This is the first trip I was making with my dad. We left Mumbai at 7:30 AM, headed for the Goa Highway. As always, our breakfast halt was at 'Kshanbhar Vishranti' near Karnala. We then proceeded to Mahad. There was a fair bit of traffic till Wadkhal Naka (the turn off to Alibad, Kashid and Murud - Janjira). The traffic eased off considerably once we took the turn to Goa, and the drive till Mahad was a breeze.
We had noticed a new 'Vithal Kamat's' restaurant at Karnala. So, when we saw another one at Mahad, we took a short refreshment break. By then, we had decided that we would be staying the night, so we checked out rooms at Hotel 'Kuber Palace'. The rooms were nice, but the place, with an attached bar, did not look very inviting.
We then proceeded to Raigad, which was not part of the original plan. The drive up was through narrow village roads, with the final part being a climb up to the base of the fort. Once there, we realized our folly. Being a holiday, the place was overflowing with tourists, and cars. After struggling to park the car, and having to pay Rs. 25 for the pain, we found out that the ticket counter for the rope-way was closed due to the rush. Not having an appetite for a 3 hour waiting, we thought we would have lunch there. But after waiting 15 minutes in vain for a table, we gave up on that as well. On the way down, we came across a small restaurant, serving home cooked Maharashtrian meals. Though we had to wait a while for lunch, the food more than made up for it.
We then got back to Mahad, and proceeded to Varandha Ghat. This place is on the route to Bhor, and crossed the Sahyadris, giving spectacular views of Konkan below, and the forested valleys of the Sahyadris on the other side. Again, the road was narrow and steep, but the car took it in its stride. It was the first time I was driving right up to the top of a mountain, and the views from the crest of the hill were simply spectacular. We had delicious onion bhajjis and chai from a road side stall at the top, and were entertained by monkeys. One
particularly intrepid simian clambered on top of my car quite nonchalantly! But we were still not done with the climb. The road continued its ascend, and soon we could see the tea stalls far below us. It was amazing! We then hit Lake Purandar, a vast expanse of still water, reflecting the hills and trees around. The view of the sunset through the clouds was simply out of this world!
The road ran parallel to the lake for a long time. The road was not in a great condition, but not too bad either. It was dark by the time we hit Pune - Satara road. After debating whether to proceed to Wai, or to Pune, we decided on the latter.
I had a passing thought of driving all the way back to Pune, but jettisoned it in favour of staying back at Pune, and seeing some of the sights around the city. Luckily, we found a decent place, Hotel Ravikant, close to the Pune by-pass. We got the last room, and later found that it has just opened a day back! There was no in-house restaurant, so we had to walk a bit for dinner. Luckily, they provided bed tea the next morning.
We checked out at 9, had breakfast, and then headed for Sinhagad fort. We passed Khadakvasla dam along the way, before hitting another ghat. It was my third narrow, steep, not so well maintained mountain road in less than 24 hours. But Sinhagad fort made up for it. Again, the fort was crowded, but not as bad as Raigad. The views from the top were simply superb, as was the weather - not very hot, it actually started raining as we were getting down. That, unfortunately, spoilt the driving pleasure. We took a new route to NH 4. The road was poor, but there was a steady stream of cars ahead, which helped me avoid most of the nasty potholes. We hit NH 4 and discovered that it was the same road we drove past the previous night.
We halted at a small place for a quick lunch, and then took the by-pass to the Mumbai expressway. After a halt at the Food Mall for tea, and to fill up at the HP pump, we reached home by 6 PM.