Exploring the over-explored?

You know those kind of places that become a rage and everyone starts visiting them and then within a short span of time they become obsolete and aren’t considered as ‘happening’ anymore? Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar top the list of those kind of places in Maharashtra. I know tons of people in Bombay who’ve never been to either of these places but whenever asked if they want to go there, they’ll say, “No way, that’s so overdone.” As I’m an aberration and tend to think differently than the majority in most cases, especially when it comes to travelling, these 2 places had been on my list and when I had a 2-day break, I convinced my sister to come on a short trip with me.

Panchgani is a 6-7 hour bus journey away from Bombay and there are plenty options. Accomodation and food are easily sorted in both Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. The only logistical issue is that in Panchgani, at several stretches, there are no sidewalks or footpaths and cars are driven at full speed on narrow roads so one needs to be careful. Nonetheless, as we went during monsoon, we loved our long walks.

We stayed at Zostel Panchgani, which was our first Zostel experience. We took a private room which had a beautiful view and was totally worth the money. The service could be quicker and their breakfast was average but the property is lovely and definitely worth a stay. (It is 3 kms away from Panchgani market)

The highs and lows (mostly highs) of our trip are as below:

Day 1: We reached Panchgani in the afternoon. Left the Zostel by around 3 pm and started walking towards the main town. The entire area is lovely to walk through and you’ll find yourself stopping frequently to capture the views around you. After hot chocolate and a bite at Ravines, a celebrity-frequented hotel, we walked up to Sydney Point. From the point where the trail starts, it’s an uphill walk of not more than 30 minutes. It was the least crowded point of our entire journey, with barely 5-6 people at the top and the views were brilliant. Imagine walking uphill with the wind blowing in your face, it leaves you overwhelmed in the nicest way!

We then hired a cab from the market and proceeded to Devrai Art Village, which is housed in a bungalow. It showcases and sells work of local artists from all parts of the country.  It is beautifully maintained and is a must-visit for anyone who loves art and culture.

We had an early dinner at Lucky’s, one of the oldest cafes in Panchgani. The food is soulful and completely value for money; a meal for 2 came up to 120 rupees. The highlight of the meal was the pizza and the special Irani chai.

Day 2: Post breakfast, we checked out of the Zostel and hired a car to take us around the rest of the spots in Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. We visited Table Land and Parsi Point but both of them were too commercialized, the latter was extremely disappointing because of the excess of food stalls and gaming spots. These were okay, could be skipped. Panchgani has over 20 designated viewpoints but many of those offer more or less the same view and so it is best to pick a couple of them and explore those or go offbeat and discover your own trails. Our favourite spot was Sydney Point so the rest seemed very average by comparison.

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We then headed to Mapro Farm in Mahabaleshwar where we had a hearty lunch with a view of the farms, tried various fruit squashes in their shopping section and stocked up on strawberry jam and Falero.

We’d read that Venna Lake is the place to end your day in Mahabaleshwar with and so we decided to go boating. I have to say that it is worth every penny. There were very few people in the lake, it was beautiful and extremely calming. The serenity soothed me and that is one experience I’d definitely go for again. Our guide was extremely friendly and offered to take pictures for us as well.

We still had 3 hours to kill before our bus to Bombay, so we went to Le Meridien in Mahabaleshwar and indulged in one of their spa sessions which was heavenly! It’s a lovely property with extremely efficient service, definitely worth splurging on. After our incredibly relaxing massages, we got our daily dose of caffeine from their cafe which was quite impressive, although very pricey.

Le Meridien was our last stop after which we boarded our bus back to Bombay. On the way back, I wondered why Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are often looked down upon. Our 2 day getaway completely rejuvenated us and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent there. We got out of our Zostel, walked around and embraced the immense natural beauty. This short trip made me realize that this new wave of ‘going off the normal path’ and ‘being different’ has led to certain classic destinations being forgotten. But the beauty of these destinations can only be discovered when you let yourself free from the notion that a particular place is overdone and actually connect with the place.

I’m the person who went on a proper 3 day trip to Lonavala 3 years back and explored places beyond Tiger Point. I’m the kind of person who went to Daman and loved the fortified areas as much as I enjoyed the beaches. I believe that more than what a place offers you, it’s your perspective towards a place that determines how much you get out of it. Over the years, Panchgani has just become as place where people come and chill in villas and barely get out and explore the outdoors. But our short tryst with these 2 towns taught us that when it comes to travelling, some places never go out of style.

Go to Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar, walk amidst the lush greens, eat soul food, lose yourself amidst local artwork or immerse yourself on a calming boat ride. Explore the unexplored with nothing but optimism and I promise you, you will learn a thing or two about yourself, about life. Be Khanabadosh and take the plunge.

 

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