After a long span of travel-less days, this was the first when I ventured out of my home so far. It was a breather after such period of long home detention. The monsoon was about to leave and not a single monsoon destination visited yet. A strange pain was churning within making the soul restless and breathless. Finally, with all protection and safety gears, we started off for a near yet far drive to the Varandha Ghat.
The monsoon was in its last legs for the year and the nationwide unlock process was on. We had no more time to waste but had a lot of reservation and hesitation along with a strange fear of unknown. (Everything changed in a matter of few months, we have to think even before going for a drive to the city outskirts.) But after a lot of qualms, we choose the Varandha Ghat located at around 100 km from Pune as our driving destination.
Its been many days now since I have been to Varandha Ghat and again I am late in compiling and posting my story. I can say that the lockdown have turned me super lazy in terms of blogging. I kept neglecting my story for a couple of months to finally draft and publish it now. I hope my readers shall pardon this delay and enjoy the taste of monsoon at the beginning of winter.
With the food packed in warm containers, bottles filled with water and bags filled with sanitizers and sprays and faces properly masked we hit the highways after a long long time. It was such a welcome relief, even though masked it felt so refreshing as if breathing in the freshest air. The lockdown and the monsoon had taken its toll on the roads and the annual repair work seemed pending.
The drive was not very smooth yet the views were outstanding. We stopped our vehicle by the side of the road to have our packed breakfast. It was such an awesome feeling again after ages. It was a picnic-like feel that we used to enjoy in our childhood when we used to pack our food from home for one day outings like this. With time more options opened up by the road and humans became slaves to the urge for the easily available meal options.
So the roadside food joints became the preferred options than the packed food from home in the hot pots. While we were having our homemade food we were recollecting those age-old days of picnicking as well as sighing for the favourite food joints on the highway that used to be our regular stops while on our long drives during pre-COVID times. Such a mixed feeling it was.
The road to Varandha Ghat passes through Bhor which is known for its beautiful green views. We went on through the not so good roads but picturesque locations, stopping where there was no one around to steal our moment of oneness with nature after a long time.
It was a weekend and we were not alone on the road towards Varandha Ghat. There were many visitors whom we presumed to be heading towards the same direction. We stopped at the Necklace point to find there were people around all busy capturing self-portrait with the backdrop of the meandering river. We waited till the crowd moved on and then we had our chance to capture the impressive panorama.
At a little distance, there was the Bhatgar Dam. For the last couple of days, there were heavy showers in and around Pune so the Bhatgar dam was releasing water into the Velvandi basin. All its sluice gates were open and the water was gushing out in full force. Everything was full and there was a sense of fulfilment everywhere. Even we were so content by the verdant sight all around.
After a couple of brief stops in a few locations, we moved on through the serpentine road towards Varandha Ghat. The Niradeoghar dam was nearby but we did not take the turn towards Bhambatmal and went ahead straight towards our decided destination with the dam backwaters by our side.
En route, we saw many closed shacks which were probably eating joints operated by the locals that have shut down because of the loss due to the pandemic outbreak. It was sad to think about the shop owners who used to run such small business taking the benefits of the visitors who mostly visit during the monsoon.
We meandered through the hills covered in sheets of green dotted by hairline waterfalls here and there till we reached our destination. Varandha Ghat is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats joining the Konkan region of Maharashtra to the NH4. There stood the mountain ranges beside the deep gorge and multiple small to large waterfalls plunging down.
The mist sometimes veiling the bottom and sometimes the top. In this way, the hide-n-seek of the cloud, mist and the mountains continued. Deeply engrossed at the moment and the scene I kept watching for long, lost in my own thoughts and fantasy suddenly awakened by the calls of the roadside food joints – “kanda vaji, mirchi vaji, batata vada”. I looked back to find a few unnoticed shacks selling the fresh-made local hot snacks and tea. The sight was so tempting but I resisted myself sighting the hygiene issues during this pandemic time and looked ahead to the green to forget everything else.
We were not alone at the spot there were a few cars full of visitors – some feeding the numerous langurs that have gathered to get some easy snack. We went ahead to stop in a human-free area and capture the beautiful moment in the memory as well as in the camera. Thanks to the pandemic that taught us social distancing and thus gave us a few crowd-free moments in nature.
An amazing outing after such a long gap was so much required to nourish our parched souls. Refueled and refreshed we started for our journey back home through the same green route, stopping at one calm spot to have our packed lunch and then happily return back to our home, hoping to sneak another safe outing in this situation sometime soon.