Mahabaleshwar in Rains

santanu

Active Member
Introduction

Our last long drive was in March to Tarkarli. So, we were getting bit restive for our next long drive. But my daughter is student of 10th standard ICSE and will appear for the Board Examination in 2020. Therefore, any longish road trip is out of questionWe were looking for a road trip for not more than 3-4 days’ duration. Finally, we decided to go for Mahabaleshwar at the time of Ganpati festival. Since, this would be our 4th visit to Mahabaleshwar in last 15 years, the idea was to make Mahabaleshwar base and to visit Kaas plateau and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. However, our plan got changed completely because of some unforeseen events and we spent our entire time in Mahabaleshwar only. Before getting into all those details, let me share some of the photos taken during the trip.

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santanu

Active Member
Day 1 (9th September)

It was raining incessantly in Mumbai or rather in entire Maharashtra for last 8-10 days prior to our date of journey, 9th September. So, I was trying to get the weather update of Mahabaleshwar. Whatever limited information was available on internet made it clear Mahabaleshwar was experiencing heavy downpour.

Our plan was to start in the afternoon after daughter returning from school. So, in all probability we would enter Mahabaleshwar in night. That was making me bit worried. Driving in hills in the dark in rainy season is risky and challenging.

To make things tighter, a problem cropped up with my vehicle just two days before the trip. The brake, though working properly, started emanating some sound whenever was getting applied. So, I had to take the vehicle to the service centre. The service centre examined the vehicle and told that rear brake discs have to be replaced. They did not have the spare. Next day was Sunday. They told that they would deliver the vehicle to my residence by 1 pm on Monday, the date of journey. So, our starting time became more tentative.

I was desperately hoping rather praying the rain to subside a bit on the date of our journey. But that was not the case to be. Weather condition remained same and heavy downpour started at 11 am.

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After multiple follow ups, the vehicle finally got delivered around 2.30 pm, a good ninety minutes beyond the promised time of delivery. We started for Mahabaleshwar around 3 pm from Goregaon East.

Getting out of Mumbai in any time of the day other than early morning is always an issue. This day also was not different. It took us around 60-75 minutes to reach Powai. Initially we took Aarey Colony road and humongous traffic jam immediately after entering Aarey Colony. Then as per the advice of Google Map, we took a right turn to get onto JVLR. But after making some progress, we got stuck on that road too. Fortunately, at the point where we got stuck, another road branched out towards Aarey Colony road. We took that road and got onto Aarey Colony road. Then onwards, the journey was relatively smooth up to Powai save and except some clogging just before entering Powai.

From Powai, our original plan was to go to Airoli and then to take Thane-Belapur-Panvel road. However, Google Map advised to follow Ghatkopar-Mankhurd-Vashi route. We obliged Google Map and with the hindsight, I think that was right decision. We reached Vashi around 5 pm without much problem.

By that time, I discovered the biggest problem which we continued to encounter throughout the trip. It seemed that the service centre did not do a problem job and the brake related problem, instead of getting addresses, had aggravated actually. The brake was taking time to respond and the vehicle was taking time to come to dead stop. It was already well past 4 pm. Identifying a reliable service centre and getting the brake rectified there meant complete change of our schedule. So, I started driving bit slowly maintaining a safe distance with the vehicle in front. The idea was to drive slowly and to reach the destination safely at whatever time it might take.

We touched Mumbai-Pune Expressway at 5.15 pm. Traffic reduced significantly. The driving became bit easier. At that time, there was no rain which helped the caused. I was maintaining a speed of 80kms/hr. The rain-soaked, green surrounding was looking beautiful. We were enjoying the drive albeit with some tension at the back of mind about the impending night drive on the hills in rain without a properly functioning brake.

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We reached Khalapur toll plaza at 5.45 pm and took a short coffee break at the food court immediately after Khalapur toll plaza. We resumed our journey at 6 pm. The ascent for Lonavala started and so did the rain.

