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Rajasthan: Memoirs from the land of the kings

The land of the Kings! Certainly an enchanting aura that it carries, Rajasthan has always titillated my soul and senses and the one time I have been to this place, very early in my life as a travel blogger or as a wanderer, I’ve enjoyed the range of diversities and ethnicity of culture, craziness and beauty of the deserts and landscapes that take your breath away.

Throughout my week long escapade in the beautiful state of Rajasthan, I admired it not just for its true heritage and flamboyant art encompassed among the roots of its people, palaces and food, but also for the feeling it gave me of a rustic but divine revelation of sorts. Every different city that I explored had a native yet interesting niche that made it a tad different from every other city within the state. The museums, the forts and the cultural expose that I saw, made me believe in a grand heritage that actually told a lot of stories.

Be it the journey from Udaipur to Ajmer in a rugged jeep with locals staring at you with their sense of warmth and helping other locals out like the story of Bindaas Baaji, or be it the long stretches of just nothing but marble quarries on the road the roads told a story that no other could. Even the mile markers had their fascinating bits to add to the spice of the journey. Be it exploring the different admirable aspects of Jain architecture in Jaisalmer Fort or enjoying a chilled beer in the desert after a camel ride there was a stark contrast to every little thing we did in our travels across the state of Rajasthan. The amazing food we ate every evening at a different place, the warm milk and hot jalebis in a chilling weather in Japiur or the Rajasthani thali we hogged in Udaipur or the Parathas we ate outside Udaipur Palace, every memory is still etched in my mind till date. The ride to Pushkar encompassing the mountainous travails still remind me of the ride in the local bus. The beautiful sight of vintage cars in the Mueseum in Udaipur and how can I forget the huge and beautiful architecture of the Hawa Mahal! Not to mention the impulse that we carried at every step of the way, so much so that we managed to ditch a bus to Jaislmer and take a detour towards Ajmer, or extend the trip into Agra and back, every little incident was trivial and at the same time memorable till date.

Baaji

Baaji

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

 

This probably carries a lot of significance in terms of the way I decided to travel across the country, the rugged trip across 7 cities in 6 days, the camel rides, the cycle rickshaws, the autos the desert the sleeping at night in buses and exploring cities during the day probably added to the beauty of the journey across Rajasthan. The almost getting beaten up in a fight that was not ours to get into, the almost getting ripped off by an auto driver, the street food and the drinking of beer in every city kind of made the journey as rugged as possible. This trip had an essence to itself, which denotes a lot of the style of travel I’ve adopted over a period of time. A style that gives me a reproach in terms of the freedom I need to feel when I wake up in a different city across the country, probably telling me that my wandering feet are free to choose their calling and all they need is a fresh smell of the road and the path that is available for the taking. Something that told me right at the beginning of my journey across various destinations that I was yet to take… Rajasthan will most certainly be one of those destinations and most certainly on my list to go to once every while…

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Ritz to Rajmachi – Off-roading Adventure

Foggy Morning

These are one of those trips that you always wish you had taken a while ago, and at the same time, not taken at all… Many a times we’ve been trekking to various destinations and most of the times, we take a car to the base-camp… Earlier it was a bike and now it’s a car, thanks to my friend Swapnil… His Ritz I must say has done a lot of miles in the couple of years that he’s been on the road with it. Long stretch of lands across various states to weekend getaways that have been really bumpy and super sleek at times. From grazing dirt tracks inside villages of Vidarbha to stretching a two day trip all the way to Indore and back to Mumbai.  And of course, the Alibaug, Kashid, Murud-Janjira is something which has become a routine. Lonavala – Tiger Hills is of course a destination which we do most of the times in the monsoon, but this time around we did something else… And of course, this had to be the brainchild of my ever enthusiastic best friend, also my college mate Swapnil himself. For those who don’t know him yet, well, we’ve been friends for over 12 years now and right from college both of us have been auto enthusiasts, me being the lesser one and almost every other time just being on the listening end of his aspirations and stories from various rallies, so much so, that I’ve taken up interest in Formula 1 only cause of our animated conversations and his total interest in the sport which he rubbed on to me way back in 2001.

