Valley of Flowers and one would easily relate it to Uttaranchal’s Valley of Flowers. Famous as one would know, it has formed its own niche value amongst the seasoned trekkers for India’s very own natural botanical display. Maharashtra had a secret which until six years ago wasn’t discovered, whereby a group of scientists and doctors passing through this region in Satara stumbled upon this plateau/ valley comprising of various types of plants of which numerous were endangered ones.
Upon discovery and prospective lab testing, they realized these plants did have medicinal capabilities. Located on a plateau on top of a cliff, half an hour drive from ‘Satara’ city, the flowers on this plateau blooms only during the months of July-October. Spread over an area of 5 sq. kms, this phenomenon is a botanical display of colour and life. A trip to ‘Kaas’ was impending from my side for last couple of years and this year proved lucky when a road trip to Kaas was planned between my friends and myself for 15th-16th September, 2012.
Though, the road trip planned was for the weekend in entirety, we couldn’t leave Mumbai until 6.00 PM as one of my friends was busy in his company get together. Krishna and Vignesh both of whom reside in Chembur met me and accordingly we left towards Satara. Located at a distance of 360kms from Mumbai, it wasn’t a difficult route considering we cover the entire Mumbai-Pune expressway and continue forward towards Satara for a further 130kms. Night driving was always going to be tricky, but Krishna held his nerve through the ghats with a little accelerated, but controlled driving. We reached Satara city at 11.30PM and immediately checked into ‘Maharaja Residency’ hotel which is located at the city centre. The road trip was a welcome change especially one which was after more than 3 years for the three of us together. With minimal stops for refreshments, it was a peaceful drive with moderate rainfall in between. The hotel that we stayed for the night wasn’t that great, but was the best the city could offer.
|It's very misty!!|
Having a 4 hour nap wasn’t the best way to feel rejuvenated, but again, the need to reach Kaas as early as possible was our topmost priority. One reason was to escape the crowds that would start streaming in as the day wore on and secondly for the pleasant weather. Checking out of the hotel at 7.30AM, we proceeded for a pleasant drive up the mountains towards the plateau. Completely scenic, it was difficult to keep our eyes on the road. Just before the plateau, there is Rs.10.00 entry fee charged by the forest officials of Satara.
This has been started primarily because Kaas got the world heritage status by UNESCO this year in 2012. Actually, 39 spots on the western ghats got the world heritage status out of which Kaas plateau was one of them. With more publicity year on year, the number of tourists isn’t going to dwindle. The UNESCO world heritage status is an added feather in the cap. The number of tourists to Kaas has increased more over the last couple of years. Initially, people used to drive up their cars right onto the flower beds in a bid to take that one ‘classic’ picture or 2 cent video for their family. What they did was just destroy the delicate flower beds in the process for their satisfaction. The need to preserve a sensitive place should come from within oneself. And with this global heritage recognition, the influx of tourists is not going to reduce, but just explode. But, things now have changed with barricades along the full driveway protecting the flowers not only from vehicles, but also from human influx. You are allowed access to certain areas with precaution, but the decision to barricade is a really good one.
Completely misty amongst the clouds, it was really difficult to maneuver the car, but found a nice parking spot close to one section of Kaas lake not frequented by tourists. The weather was pleasant till the moment we stepped out of the car. A sudden whiff of cold breeze and slight drizzle welcomed us. The spot was an amazing one being at ground zero of the lake. It was quite windy and cloudy, seemed straight out of a scene picturing one in the midst of the Bermuda Triangle.
A visit to a secluded waterfall and it was time to head back to the plateau for a clearer view of the flowers. This time, we weren’t disappointed. A sudden clearance of the clouds and the valley displayed its true colour and vibrancy.
|Krishna in form|
The moment was astounding and spectacular. A wide array of flowers draped in purple. With patches of yellow, violet, white, red and blue flowers gradually starting to bloom in certain parts, it was a sight to just cherish. These flowers will bloom within the next couple of weeks and would take over the colour of the valley in entirety. Villagers were posted all over during the daytime to handle the traffic of vehicles as well as to take care to guard the flower beds. One such villager whom we bumped into, took us on a personalized tour explaining the various types of flowers; the most famous one being “Sita’s Tears”. This has no significance to the mythological tale of “Ramayan”. The best time to visit is normally July to October with the receding rains. The remaining 8 months of the year, the plateau is barren with the initial part of the monsoon season turning it into a lush green field.
Amongst such talk, we came to hear that the villagers living at Kaas village always knew about these flowers, but never knew of their significance and the place grew in popularity during the last couple of years only. Villagers from Kaas village were employed by the Satara forest department to keep guard all day amidst such windy and rainy weather. A gruesome job, but a job nevertheless. Another very surprising fact is that the population of Kaas village is a mere 25-30 people! One should not miss out on the opportunity to view the 'Koyna Dam'; a human marvel from the top of plateau.
|Koyna Dam on extreme right|
Finishing our walk across the plateau and bidding goodbye to the villager, we made our way back to Satara city at 12.45PM. Quite hungry, we bid adieu to the valley with a heavy heart. Next up was hunting down a restaurant “Manali Hotel” listed down by Nat Geo Traveller. We were thrown off track with poor directional skills by the villagers and we landed at a restaurant named “Radhika Palace”, a decent one serving authentic lip smacking Gujarati Thali. The food was very delicious and we were contemplating our luck on how we landed at that restaurant in the first place. My recommendation would be to not to miss out having food at this place. Leaving Satara city at 2.45 PM, we reached Mumbai city in record time at 7.30PM. Having your personal car is an ultimate boon for the time constraint and the distance to be covered. Going by public transport isn’t recommended, though possible.
An amazing venue for a weekend getaway and one to savour. A must do for every traveler. A visit to this place should be right on top of one’s bucket list. Given an opportunity, I would definitely go back for another weekend to witness the array of colours. The costing was primarily hotel stay cost, fuel for car and toll cost for the highway. Food and refreshment cost is separate and would approximately be Rs. 400.00 per head. Hotel cost was Rs. 1000/- per head, toll cost was Rs. 100-150/- per head approximately, fuel cost for car being Rs. 500/- per head. Leave no traces and savour what the nature has to provide.
|Jude and Sherlynn colourful|
|Clive stunned by the natural beauty!|