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The rain intensified after Lonavala. Evening was approaching. Darkness was visible. The sky was hostage of the clouds. The hills and valley at both sides of the road were enveloped by various shades of green. Journey became the destination. It was a magical dusk.

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By the time we reached Pune, it was completely dark. Rain had stopped. Till Hinjewadi flyover, driving was not an issue. Things became bit trickier after that on account of heavy traffic. I was driving at a snail’s pace in order to maintain safe distance with the vehicle in front. Meanwhile, I gave a call to the service centre fellow and gave him a piece of my mind. The ordeal continued till Kothrud. After Kothrud, traffic got reduced. My job became bit easier. We crossed Khedshivpur toll plaza around 8.20 pm.

Post Khedshivpur toll plaza, there was absolutely no traffic. Road surface was smooth. So, I started putting pressure on the accelerator. From my earlier experiences of driving on this stretch of NH48, I had knew that there would be diversions at some places because of ongoing flyover construction work. That knowledge helped me to stay vigilant and to manage those diversions without much difficulty. Around 9.15 pm, we reached Surur. We left NH48 there and took right turn for Wai.

There we took a small break and had some snacks which we were carrying. By that time, I realized that the brake was working better when it was being applied alone and not in conjunction with the clutch.

Surur-Wai road was a single lane road. However, it was quite wide. Road surface was reasonably smooth. It was well past 9 pm. The road was more or less empty. I was comfortably driving at 30/40 km/hr speed.

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After covering around 10 km, we reached Wai and started climbing Pasrani Ghat. It was curvy but not too curvy. Road surface continued to remain trustworthy. The gradient of the road was acting as a natural brake.

As we were approaching Panchgani, the light from the valley deep down at the right side of the road was fading away. And the drizzle made a comeback. We reached Panchgani around 10.30 pm. The town was in deep sleep by then.

By that time, we had started receiving calls from parents as well as in-laws. We were supposed to give them call after reaching Mahabaleshwar. We were expected to reach by 9.30 pm. So, they were getting worried. We told them that we got delayed on account of bad road, traffic, rain and fog. We did not mention the issue of brake malfunctioning because that would made them more worried.

After Panchgani, the driving condition became considerably challenging. Drizzle took shape of rain. Clouds descended on the road with open arms to welcome us and thus caused poor visibility. Wind was blowing gusty. The smooth road gave away to a road dotted with potholes, rather craters..

We reached the entry toll collection point for Mahabaleshwar around 11 pm. There was no one to collect the entry toll on a windy and rainy night. Soon after, we crossed Venna Lake and then reached the T-junction of Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road and Satara-Mahabaleshwar-Pratapgad road. We took left turn from there. We book our accommodation at Club Mahindra Sherwood which was on Mahabaleshwar-Satara road. The condition of road worsened further. Later we realized that this road stretch was worst in entire Mahabaleshwar. Fog became denser. Headlight of the vehicle was reflecting from fog. Visibility was not more than few meters. What were there on both sides of the road even were not clear to us. We were blindly following Google map.

After somehow driving for around 3 km in that trying condition, Google Map advised us to take right turn for Club Mahindra Sherwood. There was no signboard or indicator. We were not being able to make out what was there in front from inside the vehicle. So, I got down from the vehicle and went few steps forward. It was a kuchha road. We had visited Club Mahindra Sherwood almost five years back. From that experience, I could make out that this kuchha road was indeed the approach way for Club Mahindra Sherwood. Finally, we reached our destination at 11.15 pm.

We quickly finished our entry formalities. They allocated a room which was at the outer periphery of the resort. We parked our vehicle in the nearby parking lot. Few other vehicles were parked there. One of the resort staff started transferring luggage from the vehicle to the room. While wife and daughter immediately went to the room to save themselves from the savage rain and wind, I kept standing alone in that enigmatic parking lot for few minutes to feel the rain, to feel the wind and to feel the fog. I was experiencing a different Mahabaleshwar.

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We drove ~ 286 km on that day. By the time we went to sleep, technically it was next day.
 
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