Satara via Pratapgadh -> Mahabaleshwar (part 1)

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13-Feb-2017 : Today was bit relaxed day. We woke up bit late, got ready and packed the bags. We decided to haul the bags to the car and get them in and then come back for breakfast. Breakfast was at their other restaurant and we ordered typical vada samar, utappa etc and tea. It was nice, but as Baba was not feeling that well, he didn’t had any. While we were completing the formalities, Ar had some fund time in kids play area with Aai. We left Mahad around 9:00 am and headed toward Poladpur on NH17. We were to take NH 17 -> Poladpur ->  Poladpur  ghat -> Pratapgadh -> Jawali Ghat -> Mahabaleshwar -> Medha Ghat -> Satara. Yeah there were many ghats on the way and this was the section whose first leg we were completely unaware of, in terms quality of roads, time it will take etc. But yeah, today we had the CD with us, we were hoping the journey would be bit more fun.

The road is OK and the traffic was quite lite, so we were cruising along. We crossed Poladpur and then in some time started ascent of the ghat. The ghat is quite good, though its fairly winding and with high gradation. It was only 10:00 am and we were closing on to Pratapgadh and we were thinking  by this pace, we would be in Satara for lunch which we had planned for in Mahabaleshwar. Now there was an opportunity here to go to Pratapgadh which is on the way and also R could do his souvenir shopping as well :). So I suggested we take a small detour to the fort and we all agreed upon. So we took the diversion from the base of Jawali and started the ascent of Pratapgadh fort.

Now this fort needs no introduction and it has been one of the important fort’s in Maharaj’s life, in fact he had it built and also established mandir of Tulja Bhavani on top.I have been here many times from my childhood days and still remember it fondly.The road goes all the way to base where there ST stop, some shop etc and from here there are stairs to go up the fort. We were thinking that I and R and may be G might go up, do the shopping and be back as I was not sure if it would be too much for Aai to climb. But Aai wanted to also come along and so we all geared up. On the way many old memories came along and we took a break at the hotel just before the top. We had limbu pani and kokam sarbat and from here you get great views of the the bastion adorned with flag, which every child in Maharashtra had grown up seeing on school textbook.

After the much needed break, we went straight to Mandir and took darshan. We were lucky to come here and get darshan. Then we went to building next door which has a large shop of souvenirs and handicrafts. We have been here before as well and its a good place to find some interesting things. We spent may be an hour here and got most of what we were looking for like key chains, t shirt, pics etc. So all our objectives being accomplished  we started the descend. On the way Baba suggested, should we have lunch here only on the fort as it was already 11:30 am. The hotel is on the edge of fort walls and has great views of bastion and Jawali khore. Great place to have food with family. We ordered zhunka bhakar, tak and all. Food was nice and we had relaxed time there. It was kind of place you can stay for as much time you have.

But we had our plans lined up and now we were running bit behind, so we started the descend. On the way we stopped at the same place we had limbu pani before as it was G’s upwas and she got khichadi parceled. It was Aai’s upwas too, but she doesn’t eat anything till the evening 😦 . We were at the base in 20 mins and then left. On the way we passed through Jawali khore and then started the ascent of Mahabaleshwar. This is one of my favorite spots and its just cool being here. We reach Mahabaleshwar around 2:00 pm and as we were not going to go to the town having already passed the schedule, we took the diversion for Medha ghat. This again is a good ghat section, good roads, good views and lite traffic. It takes no more than an hour to reach Satara city from here. On the way you pass along the Kanher backwaters which fall on your right side. Its a completely different experience during monsoon, which I highly recommend.

We reached Satara at around 3:00 pm and we straight away went to our home. It was good to be back to one of our fav cities after a gap of around 2.5 years. We had had a good day so far and equally long day awaited us.

PS: Now, for all that new CD, we could get may be at max 20 -25 mins of music and the car’s music system just died. It was total crap!

