Overcast skies… steady downpour… milky waters cascading down the soaring Sahyadri cliffs… the green valleys crammed with the clouds… and a thoroughfare running through the hill. At the corridors of Pune and Mumbai is the heaven called Malshej! Aptly known as the Kullu-Manali of Maharashtra, Malshej is adorned with picturesque countryside which beckons the nature lovers from near and far.
Situated on state highway # 2, Malshej ghat is a beautiful road connect between Kalyan and Ahmednagar. 125 km from Pune and almost at the same distance from Mumbai, this dreamland is accessible all round the year by the loads of ST buses that ply on the highway. But it is highly recommended you get a vehicle of your own. No! Not a car – but a bike, for it is the best way to get intimate with this cloud nine and experience the wilderness of the ghat!
The ride begins with the hustle and bustle of Nasik highway but as you turn left at Ale Phata to go towards Kalyan; you would be astonished to find yourself far away from the maddening crowd. Nature then begins to unfurl and the mountains allure you with their charm. The green hills and a clear blue sky at the backdrop makes it perfect wallpaper set on the windows of your gazing eye. And this is just the beginning… Hold your breath till you get to see many such landscapes when you reach Malshej!
Two mountain ranges have to be traversed before you actually reach here, one via Vel Khind (pass) and another through Ganesh Khind. The route through these passes is a boulevard dotted with cute yellow flowers of Sonki, if you are here post monsoon. And the air here is so fresh and pure – it refreshes you, as you ride on!
You finally reach Malshej to first catch a glimpse of the Pimpalgaon Joga Dam. The drive had been beautiful enough but when you cast a glance at the vast expanse of the dam’s backwaters and the lofty cliffs in the milieu – the picture holds the kind of ethereal excellence that makes your breath catch in your throat! Pimpalgaon Joga is a 5 km long bund obstructing the clear waters of the Pushpavati River, which springs out at the foothills of Harishchandragad fort. The dam is responsible for crafting a lake that inflates after downpour, soaking a stretch of land and plentiful trees with the taller ones peeping out!
Further down the highway is a short tunnel, after which the ghat begins to descend. You pierce into the tunnel, little expecting that the light at the end would fall on a series of waterfalls tumbling down a rock face. Enthralled by the sight you ride down the lane that runs beneath successive overhangs with the cold waters spilling all over you.
Malshej during cloudburst is a sheer paradise. It is the time when Mother Nature, dressed up with varying shades of green stands by to bestow you with her best. Bewitched by her beauty, the clouds go crazy and shower all their love in the form of drizzle. As the rains lash against the crags, the ghats come into their own. Wet roads make long curves along the cloud covered valleys towards the distant peaks. The haze in the environs sometimes impairs the visibility even up to 5 feet and your heart almost skips a beat when you turn along one of those long curves!
Having survived the charisma of the ride along the ghat, it is now the time to make friends with nature. So, park your bikes and get undressed to rest yourself under a cascade. The waters soon socialize with you and hit your bare body. Enjoy the rubdown and when waterlogged, drag yourself out to relish the hot bhajiyas, served at a lone eatery just near the tunnel.
From a mini cascade to a king-size rumble – the scores of waterfalls are a forte of Malshej. At times the cold breeze that blows, forces the falling water upwards creating a scene worth a watch – a waterrise!
Malshej is a splendid rendezvous with nature as you can never imagine. And the pink-legged European Flamingos had discovered it much before we could. Thousands of these arrive here every year in monsoon and their graceful mating dance – another specialty of Malshej, is a moment to be cherished for lifetime! But not every one is lucky enough. To experience this glorious jiffy, one has to wade far into the backwaters of the Pimpalgaon Joga Dam.
4 km ahead of the dam, hovering at the edge of the plateau is the comfy Flamingo Hill Resort. Endowed with the location excellence, it is a privately managed MTDC inn – the most remarkable place to lodge yourself. At the backyard of the resort is the land’s end. Stand at the periphery to feast your eyes with the panoramic view of an odd 2500 feet deep valley. In the monsoon it is typically dictated by the clouds, which descend so low and the miasma makes your wits fly like a free bird. And then you begin to envy those wee creatures for their knack to fly!
Having survived the splendor of the ghat, Malshej must have already triggered millions of expectations in you. So get geared for an intimate rendezvous with nature this cloudburst!
– Amit Chilka