Bhimashankar – Ahupe
Bhimashankar is an abode of god and god’s creations. Bhimashankar lies around 125 kms. from Pune and 250 Kms. from Mumbai. On Mumbai-Pune highway after pimpri-chinchwad a road to left goes to Nashik, popularly known as Nasik phata. It will take you to Bhimashankar via Rajguru Nagar – Manchar –Ghodegaon – Bhimashankar. Another alternative road from Mumbai is via – Malshej Ghats. But the most popular route for trekking community is from khandas (karjat) via shidi ghat or ganesh ghat. Bhimashankar is 5 hrs. climb from Khandas.
Bhimashankar is famous pilgrimage destination for one of the 12 Jyotirlings in India. Bhimashankar attracts loads of crowd in month of August which is month of shravan according to Indian calendar. One should avoid visiting bhimashankar in August and during Mahashivrathi. Bhimashankar is flocked with tourist across India during August.
Bhimashankar is declared as wildlife sanctuary. The dense vegetation is home to varieties of birds and animals. Leopards, barking deers, langurs, sambhar deers, wild boars, shekhrus (Giant squirrel is commonly known as Shekhru and abundantly found here.), skews (Squirrels without stripes), civet cats (jungle cat), jackals, hyenas are the common inhabitants of Bhimashankar.
Bhimashankar is heaven to bird watchers. Birds like Grey Hornbill , babbler, Malabar whistling thrush ,flycatchers( paradise , verditer,ultramarine ), yellow browed bulbul , Oriental dwarf kingfisher, Pipit , peacock, Orange headed thrush , Nilgiri wood pigeon ,black naped monarch, Emerald dove. September –October months are marked by moths and butterflies. The temple wall is dressed with the beautiful hairy-winged beauties. The walls of bhimashankar temple exhibit loads and loads of butterflies & moths of different shape, size and colors. The most common among them are hawk moth, Atlas Moth (Asia’s biggest), Golden emperor, hummingbird moth.
Bhimashankar wears a fairy-tale look in monsoons. The spread of greens are enchanting, the mist rolls over the hills high and low, abundant waterfalls plummet sporadically. Paddy fields marked by thick forest make for wonderful sights. The forest is a treasure house for wildlife lovers and photographers.
Kondwal is the nearest village near bhimashankar. Around 5 kms. before Bhimashankar temple a right turn leads to kondwal village. The picturesque way is lined with dense green forest and meandering stream crossing the roads. The stream further expands into a river and falls into a deep gorge at Kondwal village. This is Kondwal waterfall. One has to climb down the hill to witness the full splendor of Kondwal waterfall. Kondwal waterfall is a powerhouse.
Kondwal is secluded village nestled in between hills. Kondwal remains blanketed in mist and fog for most of the year. The paddy fields intermittent with streams and small waterfalls offer exotic sights. This route further extends to Ahupe (around 19 kms. by walk).The forest between Ahupe and bhimashankar is an evergreen forest and called as bhatti-che-raan.
Ahupe ghat can also be clubbed with Bhimashankar trip. Ahupe ghat lies 50 kms. from ghodegaon, bhimashankar. Ahupe Ghat is a pass leading from Khopiwali village in the Konkan, to Ahupe village in the Ghats. Ahupe village is at a height of about 3855 ft. A right turn to Dimbhe dam wall further leads to Ahupe ghat by road. The criss –cross hilly roads are laden with foggy green hills on either side. The dimbhe dam backwaters adorn the landscape with its blue—green water. The landscapes keep flaunting now and then and you remain mesmerized.
At one point we reach a narrow way dropping on either side into deep valley with the serpentine waters of river on either side. Ahupe is a small and very picturesque village. Ahupe village is the dead end. As ahupe village is based on a height, it remains covered in thick fog most of the year. Ahupe is often trekked by avid trekkers. There is a hill near ahupe which is termed by locals as Dhag (cloud) since this hill remains covered by clouds most of the year.
An interesting fact about Ahupe village is 60% of the village population is night blind. It is advisable to carry enough food, water and a spare tyre when travelling to Ahupe by road. The beautiful journey is a little too adventurous, but truly appealing. We were caught in a thick blanket of fog with only 1 metre visibility ahead. We took double the time to reach back to bhimashankar, but were content exploring a beautiful destination.
The origin of Bhima River can be seen just behind the bhimashankar temple. A little ahead of bhimashankar is Gupt bhimashankar. A trek down the thick forest for 25 mins leads to a stream. Gupt Bhimashankar is a stone carved group of 5 shivlings under a waterfall. Gupt bhimashankar offers scenes from Jungle book stories, thick canopy of forest with gurgling streams lined by huge rocks. An ideal place to relax.
Bhimashankar has been explored by us all throughout the year. Every time bhimashankar adorns a new look and offers something new. June – September is best period for trekking, September-October is best for citing butterflies and moths, November – March is best time to see migratory birds and March-May local birds are galore as the water resources in the deep forest dry out and birds move out. For more photos on Bhimashankar birds pls. visit – http://amitranephotography.com/Gallery/Bhimashankar/bhimashankar1.html
Bhimashankar remains a virgin forest in the Western Ghats range. Due to the steep slopes the major forest remains inaccessible to research and otherwise. Trekking routes in Bhimashankar are famous among trekking communities. Shidi Ghat , Ganesh Ghat are the prominent routes. Shidi Ghat is a very steep and difficult route with spine chilling drops and Ganesh ghat is comparatively easier terrain with captivating views. The rich undulating green canopies are truly wild. The landscapes are continuously straddled with shadow and light. Sky touching tress line the path and form a huge umbrella hindering sunlight at places, the land remains damp like an evergreen forest. The forest walk is refreshing. Abundant waterfalls snake here and there and the gurgling knee deep streams keep you company in this beautiful environs. You walk in to a chamber of clouds intermittent with the forest, unaware of the heights you are covering.
Major attractions – Nagphani, Gupt Bhimashankar, Ahupe ghat, kondwal Village & waterfall, Machan trail, Dimbhe Dam Backwaters.
The best place to stay at Bhimashankar is Blue Mormon Resorts. Blue Mormon Resorts is run by Mr. Valse Patil. The resort offers comfortable living in secluded cottages. Blue Mormon Resort is based 10 Kms. before Bhimshankar at palkhewadi. In winter one can enjoy the strawberry farm here and eat mouthful of strawberries, blackberries. Stroll along the huge artificial lake or feel the cool driving breeze from the valley below. Blue Mormon offer mouth watering food. An ideal destination to stay in bhimashankar. Please book in advance for avoiding discomfort. Blue Mormon Resort can be contacted through – http://yogaatbluemormon.com/index.html or www.bluemormon.com
I have visited bhimashankar ample number of time, but yet bhimashankar remains unexplored. A minimum 2 days trip can only do justice to this place if you are a first timer.
Photos – Amit Rane & Jyoti Rane
Text – Jyoti Rane
For more photos visit – http://www.myodysseys.com/Trips/Maharashtra/Bhimashankar/Bhimashankar.html