Jul 28, 2010

Where the clouds are born

After being trapped in the limited confines of the city for very long, I was eager to break out. And since I am not so brilliant at planning trips, and more importantly co-ordinating with people, I readily joined in when some friends planned a trip to Malshej.

Before leaving, all I knew about Malshej was it was a hill station some 3-4 hours from Bombay. Rumours were that some parts of Raavan had been shot there. I was happy with that.

We went to Thane by rick and then took a train to Kalyan. Some of the people had heard very bad reviews of the food at Malshej. So at Kalyan station, we picked up a lot of fruits, some Maggi and instant soup packets and a few munchies. We then took a rickety ST bus to Malshej Ghats. Once we crossed the city borders, the can't-take-my-face-away-from-the-window journey began. Wind in my face, lush greenery outside and an assortment of mountains, hills and valleys, topped with lovely grey clouds.

Picture Diary: 

Along the long-winding road, the bus stopped suddenly, and we were told this is Malshej Ghat.

It seemed to be smack in the centre of a mountain, with nothing nearby at all. Just one small road leading away from the main road.
When we looked ahead, we saw that about half a kilometer down the small road was the hotel, sitting pretty on a plateau jutting out of the mountain. And it was surrounded by valleys, mountains and clouds. Niiice!

We walked towards the hotel, checked into the dorm we had booked, and went to the canteen for lunch. That's when we got our second surprise. The extremely cool weather at Malshej was balanced by the gut-ripping, throat-splitting, tongue-burning pungent food. One morsel and I was metaphorically jumping into some waterfall for relief. The fruits we had bought were now a boon.

We set off to try and discover some waterfalls. We walked about 2 kms one way, reached nothing useful and then walked back and then in the other direction for about a km. A waterfall on the road was spotted and not left alone.

In the evening we would sit on the porch outside the canteen, sipping on hot chai, feeling the mist on our faces and just peering through the clouds that were now actually just a hand away from us.

Picture Diary:

The MTDC hotel has a viewpoint, a concave section from where we could have a pan view of the valley. There were a few more surprises here.
The mountain peaks resembled smoke machines. Clouds were being spun quickly and they hushed away towards other parts of the world. It just seemed like the mountains kept churning out the fluffy grey masses out of nowhere.

Next we saw something called a Water Rise. In simple words, thats a waterfall turned upside down. Due to the wind and water pressure, the water instead of falling to the ground, defies gravity and rises upwards. At times, we even saw some waterfalls entirely and directly forming clouds instantly. It reminded me of the cotton candy machine spinning the sugary sweet.

We would find the clear times in the day and roam about. From the viewpoint we decided to do a blind trek. Walking around the mountains, making jokes about this being the new Mc Donalds outlet location, we reached a convex. If you could fly, it was not very far from the viewpoint. It looked onto the same scenery, but the difference was obvious. Everything was wide angle now. And no matter where I turned, my mouth was left open.

We sat there till the clouds came, and then ran back through a shortcut we discovered. Of course, we returned the next day.

Apparently Malshej is quite the hotspot of various insects, birds and other such living beings. Flamingos too appear during the monsoons but due to the global warming, the change in seasons, they were late this year. My friends kept spotting weird blue and green insects, while I tried my best to avoid anything that moved. Mountains - good. Water - good. Treks - brilliant. Snakes - RUN!

We avoided the spicy food and went to a hotel about 3 kms away - Sushant Resort. Bad place to stay, decent to eat. Really small cramped rooms, and hardly any view.

The best part about Malshej is that it does not have many places to go. Unlike present day Lonavla, it is quiet, secluded, and lovely too. Perfect for a little escapade. It is best in the monsoons, and it's better to travel to and fro before dark, as the roads can get quite scary. Most rentals even refuse to ply after dark. The ST bus too is not bad and is quite frequent from Kalyan Stn Depot.

If you wish to explore, there is the Shivneri Fort, about 30 kms from Malshej. Along the way, about 5 kms from the hotel is a dam too. But I say, the place itself is enough!

Before we knew it, we had to leave the dreamy place and were jolted back to town. Literally! But our minds stayed there for long.


Nearest airport is Mumbai at 154-km. 
Nearest railway station is Kalyan. Buses or rentals from there available.
By road, Mumbai to Malshej Ghat, via Murbad is 154-km, Pune to Malshej Ghat via Alephata, is 164-km and from Alephata to Malshej Ghat it is 39-kms.

The best place to stay is the MTDC Resort. The dorms are strictly ok, and best if you are in a large group, as they have common loo facilities and not much else. The rooms available for two and four people are pretty nice and worth it, at a reasonable rate too.

Check-Out time: 12 noon

Things to carry: Some instant food like fruits, maggi etc, water for the way, warm clothing, rain wear if you are travelling in the monsoons (DO NOT carry an umbrella, it won't survive), shoes or floaters (flip-flops will make you slip) and a camera.

Best time to visit: June to September. Avoid road travel after dark.

Places to see:
Viewpoint at hotel
Dam 5 kms
Shivneri Fort 30 kms

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