Saputara: An off beat weekend getaway near Mumbai

Bertram Fonseca

Bertram Fonseca tells you about his weekend trip to Saputara, Gujarat`s only hill station

“Let’s go to the ‘Abode of Serpents’ next week”, I tell my friends. “What? Where? Are you mad?” they react. Catching their attention, I laugh to myself and explain that it is the English transalation of Saputara. During major festivals, tribes living in the vicinity gather near the Sarpaganga River to worship the image of a snake.

The following Saturday, my friends and I congregate at a local bakery in Bandra at 7:30 am, jump into the car and leave for the weekend. The highway’s open roads make the drive down NH3 to Nashik an awesome experience. Due to our leisurely pace, we took till noon to cover the 165 km distance. After a good hour-long lunch break at a restaurant in Nashik, we ask for directions and fiddle with the GPS, before finally locating the Nashik-Saputara road. After 80-odd km of great tarmac, dotted with the small chai and snack shops here and there, we cross the border of Maharashtra and directly enter Saputara.

Located at an altitude of 1,000 m, Saputara is Gujarat’s only hill station. It falls in Dang district, also called ‘The Dangs’. It is Gujarat’s least developed district, which houses several tribes. The hotel window offers a picturesque view of the dark blue lake, surrounded by gardens, in the middle of the sleepy town. The uncluttered spacing of houses, makes me feel free. We freshen up, munch on light snacks and leave for the exciting ropeway ride to the sunset point. From the top you can see the valley and the sun setting beyond the forest. Back at the hotel, we relax, play card games and post dinner we venture on the red-tiled path to the peaceful lake, under the moonlight.

Next morning, we visit the lake again, this time to boat and see the one-storey-tall snake sculpture. Paddling across the lake for 30 minutes leaves our legs feeling like jelly. But we still find energy to check out the gardens. Lake Garden is simple with short grass and traditional stone-seatings that encircle the trees. Rose Garden has patches roses of different colours–red, yellow, pink and purplish-red. But my favourite is the Step Garden, built on a slope in several visible layers. The town isn’t too big, you can easily cover it on foot.
On the last day, we leave Saputara for a drive through ‘The Dangs’ via Road No. 360 towards Valsad. Twisting down the ghats, we enter the amazing forest terrain. Before Waghai, the fuel stop, we take a small detour to Gira Falls. I have seen the raging waters of this wide fall gush during monsoons, but the summer dried it up completely. Back on the road, we are awed by bamboo trees,  growing sky-high on either sides to form a natural arc. Hay and tiles, roof the mud houses of the villages; women wear saris like the Maharashtrians and men, dhotis and kurtas.

You should also visit the Artist Village and Tribal Museum for a better insight into the local and tribal culture.Bamboo articles like toys and show pieces are available at roadside stalls.

(Bertram Fonseca is a freelance writer)

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