Trek to Matheran

Dec 2002: We were in college then. So yeah, its been some time ;), long long time to be precise :). We had lot of trekking enthusiasts in our group and we had discussed going for a trek one day but it had not materialized. So one foggy winter evening we 3-4 friends had just gone to the snacks center per our routines and over tea and cream roll we somehow again got into this discussion on how we should plan a trek and how no one really makes it happen blah , blah and then someone suggested why plan lets do it this week, then other added why not tomorrow and then it was like why not start today only, who knows we might change our mind. It happened so fast that no one was quite sure about whats going on, but as people had given commitments just now it was difficult for any one to go back on their word now.

But we were still 3-4 of us and we thought it would be fun if many others also join in. So we fanged out on different directions, scouting our college friends and trying to get them on board. Some hopped on instantly others had to be persuaded a bit. But in the end 10 souls were ready and we had a group. It was almost 6:00 pm and there were so many things to do. We had to plan for the actual plan :), then what transport to take, get things to eat, provision for money etc and most of all the place to go.  Many option were thrown in the air, but either they were too lofty or all were not ok with it. As we all were students and low on cash we had to factor that as well. So in the end Matheran was selected as we could go by the local train, which was a great option as we had direct connectivity from our place to the base village of Matheran called Nerul and also it was not too high and then we had one more attraction of the toy train.

So the place and mode of transportation finalized, some of us headed to get something to eat and water bottles etc and some got onto the finance part of it. The train to Nerul was at 9:00 pm from Akurdi and so we were racing against time. We had decided that all would meet at Pradhikaran road to have dinner. Slowly one by one people started arriving and we quickly had Chinese food there and headed towards the Akurdi station. We bought the tickets for the Pune – Mumbai passenger train and headed towards our platform. The station was fairly crowded and the train arrived in a bit though it was running late. Now we knew what to expect from the passenger train but what we saw and experienced was beyond the worst. It was jam packed and not only all seats were occupied but even on the floors people were sitting or sleeping. There was not enough space even to stand. The journey ahead was not going to be easy which had to be covered by standing all the way through.

It was so hot and cramped and it was only when the train started moving that the wind circulation made it bearable. There was lot of chatter going on there and we also saw couple of fights as well 🙂 Nothing new! The train ride was one of the worst I have had and it stopping at almost every station added more to our exasperation. Finally after what appeared to be eternity we reached Karjat and we had the vada pavs for which this station is famous. Later we got some seats or rather a piece of the seat :), which allowed us to rest. We reached the Nerul station at around 3:30 am, the journey had taken us ridiculous amount of time. We were quite tired so once on platform we found some benches and slept or rather tried to for some time. Then we were awake by 5:00 am and after getting fresh, we were ready to head towards Matheran.

It was quite and roads were empty when we started. Shops near the station had started opening the shutters. We made out way from the narrow lanes of the town and were on our way to the trail. Our original plan was to take the toy train ride, which is one of the few mountain railways and an icon of our country, but the first train does not leave before 7:00 am. We thought through it and as the journey had made us so stiff, we were no inclined to wait another hour or so there. So we decided to trek to the top now and would ride the train on our way back. Matheran top is around 8-10 km from Nerul. There is motorable road which goes all the way to the entry point and so this is the one we got on and started the hike. After a moment it was getting quite monotonous and so we decided to go off trail.

But we were not sure of the routes and we were lucky to meet the locals with the trail information at regular intervals. So with guidance from them and some of our own logic we went on. The trek is easy, but the off trail is always adventurous and interesting. All of us were making good progress. We took couple of breaks in between and had snacks which we had brought with us. It was quite cold in the morning and we were having chills when we started, but the hike warmed us up. Luckily we had started early on and so there were not too many people hiking with us else as this place is quite popular with Mumbai folks it is always swarming with people. En route you pass the rail tracks and the small mini stations as well and looking at them (we even crossed the 1st upbound train as we reached close to the top) we were dying to get on one. The hill is engulfed in forest and we were passing through some dense cover.

