|Ruins of Gavilgad|
The prettiest that India looks is during the monsoon. Its was during one such season that we decided to head up to Chikhaldara, Maharashtra. Chikhaldara enjoys its distinction in being the only hill station in the Vidharba region. It is next to the Melghat tiger Project and is teeming with flora and fauna. Chikhaldara is yet to be touched by full fledged tourism and retains a lot of ancient charm. We made the mistake of not taking enough money as is the case in the age of debit cards.The only ATM nearby was in the town which was a good drive away down the mountain. This trip was a spontaneous one made in 2011, here’s to hoping that a few banks have made it up the mountain by now.
|A farmer after his afternoon siesta|
|A convoy of cows returning home|
Chikhaldara is around 230 kms from Nagpur and the drive is scenic and pleasant especially in the monsoon with farms and plantations along the route. This hill station has only 4 resorts next to the sleepy village of Chikhaldara. Prior booking is required which is also something we did not have. But some luck and some negotiation got us a ‘queen’ room for the night.
|Dew Drops caught in a spiders web|
The room was strictly mediocre and housed a wild rat who was adamant to fight for his territory. We realized that the original occupant of the room was a rat only when we came back from dinner and found our ‘water cool keg’ (a relic from 90’s India) chewed up. Since we were suddenly out of water and in mortal danger because of a rat. We took our complaint to the ‘resort’ manager who with a very matter of fact face informed us that ‘this is the jungle madam, this place belongs to the animals. This was only a rat, here you will find tigers too’. But he obliged to send us some water to the room. The next morning we were face to face with the errant landlord of the ‘queen’ room. I am told rodents hide when they see humans, this rodent was kind of like Popeye after a dose of spinach. But it got us to vacate the room and enjoy Chikhaldara early in the morning.
|Mists rolling onto a lake|
It was misty outside and we were in our pyjamas. The idea was to see the lake next to the resort before the mist rolls away. But the mist kept beckoning and we kept going further and further in mesmerized by the mountains and the lush green enveloped in mist. Each blade of grass was refreshed and each flower was at its brightest. Breakfast was at a rustic tea shop with wooden benches. The menu was vada pav with a hot cup of tea. Food takes on special flavors from the surroundings and a simple meal of the Maharashtrian staple pitla bakri can tantalize your taste buds up in this mountain kingdom.
|Flowers fresh from their morning rendezvous with dew|
We later piled up in the car and drove to Gavilgad fort which is high up on the mountain. In the rains it is pure magic to watch the clouds roll by, touching everything and quenching every leaf. Gavilgad fort is in ruins but this adds to its charm as it was once a bastion built by the Persians and was considered unassailable. The view from some of the vantage points like Prospect point and Devi point is breathtaking as you peer down a misty valley . Suddenly when the mist rolls away you get glimpses of the winding river, writhing away on its way to meet the sea.
|The unassailable fort|
There is lot of history and mythology that Chikhaldara offers. It is said to have got its name from an episode in the Mahabharata where Bheema killed Kheechka. You can almost hear the thunderous roar of these two stalwarts from mythology as they charge into each other at one of the prominent waterfalls. This jungle hill station has lots to offer in its folds and promises to be a rejuvenating experience for whoever ventures here. Chikhaldara is also a great place to go and loose yourself and your troubles as you go deeper into the mist.
|Deep in to the mist|
A discovery for India Unexplored Lonely Planet. Chikhaldara