Tag Archives: Satara tourism

The silent whine of a valley at Khas Pattar

“Thank you very much for online registration to Visit Kas Plateau.” Read the auto-response mail from the Satara divison forest office. Our slot for the much anticipated trip to the South India’s very own valley of flowers was confirmed.

We reached Khas plateau by hiring a cab from Satara town as early as sunrise. One reason was to get good shots of the valley with different hues of sunrise; second was to enjoy the oneness with nature, undisturbed by the senseless, rather ruthless people who would pour in later during the day in the name of tourism. Recognised among the world’s 39 natural heritage sites by the UNESCO in 2012, Khas has over 350 flower species including orchids, insectivorous plants and other herbaceous plants. There are plants whose flowers change their sex each year too..!! Atleast 20 species of plants are endemic to the Khas valley alone. Someone rightly called it the “Nature’s very own laboratory”. Since Khas is a part of the Koyna Sanctuary, the place is often frequented by animals like the barking deers, bears etc. in search of water. It is nature’s treasure in every sense.

The flowers of Khas plateau- Part 1

Life is not a bed of roses, but at Khas- it is a bed of balsams.. Oops.. Bad one, I know..!! But that’s what came into my mind when I was finally there..!! The complete valley looked as if painted in pink with an endless stretch of balsam flowers, dotted here and there with small ponds like a bindi on a beautiful lass’s forehead that would complete her looks. These ponds dual as watering holes to the wild animals that visit here occasionally. A narrow stream flows silently on the other side over black basalt rocks until it plummets down into the Khas lake. Beauty of the Western ghats is beyond expression when one stands here at the edge of the Sahyadri ranges overlooking the Sajjangad fort and the Kanher dam.

The Pink balsam carpet at Khas valley

It is a pitiful plight of the place when several plants are smashed under the reckless visitors who pour in there in thousands during the peak months of blossom. A well laid asphalt road cuts right through this protected land until the Khas lake. No entry tolls, no parking fees, no written commitments to gain entry- but just a nominal registration fee of 10Rs. per head is all it takes to get to this colourful patch of nature. It is just a place to hangout for the majority without actually knowing the ecological importance of the place. NO… It doesn’t have any restaurants, playgrounds, toy-trains for you to lunch over with your family and kids. And definitely, NOT a photo studio for you have NO rights to sleep over the flower bed to get those sexy hot babe-kinda photoshoots done. Be educated before heading there that this place is ONLY for the people who respect nature’s gifts. Infact, none-of us even have the rights to walk through the laid walkpaths for there is always a possibility that one can step on an endangered plant and therefore kill it. So think about visiting there ONLY if you’re genuinely into research or in quest of knowledge- NOT for anything else.

The flowers of Khas plateau- Part 2

Be reminded, the acknowledgement mail from the forest dept. also read the following:

Please note that, Kas a plateau of flowers is a divine gift. Please observe carefully, enjoy the beauty of these tiny tots and convey others also but not to hurt.”

Here’s a request to the authorities: Taking a cue from a protected island called ‘Kurusudai’ in Tamil Nadu, It is really the need of the hour to treat Khas at such level. My suggestions are:

  • Do-NOT make the valley accessible to public and make the entry STRICTLY based on requirement from education/research institutions.
  • Please increase the entry fees. A HEFTY fee (possibly in thousands) will make it possible to filter out only genuinely interested people visiting there for whom money does not matter against knowledge.

My visit to the Panchgani tableland also reflected a similar letdown. The vegetation at the tableland is very fragile & similar to that of the Khas. However, onslaught of exploitative tourism has left it in a state of pity. If the flow of tourists continues the same way at Khas, it won’t take more than just a couple of years to lose this treasure FOREVER.

Strawberry heartland of India- Mahabaleshwar

This post is a follow-up on my 3-days backpacking trip to Satara. If you haven’t read it already, you can do so by clicking here. I had backpacked across Satara district covering Satara town – Wai – Panchgani – Mahabaleshwar – Khas plateau – Satara town

In this post, I have tried to share details of my day trip to Mahabaleshwar. The place as such, doesn’t needs any special introduction. This hill station is a favorite haunt of tourists from the nearby metropolis and afar. While its stunning views of the surrounding Sahyadri mountains and Deccan traps attracts the weekenders in large numbers, it sees a large footfall of Hindu pilgrims as well. Mahabaleshwar can be broadly classified into two parts, the New and the Old. I started my day trip to Mahabaleshwar from Panchgani on a Sunday morning. I have tried to explain my Mahabaleshwar trip in detail through this post.

