While being in Palghar district through summer, I realized how the terrain takes a fresh look as monsoon arrived. From parched fields in summer to profuse lush greenery, it was a pleasant surprise to see such tremendous change in landscape. The whole picture of each location changed as if a green carpet had been placed overnight. It’s a treat to see how the Western Ghats flourish with greenery at this time of the year. It is a surreal feeling to pass by the villages, to see the paddy fields move with the wind.
Maharashtra, apart from the popular Mumbai city, has beautiful mountain ranges, hill stations, forest reserves, and beaches. I had keenly been searching for a few places out of the many that could be visited from Palghar. On one of the weekends, I decided to visit Pune to meet a few friends. I had lived there for almost a year and it’s one of my favorite cities. A city with a different aura altogether. There is a sense of positivity, which felt infectious at least to me.
I took a train in the afternoon from Palghar to Pune, that reached by midnight. The next day passed by catching up with friends and reliving old days. In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to explore more of western ghats and was ready to go outside the city. Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary seemed like a good enough option for a day’s visit. The reserve is close to Mahabaleshwar, at a distance that takes 3-4 hours from Pune. The buses were leaving early morning next day and I booked a seat. The whole plan was spontaneous and the decision was easy as I was traveling alone.
I was about to miss my bus early morning but finally, made it to my booked seat, sleepless and worn out. It was time to put on the sunglasses and sleep while ignoring the noises and bumps through the journey. This is when being zen-like comes in play. You have to be conscious of your surroundings and at the same time, ignorant enough to avoid what doesn’t demand attention and/or action. Being aware of your belongings while sleeping through the journey is not easy. Anything can happen to you.
It had not been long since I dozed off, and could hardly open my eyes. Upon asking a co-passenger, I realized I’d been out for 2 hours and we were almost there. Every passing restaurant had huge hoardings of Strawberry products. It was like a series of competition between various companies selling them. We reached Mahabaleshwar bus stop when the town was just starting the day with everyone cleaning up their places. At the bus stop, many tourist guides and drivers were going around with their rides on offer. These vehicle operators are self-proclaimed guides, which, if you ask me, is not bad at all as a business strategy. One by one, all of them started approaching people who were getting down the bus. I also talked to some of them, to know about places I could visit.
Since my main motive was to go to Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, I needed a permission letter from the Forest office located in Chiplun. The news wasn’t delightful and this town appeared too touristy to spend a day. Upon searching the map, the only option left was to be as close to the sanctuary as I could. There was a river which looked like a part of a big jigsaw puzzle.
While sipping on a cup of coffee at a local shop, I asked the person serving, about areas to explore near the river. He told me about this hamlet, about an hour away. I boarded the bus to Tapola. The ride through the hills and colorful flora was lovely. It started drizzling and in no time, the sun was out too. The river was now visible as we were descending from the hill, closer to Tapola. I usually don’t click photos but this time, I couldn’t stop myself.
As we reached closer, many groups were playing loud music on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. After running away from the main town, I had landed up in the same chaos. In search of an affordable and quiet place to stay, I passed by the forest office. In the middle of a conversation they asked me about what I do. One of them was familiar with Bee Keeping. He assisted me in an Eco-homestay, a little away from the river but with a quaint view. The room was basically a tent with concrete bathrooms and beds. It was time to freshen up and enjoy my time here. I had recently bought a sketchbook and this was the best time to lay my hands on it. I drew exactly what I saw. The whole view is still clearly fixed in my mind.
It was already afternoon by the time I got done. While taking a stroll around, I again met the home-stay owner. We spoke about a few things and he told me that they have a Kayak that I could take to the river. The idea of Kayaking was mind-blowing. I fixed the plan for early next morning so that I could catch a bus to Pune right after that. With that, I had an early dinner, ecstatic to wake up before sunrise and reach the river on time. One of the helpers in the kitchen was going to accompany me.
Everything went as per the plan. Both of us reached the shore with the Kayak. I was ready to hop on. This was my first time and I really had to be careful. A lot of balance was required to stay in posture while rowing. First 5 minutes went in testing the movements and understanding the process. Clouds were really close to the river and it was chilly. All I wanted was to stay in the middle of the river, in that kayak, with a blank mind.
The time got over and we headed back. I cleared the bills and rushed for the bus which was leaving in 10 mins. Luck favored me and the bus was passing by, as soon as I reached the main road. As I waved towards the driver, he stopped and I entered with a fresh energy, smiling right at him, ready to head back to Pune.