Monday, 26 September 2011

Mystic Malshej – September 21 - 22, 2011

Nitin & Sharad suggested celebrating their promotion parties as over-night trip instead of the routine Hotel Parties. Nice idea.

Now started our hunt for the venue. Pawan-Khind, Koyana-Nagar Dam, Raigad Rope-way and Malshej Ghat. We were 8 of us. And this time luckily nobody backed out at the last moment.
We came to our company at Pimpri in our company buses. We had booked a Tavera from our company gate at 5.00 pm in the evening.

We left at 5.45 pm – 8 of us – Nitin, Sharad, Tushar, Vishal, Mayur, Sagar, Sourabh and myself. From Moshi we joined the Pune-Nashik Highway (NH-50). We desperately wanted some snacks as we haven’t had anything after lunch. We took a halt at Hotel Vedant – just before Rajgurunagar – about 20 kms from Pimpri. Vada-paav and Tea were nice. Overall restaurant was also good.

There are two ways how we can proceed to Malshej Ghat. Take a left from Narayangaon (30 kms from Rajgurunagar) or else go ahead and take a left from Ale Phata (45 kms from Rajgurunagar). The overall Pune-Malshej distance is 120 kms for former route and 140 kms from latter route.
From Narayangaon - 120 kms
From Ale Phata - 140 kms
However since we were unaware of the road conditions from Narayangaon route we decided to take the longer Ale Phata route. This is the NH-222 (Kalyan-Ahmednagar); being a highway, road conditions might be better. But both the roads are in good condition. Hence it is better to go from Narayangaon route. Distance is anyway less by 20 kms; but there are good possibilities of food joints (hotels) since you pass from Junnar.

We had planned that we would be having Dinner near Ale Phata as we were not sure of good hotels on NH-222. However, there are no any good hotels either near Ale Phata. The hotel we went was pathetic – Hotel Ashoka Palace (about a km before the Ale Phata cross road on right while coming from Pune). No ambience, pathetic food, extremely slow service.

At Ale Phata, take Left towards Kalyan, Murbad. There are very few hotels on this route. Even petrol pumps are scarce the one we saw was just before the Malshej MTDC (about 40 kms away). Better you have your tank full on NH-50 itself.

The MTDC resort is 45 kms away from Ale Phata. Just before the Ghat descend starts there is a board for turning to Right side when coming from Ale Phata.
19° 20' 28.96" N   73° 47' 26.90" E

We reached MTDC at 12.00 am. Nobody was there. Even we ourselves opened the gates, parked the vehicle, started roaming in the resort to find somebody. We woke him up and then we completed our check-in formalities. We had booked a 15 bedded dormitory through MTDC website. However, the phone number mentioned never works or even if it rings, no one attends to it. So if it’s a family trip, better to call MTDC office in Mumbai, Pune or any other. We had gone directly and our booking was there.

Room was nice, 15 beds with pillows and sheets. Most importantly & surprisingly for me bathrooms were clean. If one is comparing MTDC with some Starred Resort, it will be disappointing to you. But the reason of booking it here you will come to know when you get outside towards the valley to have a breath-taking view of the Ghat. And secondly, there is no other place to stay in the nearby area. Only one we saw was the board of Hotel Su-Shant. But don’t have any idea about it.

After much TP, a round of dance and jokes we went to sleep by 1.00 am.

Next morning at 6 am, all of us were awake, surprisingly. After getting freshen-up we went for a stroll. This was the most amazing experience of the whole trip. What we could never though of or expected in the dark yesterday when we came, we saw those emerald studded mountains and valleys, waterfalls in between, sparkling yellow flowers all across, fog appearing from nowhere sometimes. And all this at a stone throw distance from the Resort.

MTDC location

MTDC Restaurant

MTDC inside passage

MTDC cottage

MTDC play area

MTDC Restaurant inside

We came to know that this area is used in many film and advertisement shootings eg. The Fevicol Ad Shoot,

This was mostly a photography session for me. After about couple of hours, we retired back to our room, had a bath, got some tea and biscuits and then we decide to take round in the ghat.

We took about 11 kms descend in the ghat and back. On the way our photographic appetite was being satisfied by the tunnel in between, a water fall, a thumb rock which just by the side of the tunnel (just a caution: we came across a snake on that rock, Sagar was on the rock for a photograph, when Tushar saw it. It was I think a Rat Snake - धामण). We had a Vada-Paav and Tea in between on the road side.
Golden Emperor Moth

A Rat Snake (धामण)

