Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bhandardara - Base for Kalsubai and the Ratangad Trek

The digression; innate in my personality, to Shivneri cost me less than 3 hours. I am quite happy that i took the off road to Shivneri. After this visit to the fort with more historical importance than natural aesthetic appeal i continued in the pursuit of the calling i got from Kalsubai.
I had referred Google maps before i left for the trip however because of the off road that i took i asked a few people about the route to Bhandardara. To my surprise few of them didn't even know about the place. Then i asked a lorry driver. Lorry drivers are almost always aware of all the roads around a place. However i later realized that they know more of the major routes that they normally take. So from Narayangao i ended up riding to 
Ale phata from there to Bota to Kotul to Rajur and finally to Bhandardara. Which meant i rode about 20 kms to ale phata another 35 odd kms to Bota another 50 odd kms to Kotul another 20 kms to Rajur and then about 20+ kms to Bhandardara. So i ended up riding close to about 150 Kms which should have been only about 50 odd kms. For the benefit of anyone planning to got bhandardara here is the shortest route
Narayangao = 15km => Otur = 16km => Bhramanwada = 16km => Kotul = 16 km => Rajur = 20 km => Bhandardara 
in all bhandardara ideally should be around 70 Kms from narayangao and the total distance from Pune to Bhandardara should be 170 Kms.

Anyways thanks to the whole fiasco i reached Bhandardara at about 5:30 - 6pm. The rains were so heavy and wind was in all its fury. There was a point after the deviation to Ratangad fort and Amriteshwar Temple and just before the Wilson dam where the wind was in its elements. I had to stop my bike and wait for the howling wind to slightly subside to cross this patch, but i was caught in the middle of this patch, for a moment i was scared that the wind would blow me off along with the bike down the cliff. In fact the wind got the bike lifted maybe a cm off the road and i clanged on to the bike, put it on side stand and sat on the petrol tank. For a moment the wind subsided and i got across this patch. 

Once i reached Bhandardara, i looked out for a place to stay. camping was out of the question. There were a few hotels and resorts which were quite over priced for me especially since i had no plans to stay in one. At last i found Hotel Amriteshwar which is just after the MTDC. I had my dinner there and sat around a fire that the people lit up because of the cold. I discussed my plans to climb Kalsubai which was stubbed vehemently by the old man sitting who was sitting with us quietly. At times you need to listen to the local knowledge after all they have lived in the place their lives and know better about how the place behaves than you. So hesitantly i shelved the plan to leave for Kalsubai. The next day morning i took the ride from Bhandardara to ratangadwadi. If the roads where better this ride would have been absolutely fantastic. 
The lake on the left and the high hills on the right. Waterfalls trickling across the road ever  so often and cowherds in their makeshift raincoats grazing their herd of cows. At one point i counted 22 waterfalls gushing down the facade of two hills. The terrain here has something different from what i have seen in other parts of the sahyadri. Its much taller than the other parts for starters and terrain also seemed very different.
There where various other seasonal waterfalls like Panjre falls Necklace falls spillway fall and the umbrella falls. After the ride returned to hotel Amriteshwar and thanked and bid adieu to the friendly host i had for a day and left Bhandardara with a quiet promise to Kalsubai of return very soon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shivneri - The Birth of an Empire