We reached the top in 2.5 hours I think as we took our own time climbing. The entry/exit to the top is regulated and cars can’t pass the entry point, before which they have to park. On the top you either walk or you can hire horses or the palanquin (which we referred to as shahi sawari !) . But for us commoners walk would do and after a quick break and rest we explored the place a bit. Matheran is a hill station and is covered with dense forest. It was quite cool on the top in the middle of the day as well and we saw few points which I don’t have much memory off. By this time we were quite hungry, so we had lunch at some restaurant there and now it was becoming difficult to keep our eye lids open. We hardly had the nights sleep and the walk and heavy food made us lazy. But there was no time for that as we had to catch the train to Nerul and from there back to Akurdi. So promising over-selves to come back soon to explore this wonderful place again, we headed back.

We had done some prior inquiries and there was a train at 4:00 pm which we had booked as we were not sure if we would get the tickets latter on. We were right on time and boarded the train which is one of its kind. It has small carriages, pulled by a small diesel powered engine and it runs on small gauge. Before the train left the station they gave us some instructions, some of which scarred us no less, like don’t close the windows else the strong wind could knock the train off, or not to move much and the best one was you may have to off board and re board when required. It all sounded exciting and we were on our way. This train ride is one of the best I have had, which passes through one of the most beautiful landscape. On many occasions it is skirting the edge of the valley and many a time the strong wind drift really gets it wobbling 🙂 . At couple of locations where it had to make an ascent, the train started going backwards :), as forewarned some of us were asked to get off the train, when it being lighter started moving forward again, we had to run and made a dash to re board it ( not sure what happens if you are unable to do do). So after that singular experience, which we wont forget for long we reached Nerul.

We got off and bought the tickets for the not so desirable train back to our place! We were very tired by now and all of our faces were pitch dark with the dust and the ordeal, though the bigger one was waiting for us ahead. The train arrived and there was again the same chaos and we absentmindedly went with the flow. We didn’t realize for how long we were standing and when that journey go over, but finally somewhere around 9:00 pm we reached our destination, exactly 24 hours after we had started our amazing journey. We somehow managed to pick ourselves and drop on the bed at home. We were done!

PS: What an amazing time we had, to this beautiful hill station which I liked particularly because of the way they had maintained it and not allowed the modern jungle to spread on it. 


Trip To Hoover Dam & Red Rock Canyon

WP_20150801_14801/02-Aug-2015: We were some what tired from our two days sojourn and on on the return journey from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas except the drivers I think everyone had a nice nap. On the way we decided to halt at Hoover dam, which was not in the original plan, but as we were passing close to it, we decided lets stop over. I have been around these parts few times but have not been to this iconic dam.

Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel. Built during depression, construction began in 1931 and when completed it was largest of its kind. It is located on the borders of two states (Nevada, Arizona) on a Black Canyon. There is a big motorable road on top which passes over the dam walls to the other side of the Canyon. Beneath you could see the contained waters of the mighty Colorado river.


You also pass through one state to other and even transcend time zones! We parked on the other side and then walked the remaining distance. We only went half way and it was breathtaking to see the huge walls and gates of the dam constructed over 80 years ago. By this time Ar was quite tired and would not walk and G was tired of holding her, so we waited while others explored further and came back. It was already getting bit dark and we left for Las Vegas.

We reached our hotel by 8:00 pm and all were equally tired. Earlier we had planned that we might cook something at hotel but now decided to order something. We even had planned we might explore LV bit more tonight, but that plan was also quietly dropped! So after exploring a bit on what to order we decided to get a pizza. We went to Dominos and ordered few pizzas and waited for long time for it to arrive :(. Finally we got hold of the smoking hot food and were back. We had a nice dinner and spent some time chatting. Then it was time to take to bed as tomorrow we plan to leave early as we were heading back home and also we wanted to see if we could squeeze in one more attraction to our trip.


We woke up got ready quickly, packed our bags and did checkout. We were heading to the Red Rock Canyon before getting on the route to home. Bye, bye LV, until next time! We enjoyed our stay there but did not do all the activities. Would be back for chopper ride and yes Celine Dion show!