This trip though brought the nostalgia back, many childhood day we have spent on this tony hill station with family & relatives, visiting points, those Strawberry farms, eating at the town center, veg sandwich and Strawberry shake at Mapro’s, chane at Mama chanewala, hike behind the Hotel woodlands, the horse rides, coming here just to drink cup of tea or shake from Satara in the afternoon.. I think I should stop.. ;(

Raigad Fort (Part 2)

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13-Feb-2017 : It took us around 30 mins to reach the Mahad Bypass and we headed towards the place we had planned to stay Motel Visawa which is located on the outskirts on the Kochi Panvel highway. On the way we had called them and checked on the availability and informed them about our arrival. We reached the hotel around 4:00 pm and instantly liked it from outside. It is located on the banks of the river and is very big. Along with lodging there are 4 restaurants in the premise like veg, non veg, quick serve etc. It also had a large garden with children’s play area. It was quite nice and located bang on highway NH-17, so was easy to get on your way.

After getting our rooms we took some rest. The rooms were big and nice and the hotel was turning out to be better than our expectations. Baba had ordered tea by 5:00 pm, which refreshed us after a long day and we decided to go around Mahad city. Before leaving Ar had some time on the kids play area. Mahad city is hardly 10 mins from the place we were staying and it turned out to be bigger than I thought. We visited few temples and then walked our way to Chavdar tale which is a big pond in the middle of the city where the famous satyagraha took place in 20s. The place is good and it has a nice garden and in the middle of the pond which is accessible through a bridge is statue of BabaSaheb.

After spending some time there we went to the next door book stall to have a look and Baba bought one book as well. Then we called for our vehicle and after a bit of confusion (Aai, G and Ar were not interested in book store so they were at some other place, we were at other and car came at some different place 🙂 we started back.  On the way we stopped and I got out to get some upwas stuff. I got some items, but not all from the given list and as I was approaching the car, I realized there was something not right. On inquiring came to know Baba had forgotten his bag somewhere and after searching the photos the suspect places were either the book stall or near statue while taking photos..

So we rushed back and I headed straight to the statue, but from distance only could see the gates were now closed, so moved towards the book stall. As I was approaching I could see the security guard with the bag showing the book stall owner each stuff from it, here are glasses, medicine.. etc and asking him to look out if someone comes asking for it. Just then I popped up and declared our ownership of the bag. By this time Baba and R had also come and we thanked them for keeping the bag for us.

Then we headed back, our plan to do to some shopping and mainly buying mangoes cancelled. We might have reached the hotel around 7:45 and were thinking of heading back to rooms and coming back for dinner later, but seeing that the veg hotel was up, decided to be there first guest :). We had a hearty lunch panner, kaju , kadhai along with chaas. We ended it with coffee and were too heavy to move. Somehow we managed to get back to the rooms and went straight for the bed!

Tomorrow was going to be relaxed one as we could start bit late and we did not have to meet an appointment.

PS: We kept searching for the river and couldn’t find it. It was only the next day as we got in the car we saw it on the other side of the road 🙂

From a shop located in its premise we bought some food stuff and we also bought music CD of the latest songs. The driver used to rarely turn on the music system and in that too he used to play those funky music CD’s which irritated us to no end! Tomorrow, hopefully we would have a better ride, with nice songs! 

Raigad Fort (Part 1)

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Fort Type : Hill                                                      Base Village : Hirkaniwadi, Raigad district

Grade : Medium                                                    Height : 2700 feet

Distance From Pune : 155 kms

13-Feb-2017 : We were at Deveagar and had set an alarm of 5:30 am and had planned to leave by 7:00 am. Around 6:00 am, I went out to check for tea and breakfast which they had promised, but the staff was no where to be seen. So I came back bit disappointed and we got ready, packed the bags and locked the rooms. By now the staff was up and we could see some action in the restaurant. We sat in the waiting seat out and in some time they served us tea and bread/butter which was ok and then we left. The resort was good, the staff was helpful and we had a good time there.

On the way, we took darshan of Suvarna Ganesh mandir. We left Diveagar by 8:00 am, bit behind schedule. The road from here to Raigad passes through Mangaon and then you reach Mahad bypass and from here you take a left turn, which after crossing Pachad village enters the ghat and from here you reach the base of Raigad. The overall road is ok, though there are some bad stretches. Just before Pachad, on your right you start seeing the towering cliff of the Raigad and you know you are approaching the fort of the KING and KING of the Forts! Truly an amazing experience and the whole history starts flashing in front of you. I have been to many forts, but the journey is not complete till you see and set foot on this one!