I must have been frog in my previous birth, the monsoons have a strange effect on me, I just cant stay put in the cozy comforts of my home once it starts raining. Not sure what comes upon me and this time it was Kalsubai calling. Kalsubai by the way is apparently the highest point in Maharashtra as proclaimed by some. However i have also seen something similar written in Wilson point in Mahabaleshwar also proclaiming that its the highest point in western india. Anyways i dont want to get into the details of it.
I planned to reach Bhandardara in the afternoon spend the evening there and camp in Bhandardara in the wilderness some where or get to Bari village - the base village of kalsubai and camp there for the night. Then in the morning climb up Kalsubai and return. So for this trip I had a plan, not that i have stuck to my plans historically anyways atleast this time i had a plan! I left Pune early in the morning adorning two raincoats and a bag with my tent stuffed in. As expected it was raining and in fact all through the trip it was raining or raining heavily.
I took the Nasik highway from Pune. The traffic in Nasik highway for that matter any highway out of Pune apart from the Pune Bangalore Highway is erratic. Road sense amongst the public is appaling and the quality of roads leaves a lot to be desired. Anyways one good thing on this highway is the Ambika hotel rather a small dhaba run by a woman at about 50Km out of Pune after Rajgurunagar. She gives amazing chai and nice vada paavs! To continue with the trip I reached Narayangao in about 2.5-3 hrs. Narayangao is about 90 Km out of Pune. The rain was now very heavy and pouring would be a better word to descride it than raining. I stopped again for another round of chai. While sitting in the dhaba i saw a signboard announcing that Shivneri fort was just 18 Kms. I tried to ignore it as Shivneri was not something that i had planned for. After chai i continued my trip, again the signboard came up with Junnar and Shivneri Fort. This time i took the turn! Everything's meant to be broken anyway mine was just a plan!!
The road to Shivneri was in good condition and i reached the fort in half an hour. Safety was not a mojor concern for Shahaji Bhonsle Shivaji's father, i think, as this fort wasnt very high or difficult to reach. At the gate of the fort there was only one tea stall unlike our Sinhagad in Pune where there is a profusion of teastalls. I gave my bag to the chaiwallah for safe keeping as it was quite heavy. There was an old man sitting there under the tree near the stall. He must have been over 80, maybe even ninety years old. He enquired who i was to the chaiwallah and where i was from. While he was leaving he came upto me, shook my hand and patted my shoulder said something in marathi and slowly walked off. Now it was my turn to be curious. I learnt later that he was a freedom fighter, now runs a few schools and colleges and was cabinet minister for couple of terms!
Shivneri Fort was in quite good condition, Archaeological dept has a major hand in keeping it that way i soppose. There were seven massive gates leading to the fort and a couple of manicured gardens. Considering the number of people frequenting this fort the place was remarkably clean. I dont remember seeing anything littered anywhere. The Shivai temple is on the way to the right. Shivai is the goddess of fort Shivneri - the Godesss after whom Jijabai named her son Shivaji. The temple is really worth looking with excellent carving on its door.The Amberkhana comes next. The arcaeological dept has put up signboards on almost all the major structures. The way ahead leads to the badami talao and Shivkunj with the statue of young Shivaji and Jijabai. Shiv-janmasthan or Birthplace of Shivaji Maharaj - The Wada or small palace where Shivaji was born is still in place. This is a two story structure at the ground floor of which, this great king was born. The remnants around the building are now being rebuilt.

 Kadelot is the steep edge of Shivneri from where criminals were thrown down as punishments. View of Junnar city and Lenyadri hill is amazing from here.

Shivneri is much more than a picnic spot near Pune. Its more of a pilgrimage for most of the ardent Marathas. If you visit Shivneri try to be respectful to the place and the tradition that it upholds. For the records Shivneri Fort is about 110 Km from Pune on the Pune Nashik Highway and from Narayangao its about 18 Kms.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Morachi Chincholi - A Short Monsoon Ride to the Peacock Country

