Trip to Mahabaleshwar

We (me and my wife) have been to Mahabaleshwar on 27th November, 2013. We have been there over 15 years before. So the memories of the place were blurred by elapse of such a long time. So we decided to visit the place.

We started at 6.45 a.m. from our home in Thane. We had hired Indica A/C car. The driver Azim was just a 22 year old boy who arrived at 6.15 a.m. as agreed. He came through one Yogi Travels from Andheri. We had found them on internet and the prices quoted by them were the lowest. So we selected them. When I enquired with Azim he told me that he had never been to Mahabaleshwar. That means he would not be useful to us for sight seeing etc. But anyhow we solaced ourselves by saying “there is always first time”.

Our first stop was at Manshakti Kendra, Lonavala for breakfast in their cafeteria. Though it has lost its past glory of wonderful taste of each item made there, it is still far more superior and better when compared to Food Mall on Expressway. Thus in our view it is better to  leave Express way and  take diversion to Lonavala for break fast or meals etc. We had  Batata vada with Usal (a good combination offered at vary few places) and Pohe followed by tea.

We reached Mahabaleshwar by mid-day. We had booked at Saj Resort, a wonderful place just couple of kilometers before famous Venna Laka of Mahabaleshwar. We had a welcome drink made of strawberry accompanied with tasty cookies.

Saj Resort

Saj Resort

First impression lasts

First impression lasts

We immediately moved to Panchgani and our first stop was at Mapro. We moved in their garden and shopping counters etc. and entered in their restaurants. The first shock we felt when we glanced through the menu card. We had such repeated shocks everywhere in Mahabaleshwar. The place is awfully expensive, the taxis, the horses, local restaurants, guides all ask you to pay astronomical prices of everything. You are always left with a feeling that you are being treated as walking ATM and being squeezed and duped.

Mapro is a good place but over-rted and very expensive. We had a Grilled sandwich and strawberry with cream for our lunch. We were successful in avoiding the temptation of Fried potato chips and satisfied ourselves with the few crumbs of it served with our sandwich.

Mouth watering strawberry and cream at Mapro

Mouth watering strawberry and cream at Mapro

Veg Grilled sandwich. Overpriced and over-rated

Veg Grilled sandwich. Overpriced and over-rated

so difficult to avoid temptation

so difficult to avoid temptation

After that we visited Parsi Point and spent late afternoon at Table land in Panchgini. On table land where horses were costing Rs. 500 for a 3 km. ride and horse drawn carts were costing Rs. 300/-. We saved our money and walked around (not the entire stretch of 3 kms.) and had a cup of afternoon tea in a roadside stall costing us Rs. 20/- each (normally at such places it should not be more than Rs. 10/-)

There is a small pond on table land where we spotted few bathing beauties. LOL

Bathing beauties

Bathing beauties

watering beauties

watering beauties

We returned to our resort around sunset time and were attracted towards SPA. We allowed ourselves the luxury of massage and steam and relaxed later with my favourite Scotch whisky before dinner which we called in room  as it was really tedious to get dressed for dinner in the restaurant. They did not seem to insist on proper dress code etc. but still we prefer to avoid loitering in the public places of a hotel shabbily dressed.

DAY 2

It dawned with a bad news that our driver Azim had fever at night and was down with upset stomach. We drove to Mahabaleshwar just 5 kms. away from our resort for our breakfast. We called Yogi Travels, Andheri. Their replies were evasive and were totally non-cooperative. The taxi owner who had offered his services to Yogi requested us to send the car and the driver back. We promptly did it and were back on the street looking for new car arrangements.

We were lucky to get another travel agent who offered us Indigo at good price for local sightseeing as well as for our next day’s tour to Satara, Wai, Thoseghar falls etc.

Here are the few snaps of Mahabaleshwar which is surrounded by ranges of hills and valleys. Five rivers originate from Panchgani and there are lakes made of backwater of various dams built on those rivers. It offers spectacular scene of greenery, water, valleys, hill tops etc.

As usual we had decided not to do “much” shopping (that is means little shopping is allowed. Only thing is how much is “little” was kept undefined. LOL). Still we purchased honey, jam, jelly chocolates, sweets made of strawberry etc. in “small” quantity, reminding ourselves that we do not have a car to go back home and would be required to go by private bus service.

Beautiful valley

Beautiful valley

surrounding hills

surrounding hills

Distant blue hills

Distant blue hills

Sheer pleasure of walking  through the woods.

Sheer pleasure of walking through the woods.

Looking at smaller hills from above

Looking at smaller hills from above

Steps leading to the land of your dream

Steps leading to the land of your dream

kids with their dad waiting for mamma to return with sweets

kids with their dad waiting for mamma to return with sweets

Horse riding - not my cup of tea

Horse riding – not my cup of tea

Venna lake

Venna lake

Needle eye point Mahabaleshwar

Needle eye point Mahabaleshwar

Horse tricks at Bombay Point, M'baleshwar

Horse tricks at Bombay Point, M’baleshwar

waiting for sunset at Bombay Point

waiting for sunset at Bombay Point

Sunset at Bombay point

Sunset at Bombay point

setting sun turning red

setting sun turning red

sunset at Bombay point

sunset at Bombay point

setting sun in final laps

setting sun in final laps

Day 3 – Our new driver was prompt and came to pick us up at 800 a.m. and we proceeded to Wai. We first went to 300 years old Ganesh temple and Shiva temple built with black stone on the banks of Krishna river.

Ganesh temple at Wai.

