The scenic hill stations of lonavala, panchgani , matheran and mahabaleshwar are always on a trekker's wishlist during the monsoons and i keep drolling over them too every year. However the idea of winter camping at one of these places was something new i wanted to try. What better than camping at the top of the hill, roaming across the strawberry farms with the green valley and the river flowing beneath! Welcome to Mahabaleshwar ☺
Reaching Mahabaleshwar from either bombay or pune could be a bit challenging logistically if you havent booked a direct bus ride. Direct ST buses ply regularly from dadar/panvel(bombay) or swargate in pune and the daily timetable could be accessed. However these are not very cosy and are seater buses. Private pushback/SL volvo buses are available from bombay starting from andheri(bisleri stop) at 5:30 am reaching mahabaleshwar neeta stop by 1 pm. You can also book overnight sleeper once and alight at your destination sharp in the morning. Otherwise keep hiking by boarding bombay pune regular buses/taxi and get off at katraj chowk from where again take the satara route buses. This could drain you a bit but for people on a shoestring budget this work wonders. The 7 odd hours route for beginners can be broken down as:-
Advait Valley Camp site
To give you a lead, this isnt a private siye where you can plan, hike and set up your private camp. Its a camp resort type of setting, newly started and remains closed during the monsoons. Now, there are a few such camping resorts across panchgani & mahabaleshwar but none of them have the charm and the view this place has to offer. Lying at few kms off the old Mahabaleshwar market area (a taxi would be required) near Kshetra, the place is located on the ridge of the valley with the tranquil krishna river flowing beneath it. The tents are put up across the place parallel to each other with a large open area providing a 270 degree view of the valley. I would rather give a pictorial description as i find myself short of words which can describe the captivating beauty of the place.
All the relevant information regarding the site could be found from their website. Just to give a brief, the usual check in time is a bit late, say around 3 pm however they allowed me to enter by 1. You will be cordially welcomed with a traditional glass of kokum juice and the key to your tent will be alloted. They have got tents of various sizes although the twin sharing one is the most popular. We took some rest had some tea and biscuits and in the evening went off to a nearby temple and to some strawberry farms. As the sun started to set it kept getting cold. They have this beautiful bonfire arrangements to keep us warm. We had an awesome barbeque (veg only) and had them sitting by the fire. Finally we had our dinner and then went on for a stroll to the nearby market area. Although the place itself lies on old Mahabaleshwar area which isnt much populated so our walk was pretty limited.