This monsoons we have been riding from one place to another like there is no tomorrow. From hill station to forts and hill stations again. So this weekend we thought of changing the pattern and we visited Morachi Chincholi. The land of peacocks and tamarind! 
Havent heard much about Morachi Chincholi? neither had we until recently. Morachi Chincholi is small village about 50 Km from pune towards Ahmadnagar. According to the villagers, a pair of peafowl had arrived in this village many years back. The villagers rather than shooing it away welcomed them and shared their land as well as grains with them. Over the years they made the place their name and even gave the place a name on the tourism map of Maharashtra.We left Pune on sunday afternoon after lunch. From the information that we had gathered the birds camouflaged themselves in the woods during the day and do not come out in the open. Only in the early morning or evening after 4:30 do they come out for the "show". The ride on Ahmadnagar highway is one thing that i do not like, dirty roads and cluttered traffic characterizes the ride. Once we reached Shikrapur we took the off road to Morachi Chincholi. Its about 18 Kms from Shikrapur. Once we took the off road the ride was much better with open fields on either sides dotted with trees on the sides of the road. The roads weren't of the best possible condition and the last 8 Kms had no tarmac.  Once we started to see the tamarind trees around we knew we were in Morachi Chincholi. As we entered the village there was a temple on the left. Morachi chincholi has been developed as a agritourism destination. Agritourism or Agricultural Tourism is the concept of Visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness operations for a holiday. In Morachi Chincholi there is the added attraction of the celebrated national bird. There are couple of organized farms who have taken agritourism very seriously. Mayur baug and Mauli Krishi Paryatan Kendra. Mayur baug is a complete farm with horses and camels and swans. These agritourism centers feed the peacocks every day and they are conditioned to visit these farms every day for food. In turn the visitors get to see a close up show of the birds. A perfect symbiotic relationship. We roamed around the village a little more. Though there was nothing spectacular about the landscape of Morachi Chincholi we soaked in the rustic charm of the village of end less farms with farmers working in their land and the rural fresh air and by twilight we headed back to Pune after our tryst with our National bird!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Matheran - Woods on a hill

Matheran probably is one of the most under rated hillstations near Pune and one of the most negatively publicized holiday destination near Pune in recent times. Onaiza also had visited the place earlier and described it as a hot and humid place. I decided to see Matheran for myself and boy am i glad i did so!

I left for Matheran on a weekday and planned to return on the same day. So at about 8:30 in the morning I left Pune with with two rain coats stuffed in my knapsack. The rains can be an absolute joy to watch while sitting in the comforts of a  dry warm place but at the same time has the potential to be the joy killer while riding. There was intermittent drizzle on the way and i cocooned inside the two raincoats that i was carrying. It was difficult to leave Lonavla without stopping but i had to, however I couldn't stop myself from stopping myself at Khandala Ghat. I like the view from the Khandala ghat with the green hill sides and white foggy clouds floating towards the hills.

At times while we are travelling to a particular destination the places on the way, which in itself could be a destination on another day doesnt bring as much elation in you as it would if it was The destination. There is a joy in reaching the destination too. Maybe it is because of the limited time that we give ourselves that reaching the destination becomes so important to us. To really enjoy travelling i guess we have to cut out the time factor from our minds. Probably thats why they say that the best companion to travel with is the one with a sense of time that is vaguer than yours!!

I was on my way to Matheran again with in half an hour. After Khandala the old mumbai-pune highway joins the express way for a few hundred yards. I was careful not to miss the exit to Khopoli as once i had and had  ended up paying a hefty fine at the next toll check post. Once I reached khopoli i asked a few people for directions and continued straight on the way towards mumbai on the old highway and from Chowk took a right towards Matheran. Matheran is about 29 Km from this junction. However later i discovered that at exactly 5 Kms from Khopoli there is a right turn that you can take which would get you close to Karjat in about 10 Kms. This route reduces the distance to Matheran by about 30 Kms. I have to add here that the roads are not in the best condition here but definitely  is ridable! 

At about 11:30 i reached Dasturi Naka after negotiating some twisty-turny ghat roads. The view on the way was very pretty with a few waterfalls on the way. It was lush green all around with different shades of green like most of the places around pune during monsoons but the difference was the narrow gauge railway tracks criss crossing the way at regular intervals. I parked my bike in the parking area in Dasturi and started my trek up. At 12 in the afternoon the visibility was low on account of a thick fog cover floating across. After passing the horse parking area where i had to deal with a few touts who were trying to sell me a ride up to bazaar which i refused i continued on my trek. The horse guys where quoting prices ranging from 300-500, later after speaking to a few locals at hotels i discovered that the lowest that they charge for a trip upto bazaar from dasturi is 100 normal rates being 120-150.

