Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mahabaleshwar - Hidden gem of Western ghats | Day-1 03/09/2016

Places visited: Wilson Point, Plato point, Lingamala Waterfalls, Kates point, old Mahabaleshwar temple

Distance: 1500 km round trip
Type: Hill station, water falls, and Temple
Ideal for: Friends and family
Transportation: Train, bus, and cab
Crew: Nabhi, Vijay, Chandu and me

Remember the trips which you plan for years and finally, it happens - this is one of them. It was a long weekend for Ganesh Chaturthi festival, all my friends were free to join the trip. Besides, winter is the best time for vacations. At first, I thought Mahabaleshwar is a holy place but after thorough research, I realized that it has picturesque landscapes, lofty mountains, mesmerizing views, majestic falls, chilled climate. Yes, you guessed it right - it's honeymoon spot ;) The more I googled about the places to visit in Mahabaleshwar more I fell in love with it. The photos of these places were stunning, I couldn't wait anymore to visit the place and see it through my eyes. The plan was ready, the hotel was booked, transportation was taken care of. It's veryyyyy far from Bangalore (784 km to be precise) so going by car would be tiring and expensive, keeping budget in mind we decided to take the public transport.


Best of the beast: Needle hole viewpoint a.k.a Elephant's Head view point
Brief about the place: One of the best hill stations of Maharashtra and a must visit province in the state. There are rugged hills, dense forests, water falls and rivers that flow as though they have a mind of their own. The weather is wonderful and the place welcomes you with same charm any time of the year. This place is also known for its Strawberry production. Another popular hill station, Panchgani, is just 20 km before Mahabaleshwar. Mostly, the tourists visit both places together. It is also famous Honeymoon destination within Maharashtra. If you are starting from Bangalore on public transport then I recommend you to catch SRS/VRL bus going towards Pune, get down at Satara and catch a local bus to Mahabaleshwar. It's around 12 hours travel time to Satara from Bangalore. There are a lot of local buses running to Mahabaleshwar, you should reach Mahabaleshwar within 13 hours if everything goes well. Long story short: We took train & bus and finally reached Mahabaleshwar in 23 hours :D Long story (You can skip this): I strongly recommend you to skip it unless you are a crazy about my stories :P It was long holiday hence the buses were full and ticket rates had reached the sky ( ~3k for semi-sleeper :@), so we chose the longer mode of transport - The train. But direct train to Satara would take nearly 20 hours, we decided to get down at Belagavi then cover rest of the distance by bus. Chanda and I were starting from Bangalore while other two friends would start from Ilkal (500 km from Bangalore) and assemble at Satara. Bengaluru-Belagavi: We boarded the Ranichenamma express at 9 pm from Majestic, Bengaluru. This train is mostly on time and leaves at sharp 9.15 pm and we rested after dinner. When I opened my eyes I gazed at green fields through the window, the fresh air felt great and the scenery was soothing. We reached Belagavi at 9 am, the other two guys had already started from Ilkal and were expected to catch up with us at Satara by 5 pm. We had enough time so I decided to visit my sister in law's home to see my new born nephew.


Nothing is better than a train journey
Belagavi-Satara: I played with my cute little nephew, freshened up and had breakfast. Without wasting much time we came back to bus stand, we just missed a bus to Mahabaleshwar (scheduled at 11 am from Belagavi). We boarded a Pune bus and reached Satara at 5 pm. I called Nabhi to check their status, he said it will take another 2 hours to reach Satara. Last direct bus to Mahabaleshwar was at 6.15 pm. And, If you miss that then you might have to catch a bus to Wia. From Wia you get a lot of buses/shared-cabs/private buses to Mahabaleshwar. Instead of waiting in Satara we decided to catch the bus and rest at the hotel. Nabhi and Vijay would come directly to the hotel. Satara-Mahabaleshwar: We had to cover 60 km more to reach the destination. After an hour drive we started ascending the hills. The view became more and more beautiful every second. As we were nearing the peak the area was completely covered with thick fog with the visibility less than 10 meters. It was very difficult to drive in such case, God knows how the driver managed to drive. My heart was excited on witnessing this awesome climate. We got down at bus stand, It was drizzling, the temperature was so low that we started shivering literally. I started navigation to the hotel. We checked in at 8 pm, 23 hours long journey finally completed.


