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.

Ganpatipule – A Temple Town

For those who want to get under the skin of this state; Maharashtra, Ganapatipule is an unexpected starting point to discover the landscape, art, culture and history of Maharashtra.
Arrive at the beach down the winding roads from Ratnagiri and you are right by the Swayambhu Ganapati Temple, one of the paschim dwar devtas. The Swayambhoo Ganapati is very popular with the konkani people, who crowd it especially on Angar Ki Chathurvedi which is held once in every six months on a tuesday. There is an interesting Ganapati-shaped walk of 1km around the hill, which is called Pradakshina, a way of respect shown by the pilgrims to the deity. Walk out of the temple and you are right on the beach. Small shacks sell coconut water (no hard drinks allowed). If the romance of the setting wasn’t enough it is so sparsely populated that the tourists outnumber locals here!!
Jaigad Fort and Lighthouse
Now in ruins, the bastions famous 17th century fort offers spectacular views of the village and sea. Jaigad fort is a perfect place to have a picnic perched on a cliff overlooking the confluence of River Sangameshwar and the arabian sea. There is a small beach below which is safe for swimming. The fort is not too large but there is an interesting story about it. One side of the fort wall would keep crumbling inspite of repeated repairs. A poor local by the name of Jai decided to sacrifice himself and his wife to propitiate the gods and lift the curse. Since then the wall has stood firm and there is a small temple to pay respects to Jai. About 1.5 Km away lies the ancient Karateshwar Temple behind which steps lead to a cozy and secluded beach. The Jaigad Lighthouse was built by John Oswald in 1832.
ganpatipuleRatnagiri, the district town of Ganapatipule is an interesting halt for sightseeing. It houses the home of Lokmanya Tilak, now Tilak Smarak. The first ever temple built for non-brahmins called Patit Pawan Mandir, the Ratnadurga Fort, Bhagivati Bunder, a sea port and the Coconut Research Centre are some of the other places you could visit in and around Ratnagiri. Also, stop at Velneshwar, to visit the old Shiva Temple and the beach. If you want to continue with the temple excursion, there is Marleshwar, 60 km from Ganapatipule, home to the famous cave temple of Shiva and waterfalls and the Parshuram Temple, located 112 km from Ganapatipule.
One could relive moments from history, at Thibaw Palace, built in 1910, for the exiled King and Queen of Burma, and see their tombs.
There are a few Ganpatipule Hotels and resorts in Ganpatipule but the bunglows of Atharva residency is worth a look

Rajgad Trek – Escape into the Wilderness

Rajgad trekkingIt was a tiring week and i decided to take a break from it all and head to a place where i would not find anyone but me! It was easy to chose a destination as i was going on a weekday and the numerous forts that Shivaji Maharaj has built around the city remained deserted for most part of the week but for the weekend. So i zeroed in on Rajgad, yet again, and packed my tent and bag and left on my honda activa!
Amongst the options for trekking in pune Rajgad is definitely one of the favourite options.
I had been to Rajgad  more than half a dozen times and each time i have had some thing new to explore, be it the little climb up the bale killa or a trek down the suvela machi.
camping near puneSituated south-west of Pune at about a distance just above 60km, this fort commands the Bhuleshwar range. Rajgad is surely one of the most alluring treks and has spell bounded many trekkers with its mammoth size, sky touching height(4600 ft.) and wide spread.There are four to five different ways to reach Rajgad, one of the easiest way is via Vajeghar-Pali which i took again!
This time i decided to camp in suvela machi and a night alone under the zillions of stars was well worth the trek up!

