Camping by the Tungarli Lake

This month last year, I happened to go on my first camping trip. It was a resolution of sorts, and I’ll revisit that weekend today. I had no tent, no sleeping bag and obviously, no experience in the wilderness. So, I went with Let’s Camp Out to tick one thing off my list of resolutions – at Tungarli Lake!

The Tungarli dam stretches over the eponymous lake

The Tungarli dam stretches over the eponymous lake

Getting There

The campsite is located about 5 km from Lonavala, which is a couple of hours’ drive from Mumbai. You can also take a train as I did. Once you reach the Tungarli dam, you’ll have to trek up and cover the rest of the stretch on foot. The dam is quite a charming spot! It was built in the 1930’s for irrigation, but that day, it appeared to be an abandoned watchpost up on the hill.

During the train journey, I met a group of trekkers who were getting ready to do the Rajmachi trek. Tungarli, is a nice stopover before you undertake that one. The view of the lake is refreshing.

Water buffaloes can be spotted cooling themselves in the inviting waters of Tungarli

Water buffaloes can be spotted cooling themselves in the inviting waters of Tungarli

Tungarli Lake

Somewhere in the Sahyadri range of mountains, the quaint village of Tungarli lives undisturbed by the city slickers. The lake is a watering hole for cows and buffaloes herded by the farmers from the village. If you are lucky, you can also spot some wild water buffaloes submerged in the waters of Tungarli Lake. This keeps them cool in hot afternoons. After drinking up the gorgeous view, we headed over to our campsite.

Our little green tents are all set to house us!

Our little green tents are all set to house us!

Camping amidst Nature

Our little green tents were already set up for us when we reached. They were Coleman sundome tents with a capacity of 3 each. When I first thought of camping, I imagined I’d have to endure hardships and sleep on thin tarpaulin sheets which would make me feel the stones and twigs beneath. But I was in for a surprise – a pleasant one.

Our tents were wind and water resistant, with a nice awning at the entrance. We could fully seal our tents with the double zippers. There were even two net-windows which could be zipped open or close a per our requirement for light and air. And some more air vents for cross ventilation. I could barely feel the ground for we had airbeds and inflatable pillows. Finally, there were a couple of pockets on the side-walls of the tent to stash our stuff.

If you are wondering where the washroom was, there was a toilet-tent (with ziplock) with a portable commode seat and a shovel inside. But because this is nature, you have bare earth beneath all this. Eco camping requires that you cover up your waste with earth (which you will have dug up to create a deep pit in the ground). Never forget to carry toilet paper if you are organizing your own camping trip.

From my vantage point, I could see the Tungarli village, Rajmachi, and also some parts of Lonavala

From my vantage point, I could see the Tungarli village, Rajmachi, and also some parts of Lonavala

Evening Trek

We had some tea and biscuits before setting out west on a trek to explore these hills on the Western Ghats. Our trekking guide took us to the very top of our hill and we stood there for a long time, taking in the view of the villages in the valley. From up there, we could also see Rajmachi and perhaps, Lonavala.

I feel treks are rewarding. Not only for the panoramic sights you get to see but also for the interesting plants and insects that you come across. Tungarli’s terrain is arid at places, and this has resulted in the growth of a variety of cacti.

Oh, my! What a giant cactus this one is!

Oh, my! What a giant cactus this one is!

I came across several cactus plants and also some buds which were yet to bloom. Nature gives you a nice lesson in botany if you care to explore and be inquisitive.

Cactus flower buds before bloom

Cactus flower buds before bloom

Not far from all the cacti were ant nests. You can identify these by the circular patterns they have around the burrow. I later found out that those belonged to harvester ants which are common in sandy soils. These ants mainly collect seeds as it is difficult to find honeydew (which the ordinary ant would normally go after). Ant nests are good for the soil as they provide aeration and help in mixing different layers of soil.

