The miserable months of summer were spent waiting for the first showers of rain to appear, so that we could get out into the greenery again. And since the first raindrops started falling in the first week of June, discussions began about possible weekend destinations. We have just two criteria – natural beauty and the minimum of creature comforts (clean bathrooms). Thankfully, hitherto unknown locations have started popping up on the tourist map, with newer resorts enticing travelers like us looking for the next new location
Koyna Dam was the destination of this weekend’s journey. A little over 300 km from Mumbai, the dam on Koyna river forms a 65 km long Shivsagar lake which is magnificent in its own right. The lake stretches all the way from the small town of Koynanagar, 50km away from Chiplun, to almost Mahabaleshwar apparently. Our drive till there was really good – the NH17 is in wonderful condition. We were fortunate to get underway by 0615 hrs and it took us 6 hours to reach Koynanagar. It included almost an hour long breakfast at Kamat’s and a couple of butt-breaks
Where to Stay
There are a couple of resorts perched on a hill in the town of Koynanagar, overlooking the dam. Koyna Lake Resort is the eponymous one and we stayed in the other – Gursale Resort. Nothing very fancy, but spacious, neat and clean rooms at Rs 1,500 a night. They have around 10-12 rooms and a small garden with a great view of the dam. Food was simple Maharashtrian thali and you have to inform them in advance for meals – especially if you want non-veg options. I am not a great fan of thalis, but with the rain pitter-pattering outside, piping hot chapatis and home-made sabji/chicken seemed heavenly. Also, we didn’t see any other eating joint in the town unless you count the vada-pav seller near the bus stand ! It’s also recommended to carry your own booze or at least pick it up from Chiplun
What to Do
The fun began even before we reached our destination Koynanagar. Just a couple of km before Chiplun, we spotted the Savatsada falls right on the NH17. Since quite a few vehicles were parked there, we too proceeded to check out the falls – there is a nice concrete staircase leading to it and it is barely a dozen steps up. Before we knew it, we were drenched by the spray of the waterfall being carried far by the strong winds. Of course, Mumbaites are not known to shy away from a little bit of moisture, so we plunged into the base of the waterfall and had our first waterfall fun of the season.
After a satisfying lunch at the resort, we proceeded to Koynanagar’s other big attraction. About 4 km from Koynanagar, near the shores of the backwaters lies Ozarde falls, a much bigger waterfall than Savatsada. It involved a little more effort too, having to walk through a forest trail for about 20 min. The trail is well marked, there are steps made on the steeper sections and its very pleasurable walk – for the most part it runs parallel to the stream on which the Ozarde waterfall lies. The water froths white as it churns over rocks, making for some good photo opportunities.
The trail ends at a small platform midway into the falls. The waterfall is swollen in the monsoons and the spray is impossible to avoid there – imagine a shower in which water comes horizontally. Just a few feet before the platform, there is a way to go down to the base of the waterfall. This is just 20-30 ft, but slightly more difficult. But when you stand near the base of the Ozarde waterfall, you will be too spellbound to think of anything else. The spray here is much much stronger – almost blinding – no way you can look towards the waterfall. So we all sat on the rocks there, with our backs to the waterfall, enjoying the awesome spectacle, letting out an excited “woo-hoo” once in a while.
Done with Ozarde, we stopped to enquire about boating on the Shivsagar lake. Turns out, it costs Rs 400 for half an hour for the smaller boat – which can easily seat 15. Couple of other forest dept charges and license costs brought the total cost to Rs 630. However, the boat had a really loud diesel engine and it drowned out all our plans to enjoy a peaceful cruise on the lake’s waters – even conversation was impossible.
The night passed in good ‘spirits’.
Next day, we decided to visit the Gowalkot fort in Chiplun before we started back for Bombay. However that turned out to be a bad decision, since we had to cross the full length of Chiplun town with its narrow roads. It took us almost 45 min to do that and once we reached Gowalkot, we realized that a village had grown around it and there was no space even to park our vehicle. Frustated with our Chiplun commute and looking at the condition of the Gowalkot village, we skipped it and caught the highway.
The next stop was the Parshuram temple next to Savatsada waterfall. Nothing special here, so you can skip the temple and just stop near the gates of the temple. The NH17 curves in the shape of a “C” and from that point, you can enjoy the excellent view of the Vashishti river.
From there, we had lunch in another Vithal Kamath before stopping at Pale Caves just after Mahad. The caves are similar to other Buddhist caves found in Maharashtra, on a hillside overlooking NH17. It involved a fair bit of climbing and it didn’t seem to have anything special over the other Buddhist caves we have seen.
Koynanagar is relatively easy to reach. Just hit the Goa road (NH17) and at Chiplun, take the left. There is one more alternative route – taking the NH4 through Pune till Karad and then a left turn towards Koynanagar – but this one is 350km vs. 292km on the NH17. We were apprehensive that we might get bad traffic on NH17 or get stuck in a landslide etc, but we were lucky not to. Theoretically, one could go faster on the Expressway to Pune and then the 4-lane NH4 to make up for the extra distance, but the NH17 was a sight to behold.