With little more to offer tourists than the odd semi-dry waterfall, you can be forgiven for wanting to keep the accelerator down as you enter Kolad town on NH17. That, indeed, is the right idea here. For the lush valleys and wetlands of the Sahyadris around Kolad are an eco-lover’s arena, full of the pure greens of the Konkan.
Off NH17 is angling in the Kundalika or getting a hydro-massage in a rare perennial Sahyadri Waterfall. If you’ve been planning forever to build a holiday home and haven’t seen that dream realised, say thanks to the Mumbai- and Pune-kars who have thrown open their country homes to weekending Mumbaikars, bringing the magic of rural Konkan to urbanites on weekends.
Kolad itself is a sleepy town of about 5,000 villagers who seem content to let their town lie still like a dormant volcano. Kolad is so sleepy that it’s ironic that the approach to the town is full of hairpin twists and turns, as you ride through the ghats to get here. So, if you’re leaving Mumbai in the morning, be sure to carry motion-sickness pills to battle the dizziness that overcomes you while going round the bends. It’s advisable to eat light on the journey.
If you’re in Kolad during the monsoon, pause a little to gaze admiringly as nature does a striptease for your benefit; stop at a waterfall or two, you will see many in this region at this time. You can also pay your respects to the various deities dotting the landscape.
Tired of lying in a hammock and throwing stones in the river? Hike up a hill to Dholwal Dam. The majesty of the wide dam, with its gushing waters, can take your breath away. About 17 km away from Kolad is Ghosala Fort and 20 km down the road to Pune is Tamhane Waterfall, at its most magnificent during the monsoons. Kuda Caves, 40 km away, as per legend date to the time of the Mahabharata. The trip of about an hour is worth it, as there is also a small, secluded beach here. About 25 km away is Tala Fort and 32 km away is Gaimukh, a pilgrimage centre for those who love to fit a darshan into their holiday.
Nature lovers can visit Bhira Dam, or the Tata Powerhouse Dam, about 28 km away, which has beautiful scenery and a waterfall for you to sit under.
The drive to the Murud-Kashid-Alibaug stretch via Roha from Kolad is among the best coastal drives in India. The coastal road loops through paddy fields before running along the surf and sand, taking a far more circuitous and less sensible route than the feisty Kundalika River.
The river, running through Kolad, empties into the Arabian Sea at Korlai Fort. You can also drive in to Kolad station for some train-spotting of a different kind, to check out Konkan Railway’s ‘Roll-onroll- off’ Service. Here cargo trucks drive onto trains and become cargo themselves to save both fuel and the driver’s energy all the way down south to Surathkal.
The surrounds of the pretty Sutarwadi Lake, 13 km away from Kolad, offer holidayers a range of thrilling adventure options. Group Captain (retd.) Hemant Khatu, VSM, a veteran IAF fighter pilot who can’t keep his feet on the ground even after retirement, runs Hans Adventure Camp as a weekend adventure retreat and offers a ‘true-blue’ back-to-nature experience, by the Kundalika River, 2 km from Sutarwadi Lake.
Activities on offer include Flying Fox, wall climbing, ravine explorations, river crossings, rappelling, Burma Bridge, Tarzan Swing, wild crawl, lake crossing and nature walks. Stay is at their cosy farmhouse (1N/ 2D, Rs 2,150 with meals and activities per person); the same package for the wood caravans (2) is Rs 1,800, and for the cabins (9) Rs 1,950. For reservations call ‘Hemu’ or Neetu Khatu at Hans Adventure Camp, Kolad (Tel: 02194- 255060, 255166; Mob: 09833160997; Website: hansadventure.com) or Pune (Tel: 020-26803695; Mob: 09822875629).
Location In the lap of the Sahyadri Range in Raigad District, not far down the Mumbai-Goa Highway
Distance 127 km S of Mumbai. Journey time By road 3 hours
Route NH17 to Kolad via Vadkhal Naka, Nagothane, Pen and Panvel
When to go June to August, during the monsoon season, when waterfalls are rushing down mountain sides. Kolad is coolest from November to February.
By Clement Augustine