Matheran is the only hill station in Asia where vehicles apart from Ambulance is banned. You either need to do it all on foot or you may hire a horse or a hand pulled rikshaw. Probably that in itself struck a chord with me, after all it was a unique experience to visit a hillstation where you don't get to hear the sounds of motor! After walking up about 3Km i reached the bazaar peth. It gave the impression of an erstwhile bustling town. Probably this is how towns of yester years would have looked like. With paved walkways and shops and all the activity. Most of the resorts and hotels in Matheran are in the bazaar peth area. The Matheran railway station is also in the bazaar. Even in the mid day sun the place was misty and pleasant. A little ahead was the park - a little garden where there where holidaying families. I continued on my walk towards the woods. Matheran, literally the woods on top of a fill is rightly named so. There are about a dozen points scattered at  a distance of 1-2 Kms from each other. I rued the fact that i hadn't given myself more time for the trip. Anyways its not always necessary to see all the "points" in a place; according to me it only serves the purpose of boasting to people that none of the points were missed.

There were a few government buildings, a hospital  and an old church ahead of the bazaar. I could picture the old Britishers before independence walking to the church in their hats and dresses. It was fun imagining how it would have been like. It might not have been much different from now minus the hotels and the shops. There were sign boards announcing distance and direction to the "points". I saw on a board Charlotte lake and was reminded of a friend who read the name as "char lotey" once, smiling at the thought i took the turn towards the lake. Charlotte lake was a miserable sight. Muddy brown water with plastic bottles on the bank. from here i walked towards the echo point. The walk trough the woods was very refreshing. I could see why Matheran is famed or the other way around as a haunted place. Walking alone with no one in sight and the only sounds breaking the silence being the flowing water somewhere downstream, chirruping of birds and crickets i found the place peaceful however it would be easy to be feel creepy in this setting. From echo point while walking back i saw it written on a rock which read as - If you haven't seen Lord's point you haven't seen Matheran! Sometimes these punchlines can be very effective in inducing a decision. So i walked towards Lords point, which in fact was a place with quite a nice view. Near the lords point was the temple of the pisaran devata, the gram devata. Now it was getting late as i wanted to get down the ghats before dark. I walked back towards the bazaar but lost my way and ended up at the Belvedere point. It actually lives up to its name and is really a beautiful point.

There were a few more spots that i could have gone to like the one tree hill, Rambaug point, Sunset point monkey point etc but i kept these points for my later visits as Matheran has definitely got into my list of places were one could return again and again. Probably it was the time of my visit that made all the difference. A month into the monsoons but not a very rainy day. It was misty and pleasant all through the day and at the view points it was quite clear with the fog not obstructing the view. I walked down to the bazar and back to Dasturi on the narrow railway tracks with a promise in my heart to return to Matheran.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pratapgad - Fort near Mahabaleshwar

Pratapgad - A Fort near Mahabaleshwar

The monsoons has started but not yet reached its ferocious best. What i like about Pune during monsoons is the way it changes the color of the landscape of the place to a glistening green. This weekend i decided to travel solo to one of the strongholds of the Shivaji empire, Pratapgad - a beautiful fort up a hill near Mahabaleshwar.

Mahabaleshwar is a hillstation near Pune which doesn't need any introduction. A beautiful hillstation, favorite destination of many a puneite at a distance of about 120 Km from Pune, Mahabaleshwar has many sub destinations like gems on a crown scattered around it. Pratapgad fort is one such gem at about 25 Km from Mahabaleshwar. To reach Pratapgad fort from Mahabaleshwar one has to drive towards Poladpur and this fort lies ahead of the Ambenali ghats. Ambenali ghats is about 10 Kms long and shows one few of the most beautiful views around Mahabaleshwar. 
Most of the distance is covered in a thick canopy of trees and riding through the woods is in itself a special experience with the fog and the clouds partially blinding you. During monsoons one would find numerous seasonal waterfalls along the way. I wonder at times why the monsoons are considered to be off seasons in Mahabaleshwar apart from the fact that one might miss out on the strawberries, but there is lot more to Mahabaleshwar than the strawberries! anyways the good part about off seasons is that room tariffs go down to almost one third of what it would be during high seasons and one gets to see the place in the greenest possible way. I can keep wondering why monsoons are off season but there are no reasons to complain!!
Once you descend the Ambenali ghats you reach the Ambenali village from where you need to take a left to the Pratapgad fort which is about five Km from the deviation. Its a steep ascend to reach the fort. The altitude lost in the Ambenali ghat in about 10 Kms, the steep climb gains almost the same altitude in about 5Kms. The point being be ready for a treacherously steep climb!! On the way up there is a handicraft centre where different aretefacts can be found. An exhibition of art and pictures carved in metal is a stop that you should take. I visited the exhibition which is grand.
One can ride right up to the base of the fort where the stairway up starts. I reached the fort early in the morning and it was a misty walk up the fort.There is a cannon placed right at the gateway; on passing the gateway, Abdulla's tower lies to the right while the path to the left leads to the upperfort. The temple of Bhavani is on the eastern side of the lower fort. This temple apparently was built in 1661 by Shivaji as he was unable to visit his favorite diety, Bhavani at Tuljapur due continous heavy rains. The stairway continues upto the top of the fort where a statue of Shivaji is erected on a pedestal sorrounded by probably a erstwhile manicured garden. 

