Goa & Dandeli!

Well…its not that I didn’t travel these last two years after Valley of Flowers, its just that I didn’t blog about it! And had decided to return to blogging even before we left for our much awaited Goa- Dandeli trip last week. Dandeli, was on the list for a long time now. Actually, Hampi was much above on the list than Dandeli but then travelling to Hampi was too much hassle, specially when we realized there was just one train daily to Hospet from Mumbai, that too at 1.30am from Kalyan!!

So, when one of friends said they were driving down to Goa (my favorite place!) we just tagged along! And decided to visit Dandeli as well given that it is about 150kms from Goa.

The drive, obviously was going to be a long one. We decided to chuck the Mumbai-Goa Highway and take the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Nippani-Goa route. We took a night halt at another friends place at Pune before proceeding on the long drive. Pune to Kolhapur was smooth and safe, all on the highway! We did halt at the Virangula Restaurant at Karad for a quick breakfast of Poha and thalipeet.

Also,  a highly recommended stop was taken at the famous Fadtare Misal in Kolhapur. Sadly, it didn’t justify the 90 minute delay as we had to drive inside the city and search for the place through the narrow bylanes and uneven roads. Fadtare missal, sadly didn’t live up to the hype.

The road through Nippani to Amboli was a disaster. This further slowed us down and our hopes of reaching Goa for a late lunch were crashed! Oh Brittos!!

The scenic drive through Amboli  ghat, kind of made up for it. A relief prevailed on everyones’ face when we crossed the Banda village to enter Goa! The leveled and paved roads of Goa were distinct contrast to those in Maharashtra…..wake up Mr. Chavan!

We checked into the lovely Marinha Dourada Resort at Arpora.  Just about a km from the super-happening Baga beach. The huge resort has a lake within its premises and guest can go fishing and boating too. However, we being hard-pressed for time with our Dandeli schedule didn’t do any of it!

Dinner was at Souza Lobo which unfortunately wasn’t the best we’ve had there. The fish was excellent, though according to the ones who ate it, but then that was the least that’s expected when you are in Goa. The Mackies Night market was ho-hum, not much happening.  All the action was concentrated on the Titos lane and we did down a few drinks and shook a leg at the Cape Town Café. It’s a lively place and way better than the overhyped Mambos Club!

We rented a WagonR for Rs. 900/- per day for the Dandeli trip. Unlike the bikes that we rent in Goa, which have to be of a Yellow number plate, the self-drive cars are normally private cars. The yellow number plate cars are taxis and have to be hired with the driver.

An excellent breakfast at Café Lila set us up for the long drive to Dandeli. The omlette and croissants were brilliant and the strawberry smoothie was divine.

We left Goa at about 12noon. We took a long winding road through the Mollem Sanctuary in hopes to catch a glimpse of the Dudhsagar Falls and were looking out for it throughout the road. Later got to know that you have to trek it up to watch it or take a train which passes the falls. What a waste of time!

Another turn was missed and we drove 10kms ahead before we realized it. Also, there are hardly any signs directing the way to Dandeli, which was quite surprising. Google Maps was our savior!! Almost the entire drive was through sanctuary and forest area.

So eventually, reached Dandeli at about 4.30pm, collected our pass from the Forest Conservators office at the Timber Mart which is an ideal place for sighting Hornbills who come to roost here in mornings and evenings. A pair of the Malabar pied Hornbill was sighted on the tree right behind the Forest Conservators office.  It was fun watching these magnificient birds.

The Kulgi Nature camp, where we were booked for 2 nights was about 12kms from Dandeli town. The Kulgi Nature Camp basically has tented accommodation (Deluxe tents with attached baths: Rs.550 and normal tents for Rs. 250. A 20 bed Dormitory is also available at Rs. 100 per bed). As the deluxe tents were all booked we had booked the Log Cottages. This is a separate property, close to the tented area. It has about 8-10 wooden cottages in a lovely forest setting. The cottages are equipped with a clean bathroom and WC and also a small dressing area is provided. The cute little sit-out is a perfect place to sip on coffee while enjoying the serene surroundings.