Most of the times our trips have been adventurous, luxurious, crazy, tiring and bewildering… But none like this. It was a Saturday morning and Swapnil, Mangesh and I decided to leave early in the morning on this trip in his Ritz…

Swapnil & Mangesh

“Let’s take this baby all the way up to the basecamp.” That’s what Swapnil said…

“What?? You really hate your car don’t you?” was my first reaction…

Apparently not… Now this could certainly be a good exercise for Maruti guys to test their vehicles and maybe build an entire campaign around it… Anyone seen the Woodland shoes ad?? 😉

For regular trekkers, they take a 15km hike to the basecamp or most of the times we get people bike it up till the base camp. Of course, the villagers or people who have to go back and forth, might at the most have Jeeps which can take them that far, especially during the rains…

For a Ritz to go up there…. Was quite a task, a task like most others, which we always end up achieving… This is where we went and boy o boy, don’t ask us How??

Bumpy rides, dirt tracks, steep turns and a whole lot of rocks and stones to test us… This was quite a ride. There were uphill and downhill roller coasters on our way, so much so, I couldn’t shoot or take pics. Steady is not what I could expect at all…

Most of the time it didn’t rain throughout our uphill journey and we finally did reach one spot, where there is a small stall. That’s not even the base-camp. A guy usually cooks Maggi, Bhaji-Pav and stocks loads of biscuits and other snacks. Well, since we reached this spot at around 7 AM, we had to wait…

As luck would have it we discovered, there was a small waterfall near this place… But we had to go down to really get below / under the water and it was a downhill slope and had to trek down a few yards to get there… Well…. IT HAD TO BE DONE!

That's where the falls were...

…And when we say ‘IT HAS TO BE DONE’… we 99% of the time mean it…

Well, It had to be done... 😉 so...

So, anyways, that’s just the half of it… We haven’t even got started… Thankfully, by the time we were done with playing around the waterfalls, getting soaked in that foggy morning and enjoying the cold water and by the time we came up… the guy from the hut had opened his shop… What more did we want?

Mr. Kekda Khan

Certainly not this crab to bite us… 😛 Meet Mr. Kekda Khan, who happily posed for my camera.. Add to that he was really enthusiastic when the camera zoomed on to him. So much so he did the Kekda Dance, moving his claws up and down…

Maggi... Never fails you... wherever you go

But yes, eating HOT Maggi early in the morning is certainly what we wanted… Well, that’s what we thought at that time…. We really didn’t know what was in store for us…

So we move ahead and head towards the base-camp… Lo behold… There was this huge rock on the road… Mangesh said it wasn’t there last week. He’s a regular trekker and was there by foot last week. It was a landslide and there was very little space for the car to squeeze through… On the other side of the road was a cliff… and it was also blocked by rocks, if not as huge as the one fallen, at least huge enough for us to make them budge…

“Every problem can be solved…” That’s always our motto when we go out on these adventures…

We tried moving smaller rocks, whichever we could squeeze through and tried to make some space… Well, it was a little better than before, but not enough to let the car go by… If nothing else, the car would just go down the ravine or scrape some metal on the huge rock… Now, that’s something we didn’t want to happen. Add to that, it was a muddy track, so couldn’t quickly skid through that part.

Then we took on the task to move the bigger rocks on the side… Tried sliding it, lifting it… Reminded me of that episode of Dhani Tackles the Globe, where he goes to Scotland and lifts huge rocks as part of a competition. Heck you might even have watched Worlds Strongest Men doing these antics for a living… But we certainly weren’t them and we needed some one else to help us out on this…

What more do you want?? Of course, we needed a few people to help us… There were a couple of guys who came from the other side… the village or the base camp, but they were villagers who were going to work in town… We sure didn’t want their hands dirty 😛

As luck would have it, just like our most other situations, we met a bunch of trekkers who thankfully agreed to help us out… And within a jiffy, we moved most of the huge rocks making enough space for the car to go by…

Between a Rock and a Hard Place...

What happened after that is not for me to tell you in this off-roading chronicle, but certainly this experience was quite different from most of the trips we’ve ever taken. Have you ever been in any such situations?

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Breakfast on a rainy Sunday Morning!

