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!

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All Roads lead to Hyderabad

I finished a much awaited trip to Hyderabad earlier this week. And this time, my experiences beautifully complemented the ones I’ve had on my previous visits to the city of pearls.

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

My Friday morning began with a drive to Golkonda Fort, a good 15 kilometres from where I stayed. Golkonda means shepherd’s hill, and rightly so, for the highest point of this citadel requires the strength of a shepherd to scale! This ancient castle was built in the 13th century and has an intelligent acoustic system which it is famed for. What now remain are the ruins of white granite that cast a spell on all tourists that walk on these lands. The complex has landscaped gardens and multilevel arches that adorn the walkways and lead to the base of the ‘stairway to heaven’. And this ‘heaven’ is astonishingly a prison – Ramadas Bandikhana, which is now considered sacred due to the unlawful imprisonment of a loyal Lord-Ram-devotee. A visit to Golconda Fort is highly recommended for the breathtaking views that every yard on the 380-step climb lends the visitor. This heritage site is well maintained and has food-stalls and rest-rooms at strategic locations in the caves. The place is almost romantic with the chipped walls, greens peeping out of stones, and beryl skies playing hide-and-seek behind the white clouds.

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Saturday afternoon saw me waiting under overarching branches of trees outside the Salar Jung Museum as my travel-companion parked the car. This 38-gallery art museum has over a million objects from Far East to North America, and is the world’s largest collection of antiques by a single person. The building showcases artefacts like paintings, carpets, sculptures, arms, apparel, crockery, manuscripts and furniture that Nawab Salar Jung III zealously invested in.

Hot Tip: Time your visit such that you can hear the central grandfather clock chime at the stroke of a new hour.

Nightlife and Dining options in Hyderabad:-

(This list is in addition to the eateries I’ve mentioned in my first Hyderabad-post.)

  • The night I arrived in this city, I had the buffet at The Square, Novotel (near the airport). The food wasn’t much to boast about and the couple of drinks we ordered took our bill to almost 7000 INR. But this is a nice place if you’re bored of the airport-food-court and are starving after your flight.
  • Chutneys is a pocket-friendly restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisines. We ordered guntur idlis (very spicy) and palak paneer dosa, and were served an assortment of 6 exotic chutneys (both coconut based and coconut-free) complimentary!
  • Staying in a southern city doesn’t mean you only have to eat South Indian delicacies. Dil Punjabi proves this with flavours of Punjab. We had ordered veg and chicken soups, hara-bhara kebabs for starters, a roti-basket of Amritsari kulchas, naans and tandoori rotis with a paneer dish (large cubes of paneer) and some chicken preparations (for my non-vegetarian friends) for mains. The food was finger-licking good and the portion sizes, befitting a Punjabi eatery! The restaurant closes in the late afternoon, but if you can persuade the maître d’hôtel, you’ll be allowed to order from limited sections of the menu and enjoy a quiet lunch.
  • Hyderabad is mostly a conservative city and has numbered discs, but the party-scene is gradually picking up. I spent my Saturday night at Hard Rock Cafe as the outlet celebrated its 4th anniversary. A large part of the restaurant and bar area was converted to a dance floor and they played some pop and rock chartbusters.

Hot Tip: Ensure you ‘check-in’ on Foursquare if your bill goes over 1500 INR, for a complimentary tequila shot! 🙂

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Insights from an Insider:-

(This is an exclusive interview with a local Hyderabadi)

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Me: How long have you lived in Hyderabad?

Praveen: 20 years

Me: Your favourite thing about this city…

Praveen: Our unique language… ‘Hyderabadi Hindi’. You will only hear it in Hyderabad!

Me: Teach me a phrase in Telugu.

Praveen:  ‘garu’ – giving respect to a person. E.g., Oindrila-garu

Me: When does the city go to sleep?

Praveen: Though Hyderabad is one of the thriving Indian cities, the mindset of the people here is still very traditional. You will notice that a typical Telugu girl still prefers to wear traditional dresses over Western. Likewise, the nightlife here is pretty dormant.

Me: One thing nobody must miss doing here…

Praveen: One should visit all heritage locations like Chowhmalla Palace, Chudi-bazaar, Charminar, Golconda, Taramati Baradari and agar aap hyderabad mein hai toh aapko ek bar toh hyderabadi biryani khaani ‘padingi’ ! (a-la-Hyderabadi Hindi) [Now, that you’re in Hyderabad, you must have Hyderabadi biriyani atleast once!]