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Trek to Lohagad Fort

July 5, 2014 1 comment

Monsoon season is invariably the trekking season, so we decided to head to Lohagad Fort for our 2nd trek of the season. We started a bit late this time; at around 7:30 AM and reached Bhaje village at 8:30 AM. We planned to park our car at Bhaje village and trek to Lohagad; however if you wish you may drive all the way to Lohagadwadi (Base of Lohagad Fort). Distance between Bhaje village & Lohagadwadi is around 4 KMs. Don’t worry on the parking front as there is ample parking space; at Lohagadwadi as well as at Bhaje village.

As we walked from the Bhaje village towards Lohagad, we could see the Visapur Fort on left and the Lohagad fort on the right. The Bhaje Caves are also on the same road; just take the steps on left as soon as you start from Bhaje village. As you walk on the tar road, make sure you take the shortcuts to cut down on the distance.

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Bhaje Caves

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View of the Visapur Fort.. on way to Lohagad Fort

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View of the Malavali village

It will also give a decent opportunity for birding as you make way through lovely greenery. After covering around 2-3 KMs, you reach a junction where in a left will take you to Visapur Fort and right leads to Lohagad. There is an open space for parking at this junction as well. Walk for another 1 KM and you reach Lohagadwadi. There are a lot of hotel here, serving Zunka Bhakri, Rice thali, Chicken thali and so on. Strangely the cost was on the higher side; in my past experiences at Sinhagad and Karnala, food was priced very well.

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Temple at Lohagadwadi

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Lohagad Fort – Sign board

The steps of the fort start from this point. Another 30-45 minutes and you will be atop the Lohagad Fort. It does give some beautiful views of Dudhiware, Pawna Lake, and the Visapur Fort. Also, don’t miss the Vinchu Kata. Its the highlight of this fort and lives up-to the hype.

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Macro shot from Lohagad fort

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Vinchu Kata

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Vinchu Kata.. another view

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The entry door at the top of Lohagad fort..

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View of Pawna lake.. from Lohagad Fort

We were all prepared considering the raining season, but there was not a single drop of rain 😦 . Thankfully the weather was overcast most of the times, but it did get hot and tiring while returning.

No trip of mine is complete without birding; there was hardly any activity but I did come across the beautiful Malabar Whistling-thrush and the jungle bush quails! The Malabar Whistling-thrush comes pretty close to White-rumped Shama in terms of voice.. very melodious indeed. The way to the fort was pretty much buzzing with its melodious voice.. We also saw the commoners like White throated kingfisher, Bulbuls, Indian blackbird and Jungle babblers.

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Jungle Bush-quails

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Malabar Whistling-thrush

Malabar Whistling-thrush

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Jungle Babbler

 

How to reach: 

We took the old Mumbai Pune highway and drove upto Kamshet. As soon as you cross Kamshet, you need to take a left to Malavali Railway Station. Once you cross the railway line, you drive along; cross the express highway and follow the road. The road shall take you Bhaje Village. You can rely on Google Maps; just search for Malavali, select the Old Mumbai-Pune road option.. and follow the route..! Total time from Pimple Saudagar to Bhaje Village is roughly around 1 hour 15 mins.

Happy trekking!

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Trek to Sinhagad Fort

June 22, 2014 Leave a comment

With rain god ready to drench Pune with rains, it was the perfect time to go on a trek. After checking the weather forecast (Don’t rely on it too much though 😛 ), we decided to go on an early morning trek to Sinhagad. We arrived at the Sinhagad foothills village – Avtar Wadi where we parked our car. If anyone is not interested in the trek, one can drive right upto the top by taking a left Danje Gaon junction. However I would definitely suggest to trek as the distance it relatively less, and more ever its a superb experience.

Coming back to the trek, we started at around 7 AM from the foothills. Looking at the peak it does seem to be a task but as you keep walking, you realise how far you have come and there is that much less to cover.. We trekked taking quite a no. of breaks and at leisure and still managed to reach top in 2 hours. There are lot of places to rest along the way and there are small tapris who serve thrist quenchers like nimbu pani, Kokum sarbat and various types of fruits.

View of the village after covering 1/4th of the trek..



The trekking path

About to reach the top.. 😀

Refreshments on way..

Refreshments on way..

Sinhagad Fort Map

Sinhagad Fort Map

Once we were at the top, we realised how much crowded it was; probably because most of the people drive up-to the top.. We roamed on fort for couple of hours and saw few points (Zunzhar Buruj, Dev taki, Rajaram Maharaj samadhi, Kalyan Darwaza, Kalavantin Buruj), and then decided to lunch.. Whenever you go to Sinhagad, never miss out on the Pitla Bhakri, Vangyacha Barit, Kanda Bhaji and the best of them all.. Matka Dahi..! After having a sumptuous lunch, we rested for a while and started our way back. Climbing down was relatively less tiring but had to be extra cautious due to the loose gravel at some points; hence time taken was almost the same.

