It had been a while since i traveled, my last trip being the himalayan trek in may. Mayur and Bhargav came to Mumbai on friday 16, Dec 2011. They reached home at around 10 in the night and early next morning (5:30 AM) we started on our way for an extended weekend, a long getaway. We had an Innova booked for a comfortable ride and for a reasonable deal (10 Rs per Km. By the time we reached Panvel, it was 7 and the sun had just begun to come out. We took the new Mumbai Pune Highway and were soon speeding in excess of 120 kmph. After a while took a diversion at Lonavala and took the route towards Bushi Dam. We went up the hill and were treated to some awesome views. The grass everywhere had dried up giving it a golden glow in the sun. The wind was cold and was blowing at speeds giving a strange roaring sound.

We went back to Lonavala and were soon on the highway to Pune. The entire highway was awesome and went through some spectacular tunnels. We stopped on the way to have some breakfast and then called Kaki to join us at a point on the highway. We wanted to Bypass Pune city and joined the highway to Satara. Kaki took some time to join us, as he had to literally travel the length of Pune. He joined us around 11 Am and we started toward Mahabaleshwar immediately. We took the highway for another 50 kms where we had to take a right diversion towards our destination. I was hungry and all i thought along the way was about Mapro Gardens and the wonderful sandwiches that Rajesh suggested we shouldn’t miss.

We stopped a couple of points along the way before we reached Panchgani. My hunger was getting acute and I started to get desperate about Mapro Gardens, just like the scene in the movie – Harold and Kumar go to white castle. Bhargav wanted to see a few more points after Panchgani, but i insisted we had food first. Like always, I won (rather bhargav cursing me :) gave up) and we were soon at the gardens. We ordered 4 sandwiches and the lady at the counter suggested, we actually took 2. After we placed the order, we took a stroll in the park that was filled with bright flowers. Bhargav then demonstrated his cam’s (Sony Hx 9V) awesome picture processing capabilities. The pictures were better than the original scene, reminding me of the English lesson, with the photographer by Stephen lecock.

Very soon our ordered sandwiches arrived: large, nicely grilled giving us a good smell of the cottage cheese used. They were yummy, undoubtedly the best i had in my life. Having these sandwiches on an empty stomach was a feeling that words couldn’t describe. We later had an Italian pizza which was equally tasty and topped it with the best Strawberry ice-cream ever had. I felt like having more, but my stomach couldn’t co-operate. I bought some ripe big strawberries and we continued on way to our MTDC resort.

The resort was 2 kms from Mahabaleshwar center and was very vast. The buildings were old but the campus was amazingly close to nature. We got a family suite which contained a hall and 2 bedrooms which were clean and tidy for 2800 bucks. After visiting the sunset point and the local market there, we crashed early after talking for a while.

We woke up at 7 the next day and left towards old Mahabaleshwar. We visited the Shiva temple and the starting point of the mighty Krishna River. There were ruins of an old temple from where we had an awesome sight of the Krishna valley. It being winter, the fog and mist prevented us from taking photos of the breath taking scenes of the river from above. We then bought more strawberries and took off towards Pratagadh. We reached the fort by 12:30 only to see the fort crowded with tourists. We took a stroll up the fort and tried taking the nice views from the top. The hills were brown because of the dried grass and there were distinct horizontal lines along the hill range adding more beauty to the scene. Like always fog again played spoilsport in taking good pictures.

We headed towards Raigadh, the capital of shivaji, at the time of his death. It was a 2 hr drive from pratapgad. We went to mahad and then took a 24 km diversion of the NH17 highway. We had to wait 40 mins to get the ropeway to the top. By the time we reached the top it was 5:30 PM and the fort was almost empty with no one around. The setting sun provided just the ambience for our DSLR’s to come out. Recollecting from my earlier trip to raigadh, we visited all the main points: ruins of the palace, Shivaji’s darbar, the marketplace and Shivaji’s tomb. It was a perfect place for trying out photography and felt bad for having arrived late.We wanted to stay back on the top for the night, but we did not have even 1000 bucks among ourselves to afford the night. Another lesson learnt for depending so much on ATM’s :’(

We abandoned our initial plan of trekking down owing to literally no light. I so much wished it were a full moon! We took the ropeway back down and in search of a night stay we went to Mahad. After some search, we found a hotel with a decent deal. It would have been economical and awesome if only we had carried enough cash with us :(

All of us woke up lazily the next day and we could only start by 10 AM. We extensively used GPS with google maps to guide us through some bad roads to Murud. We were treated to some awesome views of the fort that stood in the middle of the sea and some old tombs at Murud Janjira. By the time we reached the point where we had to take a boat ride to the fort, there was a huge line. We then took some snaps of the fort with the water from the outside and decided to go to Kashid. The route to Kashid was awesome winding through the green tree, parallel to the coast. We reached Kashid in 30 minutes and were treated to some awesome white sands.

Even though i had come to Kashid before, it was the first time i went close to the water front. On the previous occassion i just cam, took a nap and left early. But this time we decided to stay till sunset and put our photography to test. We relaxed on the hammocks until sun was in the horizon and then took to the water. The water was spectacularly clean and clear. I could see the land beneath even as i walked 50 mts into the sea. The water was warm and the breeze was cool. The feeling was just amazing as I tried to leap through the gentle waves that came towards me looking at the setting sun. Because of the winter fog, we couldnt see the sun set all the way down, but we had a very good glimpse of the sun fading out slowly producing all the vibrant colors in the atmosphere.

Bhargav and I tried some stunts after the sun had set and i ended up hurting myself trying to jump across bhargav. The sand was so soft that on landing my toes got struck and i fell almost face down. I was not hurt much thanks to the forgiving sands. We later had some tea and began our return journey to Mumbai. We had dinner at McDonald something Mayur had been longing for after his 6 month stay at Singapore. We dropped Kaki on a cab to pune and returned home late night.

It was an amazing trip through the hill stations, to the forts of maratha empire to the awesome beaches of the west coast. Hoping to continue the tradition of meeting every year and having some wonderful time, I long for more