The inscriptionread that statue was unveiled by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1957. There is also a rest house built by the PWD for which booking can be done from Satara or even at the rest house real time subject to availability. Its very basic accomodation with no frills attached. The ramparts of this huge fort extends further however the whole place is covered by trees and bushes. There is a water tank up ahead and also you can see the Mumbai-Goa highway. The fort has gigantic cliffs on The western and northern sides with a drop of a few hundred feets.

Pratapgad fort built by Moro Trimbak Pingle at the command of Shivaji to secure access to his possessions on the banks of Nira and Koyna river near the source of the River Krshna, and to strengthen the defences of the Par Pass is today a beautiful destination near pune for a weekend geta away.

For booking at the rest house on top you may contact Laxman the caretaker of the for and it would cost approx 400-500 a day to stay here.

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.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Panhala - A Fortified Hillstation

Puneritraveller, our very own pune travel guide is about to turn two years old and after having received ample amount of feed backs and suggestions regarding the website, which almost always revolved around the lines of good repository of information regarding tourist places around pune but lacks information about hotels and resorts there; which we apparently agreed to, we decided to change that!
We decided to revisit the places and this time around to include hotels and resorts in the places and also provide options to book hotels in the places listed in the website. But obviously it could not be done overnight but it had to start somewhere so we decided to visit Panhala - The quaint hill station this time we changed the name of the article to a fortified town!!

It was the first trip out of town for our new bike - who we have named "Rex", and the ride on NH4 was ideal to test the performance of the bike. The speedometer hovered around 110 km/hr and it was amazingly steady.  The roads from Kolhapur to Panhala also was good unlike the roads to most of the forts near Pune.
Panhala - at about 25 km from Kolhapur is a small hill station fortified by the various dynasties which ruled the land. Now remnants of the fort can be seen around the circumference of the town. The only structure well maintained of the earlier fortifications is the amberkhana which used to be the granaries used for storage of grains for the troops. The names of these granaries, Ganga jamuna and saraswati got me thinking on the origin of the names and who gave it to these granaries. Shivaji? I am not sure!!

Sajja kothi on the eastern side is another prominent spot. The view of the plains from the kothi is quite nice and there also is a PWD guest house in the premises. Like most of the government facilities as far as the location is concerned nobode can beat them however the service makes you feel that the resorts in the area pay the care takers to give bad service!
The fort on the northern side also offer some panoramic view. The ruins of teen darwaja the erstwhile entrance to the town is also a structure  is also notable landmark.
The weather here is very pleasant in the early mornings and evenings and bearable during afternoons. The best season to visit panhala as mentioned by the hoteliers here is something i failed to agree with. If you would ask me when i would like to visit Panhala i wouldn't think twice before saying during monsoons but the resort guys seemed to think otherwise. Probably according to them season is when most people visited the place rather than the best time to see the place at its natural best.
Panhala is not a conventional hillstation so if you expect one you might just be disappointed. Its a small town with a charm of posterity. A place you would associate with a small break and getaway, where you would just laze around taking morning walks and may be a walk to the bhelpuri wallah in the evening after watching a serene sunset.
We would give Panhala a rating of 3 stars as a weekend destination from Pune

Friday, May 28, 2010

A day trip to Lohagad Fort

How could i miss the trip to Lohagad fort while thinking of the trips that we dis last monsoons! Unfortunately i cant find any of the snaps that we took during the trip, not really sure whether we had carried the camera. Its highly unlikely that i didn’t carry the camera and if i did carry the camera then its highly unlikely that that i didn’t take any snaps and if i did take some snaps its extremely unlikely that i didn’t transfer it to my laptop.  Anyways the point now is that i cant find any of those snaps. I should be more organized. hmmm...