We reached the base around 10:30 am and I headed towards the ticket counter for the rope way. The rates are Rs 250 per head to and fro and you have to enter all the names of travelers and contact info etc. There were few people ahead of us and I have heard on peak days, the wait can be as long as 3-4 hours. Today was ok day though and once tickets were booked we went to the hotel which was adjacent to the ticket counter, to have breakfast. We had vada sambar, misel etc, Ar had idli sambar and then had tea. Then we headed to the waiting area which is under a shed and there is some sitting arrangements as well. As we were going, we could see the trolleys passing to and fro to the fort and it was an amazing sight.

There was a large group (50+) in front of us waiting to board and the staff took a long time to adjust them in each tour. There was some arguments flowing, but we finally got close to the trolleys in 10 -15 mins. They take your collective weight (4 people max in one trolley) and then you sit on the side benches while the trolley arrives. There are 2 sets each having 3 trolleys, so in all 12 people can go up and 12 can come down at a time. Once the trolley arrived and the people off boarded them, we got in. Unfortunately I and R got the wrong seat. We were to go up facing down, Ar and G were having a good view going up 🙂 Then the trolley started moving and the ride is so smooth and as you ascent, you get good views of the surroundings including the Hirkaniwadi village, which is near the base. The whole ride takes 4 mins and we reached the top and set foot on the fort and we were truly blessed. Finally, I could make it to the grand capital!

At the top you have to take tickets to enter the fort, which is Rs 20. We then also booked a guide for 300/- and a palkhi for Aai for 1500/-. Aai was not to eager for that, but we felt she would be comfortable in it and would be able to watch the whole fort without it getting much tiring for her. We entered the fort through Mahadarwaja and saw many places near by like Rani mahal, Granaries etc. Then you take a right to enter the Maharaj’s palace and close to that you have the famous 2 towers (there were 3 originally) which we see in many pics. Mainly the base of the palace and some construction is what remains today. From a half standing a gate you enter the Darbar and on the high pedestal there is the statue of Maharaj sitting on the throne, where his original throne was and where Rajyabhishek took place. We all were just overwhelmed by the sight and we being there. Cant explain in words. We spent some time there, allowing the moment to set in.

We then headed towards the grand gate, on top of which there was nagarkhana, which is located at the other end of the Darbar. The Darbar space is so large, we could just imagine what it would have been like then! Once out of the gate, the palkhi guys said, their trip is over and they would return from here. We though they would be with us till the end, but Aai was also bit tired and so they turned around and dropped her at our starting point near the trolleys. We Continued towards the Jagdishwar temple, which is located at the other end. On the way you pass through another magnificent statue of Maharaj and this is the iconic one which we have seen many a times on the pics where sun is setting in the background.

From here as you continue straight, you pass through the market of those times. The unique feature of this market is that all shops are at an elevation as the shoppers used to arrive on horse to shop and so that has been taken into account. The shops are on either side of long, wide street and would have been magnificent in its days. From here there is 15-20 mins walk to Jagdishwar temple. On the way on your left you can see the TakMak kada. We reached the temple, which is nice and we took darshan and sat there for a while. Then from here through a gate we entered the samadhi of Maharaj and were natmastak. No more words! Blessed!

We spent a long time there and then headed back. On the way back, we had some kokam sarbat. It was quite hot day but, but we were not feeling tired, were taking in each moment of being there. We took the same way back to the starting point where Aai was safety dropped by palkhi. We had planned to stay for a while but the trolley guy told us that the big group which we had encountered on our way up was again slowly assembling and we better stand in queue, else it would be a long wait. Also on that day they were going to close the trolley early. So with heavy heart, we departed the fort. We would like to come here again and again and it would be nice to stay as well (MTDC has some cottages, just near our starting point). The wait for trolley was not long this time and we boarded it and had amazing journey back. We had the same seats, but enjoyed the descent. At the base, we had nimbu pani first and ordered the lunch which was a veg thali. It was nice and we had out stomach’s full. It was around 3:00 pm and we then headed towards out layover place for tonight Mahad.

