The trip was planned long back. We had decided on Lonavala/Khandala as we wanted to repeat our last year's experience of Mahabaleswar/Panchgani. The trip was postponed from May to June as we found that Lonavala is dry in May and rains start only in june. We even thought of changing the place sometime in mid June when we found that it had not started raining. Our options were Shimoga (Jog Falls) near bangalore or Dandeli which was much farther away. But after lot of heated (and funny) mails we decided to stick to Lonavala.
Jagan, Piyush and I started from Delhi on 21st June and reached Hyderabad around 7:00 o'clock. We had a warm welcome by the rain gods. We directly went to IIIT from airport where Amal, Vidit were waiting for us. It took us more than an hour to reach IIIT as Hyderabad traffic has become a real mess. After meeting Pati, Visesh, Vidit, Paresh (Amal was busy on phone) we went for dinner in hot rotis mess. The food reminded me of old times. Manjeet, Nitin and Abhishek had already reached their apartment to pack up. After having our dinner we decided to go to kesav reddy as our taxi (Qualis) was taking longer than usual to arrive (Thanks to Amit hereafter called as AC). We had an eventful ride in a service jeep which has an open back for keeping stuff. We tried hard not to fall over and Jagan was particularly thrilled by this adventure. On the way we found Rakesh and he also joined us for dinner (second dinner). We had a good kashmiri pulao and mushroom pulao as Jagan was busy eating his Curd Rice (:P he kinda over-liked it).
We went to my old apartment where Nitin and Dixit are still staying. Manjeet also came over and we had a good time as we celebrated Vidit's birthday by cutting an ice-cream. Thanks to his broken back (or his acting skills) that he was saved from bumps. Finally around 12:30 AC came with the taxi. We were pleased to see a video player in the taxi which we were not expecting. So we wasted another half an hour to write some movies and some songs in a DVD. Amal wrote a good mix of movies - DCH, Cars, Bheja fry (arggh!!), Mask etc. Finally we left the institute at 2:00 AM Firday, 22nd June 2007.
We had a pleasant ride with lots of discussions about various topics. Our first stop was a hilly area where we climbed on top of a hill. The view was good with lots of small hills visible all around accompanied by cool and fresh wind. We stopped at a small restaurant at sholapur (250kms from Hyderabad and Pune) where we got only spicy Missal Pav and Tea. We ate some 32 Pavs in total :D and around 22 Teas ;) for less than a 200 bucks. We had played Bheja fry in the night which made everyone sleepy but everyone was wide awake when DCH was played. Around 1:00 o'clock we touched Pune but we didnt stop and continued to Lonavala. We took the western express highway which is famous for fast driving but our driver was driving at mere 70-80kmph. As we entered lonavala we went to the first restaurant that we could see as we were very hungry. After having a heavy lunch and tasting some chicky (famous sweet in lonavala) of Maganlal we checked into a Maharaja inn.
We had left the driver back at the hotel to sleep but after finding public transport for half an hour we gave up and called him back. In the mean time we tried some more Maganlal chickys which were not as good as we had expected. On enquiring we also found out that we could get cycles on 7Rs/hour rent so we thought of giving it a try. But it was quiet late already so we killed the thought. Our first tourist spot was Rajamachi point in Khandala where we also got good bhuttas (corn). It was a small park which overlooked the western express highway and had more monkeys than humans. It was very cloudy so we could not see the Rajamachi fort which is supposedly visible from this point. It was not raining till now but there were lots of clouds which caused high humidity. The worst part was that the winds were still. We all were quiet dissapointed by the weather. The road outside the garden took us to a view point from where only a electricity center was visible. We stood there as we discussed about what to do next.
