Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monsoon Trip to Kas Plateau, Sajjangad, Thoseghar Waterfalls and Chalkewadi - September 2010

My Kas Plateau trip was suddenly decided when I could no longer resist the temptation as series of beautiful wildflowers pictures of  Kas Plateau made their appearance on the websites as the peak season of blooming wildflowers began. I decided to make a visit to Kas in September itself as I had already firmed up my trip to Kodaikanal and Valparai during September 26 – October 3, 2010. My friend Srinivasan (KS) who had Kas Plateau in his ‘must visit’ list, agreed to join me for the trip.

Since both of us like to avoid long bus journey and being retired, time was not a constraint for us, we decided to make an easy pace trip making Satara as the base to cover not only Kas Plateau, but also Bamnoli village for boating in Shivsagar (Koyna) Lake, Sajjangad, Thoseghar Waterfalls and Chalkewadi. All these places are located within a radius of less than 40 kms west of  Satara. We could get train reservation only in Koyna Express  which meant that a full day each was lost  to and fro Mumbai which we did not mind. The train reached Satara railway station around 4.00 p.m. We engaged one of the autos parked outside the station for dropping us to our hotel (Radhika Palace). The 9 kms journey took less than 20 minutes for Rs.80/-. After check in hotel, we took a stroll on New Radhika Palace Road in a pleasant weather condition with Ajinkyatara Fort giving us the company. Satara city is located at the base of this fort. We also visited the market yard area where one of the state transport bus station was located. This place and area around Powai Circle seems to be the hub of Satara city as most of hotels, restaurants, shops etc are located in these areas. There are many shops selling Satara’s most famous kandi pedhas and obviously, we ended our stroll by having the taste of  kandi pedhas.

In the evening, we booked through our hotel, Indigo car for  two days  covering (Day-1) Kas Plateau, Kas Lake, Bomnoli village and Yevateshwar temple; (Day-2) covering Sajjangad, Thoseghar Falls, Chalkewadi Plateau and   Kuraneshwar Ganapati temple @ Rs.1500/- for full day.  Although the car agency was agreeable to  cover all these places in one day for Rs.1600/-, we felt that this would amount to a more of ‘touch and go’ trip than an easy pace trip. Since we wished to spend more time to spend on these places with the flexibility to places we liked enroute, we decided to do these places in two days. I am sure, one can hire the car a little bit cheaper by hard negotiation.  We took dinner at a multi-cuisine restaurant of Hotel Rajtara located close to our hotel. The food was good and relatively cheap. 

Kanher Lake seen from road to Kas plateau

Road to Kas Plateau

Mass blooming of pink balsams on Kas plateau.

Another patch of mass blooming of pink balsams in Kas plateau.

Day-1 : Kas Plateau, Kas Lake, Bomnoli,  Koyna Lake

After a breakfast of Idli, kande pohe and bread toasts in our hotel’s restaurant, we proceeded to Kas Plateau (25 kms from our hotel). The ghat section of the road to Kas starts from the bifurcation to the right just before the tunnel road on the left which goes to Thoseghar. Initially, sporadic wildflowers on both sides of the road made their appearance but they become widespread as we reached close to Kas plateau. There was not much of a traffic on an excellent road. We stopped near a grassland to take some pictures of Kanher lake and some surrounding villages in the valley right to the road. On the left of the road was a wide valley and  a part of Urmodi dam was visible at its base. 

 As we were near Kas plateau, the large patches of pink Balsams made their presence on both sides of the road. We alighted from the car near a makeshift  tea stall run by a Forest Guard and saw mass blooming of pink balsams in larges patches, on both sides of the road as far as our eyes could see. I just ran across the road to be in the midst of these wildflowers to take pictures. Like a kid trying to get hold of all toys at once, I was trying the same on flowers in regard to taking pictures. After some time, the over-excitement waned and I was now more rationale to observe various wildflowers first and take pictures thereafter. 

Close-up of pink balsams.

purple balsams in Kas plateau.

Multi-colour mass blooming of wildflowers in Kas.

A close-up of Aeriocolon Tuberifera.

On the other side of the road, the mass blooming of pink balsams was much more profuse and also covers some patches of purple/violet balsams and tiny white flowers. Here we spent more time as the varieties of flowers were much more than the opposite side of the road. We were lucky to have the company of a Botanist who was accompanying a group of elderly persons who seemed to be well versed with wildflowers. One of them carried a magnifying glass to located very tiny flowers which generally sprouted at the base of the Balsams plants. The Botanist helped us in locating Karvy flowers blooming on a bunch of plants in the midst of Balsams plants which, according to the Botanist, would start blooming in a couple of days. According to him, these wildflowers wither away in  3-4 days by which time mass blooming of flowers on other  plants would start thus keeping the Kas plateau full of wildflowers during the peak season, generally between mid-September and mid-October. He said that depending upon the extent of post-monsoon showers, the flowering season can extend up to Diwali. 

