The twin hill stations located just 5 kilo metres apart are an ideal getaway during monsoons. You’ll get to see all the refreshing shades of green, cool breezes and beautiful waterfalls. Get drenched in the rain and savour a roasted corn, there is no dearth of things to do!
Reaching Lonavala or Khandala from anywhere in Mumbai is fairly easy. A number of trains bound to Pune run every day. One tip, do not choose to take up a reservation in AC class. You will miss out on all the beautiful scenery sitting inside the compartments with tinted windows. Be a sport and hop on to the general class and adore the sights that you pass by. It is a fairly short journey. I travelled along with two of my friends and we did enjoy the long tunnels and the view of the beautiful hills on the sides. The feel of the little drops of rain on my palm is something I still remember. If you have your own conveyance, the Mumbai-Pune expressway is a total delight. The scenic beauty that you’ll witness around is totally admirable. Buses too ply to and fro.
Once you reach the station, finding a hotel is not a tough job. There ample number of hotels and resorts in all price ranges. But mind you, once monsoon arrives the rates get doubled and tripled. This is the season when maximum number of tourists flock the area. In a radius of approximately 5 kilometres various other hotels and resorts can be found.
We unpacked, freshened up and booked a cab. He made us shell out a thousand rupees for taking us around the various points and destinations, the first being the Lions Point. Approximately 10 kilometres from the railway station, the twisty and curvy roads up to the point make for an adventurous ride. What a beauty it was! Standing and witnessing those beautiful peaks while a cool breeze brushes your face, total bliss! There were small vendors selling roasted corn as well as sweet corn nearby. Vendors selling water bottles can also be seen. The bhutta (corn) with sprinkled lemon juice and rock salt is a must have!
Our next stop was the Bhushi dam. Sadly we could not see the waterfall because the monsoon had not yet arrived. There were a lot of small shops selling vada pav and nimbu pani. There were some local tattoo artists too! Next we went to the Ryewood Park which is situated in the neighbourhoods of Lonavala. This is an ideal picnic spot for families and children. It has spacious green surroundings allowing for a relaxing day in the realms of nature. The park also has swings which attract the attention of the children. There is a Shiva temple situated inside the park as well. The garden is surely stunning.
The day was coming to an end. We headed towards the very famous Rajmachi point and the sunset point. The two are situated in close proximity to each other. The Rajmachi point boasts of the view of the famous fort of Shivaji. There was a monkey point as well and boy, were there a lot of monkeys! A lot, but none of them would really harm you. Outside, we feasted on the yummy bhelpoori and the refreshing burf-ka-gola.
The sight-seeing for the day came to an end. We got down near our hotel and walked towards the famous Kumar Resort in the neighbourhood hoping to see a snow park but unfortunately it was under construction. We then moved towards a small mall which had a very few shops and eating outlets, but enough to satisfy our day long hunger. We hogged in Yoko Sizzlers and everyone’s favourite McDonalds. I spotted a small market and indulged myself into buying a few clothes at throwaway prices. Lonavala is not really a shopper’s delight, with really very few shopping outlets. We finally retreated back into the comfort of our hotel rooms and slept like babies. It had been a tiring day.
The next we booked an auto in four hundred rupees. We went to visit the famous Karla Caves and the Karla temple. One has to climb up 350 stairs in order to reach the point. Our auto driver however took some short cut and made us start climb only 150 stairs. There were numerous stalls and shops selling Prasad, mithaai, malas, flowers etc. for the offerings at the temple. We went around and explored the temple and hall which has a Buddhist stupa. The Buddhist monks built the cave shrines around 3rd to 2nd century BC. It indeed is an architectural marvel. The temple though has been built very recently. The entry in the main caves is restricted. The number of people who stood in line to enter the temple amazed me. It would require an hour and a half to stand in line and wait!
After getting stuck in a jam for around an hour, we headed towards the MTDC resort. This resort is an ideal stay. It has private, spacious cottages. It has a water park and boating facilities. We went there specially for boating in the lake. Paddle and motor boats, both are available.
We did not visit any of the lakes because they were all dried up. When you go in the monsoons, do visit the Tungarli Lake, Pawan Lake and the Valvan dam.
There is no scarcity of eating joints around Lonavala. There are a number of good hotels and restaurants near the station itself. From Chinese to South Indian, you can find it all. As better options, resorts like Kumar Resort, Fariyas Resort and Dukes Retreat etc are available and within them are various restaurants and coffee shops.
Our last stop after having our tummies full was the one out of many famous Maganlal’s Chikki shop. I swear I saw at least a hundred Maganlal’s outlets! Lonavala is known for chikki which is prepared with ground nuts in jaggery. Variations include adding crushed coconut, cashews, almonds, etc. in the jaggery. Other famous shops for chikki are A-1 chikki and Purohit Chikki.
The trip came to an end but the scenic beauty of these hilly retreats remain imprinted in our memories for times to come.