Sunday, 12 August 2012

Monsoon Trip to Lavasa


           After our trip to Bhaja caves, this time we decided to go to Lavasa for full day drive. This was our 3rd visit to Lavasa and 1st after our marriage. Monsoon is the best time to visit Lavasa city (India's first planned hill station) which offers you pleasing climate that permits the exploration of natural and waterfalls established in the region.

Lavasa
Lavasa

About Lavasa:
          Lavasa is a private, planned city being built near Pune. It is still under construction and mainly people visit this place for Monsoon nature. It is also famous driving route for bikers. Currently Lavasa is controversial for many reasons such as Environmental damage, hill cutting, Use of water resources which belongs to Pune city, Land acquisition issue etc.  Construction of Lavasa had to be halted due to orders obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
In-spite of all issues it is a famous destination for monsoon.

The routes to reach at is Pune - Chadani Chowk – Paud Road Toll – Pirangut – Take left at Ghotawade Phata – Temghar Lavasa Road – Temghar Dam – Lavasa Ghat road – Lavasa entrance Gate – Lavasa city.

There is another way to avoid Pirangut village is take left turn just before descending Pirangut ghat. As I haven’t tried this route I can’t comment anything about it.

i20
My Uber cool machine...i 20

12th August, 2012 Lavasa: (Total Distance traveled: 121 km)
            We started our journey by 8.30 AM in morning. I observed that rush begins in Lavasa after 2 PM so to enjoy nature journey, we left home a bit early (Considering tourist trend to visit Lavasa). Our entire drive was memorable. Showers of rain welcomed us when we reached near Temghar Dam and then faced continuous heavy but pleasant rain. Hills, which were completely covered by clouds, were giving us a spectacular view. We took numerous pit stops for photography. Road takes you towards Temghar Dam after descending the Mutha Ghat. It is one of the famous spots to take little break and enjoy the view of Temghar Dam wall and then the actual Temghar Dam after driving few kms.

Temghar Dam
Temghar Dam

Temghar Dam
Near Temghar Dam

Temghar Dam
Temghar Dam wall

Dam back water
Dam back water

            After passing Temghar Dam, very lovely curvy road welcomed us. By this time, we were too hungry andwe had a tasty Vada-Pav and Corn (Bhutta).Complete cloudy weather with heavy rain, cool breeze, Temghar backwater view & cup of coffee & hot served Vada-Pav (Indian Burger) with your loved one is just a memorable experience. There are too many corn stalls from Temghar Dam area till Lavasa entrance gate. Same road takes you towards Lavasa Main Gate and beyond. This complete road is fun to drive. I was not able to touch 60-70 speed because of regular turns. The sharp turns in the Ghats were fun. But the drive coupled with the scenic beauty was awesome. Green fields on sides along with waterfalls, then the Temghar backwaters and then the Dasave Lake at Lavasa. We did our bit of photography on this road bcos of heavy rainfall.

Corn

Corn

           There was proper security at Lavasa entrance gate and the security personnel noting the vehicle numbers and reason for visit. After crossing main gate, we could see Dasave village i.e. Lavasa Phase 1. It is about 7 – 8km from this point. There were few road side small gardens and they provided parking space & from this point you can have a bird eye view of Lavasa.

Lavasa

Waterfall
Waterfall
            
          Lake/Dam back water is at center and Lavasa is surrounding it with wide road. Along the road are the Residential Villas, Convention Center, Hotels, Water Sports Center and Lavasa Information Center and so on.There are ample sign-boards to guide you to the places in Lavasa. To have a walk on walking plaza gives you feel like you are in a European country. There are lots of restaurants available such as The All American Diner, Zodiac restaurant (4-star), 24 hrs. Coffee shop, Granma's Homemade Patisserie, Tabakh (Lebanese), Oriental Octopus (South East Asian), Past Times English pub, Chor Bizarre (North Indian cuisine) , Sub-way, Pizzawala, Brewberry's - Coffee bar and fast food outlet, Natural Ice cream etc.We had our Lunch at Potato twist, Sub-Way & then pastries at Granma's Homemade Patisserie.