We had planned to go in the train as we had to get to Malawli from where we had to get a six seater to the base village where the trek starts. Neither of us are morning people and obviously we missed the local to Lonavla. It was a tragedy. When we reached the station we could see the local train roll out of the station. Anyways we took the next train to Lonavla and then too an auto back to Malawli (P.S We were going from Pune)
Once we reached Malawli we hitched a ride with a group of hikers from pune to the base village; sorry forgot the name of the village, and we started our hike to Lohagad. It was continually drizzling, the old fashioned Pune rains where it seems the rain drops are floating rather than falling, that kinda drizzle. A walk through the hills which had turned itself out to meadows of green grass with trees in between with leaves a glistening green it was a pleasure to walk this trail.
Once we reached the base of the fort we had tea and snacks. It should be the proximity to both the cities, Pune and Mumbai and add to it the ease of the trek, Lohagad seems to be the most popular trekking destination near pune.
The last stretch of this trek is innumerable number of steps which finally takes us inside the fort. The seasonal waterfalls on the steps drenched us a bit more. Once on top of the fort the view is quite beautiful. Misty windy and a spot with a view. In the evening we trekked back and took the train back to Pune from Malawli
For the records of all the forts near pune Lohagad is the easiest of treks one can do from pune or mumbai, the distance from Pune is barely 60 Kms and it can take approximately 1 1/2 hours to reach the top of the fort, and till the base of fort where the steps start up-till there one could even ride a bike. All in all its a easy trail and a must do trek if you are especially from Pune

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dajjipur , Goa - A short road trip

It was just about a month after we returned from Kerala where we got married, the itch in the heel to go some place started resurfacing. We decided to go some place which is not a too obvious choice for a weekend trip and we decided on a wild life sanctuary. After a bit of research on wild life sanctuary we zeroed in on Dajipur There wasn't much literature on Dajipur on the internet and all we got to know about the Bison National Park is that its beautiful!
It was august a nd the monsoons hadn't subsided. We left pune headed for Dajipur on a friday morning. We were on a pulsar which and uptil satara it was quite ok. Once we reached satara it started drizzling and it just wouldn't stop. So we started riding in the rain!! By the time we reached Kolhapur we were quite drenched and we stopped at Mcdonalds to dry ourselves and we waited for the rain to stop.
From Kolhapur to reach Dajipur we could have taken a easier rather shorter route but we we didnt know the way then, so we took the longer route without entering Kolhapur. The route through the Kolhapur city via Radhanagari is shorter by about 40kms. Once we were closer to Radhanagari the landscape turned out to be quite interesting with the roads traversing through thick forest. The Radhanagari dam is quite a big dam which is turnung out to be a popular picnic spot from Kolhapur. The lake and the trees on either side of the road was creating a very relaxing ambiance. We reached Dajipur towards evening and now we were looking for the Bison jungle park a resort maintained by MTDC. We werent able to find any structure like that but after scouting the place couple of time we found the place. They could have atleast had the board fixed up. The resort was appalling. Literally in shambles i was surprised to see so many people who were boarding there. May be the kack of options. The charged us about 200Rs and that too seemed like we were over paying. Anyways the place is beautiful and the lake side offered a perfect camping 

ground.  The Bison National Park is the primary attraction in Dajipur. However the point to note is that the National park is open only from November to June and is closed during the rains. The Ponda Ghats is another attraction and the view from here is magnificent. The Radhanagri and the Dajipur dharan or the lakes offers some very calm and soulful moments.The stay at the jumgle park was too much for us to take so we were thinking of returning the next day. We were sitting near the ponda ghats when we noticed a sign board indicating that Goa was just 144KM from there. So we decided to ride down to goa and so we did!!

