Apart from its romantic weather, Pune had attracted me towards it by promising me a lifestyle I choose for myself. It had everything to offer from work opportunities, sports, dance, music, nightlife, friends, outdoor adventures. Having lived in Pune and Mumbai, I’ve had the chance to explore many destinations and adventures in the western ghats over weekends. Maharahstra’s long Konkan coastline hidden behind the Sahyadri range makes diversified landscapes. Monsoon and post monsoon are my favourite seasons to travel in this region as the clouds come down to kiss the lush green mountain range and beautiful streams of water adorn these mountains by making their way through them.
1. Kaas Plateau - Valley of Flowers
Kaas Plateau is Maharashtra’s very own valley of flowers. With over 850 varieties of flowers that bloom in the area of 10 sq. kms. across seasons, this biodiversity hotspot boasts as UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site. The most colourful site in the Sahyadris is full-blown right after the monsoons, towards the end of September. Located around 125km from Pune and 280 kms from Mumbai, towards Satara, Kass Plateau also known as Kaas Patthar in local language is a perfect weekend destination. Along with the valley of flowers, you can enjoy your time at the Thosegar waterfall and camp at the Kaas lake. Kaas Plateau is home to many endangered specie and it is responsibility of every visitor to protect them and avoid extinction.
2. Hike to Lohagad Fort
One of the most popular monsoon destinations of Maharashtra is Lohagad Fort. Nature lovers of all ages from kids to senior citizens, are found hiking up to the beautiful fort on monsoon weekends. It is approachable from station called Malavali on Lonavala train route. You can start walking from the station itself, either by following the crowd or by asking the directions from locals. A simple hike of couple of hours takes you to the fort. Climb the stairs of the fort to get the beautiful top view of the fort. A further hike to the scorpion tail gives breathtaking views of the Sahyadri range. Carry enough rain covers if you are hiking in monsoons. On return, you can stop for home cooked local maharashtrian meal - zunka bhakhari and mutton. The residents of villages on the route serve food in their own homes. It is a short and sweet hike of half a day. You can choose to spend the rest of your weekend at Aamby Valley near Lonavla.
3. Waterfall rappelling in Igatpuri
I had one of the most memorable experiences on monsoons in Sahyadris, when I had gone for waterfall rappelling. It is 15-20 minutes activity where you hike up to the waterfall from the backside and descend through the waterfall. There are climbing experts who organise these activities in monsoons when the waterfalls are in their best forms. It is quite challenging to navigate through the heavy fall of water when the rocks are slippery and the only sound you hear is that of the gushing waterfall. Vihigaon in Igatpuri has one of the best waterfalls suitable for rappelling.
4. Trek to Rajmachi
Trekking in Sahyadris is a very popular activity in the monsoons. Rajmachi fort is one of the many historical forts in the Sahyadris. Rajmachi Fort consists of twin fortresses of Shriwardhan and Manaranjan. The hiking route to Rajmachi starts from Lonavla. It is very picturesque route and can be ideally done in 2 days. You can hike on 1st day, spend the night at one of the homestay on the top, explore the forts and descend the next day. The best attraction of the Rajmachi trek is the waterfall. The pair of waterfalls are one of the pristine falls I’ve ever seen.
5. Camping in western ghats
Western Ghats make the best camping grounds for some fun-filled weekend. On one such monsoon weekends, I went on a long drive with my friends towards Tapola lake, found a perfect spot, pitched my tent and spent the evening witnessing the changing colours of the sky. We kept chatting for the entire night as we heard the rain pitter-patter on the roof of the tent. It was a great way to connect with my best buddies, as we were completely disconnected from everything else for the entire weekend.
6. Drive to Konkan Beaches
I have made umpteen trips to the diverse stretches of Konkan beaches in Maharashtra - Kashid, Harihareshwar, Dapoli, Guhagar, Ratnagiri, Ganpatipule, Malvan, each offering its own uniqueness. While exploring the stretches, I’ve come across some pristine beaches which are unbelievable beautiful. Some beaches were so desolate that I could take my car to the beaches and drive through the splashing waves that were softly dousing the beach. Most of these beaches don’t have any fancy cafes or shacks. The offer very basic food and accommodation options and thats what helps them remain pristine.
7. Paragliding in Panchgani / Kamshet
I had my first paragliding flight in Panchgani, my first ever experience of spreading my wings and flying like a bird. The trained pilots take you on a tandem flight over the beautiful valley. It feels heavenly to appreciate the beauty of mother earth from 1000 feet high. The paragliding courses at Panchgani and Kamshet are already tempting me to learn to glide on my own.