Distance: 118 km SE of Mumbai Travel Time By road 3 hrs By rail 21/2 hrs + 1/2 hr by road
When to go: Nature trips and spur-of-the-moment weekends can be indulged in throughout the year. October-June is for paragliding. Monsoon is waterfall-spotting time
Tourist Office: MTDC, Karla
Tel: 02114-282230, 282064, 282102
STD code: 02114
Rail: Nearest railhead: Lonavla (17 km/ 1/2 hr).
Road: route from Mumbai: Take Mumbai-Pune Expressway, exit at Lonavla, then continue 11 km on the old highway towards Pune past Karla to Kamshet town (on the left). Enter the town and take the road going out past the railway tracks, the river and on to Vadivali Lake
This little town is ignored by many in favour of, say Lonavla or Mahabaleshwar. Thank God. Surrounded by panoramic views of paddy and sunflower fields fringed by hills all around, Kamshet is a back-to-nature weekend par excellence. Its history has been shaped by the hills here. Once known for breeding fierce freedom-loving guerrilla warriors, they now play host to bands of fearless paragliding pilots and adventure lovers.
The locals, however, are unimpressed by these adrenaline junkies flying over their peaceful village roads and hills. Having witnessed world-class paragliding events and gatherings of pilots from all over the world, they no longer bother with the phuggawallas, or balloon men (local name for paragliding enthusiasts) and their fascination with the ancient hills and skies.
Things to see and do
Whether you are looking for adventure sports opportunities or simply wish to enjoy the breathtaking views in solitude, you will not be disappointed in Kamshet.
Vadivali Lake is a delightful body of water and a habitat for a variety of birds. Although it is an artificially created lake, formed by the Uksan Dam, it stretches for miles, and is circumscribed by the surrounding hills. The Native Place Guest House is located on the lake.
If you have always wondered what a bird’s eye view really is, give paragliding a shot. The intricacies of this delightful adventure sport can be mastered over two week-ends. If you’re not prepared to push your limits but still want the rush, a tandem ride (a joyride in which an experienced pilot does all the work) should do the trick.
The isolated Kondeshwar Temple stands among wild flowers and a gurgling stream that runs behind it. The stream turns into a pleasant three-tiered waterfall in the monsoons. A few metres ahead is a clearing flanked by cliffs on both sides. This is a perfect place for a quiet picnic. However, if you have a rope and the right skills, a hike to Bhairi Caves on the cliff to your right can be a satisfying experience.
This set of caves is very different from the famous Karla and Bhaja caves near Lonavla. To get to them, drive towards Kale Colony and Pawna Lake. About 8 km down this road you’ll see the caves on your right, halfway up the hillside. A motorable road leads to the base village of Bedsa. From there it’s an easy half-hour climb. The majestic pillars in front of the main chaitya look almost Roman and are visible from far away. These Hinayana Buddhist caves are believed to date back to the 1st century BCE. Take a close look at the sculptures of animals and dancing figures here.
Where to stay and eat
Kamshet is a small hill station largely untouched by the commercial tourism machine, with no restaurants and shops for miles around. Accommodation options are limited to a few establishments, with meals often included in the tariff. It makes sense to book in advance here. The Native Place Guest House (Tel: 02114-286007; Tariff: INR 5,000-11,00, tents INR 1,800 per person, dorms INR 1,800 per person, with meals), on the Vadivali lakefront, has two inner courtyards, a living room facing the lake, and a huge sit-out perfect for watching the sunset over the lake. They also organise nature trails and walks to the waterfalls. Choose a festival weekend to sample Konkan delicacies and the staple village meal of bhakri and til chutney.
For those who want solitude, the isolated Nirvana Cottages (Mumbai Tel: 022-26493110, Cell: 09323708809; Tariff: INR 5,000-6,500, with meals and including taxes) is a good bet. Specify your meal times and a basket will be left at your doorstep. YMCA Camp Lakeside (Mumbai Reservations: 022-21026391, Cell: 08451871803; Tariff: INR 700-2,300 per person) is about 40 km from Kamshet, on Andhra Lake. Getting here isn’t very easy, but the effort is worth it. Camp Lakeside, about 40 km from Kamshet, is situated right on the banks of Andhra Lake, not far from the Nethersole Dam. Camp Lakeside is a bit of a surprise because it’s so tastefully designed. You can choose to stay in either tented or cabin accommodation. There are cabins and tents. Activities offered include rock climbing, archery, nature treks, zip-line, swimming, kayaking, rappelling, raft-building, ropes course, games, arts and craft, campfires, etc.
Apart from the food at the hotels and camps, highway restaurants in the dhaba tradition are Sunny and Babi da Dhaba for tandoori rotis, Mughlai food and Indian Chinese. Rangoli Restaurant, also on the highway and just outside Kamshet town, is perfect for a filter coffee and a quick Udipi snack.