Srivardhan – A Beach Rediscovered

Srivardhan Beach
shrivardhan beachShrivardhan is a small beach with black sands on the Konkan coast of India. About 110 miles from the place i live; Pune, Maharashtra Shrivardhan is a secluded place that usually dont feature in the itinary of the weekend traveller. Maybe because its not very commercialized and there aren’t many resorts or stay options on the beach apart from the one that we were headed to; Subhan beach resort. The road that we took from Pune was through the Tamhini ghats were we had some stunning vies of the valley.
Pune => Nulshi => Tamhini Ghats => Mangao => Morba => Shrivardhan
Shrivardhan is a beach about two miles in length with black smooth sands. Its relatively clean considering that its a fishing village and obviously a few dead fish on the beach is unavoidable. The water is very clean and more than swimming a walk in the water suits the mood of the beach.The flat beach is an ideal destination for a lazy weekend away from the drudgeries of everyday life.
The fishermen’s dock is one thing that shouldn’t be missed and the fish auction is a good time to catch the pulse of the place. Mr Nisar who runs the resort took us to the auction where we bought a few fish for the resort and some to take back home. A dolphin sighting ride in the boats is always possible which could make a memorable experience.
Harihareshwar and Diveghar two more popular beaches about 10 miles away from Shrivardhan on either sides and you could do a bit of temple hopping if you are in the mood to do that in these two places.
for maps and some more details you could visit Shrivardhan on puneritraveller – A Travel Guide to Pune and places around it

Diveagar – A village with a Beach

diveagarIt had been a while that i traveled with friends and hence for this weekend i decided to hang out with friends and what better than a beach do that. So we decided to head for Diveagar a beach not too far from Pune.
We hired a 17 seater van which cost us about Rs 7200 and booked a bunglow which cost us Rs 2100 and left for the beach on 22nd March 2010, a Saturday morning.
May is hot and near the cost it is hotter and may be a wrong time to go to a beach but we couldn’t care lesser. The road to Diveagar was re-done recently and was in quite good condition for almost the entire distance. Narrow winding roads leading up-to this tiny hamlet took us a drive of about 5 hours with more than one stop, once for breakfast and then once for no justifiable reason!! For the records the distance from pune to Diveagar was about 165 Km as the milestones read but from experience i don’t trust milestones much.
Diveagar is for starters a small village with a beach which shot up in popularity after a golden idol of ganesha – the elephant god was discovered by a woman in her farm and was later placed in a temple the Suvarna Ganpati temple.
The locals here seemed to have taken up the hospitality business with a zest. Almost all the houses here seemed to have a board soliciting the bread and breakfast board. However its better to have a place booked before reaching here as almost all the good places seemed to have been booked during even this off season weekend!
Once we checked in to the bunglow that we had booked from Pune we headed for lunch. To be honest the lunch was disappointing because our host couldn’t manage to get fish that day and what is lunch without fish that too while in Konkan.
Anyways after a lunch of chicken thali which was nothing to boast about a few of us headed to scout the Diveagar beach. The beach was understandably deserted at this time of the day. The diveagar beach is quite a long stretch of beach which seemed close to about 5km with a river meeting the sea at one end. The sand is very fine and quite mucky once wet. I wasn’t too happy with the color of the sand but who cares…its a beach after all !!
Diveagar We went back to our room and after resting for some time in the evening we again headed to the beach this time for a dip in the ocean. Diveagar is quite a wavy beach, though not the high waves it has waves coming in constantly unlike most of the beaches in this stretch which are quite calm. After having a lot of fun in the water and football in the beach we headed back for our shower and dinner. This time around food was nice at this joint which seemed to extremely busy. I never expected myself to be waiting in line for dinner at a place like Diveagar but here i was waiting for people to finish their dinner as the place was packed. Food was good and the fish fry was great!!
Like all groups our group also had a singer amongst us and we jammed quite late into the night and i don’t remember when drifted to sleep.
All in all I would rate Diveagar as a good weekend destination, pluses would be not too close yet not too far, not too crowded but not sparse either, availability of the resorts and the minuses would be the food which was quite disappointing overall.
waiting for my next weekend and eagerly waiting for the monsoons which is supposed to arrive in a fortnight!!!