state’s highest peak- Mount Kalsubai, and yet, you will not see the typical tourist crowd as in other hill towns. With rolling hills, waterfalls, and quaint country homes, the sleepy town was like a classic painting.
We headed straight to the Arthur Hill Lake. The huge lake area was the highlight of the town. On one side, the trekkers camped in their colorful tents, while on the other sides, the mountains loomed over the lake. The rains had created a fine layer of mist over the surface of the water, making it look dreamy and eerily beautiful. There were ferry boats docked on the banks, offering rides to the tourists. I let my parents go for a ride on the lake and enjoy a romantic moment, while my brother and I decided to explore the nature trails that surrounded the lake.
Next, we stopped at the famous Randha Falls. Although it is a perennial waterfall of the Pravara River, it assumes a bolder form in the monsoon. Even before we reached the site, we could hear the sound of the roaring cascade, falling from a deep and steep gorge. And then the sight! It was powerful and enchanting.
Embraced by natural lakes, waterfalls, and abundant greenery Bhandardhara offered us an amazing treat for the mind, body, and soul, and made our entire trip worthwhile.
Back to the highway
After a couple of hours of exploring, walking, and absorbing the beauty of Bhandardhara, it was time to get back on the road towards Shirdi. As our car cruised along the wide highways, I rolled down the windows and let myself soak in the monsoon air as much as I could. Far away in the distance, I saw the Kalsubai Peak, peeking out of the misty clouds, bidding me adieu for the day.
· If you are traveling in a big group, it is better to get a spacious and well-maintained tempo traveler on rent in Pune
· If you have time, you can also make a detour to Igatpuri and visit the International Vipassana Center, before heading towards Shirdi.