First of all, let me wish all of you in Blogosphere a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I've been unable to post a blog or even visit all of my favourite blogs in quite a while now. And that's because I was completely swamped by work. But now a project has just gotten over, and I feel free! I won't be for long is my guess, but I'm gonna try and make the most of it! :D
This New Year's weekend I went to Mahabaleshwar with three of my friends, J, N, and P. This has got to be the best New Year's I've ever had! Till now all I'd ever done was sit in front of the TV with my parents and get bored out of my brains! And I felt that I just have to celebrate my first year of financial independance in style! :)
All of us at office were sitting and wondering what we could do on New Year's eve, when J stated that she wanted to get away from the Mumbai crowds. I jumped at the idea at once. Then we had to decide where exactly to go. A lot of places were thrown up like Matheran, Lonavla, but we finally decided to go to Mahabaleshwar. I had been to Mahabaleshwar when I was in school, and had fond memories of the place, memories that invovled eating fresh strawberry icecream and corn patties! :D So I was quite excited to go back there.
P booked rooms in a guest house for free (I was extremly pleased about that!!) and I booked the bus tickets to Mahabaleshwar.
28th December, D Day arrived and I was terribly excited! What I did not know was how adventurous this trip was going to be!
Anyway, our bus was supposed to leave at 10:30 at night, so we had all decided to meet at J's home, as she stayed closest to the pick up point, which was in Chembur (an area in Mumbai). So all of us reached Chembur by about 10:00 PM. We waited for our bus, and waited, and waited, and waited some more. It was about 10:45 and there was still no sign of our bus. We went to the bus counter repeatedly and asked them when the bus would show up. The guy there kept on saying that it was late.
It was about 12:00 AM now, and the bus had still not come. Most of the shops had closed down, and everybody else around us had boarded their respective buses and gone. And there we were, four girls, sitting on our bags on the pavement in the middle of the night! J and P then went up to the guy and demanded to know what was going on. Even he was left scratching his head, and stated that the bus was never so late. He then called up the Dadar office, from where this bus was supposed to have started, and also called up the bus driver. The bus driver said that they had completely bypassed Chembur and were on their way to Vashi, a distant suburb in Mumbai. And he told us to go to Vashi to catch the bus! We were like, "What the @#%$?! is going on??!" We would now have to catch a taxi to get to Vashi. The man at the counter assured us that we would be refunded the taxi money.
Just a while ago J had mentioned that she had never been to Vashi, and wanted to visit it sometime, well she got her wish alright! LOL!!
We then caught a taxi, whose driver first said that he had no idea where exactly the place was in Vashi where the bus would be stopping. We looked at each other and just hoped that we would be able to find the place. We were in a hurry, but the cabbie decided that he just had to fill up his tank at that very moment. Don't know what he was doing before, when he was parked on the road side!
Anyway he filled up while we fumed and told him to hurry up. And after the tank was filled, suddenly a light dawned in his mind, and he said that he knew exactly where the bus would stop!
We reached Vashi at about 12:45, and got down near some bus stops. There were hardly any people around, and we could see a lot of creepy men standing around. So after P fought with the the guys at the bus counter to get re-embursed for the taxi fare, all of us stood near the bus stops. We must have waited for about 10-15 minutes and boarded our bus at about 1:10-1:15 AM! All I wanted was to sleep. But I knew from previous experience that I could never really sleep in a bus, and would be semi-conscious at the best.
"Apna Sapna Money Money" was being played in the bus, and save a few scenes that were chuckle worthy, most of the movie was quite yucky! But I must say that Ritesh Deshmukh does make a pretty girl! LOL!
Anyway, I tried to go to sleep, but these two women sitting behind would not shut up! They kept on chatting with some man behind them till 3:00-4:00 AM, and I was really ticked off!
We reached Mahabaleshwar at 6 in the morning. It was pitch dark outside and really, really cold! A taxi guy saw us and hurriedly put our bags in his car and took us to the guest house. He dropped us off at the gates of the guest house, which was on this desolate stretch of road. The entire place looked like a scene out of a spooky movie. On one side of the road there was this forest, and on the other we could barely make out the outline of a big forbiding looking bunglow beyond the gates. I just wanted to get inside and escape from the darkness and freezing cold.
P tried calling the caretaker of the guest house and after a few mistrials caught him at last. J then tried pushing the gates, and we realized that it hadn't been locked at all!
We were then met by an old woman who was bathed in the yellow glow of light emanating from the room behind her. How Hitchcockian could it get? :))
We were then taken to a room, where N and I collapsed on the beds. So J and P decided to take the other room that was booked for us. We slept till about 8 o'clock and got up to freshen up.
The tourist guide attached to the guest house then came calling, and we fixed up the schedule for the next 3 days.
We decided to visit Pratapgad Fort first.
We hired a guide there, Umesh, who claimed to be a descendent of a soldier from Shivaji's army. He sure was passionate about the fort and its history. He explained every aspect of it in detail. He was much better than any boring history book that I had read. The fort was quite fascinating, and we climbed up and down some 400 odd steps. Our friend, N, is rather short, so she had some trouble climbing up really high steps, but she sure did conquer them all! :))
Pratapgad fort is made up of rock, lime (chuna), milk and jaggery, and most of the structure is still standing tall!
The views from the the fort were quite amazing, rolling green hills everywhere!
There was this really interesting tunnel there. According to Umesh, if enemies ever entered Pratapgad, the army would escape through this tunnel, and sneak up and attack the enemy from behind.There was a short staircase that lead down to the tunnel after which there was a steep drop down the hill.
These people sure did lead an exciting life!
The last point that we visited there was the Punishment Point, from where criminals were thrown off into the valley below, wrapped in gunny sacks. I contemplated throwing some people off of there too! Hehe!
Opposite Punishment Point is a staue of Shivaji that was installed by the government..
After climbing up Pratapgad, we returned to Mahabaleshwar and had our lunch in the market. The guest house that we were staying in did not serve any food, so we had to have all of our meals in the Mahabaleshwar market. We ate at this place called Tinkler's (God knows why!) at least 3 times, and each time they insisted on playing songs from "Vivaah" and "Jaan-e-man"! So we heard "Mujhe Haq Hai" while eating breakfast and also during dinner! :D
When we got back to the guest house all of us were so sleepy that we decided to have a quick nap and then walk out to the market again for dinner. The quick nap stretched into 3-4 hours and I awoke at about 7:00 in the evening. We then decided to go to the market, which was a 15 minutes walk from our guest house. It was awfully dark outside with not a single street light in sight. As I'd mentioned earlier, the stretch of road on which the guest house lay is quite desolate, and in the darkness it just appeared more foreboding. Somehow we did make it to the market place.
After dinner on our way back (we decided to go back in a taxi) N suggested that we should get ourselves a small bottle of vodka to help us (ahem!) keep warm! ;)
So that night we played a few rounds of UNO and had vodka heavily diluted with Sprite and Limca. And contrary to popular belief, I did not get drunk!!! :p
We had a lot of fun gossiping about people we knew, and also people whom we didn't know that well! I've not laughed so much in a really long while! :)
Thus our first day in Mahabaleshwar came to a delightful end! And I will continue our further exploits in my next blog.