Red Rock Canyon is around 20 miles on the west side of LV, so a nice half an hour ride takes you to this interesting park. I call it interesting as there is no vegetation there or hardly any and its all barren and splintered with rocks, but there is something to it that you start liking as you spend some time there, I think its the unique topography and play of colors!

Red Rock Canyon is located in Mojave Desert and as the name suggest is Canyon made of red rocks and you get a feeling that someone had just randomly thrown the rocks of all sizes and dimensions everywhere. As you enter through the park gate, you buy ticket for the scenic loop. The 13 mile Scenic Drive through Red Rock Canyon takes you from highs and lows of the canyon and has many scenic stops along the way. As said earlier the drive is scenic in its own way as the rustiness of this place I think is what is appealing. The rocks are pitch red and are of different hues which provide a different shades to the mountains. It is quite hot and dry though and we only got out at couple of places and we wanted to go back in the comfort of the ac in the car as soon as we could.


We took a break at couple of famous vista spots, where you have to hike a bit on the boulders and rocks and is fun and good exercise. The rocks had created a unique design pattern and we got some nice pic shots and when we shared it on social media, some people could not believe it to be real! We would have liked to explore this place bit more but we were pressed for time. It would be really interesting to hike around here, so that thought in mind, we bid farewell to this lovely place and headed towards home. On the way we stopped at one place to have chalupas and shake and then we were back home around 6:30 pm in the evening with loads of memories.

Thus ended a nice 2 days trip, in which we found solace in desert and rusty topography and managed to cover lot more than we had planned for!

Trip To Grand Canyon

DSC0214101-Aug-2015: After a tiring day yesterday, today everyone woke up late. After getting our morning chores done we had tea and garma garam poha. Then it was time to go to our first stop of the day Grand Canyon. It is located in the neighboring state of Arizona and the Canyon is layered bands of red rocks formed due to millions of years of erosion by the river Colorado which cuts through it. Its one of the natural wonders of the world and is amazing to be at. There are 3 rims North, South and West to watch these majestic Canyons.

I had been to South rim before and it was unreal to watch. From the South Rim you can peer all the way down into the heart of the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River runs a mile-deep from top. There are many vista points, outwardly hanging rock formations and though generally red in color, the Sun rays falling on the cliffs create multi hue color spectacle. It is indeed a mesmerizing sight and I was excited to go back to see it again.

Today though we were going to a different rim, the West one which is closer from Las Vegas. You basically take the I-93 S which merges to I-40 E and then you get on I-64 to reach the West side of the Grand Canyon and the journey takes around 5 hours with over 280 miles to cover. The route passes around Lake Mead, which is a water body formed out of Colorado river and we took a break there to see the great views.


The whole route is ghat section and with lots of twists and turns and G was bit uncomfortable through this section. The weather was also quite hot and so we avoided too many stop overs. On the way we had our lunch at a Mexican place and there we deliberated upon the activities to be done when we reach the park. We had two options, one was to do river water rafting, which was V’s choice, but as I and G had done that on river Bias in Himachal we wanted to go for the other one which was to go on the Skywalk!


Skywalk is an experience!0 Its a semi circular platform ring made of glass on which you walk. One end of Grand Canyon’s rim is 70 feet behind you and the other end is 3 miles in front of you and as you look down (if you have heart!) you see  —- nothing. There is nothing between your feet and the bottom of the Grand Canyon which is 2,000 feet below you. The constructors for this platform has done an amazing feet of engineering! I always wanted to do this and today was the opportunity. After lots of discussion, we finally picked this attraction.

We reached the West rim park by around 2:00 pm in the afternoon and straightaway went to the ticket booth. The ticket was priced I think $80 for adults and $60 for kids, which was on the higher side, but wait till you get on the Skywalk and its worth it. Not all of us joined in, I think we were 6-7 who went for it. After passing through the lobby and short walkway, here we were standing 2000 ft in air literally. I don’t think G saw much of the bottom, but I and Ar had a great experience walking there. We even sat there and the experience is hard to explain. You can see the bottom of the Canyon and the river flowing below you and the view of the rim opposite to you is enchanting. Not to mention we clicked many pics there and spent lot more time there than we had planned for.


