There was a time in school when we divided India’s geography into the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats. I owe it to MKCL for enlightening me with the actual abundance of ghats in the country – all green, wet and err, wild. This quarter it was time for the epic Amba Ghat.
We started at 6 in the morning in our favourite vehicle – a 17 seater Tempo Traveller. Four travelers had it butter smooth in an Indica which trailed and led as pleased. The rest of us sat stuffed up in the tourist bus’ poorer brother which shook the ones sitting at the back from tip to toe. It took Munni to wake people up from motion induced slumber. With Manish taking the lead, the world danced as she apparently got badnaam over and over again.
We stopped enroute at this freaking-ly windy and awe-inspiring place… I could have sat for hours staring at the silent valleys: the silence jarred only with the clicks of the umpteen cameras clicking people in I-can-say-cheese poses. The relative strength of teeth went in for a check too as sugarcanes were uprooted and eaten.
Manali Resort (which isn’t by the way in Manali but in – you guessed it right – Amba Ghat) lay sparkling fresh and ghostly quiet as we arrived past mid day. The eight of us girls had a cottage to ourselves. With a canopy roof and a tumbling fan with a toilet straight out of the Old Stone Age, we had every bit of the I-am-in-an-adventure-trip-yeay! kind of feeling. The guys had it even more interesting – six of them stuffed up in a room meant for four and lying on the floor per se. There lay a huge swimming pool with the vintage touch of dust and water preserving drive in full force. A few deserted boats lay in ram shackled state, awaiting the clip clop of horses as in the resort business card. Dragon flies flew undisturbed as we fidgeted with bags and other luggage.
Lunch was a true blue Kolhapuri delight. Delicious baingan and inviting emerald-green bhindi made mouths water. But the cherry on the cake was definitely the dahi – cool, soft and virgin white. Post lunch we embarked on holy pilgrimage to Marleshwar (Shiv Temple).
The piles of scrumptious food made somersaults in many stomachs as the bus bumped and jumped through winding lanes. We arrived at Marleshwar looking suitably in need of Lord Shiva’s comforting blessings. Cavernous, dark and redolent the temple – I am clueless as to what element of my prayer stirred Shiva’s funny bone but my cavernous state lingered on long after the others went back to light. Marleshwar teemed with paparazzi as scribbles could be heard – Devotee loses Glasses to Mysterious Waterfall. “How do you feel after losing your glasses Deboshree?” We made a hush-hush exit even as search parties started to come in…
Amba Ghat has fascinating neighbours. We came across plenty on our sightseeing trip the next afternoon. While the wilder of us had opted for a jungle safari (and returned at night with leech bitten legs and scratched soles), the rest of us wandered around at peace in our now cozier Tempo Traveller. There was Pawankhind where you can trek down to the heart of the hill…Vishalgadh where you can hike up to the fort that was… and of course there were those random Lover’s-Echo-Raja Hindustani etc. spots which haunt every hill station. It’s pretty ingenious how all you need is a fence and a monkey catalyst to solemnize the No Man’s Land to Tourist Spot conversion. In a battle of wits that night, the guys shouted and screamed and threw a hundred more tantrums to claim a fake win in antakshari. Kudos go to our little anchor Vaidehi for moderating the mob mentality and announcing the girls’ team as the authentic winners with a neat score of 21.
Our next and last morning in Amba Ghat was spent playing around in Amba’s famous ‘natural’ waterfall. As water traced all the way from a dam like reservoir and trickled onto rocks, we tried to seep in every penny of our 2500 bucks into the sunny showers. Photo sessions and bathing all done, we bid a heavy-hearted goodbye to India’s very own Scotland.
Pune came into view after half a dozen hours’ drive – an akha masoor lunch had failed to lure many of us who opted for more conventional paneer and kaju instead.
I walked to the optician’s. Amba Ghat had receded into the mists again, lying in eager anticipation for the next group of adventure lovers to invade.