August 2020: My Facebook page opens to nostalgia. A friend posted a YouTube video of ‘Come September title song from the 1961 popular movie “Come September’. A memory revisited of adults and children ‘twisting’ (dancing) to the lilting music playing out from Gramaphones and radios. Searching Google for lyrics came across Natalie Imbruglia (Australian singer) song lyrics .
Gonna be all right
…a reassurance in todays scenario. Come September the famous song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-caUGE_iv6A
July morphed stealthily, surreptitiously and silently into August.. which in a lacklustre manner turned into September. There were fragments of exuberance during festivals .. Eid al-Adha (August 1), Rakshabandhan (August 3), Ganesh Chaturthi (August 22), Onam (August 31)… bringing limited edition smiles and hugs as they were zoom-i-fed into our hopes and beliefs. Hope Dusshera, Diwali and Christmas in forthcoming months can be celebrated in more joyous spirit.
The Rain: The morning caliginous sky envelops our Society and my chanting ‘Rain, Rain Go Away…I want to complete my 3000 steps for the morning” had no affect and the soaked clouds leaked incessantly. “Welcome to Pune’ my neighbour intoned. This is our first monsoon season in Pune, in fact rainy season in India after a long time. This year the ongoing Covid + connived with nature to make us stay in Pune, to revel in ‘the green city spaces draped in lush green vegetation with droplets shining on the leaves.’
The above frame is from 2019….the drive from Mumbai to Pune along the Western Ghats sometime in September.
Someone suggested “why don’t you drive towards the hill resorts of Lonavla, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani (town of Freddy Mercury of QUEEN fame) and surrounding areas to admire ‘rivulets streaming down mountain sides and crevices, waterfalls and dams, the verdurous ambience of the Western Ghats (mountain chain extending from western to southern India). “As the monsoons make their glorious entry in the Sahyadri Ranges that prominently run through the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, the clouds kiss the hills, sometimes making them invisible, as if in a soft white embrace. The series of enchanting hills that looked barren in summer are promptly adorned in a carpet of rich greenery with shimmering waterfalls dancing down their slopes’ https://pune365.com/vinitaspune-monsoon-magic-in-the-mountains-with-no-one-to-admire-it/
I am tempted but my husband is sceptical as Maharashtra state has the highest Covid tally in India and Pune with highest count in the country. The Western Ghat drives are eye-catching, we have driven in normal times, stopping midway at designated break points for a rest and wander. “Now where do we stop?”. These minor irritants are blocks that need to be worked out. And as of now we are happy to memorialise the drizzly tableau from our patio.
“It’s true, travel really does make you smarter, sexier and more interesting—and it’s not just about the suntan”. Along with above attributes I add Privileged as we have taken travel for granted flitting from place to place, often unmindful of natural resources and physical discomfort. Now on a compulsory pause I realise the damage caused and how known places suffered silently a ‘pandemic’ of tourists. A lesson learnt and can hope that the unknown, undiscovered places do not mutate into buzzing hubs as the holiday accommodation booking platform Booking.com points out.. “ Pristine, underdeveloped spots have become so rare, it’s logical that travellers will seek them out – especially now we’re all so aware of the distance that needs to be maintained between humans….”
At same time desperation is keeping pace with aspirations… such as the first hop-on, hop-off bus service from India to England set to depart Delhi in May 2021. Travel company Adventures Overland is calling the trip the “longest bus journey in the world” and is offering 20 people the chance to travel from Delhi to London by luxury coach. I can imagine long queues for horizon-hopping.
On a more prosaic level I think I will venture to sites closer home, within 100 kms, to revel in Monsoon magic. A few we have visited earlier and rest are on ‘must do’ list. If not 2020 then next year for the ‘monsoon’ flavor.
