Its been sometime now since my visit to Bhandardara so finally decided to write about my wonderful experiences on this trip. Bhandardara is a hill station in Maharashtra and more information about this place can be found at Wikipedia.
Our journey started from Mumbai where we boarded a AC bus to Igatpuri.From Igatpuri we had to board a ST bus (Maharashtra State Transport) to bhandardara. Igatpuri is a busy destination for buses and trains alike so we could book a bus last-minute without any hassles. Before boarding the bus at Mumbai (from Kalanagar), we had dinner at Maharaja, a chain of restaurants and bars. The food here is excellent though the price is on the higher side. We had a relatively heavy dinner as we were under the impression that we will reach Igatpuri at 5 PM but instead reached at 3PM!. We reached within four hours and were left in the middle of nowhere it seemed. A quick walk to a petrol pump nearby and the people working there assured us that we were in Igatpuri. Phew!
We were stranded in the middle of no where (well, technically we were in Igatpuri), far away from home, searching for the ST Bus depot. It was a long way off but we reached their eventually. Passed by the Igatpuri train station and it seemed that if we planned in advance, we could have traveled by train as the ST bus stand is close by.
It was bone chilling cold but at least we weren’t tired walking. Once at the ST Stand, we were informed that the first bus will leave at 5 AM. So we had one hour to kill. Most of that time was spent gazing at the gazillion stars which are hardly visibly in Mumbai! Sigh, the pollution. The night sky was dreamy but we were tired and needed some warmth so went inside the bus depot, which with its hard, warm granite ledges, was as cozy as it could get!
The bus finally arrived but it had a punctured tyre so that took another 20 minutes and we were on the way to Bhandardara. Had heard that the road from Igatpuri is excellent and the view is even better but my body finally realised it was way to tired and I dozed off, missing most of the scenery in the process! Though in my drowsy state did realise that the road to Bhandardara is full of curves and would make for a perfect early morning bike ride.
We were finally there at Bhandardara. The bus dropped us near the entrance of the complex where most of the hotels are located. There is a ‘Cafe Dam Corner’, a Tea and Vada Pav stall, whose owner, Sanjay, was very helpful in giving us information on places to stay and things to do in Bhandardara. His tea, vada pav and bhaji are excellent by the way and he was our de facto breakfast/snack stop during our entire trip.
We then headed to our hotel Amruteshwar (named after the Amriteshwar Temple), which is a couple of minutes walking distance from Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). MTDC has the best view of the lake, especially the MTDC Cottages. However, we were unable to get rooms there as the rooms or guest houses had to be booked around a month in advance!
Anyways, we proceeded to our quarters but stopped a few times marveling at the scenery. MTDC seemed to have the best view but Amruteshwar too held its own with a great view of the valley. We were taken aback and choose to spend sometime out in the open marveling at the scenery even though we were very very tired!
We freshened up, book transportation and were on our way for sight-seeing. Off course, we had breakfast as well, a more detailed account of which can be found here. We visited the Umbrella Falls, which is actually a water outlet for the Wilson Dam. The dam is at a height of 150m and is the largest earthen dam in the country and one of the oldest in Asia.
The dam itself is visible from Bhandardara but a closer look provides a better view. At the base of the dam is a tranquil garden with streams and trees and makes for a peaceful environment. The water is pristine and the riverbed is clearly visible.
We went closer to the water outlets, where fruit bats were resting high on the trees,. They were harmless and we continued to get closer to the waterfalls. Man made maybe, but it was a gorgeous sight. The waterfall created mist kept the surroundings wet and moist all throughout the day.
The sun was above us but the trees and the waterfall kept us cool and with the fruit bats keeping a watchful eye on us, nothing could go wrong! It was clearly one of the prettiest sights we had come across in a long while. To see such clear water and breathe such pure air was an unique experience for people like us who live in the stale concrete jungle known as Mumbai!
Our next stop was Randha Falls, the third highest falls in India. Being close to summer season, the river had dried up quite a lot and the waterfall was just a fraction of what it is supposed to be. This was in February, so in the current heat, the waterfall may just be a trickle.While we went in February, the best time to visit Bhandardara to witness the true marvel of Randha falls would be during the monsoons. It was the middle of afternoon and we left soon after the mundane photo clicking session.
We returned back to our rooms and headed to MTDC for lunch. The food here strictly ok though they do serve a lot of Shrikhand! Lunch followed a couple of hours of lazying around and then we headed out for another trip around the Arthur Lake which is formed by the dammed up river of Pravara. The lake is a reservoir to the Wilson Dam and was formed way back in the year of 1910! Now that makes it a historic sight. There is also an ancient legend attached to the river. World66.com states the following about the ancient legend – ‘…Legend has it that Shri Agastya Rishi meditated continuously for a year, living only on water and air. Pleased with his tremendous devotion the Lord came down to earth, blessed him and left leaving behind a stream of Ganga – now known as Pravara River’.
While on this round trip, we came across many dried up waterfalls and figured that in the rains Bhandardara would be as close to heaven as one can get! Streams and waterfalls line the entire lake and what was now barren rock would be transformed into lush greenery where the big cats will come out to play.Yes, there are leopards here and panthers too! Jungle Book anyone?
Anyways without digressing, Bhandardara is indeed scenic though we were greeted by dried up water falls, lower water levels and barren rocks for most of our journey. We came across an old temple while on the way to the sunset point. Couldn’t get time to step out and take more pictures. It was an intricate temple and seemed like the holy place of worship was deserted!
The point offers a panoramic view of the surroundings including a Dam nearby. What was interesting was that the sunset point is located close to small forest which has a high population of panthers, as told to us by our guide. We shuddered at the thought of seeing one but thankfully (or sadly) we didn’t spot any. I did manage to spot an eagle which had made its nest high up on the cliffs. Ah! reminded me of the Discovery Channel footage!! Waited for sometime for the Eagle to return back to its nest, but it didn’t, I probably scared it!
Darkness crept quickly and it was time to leave. We headed straight for dinner after our mini excursion. It was a tiring day and all of us were awake for more than 24 hours and once back in the room, we dozed off quickly! The morning of next day provided us with some more exceptional views of the valley.
We were lucky to catch a glimpse of Mount Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra. The view from the peak is awesome though we were unfortunate to have not visited the peak on this trip, maybe next time for sure!
We stopped for lunch at Igatpuri. The place, Manas Resort, is a lifestyle resort providing a holistic experience. Naturally, the restaurant was expensive but the food was good. We had the chicken biryani which was like a Hyderabadi biryani though the same wasn’t explicitly mentioned. Overall a good meal. Soon after lunch, we boarded our bus and were back to the same old hectic life (ghissi piti life) in Mumbai.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience at Bhandaradara, one I am looking forward to for a pre-planned monsoon trip!
My uncle had been to Bhandardara a few months before we went and he scaled Mount Kalsubai. Below are some of the pictures he clicked.