We didn’t take the option the Jungle Safari and I just went out on my own to explore and some bird watching. The lonely jungle roads were overwhelming and I decided to stay near to the car. I did spot a beautiful pair of the Grey Tit and a Velvet fronted Nuthatch (both a first for me!) through the binocs. It was a real treat. About the same area, I also spotted a lot of activity, probably a mixed hunting party (as later suggested by Adesh Shivkar, who was having a birding camp at Dandeli). There were Drongos, Black hooded Golden Orioles and Eurasian Golden Orioles along  with a other birds which I couldn’t recognize. Back to the resort for some breakfast of Upma, Poha and Chai!

We then decided to go for River Rafting on the Kali river. This too was going to be a first for me and Hemant, and obviously we were excited. The charges are high though at Rs.1300/person for the 9.5km stretch of rafting! We had to travel about 20kms to reach the river. The rafting is arranged by resorts like Hormbill Resort (which is on the banks of Kali river and also have a Tree House right above the river! ) or Bison Resort. The water level plays a major role in the level of rapids while rafting. Unforunately, for s the water level was not too high as just one gate of the dam was opened that day. So the rapid level was barely at 3, more like a beginner’s level. We were provided with proper equipment like life jackets, head gear and oars. The Kali river is quite wide and it was not until we started rafting did we realize its magnificence. The rafting was an amazing experience and a great adrenaline rush. Not to mention the serene surroundings and some real good bird sightings including Wooly Necked Storks and a lone Fish Eagle.

We were pickup about 3 hours later and some 10kms downstream. We did not realize how hungry we were until then J. A quick bite at Mr. Bandekar’s restaurant in Kulgi made us feel better.

While we were at the rafting trip, we were strongly suggested to visit the Sykes point to spot the Great Hornbill. However, it is forbidden for general public and needed a special permission from Mr. C.R. Naik. We called him and expressed our interest in Birding and Photography and he agreed! So, about 10kms, 3 check-posts and 1 written application later, we reached the Sykes Point! And guess what, No pictures allowed!! Again some “Pure Indian Makkhan” and I was allowed to take my camera through. 🙂

The Sykes Point is a vantage point and overlooks the majestic Kali river surrounded by the dense Dandeli forest. It looks like a smaller version of Amazon (as Ive seen it in the pics!). Very beautiful and definitely worth the trouble. We reached well before sunset and were lucky to witness the emerald Kali river turn to into liquid gold as the sun set.

However, half an hour later, no sights of the birds yet L  We decided to wait some more and there they were! The Great Hornbills down in the valley. In ones and two, gliding short distances and disappearing in the thick forest cover. A rare sight! We did hope for a few of them to fly a little up and give us a closer look which didn’t happen. But we were happy with what we saw.

It was dark by the time we reached back and decided to postpone the visit to the Bomanalli backwaters on the next morning. Dinner was at the Kulgi Nature camp. The dry chicken was the highlight of dinner, made in kannada style, dry and spicy. A nice compliment to the chilly weather!

We had to checkout early next day as we planned to visit a couple of birding sights. We were ready by 6am and reach Bomanalli backwaters in 15 mins. The dawn colors were all over the sky and reflecting perfectly on the backwaters of the Supa dam. The fog was rising off the water and birds were just waking up to the braking dawn. A few herons were already out fishing and a lone stork had taken up a yoga pose some meters in the water. A few minutes later the sun begun to rise casting a golden glow all over. A picture perfect moment. About half an hour and a few photographs later we moved on as we had to catch some hornbills at the Timber trail in Dandeli.

Again a pair was spotted in the Forest Conservator office premises. A saw a whole lot of Grey and Malabar pied ones flying over to roost. No great photo-ops, though.

We also made a quick stop at the private Crocodile park. Some 10-15 crocs were lazing around in the mud and a couple of them moved to take a dip in the murky water. We heard it’s a good place for some raptor sighting in early mornings. We saw none.

