It was the last week of June and 10 days since monsoon had hit Mumbai. The places around Mumbai were geared up for the green treat. We started planning for the trip to Bhandardara about a week in advance and realized that we were already late. There were few stay options available in Bhandardara, MTDC being the best property (for budget travelers). Upon checking with MTDC hotel, we were informed that the property was booked for all weekends till September. The next option that we could see on the internet was Anandavan and Yash resort, which had good reviews but were pretty costly (15k & 5.5k per night respectively). As travelers, our “funda” is very simple: to spend less on stay (clean bed and clean washroom) and more on exploring the place and eating local food. Painfully aware of the fact that we had not booked ahead for stay, we had carried bed sheets / pillows/ towels with us. The backup plan was to go to Nashik for overnight stay. Nashik (Wine capital of India) is just 45 km from Bhandardara.
Mumbai – 7 km ->Thane -> NH160- 110 km -> Ghoti- 36 km -> Bhandardara
Bhandardara is situated at a distance of 154 km from Mumbai and is a 3 hours journey. From Bhandup(West) we took the LBS road, then the eastern expressway and straight to NH160 via NH3. We got heavy traffic after Thane toll till Kalyan, it took us almost 1 hour to cross this stretch but after that it was smooth sailing. The drive was amazing, it was raining continuously and we just greedily soaked up the greenery and the scenery all around. The Sahyadri range is majestic and each mountain seemed to have a personality of its own. We have seen the hills in North India but the shapes and sizes of these mountains were very intriguing. Some stand straight like the walls of a Fort. This view was after we took a right turn from the highway towards Ghoti Village. Not sure why the government is not promoting adventure sports like rock climbing, paragliding etc in these regions.
Expense Check (Petrol +Breakfast+ Road Tolls): Rs 1760(Rs 1500 + Rs 100+ Rs 160)
Time Check: 12.45 PM
Upon reaching Bhandardara, we met with a local guide (Deepak – 8408952071) who offered to show us several properties along with full day sightseeing for a charge of Rs 500. We checked out Hotel Panchsheel which was in the main market area. Rooms were spacious, washrooms were in bad shape and it housed one of the 2 bars in Bhandardara so we didn’t like the ambience (Tariff-Rs.2450). We checked out Amit Resort, next to MTDC, the cottages looked inviting but we were unable to spot the reception nor any staff from the resort. Everything was booked for the weekend. Deepak took us to a homestay in his village (It was the first village on the left after we entered the forest toll gate). This place consisted of 2 small rooms, a clean washroom with a great view of the dam. Important not to expect hotel like facilities here. Upon request, hot water was available. The best part of the stay was that the homestay caretaker’s wife offered to cook special “ghar-guthi”/home-cooked food for us for dinner. They were quoting a price of Rs. 1500 per night but we negotiated to Rs. 1200 (can be negotiated to Rs 800 – 1000 per night depending whether season or off-season).After placing the dinner order (Desi (Wild) Chicken (Gauti(curry) & sukha(dry)), Bajra roti and rice) , we left with Deepak for sight-seeing.
Expense Check (Stay +Guide): Rs 1700(Rs 1200 + Rs 500)
Time check: 2:30 PM
We had lunch at Hotel Vaibhav (between MTDC and market place).We had fresh fried fish (Finis-local name) and fish curry (Catla)(Rating: 4/5).
The sightseeing area was a 50 km stretch and charges were levied for entry. We were driving amidst the clouds and the feeling was heavenly. The road was decent but with heavy rains, it was advised to drive slowly. Big and small waterfalls were galore and the landscape was blossoming in front of us. The places we visited were: Panjra Falls (a small waterfall but was in full force), Necklace Falls (far on the mountain and appeared like a necklace), Naina Fall (not to be missed; there is a tiny bridge in front of the fall where we enjoyed getting drenched. The guide mentioned that as the rain increases the waterfall would cover the entire bridge but people will still be allowed to enter), Amruteshwar Temple (an ancient Shiva temple from the era of Pandavas), Wilson Dam (this Dam built across the Pravara River was majestic and we were lucky to see the huge water gush since 2 of its gates were opened. The water was being released to Ahmednagar due to scarcity of water. This dam was constructed by Britishers and is one of the oldest in the country), Umbrella Falls (this was next to the park at the base of the Dam. This waterfall begins to take its glorious shape only by mid-August), Randha Falls (this is third largest fall in India and takes shape when Pravara river plunges some 170 ft down. “Aksh” and several other movies were shot here). We were unable to check out other places like Gokanda Dam (the power plant down the hill) and the Deep V Gorge dividing the Nagar & Thane district due to fog and heavy rains. This area has ample trekking options, from Ratangad fort to Ajoba, Ghanchakkar peak to Mt. Kalsubai – the highest peak in the Sahyadris.
Expense Check (Lunch+ Entry Fees to forest area + Snacks): Rs 830 (Rs 500 + Rs.100 per vehicle + Rs.30 per person + Rs 200 for Onion Pakodas & Tea)
Time check: 7:00 PM
We came back to our room and changed the bedsheet, pillows and towels to make it a more comfortable stay. Dinner was really special (Rating 5/5 for the delicious local taste and hospitality). Beware of tiny insects: Advice- Switch off the room light and switch on the patio light. We met with another guide (Raju) and his kids who had come for a little chat. He informed us that he works as a MTDC guide and organizes treks and camping on his own. He charges Rs. 1000 + food for camping and does it after the rains either in the jungle or near to the lake. (Raju: 8805940238). We were definitely interested for our next trip.
Expense Check (Dinner / Bottled water / Tea / Breakfast): Rs 900
Time check: 10 PM
The view of the Dam was really good in the morning from the homestay. We had Poha (Flattened Rice) and tea for breakfast which was decent. We thanked our hosts and then left the place around 10 AM for Mumbai. It was still pouring heavily. We visited the local Bazaar (every Sunday) near the market place. We bought fresh vegetables and “live” fish, freshly caught from the dam. We made a promise to ourselves to visit this place again in December and check out the places that we missed out due to the beautiful yet rebellious clouds.
Final Expense Check: Rs 5190