It was after this memorable experience we decided to explore the Grand Canyon rims from the vista points. This is indeed a natural wonder of the world and you get lost in history of this place,which is not few hundred or few thousand years but goes back millions of years. You could spend the whole day exploring this place. Off course we did not had so much time and surprisingly were already hungry as well. So we sat on the benches there and had some snacks brought with us and also go some snacks for kids from the eating joint there which had a huge queue and consumed more than half and hour of our time.


As we came back to the table and were having food, some distance further from the rim we spotted a nice hillock tucked with boulders. We were excited to have some trek and leaving the ladies behind, we went to scale it. I was having a real trek after a long time and was enjoying all of it. At first we had to scale small rocks and boulders, but as we approached the top we had to pass on big ones, some as tall as meter. It was tiring, but finally we made it to the top and were glad we came. The top of hillock, which constituted only one rock where at max 3-4 people could stand was actually the edge of the rim and it offered unparalleled view of the valley and the river. We stood there for long time, before we were called back 😉 The journey back was equally interesting with the boulders and rocks really testing us.


Grand Canyon parks gives special preference to local Indian communities for jobs and opportunities, which was nice to see. After our tummies full, we explored the park a bit more which along with other things had a huge horse ranch. All of us even got our pics clicked sitting on the horses there. There were some other activities to do, but as we were getting late and also it was quite hot outside we left. As we were leaving I remembered a funny but embarrassing incident from my last visit here. At that time we had come with a group and our guide (Terry) had given us clear instructions to be back in 45 mins.

Now leaving aside if 45 mins can do justice to this place, we were on our way back in the given time range when I and P spotted one souvenir shop. In those days we were lot into souvenir thing and so we went there to explore and we lost the sense of time. At some point what we see is couple of our friends coming running towards us and asking to hurry. On the way they told us Terry is angry as hell and was even planning to leave without us. But our friends somehow convinced him to give them 5-10 mins to find and get us back. We were lucky they found us otherwise we might have to camp there only :). As we entered the bus all our co travelers gave us round of claps and we went and took our seats with our faces covered :):).

So it was time to say goodbye to this gem of place, which you can’t explore enough. I am sure we would be back here sooner than later.



Jyotiba Temple & Panhala Fort – Day 3

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02-Oct-2017: Woke up early today as there was so much to do. We got ready and did the checkout formalities. We decided to even have tea later on. The hotel was next to railway line and we saw few of them passing by which was a nice sight. We left the hotel at 8:00 am and went straight to Gokul restaurant. We had misal and batate vada sambar. We also had tea. Refreshed we moved towards Jyotiba temple. Jyotiba temple is located around 20 km from here and located on Jyotiba hill. It took us around half an hour to reach there. There are multiple entrances to the temple, one at the top of the hill where you arrive after you ascend the ghat, the actual temple being bit downhill from here. Another entrance is close to the temple and now a days they have a road which descents to the parking spot near it. But on that day due to some reason it was closed and we had to park at the top and descend many steps to the temple which was bit of excursion for Aai.

We had nice darshan at the temple and then after spending some time there and then ascended the steps back to the parking spot. It was around 10:30 am and we were thinking of what next. In the three days of our trip we had not really done some sightseeing or went to see some place and so we wanted to do something to that affect. So we decided to head towards Panhala fort which is around 12 km from here and takes around 20 mins to reach. As we descended the Jyotiba hill and touched the main road, from where we took right turn we could see the majestic fort from a distance on our left hand side. But as we continued on this road, we saw it going away from us. Off-course we were heading towards wrong direction :). So after checking with locals we realized we were headed in opposite side, so we took the u turn and were now on the right path. In some time we started ascending the ghat towards the fort.

The roads here are really nice and well maintained. This fort is the Taluka headquarter and has a living population of 5000+. The ghat section is beautiful and down below we could see lush green valley and fields. We reached at the top in 7-8 mins and were at the chowk there which has statue of Baji Parbhu Deshapande, wielding 2 swords in his each hand reminiscent of the famous battle of Pavan khind. Now we have been to this fort few times in childhood, but this was our visit after long time and so we wanted to explore the fort in detail. There are few guides who offered to show us around, but as our car was full there was no much space to accommodate them.  So we decided to explore it on our own.