On the way to Mahabaleshwar
The first view of the hills while ascending



Lifestyle of the locals at Mahabaleshwar and surrounding villages

I wish I was riding the bike on these ghats :*
We had booked a budget hotel, covered with damp walls, closed windows, not a great view and was stinking because of continuous rain. Seriously, would not recommend this for a family. We freshened up, stepped out to have food, also to explore the place. It was bone-freezing cold!! Completely fogged up. Inspite of wearing thick jackets, we continued to shiver with numb hands.


Shanti Palace: Budget hotel

Typical view of the town near the bus stand

There were a lot of tourists, mostly couples. That is when we realised it's a hot honeymoon destination. There is a shopping street where you can find a lot of shops, food stalls, play areas.

While we were having dinner a girl on the other table asked the waiter to get room temperature coke as the one she got was too cold to drink. He replied with a smile "We don't keep it in the fridge, its the room temperature coke". Now you can imagine how cold it was. (Don't make fun of the girl for ordering the cold drink in cold and expecting it to be warm. Girls have rights to do anything :P ). We had our dinner and took a parcel for other two guys. By the way, the restaurants are overpriced :@


Somewhere near the bus stand. You can imagine the climate at evening
Nabhi and Vijay returned to the hotel at 11 pm. It took them 15 hours of journey so they were equally tired as we were. After this tiring journey, we deserved a much-needed sleep. We didn't had a room heater, Poor us !! So, we had to ask extra blankets to get some good nap and survive the night. Day 1:
Sunday Morning: Next morning, we were all set and stepped out at 8am. As expected we had no other choice than Vadapav for breakfast. We proceeded to the bus stand to hire cabs for local sight seeing. Getting a cab shouldn't be a problem as there will be a lot of cabs lined up near the bus stand. They have their standard rate card, you can choose any sightseeing plans accordingly. As we wanted to explore the whole place, these plans weren't satisfactory as they had time restrictions. This made us to hire a car for the entire day at the cost of 1500 for local sight seeings. The driver had the route map of 5-7 places to show us. 1. Wilson Point: Wilson Point is the highest point in Mahabaleshwar at 1439 m. It is the only location in Mahabaleshwar where both sunrise and sunset can be seen from the same point. Curious !! It offered a spectacular picturesque of Mahabaleshwar in all directions. Standing atop the Wilson Point, we could see Old Mahabaleshwar, Babington point, and many other places. One should definitely come here to watch the sunrise or sunset.



Road is very narrow, only one car can go on it. Driver said its a one way so you can check the google maps while driving here.

View of the old Mahabaleshwar, not clearly visible in photo though

Watchtower at Wilson point to watch sunrise and sunset from same point


There we are, madness goes high when you are in such beautiful place
Very narrow roads at some places, be careful if you are a noob driver

2. Plato point and Kings chair: This place has two view points i.e Plato point and King's chair. Besides, there is a Ganesh temple from where one has to walk nearly a kilometer to reach these two points. After visiting the temple we started walking towards the viewpoint, it's 15 minutes of a hike through the thick forest and loose soil. An old aged man offered us to guide through the area for Rs. 50, he showed the plateau and pointed at villages amidst the forest. The only means of transport for those villagers is by walk for around an hour. Plato point offered a scintillating view of surrounding green area. Kamalgad, Tableland, and tower of Wilson point can be seen from here. He showed us a chair like structure which is naturally created by the volcano which is named as King's chair. We spent a lot of time taking pictures and enjoying the landscapes and the greenery. Though it was cloudy the view wasn't blocked. We spent more than an hour at this place (we should have spent only 30 mins :D yeah we are photo freaks)


Ganesh Temple, from here you have to hike to reach King's chair and Plato point

Because of the rain there is greenery everywhere

The photo was taken while descending on our way back, don't get confused :P


The lonely chair needed someone to sit on it :P 

Plato point, observe the rocky surface. It's created by the volcano ages ago. 