An ant-nest hides close to the cactus vegetation

An ant-nest hides close to the cactus vegetation

Sunset in the Sahyadris

The sky turned auburn as the sun signalled it was about to set. We sat on our elevated seats and watched the city pull up its dark blanket. Despite the altitude, the absence of daylight and the winter season, the temperature barely touched 20 degrees Celsius. But it was night, and we had to head back to our camp.

The sun sets over Tungarli

The sun sets over Tungarli

Bring Out the Barbecue!

After the trek, it was time to eat, and we had a portable barbecue to get the party started! 🙂 We grilled sliced pineapples, paneer cubes and potato halves on the burning charcoal. I had never had so much fun drizzling oil over starters and coating them with pepper. I realized that day that food tastes better when you have helped prepare it. After a filling meal of appetizers, we tightened our shoelaces again – for the night trek! 😀

It's fun to barbecue your own dinner :-)

It’s fun to barbecue your own dinner 🙂

The Night Trek

I don’t think I can ever get enough of trekking, especially if they’re short and easy. The weather was so lovely that night, that we decided to trek again. This time, to the east. We strapped on a couple of solar-charged torches and set out to explore the hills’ beauty in the night-time. This one was a tad bit difficult as compare to the evening trek, but the moon shone brilliantly and made it worth the effort. We indulged in a lot of stargazing and constellation spotting that night. Wintertime is the best to spot a lot of stars which one will miss in the summers, and also to clearly see the zodiac of the month. If you have a stargazing app, don’t forget to use it on night treks!

Solar lights are handy for night treks

Solar lights are handy for night treks

Campfires are for Singing

When we started getting hungry again, we found our way back to our camp. Our tents were visible in the warm glow of the campfire. The crackling of dried leaves and twigs in the fire made for some nice music in the otherwise silent night. The time was perfect for some old melodies. We sang as our dinner was being unpacked. We were floored by the eclectic mix of home-cooked Maharashtrian dishes from the village below. All that singing, trekking and good food made it very easy to fall asleep. I used to worry I’d never be able to sleep in the wild with the threat of animals attacking me in the middle of the night. But I was so wrong! I slept like a baby.

It's time to sit around the campfire and sing some good old songs! :-)

It’s time to sit around the campfire and sing some good old songs! 🙂

Waking Up In a Tent

I awoke as the sun rose and filled my little green tent with light. I zipped open the door and went out to watch a morning scene I’d never see in the city.

Insects are early risers, and get to work real quick. I spotted ants sucking on the cactus flowers. These harvester ants contribute to seed dispersal and improve cactus population.

A couple of ants suck on a cactus branch

A couple of ants suck on a cactus branch

Desert plants are not limited to cacti. I also came across what looked like wild ground berries.

These cute orange fruits look like physalis or wild ground berries

These cute orange fruits look like physalis or wild ground berries

My overnight camping trip came to an end with a delicious breakfast of poha, bread and jam with tea and biscuits. We helped each other dismantle the tents and fold them back into the portable bags. We carried all the non-biodegradable wastes with us to leave that spot of nature untarnished. I walked away from Tungarli Lake content to have finally camped in a tent.

We left Tungarli Lake just as we found it

We left Tungarli Lake just as we found it

I am hoping to go camping again this year. Have you ever camped out? How has your experience with nature been?

Lavasa – A Lyrical Journey in the Rains

I can open your eyes

Take you wonder by wonder

Over, sideways and under

On a magic carpet ride 

The carpet of smooth road welcomes us to Lavasa

The carpet of smooth road welcomes us to Lavasa

These lines from my favourite song in the Aladdin movie rang in my ears as we zipped through the mountain trail on our first monsoon roadtrip for the year. The road almost sang for me as it curved and split and sloped with alarming swiftness beneath us, almost taking us on a magic carpet ride over the Western Ghats!  I slid the car window down to feel the winds getting stronger as we gained altitude on the road to Lavasa. And after about five hours of playing hide and seek with the rains all along the path, we reached our destination. Hidden somewhere between the hills of the mighty Sahyadri range, a charming little city gleamed in the afternoon sun. I could not believe I was still in Maharashtra!