Part 1: New Mahabaleshwar

This part of the hill station is popular for its breathtaking sceneries of the western Ghats or the Sahyadri mountains. It was mainly popularized as the summer capital by the British. The table top mountains were strategically used by the Marathas for holding up enemies. Today, it is especially popular among the honeymooners and millennials as a short getaway from the nearby cities.

With many good viewpoints falling on the way, the 15kilometer stretch from Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar calls for many pitstops enroute. We stopped in the following order of places.

a. Parsi point: that gives a view of the Dhom dam from a different direction than what we had been seeing all through the previous day.

b. The Lingmala & Bhilawar waterfalls: These places weren’t as appealing as the case would have been with a good monsoon season.

c. Mapro garden & chocolate factory: This is the venue of the annual strawberry festival and one can see the chocolate making process at the factory through a glass wall. We tried shots of different juices & crushes they offer at the factory and picked up some bottles and chocolates as souvenirs from our trip.

The Mapro strawberry garden and Chocolate factory
The Mapro strawberry garden and Chocolate factory

d. Kate’s point: It was a pleasant drive amid the Koyna forest reserve to get here. The highlight for tourists visiting this valley is the echo point and the elephant’s head / Needle hole point. From here, we caught a beautiful view of Dhom dam, Balkawadi dam, Krishna valley and the Kamalgarh fort.

e. Savitri point: We drove through the forests hoping to sight a few peafowls, deer etc. but had no luck. Our visit to Savitri point was disappointing because the entire valley had been engulfed by mist. Since the entire valley was filled with mist even at peak noon-time, there seemed no signs of it clearing out.

Kate's point & the elephant head
Kate’s point & the elephant head

f. Castle rock, 3 monkey point, Malcom point, window point, tiger spring, hunter’s point, echo point and Arthur’s point: These are view-points in the same valley, but now enshrouded by the clouds. We only walked past all these spots without being able to see even the faces of the people standing next to us. In fact, this very valley was what had inspired me to plan my trip to Mahabaleshwar. The view of these deccan traps / table-top mountains had mesmerized me through several Bollywood movies that had been shot here. However, that visit was a matter of bad luck.

g. Marjorie and the Elphinstone points: The drive through these places too meant only disappointment.

Part 2: Old Mahabaleshwar

This part of Mahabaleshwar spikes up the interest of the history buffs and those that are culturally or spiritually inclined. Several ancient temples are dotted here amid the serenity of the Krishna valley. Some of the important landmarks are listed below:

h. Panchganga temple: This is the place of origin for 5 important rivers in the region, namely Gayathri, Savitri, Koyna, Venna and Krishna. The five rivers conflux underground and then spout together through the mouth of a cow carved out of a stone about 4500 years ago.

i. Mahabaleshwar temple: This temple dedicated to lord Shiva is accessible from the Panchganga temple, after a small walk through the shopping lanes. This temple is what gives the hill station, it’s name. The legends mention about Atibaleshwar and Kotibaleshwar also, but those are temples that are lost.

j. Krishnabhai temple: A further walk of about 100 meters from the Mahabaleshwar temple led us to an archeological treasure that remains untouched by mainstream tourists. The stream of water spouting from a Gomukh (the mouth of a stone sculpted cow) in this 13.C.E temple is believed by a few to be the origin of river Krishna. Situated almost on a cliff, the place offered a great view of the Krishna valley around. For those familiar with ancient architectural styles, this temple is a good example of the Hemadpanti style of temple architecture.

The Krishnabhai temple
The Krishnabhai temple

k. Venna lake: A popular and a beautiful place otherwise, we decided not to stop here when we arrived there. The place was maddening and crowded with tourists.

l. Other places of interest in Mahabaleshwar: On a clear day, one could plan to see the sunrise at Wilson point that is known to be the highest part of Mahabaleshwar and Sunset at Bombay point. Both viewpoints are part of the Sindola hill.

NOTE:

  • The entry and exit to Mahabaleshwar is only between 06.00.a.m. to 06.00.p.m. as it is a protected forest area. So, it is required to plan your travel or stay at Mahabaleshwar accordingly.
  • This hill station contributes to 80% of the total strawberry produce of India. Hence, it is safe to call it as the strawberry heartland of India. DO NOT miss to eat fresh strawberry with cream for dessert after a nice Maharashtrian lunch at any of the restaurants in the Mahabaleshwar market.