Then we decided to go for the Khireshwar which is about 10 kms from Malshej Ghat. It is the base village for Harishchandragad Fort. Vehicles can go till here and then there is a jungle trek. We had no intentions of a trek but there is temple of Lord Shiva which we though we can see. 2-3 kms ahead of MTDC towards Ale Phata there is a Left turn on the banks (baandh) of Pimpalgaon Joge Dam. The road was extremely bad. Better you think about it if you have a car (less ground clearance). UVs is ok. It is 4-5 kms travel. At the end on the T junction, left is the Khireshwar village, but while going there we decided to skip it instead as the temple that we were seeing was not that exciting enough. Though I was of different opinion, but since majority wins we decided to take Right and go towards Otur instead for Lenyadri and Ojhar. Khireshwar, I’ll come sometime later surely.
Malshej MTDC to Khireshwar

Pimpalgaon Joge Dam

Khireshwar Village

Pimpalgaon Joge Dam
Road from was nice; narrow but plain. This road connects the NH-222. From here Right is Malshej and Left is Otur, Ale Phata. What could have been a mere 10-15 kms travel, we landed up doing some 20-25 kms due to Khireshwar. However, photography opportunities were available. Dams are the great place for photography really.

Just before Otur, there is a cross road named Bankar Phata. We took right for Junnar. There is Right again in between for Lenyadri, one of the Ashtavinayakas.
Khireshwar to Lenyadri

Parking space is available. You need to climb about 300 steps. I counted 302 to be exact. You need to be extremely of monkeys. Keep you belongings properly, if possible do not bring hand bags with you. Careful if you purchase any Coconuts, Flower Garlands for Lord Ganesha. Monkeys were mostly interested in that. Obiously one needs to take care of the camera.

Dolis are also available for carrying elderly worshippers. Rs. 300 per person are the charges. There is a vehicle entry fee of Rs. 10 and another Rs. 5 per person before climbing the hill. Steps are however very well maintained.
Steps outside the Sanctum Sanctorum - towards right is the Ganesh idol
On the mountain there are about 30-40 Buddhist caves used as halls for prayers and for living. Immediately after you climb on the top there is cave with Buddhist Stupa carved inside. Above this cave is one big cave with the Lord Ganesha. All other caves are simple rock cut rooms.
View from Lenyadri Hill
19° 14' 26.44" N   73° 53' 14.42" E

There are shops that sell toys, photos and photo-frames, decorative articles, Pooja Material, etc at the bottom of the hill.

Lenyadri to Ojhar (through Junnar) --- 26 kms)
From Lenyadri, we decided to go to Ojhar. Actually Lenyadri-Ojhar is some 10-12 kms, but since it was already 1 pm we decided to go to Junnar first for Lunch and then to Ojhar. This made our journey to about 20 kms.

next to Junnar S T Stand
Shivneri Fort --- seen from Junnar

There is very good hotel just next to Junnar S T Stand – Hotel Poonam. Taste was good and service was quick.

We then moved ahead to Ojhar. I’d been there some time in 2000-2001 on two-wheelers. Hence I was able to recollects few things. The place has been extremely well-developed. A Bhakt-Niwas is made next to the temple. Cleanliness needs to be applauded. There was not a single scrap of paper seen on the streets. Water of the Yedgaon Dam by the side was clean as a crystal. I could see that the temple has been renovated from inside. Rs. 20 per vehicle that they collect at the entrance is being put to correct use.

Bhakta-Niwas --- see the level of cleanliness on streets

the level of cleanliness on streets

Temple complex view over Yedgaon Dam
Similar to Lenyadri, here also there the shops that sell almost the same articles outside the temple.
19° 11' 27.60" N   73° 57' 19.99" E

Ojhar to Narayangaon
From here we decided to get back on our return journey. We moved towards Narayangaon and on NH-50 marched towards Pune. Just after Rajgurunagar there is a nice hotel by the name Indrayani (on right side when going towards Pune). We had a cup of tea here.

Then after dropping to our friends at Pimpri, we moved towards Pune. I reached by about 7.15 pm in the evening. We clocked about 320 kms this journey.

Odometer readings are:
Day 1
0            Pune City.
20          Tata Motors, Pimpri.
41          Hotel Vedant (about 8 kms before Rajgurunagar)
65          Khed Ghat
81          Narayangaon (Left from here also will take you to Malshej GHat via Junnar)
94          Ale Phata (Take Left; Straight will take you to Nashik, Right to Ahmednagar)
              A road from Junnar joins about 8-10 kms prior to MTDC.
              There are no Petrol Pumps on this route. The only one we saw was of HP just after this Junnar road connect. Also Hotels are scarce on this road. Better to have food near Rajgurunagar / Narayangaon.

140        MTDC, Malshej Ghat

Day 2
22 kms round in the Malshej Ghat
162        MTDC
164        Left for Harishchandragad & Khireshwar (along the Pimpalgaon Joge Dam)
At the “T” section Left goes for Harishachandragad; Right to Otur via the same NH-222. We took Right.
At the connection to the NH-222, take Left.

192        Bankar Phata (Before Otur). Take Right to Junnar, Shivneri, Ojhar, Lenyadri, Nane Ghat, Chavand, Jeev-dhan. Straight takes you to Ale Phata.

