Thursday, April 26, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
It was precisely such an occasion that I landed in Lonavala last weekend. Had nothing to do and had no booking either.
Left the hot urban grime of Mumbai early Saturday morning and landed in Lonavala in an hour and a half. Loafed around generally, had a leisurely breakfast in ‘Ramakrishna’ and set about looking for a place to dump my overnighter as had decided to stay away from the city for a couple of days. All the hotels/motels along the Mumbai-Pune highway at Lonavala were full. So I ventured onto the other side across the bridge where you will find the famous ‘Cooper’s’ – the fudge people, very close to the Lonavala railway station.
Instead of going towards the railway station, I turned right at the small circle and moved on. Soon on the right-hand side, I spotted a few quaint cottages freshly painted in white with red arches. They looked very pretty in the wooded area with plenty of trees.
The ‘Shivshanti’ hotel turned out to be an MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) approved destination and they had cottages to spare! The rates were very competitive and the staff very friendly and cooperative. Without any further ado, I checked in and the rooms were very spacious and clean with fresh linen – worth every paisa that I had been charged. All the cottages had a small balcony with a view. After having refreshed myself, I plonked myself there to unwind the city clock and release the stress. There was plenty of greenery around and this at a time when monsoons were about to set in. So one can imagine how beautiful the view would be a few weeks into the monsoon. Had my lunch right there and a nap later, in the evening, drove towards ‘Bushi dam’ – another famous touristy place especially in the rains. But my destination was a few kilometers ahead of the dam. There is a slightly steep climb onto a hill and all of a sudden, this beautiful sight appears - it is heavenly.
There are hardly any people there, fortunately, and one can select the best spot on a cliff to sit and drink in a fabulous sunset!
Apparently, this is called ‘Lion’s point. This information was supplied to me by another spectator who too did not appear very sure about the name. However, if you wish to go there, just go a few kilometers beyond the crowded Bushi dam and you will find the heavenly sights unfolding right before your eyes. The name is immaterial. This is a sight worth traveling all the way. It is guaranteed to de-stress, rejuvenate and maintain your mental hygiene!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Get on to the Mumbai Nashik highway (NH3) and just beyond Igatpuri, you will see an exit to the right for Bhandardara via Ghoti village.
We left Bandra around 0730hrs and reached Bhandardara at 1130hrs including a half hour breakfast break at ‘Bhagat Tarachand’ a pure veg. restaurant which is fastidiously clean, airy and serves wholesome food. If there are no tables available you can opt for self service too. This restaurant is about 80kms from Mumbai, just before Shahapur. Or you can halt at ‘Manas Resort’ near Igatpuri or the Prestige food plaza. These are some of the good places to take a short break on the way.
The roads overall are excellent except for the roads in the Ghoti village which are narrow and crowded. The signage all along to Bhandardara and back is good to ensure you do not lose time asking for directions.
The MTDC resort overlooks the placid Lake Arthur which is formed by the dammed waters of the Pravara river.
Legend has it that Shri Agastya Rishi meditated continuously for a year, living only on water and air. Pleased with his tremendous devotion the Lord came down to earth, blessed him and left leaving behind a stream of Ganga - now known as Pravara River.
The Wilson Dam built in 1910 on the Pravara river, is almost 150 meters above sea level. When the sluice gates of this dam are opened, the Randha waterfalls are in action. The water cascades down 45 meters - an ideal place to relax and enjoy nature. Besides being a scenic spot, these falls are also used for hydropower generation.
If you are energetically inclined, hike up to Mount Kalsubai, Mahrashtra's highest peak at 1646 m. This is a day's trek from Bhandardara, and can be combined with Ratanwadi, 22 km away; the 8th century Amruteshwar temple; and the 400-year-old Ratangad Fort where the Maratha warrior Shivaji rested on his laurels. The ancient Agastya Rishi Ashram on the banks of the Pravara River is another attraction. The ashram is mentioned in the Ramayana as the spot where Ram met Agastya Rishi.
In Bhandardara, you can hire a guide to take you around for fees ranging between Rs.100/- to Rs.200/- for the day.
If you just want to chill out you can do exactly that and maybe go for a boat trip across the lake. The fishermen, when not using the boat for fishing, will gladly take you around the lake for a small price. The price varies depending on the season.
Fish lovers can enjoy the freshly netted catch from the lake. The MTDC restaurant serves a pretty good ‘Fish curry and rice’ and is a multi-cuisine Value For Money eatery.
The MTDC accommodation can now be booked online at www.maharashtratourism.gov.in
The railhead closest to Bhandardara is at Igatpuri, 45 km away on the Central Railway. From Igatpuri, State Transport buses and taxis take around one hour to get to Bhandardara.
From Bhandardara, you can also visit Nashik(70kms), Shirdi(110kms) or Trimbakeshwar(70kms).
In Pune we checked in at Hotel Sargam – a fine new hotel in Yerawada. The rooms, food and the service were very good. Did some more temple visiting in Pune like visiting the
After descending we had a refreshing glass of sugarcane juice and then off we went to The Vighnahar Temple at Ozar, a distance of 30minutes of bone rattling 15kms. At Ozar, it is pay Rs.10/- and park in a huge parking lot. The facilities for devotees here are very good. For a small sum you can have meals at the temple and there are rooms and dormitory available if you wish to stay over. You may photograph the idol but at a price of Rs.21/-. We were in time for the afternoon puja and felt blessed, as this was the last of the Ashtavinayak temple to be visited. Now it was the home run back to Mumbai but decided to take a break at Malshej, 40kms of ‘under reconstruction’ road from Ozar, where we spent a wonderful communing with nature at the MTDC resort. The Malshej experience may be experienced at http://photings.blogspot.com/2006/10/travelogue-malshej.html The total distance covered was 850kms of which around 10% of the roads were bad, otherwise it was a superb driving experience. .