Taking advantage of an extended week-end in August, we decided to make our annual monsoon trip, this time to Saputara, a hill station on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat state. Personally, I don’t like to visit such places during week-ends as they get crowded to the hilt and in the milieu, peace and tranquillity are lost. But taking in to account the convenience of younger members of our family, the trip had to be organised during one of the week- ends.
|Dangs district map. Saputara is at the southern most tip.|
Saputara (986m) is located in the southern most part of Dangs district of Gujarat bordering Nashik district of Maharashtra. The shortest route from Mumbai is via Thane-Nashik-Dindori ( 265 kms). The other route from Mumbai is via Godbundar-Vapi-Dharampur (328kms). Earlier tourists from Mumbai used to prefer Godbundar route to avoid a long traffic jam in around Kasara Ghat on way to Nashik. On the other hand, Mumbai-Ahmedabad road (NH-8) was a four lane road up to Vapi (may have been extended now) facilitating faster journey. The Thane-Nashik road (NH-3) has now been upgraded to four lanes including the Kasara Ghat and thus this route is now shortest both in terms of distance and the travel time.
We commenced our road journey from our house at 8.30 a.m. After taking about an hour each of the halts at my daughter’s place in Thane and my borther-in-law’s house in Nashik (for lunch), we reached Saputara at around 5.00 p.m. But for these halts, we would have covered the distance to Saputara in about 6 hours. We faced heavy rains sporadically up to Igatpuri and occasional rains thereafter till we reached Saputara. Despite heavy monsoon rains, the road conditions were good except a few small patches where we had to negotiate potholes. The landscape changed dramatically once we crossed Gujarat Border check post. The entire Saputara was covered with clouds and mists. We checked in Gujarat Tourism’s Hotel Toran (Rs.1200/- per day with vegetarian breakfast and lunch or dinner included) which we had booked about 3 months in advance. Both the room and bathroom were clean and spacious. Hot water was restricted between 6.00 and 10.00 a.m.
Our main purpose of annual monsoon trip is to relax and visiting tourist spots is secondary. During our two days stay, we visited Saputara Lake and Museum which is located on either side of Nashik-Surat road which cuts across the main market area. Hence this places was densely crowded with week-end tourists and cars. We noted that other than about 100m radius of market place, rest of the Saputara was comparatively free of crowd even during the extended week-end.
Next day, the continuous heavy rains with gusty winds which started some time early morning, restricted our outside movements. Nonetheless, after breakfast we made an attempt to visit Governor’s Hill Table Top – 2 kms from our hotel. On the way, we enquired about the operation of the ropeway connecting Sunrise Point and Sunset Point which, to the disappointment of the younger lots of our family, was suspended due to heavy rains and gusty winds. We reached the Table Top but the heavy rains and gusty winds forced us to retreat after waiting for about 30 minutes in our cars. After visiting Nageshwar Maharaj temple located just behind the Saputara Lake and lunch at Chitrakoot Resorts ( good Gujarati Thali) we returned to our hotel rooms. In the evening, when rain had subsided, we visited Boat House side of the Saputara Lake. Seeing a big queue for boating, we discarded the idea of boating and instead proceeded towards Saputara Monsoon Festival Shamiana where Laser Show followed by a Tribal Dance programme was to take place at 7.00 p.m. Both these programmes were conducted beautifully. After dinner at our hotel’s restaurant, (Gujarati Thali, not as tasty as that of Chitrakoot Resorts), we retired to our damp beds.
The next day, we checked out from Hotel Toran at 9.00 a.m. and started our return journey to Mumbai. The weather was cloudy but rains had stopped. So we decided to take our last chance to see the valley view from Governor’s Hill Table Top. Again, the clouds and mist cover over the valley prevented us to see anything except that we could see the entire expanse of Table Top with more bhutta (Corn) vendors, a couple of tea stalls and horses/camels for rides. Just we were reaching the top of Governor’s Hill, the cloud lifted from the valley briefly during which time we were pleasantly surprised to witness an almost 360 degree beautiful valley view from the top of Governor’s Hill.
We started from Governor’s Hill at 10.30 a.m. and after taking an hour’s lunch break at a Food Court in a Mall in Nashik, we reached Mumbai at 6.00 p.m.
My impression about Saputara and suggestions
This was my first visit to Saputara and that too in monsoon. One of the problems in visiting hill stations, especially in the western ghats during monsoon is that there is dampness in hotel rooms due to high humidity. Even bed sheets and blankets get dampness and I for one surely feel uncomfortable to sleep in these conditions. A better option would be to visit such places during the fag end of the monsoon i.e., second half of September when one may get to see both the sun and rains. It is better to avoid visiting Saputara during week-end not only for avoiding crowd but also for the fact that during this period, hotel tariff is about 30 per cent higher than that of week days. In fact, it may not be necessary to book hotel rooms for week days’ visit. In my view, Saputara Tribal Museum, Governor’s Hill Table Top and Saputara Lake are not be missed.