Well it was raining outside and since yesterday my yard had been almost flooded. After having a really lazy Saturday being at home, courtesy Mumbai Rains… which by the way are really awesome, come to think of it… So the weather continued to be the same and it was raining in the morning intermittently, after a really heavy shower the evening before. Nonetheless, it was perfect weather to cook some great breakfast for myself. And that is when I decided to go for it and I bought the supplies on Saturday evening, when the rain had taken a pit-stop for a brief period.

Rains in Mumbai...

Rains in Mumbai...

It was nothing special or heavenly in taste… yet, when you do such a thing after a long while and especially when the weather is so brilliant, who cares?? Just a simple Maggi and an Omlette with Indian Bread (Pav) toasted on the frying pan with some butter dashed onto it.  There, I was ready to cook myself “Omlette Butter Pav & Maggi Noodles!”  

So here we go…

Pre-Breakfast (Staging)

Pre-Breakfast (Staging)

Well, those were my ingredients, ready for cooking. The stage was set… To cook the best breakfast in the world… Ummm ya, well, not really….

Ready to Stir it up....

Ready to Stir it up....

Eggs all broken, spices and salt added… Just needed a little bit of stirring up…

There you go...

Well, there you go, that’s exactly what I wanted, before I set the frying pan on fire…

If U smelllllllllllllllllllaw what the @srinistuff is cookin

If U smelllllllllllllllllllaw what the @srinistuff is cookin!

As the Rock says, this is me saying that, as I can smell the beautiful aroma from the Maggi Noodles which are on fire… 🙂

Yummmmmmlette

Yummmmmmlette

Well, yea, there you go, as the name aptly suggests… The Tasty Omlette that I’m making while I quickly grab my SLR to take pics in between 🙂 Gotta juggle a lot more than just the utensils… 🙂

Maggi Magic at Work...

Maggi Magic at Work...

Wow!!! Now that’s what’s cooking… With the traditional Maggi masala, the onions and tomatoes, I add a touch of spice with some Asafoetida (Hing as it’s called locally) and some oregano to give some additional touch of spice and taste…

Butter to the Pav...

Butter to the Pav...

Well, this time around instead of the regular bread, I decided to make do with the Indian version of it, Pav… Certainly fresh as I woke up early to pick it up from the pavvala, who comes every morning ringing his cycle bell and offering one of the freshest bunch of pav, baked right that morning… 🙂 I can smell the freshness in them while I put it on the pan with some butter.

All buttered up...

All buttered up...

There… It’s ready, the butter pav is almost ready to be dished out. I got them done really nice! Hope it’s really tasty.

Breakfast is Served...

Breakfast is Served...

Finally, the hardwork of a Sunday morning paid off… All set to munch on this #yummybreakfast I’m gonna have some fun enjoying it! Until next time… BURRP!!!

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Zira – Food Redefined

Zira… The name itself has an exquisite taste to itself. I could have only imagined how the food tasted at this restaurant. Yep, Zira is a newly launched restaurant in Navi Mumbai’s Sanpada. So a week ago I got a call from a friend of mine. She invited me to a session of food tasting at this newly launched restaurant. Why me? Well, of course my obvious love for food and my newly acquired taste across the country after travelling to different lands. Maybe she thought of me as the new age food connoisseur… Well, whatever the reason, I was glad she invited me cause who wouldn’t love to gorge on some awesome food and especially if it’s for free 😛 Well anyways, she happens to be a close friend of the owner and she set up for a small tasting session for a bunch of guys some of them regular at various restaurants across Mumbai and a couple of them die hard food lovers…

Zira Restaurant
Zira Restaurant

I thought to myself, heck, why not… Let’s go and check this place out. So there I was waiting for the tasting session to begin. While we waited for the starters to be served, we were chatting with each other and exchanged our interests and found out how we had a common bond that tied us together… ‘Food.’ While we sat inside the small restaurant, we felt at home especially with the ambience suiting the peaceful location of Sector 11, Sanpada. The décor blends right in with the restaurants whole brown and white logo where Zira is tastefully put up as you enter the restaurant.  This one is not your huge top class over the top restaurant where you can come and celebrate your most intimate moments but it certainly has a menu that will make you wonder it’s unique feature and what was about to come… At the end of the day, ‘What tastes well, does well, if you ask me..’