PS: We had not booked any hotel at Mahad, but we had earlier done some research and were thinking of Motel Visawa which appeared to be good, but I hadn’t saved their contact no and there was no net range there, so we were wondering what to do and then right in front of us I saw billboard ad of it with contact no 🙂 They knew we were coming  ;).

Anyways, there was one more glitch, R wanted to buy some memento of ShivMudra which he was looking for at a shop on top of the fort, but I told him to hold on as there are couple of big shops near the base,. At the base there were couple of shops, but I kept insisting there are bigger and better shops I had seen on the way up the ghat, so lets go there. So reluctantly R got in the car, but we couldn’t find the shops till Mahad!. Was it a mirage, which I had seen or claimed to have seen!

Diveagar Beach (Part 2)

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12-Feb-2017 : From parking we headed towards the many stalls which were lined across the beach. The beach is fairly well maintained, but has lot of haphazard stalls and vendors. We 1st decided to have tea, which we had skipped while leaving the resort. We placed the order and were waiting when many vendors para trooped upon us and stared asking us to use their rides/services etc. Just to get break from others we deiced to go for the truck ride and others dispersed. The guy was ready with the truck and so we had to leave our tea and I, G and Ar boarded one and Baba, Aai and R the other.

The truck is a miniature version of the real one and you seat on the front as a bike rider, with a bike like handle steering and then there are passenger seats. The owner also rides with you (he stands on the side bar). You just control the steering. It has only one speed and breaks are controlled by him. We drove across the beach and back. The journey lasts some 5-7 minutes and charges are around 200/- per ride. It was fun ride, with nice views and gentle breeze and G also got to drive it on our return journey. The other truck was driven by R.

Once we were back we had our cold chai 🙂  and then decided to go for the next ride. We could see in distance some rubber boats and scooters etc, so we decided to head there. We also wanted to enjoy the beach, so we all took out our footwear and walked our way through the sea water. Water was bit warm, but walking on sand and water on a beach is relaxing and refreshing at the same time. We may have walked a quarter to half a km to reach the hub.We all first decided to go for the rubber boat ride which is like a small dingy.

The charges were 400/- per ride and we put our footwear’s and other stuff on an abandoned boat near by and headed towards the sea as the boat is anchored in the waters. The boat has 2 rows of seating and the boatman stands at the tail. The boat runs on diesel and navigated using mechanical controls. Somehow I luckily ended on the 2nd row with Aai and Baba. G, Ar and R were on the front row. This was to balance the weights. I felt lucky enough soon after as the boat started. As the boat zoomed through water, the ones in front row got a good splash :). We sitting behind were quite cozy and were having fun. We had instructed the boatman to take it slow, but still it was lot of fun and we had great time. The ride lasts hardly 3-4 minutes, but is like a ocean water rafting.

Once done, we wanted to go for water scooter ride, in which I, G and R were interested. Others decided to take the Tonga on the way back. Unfortunately due to the ride restrictions G couldn’t do the ride and on the last minute she also boarded the Tonga. The ride was for 350/- for 2. So you and other person take front and back seats and the driver sits between you, who has the controls. This ride is real fun and the scooter is real fast. He also rides the waves which gives you a rush. They first take you in the deep waters and then turn around and bring you back.  I lost my cap to the winds and the driver was nice enough to turn around to get it, he had a perfect timing to get near and pick it up. We were all completely drenched by the time we got back.

We then headed back towards the family, on foot 🙂 It was a nice walk and as we closed by we realized something was wrong. Apparently they had picked up our luggage from the boat and loaded onto the Tonga, but the bag was now missing (This we came to know thanks to the pics we had clicked which showed the bag last visible on the Tonga). Baba and G were heading towards the Tonga to check for the bag, when we just arrived. They were back in sometime, without the bag. We all were bit disappointed, the bag didn’t had anything valuable, but it had our food and other stuff 😦 . As we had almost given up, I and the Tongawalla at the same time saw something afar on beach near the water. It looked like a big lump and we soon realized it was the bag. So it all came together, the bag was in the Tonga and on the ride it fell off and no one realized (it wont have made any noise on its fall in water and sand) and there it was still lying, without someone bothering with it 🙂

