One random free weekend with no plans saw us in Lonavala. Avi and I left on a Saturday morning with the intention of going to Mahabaleshwar and ended up making a totally unplanned trip to Lonavala (since Mahabaleshwar felt too far to drive once we saw the traffic). With no planning and no place to stay, the first course of action was to find a place to stay. We found a simple unassuming hotel called Mount View Hotel (simple, basic but good food- I would recommend their Reshmi Kababs, served with coleslaw).
After checking in, we left for the Bhaja caves, a set of Buddhist caves dating to 2nd century BC situated approximately 14 kms from Lonavala. The drive was quite scenic and enjoyable (once we were out of Lonavala traffic). The caves are high up in the mountains and so after parking our car near some shops, we prepared ourselves for a steady climb up the stairs. Half an hour of climbing (combined with multiple stoppages, some to take in the beautiful Western Ghats and some to just take some breaths), got us to the Bhaja caves.
First of all, the scenery from the caves is beautiful. It was misty but sunny when we arrived and the view of the peaks is the mist was beautiful. There is a waterfall on the right side of the caves though it was dried out when we visited. Bhaja caves are very similar in structure to their more well know cousin Karla caves. The chaityagraha is open, horseshoe shaped, with wooden ceilings. The highlight of the caves is 14 stupas built to contain relics of the monks who died in Bhaja caves. This is a rare feature which I have not seen before in Karla caves or in Ajanta-Ellora. Most of the stupas are simply built and bare but some contain carvings on the top. The caves are not astonishingly beautiful, especially for the people who have seen other Buddhist caves, but the location makes it worth the trip.
We arrived back at the parking lot thirsty and tired. A desperate drink of Frooti later we headed to Lohagarh fort. Lohagarh fort is approximately 4 to 5 kms from the caves. The drive is stunning, with narrow serpentine roads and greenery around. Once parked, we geared up for another climb up, this time to the fort. While we struggled for breaths, kids ran up and down the stairs with frantic parent calling after them. Were kids always this energetic? What would I not give at that moment to have that energy!
However, the walk was so worth it. 20 minutes up and you get the best view of Pawana Lake I have ever seen. The lake, nestled in the middle of the hills, with two small islands and motorboats was stunning in the mist. That was my camera crazy moment when I saw the lake on my right and the hills on the left. I had just got a new camera, a Nikon D 5300 and the excitement of hearing the 'snap' sound seemed too much to contain. 10 minutes later I had at least 40 pics from all the angles!
The guard posts at the fort provide some beautiful viewing points. However, a little later, tired and exhausted, we made the (wise if lazy) decision to climb down. The sun was setting, so we made our way to the hotel, with memories of another weekend well done.
This post was originally published on Travel diaries and more.