I have heard that Pune is quite strategically located for tons of weekend trips and I meant to jump on that weekend-trip-list and start checking off.
First check-off: Mahabaleshwar (with Panchgani for a halt)
We started from Pune at 8:30am and stopped on the highway for vada-pav by this world-famous pav-wala. A minor distraction involving food is always welcomed.
We reached Panchgani at around 10:30am, stopping to see the Table Land before heading to Mahabaleshwar.
First stop: Table Land
There are a lot of horses to hitch a ride on the flat land but we spared the poor beasts and preferred to walk on our own two limbs. It’s basically what the name suggests: Table Land. Barren flat plateau that makes you want to play football or cricket or any sport involving space. Even Polo, since the horses seem to be at hand!
There were two “Tiger caves” to explore, which to me felt like an Ant Hole with an exit and entrance. The “cave” finished even before it started. To pronounce the gravity of the tigers’ presence (god knows how many centuries before), they had kept a trio of Tiger soft toys that absolutely failed to evoke a solemn response; we burst out laughing! Whoever thought it was a good idea to plant soft toys in a cave got it waaay wrong! Anyway, it was a well-kept premise and we had fun fooling and posing around.
After Table Land, we drove for another 40mins to reach Mahabaleshwar.
Second stop: Parsi Point
It was on the road we were driving on, so we stopped there to have a look. It’s a simple view-point, albeit small. There were a number of hawkers, the weirdest ‘professional’ being a face-reader, who said I was stubborn and called my friend confusing. Even without looking at his face, we found him annoying.
Third stop: Venna Lake
The next stop was Venna Lake. It’s a man-made lake (Wiki says it was constructed by Shri Appasaheb Maharaj, Raja of Satara, 1842). It’s quite a grand lake; there were a few boats bobbing in the middle, tourists on a boat ride. We did try to get on one but we couldn’t make sense of the ticketing system. Some said the queue was for the boatmen; other confused tourists like us looked about cluelessly and some people were waving their victory with tickets in tow. Anyway, it was already 1pm and somehow, the dry heat coupled with the senseless, pointless rounds around the ticket-counter made us all a bit too wary for the boat-ride. Suddenly it didn’t appear to be THAT worth of trouble. So, we marked our presence by a few photographs and decided to grab lunch.
Fourth stop: Lunch-Break
Like the sign-board proclaims, Shivgandha Punjabi Dhaba provides 110% Pure Veg Food. 110%. Mind it! Way beyond the usual per-cent-age. But 110% or otherwise, the food was 110% good. The Punjabi thali we received was enormous.
Fifth stop: Arthur’s Point
There seems to be a lot of points in Mahabaleshwar; mostly named after some Britisher. It must have been so easy to be immortalized back then. Just hike up some hitherto unknown trail (known only to locals, I am sure) and claim it your “point”. On the way to Arthur’s point, we even devised this awesomely stupid theory that each Britisher must have had their nature’s call at those points. Early morning, the entire family hikes up to each point denoted by his/her name and does his/her potty.
Of course, the truth of Arthur’s point is far from toilet comedy. Apparently, the guy Arthur lost his wife and child at the river and poor Arthur used to come to this point and remember them.
Anyway, Arthur had chosen quite a nice spot and from this point, you are also connected to a number of other points. One can walk up to those other points. Warning: it’s monkey business all over these points. People were feeding the monkeys, or making faces at them or posing as close to them as possible. We, who had better sense, kept our cameras and cell phones in our pockets and tried not to look in their eye. We belong from a land where monkeys attack people (and vice versa, I think).
It was a nice place too. January is quite dry and the grass is more brown than green but I can well imagine the greenery that will sprout during monsoons. I guess it’s lovely during monsoons.
Sixth stop: Kate’s Point:
After Arthur’s potty point, there was Kate’s potty point! (I don’t know how to limit humour)
It was a smaller view point with a very pretty restaurant surrounded by flowers. And that’s it.
People who frequently visit hill-stations would understand the blah-point one reaches after seeing too many view points. So we decided to call it a day. But… not before going to Mapro Garden
Seventh stop: Mapro Garden:
All throughout Mahabaleshwar, you will see sign boards of Mapro as much as you will see strawberries; and then there are sign boards of Mapro WITH a strawberry. (BTW, Mahabaleshwar has strawberry farming). So, on the way to Mapro, we were in a I-want-to-have-strawberry-and-cream trance. And that’s what we ordered once we were there! … and we weren’t disappointed!
We also visited the small chocolate factory of Mazaana. I have never heard of the brand but since we were at its factory outlet, I took advantage of the 20% discount on the goods and got myself a pack of raisin covered choco nuggets.
There was also a man selling fresh strawberries at the rear of the restaurant. Fresh means plucked-from-farm fresh! A kg for Rs.100/- ! Dafuq!
We also navigated our way to the strawberry farms behind the restaurant. Radishes and Wheat is also cultivated there and I bought a lovely bunch of fresh radishes for just Rs. 10/- !!! (See, how housewife-y I’ve become… I even know aloo-mooli-ki-bhau)
I guess Mapro Garden has become a sorta landmark/ tourist-point in itself. It’s definitely worth visiting, what with the lovely blooms and preened gardens, chocolate factory, strawberry farms, and Mapro product outlet.
On our way home, there was a road accident and we had to take a detour through narrow village lanes with sugarcane fields on both sides of the road. It was sun-set time and the scenery looked wonderful.
Our driver-bhaiyya even managed to get sugarcanes from a loading truck… and so, with radishes, strawberries and sugarcane in hand, I reached Pune.
It took exactly 12 hours for this trip and man, it was truly, truly, worth it!
And then… for the next few days, I had strawberry parfait, chocolate strawberry, strawberry with cream and with whatever was left, made strawberry preserve. Anyone going to Mahabaleshwar? Let me know. I want some more strawberries!