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Thursday, August 20, 2015

BiKronicles 6: Pune – Mahabaleshwar

Sometimes the ordinary leads to the extraordinary.
Other times the extraordinary steps down to the ordinary.
Mon cheri je taime

Mahabaleshwar (henceforth referred to as Mahabi) is a typical hill station destination nestled atop unearthly gorgeousness in the state of Maharashtra. Like a default setting, Indian families with working parents and limited coinciding holidays or leaves pick a standard stretch between Mumbai and Pune to rest the weekend and keep the kids occupied. This is also true of Nashik and Matheran and the sorts.
Waterfall near Pratapgarh Fort
A new breed of us (not so new anymore) try to take off beaten paths by bike and sometimes even by foot (speak to my friend Melvin and he will navigate you there to the last pebble and rock in the terrain). Ever since our late monsoon trip to Mahabi last year we decided we needed to make it back here somehow. A break was overdue for me and a bike ride was abusively overdue. By now I had routinely been doing Mumbai-Pune by Asiad busses since the boy had the bebe tucked away in his garage and his momma was nestled in her comfort zone too. This meant Pune became a hostelling destination for me. I had to always look for cheap accommodation and the sorts. It was an adventure. I craved his time and attention in the sabbatical that had just taken shape since he quit on 07 July 2015 from the workforce altogether. At 1st I was excited for his new venture because my vested interest in seeing him shine and helping him brighten that sheen was all that I had. Then he slipped deeper into the warmer blanket of this sabbatical leaving me less enthusiastic and more worn from playing cheerleader. I made peace that he had worked for 3 yrs straight and THIS was his chance to really recharge the battery to the 100% mark and then plunge headon into what he was contemplating.
JK Motel, Metgutad Taluka
After 2 failed attempts at making the Mahabi trip, 3rd time was a lucky charm. We decided to stock up by beating the weather at her own game and make it by hook or by crook. I bought my 1st full faced helmet (Spartan Kratos) at the stubborn insistence of Abeer who was being sensible and protective. It was stuffy but I managed to get used to it.
I left Mumbai post work on the Dadar-Pune Asiad bus. It was the week after the massive landslide that had blocked and damaged Adoshi tunnel effectively fracturing the entire flow and speed of traffic flowing in and out of Lonavala-Khandala ghats. This meant a long and treacherous journey for me. I was soaked from the lashing rains getting from Andheri to Dadar and walking in the downpour to the bus. The superb Asiad team always take good care of me with preferred seats and a select seat partner too. I proceeded to Indianize my journey by putting up wet stuff and my shoes to dry hoping they would. Ppfftttt barely. The journey drained me but I finally made it to Pune at 10:30pm to see my Abeer waiting hungry and forlorn for the evening. We had probably the quickest dinner at German Bakery and I left to stay over with my favorite couple– Megha and Parth. Young, funky and oh-so hospitable. Megha had made it back from torrential rains in Lonavala where her office had averyill-timedoffsite. I said my hellos, negated any attempt for chai or food and passed out in the state I walked in.
Valley enroute Mum-Goa Highway
Missed the alarm the next morning, which irked Abeer.Rushed and readied myself with Parth’s help and headed to Starbucks to meet my boyo for a quick breakfast. Having done that we left for Mahabi. The ride was breathtaking. We started at 7:45am, prayed to the weather gods and reached Mahabi early noon. Stayed at JK Motel, Metgutad Taluka (Mahabi-Panchgani Rd). A last minute find via Groupon India getaways. The room was comfortable, clean and overlooked waves of monsoon‑washed greenery. The weather was wet and cold with dense descending fog all through the valleys and plateau. It was barely off-season as we settled in and headed to the main market area that was crowded to capacity. A coffee from its only CCD and we proceeded on foot. Everything was damp and dewy but I loved it. We walked through all the streets and explored. We had done a trip before where we had done all the tourist spots so this weekend was just about relaxing and soaking in more us time. I would say this was reminiscent of our Udaipur trip.
Everyone from Mumbai and all the closest conceivable distances had descended here unified by the idea of it being quiet and off-season. It was funny but I didn’t mind a few folks around. Although the traffic and incessant honking was obnoxious character addition to this otherwise calm and serene hill station. Much of the establishments were covered in plastic or just closed for the monsoons. There were bursts of light rain showers that made the air colder and damper. Light weaved from dark to brightness on occasion. We tucked into a delectable Mughlai lunch at Shere Punjab and made our way back to the room after sneaking in a tall bottle of red. A few swigs and nearly 4-5 hours of deep afternoon slumber was just the rest we needed.
At 6:00pm we decided the weather was way to gloomy to remain stuck in, so we set off
on a walk outside. It was brief as we ran back in when it started raining. Watched television, talked at length, debated, and connected on levels we skipped or ignored when tackling our toxic city lives. The weekend before was supposed to be this trip and both of us battled the worst case of the viral flu as we just tried to keep each other’s spirits and health up. I love Abeer for this. He was my rock and pillar and never let my foundations crack or crumble. We decided to get out for some dinner, packed in enough warmth to look like Himalayan yaks and headed out on the dark unlit stretch of highway. We travelled barely 3 odd kms and decided to settle for something closer to the motel as the weather was unpredictable and Abeer was very disconcerted about night time riding with high beams abusing his still recovering vision. I couldn’t have agreed more. We had a quiet dinner of kebabs and biryani at Hirkani Restaurant, planned our next trip and headed back. Having rested all day, sleep evaded us. So we watched television, drank the whole lot of the red and passed out.

The next morning we wanted an early start to combat the weather. However, leaving on an empty stomach wasn’t a good idea. The manager assured us breakfast by 8:30am, which arrived eventually by 9am as it was ‘imported’ from another bigger resort. Indian fare of samosas, idlis, poha and accompaniments were the choices. Our stomachs were badly rattled from the ridiculous spice levels of interior Maharashtrian cuisine so we carefully ate as much as we could and took off for our trip back. We opted for the Mumbai-Goa highway towards Pen instead of the Mumbai-Pune return route. Up to villages surrounding the Savitri River, we had enviable scenery, cooperative weather, shades of green I never imagined in a congregation and so much beauty to take it. Dense fog, gushing waterfalls and winding washed ghats via Pratapgarh Fort marked this route. The roads were smooth and buttery until a stop at a village 10kms before the NH. A gentleman traveling the opposite direction told us that the route was a nightmare from here on. For the next 10kms I reasoned that the man was a silly grump. Until the 1st pothole and the 2nd and then the nightmare of the ENTIRE stretch riddled with monsoon damage the size of the moon hit us. Suddenly mile after mile reminded us of a spinal cord gone numb and a spa therapy somewhere awaiting our appointment. There were mild showers; the kind that keep you damp but not completely drenched followed by harsh sunlight that bake you to burning dryness.
This phase was reminiscent of our trip from Ahmedabad to Mumbai (11 hrs) where the last 3 hrs stretch was extremely painful. Overall, a journey worth 3 hrs took us ~8 hrs. We reached at 5pm and headed straight to Irish House in our muddy clothes for some brews and grub.The best part was the rains unleashed their form the second we parked our bike in the garage. The guy upstairs saved us some respite from bad weather and I couldn’t bow more if I tried (damn you lower back).
Here ended our Mahabi stint and here began the planning of a southern conquest! Stay tuned for more BiKronicles.
Mandatory celebration post-ride :)

For more pictures: