End of an awesome trip..

14.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We were back from Shani Shingnapur to Shirdi. We headed straight to our resort – Sri Sai Athidi Resort, which is good and comfortable and worth the money we paid. We opted for a brunch, but as it was already 11.45 hrs by the time we reached the adjacent restaurant, when they told us that the lunch was ready, we ordered for two North Indian thali (plate). Food was served hot, and the thali consisted of a roti, some hot rice, paneer butter masala, Chole masala, dal and dahi (curd). The food wasn’t that great.. panneer way too far sweet, roti is made of maida, rather atta.. But, we should eat something or other to gain some energy, isn’t it? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

12.30 hrs – Back in our room which was too cool though the fans were off, we slid ourselves under the warm blankets and slept off. Our train from Shirdi to Hyderabad is at 16.30 hrs from Shirdi station, and remember that I told that this trip would always be a miracle for me? It’s because we booked these tickets under the Tatkaal scheme the other day, where the chances of the ticket getting booked will be like 30% and that too from a place like Shirdi!

15.30 hrs – We checked-out from our resort and headed to the railway station. 15.45 hrs – Into the waiting hall. 16.15 hrs – We were into the train, the berths being Side Upper and Side Lower. 16.30 hrs – The train started. We too started chatting with each other, mostly of our demonetization experiences and how we used our brains in the most tricky situations πŸ˜‰ , about our friends and school times, watched the sunset together and also the supermoon πŸ™‚ . Though we couldn’t make much difference, we kept on watching it as the moon was at it’s best πŸ™‚

19.00 hrs – Our train reached the Manmad junction. We got down and picked up some food from a tapri (make-shift place), who is selling hot mirchi Bhajji, masala dosa and idli. Idli for mythri, a masala dosa for me. I suggest everyone to try food here, as it was fresh, good and tasty. 20.00 hrs – I occupied the upper berth and bid a good night to Mythri.

15.11.2016:

07.30 hrs – I woke up and got down, while Mythri was still sleeping. 09.00 hrs – Train reached Secunderabad Junction and I gave away the rest of the money which was there in my wallet to Mythri so that she can get a cab to her apartment, while my brother Srinu was there at the station to pick me up. First to our uncle’s home and then to Trivandrum..

The End of a short and sweet journey.. πŸ™‚

Stay tuned for my upcoming adventure trip.. πŸ˜‰

 

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Shani Shingnapur – The lockless village

14.11.2016:

06.05 hrs – We were on the road trying to get an auto-rickshaw which can take us to the famous nearby village Shani Shingnapur. Our auto-driver earlier who dropped us at the temple told us that the auto-wala would charge a sum of Rs. 120/- for a to and fro journey from Shirdi to Shani Shingnapur. I think that was the first auto which was ready for it’s first trip of the day πŸ™‚ And there we were telling them the same old story that we don’t have any money left with us, but want to visit the other temple πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ . Thanks to demonetization once again πŸ™‚

The auto was getting filled infront of us, but we were still struggling to convince the auto-driver to find out ways to take us there. Finally, we came with our brilliant idea of swiping our debit cards at any petrol pumps πŸ™‚ . The old driver thought of it for a moment and told us that he would be getting his tank filled by swiping our card and would return the balance amount after our ticket-charges. It seemed to us like hitting a jack-pot. Hurrah! He is gonna give us some hot ready cash in our hands which is very much essential to carry on with our forward journey from Shirdi πŸ™‚

At last, we settled down at the rear end of the auto-rickshaw and the driver brought the engine to life. It was still dark outside and Mythri and I started eating the prasad. Once finished, we dozed off, but couldn’t get a nice lap, as the condition of the road was too bad and there were bumps all the way. It took us almost 1.5 hrs to reach our destination. 08.00 hrs – Our auto stopped infront of a shop from where we can buy the things like oil and flowers to offer at the temple.

Hinduism considers that the planets in our solar system have an impact upon our physiology, psychological structure and the context of our lives. Hence, Hindus consider these planets as forms of different energies and had constructed temples for them. Shani or Saturn, son of the Lord Surya, is considered to be the lord of dominance, distress, depression, disease and disaster. The Indian astrologers, based upon the birth place and time of birth and some other facts calculate when the impact of Saturn can be more in our lives which is known as ‘Saade Saati’ or ‘Yellanati Shani’ (in Telugu), which will last for seven and a half years.