Potato twist
Potato twist making

Potato twist
Potato twist

lots of restaurants


          There are some watersports activities in Dasave dam from morning till 5 pm (Depending upon weather condition in monsoon). It is little expensive, but they have all equipment’s in good condition like Jet Ski scooters, paddle boats, Kayak, inflatables, Bumper boats (dashing boats in limited area), cruise etc. rate range from INR 100/- to 500/-. We were bit unlucky as it was raining heavily. You can also have ride of Lavasa in minibus with large window or in a toy train (wheel vehicle converted in toy train) which runs on road. After Hanging for some time around Lavasa, we went for drive away from Dasave village. This route was parallel with the back water of Dasave dam.


watersports 

          By 4 we decided to move back home. Again with some pit stops for nature photography we reached home by 5.30 pm safely. All in all it was an awesome long drive trip that we wanted in Monsoon.

We 

x thrill
View from X thrill point

Waterfall

Cloud
When cloud meets road


  • Car Petrol: INR 500-600/- (approx. 7 lit: INR 75/lit)
  • Toll on Paud-Pirangut Road: INR 30/- (Return toll)
  • Corn: INR 20/- per piece
  • Vada-Pav: INR 10-12/- per piece 
  • Potato twist: INR 70/- per piece
  • Sub-Way: Rates almost same as other subway branches
  • Pastries at Granma's Homemade Patisserie: Range INR 45/- to INR 125/- as per flavor. 

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.
Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Day Trip to Bhaja Caves

            After a long break, we decided to have a half day trip nearby Pune area. Personally I wanted to avoid Lonavala because of crowd so we chose Karle-Bhaja caves.  It is one of the few places less crowded and worth visiting.

Bhaja Cave
Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja caves

About Karle-Bhaja caves:
            Bhaja Caves (Marathi: भाजा) are a group of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to 200 BC located at Karli, near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The location of Bhaja caves is not far from location of Karla Caves and these are stylistically similar to the Karla Caves.
            The Karla Caves or Karle Caves are a complex of ancient Indian Buddhist rock-cut cave shrines developed over two periods – from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD, and from the 5th century AD to the 10th century. The oldest of the cave shrines is believed to date back to 160 BC. Located in Karli near Lonavala, Maharashtra, the caves lie near a major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan.

The routes to reach at Bhaja Cave is Pune -> Chadani Chowk -> Old Mumbai-Pune highway (Do not take left turn to join express way) -> Take Left at Karle village -> Cross Malavali railway station and express highway bridge -> Reach at Base village Bhaje (Approximately 60km)

Map

During our return journey we headed towards Lonavala and took Pune – Mumbai express highway.
You can also visit this place by Local train which runs between Pune to Lonavala. Get off at Malavali station and then 2km walk.

5th August, Bhaja caves 2012: (Total Distance traveled: 136 km)
            We (Me and my wife Renuka) started our journey at around 9.45 AM. In morning we decided to go for a half day trip so we started a bit late. Always advisable to start the journey early morning so you can spend more time nearby the caves area. We took a pit stop for fuel on the way and then moved ahead for Bhaja caves. We took the old Pune-Mumbai highway, which by the way makes for an amazing drive. I usually travel to Mumbai/Lonavala by Express highway so the old highway was a good change. Old Highway is in a good condition – it’s smooth and wide. That helped us to reach Bhaje village speedily.
            There are 2 routes on highway near Karli village. One which goes towards left for Bhaja caves and right turn takes us to Karle Caves. Both are about 4-5km from highway. We took left to visit Bhaja caves. Our 2nd pit stop was at Malavali railway crossing where we waited for few minutes so 2 railways can move ahead for their journey. Weather condition was very cloudy with heavy rain shower. Sometimes rain and sun were busy in their hide and seek game.