We tried to avoid our earlier mistakes on our way back and ditched the Mollem Sanctuary road. Took the highway and were in Goa in about 3.5 hours for a late lunch with friends at Brittos! From the serenity of Dandeli to the madness of Goa…it was a hard-hitting contrast. But we sure loved both.

Valley of Flowers

Day 0

Finally the day arrived when we had to leave for the much awaited trek to the fabled Valley of Flowers and Hemkunt Sahib. We had our tickets booked for the August Kranti leaving from Mumbai Central at 5:40pm and reaching Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) next day at 10:30am. The journey was good with beautiful sunset sights and good food. The chicken curry served was very good so were the other snacks (One reason to love the Rajdhani and August Kranti).

To avoid traveling by bus to Rishikesh (7 hours of pure torture if you take the public transport busses), we had reservations done for the Kaling Utkal mail which leaves from H.Niz. at 2:35pm and is scheduled to reach Haridwar by 8:30pm. You may expect some delays as this trains comes all the way from Puri. Another better alternative would be taking the New Delhi – Dehradun Janshatabdi which halts at Haridwar.

As the train was running late we reached Haridwar at 9:45pm and had to search for transport to reach Rishikesh as our night halt was at the Bharat Bhumi  – A GMVN hotel in Rishikesh.

We went to the taxi stand and enquired about the taxi fare which was a steep Rs.680 for the 25km distance. We decided to take the 6 seater rickshaw (which eventually fill upto 10-15 peple) or try the state transport busses. The bus stand was bang opposite the taxi stand so we decided to give it a shot. It was a total chaos at the bus stand with busses huddled together all trying to move out. We asked a few drivers and in 5 mins we were aboard a bus to Rishikesh. We reached Rishikesh in 40 minutes and in 32Rs ….. The fare being 16rs. for each of us. A way better deal than taking the super expensive taxis and the unrealiable 6 seaters (they call it Vikram locally).

We took a rickshaw from the Rishikesh bus stand to reach Bharat Bhumi guest house. The night accommodation is included in the Tour No. 12 package of GMVN. The room was large and clean and also had a TV and a geyser … which became a luxury in following days
Had dinner at the Bharat Bhumi Guest House (sadly, nothing much to write about it) and we retired to sleep.

Day 1

Reporting was at 7am so after a hurried breakfast we loaded our luggage and got into the minibus which was going to take us around for the next 7 days. Our guide MS (that’s what we called him as we never really understood his surname) introduced himself and other to the rest of the group which seemed to be a very energetic lot and had come from various parts of the country.

Our first halt came at Devprayag – the convalence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi which forms the Holy Ganga river. A beautiful sight indeed, barring the unrecessed and unplanned developement on every available inch of the river banks…see it below.
After 5 mins of photoshoot we were back on our way only to stop somewhere in Srinagar for lunch.
Dev Prayag

The roads were no smooth sailing, with patches of freshly cleared landslides and the fear of one happening anytime ensured nobody slept in the bus. Everyone aboard was thrilled with the beauty of the Himalayas and terrified at the same time with the treacherous roads.

Dev Prayag Dev Prayag Dev Prayag

By 4-4:30pm we reached Pipalkoti for a tea-break and to freshen up at the GMVN guesthouse and then by 6 we reached Joshimath where we were going to stay for the night. The rooms very basic (to say the least ) and we could hear our neighbors talking and then snoring as well.
After a rather disappointing Alu-tikki chaat adventure, we returned to have dinner at the GMVN guesthouse and retired to sleep.

Day 2:

Early morning, I and Hemant visited the Shankaracharya Math which is a 5 minute uphill climb from our guesthouse which also served as a great place to view the surrounding beauty of Joshimath.

Had to depart at 8 pm to reach Govindghat and catch the 9 pm gate. Also, we had to take stuff required 3 days along with us and the rest was to be kept in the bus as we had our cleaner to look after it. Another alternative to dump your excess luggage is at a cloak room at Govindghat which would charge Rs. 10/day per bag. We decided to pay that amount to the cleaner instead.