Shiva temple at Wai

Ganesh temple at Wai

Ganesh temple at Wai

We had a breakfast of Dosa and tea at Wai and visited Khamkar’s sweets shop for their wonderful Pedha, which we purchased for us and for our friends back home.

After Wai, our next stop was at Sajjangad, a place of Saint Ramdas, (also known as Samartha Ramdas) who was Guru of Shivaji Maharaj, a great Maratha king who saw the dream of Hindu empire and made it possible when there was not a single independent Hindu kingdom for over 100 years after the fall of the last Hindu empire of Vijaynagar (Hampi, Karnataka).

Saint Ramdas has written poetry and he was the most practical saint. He was very clear in saying that one should be tough and arrogant in your dealings with those who are arrogant, crafty and thug. Otherwise you should be very modest and considerate with others. In his famous shlokas, he has very nicely narrated as to what constitutes “Stupidity” and “foolishness” and to my astonishment, they are applicable even today.

One has to climb few hundred steps to reach the fort from the parking lot. On your right, the sight of the lake created by backwater in the valley makes it spectacular and pleasing. There is a temple on the top. It takes about 2 hours to visit and return.

Inside Shiva temple made in stone

Inside Shiva temple made in stone

On the way to Sajjangad

On the way to Sajjangad

Steps leading to Sajjangad top

Steps leading to Sajjangad top

Material is taken up the top of the fort with the help of mules and donkeys

Material is taken up the top of the fort with the help of mules and donkeys

There is a temple on the top of the fort. The cool breeze against our face made us forget the pains of climbing about 250 or so steps.  The air was fresh and it filled us with the enthusiasm.  It takes about half an hour to climb the steps and another one hour to move around the top which includes “Samadhi” (tomb) of Saint Samartha Ramdas and few items of his personal use which are over 300 years old.

They offer lunch and dinner as “prasaad” for those who wish to have it.  It was bit too early for us and we wanted to cover Thoseghar Falls before we make it for lunch in Satara City.

We did not linger at Sajjangad for long. We moved forward to Thoseghar which is around 15 to 20 kms. ahead of Sajjangad. The road goes through the hills and is quite dangerous at few places. While passing the road one can see the spectacular scene of  Satara city in the valley  surrounded by hills.

The road and the surroundings of Thoseghar Falls is simply picturesque.  Walking through the green forest and the woody smell of forest is a different experience. The Forest Department has developed it quite well. They have built the steps leading down to the edge of the hills to see the falls on the hill of the opposite side. They have even built a viewing gallery also. It was quite unexpected for us. It was not a week end, so there was no crowd of visitors. For some time we were just two of us. The serenity laced with the melodious noise of falling and flowing water was touching.

The fall was not in its full force as it was not a rainy season. During rains, it looks memsmerising that is what we were told. I was convinced about it. It must be looking superb during monsoon.

paved way leading to Thoseghar Falls

paved way leading to Thoseghar Falls

Thoseghar Falls (small)

Thoseghar Falls

Thoseghar Fall (small)

Thoseghar Fall (small)

It took us another 30 minutes to drive back to Satara City where we had our lunch. It was quite hot and spicy for us. The people from Satara, Kolhapur area eat food with lots of chillies and spices unlike us Mumbaites.

After lunch we went to see our friend, Mr. Hemant Gujar, who has travelled over 15,000 kms. throughout India with his son (who was just 14 years of age then), on his 100 cc motorbike in one go. He had also been to Leh from Satara with his son on his motorbike again after two years of his first all India trip.  We were happy to meet him and his family. We had our afternoon tea with them in their very nice bungalow. They also had two  Labradors (one black and one golden). I failed to appreciate the dogs as I am scared of them.

After that we went to Kaas Pathaar. It is a place famous for wild flowers of very rare species during July and August. This was not a season and we did not expect to be welcomed by those exquisite wild flowers. Any way I wanted to see the place as it was just 20 kms. from Satara. The Kaas Pathaar was strewn with wild plants which had turned dry and looking like hey. But I could imagine, how the flat plateau (Pathaar) would offer a splendid scenario with millions of colourful wild flowers in full bloom during the month of August.

I found that the road leading to the Kaas Pathaar is equally beautiful. It goes winding up the hills flanked by two valleys on either side with lakes formed by reservoir or back water of the dams built few miles ahead. So the journey is quite interesting watching the lakes and the deep valley getting deeper.

By the time we returned to our resort it was dinner time and we had dinner in the resort and called it a day.

DAY 4

We got up around 7.00 a.m. and realised that it is raining outside. It was not pouring the way it does in the monsoon season. But it was raining stealthily and silently enveloped in the morning mist, blocking the Sun. I opened the window of my room and loved to see the outside world drenched in the silent rain.

Rain, Mist and the beauty from my room window.

Rain, Mist and the beauty from my room window.

After our breakfast, we left and room and deposited our bags in the reception. Our bus was to come at 2 p.m. and we had all the time in our hand to move around the resort which we loved very much. Here are the few snaps.

Oh, from my room window

Oh, from my room window

A courtyard leading towards restaurant

A courtyard leading towards restaurant

Open spaces used for outdoor lunch for groups of guests from marriage party etc.

Open spaces used for outdoor lunch for groups of guests from marriage party etc.

Lurking beauty. Lotus pond in a corner.

Lurking beauty. Lotus pond in a corner.

Gazebo to seat and enjoy the breeze.

Gazebo to seat and enjoy the breeze.

Restaurant at Saaj Resort

Restaurant at Saaj Resort

After a sumptuous lunch at restaurant, we took a 2 p.m. Neeta Travels Mercedes Bus back home.