201        Right for Lenyadri (3 kms) and Shivneri Fort.
202        Right for Lenyadri; Straight to Shivneri Fort (8 kms) and Junnar, Ojhar
There’s an entry fee of 10 Rs per vehicle.

204       Lenyadri (at the foot of the hill); you need to climb 300 odd steps.
Return back on the same road after the darshan and take Right for Junnar, Ojhar, Shivneri.
At “T” junction take Left for Junnar.

210       Junnar S T Stand.
About 2 kms ahead towards (NH-50; Nashik Highway) there’s a Left to Ojhar
At “T” junction take Left

226        Ojhar
There’s an entry fee of 20 Rs per vehicle.
After Darshan take the same road back for Narayangaon. This is where we join the NH-50.

270        Rajgurunagar
277        Hotel Indrayani
310        Nashik Phata on NH-4 (Mumbai Pune Highway); only note that we came via Akurdi, Pimpri on NH-4 as we had to drop some of our friends.

322        Pune City.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Panshet – Varasgaon (पानशेत – वरसगाव) – 8-Sep-11

Again the same three from Lavasa trip decided to go for a short trip on Thursday. Our original plan was Kaas Plateau, however due to some cancellations by others; we three went ahead with this short stint; again this time in Tushar’s i10.

Considering the heavy down-pour that was for almost a week and the Mutha River flowing at a dangerously high level, we were expecting some awesome scenes at Khadakwasla, hoping the water gushing through its gates. But, nothing of that sort happened as the rain almost vanished since the day before.

We left at about 1.30 pm from Sahakar-nagar (Pune). Took the regular Sinhagad Road (सिंहगड रस्ता - नरवीर तानाजी मालुसरे रस्ता) till just after Khadakwasla (खडकवासला) village. Here there is a Right turn before the water catchment area which takes you to Dam walls. About half a km of descend and you come across a bridge. On the left from this bridge you can see the Dam Wall and the water gates. It must have been awesome scenery when most of these gates are opened. We were unfortunate, only one of them was opened; however the dam was full till the brim. Even the water was tumbling over the edge due to the waves.

Then we turn back and joined the Sinhagad Road again. About 6-7 kms ahead there is a Donje Phate (डोणजे फाटा), a cross road. We took left for Panshet – Varasgaon dams. Straight will take you to Sinhagad Road, while left for the Donje village.
Sinhagad - as seen from Donje Phata
About 20 kms ahead on the same road, there is the Y Junction. You will come across villages like Khanapur (खानापुर), Gorhe (गोर्हे), Rule (रुळे). At the junction, take the left road (marked for Panshet Boating & Varasgaon Dam) and immediately take a left ascend. Straight will take you to Neelkantheshwar, Lavasa, Surya-shibir, etc.

After this ascend there is a statue of Baji Pasalkar (बाजी पासलकर) a Maratha Warrior from Shivaji era, with another Y Junction. 1 kms Right will be Varasgaon Dam (called as वीर बाजी पासलकर dam) boating and 1 km left will be Panshet Dam (called as तानाजी सागर) boating.
Varasgaon Dam
Panshet Dam
Panshet Dam
We did our bit of boating at Panshet Dam. Here proper ticketing counter was available and rates were reasonable. At Varasgaon, there was only one boatman and he was asking 100 Rs per person for a Motor Boat ride. He was also not willing to disclose how much time this ride will take. Snacks centers are available at both. We had bhaji and tea (भजी and चहा) at Varasgaon.

After our boating we left for Pune by about 4.30 pm. On the was back home we took an off-track towards Velhe (वेल्हे) – about 15 kms from Panshet. I had heard about some extremely scenic ghats in the region – Madhe Ghat (माढे घाट) – the name I was not remembering at that time and I didn’t had the contact number of my friend who told me about it. But we decided to just go for some kms and try to get the information. So that next time we can plan the outing here also.

After going for about 4 kms we returned back. Even this short off-track was also beautiful. Small turning road in the midst of thick forest around.

By about 6.15 pm we were at Sahakar-nagar having a sip of boiling tea on a road-side tapari.

Odo readings are:

0          Pune
17         Khadakwasla Dam – Just after Khadakwasla village, before the Dam, take right turn – road descends down.
24         Donje Phate – Take Right (Straight will take you to Sinhagad Fort, Right to Donje village)
43         Y section – take Right (board sign mentioning Panshet Boating, Varasgaon Dam, etc)
Immediately take Left for Boating (both for Panshet & Varasgaon)
45         Y section with a statue of Baji Pasalkar – Left will be Panshet Dam & Right will be Varasgaon (about 1 km each)
48         Again the Y section on main road (while returning)
62         Velhe Phata (just before Khanapur) towards Right. We took a right turn to just have a look for Madhe ghat
70         we return back & came to the same Panshet-Donje Phata road
80          Khadakwasla Dam
97          Pune