Stories, photographs and thoughts from a travelling couple taking walks and mapping their routes, while backpacking around India, and parts of the world.
The act of flying — for all purposes, literary and metaphorical — has come to symbolise all sorts of things for us wingless humans. Flying epitomises freedom, emancipation, dreams, aspirations, courage, shedding of inhibitions, a leap of faith and every rising-above-the-moment kind of emotion. We have in fact, been fed so many of these motivational references to flying by all mediums of popculture (you know, like these sunset-tinted inspirational posters), that every time you see a bird soar in the sky against clear blue skies, your own flight of fancy takes off and a strong feeling of inspiration surges through your body.
And that's exactly what happened on our first glimpse of the breathtaking Thoseghar Waterfalls, where we saw a whole lot of birds flying against an expanse of lush green cliffs and gushing streams of water. I think the incredible sense of amazement that the panorama brought, automatically set off a montage of motivational emotions inside of me. It was quite funny actually. Because you know, they are birds, who didn’t really mean to inspire me. They were just in their natural habitat, doing what birds do, that is fly. Just as a mode of transport. Nothing out-of-the-world about that. Just everyday life for them. But, why pray in the name of Science, did that sight evoke so much joy? I could blame it on all the aforementioned symbolic connotations that flying has associated itself with, or maybe it’s just the constant childlike feeling of joy you experience when you are travelling, but I have to admit, it was an amazing moment.
But getting to the moment meant another trip to the Satara bus stop. For the uninitiated, this bus stop was not exactly our most favourite place in the world. The previous night was spent at peaceful Bamnoli and when we took the morning bus back to Satara, where we thought we would get a bus to Thoseghar village, which was around 25 kilometres away, we experienced a repeat of last time’s confusion. No one was willing to speak anything but Marathi, no one was ready to help us with any information and we just didn’t know which bus to board. Fed up, we walked to the auto stand and hitched a ride for 300 bucks.
We were in for another insanely beautiful autoride, which offered some starkly contrasting vistas to all the noisy auto adventures we are used to in the city. As we climbed higher and higher up the ghats, we were amazed by the wide rolling landscapes that greeted us. Deep green hills cradled impressive stretches of equally lush open spaces and fields. There were hills and more hills as far as our eyes could see, some of them dotted with hundreds of windmills in the distance. The whole ride was such a visual spectacle that we couldn’t help but admire it in silence.
Except for the part when I just had to voice my imagination out aloud and talk about the possibility of the existence of towering giants who could just slide down these hills as a group sport! Well, travelling gives you a little too much time to indulge your mind. But before I could elaborate my giant theory further, we were at Thoseghar.
After paying the tantrum-throwing auto driver 20 bucks extra for no good reason whatsoever, we found ourselves at the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) counter at the entrance of the waterfalls trail. We bought tickets for Rs 10 each and started walking along the, what I must add is a, wonderfully maintained trail. Travellers don’t have to trek down impossible terrains to get a good vantage point to view the falls. The MTDC has done quite a brilliant job of maintaining a pathway, complete with a railing and flight of stairs to get to the spot. And as we walked down for a couple of minutes — our steps quickened by that amazing sound of water crashing down against the rocks — we reached a platform that MTDC has very thoughtfully built, offering the best views of the waterfalls. When we walked to the edge of the platform, there it was! An imposing ‘U’ shaped cliff populated with dark and dense post-monsoon greenery, forming a perfect ravine and the sight of three gorgeous, gushing streams of water cascading down the narrow gorge.
This Thoseghar show was beyond beautiful. And even as we were in the process of picking our dropped jaws up, we saw them. The birds! Flying with absolute wild, wantonness. And the sight kept us transfixed in silent observation for quite some time. The falls were unlike any other which bring with it the usual sights and sounds of holidayers frolicking merrily in the waters at either the top or the foot of the falls. These particular waterfalls seemed to be hidden snugly by nature. And since the lake at the bottom seemed hard to access, we could tell that no one really goes down there often, if not never. This world was not yet seized by trigger-happy tourists. It was a world that belonged to the birds alone. We felt like we were transported to a scene from the Amazon rainforest, observing the ways of life there, daring not to disturb it.
The birds soared far and high against the backdrop of that thriving eco-system created by the waterfalls, leaving us amazed at how tiny they looked in the grand scheme of things. They were just small specks flying by those magnificent cliffs yet they commanded our attentions completely. Two eagles were gliding in perfectly choreographed motion and after minutes of observing them and trying to capture their fleeting flight, we realised there was a pattern to their navigation. They were building a nest one one of the trees on the cliff and they kept flying down to collect twigs in swooping elegant movements. It was quite something.
Soon, another flock of good looking birds vied for our attention. They flew so delightfully — little white specks contrasting against dark green foliage — that we ended up spending a large chunk of time closely watching their patterns too. And I ended up contemplating a little more about all the other things this extraordinary act of flying stands for and how it must feel not having your feet on the ground, this time, quite literally.
What shook me up from my reverie was the scorching sun. It was the peak of afternoon by then and we realised that we need to start moving to make good time and reach our next stop, the Chalkewadi windmills, to which we had to walk to. considering there was no public transport so high up on the hills. So we started walking along the rest of the trail, stopping only to sip on water and Maaza and munch on chips to keep our energy levels up. A short walk later, we reached a spot which gave us a view of the source of the waterfalls. After washing our faces with the crystal-clear, cool water, we resumed our journey out.
Enroute, Lovell happened to spot a hack route of sorts leading to somewhere and feeling adventurous, we left the paved trail and went off the road. After walking through a pleasantly green patch of tall grass, we could hear the sounds of the road and before we knew it, we were out of the MTDC-enclosed zone. We were on some part of the road we didn’t recognise. Using Google Maps (with very limited network signals), we figured that this hack route in fact, saved us a few kilometres of walking back to the entrance to the waterfalls and walking up on the hill to get to Chalkewadi. We were already on the road we wanted to be on.
Even as we started our slow, sluggish climb up the hill, a tiny part of my heart was left behind at the Thoseghar waterfalls, with those birds, flying with reckless abandon. Yes yes, metaphorical flying only. Sigh.