Monday, July 27, 2009

Ambade ghat, Mandhardevi Temple

A little known Ambade ghat is on the Bhor-Wai road. Bhor is around 60 KMs from Pune. If you take immediate left turn after Kapurhol turn on the right you are able to reach Bhor easily. Just before Bhor village is a turn on the right towards the old Bhatghar dam. A huge garden and few benches facing the huge dam is amazing location to relax for few hours. You are not allowed to click the pictures of the dam. There’s another road to other side of the dam from where the water is let out. A good spot to visit in monsoon.

After Bhor you have to take a left turn from Shivaji statue to Mandhardevi temple. Cross the bifurcation for Rohida fort on right and then take a left turn for Ambodeo Khind or Ambade ghat. Your meter reading should be 11Kms after Bhor.



The uphill drive is a great experience for car drivers as well as bikes, as one can see the majestic beauty of the lush green mountains. We could see sun playing hide and seek within the wandering clouds and all you could hear in water gushing through creeks making sparkling waterfalls in the perfect tranquil surroundings.



The clouds had engulfed the peaks in the fluffy white colored blanket. As you take few more turns the Rohida fades away in the mist. The last turn where the climb ends there as bifurcation on the left for Mandhardevi while the ghat climbs down to Pandavgad. From here the temple is 4 Kms away. From Wai side this should be about 17 kms.



From the temple site one can get a view of the Neera River on the northern side and back waters of Dhom Dam and Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar on the South West side. The temple itself is small temple with 140 flights of steps. There are shops catering to the devotees sell pooja articles while some are tea stalls and it seems the Pedhas are famous here.
While climbing the stairs it started raining and the whole place completely went into fog and you could hardly locate anybody within 5 feet of distance. We wished we could have spent more time here when the nature here was at its best.

Ambade ghat and Mandhardevi Temple visit could be your perfect weekend break a short and sweet excursion if you do not want to do any hectic treks. This could be romantic scenic gateway, far from maddening crowds with plenty of waterfalls all of them especially for you to enjoy in the misty green serene surroundings.

More info about Mandhardevi Temple can be found here: http://mandhardevidarshan.com/Index.htm


-July 25, 2009

Pandavgadh


Pandavgad lies between Bhor and Wai and supposed to be built by the Kolhapur Silahara chief Bhoja II of Panhala. In 1673 it was taken by Shivaji and was surrendered in 1701 with Chandan Vandan to Aurangzeb. Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj recaptured it and in 1818 it was lost to British. Now this fort is a private property, owned by Mapco Company. The caretaker here is Mr. Sarvodaya Wadia who probably lives there.

We started at around 6.45 am and had oily pohe and vadpav for breafast in bhor. The drive was pleasant and roads for a change were in excellent condition. There are 2 routes one is from Menavali (after wai) and another from village Gundewadi. We decided to climb from Gundewadi. Gundewadi can be reached from Wai or from Bhor. From Bhor, after you pass the crossing for Rohida on right, you need to take a left to Wai (35Kms) via Ambade ghat. Ambade ghat is wonderful surprise and offers awesome view of lush green valleys and picturesque surroundings. Please see more details in this blog. While climbing down the ghat you are able to see majestic view of Pandavgad right in font of you. Gundewadi is tiny hamlet at the place where this ghat ends. All you can see is 3-4 houses and a temple on the right. You will need to go slightly further around 500mts and there lies a small house on the right.

The trail starts from behind the house. Its a small trail that gets lost in the teak forest and a bit dense jungle. The fort top is mostly not visible. As you climb the first plateau you start getting view of the ballekilla. The variety of flowers, especially small white bunches of flowers look beautiful. All the cows trails mislead you now and then but all you have to see the peak and climb straight. Its a 1.5-2 hours climb. Towards top, last 10-15 minutes you reach a flight of stairs. The topmost plateau is almost flat with Ballekilla hidden in the rocky center surrounded by bushes. The trail leads to the right towards Mr Wadia bunglow.









After crossing the bunglow, it turns towards right and the route takes you through a traverse round the fort beneath the balle killa. It’s a beautiful walk with huge boulders above with dripping water and enchanting valley to the right. The muddy waters of Dhoom Dam looks amazing and you can see the doors of the dam. All over you would see beautiful wild flowers basking in warm sunlight and moving to the tunes of the gentle breeze.



Accessing Ballekilla is difficult and all you are able to see is only huge boulder above you. The access road to Ballekilla is hidden on the immediate left of fist water cistern after passing the Mr Wadias bunglow.


You pass 2-3 huge and beautiful water cisterns and a very small main door with a lone buruj welcomes you. The curvy road takes you to the plateau with beautiful yellow colored flowers. To the left there is temple of Lord 'Hanuman' and to the right is the temple of Goddess Pandjai.




