A road trip with Photo blog : Kilad nature camp-saputara-bhandardhara-malshej ghat
This year post Uttarakhand trip (greater family tour)we have skipped our annual monsoon Goa trip.
I have also withdrawn from Maheshbhai’s annual road trip (this time they have decided Mumbai-mangalore-coorg-kerela and back: road journey . I have taken an active role in designing the itinerary for their trip and used my perseverance to put coorg-kurva island kerela route as the part of itinerary)
Post diwali I feel guilty as even though I have been travelling for my business, I haven’t taken my family for even a small weekend tour. Diwali also comes and goes and we do not have even one day picnic. (And yes we all love traveling, so not going anywhere has it’s own pangs).
When I propose the tour to dang-ahwa-saputara region ,family is all ready. Soon we speak to Manish and Pratima for a 4 to 5 days tour . Once they are OK with it we ask Devesh and Sonali about the programme and soon I get the clear mandate to plan the tour.
Even though dang –ahwa- saputara is so near to Mumbai,we have not been to these areas. Devesh suggests to add either Bhandardhara or Malshej ghat. The tour gets modified and I decide to have equal distribution between Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The Final Plan:
One night in dang, one night in saputara, one night in bhandardhara and one in malshej ghat. Our trip’s last stop will be at Devesh’s house at chinchan, tarapur. Devesh has been inviting us to his home as well as factory for an overnight trip since when, but somehow the plan has never materialized.
For saputara: Vaity ropeway resort.
It’s recommended by Rajesh Dave who loves driving to saputara. He usually visits saputara twice or thrice in year for just one night stay only at Vaity.
The promoters of Vaity are from Mumbai and they have their office at Chimney Hotel and Ropeway pvt ltd Malad east.
Vaity (mr pravinbhai ) sends his person for booking amount and confirmation voucher. I have a small chat with the person who has come to my office about the resort which has rope way project and he tells me that promoters had tough time during the execution of the project.
Bhandardhara and Malshej ghat : MTDC resorts. Booking is done at their Mumbai office as well as using online facilities.
The first night stay soon became a problem.
Darpan dodiya , an avid blogger and now my inspiration for blogging is from vansada . He has written many photoblogs on vansada, dang, ahwa region. His blogs followed by our phone interactions have inspired me to explore these areas.
(I am also dreaming of the future cycling trip in this region , may be enter from Vapi side cover the complete tribal belt of eastern Gujarat and come out from panchmahal to complete the trip at vadodara. This kind of dream needs some small surveys)
Mahal Camp site and Kilad Camp site are the two options suggested by his blogs ( some other write ups also cover these. )
I start calling the land line and mobile numbers. After considerable efforts I start speaking to Mr Venilalbhai ( M: +91 9427174037) and Mr Dineshbhai (M : +91 9824511561 ))
At Kilad only tents are available. At Mahal I am able to book cottages over phone.
Just booking over phone leaves me confused. There is no facilities by either of them to do internet banking or depositing money in their bank account. Mr venilalbhai on phone never sounds assuring as apart from addressing you “ beta” one care hear his background talk with a lot of swear words ( talking to his colleagues )
The day before :
Venilalbhai royally ditches me. Just as a precaution I have called him for the trip. (actually we had discussed at length on the route to be taken, I must do a courtesy call on a day before the journey and how to do the cash payment at Mahal camp site )
He after few desperate calls by me (over the whole afternoon ) comes on the phone line couple of times but abruptly cuts off the line.
In the end he bluntly tells me there is no accommodation available, not even tents.
I am taking three families ( with children), I have done the booking almost 20 days in advance. Sent emails, sms, and mr Venilalbhai causally tells me “ no accommodation”.
I once again call Kilad camp. They have only option of tents ( they had conveyed the same earlier ).
Reluctantly I request Dineshbhai to keep three tents for us.
In the evening during the meeting with Manish and Devesh I inform them about first night stay and be prepared to compromise as the tents are not with attached bathrooms.
