As the weather starts to get cooler, here are 10 ideas for driving holidays that might inspire you to pack your bags and hit the open road
Words: SAMARPAN BHOWMIK
LONAVALA TO AAMBY VALLEY(25km)
Forget the scenery outside, this one is a love affair between the road and your vehicle
On any given weekend, throngs from Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra descend upon Lonavala, creating kilometres-long traffic snarls and making the entire experience rather horrid for pretty much everyone there. But, if you do manage to make your way to this hill station on a weekday, the drive up to Aamby Valley from Lonavala is a revelation. While most of the other journeys in this feature are about the picturesque landscape around, this route is mostly about the road itself. All you need to do is get your hands on a sporty set of wheels and the rest will follow naturally. The drive from Mumbai or Pune, the closest big cities, is pretty straightforward. Stop for a spot of grub at the Lonavala main market, perhaps pick up some of the fudge or chikki this place is famous for. The last fuel station for a while is also here, so make sure to fill up. After that, make your way past the agiary behind the market, and head on up. The road winds past shops selling handicrafts and other bric-a-brac, tea and snacks, until you come to a bridge. This is a great place for some photo ops and a cup of hot chai on a cold morning. After this, the shops and houses become scarce, as the road winds up the hill. The canopy of trees cuts off your view of the surrounding scapes until you arrive at Tiger Point, a popular vantage point at which visitors generally gather. There are parking lots and restroom facilities too, which we’d recommend using as there will not be many opportunities after this. Carry on ahead and the roads really open up with hardly any traffic save for a few villagers going about their daily chores. The focus here is on the road, and, if you have a suitable car or motorcycle, on that. There are corners aplenty, allowing you to throw your vehicle around and have a ball of a time. You’re not going to notice the scenery around, even though it’s quite captivating, that’s how engaging this road is. The way to Aamby Valley is a mix of smooth, well-paved roads and gravel tracks, and, once you do get to the destination, it’s time for a downhill climb. Getting across hills doesn’t get more fun than this. As long as you manage to avoid the crowds, that is.
MUMBAI TO GANPATIPULE(340km) – Take 2 Days
From popular hill stations to unspoilt forests, this trip offers varied experiences
This one is a bit of a drive. Ganpatipule, which is a quiet beach and temple town in south Maharashtra, lies almost 350km away from the state capital. If you drive at a stretch, it’ll still take you almost 10 hours to complete. So, it’s better to break the journey at Chiplun on the way. While the roads aren’t exactly ideal and you might want to take something like an SUV for this drive, the landscape around is breath-taking, once you’re a little way off from Mumbai, that is. Get yourself a little dose of history at Raigad Fort, which lies en route. There’s also a nature reserve here for those keen to spot some local fauna. Carry on and take a detour to Mahabaleshwar, another popular weekend destination for locals, famous in its own right for being one of the highest places in the state and for the delectable strawberries, which are in season as the weather gets cooler. There’s yet another wildlife sanctuary around here – Koyna. Chiplun lies a little way ahead and is the ideal place at which to break your journey. While there are quite a few resorts to put up at here, we’d suggest one with a nice view of the Vashishti River. The next day, as you draw closer to Ganpatipule, the terrain changes from hilly to coastal. Traffic on these stretches is very sparse and, often, you’ll find yourself driving for kilometres without coming across any other vehicles, save the odd tractor making its way through paddy fields. While the direct route doesn’t hug the coast at any point, you could head straight to the sea from Chiplun towards Guhagar, a coastal town. Go along the water to Vijaygad, where you can put your vehicle on a ferry across the backwaters to Jaigad for some time away from the wheel. From there, it’s easy going to Ganpatipule and you should be there in time for a lavish seafood lunch.