Sunday, November 22, 2015

Three day road trip into Western Ghats from Pune

(4,5,6 September 2015)

Day 1: Pune to Rajmachi fort, Lonavala, Zenith waterfalls
Day 2: Lonavala to Kashid
Day 3: Kashid to Pune via Mulshi Lake, Tamhini Ghat, Lavasa

Four of us planned a three-day trip through the beautiful greenery of Western Ghats on a long weekend. With three of us travelling from Hyderabad, we reached Pune early morning and stepped forth without a lot of delay.

Day 1: Pune to Rajmachi fort, Lonavala

We took our rented self-drive Mahindra Scorpio leaving around 8am from Pune. We reached the Lonavala junction for the route to Rajmachi fort within a couple of hours; but from therein we were driving on a dirt road.

Rajmachi fort can be approached through various ways - via Kondane caves or via Lonavala. We chose to drive and try the Lonavala stretch.

The total distance to the fort on that dirt road was 16kms. For a distance of 11-12kms, that road went on where we struggled to get any grip on the rocky surface and eventually around 5kms from the fort, we couldn't go any further because of a temporary road repair work. Thanks to the Scorpio, we made it that far. I wouldn't recommend a smaller car to try that route.

The road to Rajmachi fort. Thanks to our rented Scorpio, we were able to make it through

A train visible in the far distance as we trekked through the jungle

We (happily?) left our car at that point and decided to trek the rest of the way. Under the hot sun of Pune, we walked and walked and in fact soon came across a small pool that we wouldn't have been able to cross had we gone ahead by car. There were other bikers who had endeavoured to make the same trip and were able to cross that pool.

A small pool, blocking the way of cars. However it didn't deter some bikes from going through.
A brief stop in that pool to rest our aching legs (both ways) was a pleasant reprieve from the heat.
Our trek led us to the base of the imposing Rajmachi fort, which we chose not to climb since we were already tired; but we met a few locals on the way who used to make the same 16kms journey every week by foot. (Mental salute)

On the opposite side of the fort, there was a large valley at the other end of which we saw the gigantic and beautiful Phanasrai waterfall from a distance. Despite the lack of rains this monsoon, the waterfall was still booming down at a height of maybe 50meters.

View point

Phanasrai dhabdhaba (waterfall). Seen from the opposite hill (height ~ 50 meters)

Rajmachi fort (at the top)
We made our way, tired but satisfied and moved on to visit Zenith waterfalls. On the backdrop of a village, it wasn't much to speak of because of lack of rainfall. We continued on to make our way and found a reasonable hotel at Lonavala.

Day 2: Lonavala to Kashid

With a desire to eat the famous Maharashtrian Vada Pav, we stepped out leisurely around 10am and had excellent vada pav at Ramakant Khopoli. The vada pavs were delicious and unfortunately we ended up over eating and stuffing ourselves with the same.

We then drove towards Kashid which is a beautiful serene drive on good though small roads. A point to note - roadways all across Maharashtra are quite good and well-maintained.

With some minor stopovers at Amba river, a beautiful flower overgrowth, and a few other places, we eventually made it to Kashid by 3-4pm.
A spider in its web (spotted on the way)

Beautiful yellow flowers

After a brief rest and some chilling at the beach during sunset, we made our way back to our small but clean hotel. For dinner, we got a Maharashtrian thali as a simple fare which proved to be very tasty and filling.

Sunset at Kashid Beach

Day 3: Kashid to Pune via Mulshi Lake, Tamhini Ghat, Lavasa

After a visit to the beach in the early morning (not for sunrise since it is on the west coast); we moved on to our return journey via Tamhini Ghat. A previous visit to Tamhini Ghats during monsoons had proven to be delightfully lush green and beautiful; this time around due to lack of rainfall, the mountains were dry, hot and imposing. We continued on without stopping much towards Lavasa.

Google maps shows Lavasa from Mulshi as a lengthy detour, however there is another route which directly leads to the backside of Lavasa. We decided to risk that route; and trust me that was a big risk. The road (calling it a road is a sin) made us feel that the stretch we experienced from Khopoli to Rajmachi was an expressway. There was no road to speak of. Only broken rocks. No people anywhere either. Thanks to our Scorpio once more, which fought against hefty broken rocks and clambered on them with gusto we moved on a stretch of 10kms or so which took an eternity finally reaching Lavasa.

Lavasa is a really beautiful city, well thought-out and constructed. Definitely worth a day visit from Pune if you haven't been there. We had lunch at the city center and moved on towards Pune, capping a fantastic trip.


- If you like driving, self-drive cars are becoming more popular in India these days. We booked the scorpio through Myles Car rental. It proves to be slightly cheaper than hiring a car with driver who usually charge for minimum 250-300kms per day irrespective of actual distance covered.
- Places to eat: definitely recommend Ramakant Vada Pav at Khopoli.
- Stay: multiple options are available at most places. We didn't book anything before hand, and found plenty of reasonable options on both nights.

- Route is shared below

Related Links
A previous visit to Western Ghats - Tamhini waterfalls, Lavasa