At Malavali railway Crossing
At Malavali railway Crossing
           
            We parked our car at the base village Bhaje. Many local children asked us for money and they assured us to protect our car. I generally don’t like to handover cash to any children so we offered them to have breakfast with us which they refused and ran away. There is sufficient parking space for vehicle and they charge nominal parking charges. We ate vada-pav (Indian Burger) as our breakfast and then moved ahead for caves. The same route takes you to historic duel forts- Lohagad & Visapur. In Rainy season there is a huge waterfall near the parking. We saw lot of people enjoying themselves in that waterfall. For caves, you have to take stairs. The climb is steep and if you are not regular at exercise, you will definitely need to take at least one break. We were fortunate to have amazing weather on that day.

Waterfall at Bhaje village
Waterfall at Bhaje village

Way to Bhaja caves
Way to Bhaja caves

Nature view from Bhaja caves
           
           There is a small entrance fee of Rs.5 for the Bhaje caves, which they utilize in maintaining the caves as the premises are clean and well conserved by the Archeological Society of India. Because of heavy rain, water running on stairs was giving a feel like we were climbing through waterfall.  The caves show themselves suddenly from one point on, and what you see is some fabulous caves Architecture.

Stair to Bhaja caves
Stair to Bhaja caves & Ticket counter building at left

            The Bhaja caves share the same set of architectural designs as Karla caves. The most impressive cave is right at the entrance, with open, horseshoe-arched entrance part. There is a large prayer hall and several caves that must've served as resting rooms for the monks, complete with a water storage area. The main hall is magnificent and hosts a large stone stupa... as always one wonders how people must have built them in the 2nd Century AD. The best thing is wooden roof which act as support for main vihara (Prayer hall). There are upper levels caves where you can reach using some stairs. Notable part of monument is a group of 14 stupas, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation. These stupas used to be constructed in the memory of the Buddhist Acharyas. You can see the names of these Acharyas carved out on these stupas.

Bhaja Caves
Bhaja Caves

Bhaja main hall Cave
Bhaja main hall Cave

Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja caves
Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja caves
wooden roof which act as support for main vihara
Wooden roof which act as support for main vihara 
Rest rooms for the monks
Rest rooms for the monks

Rest rooms for the monks
Rest rooms for the monks
           
           There is a small-medium size waterfall at the end of last cave. There is a proper fencing with small loophole in it which gives direct access to the waterfall. Because of strong water current it is very risky to enter in it. It is very difficult to imagine what the ambience would have been at that time.

Waterfall
Waterfall at the end of last cave
           
          Our next destination was Karle caves so we left this place. There were lot of local shop selling sweet corns at the base village and really difficult to ignore that for corn lovers. After having delicious sweet corn we moved ahead to Karle Caves. We attempted going there but gave up mid-way as route was jammed because of traffic. There is a Goddess Ekvira temple which is on the right side of the caves.

For Corn Lovers

Way to Karla Caves.
Way to Karla Caves

Heavy Rainfall
Heavy Rainfall
            
           As we dropped this plan so we decided to visit Karla MTDC resort. We liked the overall ambience and it can be nice relaxing weekend halt at MTDC. As we were too hungry so we had food at Manashakti. We purchased some Maganlal Chikki which is famous in Lonavala and then took Pune – Mumbai express highway. Driving on express highway during monsoon is always refreshing to me. Please follow proper rules while driving on express way to avoid accidents.

MTDC karla
Mumbai Pune expressway
Mumbai Pune expressway
Toll at Mumbai Pune expressway

  • Car Petrol: INR 600-700/- (approx. 8 lit: INR 75/lit)
  • Toll on Old highway (Dehuroad): INR 26/- (One Way)
  • Car parking at Bhaje village: INR 20/- (INR 10/- in summer)
  • Entry fee by Archeological Society of India: INR 5/- per person
  • Sweet corn: INR 20/- per piece
  • Toll (Near Lonavala): INR 26/- (One Way)
  • Snacks at Manashakti: As per order!
  • Toll (Express highway): INR 99/- (One Way)
 Must visit Places which we miss due to lack of Time:
  • Karle Caves and Goddess Ekvira temple
  • Bedse Caves
  • Sunil Kandalloor Celebrity Wax Museum in Lonavala (entry fee INR 100/- per person)
  • Lohagad fort (I have been there many times)
  • Lonavala hill station (I usually avoid Lonavala because of crowd and also because I have been there many times in my college days)

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.
 Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune