The Temple in the middle of nowhere!
Monsoons in Mumbai, actually, the whole of Maharashtra is magical! It rains everyday and once you get used to traveling with a raincoat & umbrella… you just enjoy the showers, which come as they please and stay as long or short as they wish! So when a friend invited us for a group picnic trip to Lonavala, I was all game!
When the D-day arrived, I got up early, prepared my toddler son, packed some snacks and went to the meeting point. My friends with their spouses were already there. The mini bus which was supposed to ferry us was running late but that couldn’t dampen our spirits. My son was the only toddler in the group, the other kid being a friend’s 6 year old, sweet daughter who was in awe of my son. We were still excited about the trip when the bus finally arrived about an hour late!
We set out towards Lonavala having breakfast of Vada-Pav and Chai on the move… when it started drizzling lightly. The view on the way was breath-taking… hills and mountains of all shapes and sizes standing high in their lush green attire, covering their heads in grey-white scarves made of beautiful clouds! They were adorned by falls and rapids that looked like mystic jewellery made of flowing liquid silver.
After a journey of about 2 hours through tunnels and snake-like roads embracing the mountains we finally entered Lonavala where some formalities (paying some sort of a tourist toll) were completed. Overjoyed to have made it to our destination, we could hardly wait to dismount the vehicle and run out but alas disappointment awaited us! The roads were jammed with overflowing vehicles as it was a holiday and it seemed the whole of Mumbai decided to take a trip to Lonavala. The men got down to find out possible solutions. They returned with the bad news – we would have to walk about 2km – 3km to reach the view points as it was not possible for our bus to take us there anytime soon. With 2 kids and a lot of lazy picnic goers – we decided this was not possible!
So we asked our driver to keep driving… we left behind the main view-points of Lonavala and the scenery once again changed to resemble the ones we had witnessed earlier. As we moved a little ahead we realized it was well past lunch time and everybody was hungry. We alighted at a place called Kinara Dhaba. Once we were inside we rediscovered our excitement! It was a pretty place that was made up like a small village – complete with Bullock-carts, camels, hens, birds of different kinds and several types of sitting arrangements that emanated a real village ambience.
We selected a charpai set-up which had a huge round table in the middle. The whole group fitted in magically in the large set-up. The food was warm and tasty and the cocktails were befitting the drizzly day but what was absolutely lip-smacking was the jalebi with rabri. After multiple repeat-servings when we were absolutely full, we posed for group photographs and let the kids enjoy a brief camel ride! Soon we were back in the bus moving ahead in full speed towards nowhere.
After driving for about 15 minutes I saw the place… it was a cluster of small hillocks in multiple levels on top of which stood a small hill, the pinnacle of which was adorned by a small age-old temple. My heart skipped a beat – the whole setting was so picture perfect, it felt like a pop-out from a table-top calendar! I shouted… “I have found our picnic spot… look-out!”
After a small argument between the active members and the lazy ones, we stopped the bus and set out to trek to the temple in the middle of nowhere. It was windy and refreshing. The thick carpet of green grass topped by small white flowers was just perfect for our outing. May be it was the cocktail I had gulped or just my wanderlust… I lead the pack with my toddler on my hips. I climbed the first hill like it was a straight road… others followed, mainly worried for my son! Whatever the reason, once the trek was set in motion, people started enjoying the wind against their face. There were small rapids and streams which made the place look like a miniature film set! Cameras popped out of the bags and while I was breathing in the fresh wind, friends were taking photographs!
In no time, we reached the temple… although a little out-of-breath, the thrill was intact! Once on top, I turned back to an unexpected visual treat. The open sky formed a huge canopy under which lay small villages and roads – the view stretched 360 degrees making me realize how small we humans are in front of Mother Nature! Time for reflections was up soon as my friends joined me in the temple and we started taking photos. Soon it started raining heavily and the whole view changed to a complete white-wash. The whole group, including the kids stood in silent awe as we experienced enticing nature like never before… but the magic was soon over as the rain stopped and the pretty scenery was once again restored.
After spending a little more time playing games and running after crabs in the small streams that had formed after the rain, it was time to go back. But the trip had more in store for us… on the way back while we were driving downhill, our driver stopped at a point and we ventured out to a small stall where we had roasted corn, Masala Chai & Pakoda. After the evening snacks, we stepped out and peered at the scenery… far ahead stood the mountains embraced by small huts and houses… And I realized…. this is Lonavala… the real Lonavala – it looked like a doll-city which vanished suddenly when a curtain of silver clouds hijacked the visual and we went back to the bus for a cosy ride home!