We had friends visiting us in Mumbai and it was an opportunity to explore places nearby. Mahabaleshwar was decided on and we headed for it starting early in the morning. It was the month of September. Mahabaleshwar is a hill station that is around six hours drive from Mumbai. After crossing Pune we have to take a countryside road to the right on the Pune -Satara highway. After a short while the road starts going uphill.
In the summer months it is a favourite tourist destination. Not so in September. The roads were quite free (from traffic I mean ’cause you have to pay toll at three toll gates enroute) and we reached Saj resort around noon. Though the peak of the monsoon was over in Mumbai, we realised that this was not the case here.
In a holiday mood we had packed light cotton wear for our two day stay. We were in for a rude surprise. Cloudy weather and continuous drizzle greeted us. At first we were surprised to see people wearing monkey caps and sweaters. We had the vanity to pretend that it would not be cold for us Delhiites ( we had then moved to Mumbai only a few months earlier and the visiting friend’s family was from Delhi).
By the evening we had to make a trip to the local market and buy jackets for the kids and shawls for us!
At the resort we opted for rooms facing the road. French windows opened up to the balcony which looked over the hillside. The view was veiled in a curtain of continuous rain. The rooms were spacious and the beds were comfortable and warm. When we went out for sight seeing we were directed down the road, towards the lake. We got out of the car and stood ten metres from the lake but couldn’t see it. A dense cloud of mist had descended over it. The fascinating part was that as we stood watching, the mist moved fast and within a short span of time it had cleared. We got a breathtaking view of the lake.
Boats were tied up near the shore. There were two stalls nearby selling roasted corn cobs. We all ate corn cobs partly because their smell was so enticing and partly to keep our hands warm. Soon the mist came once again and enveloped the lake.
We proceeded to the local market for shopping. The best part was re-living the pleasures of childhood as we walked in the rain without umbrellas. We came back to the resort to enjoy a hot dinner, wore two t-shirts at once to keep warm. Then snuggled inside the blankets for a good night’s sleep to the lullaby of rain on trees.
The next day we went up the road to echo point. A breathtaking view of the hills and the valley around the little town greeted us. Of course we had to try out the echo! On the way we passed many farms and fruit orchards. In the season time we were told, there is provision for tourists to visit strawberry and mulberry orchards and enjoy the fruits by picking them ourselves. The rest of the day we drove along many roads, exploring different directions enjoying the weather and the beautiful scenery.
On the third day we started back for Mumbai. On the way is a place where we get to carry home the essence of Mahabaleshwar. This is where they market fruit juices, jams, jellies, toffees and syrups. The fruit pulp toffees are a hit with the kids and the strawberry crush will flavour milk at tea times back home.
We plan to go there again in the warm months when we’ll do all the things that tourists are supposed to… go for boating on the lake and not watch the mist swirling by, wear cotton clothes instead of two shirts on at once and shop in the market instead of walking in the rain!