Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Plateau Of Flowers, Kaas Pathar and Thoseghar Falls

29th Sep 2013

Impatiens oppositifolia: pink flowers: These were the largest blooms covering Kaas plateau.
Murdannia simplex: the purple flowers.

While I was in Bangalore someone had asked me about a plateau of flowers in Maharashtra and I went blank. I knew so little about my own home state. So when I returned I resolved to explore Maharashtra as much as I did the South. 

Ipomoea barlerioides

Rainy season always calls for special picnics but except going to Thal I had not gone anywhere in the hills actually we did go to Gondavle in Aug but that route is something I know like the back of my hand and did not notice anything unusual or may be the drama of nature had not begun unfolding yet.

help me name this flower.

So when I discovered a company called The Western Routes that does some lovely themes in Maharashtra I hopped on to their bus along with Dad to visit Kaas Pathar. Enroute they handed out a print info on Kaas Pathar or Plateau in English. It gets it name from the Kaas tree. 

Kaas pathar and view of the Satara city below

The purple flowers: Cynotis tuberosa

In the two monsoon months of August and September the nature dresses the plateau of Kaas with vibrant colored wild flowers. The carpets of purples, yellows, whites, pinks. The flowers of one color start blooming then another and this drama lasts only for 2-3 weeks. 
The yellow flowers : Senecio bombyensis

We left Pune at 5 am and reached Kaas before 9 am. Turned out to be a good plan and ofcourse the experience of Jayesh who runs The Western Routes to save us from crowds. However we did have trouble with traffic while coming back as the road to Kaas is narrow and barely two lane. The bus had dropped us at the entrance gate and then came to pick us up again thru the crazy traffic. Some idiots had clogged the two lane road by parking along the sides. They should not allow vehicles to go beyond the parking area. Walking up the trail would do good.

Pogostemon deccanensis: the purple flowers in the forefront

Kaas is a visual treat so here are some iPAD pics of the beauty. It was foggy and as we roamed around it started raining. That set a really good mood for the day. No sun meant I could enjoy the outdoor without worrying about harsh sun burns. The soil layer here is very thin barely covering the volcanic rocks. The Sahyadri range in Satara is mainly made of Laterite and Basalt. This thin soil layer does not allow the growth of many trees but the wild grasses and shrubs are abundant. What was nice is there were a group of botanists who educated us about the Kaas and its environment and helped identify the flowers.

Eriocaulon Tuberiferum: white balls

Most of the plants here are endemic to Kaas, which means they grow only in the environmental conditions specific to Kaas. There are some 850 species of flowers that grow here and some are endangered. In an attempt to protect these species Kaas is declared as Biodiversity World Heritage Site by Unesco. We picked up some plastic and cans that the public had littered and brought it back with us to Pune to dispose to the municiplality, The Westren Routes is a very pro environment tour company and this is one of their initiatives.
Topli Karvi : gets its name from the basket shape leaf arrangement. 
Strobilanthes callosus blooms >once in 8yrs.

View from the bus as we came down from Kaas

We were well taken care off on this trip. For tea we stopped at a restaurant when cream biscuits were handed out. Breakfast was thick theplas, cucumber and cheese chutney sandwiches in packets so we could munch on when ever and where ever we wanted. After spending an hour or 2 at Kaas we were herded into the bus and taken to Satara city for lunch at the famous Khanaval run by Supnekar in Yadogopal peth. 

We enjoyed a very homely lunch and burped with happiness and some new connection were created over interesting conversations.

After this we headed to Thoseghar falls to view the rain water gushing down that makes these falls a sight to behold only in the monsoon season. There are two falls one with a straight fall and another one that flows down the edge of the ravines.

After a long time we were travelling with a group even though they were strangers we started chatting up with them and had a good time. More group trips for Dad and me in the future!

Kaas and Thoseghar falls exhaustive pics here...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Foodie's Delight, Mapro Garden and Venna Lake

Day 3 : 18th Mar 2013

I had heard a lot about Mapro from family and friends and have been using their products for a very long time so visiting their factory and Garden was a must for a food blogger and foodie like me.

It is a place that houses their chocolate manufacturing unit, we can view the chocolate coating process from the glass windows. There are numerous counters that sell their products. What is nice is they have a tasting counter where they give shots of all the syrups, squashes etc mixed with milk or water. You can decide on your picks and then buy what you like. I freaked out completely and here is my loot. Crushes, Syrups, Jellies, chocolates...

Besides the chocolate factory they have a large garden area with stone tables and benches and plastic chairs for plonking yourself to wolf down some tasty treats. You first take a look at the large menu.

