Impulse decision to visit some place in monsoon season out of Mumbai
Yes, it was on an impulse. It was Friday the 26th Aug 2016, around 4:30 pm that I simply decided to take a 2-day break and backpack Mumbai to Bahandardara solo in a most common way, like the way shoestrings tourist do. Sahyadri Forest and Mountains along the Western Ghat of India, is magnificent during Monsoon season. I did not want to loose on this opportunity and thus decided to visit Bhandardara, a village on the western ghat of India, Maharashtra.
I visited the nearest Andheri Railway Station and managed to get one seat for the first train leaving early morning at 6:15 am to Igatpuri, the closest Railway Station halt to Bhandardara.
I returned home with not much time to pack the bare essentials, have dinner and depart the next day early morning at 4.00 AM to board the Train from Dadar ( a local station in Mumbai where Geetanjali Express halts for just 3 minutes)
Before departing, I researched about Igatpuri and Bhandardara, I came across through Google of one Tea Stall person, named Sanjay Mahanor of Bhandardara. Without wasting any moment I contacted him. My brief conversation with him was enough to judge that Sanjay is a good human being. He clearly mentioned to me to visit next week as the weekends I will not get any accommodation as all the Hotels, Resorts, Guest houses are 100% sold out. As I had made up my mind I had to tell Sanjay, "Thanks for your advise, but you will be definitely see me tomorrow". Left with no option he still said, "Ok you come, I will see what can be done". This was more than enough for me to venture and experience the thrill.
The literal meaning of the name Bhandar-Dhara, in English is "Abundance of waterfalls". And moreover during monsoons, one can find waterfalls in abundance in this tiny village of Shendi.
Bhandardara sits by the Pravara River, and is a blend of natural beauty,waterfalls, mountains, tranquility, greenery, invigorating air and pristine ambiance. The Bhandardara Lake, the Randha falls, Wilson Dam and Arthur lake are major tourist attractions.
Journey from Mumbai begins amidst heavy rainfall
I passed a sleepless night thinking and excited about the journey that is in store for me. And, to top it up, the entire night there was thundering, lightening and heavy rains that continued the following day. I left my home at 4.25 am with my backpack and an umbrella.
To my surprise, the roads were ankle deep with rain water, and no transportation of any sort plying on the roads. Even the Rickshaws (saviour of a common man's mode of transport) was not to be seen. With no options, I walked all the way to Andheri railway station in this heavy rains. More than half of my body was wet, I reached the Andheri Station platform at 05:07 am.
I reached Dadar Railway station well in time to board the Gitanjali Express departing at 06:15 am on 27th Aug 2016. Since it was raining the weather was simply beautiful with dark clouds and chill in the air.
View from the running train on my way to Igatpuri
Igatpuri to Bhandardar via Ghoti
After disembarking at Igatpuri, I walked about 10 minutes towards a ST Bus Depot to take a local state run bus marked with destination Ghoti. Bhandardara, stop arrives just before Ghoti. However, I was told that the stop I need to get down is Shendi. Bahndara is located within 5 mts. walk in this village Shendi. After waiting for almost 15 mts, with no sign of Bus arriving, I decided to ask a local Rickshaw guy the best way to reach Bhandardara.
I took his suggestion and hopped on in his Tuk Tuk. After about 10 mts drive he dropped me at a place called Ghoti Budruk. While pointing at a crossing, he advised me to take one of the Tempos that were standing across. I had to wait another 15 mts till the Driver of this Tempo decided to depart with only 4 passengers instead of taking 8 passengers. Apparently, this drive was beautiful with lovely weather and scenic view of nature galore. Along the way he stopped at many locations to pick up and drop passengers along. It was an experience.
Bhandardara, here I come
At last,I reached at 11.30am at Shendi or lets say Bhandardara. The Tempo driver halted right next to the Dam Cafe, the Tea Stall owner Sanjay. Remember him, I mentioned about him in the beginning.
After settling down and served with much wanted Ginger Tea with Sanjay's special snack called Google Wada ( savory fried dumpling), we went on a hunt to find some accommodation. In this process of almost 2 hours walking, I became familiar with the surroundings but returned back to his Tea stall without finding any accommodation. Sanjay reminded me of his advise to visit next week and today the 27th August was a weekend Saturday with all rooms in the vicinity with 100% occupancy.
However, he suggested me one place but clearly told me to somehow manage to pass one night at "Batliwala Bunglow". I immediately said sure, thinking that it must be an exclusive Bungalow of some private person who may let out one of his rooms. I was already tired cause of sleepless night a day before the journey and travel, I was eager to visit this Batliwalla Bunglow and refresh myself to venture out the Waterfalls.
An unforgettable sleepless night
'Batliwala Bunglow', where I had to pass one night is situated in a prime spot just next to MTDC. The location is just superb with walking distance to Umbrella Falls, Wilson Dam and nearby market. However, it was evident that the property was neglected in all aspects. Otherwise, with my experience, Parsi community are very loving, honest and clean community who respect and keep everything they own with utmost care and love. I would like to skip the description of this property and how I managed to somehow pass the night filled with fear, anxiety, horror and creepy like feeling throughout the night.
I'm sure one day, Batliwala Bunglow will do something to make it one of the best places to stay in future.
The Bright side
I avoided thinking about the accommodation part and decided to take it as an experience.
The time was about 15:00 hours. I left my so called room and ventured out to explore Bhadardara before the darkness starts setting in by 5:30 pm. Fortunately the location of this Bunglow was excellent. Just 5 mts walk from this place was the Wilson Dam and the Arthur Lake. Sanjay, the Tea stall owner told me, that I was lucky because the local administration had decided to open the overflow of the Wilson Dam. Apparently it a beautiful tourist attraction. Luckily it was again just 5 mts walk from Batliwala Bunglow.
A lovely satisfying home food at Hotel Kaka
It was about 5:30 pm, and the place was getting dark quickly. I walked back to my adda (colloquial word in Hindi language meaning "meeting joint") that is Cafe Dam Corner. Upon inquiring if he has any suggestions for a good Vegetarian food, he quickly pointed out just opposite to his Tea stall to go no where but to "Hotel Kaka", who serves Gujarati Thali. And he also mentioned that I need to pre-order it prior to visiting the restaurant for dinner even if I'm a single person. I did and it was a heavenly meal.