My rain check- list
Panchgani: This is a winter photo of our 2019 day trip to Panchgani famous for strawberries and verdant foliage. It is a popular hill station, located in the middle of five hills of the Sahyadris, for its farms, schools, tourist attractions and what I discovered… association with singer Freddie Mercury of Queen fame. Attractions: Parsi and Sydney Point, the Rajapuri caves nearby, Freddie Mercury’s school etc. Distance from Pune: 101 km
Mahabaleshwar: …A much visited and talked about hill station in Western Ghats range, south of Mumbai, with lakes, waterfalls, forts and elevated viewing points for short and long hikes and not to miss out temples: Attractions: Arthur’s Seat, Pratapgad Fort, Lingmala Waterfall cascading down a sheer cliff, Venna Lake, Dhobi Falls over Koyna River; the Koyna Valley trek, Chinaman’s Falls etc. Distance from Pune: 117.6 km, a 2 + hr journey.
Lonavala: The twin hill stations of Maharashtra, Lonavala and Khandala, are top favourites during monsoon and summer for the breathtaking supercalifragilisticexpialidocious* views and trekking facilities. The lakes, historic caves and forts, along with nature additions makes it a family pleasure spot. (*song and single from the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins ). Attractions: Sausage Hill, Tikona Fort and Tung Fort, Pawna Lake, Duke Nose, Bushy Dam, the popular majestic Kune Falls ( the14th highest waterfall in India). There are other falls such as Zenith Falls in Khopoli supposedly an awesome place to visit in heavy monsoon season along with a trek on the hills. Distance from Pune: 66.7 km for Lonavala (approx.1 hour) & 71 km for Khandala (approx. 1.5 hours)
Kamshet: A natural bird paradise and a refreshing day trip. Attractions: Explore Bheds, Karla, Bhairi etc. caves, Kondeshwar Temple. If into adventure trek to Lohagad. Distance from Pune: 48.9 km (approx. 1 Hour)
Mulshi: I have heard so much about Mulshi, the place to enjoy the rains, natural beauty and relaxing ambiance. If into hiking then trek across the forest for spectacular views of waterfalls and verdant valleys. Distance from Pune: 44.0 km (approx. 1.5 hours)
Rajmachi: Another water town popular for its waterfalls, streams and panoramic views of the Sahyadri Range and the forts. Distance from Pune 170.8 km ( 3 hours)
Lavasa: A touristy destination near Pune but somehow never found the time to visit. A Staycation would be ideal in present circumstances. Along with quintessentially monsoon weather there are activities like zip line, camping etc. water spots, Lavasa is located on shores of Lake Warasgaon. For more info check out..https://traveltriangle.com/blog/places-to-visit-in-lavasa. Distance from Pune 57 km. (approx. 2 hours).
Sinhagad…Well, I have been to Sinhagad but in Summer and when the road to the fort was under restoration. We did manage to reach the fort and the view of the surrounding hills and delicious Pitha Bakri sold by vendors in the bus and car parking spot compensated for the hiccups of arrival. One can trek from Katraj to Sinhagad and stop at the lovely Panshet Lake at Pavana dam. Distance from Pune37.6 km (approx. 1.5 hours)
Khadakwasla Dam and National Defence Academy. In 1971, on my first visit to Pune, Khadakwasla appeared far out of town. In 2020 it is within eye contact as Khadakwasla Dam (on Mutha River) is about 20 kms from the city.leisure place during monsoons. The other must visit is National Defence Academy, the prestigious armed forces training Academy for cadets. Permission is needed to walk inside to view the manicured premises.
Photos will be added once I visit these places.
For a Pune resident there is no dearth of choices. But before we jump onto the car wagon, no matter how tempting it is, check Covid requirements, follow recommendations of lockdowns and non-essential travel and medical advices from health organisations.Carry your own food and water and entertainment paraphernalia.
In the meantime I am reading WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (Della Owens) and find it sensitive, intense, intriguing with twisting dark shadows. I finally got the chance, thanks to Amazon starting book delivery in Pune.
The next two on my list are NORMAL PEOPLE (Sally Rooney) and NICKEL BOYS (Colson Whitehead).
To end on a cheerful note…😊