Just before the thunder split the sky

Just before the thunder split the sky

As the car eased into the driveway of our hotel – Mercure Lavasa, I made a mental note to find out why this city looked so Mediterranean. Weary as I was from the long drive, I almost flopped on my bouncy bed, but I realized I hadn’t had lunch. So, off we scurried to Mercure’s Celebration restaurant, and got hold of a table by one of the French windows. A view like that could only be enjoyed with Italian mains! After the appetizing meal of spaghetti and mushroom, we gathered our camera lenses and tightened our shoelaces – it was time for action!

Spaghetti with olives and grilled bread

Spaghetti with olives and grilled bread

As we walked through Lavasa, I learned that this planned hill station is modeled on the Italian fishing village of Portofino. Orange, yellow and brick red coloured buildings dazzled from afar. This was the Waterfront Shaw which framed the shimmering blue waters of the Wasargaon Lake. These waters are boundless in the scenes they reflect, yet restrained by the Wasargaon Dam. The mountains that guard Lavasa have an appeal of their own – they are gentle in their incline but strong when it comes to carrying entire villages on their backs.

The waterfront at Lavasa

The waterfront at Lavasa

My train of thoughts was broken by a little kid calling out to her father. She insisted on getting on the trackless toy train that chugged along Portofino Street. It was only then that I took my eyes off the mountains and looked around me. The lakefront promenade was lined with a host of counters that let one try everything – from miniature golf to adventure sports. Instantaneously, I broke into a smile as I knew just how I would spend the rest of my evening!

The toy train is coming!

The toy train is coming!

“Burma bridge crossing” was first on my list. This adventure sport can actually mislead people into thinking all bridges in Burma are made of ropes and only luck can help you go across. The operator from XThrill Adventure Sports warned me cheekily not to ask for help if I got stuck on the bridge. He hurriedly plonked a yellow helmet on my ashen face, straightened the harness around my waist and told me he’d see me on the other side. I held on to the rope railings for dear life as I wobbled across the rope bridge, stepping on one knot at a time. Zip lining, the next thing on my list, was a breeze after the Burma bridge ordeal. Zip line is also called Flying Fox, though you don’t quite feel foxy as you fly from one point to another, suspended only by two ropes. We tried our hand at archery and shooting before heading back to our hotel.

I tight-rope-walked across the Burma bridge

I tight-rope-walked across the Burma bridge

This hill city has a handful of business hotels and resorts, but not much for the budget traveler. In Lavasa, be prepared to loosen your purse strings! There are some cafes that dot the waterfront. If you love people-watching, you can sit and sip a different coffee under a different awning every time you pass a café by. For visitors who like to “feel” a place as opposed to tick things off a checklist, I recommend alfresco dining. No music is more melodious than the whistle of the wind, and no décor as enchanting as the mood of the sky.

The soothing sounds of water against rocks

The soothing sounds of water against rocks

Back at Mercure, we realized we still had some light before dusk would swallow the place. So, we decided to walk on the other part of Lavasa. Right outside our hotel, we heard a stream gurgling loudly with no other sound adulterating it. We walked past rows of single storey and double story houses which had no occupants but a guard to keep an eye on them. I guessed that many real estate investors have second homes here, but choose to stay in bigger cities. I cannot fathom why one would prefer noisier cities to the tranquil tunes of nature. In some time, the sky darkened with clouds and we strolled back to our hotel. I was a little upset that water-sports was closed in the rains. I just could not get the image of that expanse of hypnotizing blue out of my head.

The sky darkens

The sky darkens

To get my spirits up, we ordered Italian again. We had ravioli with some wine for dinner and then went out one more time to look at the diamonds that had scattered all over the night sky. The best thing about a weekend getaway to the hills is the crisp air and the clear skies. Stargazing is a luxury one cannot afford in big cities where light pollution is rampant. Over a bottle of Bordeaux and under a sheet of stars, we exchanged stories of our past and toasted to a brighter tomorrow.

