International tourists often freak out at the thought of touring India in monsoon. A few years ago, even I was in the same boat. Monsoon was a time to lay low under the soothing shelter of my home. All this changed in 2017 when I decided to deviate from the mainstream tourist trails and explore the unexplored. Mission monsoon in Maharashtra was undertaken and I found myself falling in love more and more with Maharashtrian countryside.
This quiet village happens to be the base village of Kalsubai trek, the highest point of Maharashtra. Bari is frequented by trekkers only in the weekend or during holiday. The rest of the time it is pretty much without any tourist traffic. Kalsubai trek is hands-down the main attraction of the region. The villagers offer exquisite homemade food to the tourists on demand. Tourists can also choose to stay in their huts. Most of the times the huts are very basic and do not have any facility that an urban tourist can expect. The upside of the lacking facilities is that one gets to taste authentic Maharashtrian village life without any ‘touch-ups of luxury’. During monsoon the landscape is bathed in lush greenery. Villagers herding cattle, little boys and girls playing near the village temple are a common sight. Electricity is unreliable and network connection is absent here.
This monsoon getaway is just half an hour drive away from the terminating node in the Navi Mumbai suburb of Mumbai, Panvel. Thakurwadi is the starting point of the twin trail of Kalavantin Durg and Prabalmachi. Being close to the city, Thakurwadi village is seeing several developmental construction activities but that does not make this village any less attractive. During monsoon numerous waterfalls tumble down the slopes creating a dreamlike aura. Network connectivity is patchy in this part of Maharashtra. A quick hike upto the base camp of Prabalmachi reveals breath-taking landscape. All along the trail there are little shops selling lemon water, fried foods, fruits and packaged foods like chips and cakes to provide energy to the trekkers.
Lying 28 kilometres away from Satara, Kaas Pathar is a UNESCO world natural heritage site. Every year in the month of August, September and October the plateau witnesses widespread bloom of wildflowers of myriad colours. The drive from Satara to Kaas is scenic in itself during monsoon season. Low hung clouds floats on either sides of the road. When the curtain of cloud clears it reveals stunning blue waters of the dam lakes on both sides of the road. Prior registration is required in order to visit Kaas in monsoon. Visitors are not allowed to spend time in Kaas for more than 3 hours. Officially no-one is allowed to stay and camp at Kaas Pathar but villagers living around Kaas Pathar gladly accept guests in lieu of money. Kaas lake is about 1 kilometre ahead of Kaas Pathar, however, the lakeside is often dumped with picnic and party wastes.
Bhandardara is a laidback village a few kilometres ahead of Kasara in the the Kasara-Akole route. The town hums around Lake Arthur, fondly called the Bhandardara Lake. Bhandardara is enjoyable in both monsoon and winter season. During monsoon, the water is crystal clear and the bright green hue all around paints the colour of the lake emerald green. Visitors can sit on the benches by the lakeside to bask in the view. In the rainy season, the gates of Wilson Dam are opened which gives rise to the awe-inspiring Umbrella Falls. The hills around Bhandardara are a hotspot where wind energy is trapped. The wildly swirling hands of the wind mills are viewable from the town itself. Winter season is good to camp at Bhandardara lakeside and stargaze from there. Owing to heavy monsoon it is advisable not to camp during the wet season.
Mhaismal is located 38 kilometres away from Aurangabad town. The best aspect of this hill station is that the temperature of Mhaismal is comfortable all round the year. But obviously monsoon is the best time at Mhaismal when the croplands and forests around pop with various hues of green. There is not much to do here apart from basking in the natural beauty of the place, bird watching and sunset viewing. There are a few temples and mosques in and around Mhaismal where tourists can visit. A trip to Mhaismal is almost always preceded by a trip to Aurangabad.
If the sound of watching peacocks in their natural habitat excites you then head to Morachi Chincholi. The village is 54 kilometres from Pune and of late it is gaining good tourist traction. In the dawn and dusk hours the peacocks visit the village and their elegant presence makes this tiny village unique. Resorts have crept up in the village and many offer village experiences to tourists like tractor and bullock-cart ride. It is really heart warming to see the peacocks live in harmony with the villagers. Tourists are advised not to be too ambitious in their attempts of befriending the birds.
Things to keep in mind while conducting these monsoon getaways from Mumbai:
- A raincoat and umbrella is mandatory if you intend on touring Maharashtra in monsoon. However, the best option is to get a poncho so that even your bags and camera equipments can be saved from the lashing rain.
- Carry and apply mosquito and insect repellent cream all the time on exposed skin. Since monsoon heralds the season of diseases, it would not be wise to take a chance with your luck in the wilderness of Maharashtra.
- Be mentally prepared to get drenched and live without internet connectivity.
- The usual platter of food contains rice/bhakri/chapatti, fried onion or kanda bhaji, potato curry or batata sabzi, sprouts with bread or missal pav, poha, vermicelli or sheera, fried potato stuffed in bread or vada pav.