When the monsoon rain lashes Malshej, irrespective of the crowds, it has the kind of fresh and fragrant beauty that makes you wish that you had been a poet and not some lowly blogger. In the rains, Malshej ghat bursts into myriad shades of green that can be glimpsed through gray and white clouds that drift through the valley. As the clouds and the mist clear just long enough for you to catch a glimpse of a dense green paradise and when the wind-whipped-rain stings your face, Mumbai, its trains, and its traffic choked roads vanish and you know you are probably as close to heaven as you'll ever get to in this life.
The drive towards Malshej too is beautiful. Once you cross Murbad and make your way through small towns and villages with such quaint names as Saralgaon (Straight village), Vadachapada, Lihepada, and Tokewade you already start anticipating a treat. The road is bordered by rice fields on either side and occasionally a brisk brook runs parallel to the road you are driving along. Red tiled traditional homes are visible through bamboo thickets. It is the kind of drive that prompts you to go easy on the accelerator and drink it all in with your eyes. Switch off your vehicle's AC, roll down those tinted windows, and let the sights and the crisp fresh air work their magic on your senses.
There's no need to ask for directions to Malshej. The road from Murbad goes straight to the Ghats. After Tokewade the road takes an upward gradient and the rice fields gradually make way for thick woods on either side. Above the treetops you catch the first glimpse of the mountains and the waterfalls. Before you know it, you are already abreast the first waterfall and the first crowd of revelers soaking up all the water they can. About another kilometer or two of driving up the road and you find yourself standing below some majestic peaks. The waterfalls cascade down on the road itself. Stop the car and get out, soak for a bit and then make your way to the edge of the road to see the water disappearing down into the deep valley below. A gust of wind brings thick rolling clouds into the valley and all around you. For the next 5-10 minutes it is as dark as early evening. Visibility is reduced to a few feet. The wind eventually carries the clouds away and once again you can see the green forests in the valleys and the mountain peaks. And in the distance you see the new batch of clouds which has entered into the valley. On a good day, Malshej plays this kind of a game over and over and you never tire of it.
After you have had your heart's fill of drenching under the waterfalls, make way towards the MTDC resort at the head of Malshej ghat. Don't enter the resort (the food there is so bad that you have to taste it to believe it), make your way around and go behind it. The resort rests on a small plateau and from this bit of flat ground you can see most of the Malshej valley, the winding roads, and of course all the water pouring down the mountainsides. But this spot is more famous for another phenomenon. Water from the plateau makes it way in small rivulets over the edge and into the valley below. But it hardly ever reaches the bottom. Here the wind blowing through and up the valley is so strong that it blows all the water back upwards — what you get is not a waterfall but a "water rise." There are quite a few of these water rises in Malshej, but this is the only spot where you can actually stand above one. Beware of the wind though—it blows hard and is notoriously fickle. So while you may be feeling the water rise's spray in your face, the wind is quite capable of suddenly changing direction and nudging you over the edge into the valley below.
Malshej is made for long walks along the twisting and turning ghat road. Park your vehicle at some convenient location and then walk up and down the 2-3 km stretch that has the most waterfalls and the best views. When the mood strikes, get under one of the waterfalls, get soaked to the core and then walk to the next waterfall. It will not be more than ten meters away. That's the best way to experience Malshej in the monsoon. If you are traveling in a large group, make sure that you reach early (especially on a weekend) and lay claim to one of the bigger waterfalls before the hordes of other revelers start coming in. It can get very crowded in Malshej on a Sunday, with hundreds of vehicles parked along one side of the road and the occupants of the vehicles shouting themselves hoarse and dancing under the falling water.
If you would like the ghats to yourself though, go on a weekday and barring an occasional State Transport bus and the odd car passing through, and maybe a few stray revelers, the ghats and its beauty will be on display only for you.
However, I believe in the monsoon, Malshej is the kind of spot that asks you to participate a bit to get a more fuller experience. It is not the kind of place that you go to, inhale the fresh air, pull out your camera and take a few pictures. Rather, it offers the kind of fun that can only be experienced by driving there with a small gang of close and very noisy friends, and then standing underneath the cascading water, squirming and laughing in pleasure.
Update (August 07, 2006): A small video clip showing the wind scattering the clouds in Malshej Ghat here.