Washed by the rains, the city gleams again

Washed by the rains, the town gleams again

We were greeted next morning by an intermittent drizzle that kept most of the tourists indoors and left all of Lavasa to us. With no group to trek with, we explored the place further on our own and spotted many a rare blossom and insects crawl out in the rain. Monsoon, I have observed, is more beautiful when you get out there and explore. A warm mug of coffee can only soothe your throat, not your soul. Rains are not for us to sit and watch from the confines of our glass walled homes. Rains are the Earth’s way to communicate with us. And we must reciprocate – by walking, running, driving and dancing in the downpour.

The hill station from the top

The hill station from the top

From where I stood, I saw at a distance, all the touristy cottages perched precariously on the hills. I knew then that I had escaped the tourist trap and wandered where only travellers could! I could then hear the true song of Lavasa.

Blessed by the heavens, Lavasa is crowned by a tiara of hills

Blessed by the heavens, Lavasa is crowned by a tiara of hills

Useful Information:-

  • Arrange your hotel bookings in advance, especially if you plan to visit over a weekend. Tourists start trickling in mostly in the monsoon.
  • Lavasa does not have an airport. The closest international airports are in Pune and Mumbai. There are also no trains or buses that connect Pune / Mumbai to Lavasa. Travelling by car is recommended. Besides, the enthralling views along the route are best enjoyed on a long drive!
  • If you are travelling in a bigger group, do not miss the morning tour conducted by Nature Trails.
  • For running enthusiasts, the Lavasa Hill Run is the cherry on the pie! Even if you are training for another marathon (see Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad), the hills of Lavasa could be your practice pit!
  • If you have more time on your hands, squeeze in a visit to Bamboosa – the bamboo factory. You can also request for a tour of the entire area, interact with the workers and see how a bamboo product is made – start to finish.

White Water Rafting in Kolad

“Rain, Rain, go away! Come again another day!” This is what most of us mutter under our breath when we are caught in a bad weather on a vacation. There are occasions though when rains bring out the best in the world around us. It is during monsoon earlier this year that my gang of girls and I decided to do something that is best done in the rains – river rafting!

The white waters of Kundalika

The white waters of Kundalika

Few places in Maharashtra have river rafting options, and Kolad happens to be the most popular. After many days of coordinating and searching for rafting-packages, we came across a perfect one offered by Mask Group. For as little as Rs.1700, they would take care of the commute from Mumbai to Kolad, arrange for the rafting activity and provide lunch and snacks.

What to Wear

For water-based activities, you must pick fabrics that don’t get soaked easily. Lycra and nylon are the best. Try to avoid cotton and denim as they tend to become very heavy once they soak up water, and don’t dry easily. You’ll have a higher chance of catching cold if you pick the wrong fabric. Wetsuits are probably the best outfits for white water rafting. You can wear either floaters or sneakers (without socks), but ensure that you wear something which cannot easily slip off your feet (flip flops, for instance). Most of us, however, showed up in whatever we liked. 😛

Our rafting guide briefs us before the adventure

Our rafting guide briefs us before the adventure

Before the Adventure

We started from Mumbai in the wee hours of the morning so we could reach Kolad by 9. It takes about 3-4 hours by road. We were 9 girls, but part of a larger group of 50 odd people in the bus which picked us up. We had our packed tiffins for breakfast in the bus itself and reached hungry for adventure! At the holding area, we saw dozens of air-filled rafts stacked atop one another, and safety-jackets, helmets and paddles arranged about a sheet of tarpaulin.

We pose with our paddles while we're still dry

We pose with our paddles while we’re still dry

Safety First!

The main rafting instructor told us that we were going to float over the Kundalika river. Its water is actually controlled by a dam, and the government allows for some water to be released everyday for rafters.

