I should have been posting this from Mizoram. Instead, prolonged recovery from a minor surgery means I am in Jaipur and spending much needed time at home! In the meanwhile, I remembered to put out this story here which was originally published in Mint Lounge. The experience of this drive is from 2010 when we made our way from Pune to Amboli in the full monsoon of July.
While our intended destination is Tarkarli in Konkan, we have reached Amboli and the monsoon clouds have welcomed us well.
Give us some more kanda bhajia (onion pakoras in marathi), we ask. Our supposed short tea break in little heard Amboli in the Sahyadri ranges of Western India is proving to be never-ending. Instead I decide that we park ourselves here, impromptu travel plans work best.
We are (or were!) Konkan bound on the picturesque NH-4 for a family road trip. The Ajra-Amboli route is pretty and winds slowly through the farmlands and reaches Amboli after passing through a forest.
There are oohs and aahs after every turn to pay tribute to the delightful scenery. ‘Para para paradiseee’, Coldplay’s words ring in my head when the clouds make their customary appearance in Amboli. It is funny when I lose my way in the fog, while walking on the track inside the MTDC Green Valley Resort.
Amboli lies at 690m above sea level in the coastal district of Sawantwadi and is an Ecological Hot-Spot among environmentalists as it abounds in a variety of unique flora & fauna. I decide to go for a walk in the evening among thick forests and tree canopied hills to soak in the sounds of silence among nature.
I ask the locals and they recommend me the authentic Konkani thali at Narvekar Restaurant. There is a variety of seafood with the tangy and ubiquitous ‘sol kadi’. I go to explore a fort in ruins that has sweeping views of the valley from top; and lucky ones can also catch a glimpse of the coast on a clear day!
Next morning, our car perilously traverses the road in the slippery terrain. We are trying to navigate our way to a place deep into the mountains, the Hiranyakeshwar cave temple. The road twists and turns through lush green ghats and breathtaking views of many waterfalls that miraculously fall from top of the mountains make me woozy with happiness.
We park the car and choose to walk. A tattered old bridge hangs above the river to begin our lovely stroll. It feels unreal to be so close to the road and yet in the bounty of nature; surrounded by flowing streams with green meadows and hillocks all around. Here at the cave temple, fresh water continuously drips to form a gentle stream which flows down to be called the Hiranyakeshi river.
The forest makes its own music in Amboli and I am happy listening to the pleasant sounds. There is something for everybody here. The entire landscape is shrouded in dense mist and a cool breeze gently blows across the valley. I try my luck and go and find the non-existent sunset point. Instead, there is a vada pav stall on the side of a cliff where locals congregate. I rejoice!
Locals suggest to us to go and see the famous waterfalls of Amboli Ghat fame. There is a queue of vehicles on the road, enthusiastic hawkers sell sweet corn. People clamour to climb the steps that lead directly to the waterfall; it is a majestic sight. Water cascades from a great height creating a misty cool flow and coupled with the greens is an unforgettable experience.
Amboli is a tranquil hill station away from the hustle and bustle. Nature walks among the dense forests are a great way to connect with yourself. Do not wait for the fog to find you, find the fog instead!
Discover shades of green you have never known. Amboli is a great spot for bird-watchers and various species like the Hornbill, Paradise Flycatcher, Crimson-Backed Sunbird, Orange-Headed Ground Thrush, Drongo, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, etc. have been spotted here.
Nature lovers would like to know that there are over 250 species of rare plants in Amboli and a Forest Garden too. According to the locals there is a plant which flowers only once in 11 years. Apparently the famous alphonso growing belt isn’t too far away. Perhaps I should come back in season sometime; the sweet taste of mangoes twirls in my mouth!
Did we make it to Tarkarli? Well, I will have to scratch my memory and find the photographs!