Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chankapur Dam, Maharashtra.

The only information we had about Chankapur Dam in Nashik District of Maharashtra is that it does exist. And yet we reached there pretty much without getting lost. All thanks to smartphones and GPS apps. Chankapur Dam is about 40-odd kms from Saputara.

The idea was to reach Chankapur Dam a little after noon and then probably take a bath in the water and head back Surat. And we pretty much stuck to the plan except the bathing part. Upon arriving at the landing point closest to the water (as far as the GPS shows), we found the water to be too muddy for a bath. So shed our plans of taking a bath and instead relax a bit before heading back. Thankfully, there was a tiny shack built to take refuge from the beaming Sun. Even though there was no name scribbled on this gift-wrapped gift, I’m ready to believe it was sent from God. After all, here we were in the harshest of summers sitting on the banks of river Girna, nestled between a hill on one side and an idyllic village on the other and staring at a 41m high dam in the distance.

The Sun was so harsh that none of dared to put even a finger out of the shade while resting in the shack. We spent about an hour resting and having conversations on topics ranging from food, travel, cricket et al. As the conversation steered towards their college days, my own mind wandered into the horizon. And how I managed a cat nap I don’t know, but it was one of the best I’ve ever had. And then it was time to head back to Saputara, where we had a unusually heavy lunch before starting on the return leg of our bike ride to Surat. On the whole it was one of the best rides I’ve ever had. And definitely the longest in a day. We had covered close to 450 kms in a day.

Getting-there: From Saputara cross the border and enter Maharashtra. After some 5 kms on the highway there’s a left deviation to Chankapur road.

Must-Do: It’s best to carry a GPS app with you, or simply rely of directions from people.
Must-Don’t: Avoid coming in the summer.

My Rating: 5/10

Saputara, Dang, Gujarat

The ride from Gira Falls to Saputara is in my book the best and most exhilarating bike ride I’ve ever undertaken till date. Saputara means, Home of the Serpents. Although I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the statement in current times, the only thing serpentile enough here were the roads. The ride through Vansda National Park with their winding ghat roads is an experience that has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. The road in this section is absolutely spot-on, which makes it a ride to remember. Saputara is Gujarat’s only hill station. However, standing at 900 odd-meters, Saputara hardly qualifies to be called a “Hill Station”. It is also aggressively promoted as a monsoon destination of Gujarat. The lush green forests of the Sahayadri ranges of Gujarat attract thousands of tourists not only from Gujarat but also from Maharashtra. Although it’s the monsoons that see people come here in the thousands, the dry and de-leafed autumn of Saputara is equally magical.

By the time we reached Saputara, the Sun was completely out and just about getting warmed up for a rough day in the office. As for us, we tucked into some lip smacking Aloo/Gobi Parathas and Poha. With a filled stomach and a content heart, we were ready to take on the menacing March Sun of Gujarat. We rode to the table-top of Saputara to admire the views. And the views that greeted us there were absolutely mind numbing. The entire panorama was so dry and yet so beautiful. We parked our bikes at one of the view points and decided to hike a hill, which probably was the highest peak in Saputara. Though it was a short hike, it dawned on us that we almost used-up all our drinking water reserve in the process. Yet we spent a little time at the peak soaking the sights.

There are a few adventure sports available here for the benefit of the adventure-minded tourists including parasailing and zorping. Although zorping is on my bucket-list of things to do, I gave it a pass. The zorping here was laid upon what looked like a cricket pitch - only slightly longer than 22 yards. And in no way exciting. We would have spent a little more time here, but there was one more place to cover before we headed back to Surat. And for that we had to cross-over to Maharashtra.

Getting-there: Surat->Navsari->Chikli->Vansda National Park->Saputara.

Must-Do: Get a bird’s eye view of the Saputara landscape. Carry adequate water if you are going there in the summer.
Must-Don’t: Littering and misadventure.

My Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gira Falls, Saputara, Gujarat

Weekend was only two days away and I had still not made up my mind as to where to go exploring. Thankfully my predicament was solved when I overheard my colleagues sketching a plan to go biking to Saputara. Now, I had a bike and I had a future plan of going to Saputara too. So I jumped in. Saputara is about 160 kms from Surat, meaning, the earlier we started the better. Getting up at 4:15 in the AM is always a challenge. But when it comes to travelling they are only minor inconveniences. The other two bikes and their respective riders and pillion-riders assembled at our rendezvous point by 5AM. Without further ado we hit the road a.k.a SH168. The first break we took was after crossing Navsari and taking a left deviation towards Chikli. Riding a bike in Gujrat at 5AM on a March morning is no walk in the park. The biting cold of a chilly morning makes your fingers (and any exposed part of your body) go numb. My fingers were so stone-numb that I lost the sense of touch in them. Not wanting fall behind on the planned schedule, we were back on our saddles. Next stop was Gira Falls.

It would be fair to say there was no water in the “falls”. Nevertheless there was standing water in the levee built near the falls. This standing water provides a great mirror image of the rich green cover and the vast sky. On a good monsoon, the 30 m high Gira Falls is a sight to behold, they say. But there’s also a different kind of charm associated with a dried-up waterfalls. The rock formations taken shape from years of battering by the gushing waters is truly fascinating. The surprise package however was a sparkling Sunrise. It was quite magical to see the Sun rise from behind the woods. It was one of those very rare occasions during my travels when I could actually witness the Sun rise.

We would have spent a little more time there had it not been for the wish of getting a steaming cup of tea to get rid of the numbness. Pretty soon we were back on the highway and sipping a hot cup of tea and trying to regain the sensitivity of our hands.

Getting-there: Surat->Navsari->Chikli->Waghai->Giramal Village.

Must-Do: Visit during the monsoon to witness the glory of the falls.
Must-Don’t: Littering and misadventure.

My Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Dandi Beach, Navsari, Gujrat

It all began on March 12th, 1930 from Ahmedabad and culminated in a small town of Navsari district in Gujrat. Since then Dandi Beach has occupied a prominent place in history for her struggle for Independence. The famous Dandi March a.k.a Salt Satyagragha was the brainchild of none other than Mahatma Gandhi. Though the idea of a protest on Salt Tax was deemed laughable by many in that era, Gandhi went ahead with his marathon walk to Dandi and history books.

Conveniently located 50 kms from Surat, it’s a must-visit getaway for all Surtis. Dandi falls under Navsari District and is about 13 kms from the Navsari Railway Station. The ride from Surat to Dandi is pretty much comfortable except for certain bad patches in Sachin (Yes, there’s a place called Sachin in Gujrat) where flyovers are being constructed. Once you reach Navsari National Highway 228 takes you all the way to Dandi Beach, where the Highway meets the Sea. Having reached the beach early in the morning, it was pretty much deserted. This bode well with me as I generally love the peace and quiet of Mother Nature in general and beaches in particular. Just as Dumas Beach, the sand here is black and the water muddy. The sand here is so firm and so set that it could pass off to be a drive-in beach - had the Gujrat Tourism thought of promoting that. For the time being the beach is being optimally used by children to play cricket which is probably better than the cars taking over the place.

With the pleasant February Sun shining through and a cool breeze tickling my hair I decided to walk the beach. As I walked farther from the main crowding area in the beach, my eyes were arrested by the sight of pearly-white Sea shells washed ashore. What started as a solitary shell grew in numbers to at least two dozen. My collection also included some stones which were as thin as a one Rupee coin and of different sizes and shapes. As morning turned to noon, my mind started complaining about the Sun and the stomach started complaining about hunger. That was my cue to head back to Surat after what was a thoroughly relaxing morning with the Sea.

Whether you are with your family on a picnic or alone for some peace, solitude and relaxation, Dandi is the place for it. And don’t forget to get your cricket gear or football or Frisbee or whatever else is your poison.

Getting-there: Surat->Sachin->Navsari->Dandi. Approximately 50 kms from Surat.

Must-Do: Get your favourite sports gear and play by the beach. Early morning and late evening are the best times to visit, obviously.
Must-Don’t: Littering.

My Rating: 6/10