Travel

Hitch-hiking to Bhandardara

Pallavi Ayyagari
Written by Pallavi Ayyagari

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The beautiful Arthur lake

Nature is not just beautiful but melodious as well. I have been a vivid camper and no matter how cliched the concept may sound, I absolutely love the idea of sleeping under the stars gazing at constellations, spotting shooting stars, listening to soft music while sitting across the bonfire watching the sun set and just listening to the sound of nature. There’s a joy you get when you sit calm and listen to the sound of gushing waves, the rhythmic monotone of chirping crickets and the rustling of leaves on a chilly full moon night. It may sound eerie to some, but it’s meditation for me! Bhandardara, a small village in the Western Ghats of India is no different.

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View from the campsite

While hitch-hiking and the idea of relaxing might not be an ideal combination, being a Gemini, I do things that are extreme and in this case poles apart. Blame the sun sign! I always try to travel with new people every time I go tripping because there’s just so much you get to learn from them. This trip was no different. A bunch of us just decided to head out of the city over the weekend for camping. All we took was a couple of sleeping bags and a tent. Here’s where you can rent them from – http://www.rentongo.com/ or http://www.shadytents.in/
This write up is going to be an itinerary for any one of you who wishes to hitch-hike to Bhandardara from Mumbai for camping. So here you go:
1. Take the local train from CST to Kasara. We took the one that starts from CST at 9:41 am. The frequency of trains to Kasara is not the best & it takes about 2.5 hours to reach Kasara, so plan accordingly.
2. Once you reach Kasara, there are a few options to get to Bhandardara:
  • If you’re with a group, you can book a private car for around Rs. 800-1000 and directly reach Bhandardara in 1.5 hours.
  • Alternatively, you can take a shared tuktuk or van to Bhandardara. It costs Rs. 100 per seat.

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It’s worse than what it looks 😛

  • We were up for some adventure and didn’t want to reach the camp sight sooner than 4 pm to avoid the scorching heat. Also, we wanted to travel by an open jeep, which you get only from Ghoti. So we shared a ride in a van to Ghoti for Rs. 60 per seat. Mind you, it is extremely uncomfortable ‘coz they squish in 12 people in one van. But it’s worth the experience. From Ghoti, we took the open jeep to a place called Shendi for Rs. 100 per seat and from Shendi we got a lift in a jeep to our camp site at Rs. 5 per seat.
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Ride in the open jeep from Ghoti
3. Once you reach the destination, you’ll have to walk for around 20 minutes to reach the banks of the lake where you can set up your tent. The view here is breathtaking and the climate, pleasant.
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The tent we set up
4. The locals here have set up a small camp sight with a few tents for travelers and also pantry and toilet tents. So yes, there are arrangements made for you to pee, if that’s what bothers you about camping.
Once you reach the campsite, you can take boat rides, take a dip in the lake but only close to the shore (swimming in the lake is prohibited), drink, eat, play frisbee or do anything that screams unwinding for you.
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Banks of Arthur lake
Here’s what we did:
We set up our own tent, where we dumped our bags and personal stuff, post which we head straight to the lake. There are large rocks on the banks where you can rest your derriere and enjoy the view. We sat there for hours taking a million selfies with the beautiful backdrop until it was almost time for sunset. We took a relaxing boat ride just before sunset. The boat ride will cost you Rs. 50 per head for half an hour.
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You can never get enough pictures at a place as beautiful as this
After the sun set, we got back to the camp site. The best part about camping here is that while it isn’t too commercialized, the locals help you with food, bottled water, wood for your bonfire and also any assistance you may need at the campsite. You will find enough wood to keep your bonfire going all night at Rs. 200/-
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Lighting the bonfire
We ordered piping hot masala chai and some delicious kaanda bhajji to go with it. We spent the rest of the night star-gazing, making maggi on the bonfire, sitting by the lake listening to music and sleeping in the open under the star studded sky (….. with dogs and a lot of interesting insects and harmless reptiles :D).
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Humari bonfire vali maggi
Next morning, we woke up frozen inside our sleeping bags. It get’s extremely cold here at night so make sure you carry warm clothes. We were absolutely un-prepared for this weather and literally woke up in the form of ice blocks. After a good morning hike in the vicinity and some chai and kaande pohe, we finally redeemed ourselves and started our journey back to Mumbai. Here’s how we got back.
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Sunrise
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Kaande Pohe
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Early morning selfie
It’s a 20 min walk from the campsite to the main road, where you can either wait for a ride or get an ST bus, which comes every 2 hours. We missed the bus and so we took a tempo for Rs.10 per seat back to Shendi, then a shared van back to Ghoti for Rs. 60 per seat and another shared ride from Ghoti to Kasara for Rs. 60 per seat. When you stop at Ghoti, don’t miss having a chilled glass of sugarcane juice at the local shops to help you deal with the summer heat. From Kasara, you can take the local train back to Mumbai. Again, the frequency here is quite poor especially if you’re traveling back on a Sunday. So aim to get the first train in the morning to reach Mumbai by early evening.
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The fun tempo ride
You can send me a personal message if you need any more details or contact numbers of the locals at Bhandardhara. I’ll be happy to help you have a mind-blowing experience.
Care for other details? Read below:
Bhandardara is situated  in Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra, India at a distance of 185 km from Mumbai. The campsite is located on the shores of Arthur lake, one of the largest lakes in the country with a mesmerizing view of Ratangad. As legend has it, Shri Agastya Rishi meditated here for a year, surviving only on water and air. Pleased with his display of devotion, God came down to Earth and blessed Shri Agastya Rishi with a stream of the Ganges river, now known as the Pravara River.
Best time to go camping: Nov – May
If you’re interested in sight-seeing and have your own vehicle or have one booked through the locals, you can also visit the Agastya Muni Ashram, trek to Ratangad, see the Ghatgar dam, Konkan Kada sunset point, Bhandardhara dam and garden, Amriteshwar temple and Randha falls. If you ask me, you just can’t get enough of the beauty in and around Arthur lake while camping. So, if you wish to cover all the other places, you must re-visit.
P.S – If you don’t wish to camp here, there is a lovely MTDC resort you can stay in and go around Bhandardhara in your private vehicle. There are a couple of home stays that you can opt for too. Check tripadvisor.com to find out.
Also, there are a number of other ways to travel to Bhandar dhara. This blog talks about my personal itinerary which I’m sure you’ll enjoy. 🙂
Happy Tripping!

About the author

Pallavi Ayyagari

Pallavi Ayyagari

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