Then began our tasting session. First up was a couple of starters… Both chicken dishes.

So here we have a Murgh Aalishan which had a real flair and sumptuousness to itself. Very succulent and tasty… Could have beena  bit better though with a bit of some sauce or chutney. That was missing, however the chicken tasted really great.

Murgh Aalishan
Murgh Aalishan

Then the Chef Kevin, followed it up with Murgh Kaali Mirch. This dish was really good with a bit of crisp to its tenderness made you taste the flavor real of the kaali mirch even better.

Murgh Kaali Mirch

Murgh Kaali Mirch

Well, for vegetarian lovers, don’t be disappointed… One of the best dish of the evening was in the main course. I truly loved the Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi which was served with some really tasty Butter Naan. The best part about this Mirchi Kadi was how finely you could taste the mirchi or green chilly spiced up with a really nice blend of the kadi which left the taste in your mouth and I truly treasured it…

Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi

Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi

Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi with Nan

Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi with Nan

Since I didn’t taste this dish as I generally avoid mutton, I can’t say much about the Rogan Josh…. But from the looks of it certainly looks tasty…

Mutton Rogan Josh
Mutton Rogan Josh

After tasting some really nice North Indian / Mughlai food the chef also decided to give us a taste of it’s Chinese Cuisine with some Veg Fried Rice and Chicken 65, which was sort of okay but I guess can’t really say much about Chinese as it’s more or less the same everywhere… The chef quoted saying, Chinese is ‘public demand’ and hence they can’t ignore that aspect of it even the restaurant mainly serves North Indian Food.

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

It was certainly a great tasting of sorts… While I enjoyed the starters, the chutney / sauces could have made  it even better I must say my pick of the evening must definitely be Rajasthani Mirchi Kadi. All in all this new start up has been well researched and for the area that it’s set up in it looks like it’s on it’s way.  i’m certainly going to go there  to dine, this time of course ordering some really nice food on my own while I thank my friend Merline, for inviting me for this food tasting session. She knows the owner and head chef Kevin and I’m sure I’d get a discount next time I’m there 😛 Well anyways, the restaurant has decided to keep a 10% discount for the entire month. They said they also do home delivery for entire Sanpada and Juinagar area.

About the Chef: Chef Kevin is a hospitality major from Taj, Aurangabad and has had prior experience in Taj Land’s End. This budding entrepreneur looks like he’s certainly ready to make his mark, at least in Navi Mumbai to begin with.  He runs this place with his brother Deepak.

From L-R - Deepak and Chef Kevin

From L-R - Deepak and Chef Kevin

Address: Zira, Sector 11, Sanpada

© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved

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Lohagad – An escapade truly to remember

Trekking (definition) : To make a slow or arduous journey on foot, especially to hike through mountainous areas…  But… “A trek is never a trek if there ain’t a little fun, little adventure, some moments to cherish and of course a little mishap here and there..’ That’s where the ‘arduous’ part comes in…

9:00 PM and we are still at work?? Come on guys let’s pack up and get the hell outta here… That was what was going on in my mind… but I guess, we had to make sure that everything was in order before we left for the trek.

On a chilly December night, trekking at 2:00 AM in the morning was no mean feat. Yep, that’s exactly when we reached the village called Baje, it served as a base camp for us. Parked the car over there and started hiking up towards the footsteps near Lohagadvadi… While there is another route to reach the footsteps where even cars go, it wouldn’t have been fun for us to take our car there and then climb up… as the trek time would have been just 15-20 minutes.

Anyways, at the end of it all, the hike up to the place was really worth it… trekking the mountain in the morning, chatting up and singing along for a journey and an experience that we were yet to have… Something told us, this is going to be one of those memories… You know what I’m talking about, now don’t you?

