Monday, September 28, 2015

Once upon a time in Mahabaleshwar...

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." - John Ruskin
Western ghats are at their enchanting best during the monsoons. One can easily fall in love with all the eye-blinding greenery, caressed by waterfalls and streams of all sizes and sporting the ever present canopy of fluffy dark clouds that threaten to play holi with you any second.
Nonetheless, those few among us (yes there are quite a few), who would for once like to enjoy a view of green valley from mountain tops undeterred by the incessant rains, must consider planning a visit just as the monsoon slows i.e. in September.
Arthur Point, Mahabaleshwar
Splendid view of valley
So around last week of September, when my sister was visiting, I quickly came up with a plan to visit Mahabaleshwar. My friend Nikhil also agreed to join us. The only drawback was that it was a same day return trip, much to my displeasure. But that makes it a handy guide for  a quick one day visit to the place.
Pune-Bengaluru Highway
Photogenic highway
We booked a full day cab and left Pune early on the Sunday morning, at around 6 am to avoid weekend rush. Taking the Pune-Bengaluru Highway NH4, moving towards Bengaluru. Small hills started pretty soon and my sister was getting more and more impressed by the fact that I live in such a beautiful place (as if my office was somewhere on the hill top).
I clicked pictures for a while and then settled to complete my nap.

Mahabaleshwar valley
One of the valley view
On the way, we fueled ourselves with Maharashtra's most loved breakfast i.e. kandha-poha with chai and continued our journey. After travelling for 2 hours and about 105 km, we reached Panchgani. Here we paid an entry tax and moved forward towards the Table Point. It was practically empty as we were quite early. It is a vast expanse of flat top surrounded by lower valley area populated with some villages.
I could imagine the magnificence of this place in monsoon.

Table Top, Panchgani
@ Panchgani
It was sunny so we clicked a few pics and continued to Mahabaleshwar.

Mahabaleshwar tourist map
Mahabaleshwar tourist map
After paying entry tax in Mahabaleshwar as well, we made our first stop at Venna Lake. We were so early that boating had not yet started.
The weather was perfect with clear blue sky and bright sunshine. The lake looked a sapphire blue color, totally in love with the sky. It seemed nature was grinning at us.

Venna lake
Venna lake

Boating at Venna lake
Venna lake after sunset
At 10 am, the boats became ready for us. One boat ride costs Rs. 300 total and maximum capacity was 6 other than the boatman. So we chipped in with a family of 3.

Boating at Venna lake
Sis & me

There were plenty of stalls selling roasted corn, carrots, mulberries, strawberries etc.

Carrots and berries
Lots of vitamin A in single pic

From here we headed on to various view points. There are quite a few in Mahabaleshwar like Echo Point, Savitri Point, Arthur Seat, Malcolm point, Elphinstone point, Marjorie point, Kate's Point, Needle Point.
So the afternoon was spent hopping from one point to the other while the sun was hopping between the clouds that had appeared out of nowhere. The valley looked so beautiful covered with greenery and floating clouds and mist of the river beneath.

Echo Point
@Echo Point

Arthur Point

Named after a British officer who lost his wife and son in a ferry accident in Savitri river.
At some places, we were not able to see the view because of the clouds. Instead it became a perfect white background to take a passport photo. It looked like little clouds were floating up above and among us. Ethereal.

Clouds at Arthur Point
Heavy clouds over the valley
The surroundings had become cooler due to the clouds. I could enjoy sitting and watching the view forever but we had many points to cover yet.

Clouds at Arthur Point
Yup, the background is perfect..
Clouds at Arthur Point
@Arthur Point

Savitri Point

Here you can see Savitri river at the bottom of the valley. But due to clouds and mist, the river was playing hide and seek with us.

Sidewalk at Savitri Point
Near Savitri Point

Now this is some scenery. Who would say it is in India.
Savitri river valley
Savitri Point
Yellow flowers
Vying for attention!
Best point to get poetic or philosophical. (Not to be confused with suicidal :P)
Savitri Point valley
Absorbing the melancholy @Savitri Point :D

Back from Savitri point

Panchganga Temple

Source of five rivers namely Koyna, Venna, Gayatri, Savitri and Krishna. Photography inside is prohibited.

Panchganga temple
Panchganga Temple

Mahabaleshwar Temple

Lingmala Falls

Lingmala falls
Lingmala Falls
Now this is a gem which is surprisingly lesser known. Three tiered falls created by Venna river before continuing in the long valley are a sight to behold. I will have to visit again in monsoon sometime to see the falls in full vigour.

With a major help from GPS, we were able to find our way to the falls.

The falls are nearer to the Venna lake. The road till there is narrow but beautiful. Also, the site closes by 5.30 pm in the evening. Not recommended for people with joints problem as there are many steps followed by about 1 km walk to the point where you can see the full view of falls.
Smaller falls are also there which form a pool in front where you can have fun in water if you take a change of clothes.

Lingmala falls Doh
Smaller falls or 'Doh '

Venna Valley
Venna valley
Now it was starting to get dark, so we said our goodbyes to Mahabaleshwar and headed back home, only stopping to make a customary stop at Mapro gardens which are famous for their strawberry farms, fruit crushes, jams and everything sweet. There were so many varieties in fruit crushes and you can taste the flavor for free before buying.

Mapro gardens
Diabetics stay away!
Although the trip had ended, we were truly content with what we could make of it in a single day. The place really deserves about 2-3 days of stay to soak in the beauty it offers. The standstill views of the valley and clouds and mountains should not be hurriedly seen.

Maybe it was a good thing. Now I will have to visit Mahabaleshwar again some time. Looking forward to the next trip. :)