Mindblowing Off-beat Route to Shivthar Ghal (Photologue)
Let me clarify, I did not actually reach Shivthar ghal. My main purpose was to explore the small roads surrounding the Bhatghar and Nira-Deoghar Dams and visit Shivthar ghal as a bonus. But the road was a lot longer than expected, which made me extremely happy but lack of phone service and some commitments later that evening made me turn back prematurely. But it was an awesome ride, extremely picturesque and really peaceful (read completely lonely and devoid of traffic; the anti-social part of my brain was buzzing!) Shivthar ghal proper shall be dealt with some other time.
A fairly early start from Pune lead me to Pabe ghat, a wonderful little ghat joining Panshet road (Khanapur) and Velhe road (Sh-65) (this is a great road to visit Rajgad, Torna and Madhe Ghat). The crisp morning air was cool and foggy.
From there I turned towards Rajgad fort and had breakfast at the base which is a good idea as you will not find anything to eat till Bhor. Ask for Bhutonde village near Rajgad and just keep following the road. The road is called Sangamner-Bramhanghar-Bhandravali road. (According to Google maps at least)
The road surface here on is a combination of good tarmac and rough roads. But never appalling or jarring. But it is superbly picturesque with lots of twists and turns and mini ghats. Suddenly you come up on incredible views of the bright blue Bhatghar dam backwater with lush green fields and tiny villages perched on the shores. The fields are bursting with beautiful yellow, purple and pink flowers.
Especially in the monsoon, there are parts where you forget you are in India. Then you hit a pothole and are shaken back to reality, but it’s all in a days’s work for the Himalayan which handles the rough stuff with aplomb. This road is so remote that the locals literally chill out on the roads. There were shepherds and kids actually sleeping in the middle of the road! (Not kidding; don’t have photographic proof for the sceptics though)
After treating you to the beautiful backwaters, the road goes through hills and then comes right along the backwater again with the water almost spilling over the road. It’s beautiful. After one more round of the same, you are alongside the main dam wall.
Continue on and take right onto the Bhor-Kapurhol road. At the T-junction just before Bhor, you take another right to join the Bhor-Pasure-Varandha-Mahad road (again, according to Google maps). There is an HP petrol pump on the right at the corner of the junction. This road runs parallel to Varandha ghat and rejoins the Varandha ghat a bit before the main descent starts. It runs along Bhatghar dam on the other side of where we rode earlier. I had discovered it an year ago on a random aimless ride but had turned back halfway at the time.
The initial part is a typical country road going through couple of villages and along the backwater for a bit. Then the traffic dwindles leaving you with lush fields, rivers and amazing views for company. The phone service vanishes for good and does not return till you reach Bhor again! The road starts to climb into the mountains and slowly you ride through thick forests as it gets dark, foggy and cloudy.
The pretty yellow, purple and pink flowers make a comeback and line the roads and fields as far as your eyes can see. The villages here are tiny and remote. The road becomes more and more like a trail – gravelly, rough and then slightly muddy. Tarmac does poke it’s head once in a while. There are many waterfalls high on the mountainsides and in the forests. I couldn’t get a picture though.
Polishing my macro skills! Knowledgeable folk may name the flowers!
At one place the road becomes really confusing though. You come up on a slight rise and one road goes extreme left upwards and other carries straight on towards Sangvi. Take the extreme left road. There are no signboards here and no people to help. Keeping the area downloaded on google maps helps as GPS works and it helped me take the correct road. Of course you can take the detour if you’re in a mood for exploring. All the off-shoots just go to some village and the road just ends. You can always turn back and join the main road again!
After almost 2 hours you join the main Varandha ghat road again. I had some – fried right in front of my eyes – fresh vada pav and kadak chai! Then I started my return journey finally deciding to ditch Shivthar ghal. Varandha ghat is another gem. Narrow but mostly well paved asphalt with incredible views of the Nira-Deoghar dam as you ride along it’s backwaters. Being the tail-end of the monsoons, the dam was full with turquoise blue water sparkling in the sun, surrounded by bright green hills sprinkled with dark green forests. The road twists and turns through the mountains finally ending in Bhor. Bhor to Pune is straight forward via Bhor-Kapurhol road and then the NH-4.
This was a mind blowing ride with lots of different road surfaces, ghats, beautiful dam backwaters and stunning hills. The road is quite long though so it’s better to leave early in the morning as I would not advise travelling on this road in the dark. I travel alone because I like it but it is really lonely with no help, no food, no puncture repair shops or anything for kilometres on end. So best to travel in a group or carry all essentials. The road is easily doable in any car as well.
So what did you think of my trip and this amazing route? Have you explored such off-beat routes? Let me know in the comments below and remember – Keep Wandering, Keep Driving and Keep Eating!! Cheers.