Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Malshej Ghat - in the monsoon

Malshej is famous for its waterfalls in the monsoon season. As my wife has not visited this place, we took the opportunity of her birthday to drive to Malshej.

I had last passed through Malshej ghat more than 2 years back, on the way to Junnar and Shivneri. In the meantime, the road was upgraded from a State Highway to a National Highway (NH 222), and an already good road just got better.

We encountered just a bit of traffic at Kalyan, but the road from then on was clear, and mind blowingly beautiful. A two lane grey ribbon with clean white markings winding its way through lush green well wooded countryside...this must easily be one of the best roads for a long drive immediately outside Mumbai.

On crossing Murbad, the traffic thins out even further, and the imposing Western ghats loom high on the horizon. The road hurtles straight towards the mountains, and takes a turn at the last moment to begin the ascend into the Deccan Plateau. For a few kilometres, the road runs parallel to the towering mountain face, rising near vertically about 500 metres. Words cannot do justice to the experience.

Soon as you start climbing the ghat, the waterfalls for which Malshej is famous start to appear. Unfortunately, with the rains on an extended leave of absence in the month of July this year, the waterfalls were just trickles. But that did not deter groups of men from frolicking underneath one that crashes down to the road from an overhanging cliff face. An enterprising person has also set up a small stall selling tea and snacks beneath this overhang!

We stopped for lunch at the MTDC resort. As is almost always the case, MTDC had the best location - overlooking the Konkan stretching down below. On both sides are tall mountains, standing as sentinels to the Deccan plateau extending behind. The tops of the mountains were framed by clouds, and there was not a patch of brown in all the green. Across the valley could be seen the grey ribbon of road coming out of a tunnel, and snaking upwards. Simply stunning, and almost spiritual.

We were at Malshej ghat for a couple of hours, before starting the return journey. Along the way, we managed to get good, close up views of the Malabar Whistling Thrush. We also oberved a pair of Brahminy Mynas at the MTDC resort.

Malabar Whistling Thrush

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