Monday, February 27, 2006

Pune Mahabaleshwar trip

"My eyes are covered with dust,
My feet are tired beyond limit
My tongue is parched and yet
I feel light in my head and joy in my heart"
-Abraham Menacherry
I am no poet as you would have found out by now, but I do like to travel. Fortunately I am blessed with friends who think alike. But my memory is a bit weak after using all the electronic aids which remember for me, and I am afraid that I will forget the little things that gave me such joy during my journeys. I have hence decided to take the advice of a good friend and post all our experiences.... and that is how this blog was created...:)

This weekend (24-27 Feb 2006) I and my friend Tony K Thayil decided to go on a bike trip to Mahabaleshwar which is about 120 km from Pune.
We started off by 5:30PM and were immediately caught up in traffic which fortunately lasted only till the city outskirts. By 6:30 we were making good headway on the Pune Bangalore highway.
Except for the breathtaking scenery nothing of great interest happened during the ride, yet we enjoyed it every little bit. It took us about 3 hours to reach Panchgani which is about 20 km from Mahabaleshwar, we booked a room at hotel "Mount View", this hotel is a renovated version of an old Parsi Bungalow. It had photos of Zoroastrian god(s)? in the hallways. The room cost us rs.800.
After booking our room we went off to Mahabaleshwar, on the way we stopped at a reasonably scary looking place to take a few snaps, one needs these snaps to motivate other dummies to come along in the next trip! Fortunately the snaps came out good with the background looking scary enough to evoke interest.
We were low on fuel and decided to refuel at Mahabaleshwar where we reached around 9:30PM, unfortunately the only single "Bharat Petroleum" gas station had already closed. Since our journey back was downhill we weren’t much bothered. Anyway we bought a bottle of human fuel necessary in cold conditions, next we had our dinner at a cozy little place(The food there wasn't too good) in the market and then came back to our place of stay.
Saturday we woke up late and after the morning rituals went out of our room, to say we were surprised would be an understatement, we had seen the hotel at night and hence I had got the idea that it was nothing but a big house on a hill. But come morning and we saw the view around us to be truly amazing, we could see a huge lake (don’t know its name) below in the valley, the whole surrounding place had a look of a "forested area" with cemented roads in between. We took out our camera and clicked away....


Since check-out time was 12 we left at about 11, our first destination was "Table point" about 5km from Panchgani, this place is named table point for a good reason.. it was so flat and that too at the top of a hill it simply did not converge with our ideas of a hill which basically tapers towards that top. Funnily this is not the only hill in this area with this property it only happens to be the largest "table". Truly a table of the Gods!.
This spot is a rather well frequented tourist location so it came along with all the paraphernalia of such a place, there were hawkers of all kinds, also there were people with horses offering a ride for anywhere between rs40 to rs150. There was this camel also, anyways we opted for the camel ride (cost 80 rupees after bargaining) and it came along as a surprise, the ride on a camel is a bit rough and the swaying that you see in films is not one bit made up... you actually sway like you are sitting in a swing. It was a terrific experience and since we have a sense of reporting we urged the camel driver (what do you call him?) to take our snaps.... with our helmets on! Unfortunately the digital camera proved a bit too much for him and he did not click the pictures properly..as we later found out :(. Fortunately he was good enough to re-take our pictures.
Tony went for a horse ride, and came back claiming that he now had extra bones in his body...:)
having "made his bones" he wanted to take pictures of himself zooming on his bike on that dusty surface, those pictures came along well...so well that the dust cloud was all you could see...:)
We had lunch from a local hotel but again food wasn’t up to standards and then refueled our bike. Next stop was Wilson point as per our earlier decision however on the way to that point we saw a signboard saying "Rajpuri Caves ->" since we had time on our hands and a bike between our legs we decided to go to the caves...:) I was expecting some black rock with a hole in it, actually this was my previous experience with other "caves" but we were in for a surprise. The way to these caves was along a rural area we felt like we were traveling through the "Soul of Maharashtra" their villages were rather different from those in other parts of south India, but we saw most of the children going to schools, and affluence creeping its way in even to these remote areas.

