Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kashid, Murud, Phansad: Weekend Gateway from Mumbai

The dazzling sea water till huge stretches is what I see when I enter Alibaug beaches, my favourite place to crash when I am on a tight budget and keen to step out! Just 2 and 1/2 hour journey from Mumbai Alibaug has got something for old, young, sporty and the lazy bums like me too. I gatecrash this place when I need to gaze into the endless sea and lose myself into its silence. But this time I am travelling with a few mavericks and it was all action!
We began our journey early morning with the beautiful view of Gateway and the Taj. After a 45 minute ferry ride and another hour's journey from the bus, we reach Alibaug and book a cab for our 2 day trip. My friend Manisha helped a bit in our budget by asking a few people to share our cab. They did! What luck!  
Our first destination was Murud Fort, also know as Janjeera, the short cut for the actual name Jal Jazeera! 
Ruins at Murud Fort
This huge fort is built in the middle of the sea and has withstood the saline waters till date! Its historical value stems from the fact that it has been an undefeated fort. 
I love this huge structure encompassing fresh water lakes (which are now dirty), outlets for cannon bullets, courtyards and ruins gardens which hint on the magnificence which the fort would have had in its heyday. This was the second trip and I am still awed by this place. 
After the bout of history it was time for a dip in the sea! We headed for Kashid, just in time for the beautiful sun set. We took a dip in the late evening and since it was low tide, a swim made the day perfect for us.
The next day we headed for Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary. An unexplored forest area just 3 hours away from Mumbai was a treat to the eyes. The carzy  bullock-cart ride was bumpy but fun! We also discovered that Phansad has basic tent accommodation at a very reasonable price! 

Our ride at Phansad
The icing on the cake for this trip were the water sports at Kashid and my favourite was the para sailing. The view from above is to behold! Other rides like the bumper ride was too bumpy for me to handle and the jet ski was just 'jet ski'. 

After para sailing
I ended my trip very satisfactorily tired and geared for work for the coming Monday.
This might be helpful if you are travelling to Alibaug-
1. A cab to roam in Alibaug  is a good option.
2. Bargain- for everything here.
3. Sea food is the specialty but I loved the veg too.
4.  Water sports are best enjoyed at Nagaon.
5. Murud beach is not as frequented by tourists as Kashid. So head for this beach for the quite.
6. Phansad is a good stay option just 6 km from Kashid. Prior bookings are required though. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mumbai Weekend Gateway: HideOut

"Humans don't need as much water! Have you ever seen animals drinking so much water as us?" Hemant, who runs "Hide Out" has his own way of seeing and understanding life.
I made a trip to "Hide Out" a few days back with my Reiki Group. I was in silence (no mobile/laptop, etc and no talking) for 3 days so I could not gather much "information" about this place. I write this post about the little information I could get.
True to its name, this farm is impossible to figure if you have not asked for directions beforehand.(Check their website for details or call them). It is nestled between Mumbai Ahmedabad Highway. Hemant, the owner, has been living here for the past 25 years and earns his living through farming and payments made by guests for their stay at "Hide Out".

The rooms
The rooms at Hide Out are HUGE and have open windows. And that's the charm of the place! At night, we were visited by cats and crickets in our room. Don't you guys worry now! They have nets around the bed. So we humans are safe in our respective cocoons. The bathroom is frequented by frogs as these guys just love the wet!

The name of my room
By the end of the trip, the cats made themselves cozy next to me on my bed. Crickets, spiders and ants became our friends. I look back and wonder how I did that! Never experienced so much wilderness ever! They also have open air beds. One can gaze at the starts and sleep off!

The Food
One can enjoy the amazing flavours of organic food here. They don't serve non vegetarian. But I am sure after tasting there veg, non veg does not stand a chance anyway! They grow their own organic food. And there are strict instructions to not waste khana!

