We beat Kumbhkaran again for the umpteenth time and woke up at 8:30 only while we were supposed to leave for Panchgani at 9:00! The yawns and the reluctance to get out of bed were followed by hot tea. This is something that charges me to no extent even in the most odd hours of the day! So, after the long sleep and the tea, we were pretty refreshed..I mean our asses gave us permission to travel next 280 kms.
As I have already written, we decided to follow a different route for the return journey to see different locations. So this time it was via Panchgani, Pune, & Lonavala. We left Mahabaleshwar at 10:00. Panchgani is just 18 kms drive from there and the road is again ‘glass like’ with picturesque hills all around. Enroute Panchgani, we stopped at a factory outlet to buy jam, jellies, shakes & gulkand. Now, I was interested in Rajapuri caves, the board of which I saw somewhere in Panchgani while Anurag was hell bent on taking me to tabletop mountain. Every now and then he was coming up with this dialogue “Abbe..Ghode daudte hain wahan”. As if that is the only place on earth where u can see horses running!! Finally, we decided to visit both. We reached the tabletop mountain after some steep climbing (done by our 350 CC elephant!). The view from the top was awesome, hills all around with little houses (at least they were looking little from that height) built on them and a lake!! So it was the perfect time to click snaps. But you know, the severity of the itch will be maximum at the part where it is difficult for your hand to reach. Similarly, your camera roll will finish when you are at the most obscure of places. We were standing at the top of the mountain after scaling all the height and our roll surrendered. We took it as a challenge and came all the way down to buy a new roll then climbed again and took some snaps. The table top mountain was as flat as a football ground and it can have at least 10 such grounds! We skipped the horse ride. After all we were riding on our elephant!
Now it was the time to see Rajapuri caves. We started to ask for the direction after every two kms and every guy was asking us to travel 2 kms more!! In the process we crossed two villages and stumbled at at least two wrong routes. Finally we reached Rajapuri village and there we get to know why those caves are called Rajapuri caves! They were 5000 yrs old caves and as there was a little temple of ‘Karthikeyan’, ladies were not allowed! Also, camera was barred there.
After that..it was the time to take the return route. But before that it was the time to fuel our tanks. Anurag spotted a “too good” hotel in Panchgani itself and we decided to have breakfast there (at 12:30). Now why that hotel and not a road side dhaba? Because Anurag wanted to freshen up royally as we skipped our bath in the morning! While ordering, the breakfast converted to heavy dinner and the only signs of breakfast on our table was the sole omlette that we ordered. Hotel was one of the best u can get with tennis court, basketball court and Gym. The best part was..the waiter allowed us to take pictures there and we started to clicked snaps from garden to Gymnasium as if we stayed at that place only! With stomach full (more than full!), we were on road for the return journey. Pune is 100 odd kms from Panchgani. But the road permitted us to reach there well before we expected. On an average we traveled at 80kmph with Mr. Schumacher touching the barrier of 100 kms twice. Our rears were aching again and even the sun was not offering any respite, we halt at Juice World, Pune. After refreshing ourselves with apple milk shakes and orange juice we headed straight to Lonavala where one of our friend was waiting. Had one of the best espresso coffees there…a welcome respite from Cappuccinos while Anurag had the colder version. After spending an hour there, we were on track again. Bombay welcomed us with a traffic jam even before we entered the city! After encountering that we headed straight to photo shop to develop rolls and a quick bite at McD followed.
As far as the high points of the trip are concerned, I will remember it for the carpet roads, boating in lake Vienna, site seeing from tabletop mountain and the breathtaking ghats. The distance meter was showing a journey of over 560 kms when we reached our house putting curtains on a fabulous trip with memories captured in camera.
And as far as I remember, we were pretty excited when we closed our eyes as we were making plans for the next!!