Riding on the clouds – Panchgani

My first visit to Panchgani (and Mahabaleshwar) was also my first real ride on my new Motorcycle, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. This was back in 2004 and I still remember the planning I put in for that. Of course, I was new to Pune and didn’t know anything about any highway around the city and this was my first trip out of the city. My planning was almost flawless.

Considering that Panchgani is just about 100 kms from Pune, the planning was overkill, but its better to be prepared than Sorry, right ?

A ride to Panchgani has almost become a thereupatic session for me now. I go to Panchgani whenever I want to escape the maddening city crowds (Although, it doesn’t really help when, on a long weekend, Panchgani is swamped with tourists from across the state) and the monotony of office life.

A trip to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar during the monsoons is a plus. Fabulous views and awesome weather (if you like the rains). The small town covered with monsoon clouds looks absolutely stunning.

The Route

To save all you readers the planning, here is the gist of it. Panchgani is about 105 kms from Pune. Take the NH4 (Pune – Satara – Bangalore) highway out of Pune. Cross the katraj and khambatki ghats and about 85 kms from Pune you’ll see a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it signboard directing you to a right turn on the highway towards Panchgani.

From here on the nice and broad national highway gives way to a small and winding state road which passes through a small town called Wai, before climbing up the Panchgani ghats. The road is well maintained all the way and you’ll be hard pressed to find a pot hole even in the worst of the monsoon season.

As an aside, considering the amount of rain this part of the country gets, I wonder how our municipal council leaders even have the cheek of blaming the monsoons whenever they’re questioned about the bad quality of the roads in our cities.

Places to Stay

Panchgani has lots of options to suit every budget. My wife and I usually stay at the Eco-camp whenever we visit and if we’re there during the rainy season, than Hotel Mountview it is.

Camping has never been more fun or convenient – Eco-camp provides the bare essentials of modern living and the thrill of camping. Our visits to this place have always been delightful. It has a couple of spacious tents neatly setup on a cliff, over looking the most spectacular view of the valley. They have family tents which accomodate 8 people and small two person tents also. The tents also have electric points good enough for plugging in the mosquito repellant or mobile chargers. The loos are cubical type, clean and with hot water available.

The best part about the place is the Barbeque area/ bonfire (wood and stuff was provided), so it’s a good idea to bring some marinated stuff. The tariff is about Rs.150 per head. (02168-241164 meg_andre@hotmail.com, ask for Megan).

Don’t miss the sunset, when you’re there.

Another great place to stay is Hotel Mountview. Words from a friend of ours “Hotel Mountview  -Khambatta’s Garage – the most awesome’est place to be at, in Panchgani …. Parsi out of this world food, a view to die for and much much more…Anyone whose been there can vouch for this :)”. Again its not very expensive & a lot of fun. I can assure you of good food, which is included in the tariff (about Rs 800/day).

Panchgani is known for the many british style boarding schools and the excellent strawberries, not in the same order, of couse 🙂

Drive down a couple of kilometers from the town towards Mahabaleshwar and you can have a lovely Lunch at the Mapro farm. The cheese sandwiches, pizzas and strawberry creams are out of this world. Don’t forget to buy some fresh Jam and syrups for yourself.

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