The nondescript town of Satara suddenly witnesses an influx of tourists every year in September end. This post monsoon phenomenon turns the meadows of Kaas plateau into a carpet of tiny flowers in every direction one can see. Bold colors like Purple, white, red, blue, bright yellow highjack the green fields. For those who have no time or stamina to go through the strenuous trek of Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, its counterpart in faraway Maharashtra is a cushy walk in open fields.
Not only is it easy to reach but also can be done in one day. Thanks to its height of 1200 metres, the cherry on the cake is the pleasant misty weather in the plateau which is also known locally as Kaas Pathar. The undulating meadows are speckled with flowers of all hues possible. Some are so small, you have to bend down to admire their true beauty.
Lately, the authorities have rightfully put up barricades and ropes so that people don’t trample the natural heritage. The place does attract its share of unruly tourists who do not behave responsibly. However, you can stroll inside the protected areas, though under the watchful eyes of the security personnel.
It should not be a surprise to know that it has been declared a Biodiversity World Heritage site by UNESCO owing to its visual grandeur and geographical uniqueness
The walk through the ‘garden’ was surreal. The hills wore layers of different colors as if someone had made a rainbow of flowers on Earth. As if a grandmother forgot her carpet on the hills! I could identify species like Utricularia purpurascens (blue), Senecio graham (yellow) etc.
I was accompanied by my friend Madhabendu Hensh from Kolkata. He is a photographer (par excellence) with whom I am friends thanks to a Nat Geo Traveler India Magazine travel photo contest we won together. We spent some quality time in the fields admiring what seemed like some other planet. Owing to the soothing weather, we decided to walk down the road for at least the first 11 kilometers.
Pic above (Top left, clockwise)- Me at Kaas , Me looking upon valley, Madhabendu Hensh on job. (My pic by Abhijit Shenolikar & Madhabendu Hensh)
Thankfully, it worked in our favor. We experienced what other tourists miss while visiting Kaas. For example, I was delighted to spot a unique mushroom species. It was so unusual that I stared at it and examined from all possible angles, even clicking more pictures than I should have.
Buffaloes filled the fresh mountain air with music from the bells tied carelessly to their neck. Young girls tended to herds of goats without a care in the world. Exotic butterflies and birds I had never seen before, whizzed by. They vanished so quickly as if they were in a hurry to complete household chores.
A little detour to the narrow path down the hill took me to a point from where I soaked in the views of vast lakes surrounded by small villages. Famished after all the walk, we took a tea break at a makeshift tea stall. He made tea for us on his traditional Choolha (earthen oven). We walked a little further and when we could not take it any further, we took lift from a lorry and completed the next 11 kilometers to Satara. In the backseat of the lorry, sitting on hay and cardboards, that is! Rs. 20 only!
The next morning was spent downing the melt-in-the-mouth kandi peda, a local sweet. On a previous trip I clubbed Thosegar waterfalls with other activities around Kaas. I along with 10 more whacky people headed to the famous waterfalls. It is some 20 kilometers away from Satara. It is towards the other direction from Kaas plateau.
Pic above (L to R) Kandi peda, Kaas, Thalipeeth
I passed by windmills on the hills and spine tingling views of the valley to arrive at the falls. I was worried to see it had ended up as a tourist magnet. Not much impressed with the mob jostling for best space in the viewing balcony, I moved on to a spot to peacefully soak in the beauty of waterfall. The fall was a tall one. Cascading violently from a height of 500 meters, it astonishes with its grandeur. The milky white water poured rapidly down the mountain. A bold sound of gushing water added to the background music.
At times I looked at waterfalls, sometimes at the opportunist monkeys perched precariously on the trees and sometimes my eyes wandered at a row of windmills on mountains far away. The area is dotted with many smaller waterfalls, however this one clearly is the most impressive one.
जास्त नको विचार करूस , हे guide वापर आणि फिरून येय!
A filling lunch of perfect monsoon foods kanda bhajji (fried onion fritters) and misal pao, we bid adieu to the paradise with fond memories. The allure of Kaas pulled me towards it 2 times! And I am the same person who never repeats his destinations. The previous trip was with my Mumbai friends Geet Hukerikar and Abhijeet Shenolikar.
I suggest that one should get away and explore more in the areas near the main venue where all flock to view the spectacle. There are many hidden gems lurking in places around it. One needs to walk patiently and be a good observer to understand and appreciate the biodiversity of the region. If you are lucky, you can also spot many species of birds, butterflies and insects.
Best time to go:
September last week is the best time. I went two times. Details here –
24th September, 2011 – You can literally see the carpet of flowers of different colors. This was not visible in August. Weather was sunny and mountain air, crisp and fresh. Tourists were large in number. Go in weekdays, if possible.
31st August, 2015 – The flowers were there but not as much as I saw in September. Also the landscape was not as dramatic. It alternated between sunny and cloudy with little drizzling. There was no carpet of flower. Very few tourists.
HOW TO REACH SATARA?
To reach Kaas, you need to reach Satara first. Satara can be easily reached by Mumbai and Pune.
Mumbai to Satara distance – 4 hrs, 30 minutes ( 257 kms)
Pune to Satara distance – 2 hrs, 48 minutes (115 kms)
HOW TO REACH KAAS FROM SATARA?
From Satara, one can take an autorickshaw for Rs. 500 (1 way)
Buses also ply the route but the frequency is low.
Ask the rickshaw wala to wait for you or else you might get stuck.
Stranded, we eventually walked for 11 kms and then took lift in a lorry. Though I enjoyed it but will not recommend the same. There are risks involved.
Alternatively, you can drive from Mumbai or Pune on the smooth highway. One can also reach Satara by train. Book at least 2 months in advance on Irctc website. (The scenery you will pass through will keep you hooked throughout the journey). My favorite is – Sleeper class, side lower, window seat, emergency window preferred.
ऐ कास की अब होश में हम आने न पाएं !
Buy packets of the ‘melt in mouth’ kandi peda, a local sweet. Take back loads of it!
Since you are in rural Maharashtra, try the Maharastrian delicacies like Kanda Pohe, Misal pav, Vada pao etc. They taste different than what you get in urban spaces. The Thalipeeth I had on the way to Satara was the best I have ever had. I tried to find that taste again but failed. Sorry, I forgot the restaurant’s name. And yes, try tasting thecha if you can manage, very spicy chilly chutney.
Respect Kaas Plateau:
- You are in an ecologically sensitive zone. Don’t litter or even leave your cigarette butts in the meadows. I personally keep the butts in a cigarette box and dispose them off responsibly.
- Don’t make noise. Many species of birds, reptiles and mammals live here. IT IS THEIR DOMAIN. Think how you will feel if a bunch of hooligans create nuisance at your ‘home sweet home’.
- This is not the place where you should be drinking beer and dancing on ‘Why This Kolaveri Di? The flowers may ask you back in frustration, “Why This Kolaveri Di?’”
- Don’t pluck flowers or trample on them. Again, it is much like a monkey pulling the hair on your head.Got the drift, eh?
- No, it’s not a picnic ground where you can roll a mat and set up a food buffet! Carry light and handy food items though since there are no food shops nearby. Eat well before you head here.
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Note : Marathi translation by Marathi mulgi Pradnya Kalindi
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