Tongawalla was nice enough to offer me the ride to get it (I got the Tonga ride as well !!). We picked the bag and were back. We offered some money, but he politely refused. It was a lucky break to get the bag back. We then headed to make inquiries on the para sailing. It was 300/- per ride and we booked 2, one for Baba and R and one for me and G. I had done this before, but it was first for G. So she was bit reluctant at the start, but anyways joined in. So you are attached to the parachute, which is connected by rope to a Jeep. As the Jeep starts moving, you are lifted up and the parachute opens and you start floating in the air and as the Jeep stops, slowly you are brought down.We had a great ride and the view from top and the peace you get there is just amazing. Really worth it!

We were all quite tired and we sat down for a nice narial pani. Baba and R had vada pav as well. The Sun was closing on the horizon and it was lovely sight. We would have liked to sat through the sunset, but we wanted to have some rest as well and so started back. We were back to the resort by 7:00 pm. We decided to see and take darshan at the Utteshwar mandir which was next to where we were staying. Its a very old and nice temple built with red stone. There are so many deep mals which were wonderful and I have not seen so many of them at one place. What a sight it would be when all lighten up!

We were back in our rooms and took some rest. Ar was having lot of fun running up and down the stairs which was connecting our rooms in the villa. We gave the order for dinner and the staff promised to get some good food for Baba from outside. The Dinner was ready by 8:30 pm and we again chose the same cottage where we had had lunch. The food was ok, but we enjoyed the setting. The gulabjamun at he end, summed the day for us. We really had lot of sweet memories from today and we had a early rise and long day tomorrow in front of us. We completed the resort formalities as we were going to move early tomorrow.

Before going to sleep, we had couple of games of cards and then off to sleep, with alarm set at 5:30 am for tomorrow.

PS: One interesting event from the scooter ride was, before we were about to embark the rider asked us if we have any phones on us and when I pulled out 3 smartphones, he was like the ride is of 350/- and this guys is carrying 3 phones in his pocket to get them ruined in water :). So I handed it over to his side kick and all the ride I was thinking what if for 350/- ride this guy makes run for my phones 😉 To add to it, when we were back and my phones collected R pulls out his water drenched phone and says I was testing if the IPhone is truly water proof.  I was like .. really !! 🙂

Diveagar Beach (Part 1)

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12-Feb-2017 : The day started early for us. We got ready, had tea. Today was Baba’s B’Day and we were going to be on the move whole day. So all the wishes and gifts were attended to in the morning and we were waiting for the car to arrive. The cab service was given 8:00 am time and he arrived around that time. We loaded the stuff in the car and we are on our way.

The route we were going to take was Chandani Chowk -> Paud -> Mulshi -> Tamhini ghat to descend onto Konkan. We had not had full breakfast and had planned to take break on the way. The weather was good with light traffic and the road was ok. We took break just before the start of the ghat at Kamath’s on the banks of Mulshi back waters. We had garma garam vada/idli sambar and tea. Our tummy’s full we were on our way to negotiate the ghat. Tamhini ghat is big and has many Topsy curvy turns, which I enjoy though not G. This route during monsoon is really beautiful, but now in late in the winter also was quite good. We felt refreshed breaking away from the city cruising through fresh cool breeze. We had passed the ghat and were on the plains around 10:30 am and were making good progress and then Ar throwed up. The ghat was too much for her and we having our breakfast just before we stared on this route didn’t help either. After cleaning up and taking some break we started back.

We took diversion to Bhagad MIDC, the road here turning into 4 lane smooth road and once it was behind us we were back to 2 lane road, but still the roads were better than we were expecting. From here we took the route Mangaon -> Mhasala -> Diveagar. We reached Diveagar around 1:00 pm. Now was the interesting part of booking the hotel. We had not pre booked and there were many household options where people has converted there house into a lodging/boarding and restaurant, which didn’t appeal to Aai. Earlier we had got reference for one cottage resort “The Agerra” and we decided to check with them. We had their number and called them to check for availability and after confirming they gave us the landmark of Uttareshwar temple, so we started searching for that. After checking with the locals and some wild guess we arrived near Uttareshwar temple and “The Agerra” was just besides it, they sharing the same wall.

