Recently the famous west Indian mountain chain, the western ghats, made it to the coveted list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
For that reason alone, we should all celebrate! You wonder why?
Well, the western ghats are known to be one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world.
The mountain chain runs, in a narrow strip from north to south, through the Indian states Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
There are countless plant and animal species living there, at least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats and it is likely that many undiscovered species live there!
I had previously mentioned here, that the environment in Goa and in general in India has been damaged by illegal mining activities, the commercialization of the beach belt, the privatization of hills and general negligence by politicians and miscreants.
It’s a sad fact and anger comes up when I think of what has been irreparably damaged!
For sure India is still trying to get rid of the bad image, but in my opinion the corruption alone is the cause for the slow development and the reason why some people have to live below their dignity…
-> Get the free Masala Herb Newsletter
On the other side, India is harboring one of the last paradises on earth!
Often, family and friends back in Europe ask wholes into my stomach, so to learn more about this incredible India.
I realized long ago that most of the people had a wrong idea of this exotic and colorful country.
It might be over populated, it might be the craziest place in the world to learn driving and it might have one of the most interesting food culture in the world, but that’s not all!
If you ever get the chance to visit those versatile lands, then you might be able to see the little wonders in each corner of the subcontinent.
Until that, you will have to be satisfied with the recent impressions from our road trip from Mapusa (Goa) to Amboli and further to Tilari (Maharastra) and back to Mapusa, passing waterfalls, lakes, mysterious foggy lands and mountains.
View Driving directions to Mapusa, Goa, India in a larger map
We left early morning from Mapusa towards Sawantwadi in Maharastra, and took the road up towards Amboli.
The ghats at this point are around 1200 m high, so normally you have a fantastic view down to the vally.
We went in the middle of the rainy season and while the vallie down stayed mostly dry, we up there experienced buckets and buckets of rain and a loooooots of fog, or rather clouds.
Now, that might not sound that attractive to you but I can tell you its an experience on its own.
We were 8 people and all of us had a blast!
Of course in the season you will have the best view ever but the lands around will be dry and appear lifeless.
The best part of the monsoon is the exceptional green everywhere, truly a natural wonder!
“Little man” giving us company
Amboli was our first stop.
It is a village high up, known for the numerous amazing natural waterfalls.
The jungles are thick and obviously full of life.
The first thing we discovered were those little “men” sitting on the wall, trying to figure out, how they could possibly get some food from those passing cars with their windows open.
Yeah, the monkey tribes are ruling the hills and first they appear very threatening but we quickly realized that they were accustomed to humans around (plus they were not trained to steal!).
The different waterfalls are hotspots for domestic tourists, and so you will find little stalls around, selling some of the best Pakoras I have ever had.
You guys know, that I usually avoid street food stalls in the cities, because the chance of catching food poisoning is high.
However, those little stalls up there are pretty save and their snacks are very yummy!!!
I tested at least 3 different places and each time I was surprised by the comforting flavors.
Of course, we had a few chai session! Everyone should have experienced the feeling of sitting under cover, next to an amazing waterfall and friendly monkeys with a hot chai in one hand and a vadda pao in the other, its pure bliss my friends!
The simple things are, what defines life.
Main Amboli Waterfall
Fresh delicious Vadda Pao
Roasted sweetcorn is a Monsoon tradition here!
Some more friends I made that day
We moved from one point to an other and reached from one waterfall, several others and in between we even moved towards popular pick-nick points.
As mentioned earlier, usually you get to see a awesome landscape picture at this point, but as you can see, we had the feeling of moving in the movie “the mysts”.
Sometimes those clouds would clear for a second and sometimes they were just like cotton candy.
One of the points here shown, is known as the suicide point.
Many desperate souls had taken the drastic decision of jumping off the very same cliffs.
When you are standing at the border, you would never be able to guess that it goes 1200 m straight down, that there is a huge whole there.
If we would have seen it, then maybe we would have felt a bit more unsure standing there.
That was our view from the car. Pretty foggy, hm?
The suicide point…
Further, we stopped near a famous temple in the region, but it was raining too much so we decided to go on.
In between we came across a much visited higher mountain plateau.
Unfortunately, we all forgot the name, since it wasn’t planned and we hadn’t known about the place.
