With the monsoon at its top in India, wouldn’t it be nice if one could take a short drive to a pathway studded with lush green hillocks and gurgling waterfalls? One would stop the car occasionally and wade into one of the huge mass of water. The more adventurous ones would climb up the rocky and muddy ridges and get soaked in the natural shower.
Unfortunately, you cannot think of such a frivolity sitting at Kolkata. The nearest waterfall from the city is at a distance of no less than around 250 km at Ghatshila and unless you go to North Bengal region you can forget about hillocks.
However, such a drive is not impossible if you visit the city of Pune in eastern India. During the monsoon, a drive to a place called Tamhini Ghat is one of the most popular ways for the residents of Pune to relax and enjoy the rainy season. Granted the Mulshi road which leads to Tamhini is infested with numerous potholes and often you encounter over enthusiastic and slight off balanced city animals near some waterfalls. However, during monsoon, the surroundings looks so inspiring that you overlook such “little” hindrances. 🙂
Three years ago when I visited Pune to take my Monsoon trip to Amboli and Ganapatipule, my friends suggested me this drive. After having a rain-soaked outing, I was definitely interested in more. Also shooting waterfalls in slow shutter mode with my camera was an added interest.
Located in North East of India, the state of Sikkim is blessed with breathtaking waterfalls, lakes, scenic Valleys monasteries and Gompas. There are several exciting trek routes too.
In the year 2010, just after Durga Puja, I got roped into a hurriedly decided tour to Sikkim with some of my young friends who were mostly from TCS. The tour itinerary included the Capital city Gangtok and its outskirts followed by a tour to North Sikkim.
I have been four times unlucky regarding a trip to Gangtok and North Sikkim. So I hopped in, despite the fact I knew only one of the team members.
A typical tour to Gangtok and North Sikkim comprises of several things. To start with there is the city tour which comprises of several Monasteries including the famous Rumtek.
The highlight of North Sikkim tour comprises of the high altitude fresh water lake of Gurudongmar at 17,100 feet in North Sikkim. The lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava who had brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. It is said that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, visited this lake.
Also added to the tour was a visit to Tsongmo alias Changu Lake in east Sikkim, 40 km from Gangtok. The lake was 40 km from Gangtok at a height of 12,400 ft and is accessed through a treacherous road.
As the Indian summer was getting unbearable more and more each day in the metro city of Kolkata, an invitation to spend a weekend at the historic hill station of Kurseong (4860 foot from sea level) seemed as God send. I have never been to Kurseong and this seemed a suitable opportunity to take a break from the heat.
This little hamlet has been often ignored by the holiday makers who preferred to romp around 32 km away at the hustling and bustling Darjeeling during the summer holidays. And yet this small town has its own charm with its famous Tea Gardens, the serpentine scenic roads, forest infested hills with orchids blooming post monsoon and last but not the least the famous Himalayan Railway – The Darjeeling Toy Train. There are many famous schools at Kurseong where numerous students come to study from all over the country. You can visit some of the Churches and a Monastery, take a tea tour at Makaibari Tea Estate or take a long drive along scenic Ambootia Tea Gardens to a Shiva Temple which surprisingly looks like a Monastery! A walk on the Hill Cart Road breathing mountain air beside the toy train line can be extremely refreshing.
It was my heart’s desire to visit a hill station during Monsoon coupled with Fog and mist, unspoiled greenery, numerous gushing waterfalls, hair pin bending roads and plenty view points with relatively less crowd. Walking down the road with a heavy downpour or a light drizzle is one of my secret passion. Add to it a stroll inside a ruined summer palace in afternoon amidst fog and mist and it is a perfect Monsoon holiday.
Thus in the last year August I chose to visit a hill station nestled in the Sahyadris to have a rainy holiday. This was Amboli, the Cherrapunji of Maharastra. The place receives highest rainfall (7184 mm in 2011) during the rainy season. On the agenda were also the beautiful beach of Ganapatiphule and its outskirts.