"A Friyay kinda Friday!
Amidst heavy monsoon shower, began our journey from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar. A distance of 230 km was covered in approximately 5 hours. Who doesn't love to go on long drives on weekends, hence, this proved to be a perfect getaway for the family? Rains did add on to the thrill.
Taking the route along the Mumbai Pune Expressway and then NH-48, was nostalgic. I remember traveling to Pune, as a child, or maybe Manipal, during my graduation days or maybe visiting Lonavla, for that instance, during rains. Tunnels along the route, lush greenery and captivating scenic backdrops on the sides and windmills on mountain tops are few of the perks that come along, making the journey, an unforgettable experience for many.
Pit stops being an integral part of every journey that we did plan. This time, was no different, we did stop by the Food Mall, right after the Talegaon Toll, to have Kanda Bhajji (onion pakoras) and cutting chai. They have revamped the place though, with new stalls getting added on to the existing ones. Our next pit stop was on NH-48, a Maharashtrian joint, named Purna Brahma. The misal pav and the cutting chai, over here, wasn't that great, but, the Vada pav, was pretty good. Moving on, NH-48 and we parted ways at Wai Phata towards Mahabaleshwar. While on the hilly terrains, came the town of Panchgani. A few of the noteworthy tourist places over here are the Parsi Point, the Table Top, and the Mapro Garden. While entering Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar, as well, you need to pay a reasonable amount to the Municipal Authorities of the towns. It was late evening, when we had reached Panchgani, the clouds and mist was quite vivid by this time of the day and driving amidst these, was pretty difficult. A clear vision of the road is something that you can least expect on these roads when it's dark. Hence, I would personally recommend, if you do plan on visiting the place during rains, try to reach a bit early, as it gets really difficult to drive on these roads at nighttime, it was 8 pm by the time we reached the hotel. Piccadale Resort, Mahabaleshwar, is a boutique hotel, not exactly a resort, as the name suggests. It is situated in the village of Metgutad Village, on the outskirts of Mahabaleshwar, 7 km away from the city center. We had booked a Queen Pool Room, for ourselves, through Booking.com. The room was spacious and quite exquisite, in terms of amenities. The food was quite good and the room service quite efficient. We had dinner, in the room itself and had an early good night sleep. The plan was to get up early the next morning and start exploring Mahabaleshwar!
"Weekending amidst clouds, lush greenery and captivating backdrops!"
Kickstart to the weekend with waking up to the scenic views of mountain tops engulfed with clouds. The agenda was to tour around the city and cover touristy points located in and around on the outskirts. Ready for the day's trip, a sumptuous complimentary breakfast was in order followed by us hiring a cab to the Arthur Seat Viewpoint. For your information, taxi services have a range of city tour schemes, that you can choose from. They range from Rs. 700- Rs. 1400. So, this one came at a rate of Rs. 700, that included, us visiting the Arthur Seat Viewpoint. Just a heads up, if you do happen to be visiting Mahabaleshwar, when the Western India Monsoon, has just started, you got to be lucky in order to be able to view the valleys below the points, as the whole place is covered with clouds and mist and anything hardly is visible from any of the viewpoints
Next was a Darshan at the Panch Ganga Temple. The temple's inception dates back to 1215 AD and is at the convergence of five rivers Krishna, Venna, Savitri, Koyna, and Gayatri.
The darshan at the temple was followed by a visit to the strawberry garden that is en route to the hotel, that we were staying in.
For lunch, we had visited this restaurant, Garden Icecream Resturant, the makai bhajji (corn pakoras) was a popular delicacy and was indeed finger-licking good. The strawberry ice cream with extra cream as a dessert was exquisite. Post lunch, we had a visit to Venna lake (Apologies I couldn't get footage from the place due to extremely foggy conditions). We then returned to the hotel to relax and take a small afternoon nap. We had dinner at the hotel and planned to sleep early for the next day we had to visit three more places in Mahabaleshwar and the village of Wai and had to travel back home, the very same day.
Well, in the evening, me and my dad, being big fans of table games, planned on going to the Orchid Mall situated at the Mahabaleshwar Market. The place is not exactly like a mall that one expects to be in cities, turned out to be a shopping complex that had a pharmacy, few cloth stores and on the ground floor was the pool parlour. The cab driver charged us an amount of Rs. 500. This fare had included the round trip and a 1-hour waiting charge.
"Back to reality? Not yet!"
The past Sunday was no lazy one, as one might expect. Waking up at 7 am on a Sunday seems hard. But, I did manage to, as two places were yet left to be covered, and I had heard so much about them, that it seemed hard to leave the place, without visiting them. The first one off the list was the Lingmala Waterfall. A definitely must visit place in Mahabaleshwar, during the monsoon period. The trek downhill and back uphill was worth the effort made. You would love 3 waterfalls gushing down an elevated land, all at the same time, the water so clean, the air so fresh and refreshing, you almost feel like diving into the deep end. But, hold on to your horses, let me tell you, don't even imagine doing any of that, the water's not stagnant and flowing forming rapids at the downstream end. The visit to the waterfall was followed by us traveling to the other end of the city to visit the famous Kate's point situated at the Elephant's head, a rock formation carved out naturally from the hill, on whose apex lies Kates viewpoint. The Elephant's head can be viewed from a point adjacent to the Kates viewpoint. We at this point were at luck, as the rains had subsided and the clouds had cleared off to give us a clear view of the head and also the valley below. From the Kates viewpoint, you can see the Balakwadi dam with the mighty western ghats at the backdrop. It was time to head back home as the trip had almost come to an end. Not yet, there was Mapro Food Park, at Wai that comes enroute to Mahabaleshwar. My mother insisted, as she had to pick up few items from there and folks, let me tell you, its a good idea to visit this place on your way back home, as you no matter where you stay, you are going to come across this place, on your way put of Mahabaleshwar. They are doing an amazing job of utilizing the farm produce to the maximum coming up with market viable food products. The employment being generated for the locals is on a whole another level. After we had checked out, it took us approximately 2 hours to reach the food park, due to heavy traffis, near Palchgani and another approximately 6 hours from the Food Park to Kharghar. This duration had included, us stopping for lunch at Holidays Inn, Pune before we hit the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and for chai at the food joint, next to the Khalapur Toll Naka, on the Expressway. We finally reached at 7 in the evening. We had started from Food Park, at Wai, at around 1 in the afternoon.
Well, one amazing weekend, a week has passed and yet I am still in the "Mahabaleshwar, take me back!" mood. I guess it going to be there for a while, now. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog and do plan out a weekend to this mystifying destination. But, is it a good idea to travel to the place in the monsoon, I keep that for you to answer. Do share your experience in the comment section below.
Expenses: On road (Includes Toll Naka Fees and Entry Fees to both Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani charged by the Municipal body and Fuel Cost)= Rs. 3000
Entry fee to the Lingmala Waterfall= Rs.60
Stay at Queen Pool Room of Piccadale Boutique Hotel (includes breakfast and one extra bed for 3 days, 2 nights) (The booking was through Booking.com)= Rs. 12500 (Base Tariff).
Overhead expenses (Includes lunch, dinner and snacks)= Rs. 8000.
The above rates are subjected to change as they would vary from person to person and also they are exclding GST. If you plan an exquisite stay in Mahabaleshwar, it definitely would cost you more than this. But, the place, is much more budget friendly than what we had spent on our trip. So, you can definitely plan a 3D/2N pleasant stay for a much cheaper price.