Finally after two dry and drought laden years the monsoons have been generous again, bringing a huge respite to many areas which were almost on the brink because of the shortage of water. The joy and romance of monsoons was rekindled and no better place to experience it than the Sahyadris, one of the most picturesque sights in the country during this period. Lonavala and Khandala are the more popular getaways from Mumbai but equally beautiful are the valleys and mountains around Igatpuri, near Nasik. New highways have reduced the travel time and made it easier to reach this hill station. We decided to make trip to Bhandardara which was near Igatpuri.
The drive to Igatpuri is not long from Mumbai despite the traffic hold up you may get at Bhiwandi. Once you leave the logistics hub an all encompassing carpet of green takes over. It covers the fields next to the road and extends all the way up to the hills. Dense grey clouds above this vast spread of green, with a mist of rain, added drama to an already beautiful landscape. As we drove up the Kasara Ghat the clouds had come down and we were driving through them. Through the haze we could see green valley speckled with waterfalls, different elements of nature had come together in the most captivating manner.
Once we had navigated the “Ghats” it did not take us long to reach the Mystic Valley Resort where we would be staying for the weekend, one of the top resorts to stay in Igatpuri. The resort’s campus extended over a few acres with different blocks. One of them would have our rooms. It felt more like a guest house rather than a resort but the suites we got were value for money. As promised in the website, it did have the view of the valley and the hills with misty clouds hovering around. By the time we had settled in our rooms daylight had started dimming, our trip to Bhandardra would have to wait for another day.
Morning brought with itself a game of hide and seek between the sun and the clouds. Around us the hills kept changing shades, vibrant green glowing in the bright sunlight for some moments and then assuming a darker tone when the clouds came over. We set out for Bhandardra after our breakfast. As we moved further on the Nasik highway, away from Igatpuri, a left turn off the highway takes you to Bhandardra. Even at the first glimpse it was fair to say that this area was rather untouched and unadulterated with the cosmopolitan nature of modern tourism. We travelled on a narrow single lane road with paddy fields all around. Thanks to the generous monsoons the sowing for the season was well and truly done, in the backdrop were the Sahyadris.
Luckily for us there was no rain at that moment and we could take some photographs in the beautiful and serene country side. We navigated another “Ghat” to reach our first stop; Wilson Dam built on the Parvara River. It was built in 1910 and is the highest earthen dam in the country right now. This is one of the main tourists spots in the area and all the other travelers also stopped here. The huge earthen structure with all the greenery surrounding it was a good spot for a photo-op. If you have time then there is a pathway which takes you right beneath the structure, we had unknowingly missed it. We then entered the Bhandardra sanctuary.
Our idea of places to visit beyond the Wilson Dam was very faint so we kept going. A local mentioned to look for “Dhabdhaba” and a spot called as Wilson Point. So we kept going further in search for these two elusive points, not exactly knowing if they really existed. Only consolation was that quite a few other vehicles were going in the direction so we guessed that there might indeed be some point of attraction. Then suddenly we came across this huge waterfall on a cliff which was at some distance from the road. There was a little pathway which quite a people had climbed up to get atop a bridge built just below the fall, the stream flew below it.
Speaking to a few vendors who sold some snacks and tea I realized this was the Dhabdhaba (meaning: waterfall) I was told about. It was a beautiful spot with everyone in a playful mood; some took shower in the waterfall others like us enjoyed from a little distance, dipping our feet in the little stream. After asking quite a few we could not really ascertain if there was a Wilson Point so we returned and headed for Randha Falls on the River Parvara. This is where the River Parvara falls of a cliff downstream from the Wilson Dam. We were told when the river is in full flow these falls look really magnificent, a view for which we may have to come again .
It was late afternoon and most of us were now hungry . One of the vendors got some “Chewda” from a village nearby and made "Poha" for us which was our lunch. This rounded of our short tour around Bhandardra, a beautiful and serene countryside in Sahyadris where journey during monsoons is in itself an experience.