Unlike last time we booked our trip with bus agency for 700Rs (2 persons). Our reporting time was 00:15AM at Kharghar node but we were quite early then our reporting time 11:30 PM fearing we might not get a public transport to reach on time. We waited for our bus and waited, and waited and waited some more. It was about 00:30AM and there was still no sign of our bus. We gave a call to bus counter and asked them when the bus would show up. The guy there kept on saying that it was late and it just started from other side of Mumbai-suburbs.
It was about 01:00 AM and yet no sign of our bus. All shops had closed down and everybody else around us had boarded their respective buses and gone. And there we were, two sitting with bags on the pavement in the middle of the night. Phew! All along we were cursing ourselves and was thinking the difficulties we might have to face if we have to return home then at last at 1:30AM we did board the bus.
Well, this time we even booked our hotel beforehand with MTDC. One can check the availability; book the room of your choice from your own PC. The only trap is - pay heavy penalty if you change your mind at last moment. We booked for Krishna cottage for 1450 Rs per night. MTDC is located near the road to Pratapgad outside of the city center, the dwelling units are covered in thick greenery. The stretch of road on which the MTDC lay is quite desolate. The PWD guest house is adjacent to this resort, which is equally or rather more charming. Tourists of MTDC can walk into the PWD guest house, stroll and even have food at the PWD restaurant. One more beauty about the PWD bungalow is the sunset spot which we missed. The beautiful lawn in front of the PWD bungalow overlooks the whole ranges of Sahyadri, more importantly, there is no crowd here. Really, much better than Mahabaleshwar’s famous sunset spot. The lonely road is a good joggers’ track or one can enjoy the walk (inside) which is pleasant or can enjoy the backyard of cottage and you have an opportunity to listen to chirping of various kinds of birds. There are 30 cottages which is most beautiful part of this resort. This resort is heaven for nature lovers as shrouded in greenery. A great escape for those assaulted daily with the view of our urban jungles who really want to get stress relief. The trees sway in the wind the swishing sound engulfs you and makes you feel relaxed.
Since, we reached early morning we had an option of choosing cottage of our choice. We picked lucky 13 close to PWD guest house. The cottage rooms are quite spacious and have good clean big bathrooms as well. The rooms are equipped with television which is only useful in case you plan on staying indoors.
Not accustomed with nocturnal bus journey we were groggy. And moreover Santanu wanted to relax rather then rushing from one point to another. After having breakfast at PWD guest house we took a nap to recharge ourselves. With nothing better to do we set off for Panchgani, Pratapgarh and Wai at noon. Though Taxi wallah having fixed rate cards we bargained for 1000Rs for 3 places.
We started with Panchmari which derives its name from five hills that surrounds it. This trip includes Parsi point and tableland. Parsi point is famous for best view of Krishna valley down below. And table land offers the panoramic view of Panchgani itself. It's largest plateau in Asia, a small plane can land here. It is situated 60 meters high on the eastern side of the town. It protects Panchgani from strong winds, heavy rainfall and makes this hill station enjoyable all year round. It streches far beyond eye can see. On way we went to strawberry garden where you can buy all the fresh products available there. We bought strawberry jam.
From here we went to Wai, foothills of Panchgani ancient town with temples. It is believed Pandavas stayed here in disguise during their exile. Dolya Ganapati Temples on the bank of Krishna river are well preserved of their times.
After having late lunch we set off for Pratapgarh which is about 26 kilometeres from Mahabaleshwar on the opposite side of our first two destinations. This is the fort where the legendary confrontation between Shivaji and Afzal Khan took place and which saw Shivaji emerge victorious. At pratapgarh we hired a govt. recognized guide Satish for 80/- who was very informative and helpful for taking our snaps:-).He explained every aspect of it in detail. The fort was quite fascinating and we climbed up some 400 odd steps to enjoy the view from atop. There is a splendid view of the lush green valley and the forts Raigad and Makarandgad can also be viewed on a clear day. We were not lucky enough to have crystal clear weather rather it was hazy. On the east and the south the hills have steep slopes covered with dense forest in contrast with rocky west and the north. The hills gradually descend to the valleys separating Mahabaleshwar and Kineshwar range on the east and the Konkan valley on the west. We enjoyed sunset on our way back to Mahabaleshwar from one of the Shayadri range.
At twilight, we headed towards our cottage. Suddenly there was a strike in the city and all the shops were closed. This situation caught every visitor’s off-guard and everyone approached MTDC restaurant for dinner. Though tired and famished we had to wait for 2 hours - as small kitchen was not capable to handle such big volumes of orders in one evening. What a chaos it was. Oh GOD!!!