Sunday , 20th December
We are ready and on the move. Technically we are half an hour late ,but still with five children to get ready in early morning hours ,the departure time is still quite OK.
We have enough breakfast items along with us including ready thermoses with Tea , coffee .
We have a small break at petrol pump for Honda city petrol refill.
I call up dineshbhai about our probable arrival time and he gives me guidelines .
At vapi we take silvassa road and soon are on montaponda/nana ponda dharmapur road.
We are taking this route rather then valsad dharmapur road.
The road till mota ponda is quite bad at many stretches.
A lot of empty dumpers are seen , looks like some major construction site is on.
At dharampur we take vansada road.
Soon we enter the vansada wild life area and easily locate the office of vansada forest range as one can see a Leopard (not real ) sitting on branch overlooking the high way.
Mr Harishbhai ( +91 8758650555 ) is on duty and is extremely friendly and soon suggests that we can even opt for two cottages as there are some last minute cancellations. We decide to have two cottages and review the situation later for the third room/tent. From the office we leave for Kilad Nature Camp.
Kilad Nature camp is on the banks of Ambika river and is beautiful spread out property. It’s kept basic and is ideal for large group get-together. The cost wise it’s very economical as rates are kept budget friendly ( of course the maintenance and service are also matching to the budget )
Mr Madhubhai pawar (+9194277782712 ) is our man. He allocates two cottages and solves our lunch problem by introducing us to the maharaj ( head cook ) who agrees to our last minute requests for lunch ( 11 members.)
The lunch is served in the common dinning hall . It’s basic but tasty gujarati food .
Visit to Vansada Nature Park:
It’s 24 square kilometer reserved forest.
We have decided to visit this during 3pm onwards time slot. We have taken services of guide as the resort allows self driven cars. It’s more or less open forest.
The guide with us is local who is more like route guide rather then some one who knows about flora and fauna.
According to him
- a) there are around 10 leopards.
b)The forest was private property of king of vansada and now it is with government and is declared as national forest.
- c) during the king’s time the rules were strict and care was proper. Wild life was easily spotted during those times.
We have our own slow speed trip to the forest.
We stop at two places.
At one spot avid photographers with all the paraphernalia are silently observing dense areas of the forest. They are from bilimora and on holidays and on Sundays they keep exploring dang region . One of them have spotted a leopard. We spend some exciting time in anticipation but nothing happens. Wild life spotting is a game of patience and passion.
We even visit Shri Digvirendrasinhji “deer and antelope breeding project (a joint venture of nature club surat and forest department)
Our guide is reluctant to take us there, but our photographers friend insists that we must visit there as it’s really good for the children. It’s lovely initiative. Unfortunately there are no guides/staff . I find it ironical that there is no orientation centre or guide when there is an excellent facility . A good half an hour talk by some one ( experienced) could have explained a lot on jungles, food chain, symbiosis to our children which could have made the boring pages of their science text book more lively and interesting . Hope evolution of our education system soon will go beyond just commercialization and become more interactive and lively.
Kilad camp site :
In the evening we walk around the river. We spot a snake cooling next to water pool, but soon goes in the shallow water and remains there giving us company as we remain in and around that area.
Apart from us there is a community group of around 70 people from surat at the camp site. This camp site is ideal for large group. They have their noisy games and fun, but they are only for a day trip . In the night we are the only guests in the whole property.
There is a camp fire started by the group which becomes an exclusive event for us.
We spend some quality time around bonfire as weather is quite cold . Kids really enjoy as they keep adding twigs and sticks to camp fire . They even get potatoes and onions from the kitchen and have fun of roasting potatoes and onions .
21 st December, Monday
The staff at kilad camp helps us with hot water in buckets as none of us is ready to have cold water bath in the winter chill.
Soon we are ready and opt for a long trek. Initially we want to do one more round of national park and the trek to Gira falls, but realize both may not be possible.
We opt for the trek and it turns out to be the highlight of our stay. The local guide takes us through a longer route. We walk through the bushes, thick tree areas, walk along with ambika river, cross it , pass through the village, return through fields, cross challenging ( for the children ) dam walls with clear gaps in-between.