The next spot that we visited was Lonavala lake which was quiet disappointing. Not that it had very less water but it was quiet dark by now (it was 7:00 already) and nothing was visible as there were no lights. Well! We decided to go back to the hotel. It had started raining a little bit by the time we reached the hotel. Vidit, Nitin, Amit and I came out to roam around in the market where we ate batata vada which was nothing but aloo pakora. Though we fought with the waiter about it but finally ate the pakoras. Vidit and Nitin bought some “essentials” (miscellaneous item) and we headed back to hotel.
After having dinner again in the hotel we started playing dumb-charades. Some people (like Dixit, Jagan) had already slept for few hours. Piyush had also gone for a nap but he came later to join us. Amal, Amit and Manjeet formed a team against myself, Nitin and Vidit. Though our team sucked a bit but they were no better ;) (nothing personal guys). Finally after dumb charades we had a round of questions for each one of us, more like truth part of truth-and-dare game. Though we already knew most of the things about each other but it was still fun to ask intriguing questions. Finally we slept around 2:00 o’clock.
The weather was fantastic in the morning when I woke up at 7:30. I was the first one to wake up amongst us (atleast in my room) and I started waking up everyone. Much to my amazement everyone got up quiet quickly. We got ready for a great day ahead with lots of plans. After a heavy breakfast of idlis and bread/omlette six of us got ready to ride bicycles for 2 kms+ to reach blabla dam. So we got 6 cycles on rent and moved on. It was great fun but we were quiet exhausted pretty soon. Amal, Manjeet and Dixit had decided to come by taxi and so we had left before them. What we did not know was that they will take much more time than we expected. We waited for around half an hour in front of the Dam where cameras and mobile phones were not allowed so Nitin, Piyush and Jagan went first as Vidit, AC and I waited for them to come back.
Finally the other guys also came with Gaurav and Paritosh. Gaurav (from Bangalore) and Paritosh (from Pune) joined us on Saturday morning. They came on Paritosh’s bike from Pune to Lonavala. We all went to see the Dam which was not quiet what we expected. The whole place was bought by Tata and was highly restricted. We could not make noise, take pictures, have a boat ride, whatever. Privatization has its cons. Paritosh had ad already been to Lonavala so he took us for a sight seeing tour. After returning the bicycles we went to Bhushi Dam first and stopped on the way over the Lonavala lake to take some pictures of hills and greenery. It was a very scenic view. Some small waterfalls were already visible from here. I was driving Paritosh’s Pulsar and Gaurav was on the pillion seat. Many thanks to Paritosh for giving me his bike, I really enjoyed the drive on the hills. We stopped at the Lion’s point or whatever that point was and took lots of pictures there. This point overlooked lots of green hills which were hardly visible through the clouds. The view was breathtaking. Everyone wanted to play cricket at this point but we did not have the equipment. After we were done here we proceeded non-stop to Sahara Amby Valley. Though we knew that entry is not allowed inside but we still got a glimpse of it. After a long drive of about 17 Kms from Lonavala on the tree covered roads in the hills we reached Amby valley. It had a huge entrance and not much was visible from outside. We went on a small trek on a hill alongside the Amby valley to get a closer look. We enjoyed the trek so much that we forgot to take a look at Amby valley at all. All this long Amal, Dixit and few others were sitting in the Qualis wasting life. At the end of the trek we found a small forbidden passage in which there was a small waterfall. More people left from this spot to go back. Finally Vidit, me, Manjeet, Nitin, Gaurav and Paritosh were left out, later joined by Piyush. We trekked through the waterfall as our shoes got wet. After slipping few times and trekking for some 100metres we reached a dead-end. To continue from here the only possibility was to hang on a tree trunk at the top, move around 2 metres hanging on the trunk itself and then finally jump on a rock. Well! It looked quiet tempting but we resisted our temptations and returned as none of our ancestors were any where close to the Tarzan.
