Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Around Pune - Bhuleshwar, Narayanpur and Baneshwar

Buleshwar, Narayanpur and Baneshwar are three religious locations around Pune. Since my parents are in town I thought of covering these three in a day as a pilgrimage.
Bhuleshwar is famous for a 13th century temple of Lord Shiva on top of a hill. The temple is unique because of its architecture. From outside it appears to more as a mosque than a temple due to its resemblance to Islamic architecture like circular tomb and minarets.
Legend says that it was done so that temple is not destroyed by invaders. However, the carvings inside are stupendous and comparable to one finds in Ajanta and Ellora but alas many of them are broken. There are depictions of scenes from Ramayan and Mahabharata on either side of temple like "Sita-haran", "Bharat-Milap" etc.
Bhuleshwar is 8 km inside Pune-Solapur highway from a point just before Yavat town around 60 km from Pune. This area is not very populated so there was hardly any rush at the temple. It was one of the unique sites I have seen.
From Bhuleshwar we went to Saswad on internal road and from there to Narayanpur. It is famous for Lord "Dattatreya" and "Narayaneshwar" temple and this being hindu "Karthik" month there were lot of pilgrims. We had darshan at both the temples. After that we proceeded to Balaji temple, replica of Tirupati, built by Venky's group a little away from Narayanpur. However, due to paucity of time and having visited it earlier we skipped this one and went to Baneshwar which is a couple of kms inside Mumbai-Bangalore highway around 40 kms from Pune. The temple is situated in a protected forest area. It was quite and serene over there. The temple complex has two tanks which has fish and turtles who are dearly fed by devotees. There is a shivling dipped in water where devotees immerse coins. It is said that if the coin lands on top of shivling then it is a good sign. Beyond temple is the park area with nursery, sitouts etc. where families can relax and make merry. There is also a small bio-diversity education center which was well crafted. There is a small waterfall as well where one can go through a trail and dip their legs in running water. The whole place is great picnis spot for families. We bought 3 plants for Rs. 15 each from the nursery. After spending some time we returned back to Pune. It took us total 8 hours from door to door for this trip which was well worth the effort.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Koyna and Konkan

During 15th Aug weekend, we planned a trip to Koyna region. Koyna is a region nestled in the Sahaydri mountains (western ghats) of Maharashtra whose claim to fame is Koyna Dam. Koyna Dam forms a lake in Sahayadri mountains which goes 70 km all the way up to Mahabaleswar (Tapola). It is one of the largest Hydroelectric dam projects of independent India and even Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru paid a visit here during its construction post-independence. It generates 560 MW of electricity.

Beautiful Koyna Dam
There is a small town called Koyna Nagar close to the dam which forms the base of this region. The town is around equidistant from two major towns Karad & Chiplun on west and east side on either side of western ghats. The route from Pune was to go south on NH-4 till Umbraj just before Karad and from there turn right on state highway to Chiplun via Patan. Once we are onto state highway the traffic becomes minial and greenery all around. Soon one can see mountains awashed with nubile grass on slopes and rugged green plains. There is a river which accompanies on the left which is full and clean. We stopped at several places to take in the surroundings.

There is a gentle ascend to reach Koyna Nagar. We stayed at the MTDC resort there which is around 1-2 km above the town on hill slope. It was an ordinary place though it was fully occupied due to holidays. The dam and its lake behind is the main attraction visible from various viewpoints. There is a Nehru Garden which is a nice place to relax and also to view a short documentary about the dam and its construction.

Koyna dam from distance

Koyna dam with background
Next day we went to a fall known as Ozarda which I had never heard of before. But it didn’t disappoint and was in full force. The waterfall is inside a protected park and one has to trek for 20 minutes to reach the base of falls though it is visible from far. The water was in such a force that it created a mist around and one could get wet evening being far from falling water. No one can dare stand under it anyways. The curved hill created a performance like an amphitheater.
Ozarda fall from a distance

small water streams around main Ozarda fall

Main Ozarda waterfall

Closeup of pointed rock taking pounding from the fall
Here we saw a huge boulder covered with moss and small flowers epitomizing the saying that ‘even rocks can breed flowers’.