Matka Dahi.. Best desert..

Yo Whats up? 😀 

Oh, yes.. I did clicked few birds.. and couple of new ones as well. Especially the beautiful Crested Bunting and a lovely pair of Peregrine Falcons (Juveniles). So here are the birds I managed to click during the trip..

Spotted Dove

Red Vented Bulbul

 

Yellow Eyed Babbler

Peregrine Falcons.. lucky to spot them!

Red Whiskered Bulbul

The beautiful Crested Bunting!

Drive to Pawna lake

June 18, 2014 1 comment

I was wondering if I could explore a new place on Sunday and decided to go to Pawna lake. I haven’t read much about Pawna from birding perspective so thought of taking a chance. We started at around 6:30 am and it started raining like cats & dogs. I just dropped the idea of birding and thought we would just drive through and come back.

We entered the road to Pawna lake in another 40 mins and I could see the sky clearing up. I just hoped the sun came out, and it did!.. We saw lot of Baya Weavers.. such beautiful sights. These small yellow birds do look really beautiful. Driving a little further, I also saw couple of Eurasian Oriole.. but couldn’t capture due to poor light.. We drove adjacent to the Pawna lake, very picturesque indeed!

Mountains amongst the cloud.. on way to Pawna lake

Mountains amongst the cloud.. on way to Pawna lake

 

As we drove further, I heard lot of chirping on a turn; so I decided to explore the bushes next to the road and I couldn’t have been more lucky. I saw atleast 11-12 jungle bushquails.. Luckily I was able to snap a couple of record shots. We went all the way to Dudhiware and then returned back. On way back we saw egrets, swallows, white breasted waterhens and bulbuls..

On way to Paud phata from Pawna nagar.. lovely roads..

On way to Paud phata from Pawna nagar.. lovely roads..

How to reach
We started from Pimple Saudagar and took the old Pune-Mumbai road. Just after you cross the 1st toll, you will get a crowded area where in you need to take a left and keep going on this road (Parandwadi Road). There are sign boards as well. Just make sure you don’t take a right at a junction which say Hinjewadi. Best is to ask locals about Pawna dam and they will guide you. As soon as you reach Pawna nagar (40 kms from pimple saudagar), you will be able to see the dam. From here you have 2 choices, if you go right.. You will reach paud phatta.. Joining the Mulshi road. If you stay on left, you drive adjacent to the pawna lake.. Thats what we did and drove all the way till Dudhiware (10 km from Pawna Nagar). While coming back, we came to pawna nagar, and took the right to reach Paud phatta, and back to pune via Bavdhan. Both the roads are pretty good, except for few odd patches.. Best part about the Parandwadi road is that we could not find any buses plying on it.. So its pretty calm and picturesque all the way..

Here are the birds are I was able to capture during the drive..

Black Shouldered Kite

Shikra

 

Red Vented Bulbul

Red Vented Bulbul

Baya Weaver

Baya Weaver

Trip to the Nilgiris: Mudumalai – Ooty – Coonor

May 5, 2014 Leave a comment

A trip to Bandipur forest was long time due, and we finally planned one. We started early morning from Bangalore (6:00 AM) for the Bandipur forest. 1st halt was at Mysore for breakfast at around 8:00 AM. As we approached Bandipur forest we noticed the drop in temperature. We crossed the Bandipur National Reserve at around 10:00 AM and were greeted by a herd of deers and lot of peacocks and few wild tuskers. It is a beautiful drive through these forest reserve areas as the weather is pleasant even at noon and roads are super smooth. Soon enough we were are the Karnataka-Tamilnadu border and we entered the Mudumalai forest reserve [It’s the same forest reserve across Karnataka (Bandipur), Tamilnadu (Mudumalai) and Kerala (Nagarhole)].

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Spotted deers.. just as we entered Bandipur Sanctuary

We passed through Masinagudi town as we had booked a place called Jungle Retreat. Their website talked about a lot of flora and fauna and we were surely not to be disappointed. The only disappointment was food (food was pretty good but overpriced – around 450 rupees per person per meal) as one cannot bring food from outside to the resort. The reason they gave is that food in rooms attracts rodents, rats and so on which was very valid reason. We reached the resort at around 1:00 PM and came across a Blue faced malkoha and Tickell’s blue flycatcher. That was indeed a good welcome: D. We had booked a double tree house and surely that was one awesome experience. Anyone planning a trip to jungle retreat should stay at the treehouse for a day. It’s a completely different experience. We had our lunch and as we made our way to the treehouse, this time we were greeted with a hail storm followed by heavy rains which further cooled down the weather.

