Saputara

It has been almost a decade , I have been staying in Ahmedabad, in western state of Gujarat in India. Saputara is the only hill station of Gujarat. I have been to hill stations like Nainital, Shimla, Kausani, Kullu, Manali, Darjeeling, Leh, Badarinath, Joshimath etc nestled in great Himalayas, so the thought of outing to Saputara was thrown in the air, with the tagline, “yahan kya hill station jaisa hoga? Abhi nahin, fir dekhenge.”

August is the month , I was born and lately I have started to celebrate birth-month rather than birthday. After all, few birthdays are left and most have gone by. True for someone who is around the planet for 5 decades and little more. ūüėõ

We bought a new car, this March and due to very hot weather in Gujarat we could not go to any long drives. A pending long drive, pleasant weather and my birth-month are the  reasons enough to contemplate an outing and this time it was Saputara.

Since being out of the routine  workforce, we prefer going out on working days so that all the resources like road, traffic, accommodation, tourist spots etc. are not under population pressure. We planned to go out on Tuesday, 7th August, 2018.

Starting off at 7 AM on the lovely cloudy morning of August7th, 2018. The roads all through were good. They were excellent till Vadodara. We took the express highway, which was first express highway of the ambitious Golden Quadrilateral Project envisaged and executed by respected former  and recently expired prime minister, Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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On the Mahatama Gandhi Express Way

The drive on 120 km of Express way should have been smooth but was marred by wrongly driven trucks and other slow vehicles. The sheer sight of a truck driving at 30 km/hour being overtaken by another truck at 35 km/ hour keeps the faster lanes on right hand side to slow down almost every now and then, and is very frustrating. We need to develop a class of responsible commercial drivers who abide by the rules of driving on such roads. On the way, while driving past the Express way, I was surprised to see banana fields. To my mind, banana cultivation is mainly done in Kerala.

Anyway, after zigzagging the Express way literally, it was almost two hours and the time for breakfast. We stopped at “Jagadish”, an outlet run by well known farsaan brand of Vadodara. They served interesting menu of Gujarati breakfast options of khaman dhokla, khandavi, patra, aloo bonda, sabudaana vada , panjabi samosa, idada, patti samosa etc. Since, its a Gujarati food experts, we opted for Gujarati specialties. Being in Gujarat for a decade, I have developed a taste of sweet – salty foods. We ordered khaman and idada along with coconut kachories, which was a novelty to me. I have eaten sweet kachories with coconut, resin and dry-fruits filling for the first time.

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Coconut Kachories

It was a neat and clean place with an extended¬† store¬† where you can buy dry savouries/ farsan, Indian sweets, chocolates, ice-creams and other travel requirements, which you might have forgotten to pack. Overall, it’s a good place to halt. They have a small parking lot too.

Back on the tracks, after a halt of around 40 minutes, the drive was smooth with rain washed flora, making it a delightful affair. We still have to cross the dreaded part of Surat- Mumbai highway, notorious for traffic jams. Thankfully, we could clear past it in 12-15 minutes flat. The traffic on national highway was very annoying. The wrong side driving, two wheeler riders without helmet and overloaded trucks overtaking each other in the fastest driving lane was pain in the neck and very common.

Once on the ghat roads in the Dang district Gujarat, the greenery in abundance and umpteen numbers of seasonal rivers and waterfalls were a treat to eyes and soul. It was truly a ride to hill station.

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Driving ahead on the beautiful track we had started looking for some good place to eat. We stopped by Royal Heritage Hotel for our lunch break. It has clean washrooms and they served us potato paranthas ( the safest bet) with curd, which was good. It’s on the left hand side on the highway¬† as one moves towards Saputara.

Now we were moving towards Vansada National park, which was on our list of “to do list” of this trip. But it was closed due to monsoons. I have read a lot about it and learnt that it’s a vast and well kept farm, but may be my encounter with a leopard is not destined in this trip. ūüė¶

It was a happy sight to see many children, specially  girls going to school. There were many colleges and schools on the way.

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A school in Saputara

This time, we have not booked any accommodation beforehand but did a good research of different options, though online reservations is a good way of securing stay, but this time we were ready to take risk.¬† We wanted to stay in a resort rather than a hotel on the lake, which is the central point of attraction.We were looking for a property¬† which provides us the convenience of¬† walking¬† down to lake straight from the room. We opted for “Savsanti Lake Resort”, which is on the lake and opens into the lake¬† walk ways and lake garden

We were settled in the room by 3 pm, ordered tea and bhajias (what else on a rainy day), refreshed and went down to lake. It was a cloudy evening .  Have a view of the lake, garden and the central point of Saputara

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Saputara hosts “Monsoon Festival” for a month ( 4th August – 4th September) and we were right there in time. An exhibition by Gujarat and Chattisgarh governments was right there on lake which was very informative about¬† tourism, industries etc. Performances by the tribal artists of both the states were a regular in the evenings. The children’s park and boating was the main show stopper for the tourists.

One can find many eateries around the lake and they attract a large crowd. I could not gather enough courage to  eat there as I was not convinced of the hygienic practices they follow. I am always wary of street foods as they have no or very limited access to water or other cleaning resources like trained staff and space.

We walked down from our resort to the lake.Walking through the  lake garden, we visited the exhibition and witnessed the folk dances and songs of both the states. The light drizzle made the whole experience more scintillating and fun. It was perfect weather for roasted bhutta / corn. There were many local women selling roasted and boiled bhuttas. I love roasted corn over boiled.With a bhutta in hand , a bench to sit and lots of people around was relaxing and therapeutic to mind. After a walk of almost 6 km and spending a good 4  hours, we came back to resort and had dinner. By the time, we came out after dinner, it was raining very heavily.

Next¬† morning held a pleasant surprise for us. The whole town was engulfed in the mist. It was a surreal experience and Saputara proved that, it should be treated as a “hill station” with respect.

We decided not to have breakfast in the resort and try other eating places.¬† RB ( my travel and life partner) has already identified the “Lake View hotel” opposite the lake for our breakfast date. After heavily filling the engine with calories we were ready to explore the misty city.

The Tribal and Artists village was in the vicinity but was closed. ūüė¶

We went to “Saputara Museum” which was¬† located opposite to the lake, behind the eateries. The museum introduced us to different tribes of the area and their culture and lifestyle. It was in very bad shape and needs immediate attention of authorities.

While roaming around, we reached the center of the city, which is actually the air strip. Have a look of the city from the airstrip –

We are not the “spot covering” kind of tourist. Each vacation of ours have an agenda. This was to relax in the lap of nature and refresh. Thankfully,¬† Saputara does not have Jio signal and very mild Airtel signal, so it became a internet-detoxification vacation too.

We started back on 9th morning, which was “World Tribal Day”. It took us 8.5 hrs to reach back home with all the halts and we usually have a halt every two hours.

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