Somehow the winds over there are very powerful and there is a small waterfall leading into another white emptiness.
My point is, when somebody would throw a small tree branch from top down into the waterfall, the branch would fly up, at least 10 m high over our head and it would land 10 m behind us.
Around those plains we discovered unusual landscape views and fauna as well.
Weird plants that can only be found in those heights.
We continued our drive and took the so called “Sawantwadi road” towards Belgaum (Karnataka).
We stayed in the same altitude, yet the surrounding changed.
We crossed green rice paddy fields, tiny villages and met humble locals with their cattles.
The fog was gone!
It is an other world, the absolute opposite of Goa and the West.
Sometimes we were driving ages without meeting a soul along the road.
We realized too, that some villages were mostly dominated by Muslim communities.
Most of the villagers were past 50 years of age.
We concluded that the young people must have left their homes for education and work in the cities and Goa.
Most of the people didn’t even own a proper rain coat.
What they were wearing as protection could be described as a large long sheet of some colored plastic material.
Red mud and green fields.
It’s always raining there in the monsoon!
We continued our journey towards Belgaum, however at a point we took a turn down towards Tilari, as you can see on the Google map.
Although, don’t trust the map a 100%, because we have the feeling that some roads are missing and that the map is a bit uncompleted around there.
Non of us knows, what this Area on the highest point is called, somehow those road description boards were a bit unclear, and the clouds had come back to greet us at once again.
We took a old road down into the Valley.
Apparently this road isn’t supposed to be used, but we saw some bus using it too and an other car.
It seems that insurances don’t cover accidents on this road, since the government had build a new road from Belgaum to Sawantwadi.
The view is exceptional as you can see at this point and you can spot a view waterfalls from far.
You will notice huge old trees and a thick jungle around.
Kind of reminded me of “The Jungle Book”. ^.^ For a very long time you will not meet one person around, and there will be no village either to stop by.
You will pass a border, since you will be passing for a short time to the neighboring state, Karnataka.
Soon you will notice something like a damn on the left side.
Thick Jungle as far as one can see
This is the Tilari project, build a couple of years ago by the Maharashtra and Goa government in a joint venture.
Villages in those vallies were relocated, forests were cut, so to turn it all into a massive water reservoir.
What I understood is, that there used to be the Tilari river passing from Maharashtra to Goa at this point, however, this enormous reservoir is supplying nowadays all the goverment water to Goa and Maharashtra.
The project cost the government a staggering 1500 crore INR (that’s about 216 million US Dollars).
The Reservoir is supplying 100 million litters of water daily to the two Indian states, whereas 90 million litters are for North Goa alone.
Guards are keeping a watchful eye on the visitors where the water level starts.
In fact we were not allowed to go down to the water or to follow that road across the “dam”.
Tilari Water reservoir project
We were surprised of the size of this project and the way they build it.
Tilari project map description.
The yellow part next to the sea is North Goa.
We continued our drive back towards Goa home.
We all realized the massive difference of communities.
The landscape, the people, the houses are all very different right after we passed the Goan border.
It’s an amazing contrast and you have the feeling you just came back from a trip in Indians history, as if we wandered around the 19th century and now we were back in the 21!
It was truly an amazing trip and I am looking forward to venture again into those mysterious lands some time in the future.
I am convinced that this is one of the most beautiful and still untouched natural places in the world, far away from the commercial world and hype.
As a foreigner traveling the first time to India, I suggest to hire a Mahindra Bolero car with a good driver (only this car, if you care for your body limbs), take some friends with you and follow this route.
I would not suggest to drive the road by yourself.
Firstly, because a first time India traveler doesn’t understand the driving rules (the horning means something folks!) and secondly because you can easily get lost.
Those boards are not written in the western alphabet and the locals know only Marathi as a language.
Best thing is to leave early morning from Goa, so that you can enjoy a nice picnic somewhere up in Amboli for lunch and then you will come back in time for sunset in Goa.
The whole route is around 250 km long, that seems like peanuts, but remember those are Indian roads!
A couple of useful, informative links here:
- Western Ghats Wikipedia
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Western Ghats
- Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)
- The Western Ghats beta
- Tilari Dam Project Wikipedia