How a quiet paradise turned into a bustling market vibe.
The moment I saw the picture of the exotic blue-green waters of Devkund waterfalls posted by a travel company, I made up my mind to visit it.
In some way, the setting of the place with its azure waters and towering rocks reminded me of the Danny Boyle 'off the grid' flick, The Beach.
The post called for trekking and road trip enthusiasts to join in for a one day trip to the waterfall. A quick Google search didn’t reveal much about the place or how to get there. It really must be secluded, I thought. A couple of hours trek from the nearest village Bhira would take me to this hidden paradise. By the looks of it I was certain that this would be virgin territory with little human related disorder. I did not make it for the trip however.
Azure waters of the Devkund waterfalls
Life went on. Demonetisation hit. I got back to ranting on Facebook about long ATM queues. And then one day I stumbled upon another post by the travel company. It was an overnight trip to the falls. All right. Definitely going to join them this time even though I’m not a big fan of travelling with groups.
I booked online for the trek that included stay and food for my partner and me. The trip would start the following evening with a one night halt at a farmhouse and an early morning trek to the waterfalls. The plan was to meet the gang at Kalamboli McDonalds around the Pune Expressway at 4 pm. Enough time to sort out my chores in the morning, I figured. Withdraw some cash, tune my Thunderbird and pack some essentials for the trip.
With the gang before the trek
Come Saturday morning I rushed to my bank. Big mistake. Although an unavoidable one. I joined the queue to cash my cheque at 9.30 am and got my money in hand at 2.30 pm. By then my head was hot enough to fry a sunny side up on it. My partner was already nursing thoughts about ditching the plan. No way in hell, I insisted. Especially after wasting five hours to get cash for the trip.
By the time we left Bombay it was already 4 pm.
By the way, Google maps navigator, if you’re listening; people on bikes cannot enter the expressway for god’s sake!
The location map was constantly directing me towards the expressway. Being on a bike I had to constantly ignore it and depend on good old word-of-mouth assistance from the locals to reach the farmhouse.
Stories and music doing the campfire round
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
After a dusty, unpaved and dark stretch of road ahead of Imagica, we finally reached the laidback farmhouse at a place called Pali Ganpati. The folks running the travel company, Sharad and Gunjan, met us at the entrance of the farmhouse and showed us to our dorm-like rooms.
Electronic music was playing. Some folks were sipping beer and passing around a spliff. We instantly connected with these travellers. The property with its hammocks and art infused walls and a campfire in the making was good enough for me to breathe easy.
Following a quick introduction and briefing, we parked ourselves by the campfire for some booze, music and stories.
Sunrise at the river behind the farmhouse
We had decided on a 10 pm deadline to hit the bed so we could wake up fresh. But storytelling, drinks and sharing a spliff kept us up way past midnight.
We woke up to filter coffee and following a quick breakfast, left for Bhira, 40 kms away.
Early morning ride to Bhira village
Few bikers who didn’t make it the night before joined in the morning. A rustic cavalcade of sorts.
The village on the banks of the scenic Bhira River is where the wheels come to a stop and legs take over.
The monsoon green is now a field of gold
A major part of the trek takes us through some semi-dried forests (this time of the year) with the river running parallel to us while sometimes crisscrossing through our route.
Be ready for some mosquito bites if you decide to take a break in the forest during the trek, which is 4 kms each way.
Taking an ‘odomos’ break
The final part being an inclination that will make you break into a sweat. As the destination approached we could hear the faint rush of the waterfalls. My anticipation grew as I was curious to see this water body, so close to, but undiscovered from Mumbai. Although I had faith, my skeptical partner felt there was a chance the picture was photoshopped.
This is not going to be easy during the monsoon
The thing about Devkund falls is that you don’t see it until you actually reach the spot. Much like the Taj Mahal, the magnanimity of the structure hits you only when you cross the arch entrance towards it.
Sit up here for a complete view
At first glance the pencil thin falls making their way between the towering rocks into the sublime waters and look like a drop of heaven. The colours were real. See, I told you; I sniggered elatedly at Megha.
I wasn't kidding about the colour of the water
A bunch of youngsters from Mumbai were already there, but ready to leave. I wasn’t too pleased to see more people around. They had camped there the night before.
It was time to test the waters and it was fucking cold. I saw one of us dive in with his GoPro. I took my time; legs first. In the end it was one of the most refreshing swims I’ve ever had, with the side effect of a brain freeze, especially when I settled down right under the falls. We had two hours to spend. A few of us climbed to a nearby vantage point to get some panoramic photos of the falls. We snacked; some had a powernap on the rocks following the swim. Everything was peaceful and right with the world. I had forgotten about the sweltering heat back home, the cashless people, the long lines and the fact that I had Rs 2000 notes which had been kind of useless ever since I received them.
The waters are deep and cold, but what the hell
My reverie broke when all of a sudden people started pouring in. There were families, young kids, old, kids, aunties, uncles and more.
In no time the place looked more crowded than Dadar vegetable market. How? Why? What the…?
For some reason, we like to make a commotion in a quiet, natural place drowning out the sounds of the waterfalls.
Secret waterfall? Well, not anymore!
Thankfully, it was time for us to head back.
People were still coming in like ants on a food hunt. This influx of trekkers was actually causing sporadic traffic jams in the forest path. I guess this happens only in India. Maybe in the near future we might need traffic lights in forests? Brrr…. I shudder.
The final highlight was having lunch at the home of one of the villagers. The food was exactly what I hoped for. Spicy chicken curry, fresh cucumber and tomato salad and some rustic vegetarian offerings with chapatti, rice and papad served by our humble and gracious village folks.
We hugged and said our goodbyes and dispersed. And then it was full throttle back to peaceful (in comparison) Mumbai for me and my fellow KTM biker.
Would I go back to Devkund falls? Definitely! Would I camp overnight? Definitely! Would I wait brave people pouring in for their day trip? A resounding, no!
1. Get there early to beat the crowd.
2. Mosquito repellent is a good idea.
3. Lunch at a villager’s house.
4. Definitely recommend a swim.
5. Pack snacks and water and take leftovers back with you.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Mohan KK
Photographs by Mohan KK