We were shown how to fasten the life-jackets which have a double-locking system for extra safety. There is an additional pillow-like padding on the jacket to keep your head above the water level when you lie flat on your back on the river. The helmets too are lightweight and help keep your head afloat, besides protecting you from getting hit by boulders. The water’s depth here is no more than 5 to 6 feet. But what makes it dangerous is the presence of rocks. Even though you won’t drown, you will injure yourself if you don’t heed your raft-captain’s commands.

All set to board the raft!

All set to board the raft!

Paddle Talk

One of the most important tools in rafting are the paddles. Made of ultra lightweight material, these not only help you row your way across the river but also come handy in rescuing fellow rafters who might fall off the raft. The paddle has three parts – a flat blade which pushes water, a shaft so light that it pops back up if you push it down the river, and a handle with a “T”-grip.

If you ever fall into the river, never leave your paddle. Hold it by the shaft towards the blade end and point the T away from you. Your rescuer will offer her/his T and lock it with yours. Once you get the locking right, the grip is impossible to break. You will be pulled swiftly to safety! 🙂

We rejoice after crossing our first rapid

We rejoice after crossing our first rapid

All Aboard the Raft

The world can be a little sexist at times. Our group of 9 girls was split into two and some guys were thrown in  for “strength”. Rowing really works up your biceps and triceps, and it is assumed men will be better at that sort of stuff. Anyway, we hauled our raft to the river and got aboard! Our guide sat at the back from where he could see us all and shout his steering commands. The front two rowers have to be the strongest and good rowers, and unsurprisingly two guys were made to sit there. We got in our positions and locked our feet under the air tubes in the front and back.

You might feel a little nervous on your first rafting trip, especially if you don’t know to swim. You are supposed to sit on the edge of the raft with your bum almost hanging out. Only your feet which stay locked under the tubes will keep you balanced. But don’t worry so much. You will enjoy the ride as you keep crossing one rapid after another! 🙂

The rafters jump off their rafts!

The rafters jump off their rafts!

Going Downriver

Along the 13km stretch of Kundalika, we negotiated about 10 rapids, mostly of grades 1 and 2. This is what makes Kolad a good place for beginners. You learn to test the waters before you aim for higher grades of rapids. Rapids are places where the smooth run of the river is broken by some turbulence, usually due to the presence of rocks or when there is a sudden decline in the water level. It is thrilling to cross a rapid as the water splashes aboard and bathes everyone on the raft. Depending on the sort of rapid it is, you will be asked to either row swiftly with a lot of force or “go down”. Going down does not mean jumping into the water, though. 😛 You must duck and crouch on the floor of the raft, holding the safety handle on the outside.

The water is cold! But good enough for frolicking! ;-)

The water is cold! But good enough for frolicking! 😉

Let’s Get Wet!

After about an hour of following our guide’s instructions to “row forward”, “row backward”, “left forward, right back” (to change the direction of the raft) and “stop”, we were treated with some time to gambol in the river! 🙂 Each of us was asked to jump into the water, and we sloshed about, dunking one another and posing for pictures. Note that there will only be one “dry-bag” on your raft for you to store your cameras and phones.

The rafts are taken back upriver on jeeps

The rafts are taken back upriver on jeeps

Hunger Strikes

After some more minutes of rafting on a relatively smooth stretch, we came to the end of our adventure. There were more than a hundred of us that day who rafted at Kolad! We carried our rafts back up the bank to the holding area and watched them being restacked and fastened to jeeps which would take them to the starting point for the next day’s rafters.

With all the fun behind us, we suddenly realized how hungry we were. We gobbled up some vada pavs at the snack shacks on the bank before our trek back to the bus. We were cold, wet and impatient to get out of our soaked clothes. The rafting areas have no changing rooms nearby, so you will have to drive to a resort to freshen up. After a 30 minute ride, we stopped at a farm.

We check into a rustic farm for a quick change of clothes and some warm food

We check into a rustic farm for a quick change of clothes and some warm food

Some Reflections

Glad to finally be able to change into warm and dry clothes, we settled to relish some freshly cooked Maharashtrian food. As we chatted about the day, we all agreed that we had made many new friends. That may not have been the case if all the nine of us had been on the same raft.