Plato point, observe the rocky surface. It's created by the volcano ages ago.


The mountain range and different villages visible in the photo, its not that clear here

Dar ke aage jeet hai :P 

Panaromic view of the mountain ranges at Plato point

The mountain range and different villages visible in the photo, its not that clear here

The Kind and I : King's chair

Note: Old people and those with knee pain are advised not to visit this. Instead, they can stay at the Lord Ganesh Temple and others can proceed to visit the King's chair 3. Lingamala waterfalls: I wasn't sure about this waterfalls at Mahabaleshwar. When the driver said he will take us to waterfalls we were overwhelmed. From the parking space, we had to walk through nicely paved steps and lust green path covered by trees on both the sides. We hit the dead end where there was a board written - 0.5 km to the right takes to the view point of the falls, 200 meters to the left takes to the backwater of the falls.
There are two points here, Duh (small waterfalls) and Dhabdhabha (big water falls). 


Walking towards the lingamala water falls

You hit the dead end to see this board, left turn takes you to small waterfalls and right turn takes you to the big waterfalls
We took the longer path first. The cascade plummets from a height of 500 feet and its stream unites with the water of Venna Lake. Not only the waterfalls looks mesmerising, the surrounding mountain valley is also a treat to the eyes. After taking some photographs we moved to see the smaller waterfalls on the other side. 


Valley through which Lingamala water falls flows

View of the majestic Lingamala water falls (Big falls)

A closer look of the water falls

Panoramic view of the water falls and the valley through which it flows

Water falls from the height of 500 ft.
At this point, water falls down from a short height and there's a natural pool created in front of the falls. People were playing in the water, even we got tempted to get into the water but we didn't have extra pair or clothes so we had to just stand there and watch. Water was too cold to survive with the wet clothes on, we just enjoyed the view and spent around half an hour at this place.


Back water of the falls, people crossing the stream. You are allowed to explore the place

The small water falls, a natural swimming pool is created next to it for people to play in the water

The best time to visit:
July to October, when the waterfall is at its peak flow. The waterfall can be dangerous in the rainy season, so it is not at all advisable to swim.

Entry Fee: Rs. 20 per person.
Timings: 8 AM to 5 PM


We headed back to the parking space, the roads are narrow and it's very difficult to get the cars moving as many people park their car on the roadside causing bottle necks to the vehicle movement. Some how driver managed to get the car out of this place, we headed towards the most awaited destination of the trip - Elephant's Head view point.

Kate's Point: Kate's Point and Elephant's Head Point are the most picturesque viewpoints of Mahabaleshwar. Don't get confused here with different names for the same view point, Kate's Point area has 3 points in total; they are Kate's Point, Echo Point, and Needle Hole view Point or Elephant's Head Point.


Kates point. Its on the head of the elephant head
A small water falls to the right can be seen from the Kate's point. If you cross the water falls on the other side you can see the elephant's head view point (the one on which you are staning now)



Elephant's head point a.k.a Needle hole viewpoint: Elephant's Head Point is situated next to the Kate's Point. Without wasting much time we rushed to see this vantage point. Extreme to the right, there were people enjoying the view of the Elephant's head point, we rushed there. There was a small waterfall at this place, I guess its seasonal as it was a tiny stream of water flowing. Once you are at this point you can see the first view of the Elephant's head. The overhanging cliffs of this point are similar to the head of an elephant and its trunk. Thus the point got its name as the Elephant's Head Point. One can see a natural rock formation with a hole in between, thus giving the name Needle Hole.


Panoramic view of the Elephant's head point to the left to the Krishna river on the right


Its also called as needle hole view point as the gap in the rock looks like a needle hole

I don't have words to describe god's creation. It gets more mesmerising as you keep looking at it

Closer look of the Elephant head view pont. The red structure you are looking is Kate's view point (mentioned in previous photos)

Spectacular view of the Sahyadri range

How could we miss a group photo at this point :P
(from left): Nabhi, Vijay, Chandu and me
If one wants to see nature's very own artwork then this point definitely serves as a treat to them. Travellers can experience a spectacular view of the Sahyadri hill ranges from here. Sandy patches offset the lush green surroundings of Mahabaleshwar. Apart from a fabulous view of the hills, one can increase thrill by making the most of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets here.