In this phase, one may become more susceptible to depression or distress and in order to bridge those pits, various processes and rituals are associated with Shani temples. These are the temples where Saturn is personified as a God. And Shani Shingnapur is one such temples in India. This temple is not of the regular architecture which one can see throughout India, but the deity is in open space. The deity here is a 5’9” idol made of black stone, mounted on a raised platform in an open place. Usually in every other temples which I visited so far, Lord Shani would be in a sculpt form, but here it is in the form of a stone.

According to Hindu tradition, oil is poured onto the idol of Lord Shani in any temple. Here, there is a large bin in which we can empty the oil packets or bottles and the oil would be poured directly on top of the idol as it passes through the pipes that are connected to the bin. We went around the temple complex after the aarti. Legend is that the idol flowed along with the flood waters and struck in the bushes and a local shepherd tried to release it, and when he tried poking it, the idol started bleeding and the villagers left the idol at the same place after this incident. Later that night, Lord Shani Dev appeared in a villager’s dream and told that it was he and the other morning, the villagers cleared off the bushes and erected the idol and started offering pujas.

But why a lockless village? Coz, the houses in this village doesn’t have any doors and latches, except that they hold some curtains. It is believed that Lord Shani Dev protects the village and no theftΒ will occur here. They villagers also say that if ever a thief attempts to stole something, he goes blind and the things would be intact at the same place as they were placed before. The most astonishing thing is that even the bank and the police station in this village keep up with the tradition and has no locks. It is also a zero-crime village!

Interesting, isn’t it??

 

At the feet of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba..

14.11.2016:

03.45 hrs – Our bus reached one of the famous shrines in India, Shirdi. Many a people from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat visit this shrine every year to offer their prayers and my mom so wanted us to visit this temple from a long time. Though this was not a part of my plan at first, Mythri told me that we can visit the temple and I readily agreed. I don’t know how it happened, but everything came to us Β like a miracle. Firstly, we didn’t know that we will make it to this sacred place. Secondly, the bus reached so early leaving us with a chance to attend the aarti and thirdly, it so happened that today i.e. 14.11.2016 is a full moon day of the ‘Karthika’ month, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious months according to the Hindu tradition.

03.50 hrs – We started looking for an auto-rickshaw to our resort and one needs to bargain hard with these auto-walas, otherwise you will be on the verge of getting looted. Though we bargained hard, as it was the wee hours and there were not many autos around, we paid him a hundred rupees to drop us at our resort and asked him to wait for few minutes so that we can reach the temple in the same auto and thank God, he agreed.

04.05 hrs – Checked-in to the hotel and quickly refreshed ourselves and made a move. The whole idea is to attend the aarti. Aarti is an ancient yet living ritual that takes place every day across India. We left our mobiles back in our rooms as mobiles were not allowed inside the temple complex. Though there were cloak rooms there to safe keep our belongings, we don’t wanted to waste our time there. 04.30 hrs – Started back to the temple and it was so cool early morning. When the driver dropped us at the entrance of the temple, we started running so that we could be among the first people who can get a chance to see the aarti. But we were late by few minutes and we had to stop in the ground floor and watch the aarti in the LCDs that were arranged there 😦

Aarti (aa meas ‘complete’ and rati means ‘love’) is part of a Hindu puja or act of religious worship and is always performed facing the deity. Integral to any aarti puja is the circulation of the lamp around the deity, which acquires the deity’s power. The priest then offers the lamp to the devotees, passing on the deity’s blessing. In the temples of South India, the lamp may use camphor or oil, and it is then presented to the devotees, who hold their hands over the flame and touch their hands to their eyes. The simple gesture signifies a desire for spiritual insight: “May my eyes be opened up to the knowledge of the unity of life.” And the temple icons are often wrapped in silk fabric and beautified with ornaments – these offerings are another way of enhancing the relationship with the Divine, and is part of the ritual of temple worship.

The aarti is performed at Shri Sai Baba’s Mandir, which is the place where his body is resting in Samadhi.Β We moved towards the deity when once the aarti was completed and we had a good darshan (sighting) of the Lord Shri Shirdi Sai Baba. The Samadhi (resting place) is constructed of marble stones and the railings around it are of ornamental decorations. The unique feature of this temple is that it is visited both by Muslims and the Hindus equally and the Muslims offer Chaddars (Shawls) to drape the Samadhi. The idol present here is made up of Italian marble and is life size.

