When I plan a holiday first is to scan the days on which major occasions such as holidays, birthdays or anniversaries fall. Fortunately, this year it was all the 3 major occasions! Could not have asked for anything better this….Really. To celebrate in style, it was time to plan for a special birthday (despite three decades, I still like to celebrate my birthday to the hilt with someone really special) and having thought a lot on the location, zeroed on for a weekend trip to the beautiful land of strawberry MAHABALESHWAR.
Best part of traveling to Mahabaleshwar is to choose the hotel resort and board thhe Vento express which was a cake walk. Mahabaleshwar is a magnificent place with scenic views, perennial springs and waterfalls. Mahabaleshwar plateau truly lives up to its reputation of being the Queen of Hills at an altitude of 1372 meters, this hill station offers a wonderful climate and a soothing location.
Day 1 (31st August 2013) – From Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar – Total distance 275 km. To ensure that we beat the crazy traffic, we set out from Mumbai at 6:00am and it sure was a breeze driving on traffic free roads. However, got somewhat stuck on Vashi bridge for some time (so if someone wish to avoid this much traffic also, perhaps start even earlier by 5). The roads all along were in great shape and we covered the 230kms in just under 5-hours including a leisurely halt for breakfast at our favourite place McDonalds. After an excellent breakfast, we moved on without any further breaks. Then the ghat section began with narrow roads and continued right through to Mahabaleshwar. As the traffic was sparse, the narrowness of the roads did not pose much of a problem. Just had to look out for the mini-trucks that were driven by F1 drivers! The ghat is steep at places and is winding which could pose problems for people suffering from motion sickness. Before you know it, you will be facing a checkpoint where they collect a Pollution tax from all vehicles entering Mahabaleshwar. It is at a T-junction. If you want to stay in MTDC or the PWD cottages turn right, otherwise for all private Hotels like Club Mahindra, Citrus etc. turn left.
We had our reservation in Citrus Chambers Heritage Property so with the help of some people out in road (who were doing their job to help people with hotel booking) we went and checked in. Only thing there were no signboards to be seen throughout so it is better to have your GPS on or keep asking the passer-by for the directions. Landmark for this place is Aram Marg. Citrus is very close to Veena Lake and just a couple of Kilometers away from the main market. We were lucky enough to get the renovated suite among all the other suites available. This place is absolutely fantastic for a quiet relaxing weekend. Far away from the hustle-bustle of the cities, but be prepared you might not want to leave the resort at all!! The suites are luxurious and comfortable and spread all over the property and there is enough greenery to make you feel you are living right inside the forest. If you wish to have your suite next to the restaurant to avoid walking, then this is the suite for you. It is just a short walk to the restaurant and then a few more to the reception area. Add to that the most professional, courteous and warm staff I have EVER seen!!! They catered to our each and every request in the most professional way. Well, there’s no real downside to this place, the only upgrade that can be made is to maintain swimming pool area. The entire place makes you feel as though you’ve entered an era long gone. You can hear the rusting of the leaves in the trees, the soothing music in the background, bask in the sun, or simply stroll along in the vast expansive property. Truly a heritage place to have a sumptuous lunch and a power nap after which we decided to go for some sightseeing.
Instead of taking our own car, we preferred to hire a cab instead for sightseeing, So our driver / guide (which we later came to know for the kind of information he had about the place) advised to go ahead with monsoon points which are open (points which can be seen clearly in evening till late max 6:30 pm) like Kate point, Elephant Head, Needle and hole point. So we decided to go with him as the same was suggested by our resort representative. We reached a place where all these points could be seen together one after the other. We visited Kate’s point and Needle-hole point first. It offers you a view of Krishna valley and dam. Kate‘s Point is along the Duchess Road. It is at a height of 1,290 metres. It is one of the greatest points and no tourist would like to miss it. The distance of the point is 6.8 km. The view from the point is clear and splendid that it was difficult to take our eyes off. Needle hole point is located near Kate’s Point. One can see a natural rock formation with a hole in between, thus giving the name Needle-hole. Next we saw The Elephant’s Head Point and it is truly one of the best points to be visited. The cliffs which overhang resemble an elephant’s head and trunk. Thus the point got its name as the Elephant’s Head Point. The point renders breath-taking views of the surroundings. The mountain range of Sahyadri is also visible from this point and it is bewitching to watch. It is the extreme end of the mountain range. The Lingmala Waterfall is a fantastic sight to watch. It presents an enrapturing view of cascading water. It disperses from the top of a steep cliff. The water falling down looks like thin silver streaks. After spending some time with nature , clicking some pictures as these points provide plenty of photo opportunities (In other words , it’s a visual treat )we went back to hotel as it was turning dark. And the rest of the evening followed with dinner (Alacarte as per our meal plan) and my birthday celebrations.
Day 2 (1st- September 2013 Citrus Chambers > Panchgani Points > Wai > Pune > Lonavla > Mumbai) Next morning, we checked out at 12:00hrs had a leisurely buffet breakfast at our resort. After some relaxation in the form of wonderful massages, courtesy: resort’s massage chair and clicking some resort pictures, we started our journey back home via Panchgani. Since our Panchgani points were left so on the return trip took the Panchgani-Wai-Pune-Lonavala-Mumbai route. This route is longer by about 50kms but due to the expressway, it is quick and the roads right through are very good. First spot which was hardly 4 km from our resort was Veena Lake. It is the centre of all activity, and is filled with people and boats & to our surprise there was not much rush as compared to the previous evening and we got boat also very easily without any waiting. Best part weather was just about perfect with no rains/sun. The Venna lake located between the Mahabaleshwar market and Kshetra Mahabaleshwar is surely the lifeline of sorts of tourism in Mahabaleshwar as it is called by the local people there. Mapro Garden is a well maintained production, point-of-sale and entertainment hub, in short nice place to visit. All their products were on display across long counters and freely available for tasting. The ladies at the tasting counter took turns to prepare small portions of of the Mapro shakes or juices. At the retail counters there were teams of young men and women explaining the contents of each Mapro labelled jar and in the process, politely soliciting a few of them. There is a decent cafe specializing in Pizzas, sandwiches and strawberry with cream, although we didn’t eat anything. The on campus chocolate factory was made visible through windows on one side. While walking down from one end to the other, you could see the fundamental stages and processes involved in making a bar of chocolate, just from loose cocoa beans. Packaging was done behind the scenes and the packed products (Mazaana – Mapros new product line) fine dark chocolate) were sold on the floor below. They sell 3 varieties, chocolate coated raisins, chocolate coated cashews and chocolate coated peanuts in 2 sizes. They are reasonably priced. I tasted and could not resist from buying raisin flavour. Next came the wonderful spot called Table Land. To reach, one just need to move straight and straight and simply follow the signboards (which one rarely misses).It is the second longest mountain plateau in Asia. From here one can get a great scenic view of Panchgani hill station it’s true that it’s a 6.5 Km Long Table located at high altitude. Getting there is not an issue but parking surely is. One is definitely in for an adventurous experience as far as parking is concerned Typical of Hill station you can see the river flowing backside and good view from the point. One of the good point to click images and enjoy the land spaces No special drive required as it comes on way back and after few distance came yet another point called Sydney point ‘ Just another point , nothing special and one can easily avoid to stop here. After finishing most of the Panchgani’s prominent must see points, we head back to Mumbai with just one coffee break at CCD.Reached Mumbai at 1800hrs after a leisurely drive following a rejuvenating holiday in Mahabaleshwar.
Brief snapshot of the costs incurred:
1. Citrus Resort ‘ Rs 8500(suite) including taxes and all meals.
2. Petrol ‘ Total distance travelled ‘ Around 550 ‘ Rs 2500-3000 depending on the car/mileage.
3. Toll ‘ Rs 300 a. MSRDC Vashi toll plaza ‘ 30+30 = 60 b. MSRDC Kahalapur toll plaza ‘ 165 C.Khedshivapur Toll Plaza- NH4 – 75
4. Mahabaleshwar pollution tax: INR 30/- (For Car)
5. Mahabaleshwar Entry tax: INR 20/- per person (valid for 7 days)
6. Panchgani Entry/Vehicle Pass ‘ INR 20/- per person.(valid for 7 days)
7. Panchgani pollution tax: INR 50/- (For Car) ‘ Valid for 7 days.
8. Car parking: INR 10 to 20/- (You have to pay everywhere)