By Mukund Sathe
Diary of a cyclist – a summary of Mahabaleshwar cycling expedition with my co-cyclist and better-half Lata.
Day 1: 10th March, 2022 Thursday
My better-half Lata and me loaded our cycles on to our Marazzo SUV and set out from Vashi to Mahabaleshwar early in the morning. We reached there by noon. Since we had planned for a work from home cum cycling expedition, we were on the lookout for a hotel with good wifi connectivity. Luckily, we found Hotel Satkar opposite Madhusagar outlet near Mahad naka with a decent room and wifi facility.
Cycle mount on SUV
We got down to work after a quick lunch. Evening we set out on our cycles to Ludwik point which was about 2 1/2 km from our hotel. Though we were mentally prepared for a hilly terrain cycling, we had not imagined such pot-hole ridden roads which gave us the taste of what we are likely to encounter in the next few days while cycling in Mahabaleshwar.
We had to park our cycles a little distance away from the Ludwik point as they had barricaded the entrance to the point with half walls to discourage any vehicle from straying into the vicinity of the scenic point. We walked upto the point and had a scenic view from there. We could also see the Elephant head point from Ludwik point.
We continued cycling towards Bombay point which was about 3 1/2 km away to watch the sunset. This time we found that the roads leading to Bombay point were fairly well maintained tar roads, maybe due to the fact that Bombay point is quite a famous destination in Mahabaleshwar where tourists throng to have a glimpse of the beautiful sunset. We were lucky enough to reach in time for the sunset.
Sunset at Bombay Point
Post-sunset we relaxed there with some hot vegetable Maggi. It was quite a tasty dish with topping of coriander leaves and mint leaves. By the time we finished the Maggi and started back it had become dark and we had to cycle uphill with the cycle lights on. We had expected a tough return journey as we had encountered many down-hill slopes while cycling towards Bombay point. So, partly cycling up-slope and partly walking up the slopes pushing our cycles we returned to the hotel all the while praising the beautiful sunset scene and the delicious Maggi.
Post dinner at the hotel, we attended to some pending office work and retired early as we wanted to start early for the next morning cycling trip.
Day 2: 11th March, 2022 Friday –
Friday early morning we started with our cycle lights-on as it was still dark outside. We rode to Raj Bhavan which was about 1 1/2 km from the hotel. There I recounted the sweet memories of my childhood when I used to visit my father who was posted for few years in 1980s as in-charge of Raj Bhavan.
From there we cycled to the Polo ground which was about 1 1/2 km from the Raj Bhavan again on a pot-hole ridden down-hill path. The Polo ground was the only place which had a flat terrain to cycle in Mahabaleshwar otherwise we were always on the lower gears due to the hilly terrain. We cycled in the muddy ground around the cricket playing enthusiasts.
We found that we had to use the brakes very judiciously to avoid falling down as we tried to go down the slopes. Up-slope was also a challenge due to those pot-holes and many a time we had no option other than dismounting and walking up-slope with the cycles.
Day 3: 12th March, 2022 Saturday –
Since it was a weekend, we had planned a ride to Old Mahabaleshwar which is also known as Kshetra Mahabaleshwar which was about 6 km from the hotel. The ride was a mixture of flat roads, steep up-slopes and equally steep down-hill terrains. Though we enjoyed zipping down steep slopes, we realized that we may have to climb up that same steep slope on our return journey and so we rode humming the Julie film song, tweaking it a bit to suit the situation:
“Itna bhi down mat jao, ki upar chadna mushkil ho….”
When we reached the temple, none of the shops in the temple premises were open. We parked our cycles and went for a darshan of Lord Shiva. We had a very peaceful darshan as very few devotees had turned up so early. There we also got to eat some delicious groundnuts cooked in coconut water which had a different sweet taste compared to the normal roasted groundnuts we eat.
Then we visited the adjacent Panchganga temple where water from five rivers Koyna, Krushna, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri is said to be originating. We sat there in that serene atmosphere for some time before starting back.
