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™‚

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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™‚