Monday, November 16, 2009

A journey past Mulshi Lake

I had heard about 'Vadkhal Naka' in the context of some alleged smuggling scandal involving A R Antule. I also knew about Karnala being famous for bird sanctuary and existence of the fort. Last week, I passed by both Vadkhal and Karnala on route towards the discovery of ‘Vile Bhagad’, a new industrial township being built by MIDC. But the travel past MIDC till Mulshi Dam made our day memorable.

Our ride started from Mumbai at 9am and culminated at Koregaon Park in Pune at 6pm. We passed through Panvel - Karnala -Pen - Vadkhal - Kolad - Vile Phata - Vile Bhagad - Bhira (Tamhini Ghat) - Mulshi - Paud - Pirangut - Bhoogaon - Bawdhan - Chandni Chowk - Pashan - Kothrud - . Alternating between plains, steep mountain curves, along the contour of an expansive Mulshi lake encircled by Sahyadri’s massive mountain range, this journey was turning out to be spectacular. This was a surprise package that we did not envisage. Road from Panvel to Vile Bhagad village, was through barren areas interspersed by heavy industries and town ships. The exception however was that of stretch of forestry in Karnala. Here winding roads flanked by thick foliage on both sides gave a respite from urban clutter and noise.

Once past Vile Phata (railway crossing), predictable yellowish dried bushes turned into a green belt of sugarcane fields packed together on black soil. This fertile transformation must have been due to water source in the vicinity, but we had no idea about the extent of water source. As we entered Bhagad village, it was back to barren rocks and dried bushes and I was happy MIDC won't be using fertile land for factory site. Few yellow colored blocks announced their identities. Village Panchayat, School, water pumping station and few tin roof shacks that served tea, coffee and perhaps meal. A small shop tucked at the corner had group of school kids huddled together. They all stood in great excitement while clicking the picture. In my next visit, I must carry a printout for them. I am sure they would be thrilled. Seeing them in red tie school uniform surprised me. Even in this remotest part of rural Maharashtra, It's not uncommon to see a sight of pony tailed school girls carrying school bags. This is a definite symbol of progressive state that Maharashtra is known for.

As our car climbed the mountain, we came across few ' varkari sampradya' who must have been on the return journey from 'Alandi' or ' Pandharpur’ after completing Kartiki Ekadashi. A glance around the mountain range makes one realize the varied shape of the mountain tops. Some are flat as chiseled. Some have protruding nose, some have one nose on top of another one. As the road encircles and goes half way, the shape of the mountain top becomes more pronounced. These peaks must be challenge to mountaineers and hikers. Soon after a stopover at Trimurti dhaba, we see a huge lake down below on the left side. For next an hour or so, we drive along this lake till we come across Mulshi dam. This ride is the most scenic and soothing. Few small resorts dot along the curve and white cranes appear at a distance. Condition of the road after Mulshi dam was hopeless due to Monsoon rains and bullock carts ferrying the goods. We could have taken a road to Pune via Pali reaching for Khopoli and then take Mumbai Pune road to reach Pune earlier but we would have lost an opportunity to feel the beauty of Mulshi Lake and dam.

I could conjure what this place must be in heavy Monsoon. Steep Mountain creating numerous waterfalls, cloud cover hanging over Mulshi Lake, rains lashing the earth creating a parrot green carpet.

How Mulshi lake side be after 50 years? I can imagine sign boards of five star hotel properties. Dotting of Fast food joints, colourful wind surfing canoes drifting across the lakes, tourist buses howling past the food joints destroying the tranquillity and peace of Mulshi Lake, before that happens, I would love to visit this place once in Monsoon season.

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