We had arrived at our destination around 1:30 pm and we quickly off boarded. They have 5-6 cottages and there are 2 rooms one on top of other. Currently there was only 1 room available in a cottage and they told us the upper level would be available in some time. We got the room and got refreshed. The resort was small but had great surroundings and was so peaceful. The property and surrounding properties, all had lush green tree cover. They had couple of sit-out areas, where you could spend the entire day. They had a small garden where they had could of canopies, chairs underneath, then there was a swing and a small children’s play area. A really nice place.

There was only one issue and a big one, that it did not had the food which Baba wanted and they promised to get it ordered from outside but didn’t deliver. That was quite bad, that too on Baba’s birthday. But Baba insisted that it was fine and he would do with the stuff we had brought. So with heavy heart we placed our order which was regular punjabi fare. We decided to sit under the canopy for lunch and we enjoyed the whole experience, though the food was average. After lunch, Ar played for some time on slides and sea-saw etc and Aai and G also had some fun time on swing. Then we headed for the rooms and took some rest. We decided to head out in the evening for the beach which was near by.

We might have rested for hardly 40- 45 mins and it was already time to get ready and go to the beach. We did some inquiries and they told us to go to Exotica beach which has lot of water sports activities as well. We headed towards the Exotica beach, we were helped by the locals on the direction. The by lanes of this town are really small, but it keeps an old world charm. We might have traveled 4-5 mins and we could see the sea on our right through dense coconut trees. The beach is very long and is really nice and lifts your spirits immediately. We reached the parking spot which is on the beach itself :(.

BTI outing trip to Konkan and Satara

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12th – 15th Feb 2017 : Well this was the time we all were waiting for .. I was home for some time and we as family wanted to go out and spend some quality time. We had been thinking about this for some time and we were looking at multiple options in terms of days, place etc, but the core idea was to spend some time together outside our regular cave 🙂

1st point to decide was the trip duration, considering very little time he had there, so from 3 to 5 days was proposed and we finally settled for 4 days. We settled on 12th to 15th Feb.12th was Baba’s birthday as well, so we were not completely comfortable starting on with that day, but after discussion with him and considering overall situation this seemed to be the best span.

Then the place, now this was where we spent maximum time deliberating. I was of the opinion that we should cover some new places and connect with some old. Off course Satara and Shirdhon had to be part of any plane we decide. Also to be considered was it is not too tiring for Aai or Ar. After going round and round for many days and just on the eve of the days we had finalized to go, the place and plan was put together. Below was the plan.

12th – Start early and head towards Diveagar via Tamhini ghat. Some beah and realx time that day and stop over for night.

13th – Head towards Raigad, early to catch the rope way, spend time till afternoon and layover at Mahad for the night.

14th – Next stop Satara, via Poladpur and Mahabaleshwar (may be spend some time here) and then drop by relatives and spend some time around our favorite places in Satara.

15th – Visit Shirdhon, take darshan and head back towards Pune.

Once place and itinerary was set, we had to plan for the transport and the accommodation for the first 2 days as Satara was at home only. There was some last minute disagreement on the hotels and so we left that open and booked the Innova for 4 days.

Plan looked good on paper, though there were couple of uncertainties, one of course the places to stay and other being the road conditions in Konkan. But at least the car was booked, so the trip was on the way and lets hope for the best.

We were to leave on Sunday (12th) and on Saturday we had pre booked tickets to Natak Sakhar khalalela manoos staring Prashant Damale and others. G and Ar had gone to her place for the previous week and returned back today around 6:30 pm. We only had few hours and after having dinner went to the 9:00 pm – 12:00 am show. We were constantly on the run :). The natak was good though and gave u some relaxed time and we were back home around 12:15 am quite tired, but no time to rest as the alarm time on our mobiles read 6:30 am tomorrow morning 🙂

PS: Ar was supposed to join us for the natak, but she slept early and so we 2 tried to sell 1 ticket to people after reaching the auditorium, but who is going to watch the natak alone :). No luck with that 😉