The way to common area/dinning hall
Our breakfast began with herbal tea and fruits, followed by sumptuous idili or poha with milk tea. The lunch had a variety of vegetables along with rice, dal and chappatis. The chappatis either ragi, or jowar, never wheat!

The People
Hemant runs the farm and is very friendly. He was our host and our guide around the place.

I believe I enjoyed the place because I was in silence. I could hear the swish of the trees, the movement of animals around me. It is all contained in me with my silence.

The places to see
One can never get enough of nature! There is the farm to see here, the people at work, a dam, and a waterfall. You can see nature unfold here.

The Cost
It is expensive. But then, any price is no price to experience nature!

Things to remember
1. Visit the place if you are  a nature lover through and through.
2. Do not expect a 5 star luxurious treatment. We washed our own dishes here.
3. Good shoes and a camera is a must.
4. Good to carry a mosquito repellent.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saguna Baug: Weekend Gateway from Mumbai

I was in luck last weekend when my friend invited me to visit the Saguna Baug with him! My finances are at an all-time low, and yet I was itching to travel “somewhere” and this weekend gateway seemed like the right option.
I was sceptical at first as the place should ideally be visited in the monsoons. But like I said, anything is better than sitting at home.

The moment I stepped into their compound, I knew I had made the right decision. Established in the middle of a small ‘village like city’, Saguna Baug has rural charm with modern facilities. They have stay facilities, of different kinds and numerous activities. You can visit them for a day too! That’s what I did!
One of the stay options. My next trip here will be with 2-3 day stay

We began by a guided tour of the place. I was amazed by the variety of trees and plants which the place flaunts. They mostly grow rice and onions there according to the nature of soil. But they also have a beautiful area of flowers like red roses. Small ponds which flaunt beautiful lotuses after a few meters itself. Even though we roamed under the harsh sunlight, the air was refreshingly cool. 

Banana Tree: Photo courtesy Anil. Parmar

My friend and I decided to skip the guided tour midway the moment we discovered this! We could not resist taking nap! I realised that nothing beats sleeping under a tree near a resting river!

My favourite thing apart from travel. Photo Courtesy: Anil. P
Well, we decided to follow our group again after sometime, and we discover that they are enjoying catching fish. Saguna Baug is well known for fish rearing, and local boys dive in the ponds to catch these. This is an activity itself. I respect all foods, however, I was completely grossed out by this. Somehow the sight ghastly feel to this. No pictures here guys! Individual fishing rods are also provided if asked for.

Archery: One of the many activities
The best part of the activity is the dip in the Ulhas River which flows right through this compound. We could see the water bed the moment we approached the sight. I could not have imagined a free flowing clean river just 2 hours away from Mumbai. We swam in the river, floated and collected stones. Splashed!

The clear water bed of Ulhas River. Photo courtesy: Anil P

We head off for the need of survival- Food! The food is prepared by local villagers and delicious is not the word for it! The service is by young men who are very eager to serve you. My friend said, “They are so good because they are young! They work with zeal.” We ate till we could not even get up from our seats! We were too engrossed in food to think of clicking. So no pictures here. But the rajma, dal, rice, roti, salad, chaas, sweeets, palak sabzi were irrestible after the Ulhas dip. We though we might just sleep of the afternoon, but headed for the river yet again. 

Enjoying the cool feel. Photo Courtesy: Anil. P

How to reach Saguna Baug

I took a train to Karjat (S) from Thane (T).
We get off at Neral
We take a rickshaw from Neral to Saguna Baug.

