The route is pretty simple: head out of Mumbai via Thane toll naka, take NH-3 (Mumbai-Nasik highway), turn right towards Kalyan at Chokhi Dhani, cross Kalyan, Ulhasnagar, Shahad on NH 222 and head all the way to Malshej. That's what Google maps said and we religiously followed the route. NH-3 was a breeze, though the traffic snarl-up on the other side gave us an idea of what we would encounter on the way back. Crossed Chokhi Dhani in a flash and then the traffic nightmare started. A broken down dumpster on the other side reduced the already narrow NH222 to a single-lane road. 'This is only for a short stretch, the road will open up in no time' we convinced ourselves. Surely, it did, only to lead to an even more congested stretch across the bi-lane Kalyan rail overbridge. We compounded the delay by taking a wrong turn that landed us smack in the heart of congested Kalyan town, along Agra Road. Realising the mistake quickly, we asked around for Malshej and were directed to a narrow lane and told to 'strictly' take a turn at Vallabh Tower. The six storey Vallabh 'Tower' led to the highway NH 222 towards Malshej. We had spent over an hour and half and barely covered 45 kms - another 100 to go. The flyover before Shahad was more of a cross country track, making me want to drive a 4x4. Such thoughts were immediately dismissed as we hit yet another jam in front of Century Colony at Shahad. We decided to turn back if we hit another bad traffic spot. Thankfully, the road opened up thereafter and we were finally on the way to Malshej. Only worrying footnote: 2 hours down and only 51 kms crossed.
The road after Shahad is pretty good, save for the occasional pothole. Rolled down the windows to the thin drizzle and the cool breeze - we could only imagine how Malshej would be.
|Road below: silver ribbon through green tapestry|
|The ghat road|
|Can you count the number of waterfalls?|
In fact there are waterfalls gushing by the roadside - so close that we could reach out and touch them! The ghat road was full of waterfalls which were in turn full of picknickers frolicking in the water!
|One of the many falls by the roadside...|
|Picknicers at a waterfall|
|Driving through the waterfall: it's |
actually water on the windscreen!
|Waterfall on the road!|
|Valley bathed in golden glow|
After a drive that melted away the stress of driving potholed roads, we reached the Flamingoes Resort, run by MTDC. As we drove, we had decided to look for a place to stay, so that we could enjoy the place more, but one look at the crowds milling at the Resort and we knew we'd have to return the same day. Nevertheless, we decided to try. The grumpy gentleman at the booking desk informed us curtly, 'kamra nai'. It was past 2.30 and we were starving - headed to the restaurant at the resort for lunch.
For a moment, we thought we were underneath a water fall again - make no mistake, the restaurant is a covered one! Buckets of water seeping through the concrete roof were the culprit! The restaurant was crowded with noisy tourists and the lone waiter was struggling to keep pace. We managed to catch his eye and ordered a simple fare of dal, rice and aloo: food that we consider 'safe' in most places. When our order arrived, we realised this was going to be an exception: the aloo was stale, dal not properly done and rice doused in cooking soda. Inspite of being ravenous, we only managed to finish half a portion. This has to count as the worst restaurant of all our travels.
|Driving through the clouds: approach to the MTDC resort!|
Glad we didn't have to stay back at a place like this, we decided to explore the place: figured we had about an hour. The resort sits atop a small plateau, at the edge of a cliff looking into the valley. The place is mesmerising. Tall cliffs rise to touch the clouds all around and as we watched a thick cloud engulfed the whole place, including us, reducing visibility to barely a few metres! We were literally 'walking in the clouds!' Not to waste the opportunity M and I let loose our cameras - there were several photo-worthy landscapes begging to be shot!
|If there is heaven, this will qualify!|
|Views of the valley|
|Bypass from Murbad|
|Views of the setting sun|
Here are some photos of this captivating place...
|Clouds take over|
|Shrouded in clouds|
|Walking into the clouds...|