Shirdi Sai Baba is a guru of the Nath tradition, a tradition formulated by Lord Dattatreya based on the instructions of Lord Krishna. The text Sripada Srivallabha Charithamrutham mentions the saint Sripada, incarnation of Lord Dattatreya, calling upon Hanumanji to take birth as Shirdi Sai Baba.Β The distinct feature of the Navanath tradition is the absence of formal procedures or teachings; everything happens in the presence of the guru. Proximity to the guru is paramount; by just being present in his energy field, one gets cleansed and liberated.

Considered to be one of the greatest gurus, it is told that Shirdi Sai Baba often asked for the two coins of shraddha (devotion) and saboori (patience) from those who came to him. The path may sound simple but it is difficult in practice – since even a speck of ego or doership is unacceptable. Had our darshan and gone around the temple complex to see the other important features of it. Dwarakamai, which was an old mosque and Lord Sai turned it into Dwarakamai is situated on the right side of the entrance and has two levels. The importance of this is that it hosts all the things once used by Shri Sai Baba and the legend is that this is the very place where Sai has proved that God is one – Sabka Malik Ek Hai!

They gave prasad (sugar coated boondi) and we were out of the temple by 06.00 hrs πŸ™‚ . For me, this trip would always remain a miracle, as everything was so hassle-free and smooth πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Travelling in Pune..

Pune – a metropolis surrounded by lush green hills and pleasant weather, was once the heart of the Maratha Empire as the Peshwas resided here and today, it’s known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ due to its numerous education institutes. Pune is also best-known for it’s food and cafes.

13.11.2016:

20.30 hrs – The bus reached Shivaji Nagar Railway station and we started walking towards a restaurant for having our dinner when Mythri stopped at a pani-puri wala πŸ™‚ . One of the most popular street foods all over India – Pani Puri (called Puchkas in Bengal and golgappe in Punjab). Puris are puffed, hollow dough balls, fried to a light crispiness and filled with a masala of cooked potatoes, peas or chickpeas, and served with pani (water), a sweet and sour, tangy chutney made with tamarind or coriander. We had 5 puris each and walked towards the restaurant.

The first question we asked the waiter is whether they gonna accept debit cards, and the answer was instant, they do πŸ™‚ . We ordered for some jeera rice, aloo mattar and vegetable raitha as well as some coke. Food tastes better with coke :-p . During our train journey from Lonavala to Pune, Mythri booked our bus tickets to Shirdi, while waiting for the food, I reserved a room for us at Shirdi. Online made everything easy. Thanks to red bus and make my trip πŸ™‚ . We have to kill sometime as our bus is only at 22.30 hrs.

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Thanks to the waiter, as they served our food a bit late, so that the pani puris which we had earlier would have occupied a corner in our stomachs and we can fill the remaining with the food we ordered πŸ˜€ . The food arrived and we ate at a much lesser pace so that we can sit for more time there πŸ˜€ . 21.40 hrs – We finally made a move towards our boarding point which is like a 10 min walk from the restaurant. 22.00 hrs – I made a call to the bus driver to just make sure that we were at the right place waiting for the bus. The bus driver asked us to come to another pick-up point which is like another 5 mins from the point where we were waiting.

22.40 hrs – Boarded the bus to Shiridi, our next destination. Settled down with a blanket covering our faces, I didn’t even notice when our bus moved off πŸ™‚ . A long day.. Wasn’t it??

Icon of Pune City – Bajirao’s Shaniwarwada

Pune with a pleasant weather and its-laid back vibe has always been on my travel list. I planned once to visit the place when Stefi, a close friend of mine and a native of Pune got transferred from Bangalore. But, I couldn’t made it that time! This time, I don’t wanted to miss this city which is a fast-growing IT hub and famous for its’ cafes, boutiques and night life. Though Mythri and I wanted to spend a day in going around the city, we couldn’t spare more than a couple of hours here 😦 . And here is what we did in those couple of hours πŸ™‚

13.11.2016:

18.55 hrs – An icon of old Pune, the Shaniwarwada fort makes for a brilliant heritage stop.Β The legend says that with successive victories in battlefield, Peshwa ruler Bajirao I recognized the need for shifting his ‘wada’ meaning ‘residential place’ in Marathi, to Pune and built his grand residence Shaniwar Wada on the right bank of the Mutha River.Β The foundation stone of Shaniwarwada was laid on Jan 10, 1730, a Saturday by Bajirao I and two years later, when it was ready, the opening ceremony was also performed on a Saturday, and hence the name of the fort Shaniwarwada, located in Shaniwarpeth of Pune.