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Indian Peafowl

So 1st on the list was the safari – we hired a Jeep safari organized by Jungle retreat wherein they drove us through village roads in the evening. We managed to see few species of birds and as we were returning we saw wild dogs and a sloth bear. During dinner, the Jungle retreat guys gave a presentation on different flora and fauna in the area which was pretty good. Next on the list was a bird watching walk which started early morning at 6:30 on next day. Some of the birds we saw were Malabar Parakeet, Brown fish owl, Plum headed parakeet, long tailed shrike, Hoopoe, Shama and few more. As the walk ended we came across a beautiful Malabar giant squirrel.

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Blue faced Malkoha

 

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Malabar Giant Squirrel

 

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Long tailed Shrike.. also known as the “Butcher Bird”

We were lucky to have Mr Rajkumar as our guide who is an ornithologist himself. Immediately after the walk he took us on a safari to identify more birds where we saw spotted owlet. We had booked the treehouse only for a day and then we moved into a cottage in resort itself. We again went on a jeep safari but this time on the main road. We saw Indian bison, sambar deer, woodpeckers, crested hawk eagle and few more. We would also like to mention about Jungle retreat staff for being helpful and knowledgeable. All in all it was a lovely stay at Jungle retreat. We tried to get a jeep safari at Bandipur (Rupees 1350 per person) but it was unavailable. If anyone is planning for a Bandipur Jeep safari, see if you can book the same in advance. However, there is Bandipur safari in a canter which is available for 300 rupees per person.

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Changeable Hawk-eagle

 

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Spotted Owlet

 

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Malabar grey hornbill

 

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Plum headed Parakeet

 

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Small Minivet

 

Next day early morning we started for Ooty, as we wanted to go to Avalanche Lake. We reached at around 10 and came to know the Avalanche catchment area safari was full. So we decided to go to the lake and spend some time there. The Emerald lake and Avalanche lakes are a must visit if you happen to go to Ooty.

 

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The beautiful Avalanche Lake

 

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View on way to Ooty

 

Finally the trip ended as we drove from Ooty via Coonor to Tirupur. All in all, a wonderful trip to the Nilgiris. Thanks to Alton and Shyam for planning and sticking to the “sure plan” :D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Mahableshwar and Panchgani

April 7, 2014 Leave a comment

A bike trip was pending since a long time and finally I planned one. We decided to head to Mahableshwar over the long weekend, thanks to Gudi Padwa. It was scorching heat in Pune and Mahableshwar / Panchgani seemed to be the ideal destination for a good weekend break provided it was cooler, and fortunately it was.

We started from Pune (Pimple Saudagar) at approximately 5:30 AM. Super wide and smooth roads ensured I was able to consistently maintain speeds around 90-110 kmph on my bike. 2 hours continuous ride and I saw a KFC board but unfortunately it was to be opened only at 10 AM. So we took a half hour break to have breakfast just before taking the right turn from the highway towards Wai. As soon as we started our drive on the Wai- Panchgani road, we could feel the coolness in the weather. We headed straight to Mapro Garden for a 2nd round of breakfast which included the awesome sandwich & irresistible Strawberry with Cream (Never miss this.)

After relaxing for some time we decided to check-in into the hotel (Shivsagar Farmhouse in Panchgani). I have to mention that this place is complete value for money. The suite room is super spacious, the staff is very friendly and the food is delicious. What else do you need.., oh yes, they have a strawberry farm of their own too!

Afternoon time we relaxed at the farmhouse and start to explore the points at Mahableshwar. Most of them are kind of commercialized now with lot of shops and hawkers. Following are some of the points we covered:
– Kate’s point
– Elephant’s head point
– Lingamala falls (There was no water in Mar)
– Parsi point
– Babington point
– Wilson point (Famous for Sunrise)
– Mumbai point (aka Sunset point)

We had booked the farmhouse only for 1 night, and for the next day we had booked a tent at Terra Camp. We started our journey to Terra Camp from Shivsagar Farmhouse at around 9:30 AM. The roads were small with a very picturesque view of the Ghats so we kept driving for around an hour when we got a feeling of being lost. We reached a lovely spot where it was a small road, just enough to for one car to pass with valleys on both sides. Finally we thought of turning back only to realise we had one turn pretty early in our journey. Thanks to absence of signboards. Soon we got onto the right track and reached Terra Camp. It is speciality lodging site where-in you get to stay in tents. We spent entire time exploring the areas around the camp and relaxing. I would have loved to spend couple of days at Terra Camp rather than visiting the points at Mahableshwar. It has a lot to offer in form of treks and other activities. It’s a different experience altogether. Next day early morning (6:00 AM) we started for Pune, capturing the beautiful sunrise on way back.

