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Trip to Bhimashankar, Shivneri, Nashik and Shirdi

Wanted to get away from the rat race and the sordid black-heartedness of the business world. Also it was a unique combination of a unexpired casual leave account and the possibility of a long 4 day weekend by taking a day off, that we hit upon this idea of having an outing. Having started off with the idea of Mt. Abu and Udaipur, had to be content with lesser plans because of lack of available accommodation at Abu in the heavy peak season. Thus it was that 5 yuppies from Mumbai set sail (oops... make that set drive) for a trip that had its share of fortunes and misfortunes. Here goes.....

Day 1.
We started off from Mumbai at 5.30 am and drove towards Bhimashankar - at a steady pace of abt 90 kmph on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Stopped at Kamats at Lonavla for breakfast and took the detour from Khed towards Bhimashankar. The track was bad and could barely manage a speed of 25 without shaking up the insides of the passengers. the track led us around a beautiful lake (cud not get the name of the lake bcos we could not ask anybody - this place is absolutely uninhabited by human presence - strongly recommended for a 3 to 4 hour getaway.) Raghu took out his tripod and set up the SLR for a few scenic shoots.

Then resumed towards Bhimashankar. There was this other Tata Sumo just ahead of us and we were contemplating racing ahead of them but later dropped the idea and were content to follow a close second. Reached the place a good 3 hours and 30 shaken-up bones later, the Mansarovar MTDC resort was in sight. Drove into their driveway and saw the other sumo already parked there. The exteriors of the resort apperaed quite good but the restaurant looked like a dinghy canteen. The place was at an altitude of over 800 m and sunlight hardly touched the ground bcos of heavy shielding by the innumerable number of trees. Walked upto the reception and were in for a mild shock - there was only one room that was vacant abt 2 mins back and that room was just taken up by the people who appeared out of the other sumo. So much for getting away from the rat race !!!

So we asked around for other places to stay aroud and were told that abt 12 km back, there were a couple of private resorts. so we backtrailed and went back to a point on the road where there was a board that pointed towards sheer wilderness and said "Blue Mormons" Resort. Not having much choice, we decided to try this out and a 10 minute drive through a very dusty trail brought us to a big clearing with about 10 to 12 red colored cottages distributed over a square kilometer of grass and brush. The 5 of us checked into 2 rooms - one double and one triple room. By then it was 3.00 pm and the Kamats breakfast having reached its southernmost point in the alimentary canal, we were all ravenously hungry. A lunch that lasted for over an hour and we were on our way back to check out Bhimashankar.

The place takes its name from the Shiv temple there - one of the 12 Jyotirlings in India. (Dont ask me how Bhim fits in ? I dont know really !!) A temple of nearly the same looks and size as Triyambakeswar (another Jyotirling near nashik ) stood in front of us after a climb of 1.5 km over rough stone steps flanked on both sides by eateries and vendors selling photos, puja oferings, householdware, cassettes, sweets and stuff. Panting after the enervating climb, the Mumbai yuppies entered the premises and surrendered ourselves unto God !!
Well God is nondescript, it is said and any attempt to challenge this could be a felony and so we'll directly get to the point where we came out of the temple and asked how to get to Bombay Point.
Bombay Point is a hilltop that clears out in front of a big yawning valley. No matter how far sighted (pun intended) the person who named this place so, was, I am sure he could not have seen Bombay from there. But the rocky faces, the distant villages, looking like collection of dots are something that the uninitiated might admire. But for people who have seen Matheran's Panorama point, Mahabaleshwar's Arthur Point and Kalsubhai Shikhar, BS's Bombay Point was not even listed as an also-ran. And when you also factor the mild south-easterly breeze that carries with it the lovely stench of human faeces, the Mumbai yuppie reaches the conclusion that this place is definitely best avoided.

Not having attained much at Bhimashankar, the five morons made way to the Blue Mormons. It was very chilly out there abt 12'C and with a light breeze that ensured to bring home the point. Out with the glasses of vodka and the pack of cards and we had a good time bitching Citicorp (and the respective organisations presently working with).
BTW heard of this one ? Remebered when I mentioned the pack of cards. A game of cards is like sex, if u dont have a good partner, you really need a good hand !! Then we had a sumptous dinner (the Blue Mormons restaurant must have had the higest record sales that day.) Went up to the rooftop and gazed at the various stars on the sky (wondering which one had gone wrong for us). Still starry eyed we retired for the day.

Day2 .

Went for a early morning walk behind the Blue Mormons where the clearing opened up into a large valley. This valley was certainly better than the Bombay Point that we saw the previous evening. Had a brief photo session there.

Left for Shivneri Fort from Bhimashankar, broke for lunch at Junnar.
Shivneri Fort is abt 2 kms away from Junnar, an ancient fort ruins at a high altitude on top of a hillock. This fort is apparently the place where Shivaji was born. A tiring climb of about 20 mins brings you to the entrance of the fort. Here at this point the weary traveller has 2 choices -
Choice#1 - Climb up another 30 mins and go on top upto the ramparts There are some caves there near the ramparts. Raghu and Shashi chose #1.
Choice#2 - Squat on the steps and curse Citicorp. Maneesh, Sunil and myself chose choice#2.
An hour passed, we ran out of people to curse, still Raghu and Shashi aren't back. We were almost about to shift to more pleasant topics and actually say something nice when Thank God the twosome returned back with their cameras slung on their shoulders. I apologise that I cannot give more description about the Shivneri Fort , once the snaps taken by them come out, maybe I'll add back a bit here.
Then it was onto Shirdi. Our Sumo picked up a steady pace on NH5 , a big traffic jam near Sangamner delayed us a good deal (where we spent over an hour) and we would reach Shirdi only by 8.00 pm.
En route Maneesh started this game to pass the time-
Everyone has to take turns and then list down any one thing that you would have changed if you were given an opportunity to do so. We had 5 rounds of this.
Then a variation of this game - this time everyone states what is the foremost thing on top of his mind that he would like to do.
We were almost at the end of this wishful thinking round that we reached Shirdi.
Getting a good hotel within our budget seemed to be a very difficult job, saw more than 10 hotels before we settled for one @ 600 / doubleroom. The rooms were quite decent. But it was almost 9.15 pm then.
Maneesh, Raghu and Shashi went to have darshan that night itself whereas myself and Sunil preferred to rest that night and go fresh in the morning.

Day 3.
Early morning proved to be freezing cold for the Mumbai yuppies. With teeth clattering, we left for darshan, it took a hour and a half in the line before we could have darshan. We returned back to the hotel and had light breakfast.

It was GD time then. We had exactly a day and half to get back to Bombay. So was it worthwhile to go to Saputara now as per the original plan ? After a great deal of deliberations, it was finally decided to chuck the Saputara plan and go to Nashik and sack out at Shashi's uncle's bungalow there.
Now the problem was that he did not have the address of the bungalow.
A la mode,Treasure -hunt, we went around asking for "Draupadi" - the name fo thr bungalow. "Arre bhaisaab, aapko pataa hai kyaa ki Draupadi kahan hai ?"

Draupadi - when we finally managed to locate her was enchantingly beautiful. A beautiful lawn in front of her and a lovely terrace on the first floor above the front porch.
After a heavy lunch at Sai Palace where Screwdriver was served in the name of Singapore Sloan, we decided to play cricket on the soft grassy lawns. The absence of a basic cricket -kit did not deter us.
The club used for thrashing dirty linen had to substitute for a bat and we were really lucky to find an actual rubber ball. A piece of hard ply served as the wicket.

Game No 1. It ws called number-number where everyone gets a chance to bat and the no of balls touched by the wooden stick would b the bumber of runs. The grass was soft and velvety and and everyone instantly wanted to be Jhonty Rhodes diving for easy catches that did not require more than a mere lean.
Game No 2. We played team-team where the scoring pattern was different- the left and the right boundary walls served as a 2 run mark and the boundary straight ahead was a 4. Trapping someone half volley was out and all direct hits that went outisde the compound wall were out.

After a tiring 3 hours of cricket, we changed and decided to explore "Nashik by night". Night life at Nashik is worse than what you can get at Mahape Naka, TTC. There are no pubs, no discos, there was a movie theatre accidentally created by someone - screening Chocolat. But not everybody was in the mood for a movie then. So we decided to get back to Draupadi and spent the night playing cards.

Day 4.
Next day we awoke with arms, legs and shoulder aches because of our Jhonty escapades in the cricket grounds and our Sumo ride. We decided to leave back for Mumbai somewhat late morning hours and stopped at Manas Resort (Igatpuri) for lunch. The resort is a beautiful place and we thought on hindsight, it would have been great had we spent all the 3 days of the getaway there itslef. A lovely swimming pool, a mini-bird sanctuary, a lotus pond and a choice of 2 restaurants make the resort a great place. Clear crisp air and the beautiful hills around make it a difficult place to leave.

Another 2 hours drive from Manas Resort gets one into the city limits of Mumbai and we realised it was back to office in another 12 hours or so. As the day passed handing over the baton to the night, we re-entered the sordid black heartedness of the corporate world again.