RIDING THE RIVER-KUNDALIKA
”The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are.”-Lynn Noel in his book ‘Voyages’.
Every river in the world has its own unique identity or personality. More so, rivers are considered as the national treasure of any country. Even India is blessed with numerous rivers, flowing through the country’s length and breadth, rising and falling with the seasons. In the olden days, the Maharajas of India had Harnessed the power of the rivers for transporting their armies and materials. The numerous rivers in India meant that rafts were one of the earliest modes of mass transport. Today, rafts offer the thrill and excitement of literally riding the river.
Like many other rivers emerging and flowing through the mighty Sahyadri ranges and flowing towards the western coast of India, Kundalika is a small, perennial yet beautiful river in western Maharashtra. It has its origin in Pune district and flows through the Raigad district via Revdanda, finally meeting the Arabian Sea. This, along with the fact that the river is fed by excess water from a series of hydroelectric projects and dams, makes it ideally suited for white water rafting. This is an adventure sports activity using an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water.
Rafting on Kundalika started around 10 years ago and very few adventure enthusiasts were aware of it. The activity started with only three rafts in the beginning and such has been the increasing demand that there are now available many rafts, making this river a hot spot for such an adventure activity.
The stretch for rafting is 14 kilometres which start from a village named Saje, located a few kilometres away from the Bhira Dam. After the daily water release from the power plant project at Bhira, the water gushes through the channel, entering the river base and filling it up, the sight of it being enough to hike up your adrenaline and enthusiasm levels. Ending the rafting session in a village named Kamath, rafting on the Kundalika comprises 10 whitewater rapids to enjoy though. The amazing part about the Kundalika is that it is the only river in India where water rafting is possible throughout the year, thus making it an all-season site.
Tackling the Rapids
The most exciting rapid called ‘John Carry’ and the longest rapid termed ‘Rajdhani Express’ add that extra element of fun. The first one is so named because of John Pollard, an expert rafter who claimed for the first time that water rafting can be done safely on the Kundalika River. Interestingly, even he wasn’t able to cross the difficult rapid after repeated attempts and had to carry his raft around the rapid, hence the name’John Carry’. The name ‘Rajdhani Express’ is quite self-explanatory as it is the longest and fastest rapid on Kundalika. Meanwhile, the excitement level on the other rapids like Butterfly, Pump House, Boom Shankar, etc is also unmatchable. During the monsoon, the river acquires the same kind of an aura as you would find in a typical Amazon basin with continuous rains and thick lush green woods on both the sides. And in winters the early morning fog on the river adds an extra dimension to the beauty of Kundalika.
More Than Rafting
Along with all the fun, thrill and excitement, one can also enjoy the avian charms of the river due to the presence of such species as Common Kingfishers, Little Cormorants, Crested Serpent Eagles, Pied and Great Hornbills, many of them hovering or moving around with you while rafting. Once the rapids are done, even the still water offers a fantastic body surfing session which the non-swimmers enjoy a lot. With your life jackets on, you can enjoy the experience of floating in a river. The session of Kundalika rafting ends with a final stretch of strong rowing till you reach Kamath. The feeling at the end point is more like ‘Kundalika Conquered’. And if you ask me what the risks are, the biggest of them all is that you could fall in love with rafting, the river and the surrounding nature so that you would want to keep coming here again and again.
When to Visit
The amazing part about the Kundalika is that it is the only river in India where water rafting is possible throughout the year, thus making it an all-season site.
From Pune-Via Tamhini Ghat reach Vile Phata and take a left turn towards Kolad to reach village Sutarwadi.
From Mumbai-Via Goa Highway reach Kolad and take a left turn towards Pune. Drive for 15kms to reach Sutarwadi.
By Train-There are no direct trains to Kolad from Pune. You can get down to Lonavala Station. The train running from Pune to Mumbai has Lonavala stop. From there hiring a Taxi is the cheapest way to reach your destination.
From Mumbai, there are 2 direct trains which can take you to kolad station.