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The security guard at the majestic doors with spikes jutting out which is now an entrance to the fort collected our tickets from us and allowed us in. According to the legend, this is called the Dilli Darwaza or Delhi Gate – named because it faces Delhi directionally. But to our surprise, there are only remains of once gigantic residential place and a symbol of Peshwa power and might. We were to see only the fortified boundary walls and walk across the burnt ruins of the palaces within its walls.

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We occupied the seats in the last row, as the front ones were already occupied 😦 . The light and music show started and it was the narration about the might Maratha empire and their wars. The narration also had conversations between Baji Rao and his second wife Mastani, who was not welcomed in the family, and her residence ‘Mastani Mahal’ is at the north-east corner of the Palace, which has a separate gate for entry and exit and it is being called as the ‘Mastani’ gate, named after her πŸ™‚

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The palace inside the wada was a seven storied palace made of wood, and served as the residence of the Peshwas for nearly a century till 1828, when during the time of Bajirao II, there was an unexplained massive fire, raged for seven days that gutted the entire ‘wada’ leaving behind it’s ruins now.The tourists can hear a lot of stories about the magnificence of the palace as well as the stories of betrayal that led to the eventual fall of Peshwas and it is also said that this place is haunted and post sunset, tourists are not allowed inside.

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The story is that..Β After Bajirao I’s son Balaji Bajirao died, the mantle eventually fell to his youngest son, Narayanrao. Barely a year after he ascended the throne, his jealous uncle and aunt plotted his murder. Narayanrao was chased down the corridors of Shaniwar Wada, and eventually brutally killed by the conspirators. It is said that even today, on a full moon night, you can hear his desperate cries to his uncle asking him to save him. I think I missed an opportunity here as tomorrow that is 14.11.2016 is the full moon day 😦

20.15 hrs – The show was over and we started walking towards the bus stand which is like some 500 meters from the fort. Interestingly, the bus into which we got to reach the railway station is the same one which we got into from the station. The conductor smiled at us and we returned it πŸ™‚

On board to Pune

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks, and transports roughly 25 million people daily. There are long-distance, suburban and freight trains, different classes of passenger accommodation, etc. And one should not forget that the first passenger rail journey took place in India in 1853 and covered a distance of some 21 miles between Bombay and Thane. Though I didn’t get a chance to explore the same route in the present time, I can very well relate this journey from Lonavala to Pune with that πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ . Can you just imagine this journey of mine back in those Victorian times? πŸ˜€

13.11.2016:

17.10 hrs – We got into an express train at the Lonavla railway station to Pune. India’s quintessential journey is still the long train ride. 25 million daily passengers travels in Indian trains watching the Indian landscape change from dry valley to lush mountain forest to lime-green rice paddies and today, I was one among those 25 million πŸ™‚ . The train is also where you can hang out with families and other domestic travelers, learning about Indian culture the old-fashioned way – over a cup of tea, to the rhythm of rails.

While the old people share their own train stories with their grand-children, the hawkers would be busy in selling various articles right from the safety pins to books (they sells some novels too) and while the middle-aged working class would be eagerly waiting to reach their respective destinations to join their families after a hectic day back at the office, the youngsters would be busy in their own ways like watching the much happening stuff around them and chuckling, giggling with their friends and some cursing the speed of the train πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ . So much fun!

And the best part of train journeys is that we can make some quick friends and don’t think it will just for the time-being, some can become dear for life and I have a first-hand experience in this, and that too a very good one, for the matter of fact! πŸ™‚ . And there we were, Mythri and I indulged in a conversation with our co-passengers and during the same, a co-passenger told us that Shaniwar Wada is near to the Shivaji Nagar station and it would be better to get down there rather than traveling all the way to Pune Junction. He also added that the train would be reaching the Shivaji Nagar station faster than Pune Junction, as it would be stopped in the outer region for space on the platform.

