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 🙂

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 exits from it by incorporating the design of the slip roads for entry and exit into the design of the highway itself. 

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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. This expressway has reduced the travel time 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. 

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 🙂 . 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 😉 . I know it’s a kinda impossible task, but who knows, probably one day I can make it through 😉

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

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Elephanta Caves – History’s Hideout

12.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We reached the “Gateway of India” from where we have to take a boat to the Elephanta Island, situated in the Kolaba district off the coast of Mumbai. The Gateway is more crowded than the other day. The tickets for the ferries are being sold by the ticket agents and a to and fro trip is of Rs. 180. It was only at the time of buying the tickets did we realize that we were running out of the few 100 rupees notes we are left with and made a point that we should withdraw money from some ATM after return from the Elephanta.

11.30 hrs – Caves can be dark, mysterious and, at times, frightening, but surely adventurous and a window to the eras gone by. These natural passages are also where history meets myth and legend. Elephanta caves are one of the most heard after the Ajanta and the Ellora caves in Maharashtra. And finally we were into the ferry which carries us to the island. Though we opted to sit in the deck, we dropped our plan as it was too hot that day and remember you have to pay an extra ten rupees if you want to sit there :-p . The journey was a bit boring though we get a chance to watch some giant vessels carrying out various tasks on the Arabian Sea. It took us almost 75 mins to reach the island. We bought the tickets for a toy train ride to the caves 🙂

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12.40 hrs – We started walking towards the caves. There are lots of shops along the pathway selling soft drinks, snacks and food. The staircase leading to the caves is also full of vendors selling various kinds of crystals and souvenirs. Be careful if you are carrying some food or drinks as there are lots of monkeys here and they don’t mind in snatching the things that were there in your hands. The climb was tiring and we decided to have our lunch before we start going around the caves. There are many restaurants here run by private vendors and also a restaurant that is being run by the Maharashtra Tourism Dept. The dining hall is spacious and food is good here 🙂

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14.00 hrs – Bought the tickets and reached the Cave 1, also known as the Great Cave known for it’s great architecture. Dating back to as early as first century BC and artistically built over a few centuries, its caves have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions. Most of the caves are viharas (hall) and chaityas (pillared religious caves) and showcase fine art heritage of India. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, of the self and of the divine.

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Elephanta island, located 11 km from Mumbai, have beautiful carvings, sculptures and a temple of Lord Shiva. The main cave has a 7 mt high bust of ‘Sadhasiva’ that represents three aspects of Shiva, the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. It also has other forms of Shiva like the Ardhnarishwar – The ultimate union of Shiva, the Lord of the universe, with his consort, Parvati. Parvati (Shakti or Uma) is the embodiment of grace and beauty, self-sacrifice and love. Also there is the “Trimurti” idol which is said to be so unique that we can find such ones only at these islands and another one in Nepal. There are 7 caves in total, but there is not so much to see in the other caves than Cave 1. These received the status of a World Heritage Site in 1987.

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16.00 hrs – We made a move towards the Canon Hill, which is like a 20 mins hike from the entrance. There is an old canon placed on top of this hill and it is said that this had been used to protect the sea from the pirates. And one can get a good view of the sea and the mountains surrounding these islands from here. Nothing more to see! 17.00 hrs – We were back in the ferry to be carried back to the Gateway of India. The return journey was more refreshing as we watched the sun set and also some sea birds strolling behind our moving ferry 🙂

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P.S – For more info on the Elephanta Caves, please visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/244