After lunch, we explored the farm and clicked away at everything that caught our fancy. I don’t think I have taken so many selfies and groupfies in one day. Only a bunch of girls can make that happen! 😀

After the rafting experience, we relax on a shack by the catchment area of our village

We relax on a shack by the catchment area of our village, planning our next getaway together!

Kolad is a great monsoon weekend getaway from Mumbai. Which is your favourite escape-zone from your city? Have you ever been rafting? Send in your replies! 🙂

Karjat on a BMW – A Road Trip to Remember!

Last weekend, I got a generous dose of luxury and a taste of the rustic countryside, all in the same trip! I had always wanted to drive through the valleys of the Sahyadris and spend a night in the mango orchards of a village. So, I put a break to my wishful thinking and stepped on the accelerator.  My frantic last minute search for hotels and cabs was wearing me thin. Did I expect to find an empty room for a sunny weekend when it was Friday already? Just when I was about to give up on my quest, I found a nice resort and decided to rent a car.

All set for the drive!

All set for the drive!

My self-drive vehicle wasn’t just any car, it was a BMW 3 series!!! 🙂 I have my entrepreneur buddies to thank for this brilliant idea. Justride.in, their startup, lets you hire luxury cars and enjoy your long drives like a boss! 😉

Village women with baskets full of food beckon road trippers to satiate their hunger

Village women with baskets full of food beckon road trippers to satiate their hunger

The drive from Powai to Karjat is a pleasant one. In the 90 minutes you spend on the road, you see the polluted cityscape transform into a quiet countryside. I had booked us into a resort in the Mohili village, which is a little toward the interiors of Karjat. We stopped for some watermelons on our way to quench our thirst and ask for directions. After few more minutes of negotiating narrow kutcha roads, we finally reached our weekend home just before lunch.

Our bungalow across the bridge

Our bungalow across the bridge

Mohili Meadows was a pretty picture to behold. They say, it becomes even more vibrant in the monsoon. We had almost forgotten about our hunger as we learnt about all the activities we could participate in at this village – flying fox, archery, water-zorbing, and the works. After a quick lunch, we set out to explore this part of the Western Ghats.

View from the valley of the Sahyadris

View from the valley of the Sahyadris

Even though it is summer, the valleys have ample green cover, with small lakes of fresh water adding a dash of blue to the frame. Most visitors like to trek in and around Karjat. There are plenty of plains too for those who love to camp.

Admiring the green walls of Karjat

Admiring the green walls of Karjat

The heat of the afternoon had drenched us of all fluids, so we bought some bottles of beer and drove back to our resort. Four pints of beer later, we changed into our swimsuits and faced the sun head on! We lazed in the cosy swimming pool until the guard said we could stay there no more. I was taking a swimming vacation after many years, and it felt wonderful to play catch, race and find the “missing coin” till our eyes burned with Chlorine. Oh, how I wished I could swim in one of those natural lakes instead…

Deep fried samosas for deep discussions

Deep fried samosas for deep discussions

Our tired and chlorinated bodies craved high calorie junk food in the evening. We gorged on French fries, potato wafers and samosas till a sensible voice said it was time for dinner. We walked about our resort, noting the plants gleaming under the dim lamp posts, and looking up at the sky, spotting a constellation or two in the relatively clear skies. Village skies always make me want to leave Mumbai forever. The lack of light pollution makes it so pleasurable to stargaze.

The wilderness in Karjat comes alive in the night. Look how ethereally it glows!

The wilderness in Karjat comes alive in the night. Look how ethereally it glows!

Next morning, it was time for us to leave. We drove past acres and acres of green lands and basked in the tranquil surroundings of this lesser known cousin of Mumbai. Our trip was a short one, but there is plenty one can do and see in Karjat. For architecture enthusiasts, the Kondana caves and Peth Fort should be on top of the list!