Right infront of Hanuman temple there are three grinding wheels, which were probably used for grinding a mixture of limestone and lead. The citadel is quite smaller in shape. It is said that from the eastern side a trail leads to Dhawadi village and on the way you can see Pandava Caves. We didn’t have time for this venture so we decided to return back.



On the way back we went to Mandhardevi temple. Please see more details in this blog. After Mandhardevi we started back.

Had yummy meal in Kailash Dhaba on Satara Road. This place is slightly inside and a narrow lane leads to it just few minutes (before the first toll naka) on Pune-Banglore highway. Look on the side right side, after you cross the new tunnel if you are coming from Katraj-Somatane Bypass or if you are coming from old katraj ghat this is few minutes after the ghat ends and it joins the main highway. They offer a hearty lunch and dinner and the speciality is Zunka-Bhakri and a very tasty Kadhi. They give small vati of peanuts as a starter. The 80 rs Thali offers 2 sabjis, salads, and various types of things like lasun, danyachi chatni and kharda. Curd and Chaas as add-on will do wonders for a tired traveler! The freely roaming white ducks and cute rabbits outside the hotel makes your day. We were back to Pune by 3.30 PM.


- July 18, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ranjan Khalge or Potholes of Nighoj

Along with Morachi Chincholi we went to visit Rajan Khalge.

Asia’s largest natural gigantic potholes in riverbed of Kukdi near Nighoj is an archeological site recorded in the Guinness Book of World records. This is a geographical phenomenon where the pebbles that are carried by the river get locked in the cracks developed in the basalt rock riverbed. These pebbles, which rotate due to the water current, form pot shaped cavities in the basalt rock over the hundreds of years.

The interiors of potholes are smooth and regular. The miracle resembling the rock sculptures are are on the riverbed and the narrow walls of gorge through which river flows.




The Gorge is just about 2-3 kms in length and is hardly visible from a distance. The fascinating formations with its looks of a canyon, would give you a chilling thought how mars or moons surface might be.


Over the years the depth of these potholes has increased and villagers tell us that they could be even more than 100 feet deep at few spots. There is small temple of “Malganga” on the bank on this river.

Nighoj is just 90 kms from Pune, off Pune Ahmednagar Road and the Kund Devi is another 2 kms from Nighoj. If you are visiting Morachi Chincholi and doing this excursion this is around 20 kms through internal roads.

Avoid monsoons as the gushing water would hide the giganticness of these potholes. The trip can be combined with Rajangaon Ganpati too.


Excursions
Morachi Chincholi, Rajangaon.

-July 19, 2008

Morachi Chincholi


Nach re Mora Ambyachya Vanat...
From my childhood days I always wondered - do ever peacocks dance or is it just the song? The Peshve Park peacocks always looked so cramped in that cage that it always kept me guessing if they could really blow up their feathers in that cage. I had never experienced this. The dream finally came true last Sunday. Morachi Chincholi is a rustic village which is sort of natural peacock sanctuary. It is home for over more 2,500 peacocks.

How to reach: From Swargate its approx 45KMs drive. On Pune-Ahmednagar highway after Shikrapur cross the bridge and in next chauk itself, watch for signboard on left turn for Pabal phata. Take this turn, travel further for 200 mts and again take a left turn to Kanhur Mesai village passing Hivre village and drive up to Kanhur Mesai village, which is around 15KMs from this chauk. After Kanhur Mesai, take a left from big tamrind tree towards Morachi Chincholi which is hardly the distance of 3KMs. Morachi Chincholi Arch welcomes you on the right.


We started at 6.45 am and reached the village by 7.30 am. I had checked up with this guy called Dattatrya Thopte and he was waiting for us near the gate. He had already called me twice to check that I was indeed coming. He owns a farm out there. Immediately he took us in the farms and we could see several peacocks roaming here and there. 2-3 peacocks were dancing with all feathers completely opened up. It said that the peacock dances up to 1-1.5 hours once he opens up all his feathers! Did you ever know that when peoacock actually opens its feather there this - khad khad khad noise? My gosh this was simply amazing! We watched two peacocks dancing and sun bathing for 20-25 minutes from a spot near his well. After that we continued exploration till almost 9AM. It was so beautiful to see peacocks flying from trees and roaming freely in the fields. After that we had a hearty breakfast-Pohe and Bhaji at Dattatrya’s wada. Then along with another family who had also checked in on same day, we all went to Nighoj. After seeing the famous Rajan Khalge we went to see Sardar Pawar’s Wada and Somnath Temple. Later we enjoyed a sumptious meal- Zunka, Chuli varchya bhakri, Mirchi-danya cha kharda andi javaschi tup chatni, tur chi bhaji. We all were tired and relaxed under the peepal tree. Late afternoon we again tracked down few peacocks. They offered coconut as per their tradition. The bombshell: About the charges, Dattarya and his family said we need to keep the money in front of the God whatever we thought was appropriate. It didn’t really matter whatever we kept. They even called back in the evening to check whether we had reached safely.