At the village we meet very friendly family. They help us with turmeric , which I use it as an antiseptic for Tvisha as she gets hurt during bullock cart climbing. The head of the family is simple and friendly man. He takes us to the church. According to him :75 % dang area is now Christian. Christianity was introduced in this region by preachers from tamilnadu. During 1998 they were riots between Hindus and Christians. He describes those events at ease without much prejudice or anger and tells the story about his escape when Mob attacked and how he could hide in bushes. Barring that incident the area is now very peaceful and there is now no animosity. His father is father at local church. I could have continued the conversation, but we had a long way to go.
At gira falls there are notices at various places in gujarati with list of people who died attempting misadventure of swimming in the falls along with name , age, place of origin listed.
We are shown the photos of the falls in peak monsoon by local photographers who are offering instant photo services.
It’s “must visit “place in peak mosoon.
Post Gira fall visit and sincerely following death threatening sign boards , by not taking any dip or even putting our legs in the water we sit at one of the shacks .
We have Nimbu sherbet ( lime juice ) and children buy souvenirs from near by shops. The bow and arrow bought from this place remains the source of entertainment for the children for rest of the trip. It also keeps fathers busy as we have to keep retrieving the arrows from trees, bushes and roofs.
Road to saputara :
It’s beautiful road and one can have breaks on the way . we stop to buy famous turmeric of dang region . If one explores more one can find more local produce. I have already read a lot about cashews, but we realize after crossing 8 km .
Saputara : we reach beyond lunch hours.
At lords inn we have option of only buffet. Just near lords inn there is patel dhaba. Our lunch with dhaba touch is quite interesting and everyone likes the food.
We check in at our Vaity rope way resort much beyond official check in hours. It’s a decent property at the most beautiful location. From the windows one can have panoramic view of saputara lake and surroundings.
22nd December, Tuesday : early morning
We are on the roads for running. Sheila and me are ready and running down the ghat from vaity . it’s cold , but within one km body warms up and we really enjoy our run. We have complete round of famous saputara lake.
The town has just woken up. I have taken one stick for dog management but surprisingly through our 50 minutes run we do not see a single dog.
The road journey to bhandardara
Maharshatra border is just next to saputara. We are surprised to see how near is saputara from Maharashtra border. Strawberries are grown in the slopes at Maharashtra side. We were told by owner of patel dhaba to buy the strawberries from the farms.
Due to paucity of time we do not try to walk off the road to reach the strawberry farms, rather buy the strawberries from the lady on the roadside.
On the way I speak to Omkumar and Mr Javle to suggest the best dhaba/restaurant in nasik.
Surprisingly both revert back and suggest the same name “Saheba” at bombay naka.
We have a leisurely lunch at saheba.
At ghoti we take the road to shirdi and soon are on bhandardara road. The last stretch to MTDC resort is quite bad.
We have reached MTDC resort in the evening.
The resort is spread out and have various categories of accommodation.
We decide to upgrade one of the chosen rooms to cottage as we realize that cottage is more lakeside facing and has some exclusive area for late night sitting and all children can remain indoor at one location.
Support services :
Within hours of our arrival we are approached by MTDC canteen guys, private service providers offering bonfire services at various lake side facilities ( beyond MTDC areas) , site seeing service providers, trek around lake offers to even car cleaning services.
By 8.00 pm, we all are a worried lot as news of devesh’s father heart troubles are received. After a lot of deliberation and phone calls, it is decided that it is better that devesh and family leave on the same night. We soon rearrange our luggage as our trip will be now reduced as we will not be going to chinchan,tarapura.
Devesh and family leave by 9.30 and reach by 1.30 midnight to be with his father .
23rd December, Wednesday.
We are taking a long walk around the lake as part of morning walk.
Post breakfast we leave for malshej ghat .
We are given the guidelines to take rajur-kotul-brahamanwada-otur road.
On the way children have interesting photo moments.
We reach MTDC malshej ghat well within our check in time…..to continue…………………part II