Glorious drive: The Sahyadri roads

Bombay Nasik Highway

Here we are, on an absolutely gorgeous monsoon morning in our pride of possession the 4x4 Black beast (beauteous tho I admit) armed with Coffee Bean take aways thinking about absolutely nothing, music streaming from the radio adding to the light happy feeling. Wonder what triggers the brain to become obsessed about some certain songs, you can’t stop humming it, or thinking about it, or playing it or singing it.

Just yesterday I got soaked to the skin standing under a tree, watching the rain fall for a while. After my initial bothered state I actually felt very nice. Standing there and observing the world slow down. With so much digging happening in the city I saw some workmen duck into the dug pit, open their classic black umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain water. I stood there under a large peepal tree amused by how different people react to a typical ‘Under A Mumbai Sky’ shower. It felt strangely magical and very unique. And there was music streaming from a nearby chai shop reminding me once again of how closely woven is an Indians relationship with the cinemas

OK back to this highway journey: through the flat plains, the ghats and the mountains. When the monsoon rain lashes the open highways, it has a kind of fresh and fragrant beauty that makes you wish that you had been a poet and not some lowly blogger. In the rains, the roads and the ghats burst into myriad shades of green that can be glimpsed through gray and white clouds that drift through the valley. As the clouds and the mist clear just long enough for you to catch a glimpse of a dense green paradise the wind whips more rain that stings your face, in this case the Black beast’s body.

Bombay, its trains, its traffic choked roads, the muck- all vanishes and you know you are probably as close to heaven as you'll ever get to in this life.

The drive is beautiful. Once you cross Bombay make your way through small towns and villages you start anticipating a treat. The road is bordered by rice fields on either side and then sugarcane ahead, occasionally a brisk brook runs parallel to the road you are driving along, to suddenly vanish and give way to lush green that begs to be captured in the mind. Red tiled traditional homes are visible through the bamboo thickets. It is the kind of drive that prompts you to go easy on the accelerator and drink it all in with your eyes and soul. We switched off the ac, rolled down those windows, and let the sights and the crisp fresh air work their magic on our senses. Till the rains lashed at us again

The wind velocity in the peaceful valleys here is an unforgettable experience. The far stretching mountain view is unique and the treescape outstanding. I read somewhere there is a semicircular spot overlooking the mountains offering a fascinating sight of a coin defying the law of gravity by swirling upward when flung into the air, because of high wind velocity. Puzzling? But true am told.

There's no need to ask for directions to Shirdi. The road from Bombay goes straight into the Ghats. Just at the base of the Ghats is a beautiful inn called Midtown Café- we always stop there to have hot breakfast (idlis /kande pohe). This sets us up for the journey ahead.

After the road takes an upward gradient and the rice fields gradually make way for the hills and ravines on either side, above the treetops you catch the first glimpse of the mountains and the waterfalls. The aerial view of the landscape below gets even more stunning. Before you know it, you are already abreast the first waterfall and the first crowd of revelers soaking up all the water they can. We did a complete 180 degree turn inside the car to capture the scenery but it had swooshed past too quickly. The waterfalls cascade down on the road itself. Many people stop their car to get out, soak for a bit and then make their way to the edge of the road to see the water disappearing down into the deep valley below. The dangerous part is there are some who think this highway is a picnic spot - so they open a couple of beers and then leave the cans / bottles strewn around:(

A gust of wind brings thick rolling clouds into the valley and all around you. For the next 10-15 minutes it is as dark as early evening. Visibility is reduced to a few feet. The wind eventually carries the clouds away till once again we can see the green forests in the valleys and the mountain peaks. In the distance you see a new batch of clouds entering the valley to soon envelop you with more rain. On a good day, the highway plays this kind of a game over and over and you never tire of it.

From an environment perspective these topographies and its jungles, waterfalls, the green carpet on either sides of the highway provide the excitement of adventure. The well preserved forest and plains form our jungle wealth where a variety of birds and animals flourish in peace and security. Experiencing nature in its full glory, appreciating what we have today is a joy, let’s ensure we safe guard it and leave it intact for generations ahead. The great outdoors showed us the wonders of nature to take back memories of awe, magic, purity, even fear as nature is so over whelming when it shrouds you in its mist when you cannot see much beyond. You know then, what fury nature can cause, if havoc is what it intends. Let’s respect what we have. And maintain Harmony.

PS: Today's incessant rains made it urgent for me, to write this post. Am sorry I have no pics, the camera got rained out, and must be given for servicing


Simla a summer retreat hill station

Up in the mountains city
Rudy complexioned people
Crisp fresh cherry apples
Snow. Cold
Smoky breath because of the cold
Heaters and fire places
Monkey caps

I had all these romantic visions of Simla - and my learning started immediately on entering Simla –Impressive! The road starts to hug the mountain side and houses appear nestled far above and below the road. The traffic was terrible - it seems like there's only one main road for vehicles in and out. I soon discovered people call it ‘Shimla’ – they indeed are all rosy pinked cheeked people here- the children look delightful with their chubby red cheeks and one is very tempted to go up close and feel those rudy cheeks of the lil children on the street

Mall road in Shimla is "maal" road and is the so-called fashion street of Shimla. Everybody hangs out here- and I mean everybody. It’s a crowded street for shoppers, sellers, tourists, locals, lovers, grandparents and all. A happy buzzing place this main street of this colonial town. Mind you all this I am witnessing from afar. I have yet to venture into the crowds and am not sure am in Simla for that. The novelty of Simla's layout still excites me - the main area, a pedestrian-only road full of shops and eateries, is about 10 floors higher than the vehicle access to the city, connected by many lifts, stairways and steep lane-ways

The place we stayed in was an Oberoi property – Cecil, looked humble from the outside but is a haven inside. All wood and classy. The interiors echo of the Raj with modern day refinement – I instantly fell in love with this gorgeous place which was to be home for the next week.

This property dates back to 1884, so there is much history and stories to soak here which I did partake in most delightfully. The other great attraction for me was the delightful indoor heated swimming pool, steam and sauna facilities, fitness center and the spa. The stay got very promising indeed.

One late evening we went for a drive around Simla and landed at the Wildflower Hotel, one of the other grand Oberoi hotels. The hotel is perched on a hill with a lovely view, the hotel itself looked a bit like a Swiss chalet. We had a brief tour of the ground floor, including the massive child-size gingerbread house, and had hot chocolate and muffins in the warm lobby.

Besides soaking in the gorgeous Himalayas from the room, we went horse riding, played in the snow and got all mucky, walked in the ‘maal’ and shopped for curios. Also went to the ‘lakaddi market’ to see some beautiful hand crafted precious things. Overall preferred to stay in and around the hotel during the day and stepped out late at night when the world was sleeping to walk the streets in quiet; absorbing the peace surrounding us. My only ‘want’ was I wish we had come to Shimla in off peak season – summer sees plane loads of tourists thronging here for the cooler climes - it's easy to see why it's a popular place for everyone - the cool, refreshing air. And for us it was the clean, car-less streets that were good for a change. But perhaps the next trip will be better planned.