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 🙂

img_0732

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?  😀 . 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 🙂

img_0735

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.

img_0745

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. And I heard many of my Mumbai friends saying that they love to throng at Bhushi dam, where water runs over the steps of the dam, creating a beautiful waterfall.

img_0760

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 list 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 🙂

Khandala is waiting!!

Advertisements

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. 

img_0768

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 🙂

A secret escape to South Goa – Dudhsagar

25.15.2016:

It’s Christmas to start with 🙂 Merry Christmas to all!! 2 more people were to join us three on that day, Sushmita and her husband Phani. The plan is to escape to the south, into the wild, deep into the famous Western Ghats. We wanted to escape, away from the humdrum of the life into the lap of nature. And the perfect escape was “DudhSagar” – The Ocean of Milk.

20151225_120352

We booked a cab from Calungate to Dudhsagar which is some 80 kms from the place where we stayed. The plan is to pick up Sushmita and Phani from Dona Paula on our way and head to the waterfalls. We planned to start our journey @ 06.00 hrs, but were late by 30 mins. By the time we reached the hotel where Sushmita was staying, they were late by another 30 mins 😦 . Yeah, we never stick to the timelines. It was only on our way when I realized that I didn’t book my return tickets to Trivandrum 😦

When I checked with our cab driver if there was a possibility of me booking a train ticket from anywhere on the way to Dudhsagar, he told me that in the very village Collem, where we gonna halt to take our cab to the waterfalls, there is a small railway station and probably I might get a ticket from there. I was a bit relieved 🙂 It’s Shweta’s b’day too 🙂 . I should give her a gift and guess what I gave, I gave her the task of getting my ticket confirmed 😉 :-p

20151225_113320

While the rest of my team was waiting at Collem (the town from where we have to hire the cab) for booking our cab to the waterfalls (Yes, we can’t take our own cabs there. The tourism department provides their own cabs for this), I booked my ticket from Marmagaon to Trivandrum for the next day. Though Dudhsagar is meant for a trek, especially a monsoon trek along the railway track, we confined ourselves to the cab drive this time. DudhSagar waterfalls are located in middle of forests on the Goa-Karnataka border and can be reached through the Bhagwan Mahavir national park.

20151225_115012

It took us around an hour to reach the entrance of the waterfalls as there were lot of people and the road was jam-packed with vehicles. It is a mud road through the forest and there were a few streams which needs to be crossed in order to reach the falls. I donno whether we can go on a hike through this forest or not, but if there is one, it will be truly adventurous. After a long wait for the parking for our cab, we reached the entrance. In order to reach the waterfalls, we have to go on a hike for some distance.

20151225_120249

It was a good trek through the woods and streams. We could hear the hum of the waterfalls from a distance and even got a glimpse of it. The sight was mesmerizing, though the waterfall falls from a height of 310 metres, it almost seems like that it is descending directly from the heavens. We increased our pace and moved fast to see the entire beauty. We were stunned at the sight of the mighty beauty that stood infront of us. I could only imagine, if this looks like this in December, how it looks during the Monsoon season.

20151225_122917

Within no time, Phani and I were into the waters with our life-jackets. The water is super cool and the splashing waters from the waterfall and the mist-filled air was refreshing. There were lots of fishes too in the water. The railway track which seems like dividing the waterfalls into two halves adds to the charm of this falls. As we were wishing for a train to pass through the tracks, we heard a siren from the distance which echoed through the mountains and all the eyes turned to the railway bridge above the base.

Soon a train was passing across the bridge and the scene was breathtaking. It was beyond words and description 🙂 . After spending quite good time here, we returned back to our jeep to proceed for our Christmas celebrations. How can we miss these while being in Goa? Isn’t it?

Let’s go hand-in-hand and embrace the nature!

DSC_0232

On the track around 7 AM in the morning. Very punctual huh 😛 Started our trek towards Yumthang which is located at a distance of 25 kms from Lachung and at an altitude of 11800 ft. The road leading to Yumthang is through the snow covered mountains and lush green meadows.  After a km distance from our base camp at Lachung, we were out on to a vast meadow which is covered with lavender and yellow colored Primulas (small flowers which occurs in many colors). Now, I can understand why this place is called “The valley of flowers”. The entire meadow sees like an unforgettable combination of colors.

DSC_0230

The first leg of the trek is mostly a road trek through the lush green meadows, to some extent forests and the cascading waterfalls and streams. The day was sunny and it gave us a chance to enjoy the true colors of the nature surrounding us. Today it was some more special as I could see the group getting more and more close. Though it’s been more than a week since we met, we are yet to break the ice :p And this trek proved to be that ice breaking session!!

