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Saputara: Driving through Dang 
Bindhu & Radhakrishnan Unny
 Story Dated: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:26 hrs IST 
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An unassuming tiny town, hiding its charm among lush green forests—Saputara, at the southern tip of Gujarat, is a few hours of drive from Mumbai. The rich soil soaks up the first rains, waking up the millions of sleepy seeds. Peeping their green heads to the cloudy sky, they welcome us as we drive past the resplendent Kasara Ghats and Igatpuri. Looks like the soil is working overtime to cover the earth in many shades of green! Enjoying this green carpet dotted with greener trees and shrubs, we stop on the way to chase butterflies flitting among the tiny, pretty blooms and hot cuppas.

Refreshed, we cross Nashik and take the road to Saputara. Ahead of the small towns Dindori and Vani, the tiny hill station, shrouded in mist, welcomes us. Saputara is part of the tribal district of Dang. In monsoons, Dang is nothing but sheer bliss. As we check into Gujarat Tourism’s cottage and surrounded by thickly wooded surroundings, we feel one with nature. Perched on top of a deep valley, these cottages are ideal for a quiet getaway.

With none of the usual colonial hangovers of hill stations, Saputara bewitches you with its natural splendour. Saputara is named so because once it must have been the ‘abode of serpents. But today there are no serpents. They would have taken a quiet retreat into the deep forests in search of safer havens.

This hill station is so small that you don’t need a vehicle for sightseeing. From the sunrise point and the sunset point to the misty lake, you can cover the whole area on foot. The tribal museum, though not maintained well, is not to be missed. The artists’ village, another attraction of Saputara, is closed during monsoons. For adventure seekers, there is the ride on a rope-way overlooking the valley.

Boating in the lake is awesome. With the visibility of only a few feet, we wait for the mist to clear before rowing further. A night drive through the winding roads is spooky at times. The early morning walk up to the sunrise point turns out to be fun but the sun loses the battle with the rain clouds.
Bidding adieu to Saputara, we decide to return by another route—Waghai, Vansda, Chikhli, Valsad—roads snaking through teak forests and occasional tribal hamlets.

A detour near Waghai takes us to the roaring Gira Falls. The botanical garden on the way has rare species of trees and plants. Vansda National Park is also on the way, but with no prior permission from forest authorities, exploring the park gets dropped from the agenda. Also, two days are not enough to cover Vansda too. Maybe, some other time.

Best time to visit: Throughout the year; summers are warm; monsoons or immediately after monsoons are the best.

Stay options: Resorts both private and that of Gujarat Tourism.
How to reach: By car from Mumbai via Nashik, Dindori and Vani; or via Vapi, Valsad and Chikhli.
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