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.
Off To Amboli
We took an overnight journey in a Volvo from Pune to Sawantwadi, followed by an auto ride to Amboli. Situated on Vengurla-Belgum state highway no 112 in Sindhudurg district, Amboli is a home to a number of animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and many medicinal plants. The hill station is the most talked about bio-diversity region of Maharashtra.
Way back in 1880, a British National named Colonel Westrop developed Amboii into a hill station. British Army used Amboli as a strategic point to send soldiers to Central and South India. Earlier to Colonel Westrop, the Bhosles of Sawantawdi had built up a huge summer palace in this area.
The distance from Sawantawdi to Amboli was about 30 kms and the auto fare was Rs 300.The Road was scenic with a number of waterfalls. In Monsoon, even a small stream becomes a roaring mass of water at Amboli. On our way we passed the most popular waterfalls of Amboli which is known as “Amboli Dhabdhaba”.
Soon after that the “Parpoli Ghat” starts which features a green wall of a hillock on one side and a deep ravine on the other side. One needs to drive carefully here as the road is not sufficiently wide for both way driving. Crossing the foggy narrow roads of Ghat, we reached in front of a check post.
The Autorickshaw turned right to reach our hotel “Shiv Malhar”. After checking into our rooms which were spacious enough we were ready for breakfast by 09:00.
Most of the hotels at Amboli do not serve food. The two decent eateries here are the Vithal Kamat’s Vegetarian joint and the restaurant of MTDC Green Valley. It is advisable not to try fish at the local joints as it is usually not fresh. The only liquor shop in the vicinity is near the State Transport Bus Depot.
There are two old temples near the Check post facing each other. We found a small joint there, where we had hearty breakfast of bread and omelet followed with a cup of tea. The fog made the total area looked like watercolor painting. Life is lazy at Amboli. It was past 09:00 in the morning, but most of the shops were shut.
Taking a Hike and enjoying waterfalls
The normal course of sight-seeing at Amboli is to hire an AutoRickshaw and visit all the tourist spots in one go, which costs around Rs 600. However, we decided to venture on foot on the first day. Our first destination was Mahadevgad Point. We walked in the rain for 2 kms as fog and mist came down silently on the road. My friends had opted for full fledged raincoat, whilst I had opted for windcheater and poncho. My rain gear proved to be inadequate and I got soaked quite a bit.
Although the name Mahadevgad Point suggests a fort, there is nothing ancient about the place. The steps constructed to the edge of the cliff and the stone sitting places are of recent times. The rain stopped after some time and the fog cleared a bit. We were treated to a breathtaking view with clouds floating around.
Retracing back to the main road we headed for lunch to Vithal Kamath’s joint. The restaurant falls on the main road and is a short walk from the check post. The restaurant looked relatively new, but the service was good and the food tasted well.
Post lunch we began our rain walk towards Amboli Dhabdhaba alias waterfalls.The 5 km walk through the narrow road of Parpoli Ghat was thrilling. The silhouette of the leafless trees in the fog with their crooked branches looked imported straight from the sets of film “Raaz”. It is better to walk here carefully on this two way narrow road.
Reaching the waterfalls, we found 60 odd people involved in bathing, shouting, taking each other’s photographs and climbing up a flight of rocky stairs. Water was falling down from a massive rocky wall which flowed downhill towards two directions. One way was straight down and the other was over the rocky stairs over which the people were climbing up. It was extremely slippery but the holiday crowd was least worried about safety and was in a frenzy to have fun. This waterfall is a popular weekend holiday spot.
On way back we stopped at Sunset point for some snacks. Obviously, this was not the best day for viewing Sunset but it is a popular place to hang out at Amboli. In the night we walked to MTDC for dinner while listening to orchestra of frogs and cricket on the way. From Shiv Mallar to MTDC it is a 10 minutes walk. However the road is not sufficiently lighted and we carried torch to see the way. In Dinner we had Rice, Dal, Vegetables and ‘Anda Bhurji’ (Fried scrambled Eggs).
Next day we fixed an auto rickshaw for sightseeing. Driving through a road entirely engulfed by fog, we reached the Amboli Dhabdhaba at 06:30 a.m. Devoid of any crowd we had a nice photo session. There were other waterfalls too on the road which I suspected to be originally small streams, which got fresh lease of life in the Monsoons.
The Local Temples
After Breakfast at Vithal Kamat’s we drove to Hiranyakeshi Temple- the originating point of Hiranyakeshi River. To reach the place you first cross a small bridge over the river and then walk through a well constructed path to reach the originating point.The river looks like a young wild stream here when you look from the bridge.
Walking through the brick path we reached the Hiranyakeshi Temple. The temple premises is clean and looks very calm and peaceful. From a cave adjacent to this temple the river Hiranyakeshi falls into a pond in front of the temple through an underground passage. The water gushes out through two outlets below the base of this pond and flows down to form the river. The temple houses a small idol of Devi Hiranyakeshi, a form of Devi Parvati along with a Shivalingam and other idols. The Cave is not advisable to venture.
We headed back to the main road and drove to Ragheshwar Ashram, where there is a Swayambhu Ganesha temple besides the Hiranyakeshi River. Two statues of Nandi are near to this structure. The temple houses a rock cut Ganesha Idol heavily painted with orange vermillion. There are several statues on the temple too. The Hiranyakeshi River looks at its best near this temple. It sheds the stream look and takes the shape of full fledged river in the monsoon.
Nangartas Waterfalls – Huge drop
Our next destination was the Nangartas Waterfalls located at a distance of 10 km from Amboli. The road was highly scenic. By now it was again raining heavily. On reaching our destination, we took shelter inside a temple near the waterfalls.The water flows down from the river into a huge drop below and can be viewed from the top only. Unlike the other waterfall you cannot even think of taking a bath here! There are quite a few monkeys in the vicinity, who were busy getting drenched.
Kawalesat point: Fog Ruins the View
Lastly we drove to Kawalesat point which was totally invisible due to fog. It was a pity, as this viewpoint offers you one of the best views at Amboli. The weather was not in a mood to clear, so we decided to return to Amboli. There was a type of wild bushes in the vicinity, which looked like as if trimmed by a gardener. Actually, they are naturally shaped like that, but looked very interesting. On way back we stopped near some paddy fields and had a bit of rain walk with umbrellas and rain gear !
The ruined Rajwada at Amboli
Our last stoppage was the dilapidated Rajwada or the Summer Palace of the Sawantwadi’s Bhonsles near Vithal Kamat’s joint. The gate remains locked, but there is an opening in the wall through which you can enter the premises. A family stays inside and it is courteous to inform them that you are going to take a look around. There are ruins of some structures which may be sentry or servant quarters. There were ruins of an open platform which might have been an outdoor gathering place. The place feels eerie especially if you venture inside in the afternoon with fog slowly settling in.
Unlike the main residence of the Bhosles at Sawantwadi which is more or less in a proper shape, the Summer Palace is in total Ruins. It must have been a lavish building in its prime time. It is a two storied mansion with two staircases outside. The staircases have bushes grown on it and we did not think it was wise to go upstairs. There was a staircase inside which was broken. We located a fireplace and a huge bathtub inside.
Imagining in my mind as to how bustling this palace used to be when the Bhonsles visited here during summer, I stumbled upon some tiles which had collapsed from the ceiling. Looking closely I could find the name of the manufacturer in one of the broken piece. It was Rego & Sons. Interestingly a figure of what looked like a vintage automobile was carved on the tile too. It might have been the Logo of the Manufacturer.
The Rajwada is the least visited spot of Amboli. We walked back from the ruined summer palace with a bit of heavy heart. It was sad to see such a structure in ruins. The fading light and fog was weaving melancholy in our minds as we walked back to the hotel. Post Dinner at MTDC, we sat in the balcony and experienced the atmosphere of the night.
It was like another world with faint light from street lamps in the fog coupled with the chorus of the frogs in the backdrop. Most of the hotels at Amboli are perched much above the ground and have slanting parapets as because the place has quite a number of snakes.
Although we were to leave for Sawnatwadi the very next day and head for Ganapatipule, I was having this untamed urge to stay another couple of days at Amboli and have some more hikes in the rain.
Overnight journey by bus/train from Mumbai or Pune takes you to Sawantwadi. From there you have to hire an auto rickshaw or take a bus to Amboli.
Best place for food and lodging is MTDC Green Valley Resort. For only lodging there are many options, but it is advisable to stay near the Check post. The Market and the ST Bus Stand are at a walking distance from there. The Vithal Kamat’s Restaurant is also a good option for food too. Avoid eating fish as they may not be fresh.
A word of caution:
Amboli being a bio diversity area have many kind of unknown fungus and yeast. Carry enough clothes and anti fungal powder especially during monsoon so that you keep yourself dry indoors. You will not be able to dry clothes here and wearing semi dry clothes can cause yeast infection.
Amboli Google Map