Tamhini Ghat 2004

Pune-Mumbai is perhaps the most connected part of Maharashtra. I
know at least half a dozen routes from Mumbai till Pune. Here are
some I recall:

1. New Expressway: Mumbai – Panvel – [Toll route Expressway] –
Talegaon – Pune

2. Old Mum-Pune: Mumbai – Panvel – Khopoli [NH-4] – Lonavala –
Kamshet – Talegaon – Dehuroad – Pimpri Chinchwad – Pune

3. Mumbai – Panvel – Khopoli [NH-4] – Lonavala – INS Shivaji –
Mulshi – Paud – Pirangut – Bavdhan – Pune

4. Mumbai – Panvel – Pen [NH-17] – Khopoli – Lonavala – Kamshet –
Talegaon – Pune

5. Mumbai – Panvel – Pen [NH-17] – Kolad – Vile – Tamhini – Mulshi –
Paud – Pirangut – Bavdhan – Pune

6. Mumbai – Panvel – Pen [NH-17] – Mangaon – Bhor Ghat – Pune

7. Mumbai – Panvel – Pen [NH-17] – Mahad – Poladpur – Mahabaleshwar –
Panchgani – Vaai – Shirwal [Satara-Pune: NH-4] – Pune

8. Mumbai – Nashik [NH-3] – Junnar – Rajgurunagar – Akurdi – Pune

These are the ones I have been on. I am sure there are more. In
fact, this subject sometimes seems worth a PhD to me.
Anyway, routes (1) and (2) are most common and need hardly any
explanation. Out of these, bikes are not allowed on (1). I have done
(2) a zillion times, so find it extremely boring, although some
patches on the old road are very nice e.g. Khopoli – Lonavala. It’s
also got some very good dhabas. You can make a whole lot of
permutations between various patches of (1) and (2).

Alok and I had charted (3) last year and the road was still under
construction. Otherwise it is a very scenic route. It adds 60km to
your journey.

The (4)th route is rather dull in that the good part of the journey
is only Pen – Khopoli, which is not much.

The route through Bhor ghat i.e. (6) is considered dangerous during
night time due to thefts. The road, too, is in poor condition.

The last two routes i.e. via Mahabaleshwar or via Nashik are too
long and unless that ltself is the plan, not much of a use.

The one route that is thus left is the lesser know Tamhini Ghat i.e.
(5). Here’s an account of this fine and rather unknown route.

Alok and I leave from Mumbai (Andheri) at 5am in the morning. Both
haven’t slept a wink this night, which is by now a common phenomenon
in such weekend rides. Yet every time it takes toll on us by the
afternoon of the next day.

Anyway, as we reach Panvel – Palaspe by 6am, and take the right turn
for the Mumbai-Goa Highway [NH-17] towards Karnala, we are suddenly
hit by what is felt like a huge invisible wall of cold. It may not
be really that cold, but living under the city lights, we are not
accustomed to any wind or cold at all. With all the shiver and
chatter of the teeth, we realize that there is little merit in
continuing the march in the dark, and so we take shelter at a local
dhaba. A group of localites and truckers have a fire going, and we
join them in the circle. We also try to steady our nerves with some
chai.

In a while, the darkness seems to reduce in degree and we see a
slight muave towards the East. We start once again and move towards
the Karnala ghat. In the ghat, however, we experience the phenomenon
of what is commonly called the ‘Inversion of Temperature’ and so the
Karnala ghat is cozy and warm in most places. We reach the planes on
the other side and the temperature drops once again. However, it is
light by now and thus bearable. In fact, the route is covered with
slight mist which adds to the mystery of the journey, and even dull
places like Pen appear scenic.

And so we reach Pen – Wadkhal and stop at my favorite ‘Amantran’.
The owner mistakes Tamhini Ghat as Bhor Ghat and advises us again
going by that route, because of fear of theft. But we confirm that
these two are different routes and so move on to Nagothane and then
reach Kolad. From Kolad, the route to the right that goes to Roha is
quite famous. We go further. Some 10km after Kolad (this is 120km
roughly from Mumbai), we come to a diversion to the left which
says ‘Vile Phata’ (Diversion for Vile’). The route crosses a railway
line and suddenly takes us into a different world altogether.

From here on, the ride is absolutely stunning. The road begins with
some sporadic signs of civilzation (including the milestone of Pune
showing 115km), which diminish by every turn in the route. Some 16km
inside we reach Vile, take a right from the village and start
climbing up. The road starts to get higher and more curved. To one
side, we see huge rock faces and to the other, deep green valley of
the Kokan. It is like climbing up a wall. We stop at some corners,
take pictures and oogle at the marvels of the mountains. We see a
lot of places where there could be waterfalls during monsoon. We
confirm to each other that this place is a must-visit in the next
monsoon.

We ride at a very dignified speed of 50 to 60 kph, linger around
various spots, take detours in what seems interesting (like one
jungle trail leading to an obscure temple in the woods) and
generally have a good time. Alok stops over as he sees a little
green snake run over by a car, picks up the snake in the last stage
of its life, and decides to do his (her? its? .. only the dead snake
knowns) … last rites and so buries the snake at one side of the
road. And so we move on.