Cynitis (Abhali) In Kas plateau.

Murdannia (Abolima) in Kas.

Karvy flowers. This one is one of the three varieties of Karvy which blooms every year.

Wildflowers - Paracaryopsis on Kas Plateau

Mass blooming of pink balsams in Kas. In the background is 30 kms proposed  road to Mahabaleshwar.

As we walked in the direction of Kas Lake, there were more patches of mass blooming of pink Balsams with scattered yellow, purple and white flowers. We found yellow flowers mostly on the road sides. By now, we had spent nearly two hours on the Kas plateau and my rough estimate was that we had barely covered 10 percent of the plateau. For botany students and avid lovers of wildflowers, I guess, even a full day may not be sufficient. Moreover, as the Botanist told me, almost every week, one gets to see different varieties of wildflowers.  Hence visits to Kas plateau at different point of time during the peak flowering season may still be a worthwhile proposition for those interested in wildflowersAs we were about to end our exploration on the Kas plateau, my excitement was slowly turning into a despair and worry. I read on September 16 issue of Lokmat, a Marathi newpapers which carried prominently a news item that the meeting of investors called by Maharashtra Economic Development Corporation on September 17th to develop the Kas Plateau and Kas Lake a tourist spot  followed by investors’ visit to these places was postponed. The newspaper carried the report that 17 Environmentalist Groups from Satara, Pune, Kolhapur, Mumbai and Karad had campaigned for keeping the ecologically sensitive Kas Plateau and Kas Lake out of bound for construction activities such as hotels and resorts.. The Groups’ motto was Adi Kas nantar vikas (First Kas than development). I don’t know how far these groups can carry out the agitation  preserving  virgin status of Kas in the name of  tourism. Some areas within Kas Plateau belong to private holders outside the core area.  Our driver was telling us that all the prime locations on the periphery of Kas Plateau and Kas Lake had already been bought by the influential investors at a throw away prices about 5-6 years back when the State Government announced the development of New Mahabaleshwar to ease the tourist traffic on Mahabaleshwar. Fortunately, no construction activities have so far started on these plots except the markings of the plots.

It was also worrisome for all  nature lovers to see the use of this heavenly place by the week-end picnickers from the nearby towns with the attendant problem of  accumulation of garbage of plastic bottles and bags left by them apart from  damages to the wildflowers plants. I had already seen one big group of picnickers sitting around the wildflowers having lunch.  One can imagine what would happen if the place becomes well known and more and more picnickers flock the place.

Appears to be  creatures belonging to flea family found in Kas plateau.

Kas Lake.

A cillage temple in midst of dense forest near Koyna Lake.

Koyna Lake at Bamnoli village.

The rise in Koyna lake water has covered some trees on its shore.

A 3 kms drive from Kas plateau took us to Kas Lake. The lake was located between two hill slopes with dam constructed on the third side and a elevated grassland on the opposite side to act as a natural barrier. The lake supplies drinking water to a part of Satara city. It was disgusting to see beer bottles and glass splinters scattered all over the shores of the lake. Our driver told us that it was  common to see some visitors getting injuries on their feet while standing in the lake water as these glass splinters have found place even inside the lake.

Next in our destination was Bamnoli village, about 10 kms from Kas Lake. The drive was a gradual descend with 2-3 tricky bends. We reached here around 1.30 p.m. After a quick snack of Missal-Pao in one of 3-4 dabhas located around the jetty, we proceeded towards jetty, about 100m from the dabha to look for a boat ride. There were two young men waiting for more than one hour to get more persons to share the cost of boat ride. As we just wanted to have a look at the Koyna Lake, we took the least expensive boat ride to Triveni Sangam, other boat rides being Tapola (45 minutes), Datta Mandir (45 minutes) and Vasota Fort (90 minutes). The cost was Rs.380/- per boat which had a capacity of 6 persons. Since we were 4 persons and the prospect of getting two more person for the boat ride appeared remote, four of us decided to share the cost and let the boat ride start. A 20 minute boat ride to Triveni Sangam was a nice experience in full to capacity lake with green hills, dense forest and grasslands all around. Triveni Sangam is the place within the Koyna Lake where Koyna, Solashi and Kandati rivers meet. The Sangam was not visible as the high lake water made the small island marking the Sangam submerged in the lake. Just opposite of the Triveni Sangam spot was the dense forest forming a part of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary which is earmarked  for project tiger. A 20 minutes return boat ride brought us to Bamnoli village. My watch showed  2.30 p.m. and it was time for the return journey to Satara. 