After coming back to the more civilized part of hill we played gully-danda for a while as AC was busy meditating and “feeling” the place. I scored 2 runs after which Bothra cheated and got me out. I won any way ;). We returned as others were waiting. We were quiet hungry so all non-veggies ate the left over bread/omlette that we had packed in the morning . We stopped at another point from where a hill size shivling was visible. The view from here was also great with hills on all the sides covered with greenery. We got hot pakoras to eat as it started pouring quiet heavily. It was great to feel the rains while eating pakoras. While coming back from here we stopped at a waterfall. Bothra, Vidit, Piyush and I got into the waterfall as others were busy “watching around”. The pressure of water falling on us was very high. We could not keep our heads under the waterfall for more than few seconds. Vidit tried curing his “supposedly” broken back by keeping it under the waterfall. After bathing in waterfall for few minutes we came out and ate the best bhuttas (corn) ever and some not so good ice-creams.
We came back to main Lonavala to have our lunch. As we were wet all this time we had to change at the hotel so we went back to the hotel to change. Vidit, Gaurav and Paritosh did not come for lunch as they were busy doing “something else” just outside the restaurant. It was only after reaching the hotel that they felt hungry and ordered some food. They created quiet a scene when we told them to join us later as were leaving for Karla caves (I have a video to prove that but cant upload it here). Well! It wasn’t entirely there fault . We left for Karla caves around 5:00 o’clock which is on the highway back to pune itself. This time Nitin and I were on the bike. We had to drive for some 500 metres up the hill and climb some 150 stairs to reach the caves. The caves were closed when we reached so we just visited the temple. The place was godly. There were hills and plains visible from here covered with different shades of green. It was very cloudy and rains were expected anytime. We sat and clicked some photographs and left around 6:30. It started raining very heavily as soon as we came down to the parking. It felt good to get wet again. Nitin and AC took the bike and others came in the car as Bothra, Jagan and I decided to walk down the hill in the rain. We almost jogged all our way down and it was great fun.
These rains were the first outburst of monsoons in Lonavala. The rains were so fierce that it took AC and Nitin almost an hour to cover 10kms on the highway on bike as we were waiting for them in hotel. As soon as they came back me and Bothra went on a small drive on the bike to enjoy the rains more. The drive against the rains was almost impossible without a helmet (and we didn’t have one). We covered hardly 2 kms in 15 minutes on an empty road and returned. There was quiet a traffic jam when we came back. It did not stop raining for hours as we were watching Golmaal on TV and most of us started feeling hungry. Amal, Bothra, Dixit, Piysuh, Jagan and I left for eating and bringing food for others around 10:00 PM. We went and smelt good pizzas in Smokin Joes but went to a restaurant to eat as Smokin Joes was full of people. Dixit ordered Indian version of Pizza – cheese parantha which was cut into 8 pieces just like a pizza. We all took a piece and ate it just like a Pizza but alas, Dixit still ate that Indian pizza with Curd. Kaju curry also sucked on comparing it to Raj Bakers’ kaju curry. The food was so not good that we felt like eating pizzas after that. We got 2 small pizzas packed and they were finished within 2 minutes when we opened them in the hotel.
Around 11:30 we got together again as Amal started asking few “daily life” questions related to the most controversial subjects. His list of “next” last question never ended as we discussed endlessly on all of those. AC was quiet only when Amal told him to get quiet and was at his usual best otherwise. Finally we slept around 2:00 o’clock.
The next day morning was as rainy as the previous night. It was good that we did not agree to Paritosh/Gaurav and Vidit’s proposal of going back to Pune the previous night itself. We got ready and checked out of our hotel to go to Lohagad fort. Raj (our batchmate Manoj’s brother) had visited a nearby Visapur fort just a day before and had told that it will be a 2 hour trek one way. Neaither did we have a lot of time nor did we have enough energy for a 2 hour trek so we just reached the base of that fort and just started walking. Gaurav and Paritosh went directly to Pune as it was tough to figure out the way in heavy rains on a bike.
