Could there be anything better than starting your day with a fresh, hot butter dosa? We went back to KBR’s outdoor terrace for breakfast around 9:30 on Saturday morning and it was already about 90 degrees outside. The dosas were a welcome treat, as were the glasses of fresh watermelon juice. No…not a bad way to start, even despite the heat.
Because we didn’t want to completely fry ourselves, we opted not to go to the beach for the entire day. Instead, we would check out the Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary, said to be the home of the Giant Indian Squirrel. Giant squirrels? I’m totally there!
Phansad was not as easy to find as one would think a wildlife preserve would be. We again headed in the direction of Murud and our driver asked numerous pedestrians if they could show us the way. Eventually, we were directed up a rocky, dirt hill with tons of switchbacks. About 2 miles up at the top, we came to a sign for Phansad.
Now, we had actually been under the impression that the park was a bird sanctuary with some fluffy mammals thrown in. But the sign was decorated with pictures of migratory birds as well as leopards and tigers. I thought it highly unlikely that tigers were in the park; their numbers are dwindling rapidly. But I had read about leopard attacks around Mumbai. Thank god I didn’t read this little dispatch before we hit the trails, or I would have been pretty nervous.
Good news. You don’t have to go all the way down to Goa to find swimmable waters and clean beaches. Maharashtra’s Konkan Coast has some surprisingly nice beaches, too.
Faced with a long weekend, Anthony and I were desperate to get out of town for a little R&R. Not that I wouldn’t have minded chilling out at home for three days, doing a little shopping, getting my nails done, etc. But a little beach time also sounded heavenly. Unfortunately, Dussehra weekend crept up too quickly and we had no plans.
Air and rail travel to Goa was completely booked for the weekend and we knew a lot of people from work were heading down there, too. (Why would I want to spend even MORE time with co-workers if I don’t have to?) If we could get down there, we would have a place to stay, thanks to a friend’s very nice aunt who was reserving us a room with a coastal view. Alas, the Goa trip was not meant to be.
Serendipitously, we got a call around 7pm on Thursday night from our travel agent asking if we wanted to give Kashid Beach a try. He set up the lodging, food, and transportation for us. All we’d have to do is pack and be ready to leave by 7:30 on Friday morning. The price: about $200 for the whole weekend. Sounded like a plan!
We had the day off on Monday, so decided to take a day trip to Lonavala, site of some hill stations and the ancient Buddhist Karla Caves. Located about two hours outside of the city, Lonavala is for city folk one of the favorite weekend R&R points. So a trip on Monday was ideal; it meant less traffic (going, at least) and fewer tourists.
Unlike Matheran, another nearby hill station, Lonavala is located off of the Mumbai-Pune expressway, a relatively nice highway with a few rest stops along the way. We stopped about halfway there to refuel and have a little breakfast. I had a butter dosa (a rice pancake, no filling, served in conical form) and Anthony had wada pav, which is basically a spicy (cumin, fenugreek, chilis) potato patty served on a roll. An Indian burger, if you will. The three of us, our driver included, also had little cups of chai before we were on our way.
Over the weekend, we went to a hill station outside of Mumbai called Matheran. Indians like to travel to these hill stations high in the mountains to breathe in the fresh air and escape the heat of the city.
Matheran is the closest hill station to Mumbai. And, were the roads outside of town a bit better, we could have reached there in about an hour. Instead, it took about two hours, through suburban slums, past random socialist-era factories, and in the middle of the morning rush. Although we were traveling in the opposite direction from most of the buses and rickshaw-wallahs, traffic was pretty bad. We had to keep the windows rolled up in order to avoid inhaling a thick cloud of diesel fumes.