Once in Saputara, there are lot more things to see in the adjoining areas than simply visiting the points. Since 90 percent of the population of Dangs district consists of tribal population, it will be interesting to observe their customs, traditions, costumes, jewelleries and paintings by visiting the surrounding villages. There are trekking possibilities, nature walks and forest camping in and around Saputara. In my view, one can easily spend a week in Dangs district to explore it fully making Saputara and Waghai as the bases though the latter is not as good as Saputara in terms of infrastructure.
If I were to make a revisit to Saputara in future, I will take Mumbai-Nashik-Saputara route and spend 3 days in Saputara to explore nearby places by walk. Thereafter I will move to Waghai (50kms) further on Saputara-Surat road and spend two or three days in Waghai. After visiting Gira Falls and Botanical Garden which, I heard, houses many varieties of trees( including, bamboo trees) and cactus, I will move to explore the nearby tribal villages and Vansda National Park. I will return to Mumbai via Vapi-Godbundar to make a circular trip.
I had visited Matheran a couple of times during monsoon. So a comparison between Saputara and Matheran is in order. Matheran is tucked away from the main road and vehicles are not allowed inside. Saputara is located bang on the busy Nashik- Surat State Highway and there are roads to take the vehicles up to the points of tourist interest which are barely 2-3 kms from central place. The forest cover over Matheran is more denser than that of Saputara. In fact in terms of flora and fauna, Matheran, in my view, scores over Saputara. There are more staying and food options in Matheran than in Saputara. Having said, Saputara has not yet become as touristy as Matheran. Despite extended week-end time, I was pleasantly surprised to observe that there were no noisy and drunk revellers in Saputara during our two days of stay, unlike in Matheran ( also in Bhandardara and Malshej Ghat in Maharashtra) during week-ends. The main reason could be that Saputara may not be a preferred destination for boozers as prohibition is in force in entire Gujarat. There are warnings prominently displayed in hotels that liquor consumption and card playing are strictly prohibited. There were a few restaurants with bars just outside the Gujarat border.
During our two days of stay, photo opportunities were limited due to heavy rains and fog like situations. Nonetheless, I took some pictures defying rains and clouds though results were not the best. Pictures are uploaded below.
|Ojhar dam backwater seen on way to Saputara.|
|Maharashtra-Gujarat Border Check Post. Saputara is just one km from the check post.|
|Road to Echo Point/Sunrise Point engulfed in cloud as we reached Saputara in the evening.|
|Valley view from our hotel room which was momentary as soon the entire valley was filled with rain clouds.|
|Our family group on way to Saputara Lake through a short cut path.|
|Saputara Lake in the evening.|
|Nashik-Surat Road cust across the main part of Saputara. From here, all major points of tourist interest are within 2-3 kms of distance.|
The decoration at the main centre of Saputara Monsoon Festival - July 30 to August 30, 2011.
|One of many pictures of Gujarat Tourism on display during Saputara Monsoon Festival.|
|The early morning view from our hotel room.|
|Another early morning view from our hotel room.|
|A lone Bhutta vendor dares heavy rains with gusty wind at the Governor's Hill Table Top.|
|Two children dares heavy rains and gusty wind for a horse ride at the Governor's Hill Table Top.|
|The inside view of Saputara Tribal Museum.|
|One of many Varli paintings on display at Saputara Tribal Museum.|
|One of many tribal ornaments on display at Saputara Tribal Museum.|
|Tribal Ornaments on display at Saputara Tribal Musuem.|
|Tribal masks used for dance drama on display at Saputara Tribal Museum.|
|Nageshwar Mahadev temple covered in rain cloud. The temple is located just behind the Saputara Lake.|
|View from Nageshwar Maharaj temple.|
|Valley view from Nageshwar Maharaj temple.|
|Viewing galleries of Saputara Lake during rain.|
|Boating in Saputara Lake - a late evening view. Both pedal and roving boats are available.|
|Entrance to Laser Show and Tribal Dances. These take place only on Saturdays/Sundays during Monsoon Festival.|
|A glimpse of Laser Show.|
|A glimpse of Tribal Dance. Unfortunately the focus light on the stage went off and the show continued with a limited back-up power.|
|The effect of gutsy wind on the trees at Governor's Hill.|
|View from Governor's Hill|
|On way to Governor's Hill View Point|
|Governor's Hill View Point.|
|In our third attempts in two days, we could have a glimpse of the Valley View from Governor's Hill, that too a patch of valley for a few seconds. This one is the zoomed shot.|
|In our two days' stay, the operations of rope way was suspended due to heavy rains and gusty winds.|
|There was all round greenery through out our road journey. This was on Nashik-Igatpuri stretch.|