Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tapola - Mini Kashmir near Mahabaleshwar

An elusive trip to Tapola - Mini Kashmir near Mahabaleshwar

Long time back when i was still new to Pune i had asked a friend about places near Pune one could visit. He mentioned Tapola and called it the mini kashmir. I wondered why! I decided to go there to see for myself but for one reason or the other the place kept eluding me. Made me wonder whether the place is something like the Vaishno mata where in you could visit only if you have the "mata ka bulawa"!!

Either it was raining mad or i was running short of time or it was thanks to google maps. The google map story actually is interesting. According to google maps Tapola is ahead of Pratapgad fort on the way to Poladpur. I had taken that route to go to Tapola where in a reached a reservoir - Shivsgar dam with some options for water sports only to realize that it was not actually Tapola and to reach Tapola one had to travel about 25Km from Mahabaleshwar in the other direction towards babbington point and ahead, On that occassion i had returned to Mahabaleshwar and made the trip back to pune cursing the monopoly and inefficiency of google the giant corporate misleader!! on after thoughts however google maps is not that bad, the only thing that i dont trust about google maps is the distance quoted and approximate projection of time required. They just calulate the time with anassumption of 60 Km/hr without considering the road condition or terrain. So i have learnt to live with it and use it only for general research or lets say for starters i have google maps and for main course i go some where else !!

So this monsoons i decided to bell the cat anywhich way. I left for Tapola from Pune at 6:30 am to reach Panchgani at about 8-8:30. I had planned to have my breakfast at mapro garden. Normally they are open by the time i reach but this time i found them closed. Was the Tapola jinx still working; for those who dont know i have a superstitiously skeptic tinge to my personality. Once i settled for a less than special breakfast elsewhere i carried on to Tapola. From Mahabaleshwar the roads are quite confusing and i ended up at some view point. Apparently i had taken a right instead of a left and had deviated from the main road. How am i to blame when both the roads where of the same width and equally muddy because of the continual drizzle, more over the visibility was on the lower side on account of the fog. However i was quick to recover and resumed my trip to Tapola. The roads like the tail of a snake was taking me deeper and deeper into the land of nowhere.

10 Kms from the busy tourist hotspot of mahabaleshwar i felt as i had travelled in time back by some 30-35 years. There were old uninhabited houses once in a while, shops those where closed. Either the place wakes up very late or the shops dont open at all here! On the entire stretch to Tapola from Mahabaleshwar i wasnt able to spot a single open shop. All I was able to see was this beautiful hinterland all green,like minicured lawns,with a few trees and valleys and a lake in the distance. A word of caution - if you are riding to Tapola during monsoons the roads can be very slippery. One good thing about the route was the signboards for the phenomenal resorts which were there right uptill Tapola. Follow the signboards and you shouldnt have any difficulty finding Tapola.

The road to Tapola from Mahabaleshwar ends in a dead end which is the Shiv sagar boat club. Boating is organized in the reservoir and there are various packages that are available which would take one to different points. River camps are there on two locations with accomodation that is arranged in tents and different adventure activities are organized. Contact for booking in river camps and also for accomodation in Tapola. There are 2-3 lodges and a couple of bed and breakfast places here that offer accomodation. Commercialization of the place is just catching up so if you want to see the place in its pristine best i would suggest not to procastrinate your trip to Tapola like i did lest it might just be too late.

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