But half-way through our journey to the caves we were struck with doubt, the road ahead seemed to be leading from one isolated place to another and deteriorating in between... anyways we continued and at last reached the small temple town below which the caves were situated.
Well laid stone steps led until the cave and at its entrance stood a Sanyasi(hermit) clothed in kavi(saffron). Now a little detour from our story, both of us are from the state of Kerala, and it is one state where you don’t find much sanyasis nowadays, and Malayalam(local language) films usually depict them as frauds and only rarely as the holy men that they really are. This prejudice was with us too since we were ardent movie watchers... and this is one prejudice to which I said goodbye during this trip. The man standing at the mouth of the caves had such a pleasant countenance that one was naturally attracted to him; he showed us the caves, the sculptures and told us a bit of history. It seems that the caves were one contiguous link till Mahabaleshawar about 20? km uphill, and then there was this earthquake in 1947 that blocked them off.
He also showed us three ponds, one for each deity, Shiva, Vishnu and Datta(not sure of correct name). It was a near magical experience; the ponds had crystal clear and cool water in it. We drank till our fill from it. Unfortunately since photography was prohibited inside the caves we had put our camera outside and we forgot to take a picture of this sanyasi.. anyways it was the experience that mattered.
This was also the best part of our trip.
Continuing on our way to Wilson’s point we again saw another signboard "Triveni point beautiful sunset" since the old conditions still applied we decided to check it out. However this time around we found that we could not take the bike along as it was a mud road that led till the point. The whole area was forested and it had narrow winding paths leading through it. Our sense of adventure awakened and we took the path, our only worry being that we could easily lose our way, fortunately we did not. As we climbed the hill we came to a portion that stood apart, the rest of the forest was mainly bushy in nature but this portion(which we called beauty spot) was having a number of pine trees and the sun shining in between the pines created a visual delight.... this was the most beautiful part of our trip. We took a lot of snaps but we were unable to capture the magic of the moment in our camera.It was there for only those who were present to see it.
Next destination was Wilson point. It’s a rocky hill top which has remains of some old buildings, the govt has built some barrel shaped structures on which we can climb and take pictures of the valley below. The view from there was good, and also the road to this place is really narrow but beautiful. We also saw the house were Mr. Wilson (who ever he was) lived from outside. It’s a bit run-down now, nothing much to see.
While we were taking photographs we befriended a local who told us the general directions to a place called "Arthur’s seat", he also said that sunset was best seen from a place called "Bombay Point".
We decided to go till Arthur's seat and then come back to witness the sunset at Bombay Point. However this did not work out since by the time we reached "Arthur’s Seat" it was already dusk. Arthur’s point is a must see for anyone coming to Mahabaleshwar, it is strategically situated and gives a magnificent view of the hills surrounding it. From afar these hills seem to have sheer rock faces with sand covering the jutting out portions.. but on closer inspection one finds that it is not sand but brown grass. It's actually the contrast that strikes us, because one side of the hill is lush green with a lot of trees and the other face has sun baked brown grass on it.
Since it was already late we decided to go back to Panchgani. On our way back we saw a lot of strawberry farms, and also shops selling strawberry fresh from the farm. We stopped at one such hang-out and had strawberry with ice-cream and cream. It was absolutely tasty stuff which prompted us to buy some syrup, jam and toffees from the same place; after all one should do his bit to boost the local economy right.
Our initial plan was to go back to Pune on Saturday itself but since we were bone tired we decided to spend the night at hotel mount view and also decided to get up early so that we get some real good pictures of our beautiful surroundings. But as fate would have had it there was no room available. Fortunately the place was run by a very nice Parsi couple and they were kind enough to call up another hotel nearby and get us a room.
The next day we left early back to Pune. The morning ride was terrific these rides really rubbed in the point that it is not the destination but the journey to the destination that is exciting.
Pune at this time of the year is hot and dusty and the sun scorches your skin, so we didn’t enjoy much of our "city-trekking" due to the weather. To escape the heat we went to a book shop "crosswords" and spend a few hours there. By 4:30 it was time for me to leave.... back to Blore back to work....(:

13 Comments:

Blogger M-Y-A-S-H-U said...

Dude.... That was a gr8 start... infact a pleasant reading paragraph.. As an equal enthusiast of travel, I enjoyed the blog.. Expecting more words in the section..

4:27 PM  
Blogger aquamarine said...

HI,
I blog hooped while looking for info on Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani.
I'l be visiting Shirdi from Chennai. I would like to stop at Pune and take a trip to Mhabaleshwar and Pnchgani. Can you tell me how long it takes to cover these two palces from Pune? Are there tour packages available and will I be able to find accomodations easily? WOuld really appreciate your reply. Please let me know.
Regards
AquaM

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for blogs related with bangalore, karnataka and found your blog as an interesting one with relevant information. I felt that you blog post is worth enough for a valid comment. I enjoyed reading your post and your blog photos.

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12:48 PM  
Blogger Abdul Bijur V.A. said...

It was extremely pleasant seeing yours and tony's photographs!

The U gang calls!

4:48 AM  
Blogger vagabond.. said...

We have a travel website which is a Maharashtra travel Guide in which we have a page for Panchgani with lot of information regarding the place. We also have information regarding Panchgani Hotels for which we provide direct link to the hotel websites


We also have a page for blogs on Panchgani. Do let us know if you would like to feature your blog in the Panchgani Blogs page in puneritraveller.com.

Please write to puneritraveller at gmail dot com

11:17 AM  
Blogger indhu M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:23 PM  
Blogger snigdha G said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:40 PM  
Blogger indhu M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:09 PM  
Blogger UCAB Tours and Travels said...


Hello Abraham, Nice article photography, getting feel like roaming in the Mahabaleshwar. Enjoyed it. :)

8:05 PM  
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2:26 PM  
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5:43 PM  

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