I was deeply moved to see how these simple people lived, kept a complete faith in humanity and struggle to preserve our tradition. It was far far away from the material world running like crazy after money!

Best time to visit this magical splendor is from June to December. Well rather I would say ASAP before this place gets commercialized and it looses the charm of its rural simplicity.

Dattarya's Website:
http://www.chincholimorachi.com/
Krishi Paryatan Kendra:
http://morachichincholi.com/
(check out amazing peacock closeups)

Excursions

Sardar Pawar’s Wada (Malthan):
8 KMs from Morachi Chincholi there is small fort like wada resemling miniature of Shaniwar Wada of pune or like Purndar wada of Saswad. It seems the place has historical value from Mughal times. We were not able to see the place from inside as it seemed locked but probably Agritourism has a center here too called 'Malthan Krishi Paryatan Kendra (http://malthan.in/Inner/Home.aspx)









Somnath Hemadpanthi Temple (Pimpri Dumaala):
This temple is located in small village and the villagers believe this from Pandav era. There’s no tar road and the so called mud-road is extremely in bad condition and could be worse in monsoon. But the drive is pleasant across the dotted custard apple and sweet lime farms. The temple itself is very clean and the fresh coat of paint makes it a pleasant sight. There’s a huge banyan tree and you can see village children swinging on the 'parambya' and playing around it.


The most attractive thing is the water cistern next to the temple. I recalled that I had something similar in Hampi. You definitely need a guide to visit this one. One the return journey in the village itself we stopped in a custradapple farm to buy some fresh fruits. In spite of taking 3 dozen custard apples the farmer was refusing to take any money saying that "Pahunyankadun kasle paise ghayache, tumhi amchaya deva la alat!" meaning why to take money from visitors, we are very happy that you come to visit our village temple. Finally we gave him what was appropriate and the proceeded. I was touched by his simpleness, generosity and his beliefs.



It was an marvellous trip and I will cherish the memories of dancing peacocks forever!!!

-July 19, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jadhavgad- Kamat Hotel


A 300-year-old almost a ground fort near Saswad, around 25km from Pune, Jadhavgad seems to be a pleasant surprize package to old and young alike.


Pilaji Jadhavrao had built Fort Jadhavgadh in Jadhavwadi as a place of residence as well as a safe haven when being attacked by enemies. Shahuji Maharaj had entrusted Pilaji Jadhavrao to, gather able men across Jadhavgadhi and Saswad area, train them to fight, reunite the forces to fight against the Mughals during the troubled times of Marathas. It was due to heroic efforts of men like Pilaji Jadhavrao that Chatrapati Shahuji finally sat on the throne and later governed with the help of his loyal Peshwas.

Jadhavgad now taken over by Kamat group of hotels, they have truly recreated the pages of history of Martha Era. The attendants smartly dressed like mavalas on the front door and the receptionist in traditional Navaris greet you warmly.


As you enter the fort gate and pass the pathways you are completely spellbound by the mysterious charm of this place. A day trip is offered at 500 Rs per person covers entry to museum and guided tour to hotel property and can be redeemed at hotel restaurants.

Since we werent really prepared after the trek to dine in the five star restaurant we decided to just visit the the musem built around ghodshala charged at 20 Rs per person.



The museum comprising Vithal Kamat’s personal collection called AAI dedicated to the memories of his mother. This two level museum has collection of the traditional artifacts, jewelry and houehold utensils. The tanjavar murals, huge pots and carved wooden doors make this place a truly worth visit.



-July 11, 2009

Malhargad AKA Sonori cha Killa



Sardar Panse built the last fort of the Maratha empire- Malhargad near Sasvad in the Bhuleshwar range, to watch over Dive Ghat around 1760-65. Panse was the chief in charge of Tofkhana of the Peshwas and there are ruins of Sardar Panse's palace in the base village Sonori. To reach this place from Pune: Reach Saswad and Saswad Bus stand, pass Nagar Parishad take a left turn towards village Sonori. The road doesnt have any naming indications. Sonori is about 6 kms or more from here and the road till the fort is in very bad shape. On the way enjoy view of pune city and Mastani lake from the last turn in Dive Ghat.