Following are some snaps captured during the trip:

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The means of transport 😀

 

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Sunset point.. also known as Mumbai point

 

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View from Elephant’s point

 

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Elephant’s point

 

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The must have! – Strawberry with Cream.. at Mapro

 

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Sunrise @ Panchgani

 

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Lovely Landscape

Categories: Travel

Trip to Ranthambore, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi

February 7, 2014 Leave a comment

One of the best things about friends getting married is that you get to travel / visit new places. So this time our friend’s marriage was in Delhi, which gave me and my group of friends a chance to plan a trip to north. So as the title suggests, we planned a trip to Ranthambore, Jaipur, Agra and finally Delhi.

Day 1: We boarded train from Mumbai in evening and reached Kota early morning at around 3:30 AM. And yes, we did not miss-out on “Kota ki Kachori”.

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The super tasty.. Kota ki Kachori!

We boarded another train to Sawai Madhopur in couple of hours and reached Sawai Madhopur at around 7:30 AM. Another 30 minutes’ drive in rickshaw and we reached our resort (Tiger Safari Resort). The resort is good but food is highly overpriced. Our schedule was packed so we quickly got fresh and hired a jeep to Ranthambore fort. It is a good enough fort for one time visit, beware of the monkeys though. We were able to see few peacocks, spotted deers, sambar deers, and crocodiles on the way.

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Ranthambore Fort

Post lunch we headed for the Jungle Safari, which was an open jeep safari. Luckily we got a very good guide who himself was very much interested Flora and Fauna and kept giving us information about the jungle, helping a spotting different animals and so on through-out the safari. Ranthambore being a tiger reserve, obviously all of us were keen to see a glimpse of tiger in the wild. The guide took us right on the top of peak in the jungle (Kudos to the driver here – what a drive it was through the Jungle).

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Entry gate

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As the Ranthambore Safari begins!

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Crocodile

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Ranthambore Safari

 He was continuously looking out for signals (Alarm call) for tiger, asking other safari jeeps as we crossed them but none had come across a tiger. We were almost disappointed and just when the safari was about to end, he heard an alarm call. The driver quickly manoeuvred the gypsy to the desired location, and there it was. Finally we got to see a tiger. We were pretty satisfied with the view we got from around 100 meters away. But our guide was pretty sharp and kind of knew the path the tiger may take. We moved another location and waited there patiently. And the wait paid off. Now the tiger was sitting right in front of us (around 20-30 meters!). To add to it, it got up and walked right past our jeep. This was one moment none of us are ever going to forget. It was surely once in a lifetime moment. All we discussed on the way back was how royal the tiger was!

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Spotted Deers

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Bengal Tiger..! Royal indeed. A moment to be cherished for life!

Day 2: Early morning, we hired a cab to Jaipur. Following are some of the places we saw in Jaipur:
– Jal Mahal (Must see in late evening, looks beautiful when lit up)
– Amer Fort (Huge fort, need at least 4-5 hours to explore)
– Jaivana ( One of the biggest Canon)

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Amer Fort

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Jaivana

Day 3: Now it was time for Agra, so obviously the Taj Mahal. The drive to Agra was beautiful and on the way we visited Buland Darwaza in Fatehpur Sikri. Beware of the guides here as they don’t know much. Google provides more info. :D. We had our lunch in Agra – tried Laal Maas at Sai Khandelaa. It was super delicious and made my day but no, something more was in the waiting – Taj Mahal. I never expected to be so beautiful. Now I know why it is such a master piece. For people who think it’s no big deal, you have to visit it atleast once in a life time.

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On way to Agra

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Taj Mahal

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Buland Darwaza

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View from Taj Mahal

Day 4: Finally we reached Delhi. The wedding was late in the evening so we took the day time to spend some time at the Lotus temple. We lunched at Oh! Calcutta and thankfully one of my friend is a Bengali who ensured I got to try the best Bengali dishes (Non-veg ofcourse :D). Cheers to you Jabu!. And lastly the grand wedding – Cheers to you Amol and Chhavi. Have a lovely life ahead.

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Lotus Temple

This trip was all about the tiger – Akash. Yes, all tigers are named. A trip we will never forget. A special mention to friends; Akash for keeping us entertained throughout the journey with the Mahabharata story 😀 and to Sachin for his awesome Sony Hx50v camera. Good things do come in small packages :P.