It was off seasons in goa and we headed straight to Anjuna our favorite beach. Ever since we had done the backpacker trip to goa where we traveled across goa on foot camping where ever we reached that day, Anjuna has

 remained the soul of Goa for us. We rented a beach side hotel . It was amazing how different Goa looked without the crowds The sad part was that since we had packed our bags for a wild life sanctuary holiday we didnt have much of beach clothes and we had to stay on the shores.
Curly's was the only beach shack that was still serving with patrons who were still staying on in Goa even sfter the season was over. We returned the next day and reached Pune late in the evening with a long story to tell all who were ready to listen!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Night in Sinhagad fort - Reminiscence of the Last Monsoons!

In about two weeks time monsoons should be here, and i am eagerly waiting for the rains to be here. This summer has been particularly hot..every year we seem to say the same thing that it was so much better last year..anyways the point is that i am eagerly waiting for the rains. Pune has a different aura altogether once it starts raining. Though the incessant drizzle is now something like a folklore monsoons still bring the best out of Pune.

Monsoons last year was fun and while i wait for the rains i thought it would be a great idea to blog a few of our trips last year.
If i remember correct it was a weekend  and we were not quite sure what to do and in the spur of the moment we decided to pack our bags, and so we did! We decided to go to Sinhagad
This is something quite nice about Pune. There is no dearth of weekend destinations around Pune and one really doesn't have to travel for hours to reach somewhere to feel the chill of fresh air. In Sinhagad there are a few options to stay like the Thilak smarak, the Gaikwad's and also the PWD guest houses but we decided to camp on this fortress. 
We left in the afternoon and we reached Sinhagad in about 1 1/2 hours. It doesnt require that kinda time to reach the place but we stopped at khadakvasla dam where next to the reservoir there are umpteen number of stalls selling 'chat' and corn different kinds of desi snacks. We also stopped at the base of the fort to have our omelet, which is more of a ritual for us than anything else!
We reached the fort in the early evening and being a weekend the fort was quite crowded. Sinhagad is quite the favorite spot for a weekend drive for a punekar who likes outdoors and if you happen to visit the fort on a weekend you wouldn't need any further testimony for that. Its in fact slightly difficult to find a parking space if you go in the evenings!

Anyways the fort was a glistening green with the rains and blanketed by mist. The romance of the place could bring out a poet in even a stone heart, and i was just a mere mortal! The tea stalls make good business here and to have a sweet tea sitting in one of the shacks here is quite fun and how can one miss the 'kanda bhajji'. Sometimes i wonder whether its the taste that makes these things so amazing or is it the setting in which its served. Let me add that you would have to understandably pay double the cost here.
The initiatives to renovate the fort is quite visible. If you happen to go to this place for the first time you might feel that nothing is being done here to preserve this place but if you have been here a few years back then you would quite surprised to see the paved walkways, the railings and the steps, which i would have to say is a good thing, though initially i had my reservations. 
Once you enter the fort after climbing, i don't know how many steps the view is quite nice. By the time we reached which by then was late evening the weekend crowd was heading back. We walked around the fort. If you have been here i am sure you would have one favorite spot on this fort which you would end up going again and again. Mine is near the buland darwaza and i don't really recount the number of time i have camped here alone and with friends!

This time however we decided to camp near the wind point for a change which turned out to be a grave mistake. I didn't expect the wind to be so fierce that in the night it was difficult to sleep with wind howling away and the force of the wind practically changed the shape of our tent. Its very cold in the night and the mornings are chilly. We got up with the wind still howling away and the early hikers were already there on the fort enjoying a nice walk in the chilly morning.
For the record the distance from Pune to Sinhagad fort is about 50 Kms from Pune. There are two routes to reach the Sinhagad from Pune, one from Warje => road behind the NDA => Khadakvasla => Sinhagad and the other one which is more frequented which is Swargate => Sinhagad Road => Khadakvasla => Sinhagad

