The drive was simple cool and calm until Khandala ghats where a great heavily overloaded trailer was trying to pass the curvy hilly roads. That was the first traffic jam of over an hour!
It delayed us enough to make us reach Panchgani at nearly 9AM. The route we had taken was varandha ghats via Bhor. Its an epic scenic route especially during monsoons. We had started our journey at 4AM in the morning. On the outskirts of Panchgani towards mahaby another problem was waiting for us... Fog. I had customized my SX4's headlamps into the sort of Audi's headlamps, i.e. LED White lights. To topple that, some sort of gel or liquid was on the windscreen and it caused heck lot of problems as soon as showers began or fog appeared or when lights went dim throughout the trip.
The accent wasn't much of an issue as fog was to a minimum. The roads and shops around was pretty much dead in action. As Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani is a popular destination during weekends among the Punekars & Mumbaikars, the local business there has a weekend of 5 days as it seemed. Additionally it was offseason for strawberries and mulberries, which I learnt when I walked into a perfectly empty Mapro Garden with only 3 employees supporting it for the day, one was the manager, one the coupon fellow and one was the sandwich guy. Thats it!!! Generally in normal weekend time, you would consider yourself damn lucky if you even get a seat on those designer glass table-bench combo after getting a coupon for your order. Its simply overcrowded, overpopulated, over parked and immensely busy weekend time in its season which lasts during the winter seasons from mid-September to early March.
However after we were turned down from Mapro for their supremely fabulous for the Special Strawberry Cream due to no season we tried our luck at Mala's and Cream Corner but failed miserably. I really wanted them to have a taste of that. Mahabaleshwar is more famous because of the strawberry cream that you get here than its strawberries or as tourist spot among its fans. Its unimaginably extraordinarily awesomely amazing Dessert.
|300ml of purely natural awesomeness - Strawberry Cream (old photo)|
After a bit of snacks we continued to travel deeper into the woods of Mahaby until the forest dept. collected their own toll and Pollution Certificates. To gain enterance in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani you have to pay a number of taxes and certificates and other things, even for two wheelers. Till the end of the travel we had paid over Rs.350 at Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani and another 200ish at highway tolls. This is one of the reasons why I prefer biking over driving. No highway tolls i.e. savings.
|Shiv ling in one of the temples|
|The walls are covered in moss and plants|
|The oldest temple at Mahabaleshwar facing the birth of Krishna River|
|More fog Menance|
|Inside one of the shrines - Photography is prohibited here. Consider it as Spy shot.|
|About the Panch Ganga Temple|
|At the start of return (clicked and editted by phone - No fancy stuff)|
|The oldest shrine|
|Looks like heaven.. doesn't it?|
|Enroute to Arthur Seat point|
|Ek selfie to banta hai meri jaan..|
|Creepy looking Fog coming down to meet us - Start of fog Menance|
After the forest dept. toll, the fog which was till then over the woods came down to meet us on the road, thus reducing visibility to a few meters. I was completely blind. The headlights were of no use. We still drove at 10 and 20 with the SX4 staggering and begging me to press on the gas. We visited the ancient shrines of old Mahabaleshwar, The cliff points and arthur seat. Most of the cliff points wee pretty useless as the entire views were blocked, all thanks to the fog. Driving at low speeds and visiting these places which were only a few kms far took us most of the time and before long it was 4PM. Stopped at a hotel for food which we repented after ordering the dishes. He din't have more than 5 dishes including rice. The cook was worse, eventually so worse that I, who never stepped into the kitchen for more than 2 minutes, can cook better than him.
The return was much problematic. The rains had started and a few places on the highway had a few great puddles and pools of rain water. My visor wasn't supporting it and the usage of the wiper had aggravated the scenario. It took us more than 4 hours to reach back to Pune, when while biking, I do it in a tad more than an hour.