Monsoon drive through the Middle Vaitarna Valley

Trip Start Aug 07, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Vihigaon, Khodala, Middle Vaitarna, Igatpuri

Flag of India  , Mahārāshtra,
Sunday, August 7, 2011

Last Sunday was the perfect day for a monsoon picnic. The temperature was pleasant, the skies overcast, no traffic and National Highway No.3 in surprisingly good condition with dual carriageway all the way. We reached Vihigaon in a record time of just over 1hr 30min.

The Middle Vaitarna Valley between Vihigaon and Khodala used to be our favourite destination for many years until the dam project started and large swathes of the once pristine forest were hacked away. It is still worth a visit as the dam work is going on at snails pace and not too many people come here so it is peaceful, and lush green in the monsoons.


This is the quiet country road to Vihigaon, on the left side of NH3 shortly after Kasara when coming from Mumbai. The road goes to the Khodala phata from where you can go on towards Trimbakeshwar, Jawhar, Silvassa or Surat.











Life size scarecrow in a verdant field



                           


Beautiful monsoon balsams – Impatiens balsamina










The first glimpse of the Vihigaon falls came into view – in three stages


















A better view – Vihigaon waterfalls in all its glory










The Vihigaon falls are not yet in full flow. We have seen them much fuller in previous years. This sweet little boy offered to take us to the base of the falls. He told us that they had not received enough rainfall in this area.








Vihigaon and most of the villages in this region are populated by Adivasi tribals. Predominant are the Warlis, better known for their paintings.

We told our driver to wait for us at the old British bridge further ahead while we walked down the scenic road. This goes from Vihigaon to Khodala, through the Middle Vaitarna valley.






The valley







The road and the valley will be submerged once the Middle Vaitarna Dam is ready a couple of years down the line. Though the project is perhaps a necessary evil, it is such a pity to lose this pristine forest area. The forest will surely regenerate around the catchment area of the dam but it will take many years for that to happen. Ordinary people like us will no longer have access to these sites …….

“Shooting” tiny wildflowers in the grass!







































Lush wild grass was growing abundantly on damp rock patches










And masses of Wild Turmeric – Curcuma sp. peeping through the undergrowth in varying shades of pink. These are the bracts, the flowers are the little yellow things peeping through.
































 





This is Costus speciosus, a type of ginger, not yet in full bloom.
















The dam site came into view.

















This used to be our favourite gorge, seen here in the valley below. Earlier you could not see it at all from the road but now all the trees have been chopped for the dam project.































Closer views.

































In the dry season, we have walked the length of the gorge and seen several interesting potholes in the rock. Soon to be gone forever …….

The road to the Vaitarna Pul, an old stone bridge built in the time of the British Raj, still going strong.
This too will be gone soon. As will this



























































We told our driver to go on ahead as it was so much more enjoyable for us to walk along this beautiful road.























Another pretty waterfall by the roadside and a policeman on his scenic beat!


























Paddy fields. We were surpised to see rice transplantation still going on here, somewhat late in the season.






















Diesel Tree – Jatropha curcas, a biofuel. Wonder if the fruits are edible. We did not try to find out!


















Beautiful places to wander in




























The sound of gushing water brought us to the head of another waterfall. Here it is in all its stages






































A villager tending his herd, greeted us. His cattle did not seem to be on the best of terms.































More lush rural scenery along the road to Khodala

















































Village children at play on a lazy Sunday!



















Carpets of tiny purple wildflowers – Murdannia. The flower season has surely begun.

















Rural Maharashtra is at its most beautiful in the monsoon months.















We originally intended to take the Khodala Suryamal Wada Bhiwandi NH3 route on our return but the road condition had deteriorated considerably after crossing the Vaitarna Pul. Not wishing to spend the next five hours in the car, we decided to go back the way we came.

As we passed the Vihigaon falls, we noticed a group of people trying to rappel their way down the waterfall. Must be fun, I expect.



















That same scarecrow again! He was cute in his own way.
















Date palm forest growing wild in a riverine gully



















The road going back to NH3

















There was hardly any traffic going back and we reached home in record time of just over two hours. We had three near misses with cattle suddenly running across the highway. Though we were going at a good speed, by the grace of God and our drivers skillful negotiation, we somehow avoided an accident.

Suddenly encountering cows on a major highway is a serious menace. Villagers who allow their herds to stray are creating a potential accident situation and ought to be made liable for their wanton act of negligence.

The concept of contributory and culpable negligence in road accidents is taken very lightly in India. If a vehicle hits an animal on the road and there is an accident either directly to the vehicle or in a boomerang effect to other vehicles that may arise out of sudden necessity to swerve, then the driver is always held at fault even though there may not have been much he could do to avoid the incident. The owner of the animals goes scot free. On the contrary, he may demand compensation for damage to his herd. The villager may not have the intention of causing accident, but he certainly has the knowledge that his act of allowing his herd to stray on the highway may very well cause an accident.
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