We went around for some time but were not sure if we were heading anywhere. On the way we spotted Tabak udyan, so we parked there and were thinking of exploring it. Luckily at that time a guy came on bike and offered to be our guide to take us around the fort. As he had his own vehicle it was perfect for us and his fees was if I remember correctly Rs 300 was reasonable. We were glad we found him, rather he found us else we wont have been able to see much. So he first gave some info on the fort and then took us to our first spot which was Sajja. This was a palace from the day of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and this is where the plan to break out of Siddi Johar’s vedha (encirclement) was made and from here only on that historic night Maharaj left in palki with 600 bandals towards Vishalgadh. This was also the place where Maharaj last met with Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.

This palace was of 2 levels and had multiple rooms. We explored the ground floor and then through stairs went to 1st floor. This room had good arches and some nice features. It also had big windows with nice views. It always feel so great being at the places where historic events had taken place. We were also interested to know the place from where on that historic day Maharaj descended the fort and crossed the vedha, which he told is at some distance from here and we would be visiting that too. We then descended and went to see some tatbandi (fortification) around this place. The next stop was one of the buruj which had a steep climb of 25-30 steps, The view from top was breath taking and has a good vantage point. From here on one could also see the bunglows of dyons of marathi film industry, Bhalji pendharkar, V Shantaram and all.


Our next stop was to see the spot we wanted to see earlier, the place from where Maharaj descended the fort and it passed through thick jungle. If I would have come with our group or would have had more time, would have liked to go and explore it more. For next time, maybe!  We then moved to see a very interesting place, called Andhar Bawdi (Hidden well). It is a three storied structure having two levels located underground. At the base is a hidden step well. This structure would help protect the well from the enemies whose first act would be to poison the water in it.  The upper level is road facing and so as the enemy storms the fort, they don’t see the underground structures nor the guards stationed at the basement, who then could surprise them. This well was the drinking water source for the inhabitants of the Fort. The back side of Andhar Bawdi is also well fortified by two layers of thick stone wall and it also has escape routes in case of emergency.  From the fortification one gets excellent views of the fort and the valley.

Our next stop was Teen Darwaza (Three doors) which are at walk able distance from Andhar Bawdi. It is one of the gateways to the Fort from Konkan side. The doors have been constructed in such a way that the enemy entering from the main door from Konkan side cannot see another two doors until they are fully in by which time the guards stationed there can surprise them. The doors would have been huge and strong to withstand even the charge by the elephant. The doors have beautiful arches having nice carvings.


Our next visit was to visit the Bale Killa (Citadel), which also houses the Ambarkhana (Warehouse) and is located at the center of the Fort. There are three granaries in this structure, having names Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati to store rice, varai and nachni and are huge, having capacity of around 25OOO quintals of rice. The rice collected from country would be poured from holes on the top of the high ceiling. The structure itself has huge pillars and they connected by arches which look imposing and beautiful.The Ambarkhana used to be fortified by 15 meter deep trenches to prevent attacks. This whole area is encircled by fortification and was part of the Citadel.

There were few more places to visit like Tararani’s palace, Shiva Kashid’s statue and memorial, but due to that day being election day some parts were closed and we could not visit them. So we were at the end of our tour and decided to have lunch on the fort itself. We were thirsty as well and chaas just outside the fortification of Bale Killa was perfect drink! From there we saw a hotel just opposite to it. We decided to try it out. They had freshly prepared bhakari, zhunka with thecha and chaas as menu. The food was really nice and the ambiance of we sitting in front of Bale Killa of Panhala was just perfect! We relaxed there for some time and would have liked to spend the whole day on the fort itself. But home was also calling and with our tummies filled, we decide to head back. We didn’t had to go back to Kolhapur as there was bypass connecting to the highway at some distance from Panahala and in some time we were on our way.


The weather was just perfect, cloudy with cool breeze. I think most of us took some nap and we didn’t stop until just before the Khambatki ghat at Aaram hotel. This is a new hotel and last time we had missed coming here. Its very large and has many sections for different cuisines. We had some south indian snacks, batata vada and tea. Just as we were having our snacks it started raining heavily, really heavily and I got one more chance of enjoying the monsoon after many years. We had to wait for more than an hour for the rains to stop and then we headed home. As we entered Pune from Katraj we got some traffic till we reached home at around 6:00 pm. Thus came to conclusion a nice, spiritual and relaxing trip.

PS: With Panhala fort covered (though had been here few times in childhood) and my earlier coverage of Vishalgadh fort and Pavankhind the historic circuit was complete.

Bay Area Trip – Day 1


17-Mar-2016: Few of our friends call Bay area their home and we had wanted to visit them and also G and Ar had not been to that area. So this had been in planning for some time, but it kept getting moved forward, one due to we not having the car and also it being a long trip we were not ready yet. This trip got finalized in Feb and we decided to go in March We were thinking of taking couple of days off before the weekend and make it a 4 days trip. The distance from our place to it is around 400 miles and it takes around 7:00 hours to reach if you go non stop 🙂 . We started planning the itinerary as the day approached. The plan was as below:

  • Day 1: Head towards Bay area, via Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and enjoy the scenic route. Reach our friends place.
  • Day 2: Do a SFO sightseeing and spend some time with friends.
  • Day 3: Do some local sightseeing, like silicon valley etc, mainly a relax day.
  • Day 4: Before heading back visit one more of our friend and be home by evening.

We packed our stuff, we ended up carrying lot of luggage ;), mainly food stuff, clothes , gifts etc. I had loaded the car tank preceding night as we were to start early. Woke up at 5:00 am. We had planned to leave by 6:30 am as we wanted to cross LA before peak time traffic. Though as always we got delayed and could start only around 7:30 am. We were cruising along I-5 and traffic was light, but as we entered 101, the traffic slowed us down. It took us more than a quarter hour to cross LA. We took diversion at CA-58 to head towards Moro bay where we got on to the Pacific coast highway (PCH), which was going to accompany us for next 200+ miles. This route is one of the most beautiful and scenic route in the world. The whole road passes right next to the Pacific coast on one side and cliffs on other. There are many beautiful beaches, vista points and arched bridges on the way.

We were making nice progress as traffic was light. We took a stop at San Simon which is a nice town and has great beach front. We had our lunch their which we had brought with us (parathas etc). It was such a nice experience to have it alongside the San Simon coastline. We would have liked to explore this town more as we have heard it has some nice old European architecture style buildings. For some other time ! We also fueled up here and moved ahead. It is important to keep refueling on PCH at regular intervals as you might not spot any gas station for a long stretch.


Our next stop was going to be Big Sur. This is a resort town on the way and its very scenic. The main attraction is the cove and waterfall descending into it. We parked on PCH and then you have to descend and you get to a bridge. From here you get view of pristine blue waters and the water falling from cliff into the cove. I have not seen such a sight. Its mesmerizing. We spent some good amount of time there and did not want to leave. Just a short distance from here is Bixby creek bridge, which you might have seen on numerous postcards. There are couple of vista points before the bridge, from where you can see the arched bridge on the cliff flanked by Pacific coastline with blue waters. We then crossed the bridge and took break on the vista point on other side of the bridge. You get a different view of the bridge from here which is equally jaw dropping. Big Sur is a destination in itself and you can spend few days here to explore it, which we did not had unfortunately 😦 . We wanted to see one more point (a beach), which is quite popular but couldn’t find the spot and as we were getting late so we continued further.

Around 30 miles from Big Sur is the famous 17 mile drive. This is a private drive and there is $10 fee. Its a small peninsula and you go round the loop which is around 17 mile and so the name. At the beginning there is forested area and the jungle is heavily wooded. We took couple of breaks there, it was cool and peaceful. From here you drive down and you start feeling the ocean breeze. There are many scenic spots here like the iconic Lone Cyprus tree which is timeless, then there is Pebble beach and many golf coarse on the coast line. We took a break at the Pebble beach and had some snacks on the benches overlooking it. It gave us  much needed break. It was around 5:30 pm and I had been driving for close to 10 hours. Ar was started getting bit restive, with her constant question being “Are we there yet?”. We then completed the loop which was quite scenic and then headed out.

There is an exit for Sunnyvale before you enter Santa Cruz. This is the point you leave the coast behind. It was a mesmerizing PCH ride, which we would remember for ever. Yeah, its just like as they show in movies 🙂 . We stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and then we headed for our destination. We reached out friends home at Cupertino by 8:00 pm. We were quite tired, but had completed the 1st leg. We had driven for almost 12.5 hours and covered a distance of over 400 miles. We parked our vehicle, pulled out all our stuff and headed to their home. After freshening up and some chit chat had dinner and then it was time to go to bed.

PS:  I had done the PCH ride before, but it was as a passenger and I always wanted to drive myself on this stretch. I cant explain enough in words how scenic and wonderful this route is..

Trip to Julian – CA

27-Dec-2016 : We had heard about Julian from few people, about it being a small and tony place to visit. We also had heard it being a historic town, which has maintained its historic legacy and so were looking forward to visiting it. I was on year end leave and today we were tossing between going here or San Diego downtown. Unfortunately we didn’t get up and get ready early, so we decided to go to Julian as the other place would require more time to explore and early sunset during this time of the year doesn’t leave much time. I did some analysis on the area and discovered that is more to this place than it being a historic town. In second part of 1800’s, during gold rush days, gold was discovered in Julian and the town developed along gold mines. Today there are still few mines which are open for guided tours along with few museums. This town is also famous for apple orchards and apple pie’s. There is also a nice lake nearby, all this made for a perfect place for a day trip.

We left home by 10:30 am and were on our way to south via I-5. Julian is towards San Diego. You take I-5, then you take exit for CA-78 and then at the end of this freeway you continue through 2 lane road passing through towns and villages. The weather was perfect, light clouds and we were enjoying the ride. We have been on this route many times and now there is a sense of nostalgia associated with it. The traffic was light and we were cruising along.Once CA-78 end, you pass through a town and then hit single lane highway reminiscent of many Indian roads, which I enjoy. These roads have there own character and are not monotonous as Interstate highways. We were passing along countryside and it was beautiful. Many orange and grapes orchards, farms, cows, horses, few scattered farm houses. A timeless setting! We kept the thought of plucking the overflowing orange trees with fruits at bay 🙂

Then we entered ghat section and you need to cross few hills before you reach the destination. Far away we could see snow clad hills and mountains and G wondered when we would be going to place like that. As we move along these hills appear come closer and so we though we may pass or reach near them. It was only when we were close to 3 miles of Julian I saw snow on side of road we realized, we might be passing through or to them and not just close ;). We even pulled near a hillock clad with snow, though Ar was fast sleep.

From that point the traffic was moving at ants pace and it took us more than half an hour to cover the remaining distance. As we moved closer to the destination we could see many snow covered hills and on the other side of road we saw a parking lot. Having fed up with long queue, we decided to pull over and cover the remaining half a km on foot. After parking the car, we crossed the road and went to one of snow covered hill and had some fun in snow. Ar was too excited to see and play in snow. Unfortunately we hadn’t anticipated snow and so were not prepared and got cold in no time. So we decided to move on and we were already quite late , it was 1:30 pm and lot to cover.

We straightaway decided to head for mines, which is located on C street uphill. On the way we saw great views of the old charm of town clad in snow. After reaching the mines, we found the tour guide and started the tour. It costs $10 for adult and for Ar it was free. The guide explained about the whole history about the place and showed us tool, techniques of gold mining in old days. He also demonstrated gold panning and panned gold from gravel. We were already struck with gold fever 🙂 Ar by now was feeling cold and so G and her waited for some time inside the cabin having old style coal heater. Then he took us inside the mine and showed us the quartz view and explained many areas inside the mine. The mine was bit more comfort from the chilly windy outside.  Ar was now enjoying the tour from midway and she was crying maybe from cold or darkness or may be mineophobia!  The tour lasted for over 2 hours and we covered many internal mines, the mine being quite extensive, per guide it had eleven vertical levels. Finally we started feeling cold air and we knew we were close to the exit and withing 2 mins were out of the mine.

