Months of April and May are peak seasons for traveling, tourism in the country. Many of us venture out during these months. I also love to travel, trek, explore wilderness, uncharted country side. I even had booked my first every Himalaya trek(Hampta Pass) next month, but then I had to cancel it for some reason. A guilt feeling was setting in. The weather is also not forgiving in these months, especially, in May. It has been very bad this year, as they say. Last week one of my colleagues in the office, asked me whether I was interested in joining him for a weekend trip to Koyna forest, for the fire flies show. I instantly agreed.
I had been to Koyna forest in the past, in fact three times, once during the trek of Vasota fort, second time during my trek to fort Bhairavgad, and lastly when I visited, now world famous Kaas Plateau of wild flowers. It is pretty big wild life sanctuary, is part Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. But this trip was going to be a visit to a southern part of the forest, where I had not gone so far. I also had witnessed fire flies show few years back in Chorla Ghat on the way to Goa. Off late, tourism board is promoting this unique experience of mother nature, which takes place especially during month of May. My colleague is part of organization called Pune Hiking Enthusiasts(PHE). When I got hooked on trekking two decades back, I used to keep track of various formal, informal organizations, clubs engaged into trekking, wildlife outings. Very soon, I had listed down about 80 odd such organizations. As my trekking activities reduced I stopped tracking these. Since last few years, the focus is not on pure trekking, or even wildlife, but it is more on adventure. White water rafting, rappelling, off beat hikes(such as gorges, valleys), camping(especially in the tents), even heritage tours, got added to the list. And because of my trekking engagements, I got to know of many experts in the fields of history, wildlife, etc, such as Sachin Joshi.
Last weekend, with PHE, I finally ventured out and went to Koyna forest. This forest is about 200 kilometers towards south of Pune, at the heart of which a dam on the river Koyna is located, along with hydroelectric plant. The large expanse of backwater flows through the forest. We started off from Pune Saturday morning, via towns of Satara, Umbraj, Patan. By the time we reached the forest, it was lunch time. We headed off straight to waterfall located inside the forest, called Ozarde waterfall near village of Navaja.
You must be wondering, visiting waterfall, in the summer season is crazy idea, as most of them run dry. But I was in a pleasant surprise. A small hike, that too most of it through rocks of waterfall way, was very different. Weather was not all that forgiving, though it was inside the forest, it was still warm and humid. But as we reached the bottom cliff(semi-circular) of height of 200 meters, the place was cool, and very different one. The water was still falling from the top, but of course, a minor stream was showing the existence of that though.
As the evening was setting in, we were looking for the fire flies show, which was star attraction. We got down from falls, and headed towards a place where fire flies can be sighted. This sight was near a Chaitraban Farms(near village Helwak), where we stopped for our evening tea. We also had a guided tour of the farm. This farm specializes in vertical farming, using green house, hydroponic system. They grow orchids, and other flowers. It was education for me to understand how hydroponic system works. By the time we came back from the tour, Sun had set, it was getting dark. The moon started showing up in the skies. We started off for a night trail in the adjacent forest. We started sighting glowing fire flies on trees on both sides of the trail. We walked for about 90 minutes, spellbound with the views and wonder of nature. Though there was quite a moon light, it was still delightful. Of course, photographers among us were slightly disappointed, as clicking flocks of fire flies was getting challenging. The onset of monsoon is a mating season for fire flies, which make them active with glowing light. And when this happens to thousands of flies, it is a sight similar to lit up Christmas Tree.
We headed towards our camp site for the night’s stay, which was near village Humbarli. The food was waiting for us. Once the dinner was done, tents were setup. It was amazing experience being in the tent in the middle of forest, with a moon in the skies. From the back of the camp site, the stream of backwater was visible, in the gorges nearby.
Next day a morning trail to the top of the mountains was planned, which was part of the core zone of the sanctuary. With due permissions, we hiked to it through deep forest. It had rained last night in that area. The colorful foliage under our feet as we walked as damp and wet. It was much cooler a well. We were accompanied by sanctuary guides who talked to us about flora and fauna of this evergreen forest. The peak provided wonderful vistas of Sahyadris, which it is famous for. The fort of Janagli Jaygad was visible, one could also spot hydro-electric generation plant deep in the valley. The dam, and the electricity generation plant is an engineering marvel, as it uses something called lake tapping technology. This dam is always in news due to active earthquakes happening in this area.
We also visited site of worship called Ram Baan, which happens to be a huge rock, that has cracks on it. These cracks got developed, as it is believed, by Lord Rama’s arrows. This place is worshiped by local devotees. The final surprise of the trip was still ahead. We visited the banks of Koyna river for a dip. It was much needed. The water was shallow at the place where we ventured inside, though it had quite a force and water was flowing. We enjoyed to our hearts’ content in that cold, refreshing waters of Koyna river, to head back to Pune, mesmerizing two days with nature.