We hardly see anyone on the road. The mountains are steep and
absolutely stunning (I use this phrase again, because this to me is
the best description of how I feel here). We can see one mountain
built on top of the other, with layers of vegetation in between. It
looks just like the landscapes in miniature Rajasthani paintings.
One rock face is carved out due to wind and water such that it looks
like the hood of Vishnu’s Sheshnaag as depicted by Ravi Verma.
Incidentally , we also find a trail that leads you to the head of
this snake’s hood and so do a small dance-sort on the snake’s head,
if you like.

There is no civilization in the Ghat stretch of about 40km … No
villages, no eateries, no petrol pumps … And then, as expected,
Murphy strikes me. My ‘wolf’ goes on the ‘fuel reserve’. Anyway,
Alok has enough fuel in his tank, that I can siphon out if needed,
and so we say ‘what the heck’ … and continue with our journey. The
moutain sides are so steep that in some parts the sunlight has not
yet reached, although it’s around 11am by now. We thus move from one
sunny and warm patch to another cool patch in shade, like moving on
a chessboard. The jungles are endearing in this part of the route.
They give you this irresistible urge of abandoning all and walking
into their trails. A thought crosses my mind. All these hermits,
recluses and sanyasis go to such jungles saying that they are going
away from worldly things. But I wonder if they are going ‘towards’
the worldly things, instead, since these mysterious mountains, these
deep valleys and these amazing green woods ARE the worldly things!
All along, we are being fooled and we search for the world in our
cities, where the world is sitting here happily in a grain of sand.

Anyway, we reach Tamhini, which is a small group of shacks on the
other side of Ghat. We have by now climbed the entire rock face, and
thus are on the platue. The road here on has little incline,
although it is curved as before. This part of the route goes through
a private land owned by Tata Power. There is a hydraulic power plant
at Bhira on the way, but all you see from this route is a couple of
pipe lines and some OH transmission towers. We reach the backwaters
of Mulshi. The lake is serene blue, looked over by a range for
beautiful hills on the other side, and the entire landscape is part
of a mystic fantasy sequence.

We come out of the Tata Power’s gate and reach Mulshi. On the way,
we see some tiny resorts. When we checked some of them out, they
appeared rather expensive. At Mulsi, we fill up water, and move
towards Paud. We go through Paud, cover the small yet excellent ghat
of Pirangut, go through Bhoogaon, climb the Bavdhan ghat, and reach
Chandni Chowk. Surprisingly, my tank holds the barrel till we reach
here, where I fill a little bit of petrol. And so we enter Pune. It
is 12:30pm. It has taken us about 7 hours, 250 kms and unlimited
pleasure to cover Mumbai – Pune once again.

While returning the next day on Sunday afternoon, we have plans to
come back via the old mumbai – pune route [NH-4]. But the Tamhini
Ghat is so absolutely magical that we find it blasphemous not to
revisit it. So like the usual mad ferver that we have, we pack early
and start at 4:30pm in the afternoon so as to be able to cover the
Ghat and forest area in daylight. However, at Paud, Alok discovers
that his front brake has failed. We try to experiment with it and
get it in a slight working condition. We move towards Mulshi, and
the setting is again lost. We stop at a dhaba, and Alok goes
searching for a mechanic. He comes back without any luck. It is
already 6:45pm and getting dark,and we have not even reached the
bottom of the mountains. We decide to go back to Paud (10km) and try
our luck. We find a mechanic, who finds out that the liners are
gone. There is no way we can get new liners in Paud or anywhere
before Pune. The mechanic tries to make the exisitng set work. This
takes about an hour. By this time, it’s dark proper and we are in
two minds. The option of going back to Pune and taking NH-4 just
makes me sick in the stomach. On the other hand, some local
villagers warn us against braving the Tamhini Ghat in the nighttime,
for fear of wildlife.

After much pontification, we decide to take a chance, and again head
towards Mulshi at about 8pm. There is quite a chill in the air and
I put on multiple shirts under my jacket to keep warm. We enter the
Tata Power gate and feel like we are entering a long never-ending
tunnel of darkness. There are no lights, no vehicles going in our
direction, no civilzation. The only thing we can see in the half
moon are the outlines of the Mulshi lake, the sillhouttes of the
hills and the curvartures of the narrow winding road. (This is
madness, I know. Thank you).

The memory of this night ride (with the excitement greatly increased
by riding in the dark without headlights in some patches of the
route) is etched in our minds. Alok tries to maintain speed, while
controling his bullet on the rear brake, which is a huge task. The
curves and the sporadic blasts of wind send shivers down our spines.
We ride close together, slowly and steadily in the dark. We finally
emerge out from SH-60 at 10pm on the Mumbai-Goa road [NH-17] at
Kolad. We are exhausted, cold and hungry. So we pull over at a small
shack-like eatery called hotel ‘Abhiruchi’. A highly recommended
place for sea food (pompfret fried) and chicken. We chill out (or
rather ‘warm up’) at this place for quite some time and finally pick
up the road only a little before 12 midnight.

And so we chart the rest of the journey back to Mumbai on NH-17,
cross Karnala, reach Panvel at around 1:15am and Andheri at a little
over 2am. Back to the city lights and heat and dust.

In all, a highly recommended ride at all seasons. Especially for
monsoon. Great landscape, good for mature riding. The roads are in
excellent condition. Just one caution: The ghat has no civilization.
So carry spares, oil and extra fuel.

Ride Safe,
Shreekant

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