18.20 hrs – We got down at the Shivaji Nagar station and walked towards the exit. Shaniwar Wada is very near to the railway station and there are frequent buses from here and we got into one immediately after we got out of the station and the ticket costed us only Rs. 6 each πŸ™‚ . 18.45 hrs – The bus conductor is good enough to stop exactly at the entrance of the fort and we stepped down and thanked him πŸ™‚ . There is a ticket counter at the entrance selling tickets for that evening’s light and music show and I am waiting for my turn!

Aagayi Mein Khandala ;-)

Aey, Kya Bolti Tu
Aey, Kya Mein Bolun
Sun,
Suna,
Aati Kya Khandala
Kya,Karoon, Aake Mein Khandala,
Arey Ghoomenge Phirenge Nachenge Gaaenge
Aish Karenge Aur Kya

While the perfectionist of Bollywood Amir Khan asked Rani Mukherjee for an outing to Khandala, the Versatile actor of Bollywood Farhan Akhtar too the most beautiful Deepika to Khandala for a coffee! Not only Bollywood, but also the young super star of Tollywood (the Telugu film industry) Mahesh Babu chose the very same Khandala as home in his debut film! What else could be a more better introduction? Isn’t it? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

13.11.2016:

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Lonavla and Khandala are two sister hill stations in Maharashtra (7-8 km apart), at an elevation of 653 km from sea level. Located at the top end of Bhor Ghat, Khandala is at the heart of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and a favorite weekend gateway. And if you remember, we just had a quick view of Lonavala and here we are at Khandala.Β The best viewpoints are Tiger’s Leap and Amrutanjan Point. And our first choice is the Tiger’s Leap. While some told that, that was the Tiger’s Leap, some called it the Monkey point. Whatever it might be, we are there and the salubrious air was soothing.

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One can get a beautiful panoramic view of Lonavala and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway cutting those mountains. The view is breath-taking. A quick photographic session and we moved towards the Waghjai Devi temple, a temple dedicated to the goddess Waghjai. The idol of the goddess is quite different from the other shrines which I had visited so far and it is said that the Navratri festival will be celebrated here with much pomp πŸ™‚ We sat there in the temple for a few minutes and started walking towards the back of it.

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There were few youngsters walking in front of us and we followed them. There we were, at the edge of the cliff with a valley infront of us and this is also the place where I saw the people’s obsession with selfies. All of a sudden, a youngster jumped on to a tree which is right there at the edge and was trying to get a selfie. He was absolutely careless about his own life and more careful of getting a perfect selfie! How ridiculous!! It’s totally alright to take selfies, but not at the cost of one’s own life. Isn’t it?

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After all this, we were starving. Remember, we just had only a vada-pav from the time we stepped in Lonavala. And luckily, there is a small restaurant and it was buzzing with people all around ordering for food and tea. We asked for some paneer pakoda, jeera rice and dahi (curd). A chilly evening and pakoda – what a combo! πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ Time to leave these beautiful hill-stations back. Our auto-wala dropped us at the Lonavala railway station from where we would be catching a train to Pune.

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17.00 hrs – Again, the demonetization effect, we preferred a second-class ticket for an express train so that we can save a few rupees which we can use for our onward journey. With the tickets in our hand, we are ready to get into whichever train comes next to Pune πŸ™‚

The Jewel of Sahyadris – Lonavala

13.11.2016:

Discovered in 1871 by Sir Elphinstone, the Governor of the Bombay Presidency, Lonavala lives up to its name, which means ‘city surrounded by caves’. One of the most famous hill stations known for it’s lakes and breath-taking views is also well known for it’s chikki and fudge, Lonavala is a must visit place for every tourist or adventure-lover. If I have had enough time with me, I would have definitely gone for a trek around one of the circuits here, but as time is a constraint now for me, I would just go around for this time!! Come, soak along with me in the beauty of this place πŸ™‚

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14.20 hrs – The plan is to explore Lonavala first and then proceed to Khandala. We kick started our journey and proceeded to one of the most famous tourist point of Lonavala called the ‘Lions Point’. Now don’t ask me why was it named so? Β πŸ˜€ . Lonavla – Known as the ‘Jewel of Sahyadris’, is a perfect choice for a quick visit that to if you have got less time with you. A hot spot for Mumbaikars and Pune-ites, Lonavla is the most popular weekend gateway. Whenever we think of Maharashtra, the first thing that strike our minds will be Khandala and Lonavala as both Bollywood and Tollywood has romanticized this place for a very long time πŸ™‚

