Varandha Ghat, Shivtharghal and Kavlya Gad

A trip to the Varandha ghat region and a trek to the kavlya fort were on mind since a very long time. The places were in my mind and after studying the route on wikimapia, I finally decided to go to there with 3 more of my friends. The places that we decided were Varandha ghat, Kavlya fort and Shivtharghal.
On 9th July, we managed to leave Pune at 6.15 am as decided. We had our breakfast at Natraj hotel on NH4 and then moved ahead towards Bhor. At a fuel station while filling air, we discovered that the left front tyre was puncture. Initially we didnt believe the 8 year old boy who told us this, but a few kilometers ahead we again got our tyres checked to reconfirm and there we found out that the tyre was actually punctured. While mending it we discovered that it had puntures at 6 places with big nails in each puncture. We simply wondered if these guys put the nails purposely on the roads so that they can make a good business. Else why would 6 nails think of getting in the tyre at the same time??
To go towards Varandha ghat, we need to leave the NH4 and take a right turn at Bhor phata to join the SH70. The road is narrow with both way traffic and speeding here would only mean an accident. We need to follow the directions to Mahad. After Bhor an entire stretch of about 35km has very less traffic and no human trace. So we need to be careful to fill in fuel and check the tyres before starting here. A Bharat Petroleum fuel station at Bhor helps in that matter. We passed through the Neera-Bhatghar dam on the left side and paused here to take a few pics of the lovely place. After a drive of about 1 hour from Bhor we were at Varandha ghat.

 Pic : Few of the waterfalls seen from Varandha ghat

Varandha ghat!!! God’s own favourite place!! You stand and stare at the deep valley visible from here and you keep counting the number the waterfalls that are visible. In peak monsoon, the nature is at its best in this place. The huge mountains stand tall and guard the entire region, warning anyone who tries to intrude, his death. 7 huge waterfalls are visible right in front and numerous many small waterfalls add to the beauty of this ghat. Clouds seem to roam freely in this vast region, sometimes in the valley, sometimes near you and sometimes on the mountains. The mountain that is cut to make vehicular road in the ghat makes the road susceptible to the sliding stones.

After having tea, vada-pav and bhajis here, we walked ahead to climb the Kavlya fort. Kavlya fort is right in the Varandha ghat at the end of the right side valley when you come from Bhor side. A white board and a green board labelling the start of Bhor police station premises is a landmark.
Kavlya fort was easy difficulty wise, however, the knee length grass and the trees that had grown wild, made the walk adventurous. It seemed like not many people visited this place. We paved our way up and on reaching the top found out that the fort is not small on the top. We first proceeded to the right side which majorly gave the bird’s eye view of the valley. Sitting here for sometime in peace, we tried to count the number of waterfalls around but lost the count midway. But the place wasnt too comfortable and hence we decided to get down and explore other places on the fort.

Pic : Varadha Ghat as seen from Kavlya fort

The other end of the fort has a flag hoist and no fort exploration is complete for me unless I hold the flag hoist and shout “Jai Bhavani, jai Shivaji”. But getting the hoist looked difficult with no proper route visible to reach there. All thanks to Rahool, we decided to find the way out and reach there. Though not a big jungle, the top definitely has a jungle and we need to pass through it to reach the other end. Initially it seems like we are getting down the hill, but thats the way which then goes to top.
It started raining heavily even before we could reach there. All 4 of us were now drenched but kept walking till we reached the spot. As we stood near the flag hoist, wind blew up from the valley bringing water drops right on the face in great speed. Clouds had covered the valley and we couldn’t keep our eyes open owing to the speed of the wind. We sang loud and danced to the rhythm right in the rain. When it stopped raining, we sat near the edge for some time and did some meditation, that is we sat silently for 15 minutes. The other side of Varandha ghat was visible from here clearly. No wonder this place was chosen to build the fort…to keep an eye on an entire region.
We started our climb down and were back to the tea stalls in 30 minutes. After having a cup of tea, we started our journey to Shivtharghal. Shivtharghal is a place where Saint Ramdas swami resided and wrote his dasbodh. It has an ashram dedicated to him and lot of devotees come here daily to offer their prayers. The approach road to Shivtharghal is extremely narrow and has a few steep turns. It passes through paddy feilds on both sides and a lot of greenery. After getting down from Varandha ghat, a right turn goes towards Shivtharghal. A bit ahead there is a small right which can be missed if not paid attention to.
River Shivthar flows just 0.5 km before the ashram and we couldnt resist the urge to jump in it. So there we were. We parked our car by the side and went in the river. The flow of water was so much that we couldn’t stand still in it without holding some support. Sitting down and taking support from stones under water, we had the best time. Imagine sitting right in the middle of a river with red, muddy and cold water, being surrouded by huge green mountains covered with white waterfalls and the grey and black clouds in the sky. For a moment you forget who you are, what you are, what you own, your tensions, your sorrows, where you come from and you only have one thought in mind. I am blessed to be here on this day when nature is at its best. And when you come out of the river, you emerge as a cleaner person, both body wise and mind wise.

Pic : River Shivthar

We reached the ashram in 5 minutes from there and were welcome by heavy rain. After having tea and some snacks that we carried along with us at a hotel near the ashram, we went in to check the availability of some place where we could spend our night. Luckily we managed to get place in a big hall in the ashram, thanks to the sleeping bags that we were carrying. We came to know from the authorities that we need to book place in the ashram before coming as it is very crowded over the weekends.
Shivtharghal has a huge waterfall right next to the ashram. But the magnitude of water is so much that going near the waterfall is not possible and is prohibited. There is a cave under the waterfall and it has a small temple for Shri Ram and Swami Ramdas. When you stand on the approach route to the cave, the water droplets make you all wet. But standing there itself is a lovely experience. We also attended the upasana at 6.30 in the evening, which only brought us closer to God.

Pic : Waterfall at Shivtharghal

Night was spent in peace with me getting a deep sleep after a long drive, a short trek and a bath in the river. We were woken up at 5 am again to attend the morning upasana. We did this happily and after the upasana, left this lovely place by 7. Climbing the road was actually a challenge to me since the road was exteremly narrow and it was raining heavily. To add to it, there was a deep valley on the left side. But my Xylo rocked as usual and we were up safely. But the scenery around just left us in awe.
We again took a small break in the Varandha ghat for tea. But there was something that was missing. Any guess?? Yes a bath in the waterfall!! And we were not short of options. Varandha ghat is full of roadside waterfalls and we parked our car at the side and jumped into 1 huge one. And to add some more fun, took a bath with Savlon :-P .
Done, now we were satisfied to the core and ready to come back. I drove extremely cautiously on the narrow road, enjoying and laughing at the weird looks the passing by vehicles gave to me, offcourse, its rare to see a girl driving a xylo :) .
They say, a bad start is an indication of a good end and thats what exactly happened to us. Though our journey had started with 6 punctures in the same tyre, it ended with a lifetime experience. There was nothing that was missed out in the trip. Long drive in a cruising car, trekking a fort, swimming in a river, bathing in a waterfall and sanctity in an ashram.
Really blessed :)
-Trupti Bhosale
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