No doubt its an excellent spot for photographers, experience seekers, nature lovers and nirvana seekers. With its mesmerising beauty, the place manages to attract explorers throughout the year.

After seeing this place we were speechless with this natural beauty. I wished to sit there and watch the view for the entire day. We moved to see next view point called as echo point.

Echo Point: As the name suggests if you shout at this point loudly then the voice hits back from the hills and echos through the mountains. You can see the reservoir and krishna valley from here.


Echo point beside the kate's point


This is the echo point, if you should loud standing at this point the sound echoes through the montains and reaches back to your ear



The reservoir which can be seen from echo point

A closer look into the reservoir

I don't know whats it calls but it looks pretty cool ;)
We spent a lot of time here enjoying the nature. We spent more than 2 hours here taking photos and posing from each and every corner. It was 3.30 in the afternoon we still had enough time to see another place, we decided to visit Mahabaleshwar temple. Next 20 minutes of the drive took us to the most sacred place in Mahabaleshwar.



Mahabaleshwar Temple: As soon as we got down from the car it started raining heavily, we underestimated the nature so didn't get the umbrella. Half drenched we entered the temple. The temple is quintessential of the Hemadant architectural style of South India dedicated to Lord Shiva. Enclosed by a 5 ft high stone wall. Swayambhu, which is the 500 years old self-originated lingam, is enshrined within the sanctum sanctorum. This self-originated lingam is in the shape of Rudraksha and is called Mahalingam, which is considered to be superior to the twelve Jyothir Lingams. After having darshan of one of the rarest form of Shiva we waited until the rain stopped. The climate changed all of a sudden with clouds covering the entire area and the temperature dropped steeply.

Darshana Timings: 4 am to 12 pm & 4 pm to 9 pm



The entrace gate of the temple
 Temple is constructed in Hemadant architectural style
5ft high wall encapsulates self originated Rudrakshi shaped lingam



The rain starts to pour all of a sudden
Running around

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Self originated shiva lingam in the shape of Rudrakshi
Source https://goo.gl/A2T8aL

Climate changed all of a sudden


From clear sky to the cloudy weather

Panch Ganga Temple: Next to the Shiva temple there is another temple called Panchganga temple which is the origin of seven rivers. The 4500-year old Panchaganga temple is built at the origin of 7 rivers – Krishna, Koyana, Gayatri, Savitri, Venna, Saraswati, and Bhagirathi. Out of them, springs of the first 5 flow continuously whereas the spring corresponding to Saraswati comes alive after every 60 years and the one corresponding to Bhagirathi comes alive every 12 years. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and has a beautiful idol of him. Panchganga Mandir is a site of major religious importance and is thronged by devotees all through the year. The temple has a beautifully carved gaumukhi, out of which the waters of the five rivers flow. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and has a lovely idol of him. The legend behind the temple is closely linked to Savitri's curse on the Trimurtis, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who flow here as Koyna, Krishna and Venna rivers.


Panchganaga Temple
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Inside Panchganga MandirSrc: https://goo.gl/HJhgCx
Gaumukhi, out of which the waters of the five rivers flow.

Our spirituality is drowing in modernization 

We came back to the car, it was already dark we were done for the day. we came back to the hotel at 8 pm.

After freshening up we came out to have dinner and explore the shopping street. We walked on the shopping street for a while checking if we could buy anything but sadly everything for sale was only for girls. Its, not men's place to get anything at this place.
Even though it was very cold we didn't want to miss the strawberry milkshakes here. As Mahabaleshwar is very famous for growing strawberries how can we miss it. We tried a couple of flavours of strawberry milkshake and it was awesome. We had dinner at a small hotel who was serving regular meals. After stomach full meal we headed back to our hotel.

It was very cold in the night, but still we managed to get a good sleep.

Read the next part where we visit Pratapghad fort and Panchagani.

Important Tips: 1. You can catch any bus going to Pune from Bangalore and get down at Satara. This is the simplest route instead of making things complex like us.

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