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The up-hill road is narrow and curvy and it took us around 30 mins to reach the Lions Point. We started walking toward the cliff and the beauty in front of us is beyond description. This point gives us a panoramic view of the entire valley and hills and a few waterfalls. Though this time or season is not the right time to visit this place, I will leave the beauty of this place during monsoons to one’s own imagination. Well-known for it’s weather, Lonavala is really an ideal place to break free all our worries and fall in love with the nature.

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We have gone around the area and looked around the area on the other side of the road too! It too gives some fantastic views. Our next stop is the Bushi Dam that was mentioned by my cousin to us earlier. One has to walk for 10 minutes in order to reach the dam. It was almost dry except for the water in the reservoir. Another 3 min walk from the dam would take you to the reservoir where one can sit with their feet being washed with the cool waters. This would be definitely a hot-spot during the monsoons as the water gushes down and the place is ideal to play as it’s not too steep or dangerous.Β And I heard many of my Mumbai friends saying thatΒ theyΒ love to throng at Bhushi dam, where water runs over the steps of the dam, creating a beautiful waterfall.

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The third spot is the Lonavala Lake and again there was no much water and we just walked down for some distance and resumed our journey. The fourth point that was included in my driver’s listΒ is a children’s park and we turned it down :-p . Though we were a bit disappointed as most of the places were dry and looked like some routine places, I could very well imagine how beautiful this place would be in the monsoon. So, it was decided, Mythri and I would be visiting this place again, that too during one of the monsoons πŸ™‚

Khandala is waiting!!

Demonetization – A realization ;-)

13.11.2016:

10.05 hrs – Here we are, at the Lonavla junction! Kaka dropped us here after giving his mobile number, if we need any help and giving us some info about the places to visit as well as how to get a vehicle to go around and things like that. We bid a bye to kaka and the first thing that came to our notice are the Chikki shops around the place. As far as my eye sight goes, the only shops which I can see are the chikki shops.

Chikki is a candy made up of jaggery and peanuts usually. But people do prepare these candies with other stuff like sesame, chana dal (chick-peas) etc. And Lonavla is famous for it’s chikki. Don’t forget to buy some when you visit this place next time πŸ™‚ . Kaka asked us to inquire with the auto-rickshaw people to go around the places and he told that usually they charge Rs. 500 to 600 for a trip. When we approached an auto driver and inquired, he asked us to pay him Rs. 1200, exactly double the amount which Kaka told us!

10.40 hrs – After a good bargain, he reduced the fare to Rs. 800 and it was only at this point of time did we realize that we are left only with Rs. 600. The next question to the driver is “Brother, are there any ATMs near by?” and the reply is “Lot of ATMs, but no cash in them” 😦 . Only then did we realize the gravity of the situation, that we were left only with Rs.600 and we still have a long way to go. So, it was decided that we would be sacrificing the plan of going around these beautiful hill-stations Khandala and Lonavla, for the sake of pumping few more bucks into our wallets 😦

11.00 hrs – We asked the auto driver about AXIS Bank, coz this is the only bank which don’t require a pass-book to withdrew money and he told us that it’s a 10 min walk from there. We walked towards the bank only to hear the answer that there was no cash available with the bank. We wanted to give a last try. If we could get some money from the ATM of State Bank of India, we would go around here or otherwise we would be heading directly to Pune. We reached the bank and there were 3 queues with some 100 people in each of them waiting for their turn either to deposit the old bank notes, or to withdraw money from the bank or from the ATM.

11.30 hrs – We too stood in the ATM queue and waited for our turn. The twist in the story was that the ATM was closed, none knows when it is going to be opened or is it going to be opened at all? It’s just a hope that it would open sometime πŸ˜€ . When inquired about the same with the security guard, he always used to show me his index finger and the middle finger! I could never understand, what it meant, I mean is it that the ATM opens at 02.00 PM or in another 2 hours! Waited for another hour in the queue till the time we got exhausted. We gave up our quest for money 😦 . Headed to a small eatery shop and ordered for some vada-pav and decided to leave to Pune!

