Activities such as trekking, as mentioned above, waterfall rappelling, road trip were given a thought. But, the best part was an activity zeroed upon, which was always on top of my bucket list, was to raft. White water rafting; the name does give out its usual fearful questions and the most accompanying questions of ‘What ifs?’ followed mostly the unaware one such as ‘Is it possible in Maharashtra?’
Kolad, a small fishing township located on the beautiful, scenic Konkan strip of Maharashtra. It falls on the Mumbai Goa National Highway No. 17. Located at a distance of approximately 150 kms from Mumbai gives it a feel of a not so strenuous road trip as well as providing for some exhilarating white water rafting experience. The plan didn’t take long to be finalized upon as none of our group had rafted earlier.
We contacted ‘Sai Farms’, a beautiful scenic resort off Kolad for a day package keeping in mind the weather and a place to recuperate before heading back to the city. August 31st was the day when our group started the trip by car at around 3.30 AM from Malad. Enroute, a couple of my friends and myself alighted at Chembur and headed towards the national highway. The odd hour is one that is very much necessary mainly for two reasons; the distance to be covered and a sumptuous breakfast awaiting us at the resort and secondly the rapids at Kolad are not of a natural source, but by manual intervention. Rapids here are generated when the dam to the ‘Kundalika’ river is opened up dedicatedly each morning at 9.00 AM. This excess water flow generates rapids of Grade 3 along the 20kms river stretch.
Initial plan was to travel by train or ST bus, but after substantial coordination with the resort owners and online forums, I came to realize that a hired vehicle would fall cheaper than actually travelling by public transport. This is because the stretch from the railway station or ST bus stand to the resort, stretch from the resort to the rafting start point which is around 20 kms, to head back to the rafting start point after the rafting experience to gather our luggage and to head back to the resort would each result in rickshaw travel with a fare of approximately Rs. 400-500/- each way. This would mean Rs. 1600-2000/- just being expended for travelling within the location. Hired car gives us the comfort of having our own vehicle to commute as well as not running against time which is a major factor coming back to Mumbai after a day’s travel.
‘Innova’ car was what was chosen for the travel and an excellent car with 6 of my friends this time and the driver. All our enthusiasm was cut short when we got stuck in traffic at ‘Penn’ village for more than an hour between 6.00 AM to 7.15 AM. Thoughts of actually not reaching the rafting site on time were fast becoming a reality with the traffic mainly due to the chaos of people exiting Mumbai for the two day mini holiday. Two public holidays back-to-back ‘Ramzan Id’ and ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ was enough reason for the mass exodus of people. Rafting, as instructed to us, would sharply begin at 9.00 AM due to the dam opening time and missing the deadline would mean missing the activity altogether. Vague rumours were floating all around with cops posted on the roads informing us that the traffic extended all the way to ‘Ratnagiri’. Traffic eased down completely once we passed ‘Wadkal Naka’ which was around 8.30 AM. Bucking up speed, we reached the venue latest by 10.30 AM. Since, it was a public holiday, we were informed that the dam would be opened up in two phases; one at 7.30 AM and the other at 11.00 AM. I would count us to be lucky to catch the 2nd cut-off timing for the day on time.
A quick 20 minute safety gear and rafting rules alongwith our rafting instructor; Mr. Amar got us all excited as we finally boarded the raft and out onto the calm stream before the storm. Quick team shout and last minute reminders and we were off. Initially, everything seemed calm and some of us were getting a bit fidgety. This was because of the considerable heat that was bearing down upon us. A while later, everything was mayhem; right at the centre of rapids and one of my friends and myself being at the head of the raft were going at it. Huffs, puffs, instructor shouting out instructions, you would grapple to just sit relaxed and enjoy the view. We knew what to expect and we were right in the epicentre. A sudden rain storm took over and made the rafting that much more exciting. Mr. Amar quickly acknowledged that we were the most vocal group that day, with constant innovative team chants; primarily to keep us calm and dedicated and secondly to intimidate the other rafts of our presence.
Unique way of remembering the rapids that we covered were that all were named. Names such as ‘Fisherman’s Clove’, ‘Morning Headache’ and ‘Johnny Walker’ were assigned based on their difficulty. It was not much of a surprise that ‘Johnny Walker’ was the toughest of them all. ‘Morning Headache’ also preceded the rapid ‘Johnny Walker’. Keeping the raft in control was a big difficulty with quick continuous rafting. Credit of control of the raft should be truly given to our instructor Mr. Amar, who has been employed at Kolad only for the last 4 months, prior to which he used to raft on the rapids at Manali and Rishikesh which are of Grades 5 and 5+. Rafting, as he put it, requires a sense of calm and determination, losing any one results in the whole purpose of rafting being lost. As a neutral, I would never recommend white water rafting as an adventure sport, but for only those who look for that extra tinge of adventure and excitement. The final leg of 2-3 kms of the stretch, our group decided to swim with the strong current as a measure of relaxation and dwelling on what we experienced.
Reaching the place is quite easy though. You have to reach Panvel and hit the Mumbai- Goa national highway. You have to pass ‘Karnala Bird Sanctuary’. A left turn at ‘Wadkal Naka’ puts you on a straight route towards Goa. Various factories would be passed en route such as the ‘Johnson and Johnson’, ‘Jindal Plants’, and ‘Reliance’ over a distance of 30 kms. Ghats section of approximately 2 kms would be encountered after which the village ‘Khamb’ would be passed. ‘Kolad’ is the village to reach. Post ‘Kolad’, at a distance of around 1.5- 2 kms, a green signboard on the left hand side which reads ‘Pune-117 kms’ and ‘Vilhe- 21 kms’ would be sighted. At this juncture, you would need to take a left and head towards ‘Vilhe’ village which is at a distance of 21 kms. Immediately, on taking the left from the highway, would you pass a railway crossing. Moving forward, at the end of 21 kms at the village centre, a right needs to be taken and ‘Hotel Deep Sahyadri’ would be spotted on the right hand side which is next to the office of ‘White Water Rafting’. The direction to reach the resort would be tracing back to ‘Khamb’ village. Post ‘Khamb’ village’, at a distance of 1.5 kms, a left needs to be taken and red signboards of ‘Namrata Garden’ would be noticed. 8 of these signboards would need to be passed. The signboards are pretty illustrative in this region and keeping a watch out for the smallest of signboards is mandatory. 5 kms of travel and a signboard which reads ‘Dr. farms or Sai farms- 1 km right turn’ needs to be taken.
Overall, the experience was exhilarating and high adrenaline pumping one. Keeping in view that a person is closest to nature at these resorts; cell network coverage is very poor to not having any network at all. Other activities such as ‘Kayaking’ are also carried out on the river. My next target would be conquering the rapids up north in India. An exciting day finally comes to an end when we reach back to the city at 11.00 PM.
Total Cost per head:
Rafting: Rs. 1200.00 (Cost could vary- seasonal)
Day room package with food: Rs. 500.00 (Cost could vary- seasonal)
Hired car: Rs. 12.00 per kilometer (Cost could vary)
It would approximately come to Rs. 2200.00 to Rs. 2400.00 per head.