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I went to Shillim in 2005, traveling down the new Pune highway and stopping at a MacDonald's just before the start of the freeway after navigating through Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai ids the new satellite city coming up on the southern side of Mumbai where the overflow is going.Actually, it is going to be a very modern city, well laid out with all the amenities available in an orderly and efficient manner. The new international airport is being placed there as well as the new Park Hotel, which is opening January 2007. To facilitate movement between the new and the old, there is an extremely long sea bridge being built at present that, while it is not the environmentalist's friend, will cut traveling time to the new airport considerably. We travelled through this area, marveling at the new buildings and the well laid out infrastructure on our way to the Pune highway and the Western Ghats. I was traveling to look at a proposal to take up if I was leaving the Park in early 2006 on my contract completion, and we were heading into the wild wonders of the national park areas of the Ghats. Apparently the road was a gravel and dirt track for a good part of it, and this turned out to be the case which was lucky for us in that it was the dry season! Once turning off the highway, we proceeded to Lonavala, past its lake and the very picturesque dam situated nearby. Lonavala is located in the western part of the state of Maharashtra and is set amongst the slopes of the Sahyadri mountain range. Also known as the "Jewel of The Sahyadri", Lonavala is a place of this region where nature is present in its entire splendor. It is justly famous because of its beautiful valleys, hills, milky waterfalls, lush greenery, and pleasant cool winds. It is also the closest stop on the railway line to Shillim. The rest of the journey will be by bone rattling four-wheel drive! Shillim itself is located within the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats with the Shillim valley a rural setting of rice fields and villages surrounded by forested ridges and open grasslands.
The Western Ghats are a mountain range in India. They run along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separate the plateau from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. The range starts south of the Tapti River near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and runs approximately 1600 km through the states of Maharashtra, Goa,Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. The average elevation is around 900 meters. The westward-facing slopes receive much more rain than the eastward-facing slopes, and the Western Ghats are considerably wetter than the dry Deccan to the east and enjoying some of the richest biodiversity in the world and were well-covered in dense forests. These forests are home to an interesting and diverse fauna and flora, many of them showing affinities to the Malayan region, but are increasingly threatened by human activity. Several national parks and other protected areas lie within the range, but it is estimated that only a small fraction of the Western Ghats remains in pristine condition. The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala is considered by many to be the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen forest in India. The Western Ghats form the most important watershed for peninsular India, with plentiful monsoon rain giving creating numerous streams that form the headwaters of rivers that run to the Arabian Sea on the east and to the rivers of the Deccan, which empty into the Bay of Bengal a sub-continental width away. These rivers provide the water for agriculture and drinking to all the major cities downstream including the cities of Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai. The remains of the Tungi Fort (also called Kathingad this rocky fort was probably used as a watchtower to guard the land overlooking the Pawna river ) and to the east of this is Tikona fort ( because of its triangular shape) with their unique and striking forms are among many forts that are located here amongst the hills. Built in 1500 AD or before. By the early kings of Maratha like Shivajiraje,Bhosle and Pratpgad name a few, some are still tourist attractions and while others are lost in time.
A good couple of nights were spent in the cool climes of Shillim, in basic amenities as the project had not started by then, looking around the slopes and the surrounding forests in such a peaceful setting, it was hard to imagine the world going by. There is a lake nearby called the Bhushi Lake I think, not too big, but blue and refreshing in the heat of the Maharashtra day. If you ever have the time to take a few days in the peace and clam of the Western Ghats, look up the new Hilton Resort in Shillim and chill out for a few days. Highly recommendable!