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44 to 4421 feet: The ride you should be on this weekend!

December 14, 2013 14:48 IST

44 to 4421 feet: The ride you should be on this weekend!

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Noel Dilip Martin set out from Mumbai to head to Mahabaleshwar. Here's his travelogue!

We started at 44 ft above sea level, from Borivali, Mumbai and set off towards the peak of Sahyadri ranges -- Mahabaleshwar at 4421 ft.

Strapping the extra bag on the side and ourselves with knee pads, me and my wife got on the road on our Honda Unicorn Dazzler prepared for bumps and goose bumps.

6.30 am proved to be an ideal time for take-off. Cool breeze. Light traffic. Great feeling.

After endless discussions, we had chosen the circular route for our trip. NH 4/AH 47 (Via Pune) for onward journey and NH 17 (Mumbai-Goa Road) for return a total of 570 kms.

I absolutely recommend this route.

The NH4/AH 47 highway makes for a zippy ride with smooth, broad roads. It's only after Wai that it narrows down.

On road, watch out for ST buses, luxury buses and empty trucks. They will do everything and anything to get you in trouble. Don't worry about losing your way, there's lot of signboards to lead you to Mahabaleshwar.

Our breakfast point was Khandala. Thanks to my wife's packed sandwiches, we could stop at a scenic location overlooking the Express Highway.

Another recommendation for bikers: Pack your food from wherever you can get, and you can choose your dining table, which could be lakeside, roadside or hilltop.

Reaching close to the destination much earlier than we anticipated we took a detour into a village called Surur on the foothills before Wai.

The hospitality of the villagers was just unbelievable. They were little surprised by this unusual visit of city dwellers in their village.

An elderly guy was more than enthusiastic to welcome us. We got a tour through the cabbage farm, went to his house, met his family and clicked pictures with his bull, which he had bought just a few days ago for Rs 25,000.

Politely declining his invitation to eat in his house and promising to post a copy of their photos, we continued our ride with a bag of freshly harvested groundnuts (a gift from them) and smitten with the true Indian hospitality. After a whole day of riding and eager to reach Mahabaleshwar, we decided to skip the popular water scooter rides in Wai.

With the sun going down, we were going up the Mahabaleshwar hills.


Image: A sunset seen from the Venna Lake
Photographs: RDglobetrekker/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Our 150cc bike took us through the scenic ghats quite effortlessly, and we reached our cottage in Bhilar around 5.30 pm.

So, it came to nine hours of riding quite comfortably through 300 kms, deducting stop times. Riding straight to our cottage, we spent the rest of the evening nestled among strawberry fields with a beautiful mountain view.

In the next two days, we took a series of short ride across Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. Since this was our second visit we skipped a few points which we had already done.

Having your bike in a tourist place has its own perks. You can always check with locals for shortcuts to your destination. That's what we did and got treated to some spectacular sights on our way which we would have missed on the crowded touristy routes.

We were surprised to see that the town gets stunningly quiet by 6.30 pm with no street lights to guide it gets pitch black. It was a thrilling ride through the dark unlit roads, where the bike headlight was the only light for miles.

We traced our way back to habitation quietly thanking the gods as nothing went wrong with the bike in the middle of the dense forest.

On the fourth day noon, we started our journey back to Mumbai through NH 17 highway with a short visit to Pratapgad Fort that was 4 km detour from the highway.

Not too eager to leave the hills, we started our journey only by 12 noon. It was much later then we initially planned. Must say, it's a dream ride through the Ghat.

The curvy, smooth roads are every riders dream come true. The roads on this side of Mahabaleshwar are quite steep compared to the Wai side. So, it's better if you are going downhill.

As soon as we got on the Goa-Mumbai highway, we met heavy traffic on a narrow road and speed bumps for the rest of the ride. The evening traffic in Mumbai was yet another milestone to grid through.

So, that was 270 kms in eight hours, deducting stoppages. I'm sure you can beat that quite easily. Finally we reached home by 8.30 pm our face black with smoke and our hearts wanting to do it all over again.


Image: Mahabaleshwar Hills
Photographs: Joe Zach/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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