The Indian Grand Canyon !

I’m woken up by a jerk as the Travera winds its way up the circuitous roads. The moment I open my eyes all I see is stratified rocks, like those of the Grand Canyon. Well, I’ve not really been to Colorado as such but then some things just get etched in your mind the moment you have a look at it and subtle things such as this remind you of the greater vacuum you need to fill! Probably it’s not too long before I trek the Grand Canyon! 🙂

Last weekend was one hell of a weekend! In fact this was my first ever outing after having reached Pune. I initially planned to go for river rafting at a place close by but then backed off because of the cost involved and besides, I had no company! Just before my glorious weekend plan loomed to doom 🙂 Ayush pitched in saying he was game for any outing! All it requires is two to start something! Both of us decided to explore some good place in Pune irrespective of anyone else joining us. We in fact wanted to do a totally unplanned trip. But it so happened that soon Nimish , Aditya and Namrata chipped in and we were compelled to have an arranged ‘tourist types’ trip! Something that we wanted to avoid for no practical reason 🙂  . But later we realized, this was one good decision we made! 🙂

 6th April – Sunday

Ayush and I spoke to a travels guy close to Aundh and finalized on a Travera. We could accommodate three more people in it but then no one else was even ready to join us. Lazy bums! 🙂 We finalized the trip for 3 grand given that he shows us places in and around Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. We asked him to pick us up at 5:30 in the morning the next day.

7th April – Monday

Wonder why it happens all the time! This jerk with a tuft turns up at 6:45 and gives the same excuse – flat tire! I was reminded of the Sangamam trip in Bangalore when the driver turned up three hours late! ? Anyway Adi, Ayush and I got into the cab at Aundh and directed him to Jabtha bheri where we had to pick Namrata. Nimish was staying at his sisters place( believe somewhere close to Shivapura ) so he punched in a while later. It was about 9:00am by the time we reached a roadside restaurant –Joshi Wadewala. Had a sumptuous breakfast here ( Wada pav and Missal Pav is what they call standard BF items here 🙂 ! ). This is just a few minutes after crossing the New Katraj tunnel and is a well known stop point for frequent wayfarers on the Pune – Satara route (NH4).

We take a right somewhere after we cross Shirwal and from there starts the winding routes to Panchgani . Moments before we reach Parsi Point, we notice a group of trekkers scaling up the hill to our right! They must have had a ball of a time scaling up the peak all night! We reach Panchgani by around 9:45 am. Parsi Point is the first alight point for visitors to Panchgani. It’s nothing more than a small park with kids play equipment. The view point from here overlooks the Krishna valley and waters of the Dhom Dam. We idled some time on the ‘Only 13yrs and above’ slides 🙂 and soon left for Mahabaleshwar.

Our guide cum Driver suggested we first finish spots in Mahabaleshwar and then get back to Panchgani on our way back. Mahabaleshwar is about 15kms from Panchgani and is known for the various Viewpoints which give a birds eye view of the valleys, besides the Panchganga Mandir . We cross the Mapro gardens in Panchgani and reach the first set of viewpoints. There are about seven to eight points that are described at the entrance. As you walk through the hill down the path a couple of points turn out at the corners. You end up watching quite a few scenic spots but the crowd at the place happens to nullify the actual effect. Nature is best enjoyed when alone! More so on high peaks such as this!

 The Kates point again gives you a spectacular view of the Krishna Valley from a different angle. The Elphinston point a few paces ahead gives a spectacular view of the Koyna and Sahyadri valleys! Down south to this point is the the Hunter’s point which gives a splendid view of the Koyna Valley. Move down a bit more and you come across something called the Arthur’s seat. This is the place that clearly demarcates the Konkan and Deccan territories in Mahabaleshwar by the barren deep Savitri valley to the left and a shallow valley to the right. To the left on Arthurs seat you have a series of steps that lead you to Tiger springs. This is where the River Savitri is supposed to emerge. We spend some time around these points and then move over to Monkey point and Savitri point. Savitri point is one beautiful place to be! Infact I found this to be quite appealing – very little open space, not much crowd and then the DEEP valleys were just inches from where we stood! A few minutes later we realized this to be a wonderful echo point! You get a resound of your voice after about five seconds! 🙂

 We leave for the Mahabaleshwar town and then visit the Panchganga mandir. This place has it in the hindu mythology that the five rivers Krishna, Venna, Gayatri, Savitri and Koyna show their appearance in the form of five close springs and make their presence here. Water from this place falls into a decently big cistern sorta built enclosure and is considered to be pretty holy! All that mattered to me though was that the water was pretty tasty and really cold 🙂 . Besides we also had a couple of women get into the water and start wailing the moment their feet touched the water. Superstitions abundant! Would still love to know the funda behind their impromptu wailing 🙂   🙂   !

We then had a sumptuous lunch at a restaurant in the town and then got back to the cab . The driver then drove us to the Venna lake where boating is pretty famous. We opted for the Rowing boat. None of us knew rowing so we took a guide along with us! Was mighty fun rowing the boat for about half an hour. Just beside the Venna lake is a vast barren land where Horse riding is allowed. This Is something that you simply should not miss! Ayush and I had infact started racing after five rounds! It was like we were perfect Jockeys. The horses here were well maintained and mighty well trained. All we had to do was to keep our ass on the Horse while it madly ran across the land and keep thumping it to keep the momentum 🙂  .

 It was 5:30 pm already. So we decided to start moving towards Panchgani. As we were falling short of time we had to forego visiting Table land, lingamalla falls and Tapola lake ( The mini Kashmir in the west) . On our way back we dropped by Mapro gardens. Mahabaleshwar is famous for Strawberries! And this is one place where you get damn cheap strawberry Jams, squashes and fruits as such. They also had a Bungy jumping types event organized wherein you are tethered in between two poles with elastic ropes and a person controls your elevation and descent. The base is a very elastic mat and is about 60m dia. With Pneumatic control you are jettisoned up into air and the elasticity of the ropes controls your ascent and descent! Jumping up and down in the air to a height of about 60 feet by pneumatic and elastic control is one hell of an experience! 🙂 🙂

 We finally moved over to the last destination where Parasailing and Paragliding is supposed to take place. Unfortunately a mishap had occurred just before we arrived there and the event had to be closed. The open land, the meek drizzle of the rain and the deep valley a few steps away made the ambience even more spectacular! Spent about half an hour there and finally left back to Pune. We reached the city outskirts by around 8:15pm where Ayush and Nimish got down. Adi and I got back to Aundh at around 8:45 pm after dropping Namrata at her house.

All in all it was one memorable trip!! The place gets even more inviting during early monsoon. Probably we’ll be revisiting it sometime again and this time we know what to plan for! 🙂

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