The fort was visible some 200 metres away both horizontally and vertically. It was raining very heavily now and when we stopped to appreciate the beauty of the place we started shivering. We made quiet a few stops to enjoy the moments and grasp the beauty of the rains and green hills. After climbing few stairs we came across the ticket booth and we thanked god that we kept some money for tea before coming. The ticket guy also told us that those stairs would take us to the caves and the same path continues to the fort. But we had a different story ahead.
We played football with a tennis ball inside the caves. There were hardly 10 more people in that area. After listening to piyush’s song inside the cave we continued further to trek our way to the fort and enjoyed another waterfall in the middle. There was a huge waterfall after we took few more steps and we could not find any path that could take us beyond this point. Before we could term it as a dead-end a guy told us that there is a path to the fort if we cross the waterfall. Now that became a bit tricky.
There was a fence at the end of caves which was broken at one place which lead us to the waterfall. Only Bothra, Piyush and I dared to cross the waterfall as others were watching. It was definitely more adventurous than anything I did ever in my life. Well it was just a beginning. We had to cross the last part of the waterfall which was trickier than the rest. As Bothra and I crossed this part too Piyush returned. We had finally crossed the waterfall.
We told other people that we (bothra and i) will be back in an hour as we found a small path through the jungle which we “assumed” would take us to the fort. We were definitely scared but more thrilled and so we moved on. Initially the path was quiet well defined and we could see some foot prints too as we came across another waterfall. This one was a cake walk as compared to the previous one so we crossed this one too with great ease. Now the path was more broken and we were more scared. We had already walked for some 400 metres and decided not to go back so we moved further. After few more steps we hit a dead-end. On one side we had a path going to nowhere and at other side we had a 4 metre steep fall through the mud. We had no other way but to jump or slide. As we were already wet and dirty we decided to take the second option. The ground was already very slippery and we were trying hard to stay at one place and not slip. Bothra took the lead and slided first. He was not visible to me now so I shouted and asked if I should follow. As if we had a choice. It was almost impossible for him to climb 4 metres in that slippery slope. I held one shrub in my hand and tried to dig my shoes in the mud to stop sliding but nothing could stop me. I slipped through those 4 metres following bothra’s trail. We walked for few steps more and came across another waterfall. This was the biggest of all.
We felt more scared than anything when we thought about the situation we were in. Retracing our path back was almost impossible and stupid thing to do. So we decided to take the waterfall route as we concluded that the waterfall must be reaching the road somewhere. We made up our minds and started our way through the rocks inside the waterfall. It was slippery all the way and we were afraid of coming across some water animals or snakes but we didn’t have a choice so we just kept going. At one place the waterfall was totally covered by the shrubs around and we felt that we had hit another dead-end but fortunately we found an alternate path. Bothra asked me that if given an option to revert all this than what would I do to which I answered that I would tell him only after seeing our situation after half an hour. As we moved further we found another dead-end. This time the water was flowing right through the shrubs and we had to keep ourselves stable without slipping and at the same time avoid the horny shrubs too. I got two small cuts in my hand which I realized only after reaching the ground.
We had already walked through the waterfall for some 50 metres and we were seeing the ground more clearly now. We came out of the waterfall and after walking for a while we could see the road too. We shouted and laughed and felt like we had seen heaven. The walk through waterfall had already cleaned the mud that we had gathered during our slide. So we just walked our way back and found others enjoying Tea , Poha and Missal Pav in the small restaurant at the bottom of the waterfall. We joined them and told them about our adventure which was very close to turning into a misadventure (but fortunately it didn’t). The tea surprisingly tasted very good and the Poha was better than ever. After enjoying the Tea and singing songs for the people sitting at the neighborhood table we went back to our Car and changed.
