The best trips are those that are unplanned. My wife and I were making plans to go out of town 'somewhere' over the weekend. As usual, it was Friday evening, and we had no clue where to go. At around midmight, after some failed attempts at finding some good driving destination online, we decided to head north to Gujarat, and Saputara.
It was nearly 8 AM by the time we got out of Mumbai, and we had to negotiate slightly heavy traffic immediately outside of Mumbai. It was nearly 10 by the time we reached Anam restaurant near Manor for breakfast. We then made good time on the simply fantastic Mumbai - Ahmedabad highway, which is part of the Goverment of Indias' Golden Quadrilateral Project. I can't wait for the day when most of the roads in India are of this quality.
Our next halt was at Tithak beach, a few kms off Valsad. I had read about this beach during my late night research. One web site even called it 'the best beach in Gujarat'. It was nothing of that sort! I have travelled to a few beaches on the West Coast of India, and the beaches get worse as one travels north.
We didn't spend much time at the beach, and continued on to Saputara. we deviated off the National Highway a few kilometres after Valsad. We had lunch at a small restaurant on the way, and reached Vansda National Park in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we couldn't drive into the park (my small car would not have handled the rough path :-)), but the drive along the thickly wooded park was a good experience in itself. We located a Ecoresort run by the state Government near the park. It was a simple resort, wondefully located. But as we were the only people there, it was not very appealing. We then continued onwards, reaching Saputara at 5 PM, after driving 350 kms. We located a nice hotel - Anando, overlooking the lake, and were pleasantly surprised by the (off-season) rate.
After freshening up, we headed for Valley View Point, and the ropeway ride across the valley. We followed that up with dinner at the market area of Saputara, and headed back to the hotel to call it an early night. I indulged in a bit of bird-watching around the hotel the next morning, and was rewarded with wonderful views of a Red Throated Flycatcher. Also spotted Sunbirds, and Grey Wagtails. We had a late breakfast at the hotel, checked out.
We continued with the bird watching around the hills of Saputara. Had a great time, with my first spotting of the male Paradise Flycatcher, with its brilliant white tail. Also spotted Tree Pipits, Tits, Drongoes, Verditer Flycatcher, and many more species.We headed back to Mumbai, via Nashik. The State Highway from Saputara to Nashik was exceptional. Our plan was to have lunch at the Taj hotel near Nashik, but we couldn't locate it, and ended up having a late lunch at Igatpuri. We made great time post lunch, reaching home in a flat 2 hours!
We had driven 600 kms over 2 days. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of roads I encountered. Credit where it is due - the government seems to be doing a good job. Easily the worst roads I encountered were in Mumbai city!