The long stretches of undulating meadows, ablaze and dappled in delicate blooms. A dreamland – colourful and astonishing Kaas Plateau. Spread over an area of around 1000 hectare, this highland provides a breathtaking expanse amidst the sprawling lawn, though not green but, mottled. Kaas Pathar, as know locally is a plateau in the Sahyadri range in Satara district of Maharashtra. It gets draped with a variety of wildflowers every year, resembling a canvas with myriad hues.
I have been planning for a trip to Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand since a long. But circumstances and situations prevented me. In the meantime, Kaas – Valley of Flowers of the west came to my plate. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” I thought I was planning for a big treat but had to be satisfied with a smaller version. Little did I realised –
“I traveled miles, for many a year
I spent a lot in lands afar
I’ve gone to see the mountains
The oceans, I’ve been to view
But I haven’t seen with these eyes
Just two steps from my home lies
On a sheaf of paddy grain
A glistening drop of dew.” – Rabindranath Tagore
I was supposed to travel to a far off place not knowing the one close to my doorstep.
The monsoon creates a magic in the Western Ghats. The landscape transforms from dull brown to vibrant green. Even driving through the highways in Maharashtra, without any fixed destination is an enjoyable experience. The day was of Ganesh Chaturthi. We chose this day to avoid the rush. As the locals were busy in their religious duties we made our way through the huge – medium – small sized Ganapatis, making their way to the respective Pandals and households.
Driving up and down, turning and winding around the green hills, overlooking the Shivsagar Lake of the Koyna reservoir, passing by the road diversion to Sajjangadh Fort, staring at the distant windmills (of the Chalkewadi windmill farms) and breathing in the rain-soaked air, we reached the newly declared UNESCO biodiversity heritage site.
After parking the vehicle at a distance we walked through the rest of the road to enter the plateau of flowers. This plateau is of volcanic origin and basically formed of basalt. With erosion and other climatic activities, the basalt has a thin cover of soil on it. While there are patches of water bodies here and there. With this thin lining of soil, the major floral pattern is herbaceous. The shrubs and trees line the surrounding of the plateau.
The forest gradually transformed to a multicoloured grassland. The road ran straight through the fenced grassland. While hiking trails were made on the either side and barricades to prevent crushing the vegetation beneath. There are guards at every entry point and few boards with instruction for not plucking or trampling flowers and not littering the place. Walking around this vast grassland is an excellent way to get sight of many unfamiliar endemics, as well as know species of flowers.
The green grass had embellished themselves with a cover of pink, white, yellow, blue and purple. Nature had made a wonderful artwork on this piece of land. They were gentle brush strokes of endless hues on the canvas of grass. A spectacular sight on every direction the eye moved.
I imagined, that I did shoot for the moon and I did land on the moon. Though of a different planet. I realised how every place has its own essence and cannot be compared to the other. In that way, no destination is a star but all are moons of various planets. We hiked through the walking trail of this astonishing landscape. After soaking ourselves enough in the beauty of colours we moved on to the other places.
Although enough was not ample yet. There was more in store for us. We decided why not increase our contentment by visiting the Thoseghar Waterfalls and the Chalkewadi Windmill Farm, nearby. The serpentine road took us to a flat land which leads to the view of the falls through the stairs. After climbing down few steps there was a bifurcation. There were directions saying one leads to ‘Chota Dhabdhabe’ (small waterfall) while the other to ‘Motha Dhabdhabe’ (large waterfall). We took the way to ‘chota’. The rain-fed vegetation was deeper and greener on either side of the track. On reaching the viewpoint we got the sight of the thin white streak of water rushing down the gorge and forming a small water body below. But the loud sound of the water made it obvious that the ‘motha’ would be a stronger one.
Then up through the stairs and again down through the other, from the bifurcation. The ‘motha’ was a true eye candy. The pure white thick stream of violent water was spouting out of the green forested hill on the other side. The siblings – ‘chota’ and ‘motha’, met below the hill. Together they went to some new destination winding through the passage of the gorge. So did we moved on to our next.
The Chalkewadi windmill farm had already been our companion from a distance, above the hills, on our way. Now we were approaching nearer. The minute tri-star headed poles were growing in size. They were thousands in number, all around, on every high point of the hills. Standing at the base of the huge sturdy poles with the big fat blades on its head seemed intimidating. Sometimes the strong gust of wind made the otherwise still blades rotate. It was a dusky humid day with not much of breeze. Loitering around the foot of the Suzlon windmills for some time we were on our return.
Winding through the roads, sometimes narrow sometimes broad we entered the Satara Pune Highway. This small trip of few places in the beautiful district of Satara was a remarkable one. I did not lament the cancellation of the larger trip. This smaller valley of flowers had already take my heart away and filled me with the eternal joy.