Govind Ghat

At around 8pm we left Joshimath and were mentally gearing up for our 15 kms trek to Ghangria which was to commence from Govindghat. The way to Govindghat was beautiful with Mountains and numerous streams flowing through them which looked liked streaks of silver.

On reaching Govindghat, we had decided to hire ponies for some of our group members and also for carrying the luggage of those who were to walk up. I happily gave up my sack to be loaded on the pony as I readied myself to walk those 15 kms. There were almost 7-8 of us who decided to walk and rest took the ponies. We started at around 10am and within 10 mins. could feel the scorching sun burn our skins and we were gasping already. There were several pony wallas pursuing us along the way and I was already resisting the temptation about striking a deal with one of them. According to the Govt rates you can hire a pony (one way to Ghangria)  for Rs. 465. However, as the tourists were comparatively less during the time, there were several ponywallas open to negotiate this rate.
However, again thinking of how badly I needed to lose weight, I gave up the idea of taking the pony and trekked on the stony path with frequent stops to catch our breath. After some initial breaks for the nimbu pani, chaat etc, the group slowly dispered in 2s and 3s. Hemant stuck with me as he had no other option.
Finally after a lot of stops and whining and complaining to Hemant, I finally found my pace and decided to walk very slowly but steadily, which was the best way.

After some 4-5 kms of walking we reached Bhundyar, a tiny, but cute village on the way.  A trek to the Kakbhushandi Tal starts from here. It is a 24km trek and takes around 5 day. You can enquire around for guides who can arrange everything and take you on such treks.

The road is laced on both the sides with numerous stalls where you can quench you thirst for tea, coffee, colddrinks, nimbu pani (called shikanji locally), glucon-d, jaljeera etc. and satisfy your hunger with Alu parathas and Maggi noodles (2 things which formed our staple diet for the next 3 days :).

The walk is strenuous to say the least. The roads are built with stone and have a gradual climb. For us, as we were trekking after god alone know how many months, it was just one word – TOUGH – firstly the climate to which we are not acclimatized enough, secondly the sheer distance – IT KILLS. 15kms, a gradual climb – trust me guys this is long road to walk.

We stopped at around 1pm for a bite at one of the stalls and shared a Alu paratha. Refreshed, we made our next halt at around 4pm after crossing a very pretty bridge across the river to have another dose of Alu Parathas and some nice hot tea. These were surprising different from all we had earlier. The guy had cooked the Paratha in a tandoor and garnised it with a fat dollop of Butter….it was yummmmy to say the very least – especially after walking almost 11kms, it tasted divine.

With newfound energy from the tandoor parathas and piping hot tea, we were back on our track. At around 6:30, FINALLY, we made it to Ghangria. Our pony group had reached long back and had settled down. We were put up at a Hotel Deepak instead of the GMVN which was rated un-inhabitable by our group which had reached earlier  as there were bunk beds and one loo to be shared by 10.

Hotel Deepak was a tiny hotel with a decent restaurant. We four – Hemant, Me , Archana and Vivek were accomadated in one room. To our relief, the loo was clean and functional.

After a quick dinner we retired to sleep. However, we all were so tired with the arduousTrek that we were unable to sleep properly. …. One might wonder if that’s possible.

Day 3:

We were all super-excited to visit the Valley of Flowers. The whole group was ready, armed with raincoats and cameras. As always we were the last to join :P. The group had also arranged for a guide, Rajnish Chauhan who would take us through the Valley and introduce us to the variety of flowers. A bit about him: Rajnish seemed to know the valley very well and is a very good photographer as well. He has a small shop next to the Devlok hotel in Ghangria and sells momentos, pictures that he has taken (very good collection of Birds and flowers that he himself has shot…with a camera I mean. He also arranges treks in the near by areas.

