Days turn into months and months into years. Weekends pass in a blur. Before you know it Monday sets in and you are back at the office. Same chair, same system the same place. It was quite a while since I had taken any long trip. Post marriage my trips had become fewer and shorter, regrettable but unavoidable.
Fast forward to September 2015.
Avni: Sir, it’s been a long time since u went away some far off place. Planning anything for the long weekend during the Ganpati?
Me: Naah, brother in law is coming. Can’t make any ride plans at that time.
Just then I get a call from my wife and it turns out my brother in law is cancelling his September plans and instead will come over at Diwali. Someone up there heard my pleas it seemsJ. Leave applied for September 18th in a flash. 4 days of holiday now. Where should I go? The dilemma starts. Finally I zeroed in on a route. Panchagni-Mahabaleswar-Satara-Kaas-Tapola-Thosegar-Chalkewadi-Koyna-Sawad and back to Pune. Odd route, but I always wanted to do a Koyna circuit run. This wasn’t the best run but I had a pillion and I knew I had to have rest points so I had to cut down on some places.
The Route Map (A bit confusing, please bear with me):
Day 1: - September 17th
Morning 8:00. We are ready and packed; I got a Rynox saddlebag from Rakesh, a friend from xBhp Pune but sadly had to return it as my wife wasn’t comfortable sitting with a saddlebag on. So it was just a single backpack which had all our stuff.
Offered my prayers to Ganapati Bapa and started off. Roads were mostly empty until we hit Karjat where the traffic suddenly increased and came to a stand stop point. This was the case until we reached the Katraj Ghat. The ghat road here was the usual broken one so strictly no corners attacked, just tried and got out well and good onto the highway. Once we hit the highways we were sailing smooth at 90kmph. Cloudy weather, not too much sun; it was perfect. First breakpoint was the post toll booth, a quick breakfast before we headed out again.
Few hours later we were crossing Wai, traffic became almost nonexistent. It was Bapa’s day after all and tourists were scarce. Amazingly Harrison’s folly or Table Top point in Panchagni didn’t have a lot of people as usual. View was spectacular without the tourists nacking up every space. Spent a good 30min here before heading out.
Suddenly at the next curve the visibility started falling rapidly. Clouds were descending fast and within seconds I could not see more than 10FT ahead. Due to less traffic cars were all pumped up and speeding in and out of the fog cover. Thank God I had the hazard lights installed a month back. Slowly but surely we reached Mahabaleswar while the fog cover just kept on increasing.
4:00 P.M. After a nice lunch and rest at our hotel we were ready to go out and Anusa(my wife) was ready to explore. Opened one of the windows and clouds rushed in!!! From my window I could not even see my bike parked in the parking lot. Shit!!!!Fog cover had increased while were sleeping. On top of it, it was raining continuously.
Engine gunned to life and we were off. Visibility had dropped to 4FT and it was nearly impossible to see ahead, I could not go over 30kmph at any point. Mahabaleswar was a ghost town. There were no tourists, local people were scarce. It seemed the entire hill station had been abandoned. Managed to visit Arthurs Seat point, Lodewick point and Wilson Point. The points felt scary as shit, no people, deserted roads . It was late evening when we returned and went out for the Ganpati puja celebrations. Beautiful Pandals and the mesmerizing sound of Dhols played in our heads until we flopped out on the bed. Tomorrow was another big day.
Some pictures from the days ride
Day 2: - September 18th
Initial plan was to ride to Tapola from Mahabaleswar but the hotel owner warned us of heavy fog on that road and rash driving by the state buses. He advised us to take the road from Satara which would be better. Mahabaleswar to Satara road is an absolute delight to ride on. Beautiful views, awesome road and on top of it during my ride very less traffic J Had an extremely enjoyable ride along this route. A small pit stop was made at a Ganapati Mandir on way to offer prayers for a safe journey.
At this point I notice the Sygic Maps giving me an alternative Kaas-Mahabaleswar road which would directly lead to Kaas. It was a right turn just a few meters ahead. Could not resist the temptation to directly visit Kaas instead of the Satara Detour and started off on the unknown road. Road was good, at least for the next 3kms, then it turned into a muddy gravel road and then roads disappeared. On one side was the valley completely enshrouded in fog and another side was mountains. I still kept going, until suddenly the fog cleared for a bit. Bike was stopped and we got down admiring the beautiful spread green valley just to our left. We just sat there by the mountainside holding hands for what seemed an eternity. No one was present, all silent, birds chirping and an unknown road. This is what I ride for, these rare moments where I get peace.
I could hear the sound of another bike approaching. Two people were coming right on the same route. I stopped them and asked how much longer till Kaas. They were very helpful and told us it was another 40kms or so and the roads get only worse. After a small discussion with Anusa we decided to turn back and head to Satara, dump our stuff just get the camera and then head out. Took a small detour on the way to check out Kanher Dam which is on the way to Satara.
It was 10:00 by the time we reached Satara and dumped our items in hotel. Had an early lunch and quickly set off towards Kaas and Tapola. The road from Satara to Kaas is in ok conditions and has some bad patches in between. The thing to note is the carpet of green awaiting you as you climb higher and higher and then drive straight on the plateau. Try going a bit off-road on the way to see some spectacular viewpoints hidden from the view of the general populace.
Kaas, expectations were quite high. The time was also perfect. Flowers were in bloom. Overall, it checked all my expectations. Permits were done in seconds and were just Rs.10 Per head. The Fog cover was still present due to which it was difficult to look ahead, but at least it wasn’t a whitewash like Mahabaleswar. Since this was the best time to visit, Kaas was a little crowded. It was a really sad scene that people kept sending their kids into the flowerbeds just to take a great pic and didn’t mind trampling the flowerbeds. Had to tell quite a few people off, I may have got off as rude but someone had to say something. Time flew by and an hour passed wandering around this beautiful place.
Next destination: Tapola. Road was narrow but offered a smooth ride. Once you settle in, the road has everything to offer. You pass through twisty mountain roads, valleys, forests, small water bodies. The road itself is such a scenic route the destination doesn’t matter. Anusa had grown comfortable of riding long distances with me now and was enjoying the passing views. With some short photo breaks we finally reached Tapola. Weather kept on changing with rapid speeds around here. It was a bit foggy in Kaas, it got better when we were riding and now in Tapola we encountered the heavy mists again.
Tapola is a beautiful destination to get away from the crowded life and just relax. Mobile network went kaput around this place. You have forests and mountains then Koyna lake and the same thing on other side of the lake. There are numerous agro-tourism places here that offer night stays or you could even camp. I would have loved to stay here but my stay was already booked at Koyna.
Evening was approaching fast and I had a long way to cover till Satara. This is one of those places I would love to visit again. I missed Bamnoli but given my timeframe it was impossible. No breaks this time, straight ride to Satara. Ganpati day celebrations were on full swing in Satara. Another day gone by, beautiful destinations covered. Ahh….how I wish this weekend never ends. Visited bappa in the night and took some much deserved break.
Well this is it for now. Last 2 days will be continued post approval....Cheers Everyone