Even rocks can breed flowers
This was peak monsoon time so territory around was splendidly green in all its hues and waterfalls every now and then.

One of many waterfalls

Back side of dam lake

Our red car in the midst of green
Next day our destination was Guhagar, a town at seashore going through the town of Chiplun. This was going to be a foray into Konkan region of Maharashtra which is famous for Alphonso mangoes. It was a nostalgic journey for me having come to this area some 18 years back with my cousin and sisters. We had come from Solapur, stationed at Chiplun and went to Guhagar and Velneshwar, another small town on the coast. All these years I remembered names of these towns. As soon as we rounded the bend at ‘Ghat Matha‘ which is the mountain pass to the other side of western ghats I knew I have seen this before. I have a faint memory of that time getting scared looking at the valley below with a small river while the ST bus swerved at every bend. This is ‘Kumbharli ghat‘ towards Chiplun. There is a hotel at the pass which is a view point to the valley below. Due to hills coming up in such a configuration that there is always wind at this point with clouds rising from the valley below. The Kumbharli ghat was so beautiful that morning that we stopped several times at various vantage points looking at the green hills covered with white clouds. The clouds were moving at fast pace presenting a fresh view at every blink. The road and mountain slope was misty.

Misty road at Ghat Matha

Clouds rising up in the valley

Taking a break on the ghat

Clouds clinging to hill tops like they are on fire

Seat to heaven
The hills here had lot of power transmission lines due to Koyna Dam. Sometimes I feel that though western ghats are very less in height compared to Himalayas but still they are as mysterious and unexplored as they are dense.

Transmission lines coming from Koyna Dam

Kids at roadside village
Slowly we got down the ghat and reached Chiplun. Again I tried to recall if I remember anything from 18 year trip back. However, the town did not give opportunity as it was congested and difficult to maneuver.
Chiplun to Guhagar was low lying hill drive with dense forest around.

Enroute Guhagar from Chiplun
Guhagar had few tourists who might have come due to it being Sunday. We went out to the sea shore. I remember this was my first ever sighting of sea in my lifetime when I came here when I was you young. The name Guhagar is forever etched in my memory. We walked around in the town. and had our lunch.

Beach at Guhagar
Later we headed to Velneshwar where we had even spent a day at my cousin’s acquaintance but couldn’t recall which house it was? The drive as it was till now scenic with undulating hills with densest greenery.

Just before Velneshwar town
We paid visit to the main temple in town which seemed to have been recently painted.I must have been to this temple but couldn’t recall.

Temple at Velneshwar
The beach seemed familiar with hump like hill at the background. The sea was rough but lot of catamarans were out there in the sea. It was mostly secluded as I could remember from my memory. How these places are stuck in a time warp.

Beach at Velneshwar visiting after 18 years

Catamarans out in the sea
After sometime we drove to Hedvi another coastal town famous for its Lord Ganesha temple. The temple was well-built and calm. The seafront was rocky though.

Seashore at Hedvi looking south
Soon we headed back as we wanted to cross the ghat till sunlight lasts. The drive up the ghat was fine. We stopped at the hotel at Ghat Matha to have tea & pakoras. They tasted divine in this setting. It was quite chilly in the evening there due to cool wind.

Shredded clouds in the evening in the valley

The hotel at Ghat Matha from distance
Next day we drove back to Pune via same route as we came.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lakes, Dams & Hills around Pune

This Sunday we ventured out for the first time during this monsoon season for a round trip of lakes, dams & hills around Pune. After a little research found that there is a circuitous route of around 130 kms which takes us through Temghar, Lavasa, Varasgaon, Panshet and Khadakvasla and then back to Pune. Temghar, Varasgaon, Panshet, Khadakvasla are known for dams and lakes formed behind them which supply water to Pune city. They all are situated in Sahayadri range of mountains as this part of Western Ghats is called in Maharashtra. This season rains have been very scarce till now in and around Pune. I could feel that by noticing that I have not been caught in rains since it started a month back while walking to & fro from the office. Newspaper carry reports of how there has been very less rains in catchment areas of these dams & lakes and there could be paucity of water if it doesn't rain properly. We saw that first hand on this trip.

We started from home at around 9AM and had quick breakfast of Poha and Tea in an eatery close to our house. After that it was driving through Pune city for 20 odd kms to go to the other end of city to a place called "Chandni Chowk" from where roads criss-cross going to Bangalore, Mumbai, Mulsi (our direction) and back to Pune. The name is similar to "Chandni Chowk" in Delhi but similarity ends there. While on the road to "Mulshi" which is the biggest dam & lake around Pune, saw lot of youngsters on bikes going towards Mulshi / Tamhini ghat which are well known execursions. Tamhini ghat is end of Deccan plateau or Western ghats, gateway to Konkan region from Pune side. When monsoon is in its glory, there are waterfalls created in every crevice of the mountains where people bathe and make merry. We were going to skip that and go towards Temghar/Lavasa. Lavasa is a new township coming up on the hills around and on shore of Varasgaon lake which has elite residences, landscaping, educational and office space and is being highly promoted to attract investors. We decided to check it out as a side-effect to this trip. However, we were disappointed to see the township from a vantage point and later going around it. It seemed an eyesore from a distance with lot of finished and unfinished apartments, construction paraphernalia etc. I sometime wonder how clumsily we out this activity called "construction" even it is for a world class elite township. Having been just back from Seattle where entire city is developed around lakes, I had another picture in mind. Hopefully after finishing the township will live up to its hype.

For coming to Lavasa we had taken a left turn on Mulshi road to ride on "Temghar-Lavasa road". It was a nice drive thanks to good road which approaches this elite township. There were a couple of small ghats on this road which were full of great views. Best was clouds & mist shrouding the long & high and of hills like an amphitheatre then a gentle slope covered with trees into the valley with neat rectangular fields which are bare brown or sown with paddy. Then a temple cone rising above the houses. It was a sight to behold.

We stopped at Temghar dam but found it to be virtually empty. There was only a "chullu bhar paani" if I could use that metaphor for a dam. Though it was cloudy and inclement weather but rain was only spotty.

After Lavasa we took the road which very few people take to go to Panshet via Varasgaon. We asked a group of bikers about condition of road which they described as not good. We anyways went on it just to complete our circle and take things as they come. The road was indeed bad but there was virtually nobody on the road only occasional bike or car. There were sparse villages with no business on the road. The road hugs the lake formed by Varasgaon dam. However again there was not much water in the lake. One could clearly make out the green line up to which dam must be getting full. The water was more like a small river.

The greenery around more than made up for it. We stopped on many occasions to admire the beauty around.

At one point we stopped for a small "Tila" which was carpeted by grass and there were some white flowers on it. We hiked up and it turned into a small plateau like "Bugyal" as it is called in Garhwal. It was as if we discovered a hidden treasure. The moist breeze, surrounded by hills and mood made us revel at this place.

Due to remoteness of this route, there was no eatery and we were left hungry nibbling at whatever snack we carried from home.

We reached Panshet where we noticed people who have come down to visit Panshet and around from Pune. Panshet dam and lake shore was not accessible due to a recent accident of couple of youngsters drowning while boating. So we hurried from there. The river which was coming out of Panshet dam was now meandering along with the road. At one place, one of the resorts around this place had cleared some space on the banks of river and created a small park with benches where one could sit and admire the river and hills beyond. It was nice to sit around leisurely over there.

After that we proceeded to Khadakvasla. This place is the outskirts of Pune and is famous for home to NDA (National Defence Academy). We reached there at around 5 PM and it was heavily crowded. All the Sunday evening rush had gathered there. Because of lack of proper parking facility had to painfully look for a parking place. Sweet corn vendors were doing brisk business. Thankfully, this lake was quite full with water and there were waves due to breeze. We stood in water for sometime but left soon without waiting for the sunset.

After Khadakvasla it was just a monotonous drive back home cutting across Pune city. Pune city is blessed in the sense there are plenty of places with natural beauty around it which are in their full glory in monsoon. You go 20 kms out and you have green carpeted hills and mist and you are in the midst of nature. Hopefully the rains would improve and make the scenes around rich and fill up dams & lakes to see us through next year.