The grassland at the shore of Koyna Lake is the favorite spot for film shootings. 

Bamnoli village temple seen from baot ride in Koyna Lake.

Multi-colour wildflowers on Kas road.

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Wildflower-Rhamphicarpa on Kas-Satara Road.

After a continued accent to Kas Plateau, we once again spent some time here to click some more wildflower pictures.   On the way, we took a tea break at a restaurant run by Prakruti Ayurvedic Health Resort, about 8 kms from Satara. Earlier our driver had suggested that we take lunch here on our return from Kas  for which lunch order had to be placed in advance. We, however, drop the idea as we were not sure as to how much time would take to complete the boat ride in Koyna Lake. In the event, our judgement was good as we could reach here only around 4.00 p.m. But looking at the menu and also the quality of tea and onion pokodas we had, it seems we  have missed a good Maharashtrian lunch including Pithala Bhakhari . We returned to our hotel room at 5.30 p.m. after a short visit to Yevateshwar temple on the way. I noticed on arrival at the hotel that I had a mild sun burn on my face and hands despite being a pleasant weather and wearing a cap. After an early dinner of Gujarati Thali at our hotel’s restaurant, we retired for the day.

A beautiful grassland for buffaloes on the side of Kas-Satara Road 

Ajinkyatara Fort. A part of Satara city is located at its base.

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Sajjangad Fort seen from Satara-Thoseghar road.

Day-2 : Sajjangad Fort-Thoseghar Waterfalls-Chalkewadi Plateau

We proceeded to Sajjangad Fort (16 kms from our hotel). The ghat section of the road started from Gajwadi village and after about 3 kms of climb, an ‘U’ turn from Thoseghar road took us to the parking lot located at the base of the Fort. There are few dabhas located here. About an easy climb of 100 odd steps took us to the top of the Fort through three doorways.  On the way, there were some wildflowers,  many of which we had not seen on the Kas Plateau. Some hardy pilgrims start 750 step climb to Sajjangad from Parali village, 10 kms from Satara.

My first impression of Sajjangad (Fort of good people) was that it was more of village on a table top than a fort. Also it is more of a pilgrimage place than a picnic spot. The Fort is managed by Shri Ramdas Swami Sansthan. Being a place of Samadhi by Samarth Ramdas Swami, the spiritual guru of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, it is a holy place.  The Sansthan provides free lodging and food for the devotees of Samarath Ramdas Swami. I was happy to note that despite being a pilgrimage centre, the place was well-maintained. The Samadhi place has been converted in to a temple. There is an Ashram close to the temple. Beyond the temple was a vast table top grassland for an excellent walk as well as amazing views of Urmodi dam and lake, valley views and also other table top mountains. There is  viewing spot  at the north-west corner of the table top – the only place which reminds us of a fort. At the edges and slopes of the table top grassland are a few varieties of wildflowers.

Valley seen from steps of Sajjangad Fort.
Urmodi dam seen from Sajjangad Fort.

A table top seen from Sajjangad Fort.Maruti temple on the Sajjangad is on left

During my walk on the table top, I met an elderly couple who had come from Badlapur -  a town on the outskirt of Mumbai. They have been visiting  Sajjangad at least once in a year  at different seasons. They told me that the valleys around Sajjangad  are green all through the year. Their philosophy – Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani and Matheran are for youngsters and Sajjangad for elders. I at once agreed with them as this place is much more serene and peaceful than the popular hill stations of Maharashtra. After spending nearly two hours on the table top, we came down to the base of the fort after paying a short visit to Anglai Devi temple. 

Sajjangad table top with Maruti temple at the far end.

Valley view with villages seen from Sajjangad Fort.

Wildflowers in Sajjangad.

Wildflower in Sajjangad.

Wildflower in Sajjangad.

View of a beautiful grassland from Sajjangad Fort.

