Thursday 8 October 2015

Must visit places near Mumbai - Lonavala, Matheran, Malshej Ghat

A land of hope for millions of people flowing in every month to the city - Mumbai. But is it only that much? No, it is one of best tourist destination in the area. The Sahyadris provides so much to the nature lovers that we fall short of time to finish the places even for the places we have planned. After visiting multiple places of Malenadu, I was very eager to visit the Sahyadris. It is hard to visit these places alone since these places are hard to reach by public transport and being from a different place, it is hard to take my bike too. (Off course it would be different level of fun to ride in these places.)

Note - This post is going to be little lengthier than my regular posts since it is of 4 days and loads of photos. Filtered a lot but felt i cannot skip any of the below. But I promise, you will like the photos if you love greenery and the first glimpse of it is here. :)
View in Lohaghad fort - Lonavala

Was planning to visit Sahyadris from long time but this time it happened suddenly. Had a long weekend on week ending October 2nd, and asked my friends to extend it for 1 day, checked for flight rates and found it cheaper than bus rates during peak season. Booked immediately. 7 of us were there as per initial plan but unfortunately one of my friend had to miss it (we missed him equally) as he was down with dengue.!

Had flight at 5.30 am from Bangalore and we were ready in airport by 2.00. The plan for morning was not ready yet except that we would be getting our Zoom car in Mumbai. 

A quick cell phone selfie in airport. Security came to us before we could take out our camera.. :D
At about 7.15 we were in Mumbai and the feel of Mumbai heat could already be felt. Zoom car pick up location was 25 Kms away from Airport and we headed to get it. The best thing in the trip was having a self driven car with us so that we did not have to depend on anyone. Thanks to zoom car :) 
By then also we did not have the plan ready! We decided to go towards Nasik, spend a day there and then go to other places. But the good thing we did at that point was we dropped that plan half a way and decided to go to Matheran. 
The champs(Not we, the horses. Fell in love with them!)

Its a wonderful feel when you control the horse and owner does not come with you. 

Unfortunately, the weather was not that pleasing in Matheran but horse ride experience saved us from disappointment. That is the best experience in Matheran and do not miss it. Horse owners ask for over thousand bucks and we finally managed to make him agree for INR 400. (Agreement was to drop near Matheran market after all view point visits. Around 9-10 Kms) After getting the feel of riding horse, we had no reason to leave a chance of riding for 3 more kms from Market towards the base. So paid 100 bucks extra and came till base. The view points are excellent. Wish the climate was little mild and wet. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Did not try train ride. Probably would not have been worth wasting a few hours. 
Matheran (In one of the view points)

Zoom car was waiting for us to come back and again we did not have an answer to the question "Where next?" Decided to go to Nasik via Malshej ghat. But with loads of humps in the road, after travelling for around 60Kms, we were sure that we will not make it to Malshej by sunset and also felt Nasik was not a good plan. So, a "U turn" and we headed towards Lonavala - our main destination.
We got a warm welcome to Lonavala with mild thunderstorm and rain. That is what we were waiting for and felt relieved. Lonavala is to feel the mist and rain and if its hot there then fun in the entire trip would have gone for a toss.
There are a lot of tourist destinations in Lonavala and a lot of them are different names for same place. (Tiger valley and Lions point are 200 mts away from each other and similarly there are many others listed that way.)
We first decided to finish places in Pune direction and hence went to Karla caves. Karla caves is stone carved meditation place and the architecture is pretty good. The place is too crowded and very commercialized. However, we found that a similar cave is present a few kilometers away, so decided to go there - Bhaje Caves
If you are visiting Lonavala then do not miss Bhaje caves. You need to walk uphill for some distance but its worth walking. The place is calm and less crowded. It rained heavily when we were in top. Believe me, its heaven on earth when it rains. And photos below will speak how they look when it rains.
Bhaje Caves

Architecture in Bhaje caves. The large dome in the center is believed to be used by Budha for meditation. 

It rained and all these falls started flowing. They were not present before rain. 360 degree greenery!

After Bhaje caves we were kinda satisfied by filling our eyes with panoramic greenery but we wanted more.

The next destination was Bhushi dam, but if it is not peak rainy season, then better avoid the place. Too much of crowd and no peace in the place. Clicked one photos for the pain of paying INR 100 for parking and left immediately!
Bhushi Dam

Did not want to waste time so we headed towards the celebrity destination of Lonavala - Tiger valley. It was a dreamy weather and we could not ask for more. It was raining and mist had covered the place completely. My dream image of Lonavala was in actual in front of me! Loved it.

View from Lion's Point Lonavala

Lion's Point Lonavala

While coming back it was hell lot of traffic but we reached Lonavala city by 8.00. Did not want to waste time next morning so we went to wax museum. Amazing work of art could be seen. Not to miss. If not all, most of the wax statues look exactly same as the personality and leaves you wonder stuck.

After trying so many times, this was the best pic we could get. This is our Gangnam style :P
Morning visit to Khandala is a must and Rajmachi view point provides you a breath taking view. You can see a waterfall in a distant place and I am not sure if that is reachable. All i heard about that water fall is that it contains all the drainage of the city and hence does not depend on rainfall.!!!
Rajmachi view point Khandala

On the way to Khandala, we clicked our photos with our main and best companion of the trip - Mahindra Scorpio of Zoooooooooom Car :) (With the MH number plate.)

Inspite of KK not accepting for a trek, we went for Lohaghad trek. It was once again a wonderful experience. The trek is an easy one and takes less than an hour to reach the peak. The view in the peak is good. Weather was little harsh. We cannot expect a good weather every day and hence accepted it the way it was. Did not have another option too..! Spent some good time there but delayed a bit there to screw up the next plan.

This was seen on the way to Malshej ghat. A majestic view of one of the peaks

Lohaghad fort as seen from peak

Colorful flowers in the peak have made the fort more beautiful

One of the view points in Lohaghad fort
View from Lohaghad fort

The next plan was simply a drive to Malshej which is ~150 Kms away from Lonavala. The drive was excellent and the weather added to it! But we reached Malshej at 7 and it was already dark and covered with mist. But the feel was amazing with absolutely no view but only sound of a small falls. Spent sometime there and started our drive back to Mumabi! (It was totally dry in Malshej. If it was raining, I even had plan of staying back in Malshej in spite of a room already being booked in Mumbai and returning early morning after seeing it)

The next morning, visited Gateway of India and Marine drive. Loved the roads of Mumbai. They are much well maintained compared to Bangalore. Had a good drive back to Thane and dropped Zoom car. Our flight was scheduled at 5.30 pm and we were back to Bangalore at 7.15!
The Taj!

Marine Drive Mumbai

Here I end my lengthiest blog post so far! I still have a lot of places left to visit in the Sahyadris and the next visit there is going to be full of trekking - the next season. (Hopefully :) )

Do not miss - Bhaje caves in Lonavala and Horse ride in Matheran. (the famous tourist destinations do not need a mention.)