Things to keep in mind while you travel to this part

  -          For Saguna Baug, the amount includes food and tea. The food is really good
  -          Neral is crowded on  weekends as a number of weekend gateways are through this station. No worried here as it is just  the family crowd
  -          Rs. 100 is the cost of the individual rickshaw to Saguna Baug
  -          Keep a change of clothes

Top three things I loved about Saguna Baug
1. Ease of reach
        2.The Ulhas River
        3. Reasonably priced

Check about other weekend gateways on this link

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kundalika Water Rafting and Tamhini Ghats

We are known for planning at the end and making it work! The magic is created by my friends whom I accompany every time. This time we planned rafting at Kundalika followed by a drive to Tamhini. After chit chatting till 3 in the morning, we are set in the morning 5 for our drive. We hire a cab from Thane and set off to a drive of about 3 hours through lush green fields, hills and clouds.
The drive is to Kolad which is a small village nestled between the western ghats. There are numerous operators for rafting, but during monsoons it’s good to have a pre booking done. 
Kundalika. Photo courtesy: SJ

River water rafting at Kundalika is early mornings and evenings when the water is released from the dam. The gush of the water makes it an apt place for rafting. The guides brief us on safety and security during rafting. After the 45 minutes talk we are allowed to jump into our rafts! Our guides welcome us onboard with a splash of water shouting “good morning”. Well dude! What a morning indeed. The good morning game is one of the numerous games we play along the way which continues till the end! The guides are friendly and have war cries ready for “waring” the raft. It is just wow!
Photo courtesy: One of our guides

The Johnyy Walker  and Laughing Buddha just shake us off from our lazy bones . The 12km stretch is marked by small and big rapids, fun filled fames by our guides and lush green fields and hills. The rafting experience ends with an area where you can swim in the water, just laze around. We floated on water watching the clouds go by.
River water rafting is fun for all ages. The guides sometimes have a dry bag for you to keep your valuables. Or else, you can also ask your driver to stock your things for you! For bookings to Kundalika river water rafting, you can book directly with an agent- that’s what we did! Or google up other contacts online!
Rafting has to be followed by sumptuous lunch. We had carried our dabba and just delved into it. 
Fun time after rafting. Photo courtesy: SJ

We then head towards the Tamhini Ghats which is on the way to Pune. The ghats have waterfalls at almost every turn and are they gorgeous. One can see nature at its purest form here with deep ghats on one end and the falls on the other. After a drive for about ½ hour we run to the nearest waterfall. We were lucky to get a waterfall which had a huge rock crafted like a seat right under the water flow. The icy cold water hit us and we divulged in ecstasy.  Amidst nature all one can do was to surrendered to the speed and flow there, to feel the bliss.

After about an hour at the fall and lot of photography we headed back to our car. Another lovely weekend comes to an end. It’s a must visit during monsoons!
Dint want to get out this water fall. Photo courtesy: SJ

Just a few basics:
1. Kundalika and Tamhini Ghats are around 180 km from Mumbai
2. Its best to go in a group and hire a cab- saves time and efforts
3. Carrying your own lunch/ snacks is preferred. (you never know about hygiene levels in monsoons)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Jungle an Addiction: Tadoba Wildlife Reserve

Green Rustic Exciting TADOBA
This is what I felt when I first entered “The Real Land of Tigers” as the gate at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) describes it.  About 180 kms from Nagpur via Chandrapur, this wildlife sanctuary is a well known reserve for tigers and other wildlife species.
On this trip to Tadoba in the monsoon, I was accompanied by Shalik and Manisha. The journey from Nagpur to Mohurli was marked by flooded fields and broken bridges and Shalik’s tales of the jungle. When he accidentally spotted a tiger; when sometimes his instincts would push him in the direction of the royal animal or when he saw wild dogs going for a kill of Sambar fawn.  Exciting!
After a four hour drive, we checked in at the MTDC hotel which is easy on the pocket with decent rooms. A pre- booking for safari and hotel is a must.
The next day, we were the first ones to enter the park. The jungle as always is beautiful. It is lush, alive and bright. We were greeted by thick vegetation and trees on both sides of the road and the cold fresh breeze. Manisha christened the little streams on the road as “baithe hue jharne” or sitting streams. We remembered the owlets who greeted us at a particular tree at Kanha National Park. And I longed to see owlets even here (which I happened to see the same night just outside our room).
Bison.Pic by Manisha.G
Being in the jungle gives me sense of freedom. I taste it when I stand on the jeep and feel the breeze across my face. At that moment there is no office or nagging colleagues; worried parents or a tensed me to pay rent. When I am in the jungle, I just am. Nothing exists before or after. It’s just is.

