Bombay as a city has some magical elements in it. Be it the people the place and life, everything in here is one of a kind. And another great aspect about this Maximum City is its weekend getaways.
So last weekend, my husband organised a trip to the mystic town of Mahabaleshwar. The drive down to this gateway is an excellent one. The beautiful lush green forests on both sides, the lure of the stately mountains, the soothing sounds of the trickling waterfalls here and there add on to a charm and anticipation of more to come as we near our desired destination.
From Bombay you can go to Mahabaleshwar in many ways. By road, you can go by a car or a bus, and if you want to go via train, then go till Pune from Dadar and the rest of the way, you will again have to travel in a car.
We had hired a car and stopped only to have breakfast on a food park. It’s perhaps the essence of travelling that boosts everything, from our spirits to appetite. In the food park itself, the energy of the fellow travellers, the vibrancy of the ambience added on to our appetite and we gorged on to our pohas, misel paos and burgers with enthused relish.
For a person like my mother and myself, who have less experience on road travel, tunnels are a major source of amusement and we crossed as many as 6 of them en route Mahabaleshwar. For a person who has learnt driving, but doesn’t do so, steering the car on that road to such a faraway destination is both a pleasure as well as a challenge.
Our car sped along the highway amidst the lush greenery of the jungles and the brownness of the barren mountains. And as we went farther and farther away from my beloved Maximum City, the temperature started dipping significantly. The higher we rose, the colder it got.
First to come was Panchgani, a town, built by the Britishers as a retirement den amidst the mountains, years back. Known as Asia’s largest tableland, Panchgani used to be a favoured destination among filmmakers, during the 90s and the early 2000. From Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Dhoom to Taare Zamin Par and many others, Panchgani is testimony to numerous timeless frames of Bollywood. Horse-riding and sightseeing at different points are broadly the attractions here.
My husband had selected our resort deep inside the jungles of the mountains. Brightland Resort and Spa is known for the serenity and solitude that it offers, far from the madding crowd.
Suddenly away from the noise and chaos of the city life, it seemed a luxury to be able to listen to the sound of silence. Waking up in the mornings to the sound of chirping birds, to be able to breathe fresh cold breeze, walking over the dew covered meadows, playing a game or two with the monkeys and the horses and squirrels of the jungles and then going off to sleep without a worry in the world. Can life be simpler and more stress-free than this?
Mahabaleshwar is known for its several points, Parsi, Point, Eliot Point, Echo Point and many others. These elevated points are special for their scenic beauty and hold a special charm for the tourists. But what caught our fancy the most was Elephant Point. From a distance the part of the mountain looked exactly like the head of an elephant.
Mahabaleshwar is a not a place to indulge in too many activities or much actions. It is a place to laze around and relax and recuperate for the hectic life ahead. We did visit different points in the mountains, went for horse riding in the tableland in Panchgani, and another point of interest was the visit to unique temples. There was one Shiva temple, where the idol was Rudraksha form of Lord Shiva. The idol was thousands of years old and the temple had been constructed 500 years ago by Shivaji Maharaj. I had never ever seen Lord Shiva in this avatar. However, what caught our fancy was another temple, which seemed in an almost derelict condition initially, but later when we explored it, we realised that it’s desolation added to a kind of different charm to the entire structure. This temple was Krishna Devi Temple.
A lot has been discussed, disputed and debated about River Krishna. And much to our surprise, this was the temple where the famed river had originated and had begun its illustrious course. There was no artificial source of light within the temple, and the visibility of the temple could be attributed to the sunlight, which came from one particular source.
By this time, we were all moved by the stillness, structure and the story behind the temple. Built by the Pandavas when they were roaming across the jungles, away from the earthly flourishes, this black-stoned temple seemed to have cast a spell on us. I tried to click a photograph of the interiors of the temple, but was caught by a rude guard, who forcefully made me to delete the picture.
On our way back, we chanced to visit a strawberry plantation. Mahabaleshwar is known for its extraordinary strawberry cultivation. The country’s 85% strawberry production comes from Mahabeleshwar. No wonder strawberry cream shake is a popular delicacy in this hill-station.
Vast stretches of land were given away for strawberry cultivation. Winter in Mahabaleshwar was mostly the peak season of the cultivation process, which commences from September or October and ends in March-April. The land was covered in sheets of shiny paper, so that the strawberry fruit does not fall in the mud and its essence remains intact.
We later came back to our resort. As evening and then night set in, the temperatures began going down. The nights were mostly meant for relaxing and enjoying piping hot food. The added cherry on top for us was a musical performance by a not-so-famous singer, whose voice sometimes were in tune and sometimes outside. However, the performance was thoroughly enjoyed, because like us, everyone had come to have a good time and so a slip here and there is of no significance.
The Mahabeleshwar trip helped us realise happiness is a state of mind and to achieve that one does not require fancy locales, or overtly outstanding preoccupations. A break from the daily grind, can surely do wonders.