Half a km. ahead of the hotel we arrived at the Valley checkpost. You need to pay a minimal entrance fee and camera fees only if you are using professional cameras. The flowers had started making appearances right from here and the entire path was covered with various variety on both the sides. It had started drizzling and we were compelled to put on our rain gear. The actual valley was 3 kms ahead. The road to the valley is very pleasant and enjoyable, though there are a few steep patches. The complete route is dotted by pretty flowers like Balsam, geraniums, Saxifrage etc. You can also spot some beautiful, himalayan birds on the way.

As we neared the valley, the variety as well as the number of flowers increased dramatically. The banks of the river were covered with tiny white and yellow flowers and the mountain sloped seemed to be covered with a carpet of white flowers. The mesmerizing beauty of the valley was unfolding infront of us and we all took long breaks to take it all into us.

Finally, after a 3 km trek, and on crossing a tiny bridge across a gushing stream of ice-cold water, we arrived the Valley of Flowers and at the entrance were greeted by Himalayan Balsam in full bloom lending a pink hue to our surroundings.

Rajnish Chauhan briefed us about the valley and the surrounding peaks. We all halted for a while to rest. We had walked almost 4km from Ghangria, and decided to call it a lunch break. After filling up ourselves with the Alu Parathas (again) which we carried as pack lunch, with an amazing beauty surrounding us and clouds passing through us, it was already past noon. The earlier days trek had proved to be too tiring for us and we decided against going further into the valley, much against our wishes. We did want to go upto Legge’s tomb, the botanist who slipped and died in the valley while collecting flower samples. But, the tomb was almost 8kms ahead and we really lacked the energy to go on.

So we roamed around a bit more clicking pictures and more pictures before finally deciding to take the road back. The road back was more of a descend and hence it was much easier for us.

Reached our hotel by around 4pm. All were so excited with the valley of flowers and we were mentally making plans for our next and a longer trip to the VOF.

After a quick snack we all settled for a long session of chit-chat and travel story exchanges.

While all this was happening, I was contemplating about whether to walk it up to Hemkunt or to take  a pony as the climb to Hemkunt is a pretty steep one and much more tiring than Govindghat – Ghangria (this actually got me thinking about taking the pony).

……………….. More on Hemkunt Saheb Later.


Bhandardara is a quaint little place off the mumbai nasik road. More known for the Bhandardara dam and the large lake (around 28 kms) formed by it. Dotted with paddy fields, the emerald glory of this small village is best witnessed in the monsoon.

Bhandardara Dam

Its latest claim to fame is that few shots of the movie Jane tu..ya jane na has been shot in this cute little village.
Although rainy season is supposedly the best to visit Bhandardara given the number of waterfalls and famed and filmed Umbrella fall, it seems to be a nice little getaway for the rest of the year as well.

The winters would be chilly as the region experiences a considerable drop in temperatures, but you could also get to enjoy a boat-ride across the dam which are allowed only in the non-monsoon seasons.

Hotel Surrounding

We stayed at the popular (and cheap) MTDC resort, which is right on the banks of the lake. The resort is decent (to say the least) and a special mention for the bathrooms …which are super-clean. Standards rooms cost 700 per night. As the region experiences heavy rains and is surrounded by a large water body, the monsoons atmosphere is genrally damp, almost wet. The MTDC rooms do feel damp and you might even come across a few leakages in your room. So one advice is dont do with very high expectations (we didnt :). One high points of the MTDC here is that the food served is hot, fresh and excellent. You really do need a large plate of hot pakodas on a rainy day, and MTDC dishes out them just right.

Hi There!!

Hello World!!! These were the words I made my first C program display on the screen. And here I am reproducing them now to greet you all….. the visitors of my Blog.

Like most people who blog or keep a diary, me too was planning for this since long and wondering where to start from until today.

Here I would put up my travelouges, adventures (?), travel posts, travel trivia, travel plans….. basically travel related stuff. It would be about a weekend trip around mumbai, a planned vacation to the amazing places in India, a trek to Himalayas or a trip abroad (how I wish it happens more often ;)). And ofcourse loads of pictures from all the wonderful places I visit.

So, watch this space…..I will see ya around!!