A 10 kms drive from Sajjangad brought us to Thoseghar car parking lot located near the Forest Rest House. From here, a descend on a mud path of one km to the left of parking lot through the forest led us to a Viewing Gallery for waterfalls. There are side paths on way to Viewing Gallery with opportunity to see some wildflowers. There were two prominent waterfalls – the height of the waterfall on the left was higher than the main waterfall but the latter was more wider and forceful  making a thundering noise before it falls in the pond at its base. From the right of the Viewing Gallery, there is a  narrow mud path to view the main waterfall from another angle. I tried to reach that viewing point  but had to give up half way as it was too narrow and dangerously slippery. I saw some youngsters coming back from this path fully drenched. Since it was not raining, I guess, these youngsters must have gone down to the pond to for a swim.

The Main Thoseghar waterfalls seen from Viewing Gallery.

Another Thoseghar waterfall longer than the main one.

This Wildflower is found plenty around Thoseghar.

From Thoseghar, it was 5 kms of drive to Chalkewadi village from where about one km of of climb on a road full of potholes ended on a vast plateau with many wind mills. From here, one can see hundred of wind mills installed on adjoining plateaus. These wind mills collectively produce around 7.5 mw of  electricity. There are also some patches wildflowers on the Chalkewadi plateau but not as profuse as in Kas plateau. We returned to our hotel in Satara by 2.30 p.m after a short visit to Kuraneshwar temple enroute. And that was the end of our short and exhilarating trip to Satara. Next day, we returned to Mumbai by Koyna Express.

Chalkewadi Wind Mills.
Wildflowers in Chalkewadi plateau.

Wildflowers in Chalkewadi plateau.

A valley view with Sajjangad in the background from Satara road.

For more pictures click on the link below: 
Picturs of Kas, Sajjangad, Thoseghar


Rajiv said...

Great pics. Valparai is another "must see in this lifetime" place.

Avtar said...


I was searching for details related to Kass plateau and your blog provided me an excellent guide.

Thanks you....


Avtar Singh

Sampathy said...

Hey there,

I'm very really impressed. The picture quality is far superior and Nice write up! Thanks for the great write up – very important you did this as a lot of people wanted to know and read about Kass plateau,.

All the Best and Take Care/ I will follow you up soon!


Sampathy said...

Dear KS Sir,

Great article with awesome pictures!

I find a delightful assortment of nature and landscape images, including waterfalls, fall colour, wildflowers, mountains, seascapes, plus loads more... .

I enjoyed the beauty of nature and all the pleasure and serenity that the great outdoors brings without leaving my home.

"KS Sir, Many thanks for your huge effort."

These're hundreds of beautiful and inspiring nature and landscape scenes. Thanks for sharing,

Awesome images! I love them all!

Warm Regards,

Sawan's Photography said...

Lovely article and beautiful pictures.

How long is the flowering season here? Will it be there till October end?

Sadanand Kamath said...

Thanks all for your appreciation.
@ Sawan, the peak flowering season is generally between mid-September to mid-Oct. Our driver was telling me that sometime, the season extend up to Diwali if there is post-monsoon showers almost on a daily basis.

earth said...

A wonderful blog which helps a person plan a trip in a detailed manner. The clicks are excellent. Sharing the blog on facebook with my friends. Thanks.

Yuvraj Bhosale said...

Really a helpful blog sir & great pictures too.
I am visiting this place next week for two days & the details you shared shall surely help.
I was just wondering whether I should take the lodging at Sajjangadh (if it is safe & clean)Instead of driving back to Satara city.
Thank you :)

Sadanand Kamath said...

Sajjangadh is a safe place to stay. I have no idea about the cleanliness of the staying options but Sajjangadh as such is a clean, serene and beautiful place to stay away from the hustle bustle of Satara.

piyush said...

very informative blog sir. You've mentioned(on home page of your blog) that you are visiting Kaas again this year on sep 17th weekend. Do you think that flowers will be in full bloom? OR are you checking with any local source over there to get the feedback on actual blooming situation ? its been raining heavily at preent over there. So plz let me know what you think ? As I am planning to visit on s same weekend.

Sadanand Kamath said...

@piyush, I will be visiting Kaas etc. duirng 22-24 September (avoiding week-end). I have just taken a chance hoping that flowers would be in full bloom as was our last year's visit during the same period. Even if the flowers are not in full bloom during our visit, I will have no regret as places around Satara look great during the monsoon.

Jp Resort said...

Hotels in India have their best offering in some of the best 5 star hotels in India. Metros like Delhi. Mumbai , Calcutta & Chennai have been main focus of India hospitality. And nowadays. tier 2 cities also boast of star rated hotels which is a great matter of achievement.

Pravin said...

very good description of your tour. I could feel that i was with you.
Pravin Shah

KS said...

SK, you put in all efforts and I get all credit! :) LOL ...(re: Sampathy comment see above). -KS