Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries

2nd Jul 2016

The whole week after working for hours at the office ,”weekend” is the “word” and the “world” we all look forward to .When it actually comes ,all we do is lie down and keep staring at the ceiling fan .

No more!

Day 1

It was a Saturday and already quarter past two .We decided to just head out ,without any kind of planning or pre-bookings . In a frenzied half an hour, I packed my backpack with a water bottle,an extra pair of tee and a camera. On our way down in the elevator ,it was decided that we were going to Mahabaleshwar.

The Journey started on foot as we were already short on cash but we had dreamy eyes ! No sooner than we walked out of the apartment complex, it started raining and that too heavily. It was the onset of monsoons, and after a whole week of scorching sun, the Gods decided to shower upon us, now of all the times! We realized that we will need a raincoat if we want to travel dry.

Whoever said sound sleep is a luxury !

Photo of Pune, Maharashtra, India by Gaurav Jain

We reached Mumbai Pune highway and stuck our thumbs out hoping somebody would give us a lift. A dozen trucks and tempos passed by and nobody stopped .It didn’t hamper our spirits down though. It was already evening and this generous guy Ajinkya, stopped by seeing us walking down the road and with a wide grin on his face he asked us if he can drop us somewhere. It was a Hero Activa ,and we were tripling to Warje with him. He was a Marathi student and we hummed the latest Sairat songs on the way .He even directed us on how to go ahead to Swargate from where we could find a State bus or any cars going towards Mahabaleshwar.

The Toofan dropped us at this very small town called Shirwal. We decided to quickly check out the place before heading on. It was just 10 o clock and the roads were already empty and people retired to their homes. Just a couple of restaurants were open and our growling stomachs were more than happy to see them . We had a sumptuous dinner at the supposedly “best restaurant in town “ and the food bill shocked us ! It was just a 160 rupees for a deliciously generous quantity enough for the two big guys. We thanked the owner and asked for directions towards Mahabaleshwar.

It took us a long time to hitch a ride on the Mumbai Bangalore highway at that time of the night. A cab driver agreed to drop us to Surur Phata from where we needed to take the right turn to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar. It was middle of the night already and it was raining and chilly .While waiting under the huge banyan tree, the wait for another ride ,the exhausted bodies were on the verge of collapsing and sleeping under the tree itself but as luck would have it , another guy came who was looking for a ride to Panchgani. Then another old couple came and was looking for a ride too ! Suddenly it was a competition as to who would be able to stop a car or a bike or a truck and get in it first .No cars or taxis stopped by after seeing so many people, though it was irritating at first but the humor got to us and we were laughing like idiots seeing the situation we were in .

A truck took a turn from the highway and was coming towards us. Suddenly everybody as if in unity, put out their hands and were hoping that the driver would at least stop and listen. Miraculously he did stop!


Day 2

It was a weekend and from a lot of people we got to know that it was horribly crowded in Mahabaleshwar and Panchagani as well. Drivers were complaining because of the long traffic jams in the narrow hilly roads .We decided to give those tourist places a skip and instead went on to explore the town of Bhose and the farms and the hills nearby.

Nothing better than a hot cup of morning tea !

Photo of Bhose, Maharashtra, India by Gaurav Jain

The journey was mesmerizing as we could see the whole valley and on the far side the city of Pune while coming down the hill. After treating ourselves to another cup of hot tea and vada pav ,the local ST bus took us back to the city of Pune .

The hitchhiking experience was new and amazingly thrilling for us. While the constant feel of adventure kept lingering, the mild tone of the uncertainty also kept us on our toes. It enabled us to meet a number of people which we wouldn’t have otherwise and let us explore an unknown town with equally beautiful and serene sights that too in a very pocket friendly amount.

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Within no minutes all five of us were inside the truck in the front seat and the journey towards Wai started. Everybody advised us to spend the night at Wai, and then leave for Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar in the morning with the first bust at 6.30 . We took the advice and got down at Wai . There was a huge local ST bus stop and a couple of lodges. The bust stop was very well lit and already so many people were sleeping on the floor and on the concrete benches. We thought of giving it a try ! We lied down on a concrete bench and within minutes we both passed out into one of the deepest sleeps ever. The journey, the rain and the constant jumping in and out of trucks, buses and tempos had exhausted us.

The concrete benches which gave us a sound sleep !

Photo of Wai S.T.Depo, Siddhanathwadi, Wai, Maharashtra, India by Gaurav Jain
Day 1

After reaching Swargate via local bus we researched quite a bit. Pan walabhaiyya and Chai tapri uncle told us where to find the bus or the sharing cabs. We found a sharing cab, a Force Toofan . It was jam packed and we were sitting in the middle row, 6 guys on a single seat !! I don’t know how everybody managed but somehow all fit in and got comfortable in awkward seating positions.


We found a water tanker which was heading towards the Pune Mumbai highway and he agreed to drop us in between a marketplace. It took us almost an hour to try out the raincoats at different shops which fit our size(two big guys ) and suited our pockets too. Finally we found two raincoats ,and it took us forever to convince the relentless shopkeeper to sell it us for cheap .

It was 7 o clock when I woke up and I realized that we missed the morning bus. I stepped out of the bus stop and had tea at the nearby stall .The air was fresh and clean , and the chilly wind told us we were in the mountains . Wai is a small transit town to Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. We walked through it ,passing by the newly painted government school building, the gaushala, the chanting temple and the small colonies .There were many people on the road following their daily routines ,I presume. A bright sun welcomed us for a few moments and then the clouds covered it up again . The whole day was a play of hide and seek with the sun and the clouds.

The serene roads of the town Wai .

Photo of Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries by Gaurav Jain

We crossed the town of Wai on foot and then we found a private bus who would drop us at Panhagani. As the bus was climbing up the mountain, going in circles, it lulled us into a deep sleep .The bus driver didn’t stop at Panchgani, and it was then I realized that we missed our stop.Te bus driver dropped us at Bhose Bus stop, past Panchgani but before Mahabaleshwar.


Hot tea and wadapav was a welcome treat this early in the morning. It was enough to fuel us for another couple of hours of a walk among the clouds and a short trek into the valley.

the unsuccessful tries to stone down a Mango !

Photo of Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries by Gaurav Jain

This little village of Bhose now houses a number of villas and holiday homes of the wealthy and the rich. The other side of this posh locality has the old village and the farms on the hilly slopes. Strawberries were planted on the farms which would ripe and be sold in the month of September-October.

The strawberry plantations...

Photo of Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries by Gaurav Jain

We reached a Shiva temple complex which is a major landmark there. The serenity of the hills and the silence on the temple complex is something to be cherished for. The temple has farms on either side of it and we decided to head on to the west side of the temple well complex. The clouds which were playing hide and seek with the sun, suddenly seemed to have descended down.

a walk among the clouds :)

Photo of Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries by Gaurav Jain

The strong wind swayed us left and right .The mist and the drizzle made the valley a mystical site . We trekked for another hour and found an old wooden bungalow and a tube well on the way back to the bus stand. We came down the hills in the back of a tempo traveler and reached Wai .

this HUGE cobweb which i almost ran into !

Photo of Hitchhike to the Land of Strawberries by Gaurav Jain