The time was already 4:00 pm and we all were cold as numb and Ar we could see was clearly uncomfortable. So we had to cancel all our plans and decided to head home. Some how we managed to reach the car parking as fast as we could off course after some customary confusion 😉 . We were bit worried if the car will start and after initial grumpy sound it started and we turned on the heater to get to normal. My hand were quite numb and it was some time I was ready to drive. It was already 4:30 pm and we were bit worried if we would be able to hit the highway before dark, I didn’t want to enjoy driving in dark in those small serpentine roads. The evening sights in those hills were really beautiful and the sight of light cars driving through the winding roads was enchanting. We were also quite hungry but decided to stop only after reaching I-5, which we eventually postponed to once we reach in our locality. We made by eating fruits and biscuits.

We finally reached to Oso parkway around 6:30 and decided  to have pizza. It looked like ages before the pizza was ready and we ate the it warm in car only. We were back home by 8:00 pm which and ended a day which did not went as per plan, but was quite and adventurous and memorable no less 🙂

PS: We didn’t cover the gold company, museum, lake, not even taking about apple plucking and discovering the Julian.So we need to be bacckkk 🙂

Ooty – Coonoor – Mysore – Day 5

18-Aug-2014: Again woke up early and got ready. Today’s plan was to cover Zoo and then head for Bangalore airport as early as possible. Our flight was at 8:30 pm. We wanted to take no chances and were willing to reach early and wait there rather than later rushing through to catch the flight. We packed everything and went down for breakfast. It was ok. We had wanted to leave hotel by 8:45 am as we had heard that the zoo opens by 9:00 am, but driver called and told us that it opens by 10:00 am, so we took it easy. We left for the zoo by 9:30 am. On the way we had decided to buy Mysore pak for family, which we bought on the main road at Mahalakshmi store.

We reached the zoo just in time at 10:15 am and bought tickets and went in. We were thinking of covering as much as possible on foot, before heading back. But we saw electric bus inside, which takes you through the complete zoo and drops you back at the entrance gate. The whole ride is for 1 hour, this is a very good option. The bus was almost full and there was one group in front of us. So it seemed we might not get it and we will have to walk instead. But that group had more members than available seats and so we got lucky and got the 2 seats for us.

The zoo is very good and there are so many animals in it. Ar liked it very much, especially tiger and hippo. When we were near the hippo’s place, he was being fed and he was opening its big mouth, seeing that Ar also started doing the same and every time I use to say what does hippo do and she would show me her stretched open mouth :). You can see many animals while sitting in the bus only which moves along slowly. For the zones, which are bit off road, the bus stops close by and then you cover that zone by foot. The zoo is very well maintained and many of the animals are kept in open, with only ditches separating the visitors, not barbed fences or steel cage etc. We enjoyed it a lot and were back to entrance. We then started for Bangalore airport by 12:00 pm. Before leaving I bought naral pani, which G was waiting to have since last 4 days.

On the way we took break for lunch at a food mall. We ordered South Indian thali and it had very good rasam and other delicacies. I bought a counting and reading toy for Ar and we left. When we entered the village of toys (don’t know the name of the village, but it is famous for wooden and other kinds of toys) G bought few toys there. We reached near Bangalore by 3:45 pm and were welcomed by heavy traffic . We reached the airport by 6:00 pm. We settled the cab fare (he had added an extra day, which I got cleared from agency and paid accordingly).

We decided to have dinner at airport itself. From the point we entered the airport gates lobby, we saw a food chain called Malgudi Days, which was serving Kerala food and liking the name we thought that it would have good food, so ordered, podi idli, medur vada and coffee etc. The food was very bad and I am never going to have those items again :(. Medur vada was as hard as steel . The flight was on time and we headed back to Pune. Ar again enjoyed the plane ride, though at the flag end of flight journey, she cried a bit. We reached Pune by 10:15 pm. Our cab was waiting for us and we started back towards home and reached by 11:00 pm.

It was such a great 5 days trip and we covered so much in this time. Ar also enjoyed a lot and it was her first plane and railway ride. Memories for lifetime 🙂