It took us about 2 hours to reach the top… Breezy in the morning, the caves were only warm place for us to feel some comfort.. but that would again defy the definition now, woudn’t it?? So we decided to chill out near the entrance, camp ourselves and make ourselves a couple o drinks to feel better… haha, that’s what you get for the arduousness as a reward. Besides that watching some of them, singing and dancing to ‘Sheila ki Jawaani’ as well 😛

Soon, it was time for the Sun to rise and us to have some really nice Photo session and of course meet our ancestors who made their way up on to the top to find out if we had some food for them. I was wondering why on earth did I even buy a bunch of bananas before we left, now I know exactly why…

The vision of breaking dawn was one I had been waiting for before I could get my hands on my DSLR, and begin my clicking spree… After a lots of fun and frolic, some nice photo sessions, we decided to head towards Vinchu Kaata… Alas, that was not to be…

While everyone was enjoying singing and dancing… we suddenly heard a cry out loud from one of our friends…The slippery tracks from where we had decided to take a detour towards VinchuKaata had made sure that today wasn’t the day, when we were going to be out there…

She suddenly lost her footing, slipped and fell instantaneously… We made her sit down, making sure that we find out what happened to her. Hoping it was not a fracture…we took a look, it looked more like  a sprain and a ligament tear we thought. But we were not sure, didn’t want to take a risk… So finally this is the exact reason why that arduous word came into the dictionary while defining the word ‘trekking’ It was quite a challenge as she was not able to walk…

One of the challenges now, was to find out ways and means to get our friend down.. So, a couple of guys went down to get the car from the other route to ensure that one car is at least downstairs, at the base camp from Baje village… While we were trying to figure out how to get her down.. We tried to make a stretcher with a couple of bamboos and blanket we had… Nope, didn’t work… We had a chair, tried to make a palkhi with the bamboos and a rope we had… nope, didn’t work… What could we do??

We were thinking and trying to figure out a way and that’s when it struck us… This was the only option for now…

The most effective and the most simple way was devised out of a story I remember my grandfather used to read in Chandamama comics, ‘Vikram Vetaal…’ yes, that is and was the only option for us…. So there, the only option left for us was to backpack her (literally) and that could have been done by only one person in our group and I don’t intend to tell you here who it was. For people who don’t know us, it won’t matter but for people at work… you guys should have fun guessing this one! As it turned out later… i.e almost at the bottom of the mountain, we met a guy who took a look at her leg and with the help of acupressure and she was able to slowly walk… Irony I say… Always on all my trips 🙂

That’s exactly the reason why I’ve not included anyone’s names… and precisely why this story ends like this… What happened later was something we all call an escapade truly to remember… 🙂 well, at least until the next one happens.

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Off to Lohagad – The Iron Fort…

People Travel to know the boundaries of the world… The boundaries within their universe, the journey which they want to experience and imagine if ever they thought of living a life they couldn’t. People travel to know more about different people. People travel to experience what their soul will take with them to a different dimension. Sometimes when I think of these quotes of mine, I realize we all have  a desire in ourselves to understand fully what the beauty of this universe lies in. Be it the short trips over the weekend, adventure camps in school, trips and picnics during the monsoon or a great vacation abroad… When we travel, we unleash our inner spirit. One that adds to our charm and the experience of a life we live in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, trekking is one such experience where I can relive the adventure, which I always wanted. Think of nothing but the freedom that I get when I get up there. Be it 4000 feet above or just a mere 1400 feet. Doesn’t matter, one needs to understand that the beauty of all this is in the fact that you have a goal in mind and you go up there to achieve it.

So here we are, bunch of us office guys @SocWav have decided to head to Lohagad, a very easy trek tomorrow night. This would be my second experience trekking at night after one way back in Naneghat. Since, there are a lot of newbies and girls mostly, we decided to trek to Lohagad as its the easiest of the lots. I haven’t yet been here so it should be a great experience. The last time around, my friends ditched me on my working saturday and did a quick drive to Lohagad and got back with great photos and absolutely amazing videos. That was during monsoon though. Don’t know how it will be this time around. Hope the cold and pleasant weather will make up for a little bit lack of greenery I hope.

So we plan to trek at around 10-11 in the night, reach on top about 12:00 – 1:00 AM and camp up there. Hoping to set up a barbecue if we get hold of  a village local. Otherwise we’ll manage with our own Cup Maggi and other snacks.. I mean Maggi should really be the brand for all trekkers. The best part would probably come early in the morning, when we’ll take a look at the awesome views especially the ‘Vinchu Kaata’ and the Ganesh Darwaza… So courtesy Wikipedia here is a bit of trivia for all you folks about the destination.