IMG_20160326_103616

 Yumthang is a land of more than a hundred species of Rhododendrons, Primulas and Magnolia. The valley has nearly 24 varieties of Rhododendrons itself, and to protect these varieties, a sanctuary name “Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary” has been declared by the forest department here. Though we got to see a wide variety of Primulas, we didn’t get a chance of seeing Rhododendrons except one or two, as they were still in the budding stage. Rhododendrons bloom from April to May end.

Jpeg

After the sanctuary, the roads turned steeper and steeper. There was a stretch of moraines, the sediments that were carried down and deposited by the glaciers at the foothills of the mountains. Though this turned the trek route a bit difficult to access, the view of the moraines along with the glaciers and Snow Mountains was breathtaking.

Jpeg

The nature has left a mark just after these moraines which is yet another picturesque scene. There is a lake which is greenish blue in colour and the specialty of this lake is it’s an artificial one. Now don’t think that it was human made, but it was made by the nature itself. Yes, it was created by an avalanche, after which an entire range of peaks got destructed and the snow got deposited there!

DSC_0219

We rested near the lake for half-an-hour and as I always say that the climate here is unpredictable, the temperatures dropped out drastically and it started to drizzle. Just after this lake, our second leg of the trek started and this was more adventurous than all the previous ones. Though the roads leading to Yumthang from Lachung are not in that good condition, the trek route engraved through the dense forests and streams is way better. As it was raining and snowing, the track was filled up with mosses and snow, which turned the way slippery. But, that was truly one awesome experience.

IMG_20160327_140114

Trekking for me is not merely walking along the roads or through the woods or a travel to a new place. Trekking is more like a learning process for me. Every time I go on a trek, I learn and earn. Yes, I learnt some of the most important lessons of life like “I don’t need a lot of material things in my life to be happy”, “we can’t take control of everything” and much more. I earned too, I earned a lot of friends some turned out to be my family too. This trek gave me a chance of molding myself into a better person.

Jpeg

I could see lots of our friends talking with each other, exchanging greetings, encouraging and motivating each other. It opened up our hearts, now we are like one single family. It was 2 pm by the time we reach our base camp at Yumthang. Some of our friends who reached earlier than us has set up our tents and were busy preparing some food for us. We had our lunch around 3 pm, relaxed and it started drizzling by 4 pm. The temperature was around 10o. We had a camp fire around 6.30 pm and danced to the hilt! Thanks to our Quarter Master who prepared some delicious pakoras (savouries) and hot soup to energize us!

The real fun starts now 🙂 😀

 

Time to move on! Lachung is waiting!!

 

DSC_0282

Though the classrooms were way dark and pretty cool, we, at least I managed to grab some good sleep that night. My darling friend Shweta woke me up early in the morning around 4.30 AM and when moved out of the room to the open ground, that was one awesome scene with the twinkling stars up above the sky, the moon throwing some bright light and the tips of the surrounding mountains shining dim in the moon light. But, I couldn’t get a chance to capture that awesome scene as it was extremely difficult to find out my camera in that dark cosy classroom 😦

DSC_7069

It was a sunny day and the weather was clear. We packed our rucksacks and left for breakfast. Before moving on, we quickly cleaned up the surroundings and set on to the track for Lachung, our next base camp at around 7.30 AM. Lachung is a small mountain village located at an altitude of 8600 ft and a distance of about 110 kms from Gangtok and 25 kms from Chungthang. And we gonna trek this 25 kms in a single day. Though excited, we were a bit scared too. Scared not because of the distance, but coz of the off-road route which we gonna follow!

IMG_20160324_142104

The way to Lachung is through quaint villages, scenic spots, and waterfalls. The first leg is of 12 or 13 kms. It’s almost a road trek except for one or two shortcuts. We stopped at a roadside tea spot around 10 AM where we got some buns and tea as refreshments. After relaxing for a short span of 20 minutes, we resumed our trek towards Lachung. They told us that the next leg is of another 12 kms but it’s only at the end of the trek we realized that it is nearly 16 kms.

DSC_7082

The second leg is far more beautiful than the first leg, as there were lots of streams which cut right through the roads, some lush green agri fields probably of some millets or fodder, yaks, Rhododendrons, waterfalls and the beautiful Teesta River running all way along with us. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trek as the short hikes through the forests were spine chilling, because of the narrow margins and rough terrain.

DSC_0245We could see more and more number of army people and their vehicles as were nearing Lachung. Before 1950, Lachung served as a trade point between Sikkim and Tibet and after the Chinese annexation, this has been shut down. The Indian Army now has a forward base at Lachung. Finally at around 3.30 PM we reached our base camp at Lachung. A hot meal was served to us and it felt so good to have something hot after a long trek.

20160326_203414

We had lots of fun before having our dinner and retiring to our beds. Lucky enough to get a bed to sleep, but not in the sleeping bag 😀 .  Stay tuned to see what’s waiting for us in Lachung!!