One of the many bridges that keep this city together

One of the many bridges that keep this city together

On our way back home, we met the same ladies selling mangoes from their cane baskets. Life does come a full circle, doesn’t it? 😉 With the mango season on the cards, juicy pieces from Ratnagiri are transported through Karjat before they reach millions of Maharashtrian homes.

These mangoes look tempting, don't they?

These mangoes look tempting, don’t they?

My first road trip this year has set the ball rolling. I have several weekend outings planned for the next few months. Follow my travels on my blog to stay updated with my exploits. Until then, I shall leave you lusting after my BMW… (so what if it was mine only for a weekend!)

Are you drooling over the BMW too?

Are you drooling over the BMW too? 😀

P.S. You too can go on your dream drive, thanks to the car rental service of JustRide. (Top Secret: Your first ride is on the house! 😉 )

P.P.S. Let me know about your road trips. How often do you hit the road? I’m all ears!

Commuting in Mumbai – on a Budget

If you are a Mumbaikar, you probably spend about two hours on your daily commute on an average. And if you are planning a weekend trip out of the city, you will easily be travelling for over three hours each way. The longer you travel, the more you spend. Given the high cost of living in this city, your mode of commute only adds to your expenses. You might like to point out local trains and BEST buses as affordable ways to travel. But those are fertile grounds for pickpocketers and way too crowded for comfort. I have heard countless stories of friends losing their phones and wallets on a crowded bus or a packed train. Today, I’m going to tell you about some cheap yet comfortable and safe ways to travel in Mumbai!

The ubiquitous auto rickshaw - you can dislike it, but you cannot ignore it! ;-)

The ubiquitous auto rickshaw – you can dislike it, but you cannot ignore it! 😉

A popular way is to make use of the taxi service in Mumbai. Taxis are safer and much faster than auto rickshaws. The chances of having your purse or other valuable item snatched from the sides is much lower. Petrol and diesel are quite expensive here. This might lead you to assume that there is no affordable cab service in Mumbai. However, many private players have entered the market and made commuting much cheaper. Ola Cabs and Meru are undoubtedly the market leaders in Mumbai, but there are many lesser known cab companies that you can rely on. Most of these cabs are air conditioned, and will get you to your destination looking fresh. Mumbai has a perpetual humidity problem, and in the summers, you perspire all your fluids out. Also, if you have a long office commute like I do, you must definitely opt for air conditioned taxis. Another advantage of private cabs is that they are constantly tracked via GPS, and your location is known to the control centre at all times. Their GPS enabled smartphones also help the drivers take the best route to your destination to get you there as quickly as possible. Nowadays, some cabs also have the option of letting your friend or family member track your location real-time. The fact that most of these operators have their own mobile app makes it very simple to book and cancel cabs. You will also be able to book through their web portals and over a phone-call.

Would you prefer a cycle rickshaw to a taxi in the torrential Mumbai rains?

Would you prefer a cycle rickshaw to a taxi in the torrential Mumbai rains?

For those of you who have plans that change as frequently as the weather changes in London, and require cabs on the go, there is Uber. The Uber app lets you find any cab near you and you have a ride in a few minutes. Many of these online ride sourcing firms offer huge discounts and award referral credits when you onboard a friend or family member. If you are smart, you can actually ride free at most times! The recent news of safety breaches by these companies are worrying. But they are all making their rides safer, so don’t write them off just yet.

I dream of the day when commoners like me will be able to rent a stretch limo...

I dream of the day when commoners like me will be able to rent a stretch limo…

Most of my friends love to drive, but don’t have cars. And what do you do when you don’t want a driver listening in on all your group secrets in the cab? Well, self drive cars is the answer to your dilemma! Car rental for self drive purposes is very popular in the States and Australasia. But India is catching up just fine. If you are bored of the cheap Mumbai cab service and wish to drive a car on your own, hire one of the self drive cars and zip away without a care in the world! And on that note, I would like to tell you about an interesting venture that my friends have started up – Justride. Next month, I will be taking out one of their luxury cars on a spin. Stay tuned for that blog post!