Date : 9 – 11 Aug, 2013
Note : Please scroll to the end for pics.
We had planned for Panchgani well in advance. But the original plan was to visit the tableland for wildflowers similar to Kas Plateau as I had heard somewhere, that, in the recent past, horses and carts were banned from the plateau. However, I guess that is impossible to achieve considering the money they mint by showing various useless “points” and my guess was bang on. Rain or sunshine, the plateau will never get of these people.
So, finally we ended up booking Hotel Ravine for the long weekend in August. Knowing well that Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar receive some of the heaviest rainfall, also considering the amount of rains this year, we expected to stay put in the hotel room for most of the time. However, the trip ended up being much better than expected.
I had readied my car a week before the trip with new covers and floor mats and was ready to take off on the morning of 9th Aug. We packed some snacks for the journey and set off at 8:30 am. The torture began after Nerul, with all the roadwork for the widening of the Sion Panvel expressway. Took us an hour to catch the expressway from Nerul as most of the Mumbai crowd was getting out of the city for the weekend.
Once we touched the highway it was smooth sailing till we reached Pune … where the bad roads welcomed us on the Pune bypass. NH4 was smooth as usual, but there ought to be some lane markings else its a sure spot for accidents. Khambatki Ghat is another torture especially when you are stuck behind a long trailer and overtaking it on a slope becomes a pain, just as I experienced. It was a utterly slow trail of vehicles all along the ghat, with everyone desperate for that gap to overtake, but considering the length of the trailer, it is next to impossible considering the frequent bends.
The moment we took the right towards Mahabaleshwar / Panchgani, we could spot the transformation in roads. Although it is a divider-less road, it is very well maintained. Our lunch halt was at “Gandharva”, a veg restaurant on the Mahabaleshwar road. Do try the Veg Thartharat and the Solkadi (sold in packets like lassi), if you happen to be there – a decent place for a family lunch.
Post lunch, a non-stop drive along the Pasarni ghat took us to Hotel Ravine, which is located right below Sydney Point, just after you pay the toll/pollution tax into Panchgani (Car = Rs 50 + Rs 20 per head … as of Aug 2013). don’t expect a toll booth – just some people blocking the road and handing off receipts – God alone knows if the money reaches the right hands.
As we checked into the room i.e Valley Plus which faces the Krishna river. I was instantly disappointed looking at the dense fog. We were supposed to have a valley view and all I could see was the fog condensed on the french windows. I did crib a lot about this, but my wife just kept waving her hand asking for some patience.
We spent some time in the room but were itching to get out for a feel of the weather. So we decided to visit the Panchgani tableland and drove out at around 5 pm. It wasn’t very difficult to locate the place. The first thing we did on reaching was to have a steaming cup of tea and a good roasted bhutta that felt awesome in that weather. Having visited the tableland a lot of times in the past, we knew we had to avoid the horse carts and all the unnecessary points. Also, it was a lot windy up there and my daughter had started to get uncomfortable. So we just took a leisure walk and were back in the hotel by 7. We stepped out later for dinner at Panchgani market and had a good relaxed sleep back at the hotel.
Next morning, the weather had cleared up a bit and we could see the beautiful valley. It was truly an awesome view of the Krishna river and the surrounding mountains. We ordered for some breakfast in the room and then set off for Mahabaleshwar. The idea was to skip all usual viewpoints and head straight to Lingmala waterfalls, the only point I had never seen yet.
So off we rode, with a solo stop on the way for the Bhilar waterfall, and then into the inner roads leading to Lingmala. This one is pretty narrow for two vehicles especially SUV size, and will need a lot of maneuvering if they do meet. Lingmala waterfall location has a small parking area where we left our car and got into the main gate leading to the falls. There is supposed to be an entry fee, which I only realised on return, I think the rain saved me the expense
Lingmala falls has 2 sections, one is called the “Lingmala Doh” which is a smaller waterfall that you can get under and the other one is the main waterfall that roars into the valley. While the smaller one is closeby, the larger one needs some walking (10-15 min) along a neatly paved path to get the best view of the falls and the valley. By the time we were done with the waterfall visit, hunger pangs had started to set in and we made our way into the Mapro Garden back on the way to Panchgani.
The Pizzas (veg only) here are ones to try and also the grilled sandwiches. Apart from these you have the usual chocolate / jam factory and mapro counters with testers available for their concentrates. A nice place to have your lunch and ample parking around.
On our way back we stopped at the Parsi point and it was amusing to see people watch movie shoot locations through binoculars. The latest one was Chennai Express, which was shot in Panchgani – Dhom area. We were back at the hotel by 5 and after freshing up, spent some time at the garden and the tennis courts. The valley view could now be explored in its grandeur as the skies had cleared up. There was a rainbow as well for company.
Next morning was even clear as we checked out of the hotel for our return to Mumbai. This time we took a short halt at “Harrison’s Folly” a small plateau overlooking the Dhom Dam and the valley below. Cars can be driven upto the end of this point and it does offer a beautiful view. Some tp here and then we set off, driving non-stop till the mini-Balaji temple at Narayanpur which is supposed to be a replica of Tirupati Balaji. We had our lunch there as prasad and then drove back to Mumbai. Panchgani in the rainy season finally ticked … where next ?