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Old 22nd August 2012, 19:03   #1
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Default An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri

Background:

Bhandardara - Its a huge lake formed by a dam built during the British raj on river Pravara. Its around 150kms from Mumbai.
An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri-panoramabhandardaralake.jpg
(Photo from the net. Copyright with original photographer/publisher)

Had learnt about it during the school years and like (almost) everything else learnt during that time, it was quickly forgotten. Then after ages, almost 1.5/2 years back, after reading a couple of references to it in BHPian MX6's "Magnificent Maharashtra - The Mahalog" it got me interested. Its supposed to be extremely beautiful and super-wet in the rainy season - just the way I like it. Searched for travelogues and got 2-3 but those were non-monsoon visits. Most places mentioned that the road condition during rains would be really bad and it is not recommended to venture there with hatches/sedans. OK, we have a Alto - plan shelved for 2011 season.


Planning (or rather the lack of it):

2012 rainy season, we had a quick getaway to Mahabaleshwar and Tapolo in early August and my wife told me that a long weekend is coming up. Ah, I had completely missed it somehow and now it is too late to get any place to stay.

What to do? We can have 2 one day trips to 2 different places. Becomes too hectic. Finally decided that we would just go without any booked accommodation and try our luck at the place or the nearest town. If nothing clicks, we can always drive back to Mumbai at the end of the day.

With the recently acquired XUV5OO, Bhandardara is a definite option. Jog falls is another. Why go out of the state, when there are lots of unexplored places within the state and are nearer? So Bhandardara is finalized. In the mean time, at work a scenario is shaping up which can eat up the next 3-4 weekends easily. So all plans were tentative and could get cancelled at very short notice. The final decision happened only a few hours before we got into the car.

A quick PM to HVKumar Sir got a prompt response about the Bhadardara road conditions being easily doable in a XUV and the trip was on.

Dates: 18-19-20 Aug 2012
Places to visit: Bhandardara and vicinity. Possibly Igatpuri. Shirdi and Malshej ghat are 100+ kms away from there and were ruled out.
Vehicle: XUV5OO W8 FWD

I always prefer to start as early as possible in the morning. Most of the times it means 5 AM or earlier. On Friday night, we have guests for dinner. No packing done. No google-maps, no Outlook traveller, no Lonely Planet studied. Zero research done in terms of what to see and what hotels can be checked. While hosting the dinner, I shamelessly sneak out to the computer for few minutes to get at least some basic idea about places to visit and get a broad-level satellite map of the place in mind.

Finally around 11 PM, the packing started. I just dumped whatever clothes I could lay my hands on in a large bag. Emptied a significant portion of the kids' wardrobe into the same bag and we were set. With XUV5OO, with just 4 onboard, you don't really have to worry about travelling light . Loaded up the 16GB pen-drive with some more music directories. Glanced through Outlook Traveller. Travel time should be around 4-4.5 hours. Went to bed around 1AM. Have never driven on the Nashik side. Big day tomorrow..new adventure awaits!

Last edited by SDP : 26th August 2012 at 19:15.
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Old 22nd August 2012, 19:15   #2
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Default Day 1 - The drive

Day 1: Saturday 18th Aug 2012
With the hectic day before, we had planned to start around 7:30AM. As usual, because of the excitement, couldn't sleep well and got up around 5AM. Finished remaining packing. Cleaned the car in 15-20 minutes. Woke up the kids around 6 and with the help from wifey got them ready. Loaded the car and started from home at 8AM.

An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri-dsc_0001.jpg

It hadn't rained much since last couple of days in Mumbai and there is no rain in the morning. That's good for driving, but what if its the same at Bhandardara? Nothing can be done about it, so let's go ahead with the plan.

Around 9AM, we were at the Bhiwandi Bypass toll and it was quite sunny outside. The car has tinted glasses, but no sun-film because of the supreme-court ban. In few minutes, the sun starts burning my neck from the driver side window. Where are my sunglasses? Ah, I didn't pack them at all and they are still in the Alto at home. That was the first problem faced because of the casual planning approach. Filled up diesel somewhere around Bhiwandi at a HP bunk. We move on. The traffic is not dense, but the progress is slow. That is expected given our late start. We join the Mumbai-Nashik Expressway and the traffic situation improves a bit. The road gets significantly better. Speed picks up.

The black of Mumbai and the brown of Thane give way for green as we leave them behind and head towards Nashik. Let the pictures to the talking:

Soothing greenery starts.
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Bunch of trucks?
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Kido relaxing in the back-seat (with seatbelt fastened ).
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Green hills.
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Smooth tarmac.
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We spot a Fortuner with LTD sticker on it.
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A road to some magical place.
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The ghat section starts.
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We spot a train.
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More green.
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Approaching Kasara ghat. The road splits into two.
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Last edited by SDP : 23rd August 2012 at 20:50.
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Old 23rd August 2012, 20:50   #3
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Default Day 1 : Travel

Near Kasara ghat, finally the rain god gives a broad smile. We get a brief but heavy spell of rain. Soon the climate changes for the better and the rain plays hide and seek with us from that point onwards.

Small streams are common sight in the Kasara ghat. The infamous reflecting XUV dashboard spoils the photo.
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Wife manages to click a train coming out of a tunnel in the valley below. A lucky break.
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See that pagoda on the right hand side of the pic? More about it later.
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Light drizzle and all sort of muck getting sprayed on the windshield by the vehicle in front.
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We sped past the famous Manas Resort at Igatpuri. The Expressway ends too soon.
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The Navigator shows the right turn for Ghoti is very near. Its around 10AM. I make a mental note of keeping an eye on any hotels enroute Bhandardara. We had breakfast before we started from home. The hotel we are looking for is for staying.
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We enter Ghoti town. A patch of road is concretized, but in place of the divider, there is a deep ditch so we end up driving on the right side for sometime, before we join the 'right' side. Then we enter the market area of Ghoti and the road vanishes.
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Not sure if Saturday is a market day, but there are people everywhere. Vehicles crawling at snail's pace. People absolutely not budging even after honking. In fact, one young lady after hearing me honk 2-3 times, turned at us and hurled a couple of abuses. We slow down further and endure that patch. Focus shifted from the usual 'covering a section in minimum amount of time' to 'not knocking down someone' and 'avoiding getting brushed by bikes and oncoming traffic'.
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It takes us around 15 minutes for what is possibly less than half a km stretch.
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I start to breathe again after getting out of the Ghoti market and crossing a level-crossing.
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Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 20:22.
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Old 24th August 2012, 08:58   #4
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Default Map My India Zindabad

Map My India Zindabad

After exiting the toll-plaza, the MMI navigator showed the immediate first turn to Ghoti and towards Bhadardara. As detailed in the previous post, the road was congested, potholed and goes through thick population.

After coming back while studying the maps (post-facto ), I realized that I could have gone straight for another 2 KMs on NH3 itself and taken the next right which would have bypassed the Ghoti town.

Map My India zindabad!

Here's a map that shows what I am talking about: (click on the image to open a hi-resolution version)
An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri-ghoti-mmi.jpg

I should have taken the route marked in green. Instead MMI showed and I followed the route marked in red. Next day while coming back, I discovered the better route and also realized what was the problem with MMI.

See the rail-over bridge marked in the alternate route? That bridge is not shown in MMI maps at all. So no wonder, MMI can not determine the better route.

PS: No point blaming MMI for what is clearly a planning lapse from my side.
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Old 24th August 2012, 09:33   #5
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Default Day 1: Onwards to Bhandardara

We join the Mumbai-Aurangabad-Nagpur highway.
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The road is average.
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After 10 odd minutes, we leave that highway and take a right on the Ghoti-to-Bhadardara road. But not before paying another toll.
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The surrounding becomes greener as we head for Bhandardara.
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Hills partially covered in fog make an appearance.
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The green grass trying to take over the only patch of grey/black in the landscape.
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Since we need to look for a place to stay as early in the day as possible, we decide not to stop till we reach Bhadardara. But soon the resolve is broken by a beautiful stretch that compels us to stop and take a note.
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A good opportunity to get a couple of snaps of the XUV5OO.
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The dirt track invites the XUV. We avoid the temptation. Its too early for Duma to go off-road.
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Small stream.
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Rice paddy, I guess.
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The climate is heavenly. We all take a few deep breaths.
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I try to take a family photo, but the young one stages a walkout.
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We move forward.

Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 14:32.
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Old 25th August 2012, 12:42   #6
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Default Day 1: Onwards to Bhandardara - Final leg

The whole area tempts you to stop at every other corner.
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A village in the valley.
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Golfing greens with patches of different shades and texture in between.
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A closeup of the village. A bit too dense for my liking.
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Instead, I like this one. A house in the middle of nowhere.
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One more stop to take a look at another valley.
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Our XUV perched at the edge of the road.
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The temperature has dropped by almost 8-10 degrees since we started from Mumbai. Nobody is complaining, its quite pleasant.
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The family enjoy the fresh breeze and the vistas.
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Its around 11:30AM. We start spotting tourist traffic quite frequently now. This area also attracts quite a few bikers over the weekend.
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Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 20:27.
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Old 25th August 2012, 15:04   #7
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Default Lunch at Shendi village and the search for accommodation

Lunch at Shendi village and the search for accommodation

12:00 noon -> We reach Shendi village. This is the nearest place to Bhandardara where you get food and stay options. A friend had recommended the Yash Resort.

That's the Yash Resort. Its right at the start of the village.
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Its a good property. That's the reception area.
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That's the dining area in the background.
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A beautiful flower in their garden.
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No vacancy at Yash resort. I ask them if they have a room available for Sunday night at least. No, they were booked for the entire long weekend. 3days-2Nights package around 11K INR. The village might not have too many good eating options. Yash has a restaurant. We check with them. Lunch buffet starts after 1 PM. Can't wait that long.

We freshen up at the resort and move forward.
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The main market area of the village is just couple of 100 meters away. For the lack of any better option, we choose Hotel Panchsheel for lunch and order food. The hotel is also a bar and a lodge. I check with the owner for a place to stay. No vacancy. I request him, he calls up another owner and tells me that they have one room. Its a long weekend, he asks me to go there and claim it asap.

I drove to Hotel Amruteshwar just outside MTDC resort. Apparently they had a cancellation and one last room is available. I check the room, its lousy, but I have no options. He asks for Rs 3000 per night for a lodge-grade room (not worth more than 500-600 Rs)

No option, I take it. Wife is not going to be happy after seeing the room. That's the price one needs to pay for trips without planning.

I drove back, the lunch has been served at Hotel Panchsheel. Food below average, rubbery paneer .

We finish the lunch formality and get ready for the main thing - sightseeing!

Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 20:28.
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Old 25th August 2012, 20:58   #8
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Default Wilson Dam

OK. Lunch over. What all do we want to see at Bhandardara?
The Arthur Lake (another name for Bhandardara lake), the Wilson Dam, the Umbrella Falls, the Randha Falls.

The Wilson Dam
We ask for directions to the dam and then feel stupid after realizing that the dam is literally a stone's throw away from the hotel where we had lunch.

That's the first glimpse of the dam that we get from the car.
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We start descending towards the dam.
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We reach a place from where there is a good view and park the car there.
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We are halfway down and can see a couple of bridges at the lowest point.
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Its a beautiful valley.
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The location for that house is to die for.
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A closeup.
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Is that stream called Umbrella falls? No idea. The Umbrella falls are somewhere near the dam itself. But we were not sure. Later (after returning to Mumbai) I came to know that, Umbrella falls is on the exact opposite side (right side in the picture) and can be seen only when the dam-gates are open and water is being released.
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A sudden shower catches us unprepared and we rush to the shelter of the car.
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We enjoy the rain from inside the car. The dog's photo gets a natural soft-focus effect because of the rain.
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The dog.
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After enjoying the rain for a few minutes, we start descending towards the bridge.
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The road gets worse, hitting rock-bottom right at the bridge. So no photo from the bridge. Attention focused on navigating through craters. The snap below is after crossing the bridge.
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Some Govt establishment, most likely some authority for power generation or dam management.
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We move forward.

Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 22:02.
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Old 25th August 2012, 22:10   #9
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Default Gate of the Bhandardara dam

Immediately after crossing the bridge, we start climbing up again.
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The road remains patchy and broken.
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Then unexpectedly we reach a gate. There are quite a few people and vehicles there. Must be something interesting. We also park by the road-side.

Gate of the Bhandardara dam
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Once this lifts, water will be gushing through it like crazy.
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The huge body of water visible behind the gate.
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The path of the water from the gates..unfortunately dry.
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When the gates are open, what would be beyond that edge? Most likely, a fantastic waterfall!
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We check out the place.
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The gate of the Bhandardara Dam
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A map showing the place and its relative position.
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A snap from above the gate.
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The photo-op with colorful windcheaters.
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Last edited by SDP : 25th August 2012 at 22:20.
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Old 26th August 2012, 09:11   #10
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Default Boating at the Bhandardara lake

After the gates, there is a long wall that runs parallel to the road. Lots of vehicles parked. Are all those people there just to see the gates?
There are no signs anywhere, but we see a lot of people going towards the dam-wall. The dam is near full, so I don't see a point. Then we notice, people walking on the wall and some even crossing it. Ah, there must be something interesting beyond it. We cross a broken half-open iron gate and go towards the wall.
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I glance at our XUV5OO. Its not difficult to locate the red car in a sea of white and silver.
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The dam is not full, there is land even beyond the wall.
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A sizeable crowd on the other side of the wall. There are boats there.
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We cross over.
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Its a beautiful surrounding.
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Away from the crowd, there is calm and serenity.
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We head towards the shore.
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The Rock!
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Few people enjoying a boat-ride and a lot more waiting for their turn.
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A view of the gate from this side.
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See that guy in a white vest? He insisted on standing at the front of the boat throughout the boat-ride and was shouting and dancing. He seemed under influence. I struggle to understand the definition of 'enjoyment' for such people.
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This is another category of people where 'enjoyment' means taking in the surroundings, enjoying the climate, observing the beauty and itching memories in mind/camera.
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I relate to the second category. We found a rock and settle down.
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The water was clean and light green in color.
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A couple of families on one side with kids enjoying a dip in the water.
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Suddenly, the waiting crowd vanishes. We decide to take a boat-ride.
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View of the shoreline from the boat.
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We reach back to the shore.
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The water was cold and clean for most part. Enjoyed the 10 minute ride.

Last edited by SDP : 26th August 2012 at 18:42.
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:01   #11
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Default Leisure time at the Bhandardara lake

We are back to the shore.
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We claim a rock and settle down again. This time much closer to the water than before.
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There is a little bit of chill in the wind. We all feel and enjoy it.
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Its not even 3PM, but feels like its 6 in the evening.
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Pravara Express. Pravara is the river on which the Wilson dam is built.
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Almost an hour since we stopped here. Its time to head back.
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The gates again.
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Couple of photos in (fellow XUV owner TBHPian) Sathya's 'Joy' and 'Ecstasy' style:
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Next stop -> Randha Falls.
To be continued.

Last edited by SDP : 26th August 2012 at 19:14.
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Old 27th August 2012, 20:44   #12
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Default Towards Randha Waterfalls

Towards Randha Waterfalls

3:00PM -> We leave the chaotic traffic at the lake behind and head towards the Randha Falls.
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We stop midway for a quick photoshoot
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The Pravara river again picks up strength. This place is downstream to the Wilson dam.
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As can be seen, the condition of the local public transport is deplorable. No, the vehicle is not stationary, its moving.
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After around 30-35 minutes and one really narrow no-road stretch that descends to the Randha falls parking, we reach there.
An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri-dsc_0428.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 27th August 2012 at 20:45.
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Old 27th August 2012, 21:48   #13
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Default Randha Falls - Set 1

Randha Falls - Set 1

Its a narrow strip of land which has been eaten on both sides by the river. You can see the river bed in the picture.
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Local authorities have erected a fence, built a few steps and one observation deck to make the area slightly more accessible and safe. There are 2-3 guards also deployed there.
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The first glimpse of the Randha falls.
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The trees on the left interrupt the view. See those 2 guys near the water at the bottom? That should help to understand the scale.
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The upper portion of the fall, before it falls into the huge gorge.
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People and cattle on the opposite side hill. Move by 20-30 odd meters and there would be nothing to break the fall to the river a few hundred meters below.
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That's the river bed, mostly dry.
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Suddenly we notice that there is another waterfall there, which is equally big, if not bigger. Its on the opposite side of the land-strip.
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Note the people and the cars further away in the pic to understand the scale.
Let's call this one Randha Falls #2.
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Wifey picks up some groundnuts, bhuttas (corn) and cucumber to munch on.
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That's the upper part of the fall #1 again.
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Munching on healthy food.
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We find another (slightly risky) view point from where there is a unobstructed view of the Randha waterfall #1
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From here we could see the water hitting the bottom.
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We head back.
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Last edited by SDP : 27th August 2012 at 21:50.
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Old 27th August 2012, 21:50   #14
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Default Re: An unplanned long-weekend trip to Bhandardara-Igatpuri

Nice Travelogue. I have been to Bhandardara quite a few times. Yash Resort is a good place to stay but now they have changed their reservation from 1 weekend overnight package to a compulsory 2 nights package hence we cancelled it out this year. MTDC is the only next good bet as Anandvan is very expensive. From Yash Resort, you could see the windmills on the hills. Nice panaromic view.

The water is very less in the Pravara River this time. I have seen it coming up to the wall and overflowing a couple of years ago. After you cross the river, there is one road which goes further up towards the right (a steep climb). If you go a bit further on that road, you would get a nice arial view of the river and the surroundings, that view is to die for.

Randha Falls were also at one time really nice but people have messed up the place now. To many tourists littering around.

The XUV wouldve been a boon post Ghoti Village as the roads were bad when i had gone in early 2011 in my Old Honda City.

Keep continuing with the Pics and the narration. Enjoying it and re-living it.
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Old 27th August 2012, 22:21   #15
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Default Randha Falls - Set 1

Randha Falls - Set 2

There was budget allocated to build those steps, but no budget for maintaining.
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We find a path through the maze of grass, rocks and water-holes.
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That's the Randha Falls #2, now visible completely.
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See the XUV in the extreme right corner?
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The kids steal a moment to sit down and gaze at the water.
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Its quite sunny and the heat has started burning me. Couldn't believe that just an hour back, we were sitting by a lake under an overcast sky, enjoying the cool breeze and a light shower.
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That's the upper portion of Randha Falls #2.
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If you inch closer to the edge, you can see the point where it hits the bottom. Its a scary experience.
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The spray from the bottom rises all the way to the top.
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I take a few more snaps from that position before getting back to a safer position.
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Its 4:15pm. Time to head back.

Last edited by SDP : 27th August 2012 at 22:25.
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