60 days to go…
On a Friday morning, I got a call from my cousin. The voice was down as we both realized that after our successful 2015 Valparai and 2016 Muzhappilangad trips there were no trips and the fear of losing out of this year trip was visible. It looked more and more unlikely with the year starting to close out. Just to cheer ourselves up, we spoke about possible places for our next trip. Over the conversation,
V (Myself) : I’m fully occupied in December with a trip to Tirupati and Mumbai.
R (My Cousin): Wow !! That’s great. Flight tickets to Mumbai?
V: Onward is booked.
R: That’s even better. Do not book your return tickets.
V: (Casually) From where you guys can pick me up?
And that’s it, we both knew, what we were up to. Between brothers, a 5 minute call is a very long time and a lot can happen – from looking impossible to having a viable plan after 5 minutes.
The five enthusiasts !!!
59 days to go…
Hemant, a team-bhp guy decided our 2016 trip. This time, he chose where to start our 2017 trip. Isn’t this photo enough?
Where is this place? Most of the Maharashtrians have not heard even about this place. Masai Plateau !! Combining Masai and Recce-into-maharashtra travelogues, we finalized our plan.
Day 1 – Tuesday (19/12/2017) – Bangalore to Kohlapur (I will travel to Kohlapur from Mumbai by an overnight bus)
Day 2 – Wednesday (20/12/2017) – Masai – Ratnagiri – Ganapati Pule
Day 3 – Thursday (21/12/2017) – Ganapati Pule – Mahabaleshwar
Day 4 – Friday (22/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar
Day 5 – Saturday (23/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar to Bangalore
From the plains of Bangalore
To the forts of Kohlapur
To Masai Plateau
To the hills of Ratnagiri
To the seas of Ganapati Pule
Finally to the hills of Mahabaleshwar. We had an unforgettable trip.
D-Day: Day 1 – Tuesday (19/12/2017)
The D-Day of our trip. Alarm rings !! There you go, for an otherwise monotonous Tuesday office day, we were going to start a very ambitious trip. We left home at 510 AM. After a slow start with Bangalore traffic, we picked up pace. After a solid 3 hour drive, we stopped at a highway restaurant for breakfast. Coincidentally the name of our dining place was Super Highway.
After a brief halt for 30 minutes, we hit the highways again towards Kohlapur. At one stage, we maintained an average speed of 120 KMPH. After driving for about 500 kms, we filled the beast’s tank. Near Dharwad, for about 25 odd kms you encounter a two way and the work on express way is in progress. After an 8 hour journey, we reached the outskirts of Kohlapur and soon after reaching we checked in to our room at Hotel Madhuri Executive. It was a nice comfy room with two double beds enough to accommodate four people. The washrooms were clean. The rooms had parking at the front. But I don’t think it would be enough when the hotel runs houseful. We hunted for places for our lunch and decided to have it at Silver Oak. We consumed great food, indeed a great start to our trip. Post that, we reached the room and slept close to four hours. We had mild dinner from a nearby place. Food was not great but after a hearty lunch we weren’t hungry either. We retired for the day.
PS: “We” (I was not there for the first day. I joined them on the second day at Kohlapur)
Day 2 – Wednesday (20/12/2017)
I arrived in Kohlapur at around 615 AM by an overnight bus. My cousins picked me up from a nearby place and we went to Hotel Madhuri Executive where they were put up. I freshened up and left for our first visit of our trip, The Mahalakshmi Temple, a 10 minute walk from the hotel. En route to temple, we energized ourselves with a cup of hot tea. I should say one thing that in Maharashtra, tea always tastes better than coffee. You have to deposit your SLRs (INR 5) outside. Queues are not big and we finished our dharshan in about 10 minutes.
View of the temple from outside
Walls are pretty much like the South Indian temples
Interesting structures just outside the temple
With the temple visit done, we decided to have our breakfast at Vithal Kamat. We had Misal Pav (instead of pav, we were given bread) and South Indian Vada. Food was decent and nothing to boast about. We checked out of our room and headed for our next destination, The Masai Plateau – A 27 km jouney towards Panhala. Narrow winding roads once you near the plateau. The views kept bettering as you move. The final pinnacle, I should say is worth a drive of 700 kms from Bangalore.
Narrow winding roads
Beautiful view with golden grass all around. We realized how green this place would be in monsoon.
Cheetah enjoying the view
A lone tree at the top
View from the top
A panaromic view of the plateau
After spending an hour at Masai, we started towards Ganapati Pule at 1045 AM. We decided to take the coastal road of Ratnagiri instead. We refreshed ourselves with a native grown corn. Corn was very tender and tasted much better than an imported one. I must say, that this is one of the beautiful winding roads of 100 odd kms I have ever driven. You keep going up and then there is a sudden drop and each time on your left, you will see a beautiful valley. We reached the outskirts of Ratnagiri at 145 PM and decided to have our lunch at Dawaat, a road side dhabha. We had thaali and the food again was very decent. After a quick 30 minute break, we were back on the wheels towards Ganapati Pule via coastal road.
En route to Ratnagiri. What a background !!
And the valley views were equally good if not better
Lunch break at Ratnagiri. Food was decent enough.
From Ratnagiri to Ganapati Pule, the most scenic drive of our trip. We stopped umpteen times to enjoy the nature. Cheetah emerging out of the forest.
On one side the back waters and the mangrove forest.