On our safaris we saw numerous birds and animals. A beautiful huge eagle welcomed us on almost all our safaris. The ‘Stork-billed Kingfisher’ greeted us thereafter. We were told it is a difficult site but well, as luck would have it, we caught it on camera FIVE TIMES on that day!

Picture by Shalik Jogwe
I wondered if it was for real, the jungle, rustle of the leaves, chirping birds and insects. It is so amazing that such beauty exists. We spotted a mongoose crossing the road and soon after a number of peahens. Manisha prayed to see a peacock and we saw one that day. She then prayed for a dancing peacock. But hello! When do all prayers get fulfilled! The treat of the day was the bunch of wild dogs we saw in the evening. 

Wild Dogs. Pic by Manisha.G
Villagers in Melghat call the wild dogs the real king of the jungle; a thought fiercely challenged by Shalik- a royal tiger lover.

During one of our safaris, the sky poured its heart out to us. The jeep splashed the water on us driving through the “baithe hua jarne”. We shivered against the wind and water. We got drenched. We just loved it. 

Even though Tadoba is known as the land of roaring tigers, we didn't spot any on this trip. But no regrets as the beauty of the jungle made up for it. Tadoba is rustic and beautiful. The villagers here have been employed as guides or drivers for the safaris. If you know the right people, you may be welcomed for homestays where you can experience the simple life of the village. We had the opportunity to visit Ganesh’s house, who was our driver.

We visited Tadoba to visit again. To organize your trip to Tadoba Wildlife Reserve get in touch with Shalik Jogwe, who organized this trip for us. His email is

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Jungle an Addiction: Kanha Wildlife Sanctuary

It is said that Rudyard Kipling wrote the jungle book inspired by the beauty of Kanha. After reading the book and visiting Kanha myself, I felt that the beauty and serenity of the jungle can never be captured in words. Visit the jungle once and it becomes a part of ones existence. For me it is becoming an addiction.
On this trip, I was accompanied by Manisha. We would get up as early as 4.30 a.m. to be ready for the early morning safari.. Once out of bed, our first words would be, “will we get to see Munna today? And the other would respond with an affirmative “of course”. 
Munna is  a gorgeous tiger at Kanha famous for giving some amazing photography poses!

Kanha ka Munna:Pic by Shalik.J
The Kanha jungle is thick with sal trees, grass and bamboo. Some areas are also marked by meadows. Each and every road at Kanha has a story to it. Each and every part of the jungle is striking.

We saw numerous beautiful birds. by our third safari, we knew where they nested and caught them there almost on each each safari. We saw the knew we would find a kingfisher bird on a particular tree, the owlet on a banyan tree.

Owlet: Pic by Manisha.G
And yet each and every safari felt new. There were times when we would sit very quietly so the deer would be near our jeep or the egret would not fly away. 
The picturesque Kanha has numerous stories of tigers. It is a tiger reserve. But beyond the tiger reserve, the jungle itself is beautiful even in the harsh summer. There are water holes for animals at spots, the fire line to prevent fire. We are not allowed to get down from the jeep. They forest department tries to keep it “human free” as much as possible.

Like I said before, the jungle is known for its tigers. Each and every guide and driver is tuned to listen to the “calls”. That’s the way birds and animals communicate to be safe,, They make calls i.e a particular noise to communicate danger or to call for mating.

Manisha and I wondered what if human life was like the animals- eat, sleep and mate!! :P Our driver told us that it is not that simple for animals, including the tiger. Hunting for food, or protecting oneself from danger is a work for animals. The jungle has its own rules and animals follow a simple rule. “you don’t mess with me, and I won’t with you”.

One of our guide said” the jungle is the territory of animals. And no human should ever forget that” if he/she has to survive here.”