After AC was through with his signing autographs and making plans for playing football with the bunch of kids that he had gathered we started our way back to Hyderabad. The way back was somehow more fun. We played parody antakshari in which we made up (or screwed) existing songs with our own content. While on our way back AC proposed to have Pizzas at Sholapur which obviously was quiet funny. It started with AC teasing Bothra to call Pizza Hut in Hyderabad but we actually did it. We called Paresh to search for Pizza hut in Sholapur on Google and thanks to him that he actually tried. AC went as far as calling Hyderabad’s Pizza hut and on hearing “sorry, we don’t have any information on that” replied “can you please find out about that and SMS me on this number if you find any info”. Huh! AC simply rocks. When AC was talking to Pizza hut guys we were shouting in the background to get Domino’s Number too :D.
Well, we didn’t really get Pizzas in Sholapur but we got Reliance’s A1 Dhaba. My personal experience of Reliance Dhabas was not very good in my Jaipur trip but this one was still good. We had a nice Thali which more than filled our stomachs. We had a nice walk also in the empty space that A1 Dhabas have I don’t know for what. We reached Hyderabad around 4’o clock when everyone was tired beyond words. Jagan and I got down at IIIT with Amal and Vidit as we bid adieu to other people. In all it was one of the best trips of my life.
My return ticket was on teusday night and I had a great time on Monday and teusday. I went to CA on Monday morning and met lots of people. Went first time to the Canopus restaurant (that had opened in VIT Park 6 months before I left CA ) and had a nice lunch buffet and coffee in Barista. We had planned to go for Fantastic Four at 4:45 but time flew and we could catch only 7:30 show. Dixit and I joined Paresh, Amal and Vidit in Ohri’s (Food court) in Hyderabad central and chatted for a long time. Nitin also joined us. The movie was umm enjoyable. More like Karan johar style love movie with Hollywood action. After the movie we went to Chutneys where I only ate the raw coconut chutney. Rating for food – 8/10, chutney 10/10. It was totally mindblowing. After eating lots of Idlis, Dosas, Uttapams and err! Chutney we came back to IIIT. We had to get up at 6:00 to play Tennis in Microsoft but have you ever woken up at 6:00 when you slept at 2:00 ? Well we went to play Tennis at 9:00 and Nitin also joined us. After 2 long sets of 5 games (me/amal lost to Nitin/Vidit ) we went for lunch in Microsoft. Damn! We are big fatties. We ate almost a 4 course meal and had ordered so much that most of it was left out. After a game of pool we left to go to IIIT. We walked towards the new CA building in Gachibowli to see how the work was going and then went back. After a game of Age (Amal defeated me and Vidit ) we went to City Center mall to meet Priyanka. We had a nice full non-veg dinner with lots of great (oops) sweets after which I left for airport. I was so tired that I slept in the plane for the first time. The plane reached Delhi in no time. I had such a great time in this trip that I could not work at all for 2 days in office after coming back as I was always thinking about all the good times. Thanks to each and everyone who came to the trip and also to all who took time off to meet me in Hyderabad. I am looking forward to coming again to Hyderabad. Cheers!!
- Maganlal though seems to have high penetration but its Chickies are not delicious, try local vendors which make chickies themselves like A1 Chicky shop.
- There is not much to do after 6:00 as it gets dark and all caves, forts close down. Local market is pretty good for roaming and shopping (mostly chickies)
- The cycles available for lease are not in a very good state but its still worth a try. Don’t be very optimistic about your riding, its difficult to ride beyond 2kms one way on hills.
- Pune-Mumbai expressway is surely clean and good for a fast ride, but Pune-Mumbai highway has better view points and hills to stop for a trek or photography.
- Bikes are surely a better way to roam around once inside Lonavala. Driving on hills in mild rain gives an awesome feeling.
- We were lucky to see rains in June 3rd week but its better to visit Lonavala and places around like Mahabaleswar, Matheran, Panchgani in the middle or at the end of monsoon as they are more greener and clean. We even saw one waterfall full of mud as it was the first rain of Monsoon.
- Khandala and Lonavala are just 5 kms, there is hardly a demarcation between the two. You can stay at Lonavala (more hotels and a good market) and go to Khandala for a ride.