12.45 hrs – Something clicked in Mythri’s mind. She called up her cousin to find about the Rs. 500 she has lent to him and found that he kept the same in the book in Mythri’s bag. She made a thorough search and at last found Rs. 400! Yippee!! Another Rs. 400 added to our reserve. Now the dilemma crept in. Should we bargain hard and fix the trip at a cost of Rs. 600 and save the rest for our onward journey or should we save all of it?

13.20 hrs – After having a vada-pav, my brain started to work sharp I guess πŸ˜‰ :-p . I told Mythri about the plan that was running in my mind. It was to ask the auto-driver to accept our debit-card and swipe it at any one of those chikki shops or the hotels or any petrol-pumps and get the money! We were elated with our idea and headed towards the auto-junction and we found the same driver with whom we had a bargain in the morning. But to our utter disappointment he wasn’t of any help 😦 . We lost our hope again!

14.00 hrs – Mythri and I, the deadly combo will never give up so easily πŸ˜‰ We found another auto-wala and when we told him that we don’t have ready cash and he can execute the idea which we had in our mind and he readily accepted. He took us to a near by hotel whose manager he knew well, but that manager turned him down 😦 . But our driver was like the King Vikram who wanted to go after the ghost Bethal πŸ™‚ . He approached his group of drivers and somehow persuaded the leader to speak with a petrol-pump owner and finally the owner agreed to swipe our card and pay the driver πŸ™‚

14.15 hrs – We made a payment of Rs. 700 to the driver to show us all the important places which we should visit both in Khandala and Lonavla and asked him to drop us at the railway station before 17.00 hrs as we have to catch our train to Pune! Finally, we made it πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Bye.. Bye.. Mumbai..

13.11.2016:

07.30 hrs – We reached Dadar from where we can catch a shared cab to the famous hill-stations Khandala and Lonavla. Yes, our today’s plan is to explore a bit of these two hill-stations! And this is also a part of my to-do bucket list. A drive along one of the finest roadways of India, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which are the highest class of roads in the Indian Road Network. My cousin and nephew dropped us here after we got a cab and our driver is Rahman kaka (uncle). Usually they charge Rs. 150 or 200 for each person, thanks for the demonetization, they asked us for Rs. 300 each and we reduced it to Rs. 250 πŸ™‚

We opted a cab drive for two reasons, one – this is the fastest way to reach Lonavla, two – the road is one of a kind and we must try it at least once! Though we got another co-passenger, kaka was not happy and wanted two more passengers to carry on with the drive. As we were waiting, two more guys joined us on the back seat, while Mythri and I occupied the middle seats and another girl occupied the front seat. 8.30 hrs – It took us half-an-hour to hit the Expressway and just for info, an expressway is a controlled-access highway; it is a highway that controls entrances to it and exitsΒ from it by incorporating the design of the slip roads for entry and exit into the design of the highwayΒ itself.Β 

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The Mumbai Pune Expressway, officially the Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway is India’s first six-lane concrete, high-speed, access controlled tolled expressway. It spans a distance of 93 km (58 mi) connecting Mumbai with Pune.Β This expressway has reduced the travel timeΒ between the cities of Mumbai and Pune to approximately two hours and also reduced the traffic on the Mumbai-Chennai highway. The drive along this road is smooth as well as fast and soon we were to find why this is one of the most beautiful routes in India.Β 

The road makes its way through the Sahyadri mountains, a part of the Western Ghats and the smooth road offered us a magnificent view of the rolling hills which are draped with a blanket of brown-colored vegetation, leaving us to our own imagination of these during the monsoon. Am sure that, the road offers magnificent views of the lush green hills, verdant valleys, waterfalls and lakes during the rainy season and making the beauty of this route one of its kind πŸ™‚ . Looking forward for one such views!

Another attraction of this road are the tunnels carved in the Sahyadris and they are very well-lit to provide enough lights for the vehicles moving. This is my first experience on such kind of roads, as I didn’t see as many as the tunnels I had seen on this road. And the speed of the vehicles are insane and one of my wild fantasies is to have a bike ride on this road :-p πŸ˜‰ . I know it’s a kinda impossible task, but who knows, probably one day I can make it through πŸ˜‰

10.00 hrs – It took us around 90 mins to reach Lonavla and we were ready to begin our adventure πŸ™‚