Disaster in Dahanu

dahanuA national holiday was coming up on account of the Mahatma’s bday it was my day too on the 5th so we decided on yet another camping trip but couldn’t zero in on a destination until our neighbour suggested Dahanu, which happened to be her home town. So six of us set out on the trip.
This holiday however turned out to be a series of goof ups so i name it disaster in dahanu.
We left from Pune in Pragati Express, as a matter of fact we had planned to leave Pune in Deccan queen which leaves Pune one hour earlier than Pragati Express and reach Mumbai two hours earlier than Pragati!!..we had to catch a connection train from Mumbai to Dahanu and we had checked; the official website of Indian railways for booking tickets, which gave us the option  of Garib Rath which would get us to Dahanu in less than two hours.
Once we reached Mumbai we asked at the enquiry about the train. The attendant at the enquiry window gave a blank look at us and then said; scratching his armpit, that we had to go to Bombay Central to catch the train. We took a taxi to Bombay central where we found out that the train that we intended to catch doesn’t stop at Dahanu Rd. We had to catch the Ahmedabad Passenger which got us to Dahanu in four hours!!
Once we reached Dahanu the first thing that struck us was the friendliness of the Auto rickshaw wallahs. We hired an auto and asked him to take us to the beach. While on the way my friend asked about getting booze near the beach to which the auto came to a screeching halt as a response.  With great difficulty the driver turned around, because two of my friends were flanking him on either sides (six of us had fit in that one tiny auto along with the luggage) and with a twinkle in his eyes advised us to get the booze from the town because for the same that we could buy at maybe 1000 rs we would end up paying close to 2500 near the beach.
he took us back, escorted us to the store carried the booze to the auto opened our bags packed the booze in the bags and left us all mere mute spectators to all that he was doing…well i should add here that i dont like even my partner opening my bags or packing anything in it anyways he gave us a bright big smile after doing all this which kind of evened it out.
We reached the bar nakka beach  in about 10 minutes of the joy ride. It again was a flat beach with grey sand. I expected some more waves; i was humungously missing the Kerala beaches and wanted to sea a few waves..anyways the beach here was very calm. The afforestation efforts of the forest department on the beaches gives it a good serene look. We set our tent up on the beach and it was quite a nice evening until the tragedy unfolded.
By about 2 in the night the local police came to the scene and asked us to pack up from the beach because its not allowed to camp on the beach. At two in the night we weren’t sure what to do. Tried talking to the cops and we figured out that it was just another attempt on their part to get some money out of us; to which we refused. We preferred to pack up the tents to bribing them. We walked into the peerline beach resort which was just across the road. Couple of our friends had taken a room in the resort because they weren’t too keen camping and we asked the hotel admin whether we could bunk in with them and pay for the extra beds to which they stated that the rules do not allow them to do that..Made me wonder who made the rules. They told us that all the rooms are packed and only the super deluxe suite which happens to be the most expensive of the lot was available. We had seen the resort quite deserted in the evening and wondered how the whole resort ended up being full in matter of hours. Quite evident that the resort guys were looking at our misery as their opportunity and we weren’t ready to cave in. We walked out of the resort quite disgusted. We put all our bags in our friends room (We weren’t allowed to carry the bags to his room – the rules again – and our friend had to carry it to the room – some customer service huh!) and after that we wandered around ion the raods till about 4 in the morning when we got an auto.
He took us to a lodge in Narpad 3 Km from Dahanu,which cost us 1/10 of what peerline was charging but yes the rooms weren’t the best possible; but managable. The beach here is rocky and landscape around the beach was beautiful. It was a perfect campsite with a small pond and a creek but we did not have the courage to camp again in dahanu!
The next day we had plans to go to the fort; which apparently we found out later that it was converted to a govt office! It started raining and the storms wouldn’t stop! We still managed to get to the fort but again it wasn’t worth the effort.
In all this disappointment the only good thing was the food at Visava dhaba near Narpad and in all fairness the food at peerline also wasn’t bad. All said and done if we had to give a review of the place we would say that the place is a good destination for a weekend and the food is great. But the customer service of the resorts leave a lot to be desired.