Lohagad (literally “Iron fort” in Marathi) is one of the many hill forts of Chatrapati Shivaji. It is situated 52 km from Pune in western India. Lohagad is at an elevation of 3,450 feet (1,052 m).

On the west side, there is a long and narrow wall-like fortified spur called Vinchukata (Marathi for Scorpion’s tail; see picture) because of its shape. Lohagad has a long history with several dynasties occupying it at different periods of time:

SatavahanasChalukyasRashtrakutas,YadavasBahamanisNizamshahisMughals and MarathasShivaji captured it in 1648 CE, but he was forced to surrender it to the Mughals in 1665 CE by the Treaty of Purandar. Shivaji recaptured the fort in 1670 CE and used it for keeping his treasury.

How to reach the fort

From Mumbai, you can take a train to LonavlaMalawli is the next station from Lonavla in the direction toward Pune. There are a number of local trains operating between Lonavla and Pune; you can take any of them. From Pune, you can take any of these locals.

From Malawli railway station, the fort is just 9 km away. Vehicles can go up to the foot of the hill. From here, which is near a village calledLohagaon, there are steps to the fort, numbering approximately 500.

When it rains, the top of the fort is covered with mist and clouds and becomes particularly wet. It is advisable to carry protective gear during the rainy season (mid-June to mid-September). Further, food is not easily available on the route. Most of the food stalls sell water, poha, tea/coffee, snacks, and soft drinks.

A panoramic view of the Pawna dam can be seen from the fort. Although it isn’t raining now, hoping to get a breath of fresh air… cold winter air during the amazing trek we take. 🙂

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Conquering Mahuli Fort – 18th July 2010

It was truly one hell of  a ride that we took. A trek that we won’t forget ever in our lives. One filled with beauty, nature, compassion and so much of freshness that you would think twice about living a life anywhere else in this world. Truly, these eco-trails, nature hikes teach a lot of patience and a lot of compassion for the gaya. Indeed mother earth has had a lot of patience in tolerating our non-sense for such a long while… Sometimes I keep wondering how life would have been if there was nothing else but nature. No gadgets, no hi-fi, wi-fi.. just the plain serenity of this beauty surrounding you to the core. Think about it…

Well we decided to camp at the base the night before. So we headed off for the trek as planned on Saturday night. We got a little lost.. It’s easy to get lost before you go ahead on the Asangaon flyover. Make sure you turn left towards the Manas camp/temple. Ask for the Manas temple and you should be fine. So once we took the left, we saw the accomodation/hostel etc of Manas dharamshala. We headed ahead a straight road in the dead of the night. The silence of the eerie night was really haunting us in the pitch dark night on that day. We followed the straight road kept looking for a base camp / temple which we were supposed to look for… but damn, no clue.. So we had almost decided to head back.. when we found a bunch of say 25-50 guys just walking towards us. First instance… Shock! What are they?? Zombies??? Villagers??? Creeps?? A closer look tells us they were trekkers just like us. So finally we headed on and in 15 minutes after crossing a bridge we got to the base camp.

What followed next was chill out time, camping and some rest before we headed off in the morning. The rain had started pouring while the mountains covered with fog laid out its beauty, almost inviting us to conquer it. We decided to start at 7:00 AM in the morning. While the trek was just about 2800 feet.. the climb wasn’t that easy.. slippery muddy tracks made it a lot more difficult and rocky terrains at the top were a little tough on us. But after a gruelling stop and go trek for about 2.5 hours we certainly made sure that we conquered the beautiful fort of Mahuli.

What’s on top is amazing. The Shiva linga as expected in most of the forts of the great Shivaji Maharaj in the Sahayadri ranges was not a new thing for regular trekkers. But what was all the more beautiful was the wonderful waterfall below… So we retired there and enjoyed the beauty for a couple of hours, had our lunch on a really compact stove carried by one of our trekkers.

An experience that we would certainly remember. Certainly so, going by the pics you just saw!

© Copyright 2010 Srini. All rights reserved

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