Another side, boats and settlement
The same bridge from a distance !! Next up is the most anticipated curve, Indian equivalent of “The Great Ocean Road”
With the beautiful sea breeze, the sight was even more spectacular
A sight to behold
Beautiful !! Isn’t it?
After the scenic drives, we reached our stay, Atithis Kaulr at Ganapati Pule. I must say that this was our best stay in our trip. We specifically chose it away from sea and I should say that it was worth every penny. We rested for a while and had a refreshing tea and headed to the beach for sunset. Beach was a five minute drive from our place. It was a pristine beach. The tides were low and hence we had a huge amount of space to walk. We had to be careful because it was loose sand all around. We spent close to two hours enjoying the sunset.
Aaswad Restaurant – Attached to our stay
A place to sit, chit-chat and relax
Ganapati Pule Beach
Golden waters under the setting sun
Washed away corals
Cattles retiring for the day with the sun setting
I must say that this place has one of the most beautiful sunsets
The time lapse
After that we returned to room and ordered room service. Even though the menu card had many items, we were placed with only few options. But the food was indeed great.
Day 3 – Thursday (21/12/2017) – Ganapati Pule – Mahabaleshwar
It was a leisure start to the day as we knew our destination would be Mahabaleshwar. We got up and ordered bed coffees/teas. Then we chit chatted for close to an hour without doing anything. We practiced our catching skills and played with our cameras. We went to the in-house restaurant and they had only poha and upma. The quantity was less but tasty. We had one more round of teas and left for Mahabaleshwar. At the start of our trip in Bangalore, we knew our front left tyre had some issue. It was a nail and we fixed the puncture at Ganapati Pule and checked our remaining tyre pressures too. The entire journey was through hills and the 200 km journey took us close to five hours with a lunch break and numerous photo breaks. We stopped in a dhaba for lunch and food was too good. The highlight was the Lassi. Looking at the quantity, we ordered half but each one of us ended up taking one and a half. As we went uphill, we felt the chillness in the air. At every turn uphill, the views were amazing. We had to cross the Mahabaleshwar town for our stay, Mahadev Baug Cottage. When we reached the cottage, we realized that it was nowhere near our expectations. Definitely the photos in booking.com where photo-shopped. But nevertheless, we decided to stay at the same place but we did a good bargain for the next couple of nights stay. The only x-factor with this stay was, it had a small grass bank wherein we could play cricket. The stay also had their own strawberry garden. After relaxing ourselves, we decided to play cricket. After an hour’s play, we were completely exhausted. For dinner, we went to the hotel, attached to our cottage. Surprisingly we were the only visitors for the night.
En route to Mahabaleshwar – Winding roads – Decent enough
Red tin amidst green and golden grass
Our lunch. Tooo tasty!!
En route to Mahabaleshwar – Simply Wowww!!
Lake en route to cottage
Stay at Mahabaleshwar – Room
A lonely stay nearby
Private Garden in our stay
Hotel attached to the cottage
Day 4 – Friday (22/12/2017) – Mahabaleshwar
The night sleep I must admit was a bit scary. As part of our negotiation, we took a lonely room at the back side of the cottage. There was an eerie silence throughout the night. We got up early and again had a round of cricket followed by breakfast at the same place as night. Again we were the only visitors at the hotel. After bath, we left for table mountains. This is again a plateau but a commercialized one unlike Masai. We saw horses with interesting names as whatsapp, facebook etc., After wandering for about 15-20 minutes, we left for Mapro garden. Mahabaleshwar is known for its strawberries. Mapro Garden is a strawberry garden with a shop that sells Mapro products. I must say that we men surprised ourselves with our shopping skills and each one of us ended up spending close to 1500 bucks in a flat 15 minute shopping. After that we bought strawberries from a local shop and moved to Kate’s view point.
Table Mountain – Decent one – But cannot be compared to Masai
Good old horse ride
A small pond
Mapro strawberry festival
A serene view of Kate’s view point compensates for the bad stretch en route to it
A power plant?
Zoomed in a temple from the top
A wow house !!! Isn’t it?
Once the site visits were over, we decided to have lunch at a different place. We chose little Italy right in the middle of town. The wood crust pizzas were mouth watering. We filled our tummies and returned to room. We played another round of cricket till 530 PM. As I said, in the beginning, a 5 minute call is enough for cousins to plan a trip. If the same cousins talk face to face, they can even better that. Our actual plan was to stay overnight and start early morning to Bangalore. We spoke for little over 15 minutes and we were ready in our car by 6 PM for our overnight journey to Bangalore. The plan looked ambitious and even GPS showed us that we would reach Bangalore by 1045 AM on Saturday, a whooping 17 hour drive. Plan was to take step by step. The first 100 odd kms were difficult since we had to descend down the hill amidst traffic and had to travel by two way road. We made cautious and patient progress over the next two hours and reached our dinner location at Yelur, Sai Pangat. Food was delicious, the final Maharashtrian food of our trip. We filled ours as well as the beast’s tummy as we were not sure whether pumps would be open throughout the night. All set, we started from there at 945 PM. We drove in round robin fashion and reached the outskirts of Bangalore by 5 AM. We had tea at a local shop. The long weekend traffic had already started. Beating all the traffic and defying all odds we reached our respective houses by 7 AM, a cool 4 hours early as was initially predicted by google maps.
Didn’t we live up to our wordings? “Our trip Our world Our way”