Just outside the temple we saw that a nice restaurant named Savera had just opened for business and we went in there to have some breakfast. It was a surprise to us because the presentation of food served was very different. The Methi parathas were square in shape. We had methi parathas, puri-bhaji and filter coffee and all the items were tasty. We complimented them for their service and good food and started our return journey.
After resting in the room, in the evening we walked to the market place and did some window shopping and had dinner there. We retired early with the excitement that we were going to visit the queen of all points-Arthur seat the next day.
Day 4: 13th March, 2022 Sunday –
We loaded our cycles on to our SUV and set out to Kshetra Mahabaleshwar early in the morning. There we parked in the temple parking ground and set out on our cycles in the jungle area. Since we were very early, the barricade for the vehicles prohibiting entry into the jungle during night was also not yet lifted up. Due to this we had the luxury of cycling without encountering any vehicle in either direction till we reached Arthur seat point which was about 7+ km from the Old Mahabaleshwar temple. The road was all ours and so we did some criss-cross cycling on up-slopes which was one of the methods we adopted to reduce the fatigue while driving up-hill.
On the way we stopped at Marjori point where we saw a board warning us about the likelihood of encountering cheetah in that area. So, I sang the modified version of Bobby film song:
“Hum Tum Ek Jungle Se Guzre, Aur Cheetah Aa Jaaye….
Cheetah Se Main Kahoon Tumhara Cycle Chod De, Mera Cycle Le jaaye…”
We parked our cycles and had to trek down the stone steps to reach Arthur seat point. We had our breakfast and after some photography climbed back through Tiger point which was supposed to be a watering hole for the tigers.
All along the way to Arthur point, we heard lots of birds chirping and clicked photos with some lovely scenic backdrops. On our return journey we stopped at Castle rock point for some good views and photos.
We went back to the same Savera hotel for lunch and had delicious thalpith. We left our cycles and helmets in the hotel and walked down to Krushna river Ugamstan which was close by.
Again we reloaded the cycles on to the SUV and drove back to the hotel.
Evening we walked up to the bustling marketplace and enjoyed dinner there before retiring for the day.
Day 5: 14th March, 2022 Monday –
Monday morning we decided to do something different and we walked around in the roads near our hotel. We sighted “Shekaroo” the state animal of Maharashtra nibbling away furiously on a fruit. We also had the opportunity to get a video shoot of the bees sucking honey from roses. After that beautiful walk in the lovely cool weather, we returned to our Monday-morning office tasks.
Shekaroo – Maharashtra’s state animal
Evening we cycled up to Venna lake view point 2 km from the hotel and on the return journey we rode upto the market place and snacked on some Mahabaleshwar special Strawberry with cream dessert before retiring for the Day.
Day 6: 15th March, 2022 Tuesday –
Since we had enjoyed the walk the previous day we decided to venture on a 3 km nature trail upto Ludwik point. It was lovely, however we were slightly scared when a swarm of bees started buzzing around us. We were mentally calculating how to escape from the bees and started walking faster but after a short distance we found that the bees had stopped following us and had changed their course of flight. We visited Elephant head point, did some photography there and while returning we were feeling hungry. The only stall open at that early hours was the ice cream stall and so we had a breakfast of strawberry and chocolate ice-creams.
Evening we went to market-place shopping for Strawberries, clothes and gifts for family and friends. We celebrated the success of our cycling expedition with pizza and potato sizzler which were a specialty in that market-place.
All good things come to an end. So, it was time for us to pack our bags and return home next day. We had thoroughly enjoyed cycling in the cool hill station climate which helped us to cycle without exhaustion.
Day 7: 16th March, 2022 Wednesday –
Early morning we left in our car, stopped at a scenic point at base of Pratapgad fort hills for breakfast and then my better half expressed a desire to cycle downhill. So, there she was racing down the slopes for about 15 km in Ambenali Ghat with me following her on SUV trying to keep a safe distance from her. The roads were too good, very well maintained and only down hill slopes and hence it was a dream come true ride for her which she enjoyed to the core.
On the way back to Vashi, we had a short stop at our ancestral home at Warandh near Mahad. We had enjoyed one of the loveliest cycling expeditions together and have started longing for many more.