Our pick was the Classic grilled sandwich which sounded great to me with baked potato mentioned on the board. It more that lived up to its name. It is a large sandwich with a side of potato chips that fill two people ofcourse along with a shake. Ours was a thick strawberry shake. We had already had cream and strawberries elsewhere and had to give a miss to it at Mapro, had we known earlier! We sat at a table overlooking the strawberry garden. 

In Mahabaleshwar and no strawberry and cream? How is that even possible!

 The roadside parlor with a strawberry patch.

Serious Marketing! Falero is a brand of Mapro's jelly sweets.

Post lunch we went to Venna lake and sat in the shades at the waterfront, watching honeymooners and families with kids pedaling boats on the lake. It was too hot to go trekking again. Just looking at the scenery was more satisfying.

Around Venna lake we saw Kavadwalas selling fresh carrots and shalgam with the greens on, you don't see these in Mumbai, strawberries ofcourse. I kept my strawberry shopping for the last day.

Horse riding in the hot sun, not my idea of fun!

Instead here is the cool lake, just the sight was a relief.

That's the Venna lake for you.

Day 4 : 19th Mar 2013

We spared the day for shopping in the town market, boxes and boxes of strawberries to bring back. We found a nice basket of cherry tomatoes, they were so sweet and I made them last long using in salads, curries and pasta. The aam papad was quite good which we bought from one of the small shops in Malcom peth.

Mahabaleshwar is a really good getaway for Mumbaikars especially Navi Mumbaikars as we save a few hours and bad traffic. Neeta's Volvos are very convenient for to and fro journeys. Our stay at the Citrus Chambers was so perfect and the cab we hired, everything made our time in Mahabaleshwar after this huge gap of many years very memorable. 

Check out more of Mahabaleshwar here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Point to Point in Mahabaleshwar

Day 2 : 17th March 2013

We started the day with a wonderful Marathi breakfast at the hotel consisting of batata vada, pav bhaaji, pohe etc. Hey but these are not our typical breakfast at home except the pohe. These are evening snacks we love and don't mind them as breakfast when I am not the one making it!

Our taxi arrived exactly at 9 am and we set out for the trek and "point" scoring that's exploring the viewing points in the hills of Mahabaleshwar.

We headed to old part of the city first for the Darshan of the presiding deity of the town, the Mahabaleshwar temple and the Panchaganga temple. As the name suggests the Mahabaleshwar temple is an old Swayambhu Shiva temple. The Panchaganga temple is the origin of the five rivers Krishna, Koyna,Venna, Savitri and Gayatri. These temples are considered important base of civilization they were built somewhere in 12 century.

We then visited the following points:

1. Arthur's point : This is a place from where Sir Arthur Mallet would look down at the river Savitri as he held memories of his wife and children who were lost in accident in the waters.

2. Elphistone point : Reveals the magnificence of the Shahyadri range, layered mountains and deep ravines covered in greens of all shades and tones. There was a guy with a telescope stationed there and for 10 bucks we got a clear view of the Shivaji Maharaj's statue at Pratapgad. The fort can be viewed in the far with the naked eye in all clarity and grandeur.

3.Window point : One has to climb down 200 ft to a ledge for a panoramic view of the valley.

4. Tiger spring : This is a spring on the edge of the mountain where the Tiger visits for a drink.
5. Malcolm point :
6. Echo point : You can shout your lungs out and enjoy the thrill of listening to you own voice while you are not talking but the hills are reverberating with it.

7. Hunting point :
8. Castle Rock point : This is a rock atop which I refused to climb up at first so my Dad had a go first and tempted me to climb up with help of the driver. The views are absolutely breathtaking.
9. Savitri point : for the view of the Savitri river and valley
10. Monkey point : Leaves you wondering how Gandhiji's three monkeys found such a cozy place to perch themselves up there on the edge of the hills.
11. Marjori point : Panoramic views.
12. Kate's point : Allows one to look down at the manmade water reservoirs of Balakwadi and Dhom.

13. Needlehole point : This point from top and side appears as an elephant head and from the side a view of the hole cut out naturally in the rock.

14. Lodwick point : My favorite the view is awesome from the vantage point and almost 360 degree. There is a memorial pillar that marks this point and the trail is lovely to walk up to the end.

These points give you an awesome view of the scenic topography of Mahabaleshwar and the rugged terrain of Sahyadri.

On another day we visited the Mapro garden and feasted on yummy stuff and then sat at the waterfront of the Venna lake.