We started at 7 AM. After a quick Vada-Pav in saswad we proceeded to Sonori. We took 0.5 hours to travel 6KMs full of potholes and mud. Hats off to ST bus driver who daily takes the bus on the ruins of ;once existed Tar Road;. Scaling the fort isn't a tough and takes hardly half an hour to 40 odd minutes from the right ridge of the fort. A big misguiding trail lead you right under HT wires to backside of fort. The continous humming noise and the eerie winds made the situation slightly scary. The trail suddenly ended and we were in middle of nowhere. But it looked we could climb easily from back too. So we tried to climb slightly steep rocky patch and ended up entering through sort of Chor-Darwaja.


There is nothing much to see on this fort. The fort is named after Lord Malhari i.e. Khandoba. The two temples stand guarding Balle-Killa in good condition- temple of Khandoba and temple of Lord Shiva. Fortification is still in good condition. There are two dry wells and a large water tank that might have served as source of water in past. Few showers of rains had ensured ensured the fort was not completely barren as we had imagined. Eagles flying high above and butterflies basking in the warm sunlight keep you busy all the way.
It started drizzling on the way back and unfortunately we missed palace of Panse on the return trip. But all was not lost as we visited awesome Jadhavagad while returning back.
-July 11, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Koraigad-- Lonavala Annex


Rain gods were still unhappy. Newspaper carried reports of some rains in Lonvala last week and hence we decided to trek Koraigad. Koraigad is also called Korigad or Kumwarigad and is located about 20 km away from Lonavla.
After searching net I had found out that we needed to go by one of these options:
1. Travel to Lonavala by Expressway and after Bhushi Dam continue to Amby Valley. Base village is Peth Shahapur.
2. Travel to Mulshi. Just before the dam wall, take a right to Ghusalkhamb. The road is not so good but the scenery and greener is awesome. When you hit a T, take a left for Ambavane and look for Peth Shahapur.
3. Travel past Mulshi via Tamhini, past Dongarwadi, there is a bifurcation for Lonavala. This road would take you to Bhambarde, from here continue to Ambavane and then to Peth Shahapur.

Five of us started at 6.30 AM and reached lonavala. After a yummy Dosa in Ram Krishna, we took off for Peth-Shahapur. Bhusi Dam catchment areas had received very scanty rainfall and land could be seen deep inside. Although first few showers had ensured that greenery was there one could easily miss the murmur of silent waves hitting the edges near the road.

After Bhushi dam the well built scenic road takes you through dense fog to Amby Valley. On the way there are few point where regular Bhushi Dam visitors venture for breathtaking views, waterfalls and to enjoy hot corn.



Finally we reached Peth Shahpur driving by speed of 20 as we could barely see the misty road due to fog. On roadside tapri we decided to have a cup of tea. Unfortunately we locked the car with bags and car keys inside! After taking help of local driver we were able to open the car door and pull out our bags. We lost 0.5 hrs there.

We started climbing at about 9/9.30 AM. A 10 mins wide trail leads to the well constructed flight of steps. From here is very climb of around 30-40 minutes through moderately dense jungle.




Amby Valley planners have installed huge focus light at the base pointing at the top which they probably must be turning on in the night. Korigad predates 1500 A.D. and Shivaji Maharaj included this fort in Swarajya along with Lohgad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona in 1657 and in 1818 Marathas lost it to the British. There is Ganesh Darwaaja half way to the top with idol of Lord Ganesh in small rock cave and big cave near it.

On the top if you start walking towards right you reach two huge central pond right behind the Mahadev temple. From here you able to walk on the huge fortification wall all round the fort enjoying the breath taking view below whenever possible.

The whole top of Koraigad in monsoon seems to be a magical place- like walking in the clouds bounded by barriers of walls and rocks covered with green algae and misty winds singing sweetly in your ear. The soft dark green moist grass below your feet looks fresh as if it had just taking dew drop bath and is desperately waiting for sunlight to dry off its shoots. After visiting the Main Buruj overlooking Peth Shahpur below we proceeded to other end. We visited temple of Goddess Korai Devi. There is a deepmala right in front of the temple and a huge gate just behind it on right side. There are some huge cannons on this fort.
A Mobile Tower constructed near the other main buruj spoils the beauty but it was good thing fog had engulfed it its blankets. When the naughty mist playing hide and seek gives some visibility, you will get breathtaking view of Amby Valley, Mulshi dam and the enchanting green mountains playing with freely roaming clouds.
You clearly able to see airstrip, huge lake in the middle and a line of large number of green colored rooftops of row houses with landscaped gardens below.

Descent back is simpler and in an hour’s time, you can reach Peth Shahpur village. The roads near Bhushi dam were as usual full of hundreds of honking cars, some playing dirty song enjoying beer and people dancing around their hired sumos. The love birds were enjoy some quiet time by themselves on few turns. The heavy rush allowed us to hit the highway only after almost 1.5 hours and driving at speed of 10 took some fun away. After lunch we reached safely back home by 5PM.