Monday, July 21, 2008

To Lion from Tiger point, Lonavala

Lonavala is one of the most famous and popular tourist spot in Western India amongst family and youths. Monsoon onwards (June) Lonavala hill station is swamped with people of different age groups. Thought Bushy dam of Lonavala is the hot spot of all visitors and numerous waterfalls are the crowd pullers, but 20-30kms from Bushy Dam is majestic view of Western ghats (ravines) from Tiger point and Lion Point of Lonavala in the Sahyadri ranges. Amby Valley project of Sahara group is about 20-30 kms from Lion point.

Acting on pleasant hangover our recent visit to Tamhini ghat, Lonavala was easiest of the spot to pick. This time we had our family members with us.
Our starting was unexpectedly agonizing, as the driver didn’t know a better way and we ended up taking a much longer route from Chinchwad, Pimpri to reach the old Mumbai Pune highway. I wanted to enjoy the drive from the local villages, hence was biased against the routine Mumbai – Pune expressway route.
After unnecessary drive of 1 hr, the sight of lush green villages was very refreshing.
Roads were surprisingly good and as expected soon we came across toll booth where nominal charges of INR 25.00 was paid.


Flying swans at Lonavala in India
Coincidently just left of toll booth had a swamp full of fresh green plants. The background of hills was further beautified by the cavalry of spotless white birds, which seemed to be feeding on swamps marine life. The site was picture perfect.
Sight of parallel railway track playing a secure host to colorful speeding train in the valley was a bonus of choosing the route.
After cutting through crowded main street of Lonavala, hit a traffic congestion on a narrow road. Soon realized it was due to poorly managed toll both. Though wasn’t too happy in paying Rs 5.00 per head & Rs20.00 for the car as pollution tax, but it made sense. Bushy dam is nearly 4-5 kms from the toll booth and 7-8 kms Lonavala railway station.

Bushy dam was overly crowded and with local parking rates of Rs 20.00, decided to skip and continue ahead. It was indeed the right .

Waterfall crowd at Lonavala in India

Passing Bushy Dam, we stopped at Tiger point of Lonavala, 15-20 minutes from Bushy dam . The view was spectacular and many people were enjoying the waterfalls. Some couples were unnecessarily brave for climbing down while holding their 1-2 year baby, especially because the waterfall was close to ravine and rocks were very slippery. Some youths did trip but thankfully on the wrong-side of ravine.

Lion Point at Lonavala in IndiaView from Tiger point of Lonavala is very good, especially of the dome like peak with a flatbed holding the dam’s water. Apart from the view ensure to savor the salty baked corn with lemony tinge, it costs only Rs 5.00 & 7.00. But a must do to enjoy the monsoon rain on the high peaks.

View from Lion Point at Lonavala in India
Less than 5 kilometers further is Lion point of Lonavala. Its one of the best places I have seen. The view is very spectacular - due to the unprotected cliff which is thousands of feet high. Getting close to the edge enforces a feeling of great adventure & thrill. Down below you see open flat land with small villages and local farmers busy with their cattle in the farms.
The panoramic view is nature’s extravaganza and its might.


On the right side you see the same dam, visible from Tiger point, but you also see the rugged muscles / scales of the strong mountain on which the natural water repository is housed and excess water being drained as spectacular waterfall.
Left hand side has peak which locals call as Shiva ling, while to me looked more like gigantic Hershey’s kiss me chocolate. Peak could have been easily used in Charlie’s Choclate factory.

Shiv-Ling or Hersheys Peak at Lonavala in India

In between is open cliff called the Lion point of Lonavala, due to geographical arrangement the wind from lower stratum gets blocked by the tall mountain which causes a wind force of 40-60 kms/hr on the cliff. Yes the headwinds were too overpowering, yet there were many youths braving to the edge of the cliff but we practiced discretion is better part of valor.

Natures bouquet at Lonavala in India20-30 kms further is Amby Valley, location of Sahara groups most reputed housing projects where many Bollywood, cricket celebrities and well known industrialists have bought prestigious property worth a fortune. Roads leading to Amby valley are world class and lulled me to believe of being driving in USA.

In the clouds at Lonavala in IndiaOn our way back clouds had captured the Lion point and visibility was almost zero. What a day it was proving to be – being in the clouds at thousands of feet in one of the most beautiful valleys of Western India. Place where it was bright sunlight had no visibility in less than an hour. Nature’s magic had been constantly unfolding in stages displaying its might and beauty in phases. For me it was sign of warm welcome by Mother Nature to all the visitors. Else why it would have been so articulate and precise in her grandeur?

Nearby Places:
Mulshi Dam, Tamhini ghat, Karla Caves, umpteen waterfalls, water park near Lonaval station. Khandala. BhimaShanker
For Mulshi Dam, Tamhini ghat after crossing INS Shivaji (Indian Navy), take left towards Mulshi to enjoy beauty of Tamhini ghat on same day.
Plenty of restaurants to eat and enjoy, including Smoking Joes Pizza joint.

Caution:
Drive Slow especially while driving down the steep hill. While climbing, Be watchful of oncoming traffic
Administration of Lonavala has done good work by deploying cops patrolling to avoid past nuisance created by youngsters after getting drunk and create the place more family oriented. Indeed, toll money is being used properly by the administration - good reason for me to pay the toll.

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Directions:
From Mumbai its 3-4 hours drive at a distance of 120-150 kms.

From Pune it takes about 1 hr 15 minutes to cover distance of 40-50 kms.

From Pune two routes are either via the Mumbai-Pune expressway where toll of Rs 84.00 is charged or travel on NH 4 (old Mumbai - Pune highway) where you get to enjoy the countryside beauty more and toll is also much less.


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