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Old 6th October 2011, 19:58   #1
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Default Hyderabad-Bhimashankar-Pandharpur-Parli Vaijnath-Aundha Nagnath-Hyderabad

On October 2 went on a trip to three Jyotirlingas in Maharashtra. Out of the five Jyotirlingas in MH, two (Triambakeshwar and Ghrishneswar) had already been visited. After a flurry of messages with Ranjithp1 and Ashish Pallod discussing the possible routes, hit the road around 4.30 in the morning. The first destination was Bhimashankar.

Considering it was a Sunday I decided to take Hyderabad-Sholapur-Tembhurni-Pune route instead of Baramati route suggested in the Hyderabad-Pune thread in Team-Bhp.

The road till Naldurg is fine. From Naldurg the road becomes pretty bad. There are broken surfaces and plenty of large pits to trap unsuspecting traveller. This latter phenomenon is unique in the MH roads. You drive on a seemingly smooth surface for a while and all of a sudden, just on the left wheel track, you come upon a huge crater. If there is no on-coming traffic you can swerve to avoid it. But as if to support the Murphy's Law, whenever I encountered a pit, there was a vehicle next to it coming towards me leaving no space to manoeuvre. Hard braking was the only solution to avoid ruining mechanicals of the car.

Solapur bypass falls towards the right. There is no marking. There seems to be an endless convoys of trucks from Solapur up to Mohol. Especially at Mohol, trucks coming from Pandharpur side are eager to cut across NH 9 to go towards Barshi. That creates a traffic jam there permanently.

From Indapur the 4-laneing work is in full swing. Contrary to what many opined, the stretch where the road work is progressing is much better to drive than the preceding stretch. For one thing, there are well-marked diversions. Secondly, the road surface is far better. You can drive confidently without encountering the dreaded “pits” on the way. If you are in a smaller vehicle, it is always easy to negotiate through the lumbering trucks on this stretch.

Ashish Pallod suggested a route that would take one directly to NH 50 (Nasik Road) at Chakan, avoiding Pune city. This is what he suggested: 60 km before Pune, at Choufula, turn right toward Kedgaon-Nhavara. Past Nhavara-turn left to Ranjangaon. At Ranjnagaon you will be on Pune -Ahmadnagar 4 lane highway, travel toward Pune till Shikrapur, then take Shikrapur Chakan road, after Chakan you will reach Bhimashankar easily. Though this new route sounds too lengthy, you will save lot of time and distance.

However, the recent rains must have played havoc on the road and the public works department (or the private contractor, I am not sure, because there was a Toll booth at Kedgaon on this route) indeed resurfaced the road. But the process is not yet over. They have just laid the metal aggregate on the surface and is probably waiting for an opportune moment to put asphalt. What you have now is a bone-jarring surface. So I returned towards NH 9 and drove towards Pune.

Pune-Nasik Phata is not a difficult one to negotiate. After Hadapsar flyover, turn right and go all the way to Pune Railway station. Just at the station, turn right towards Pune-Mumbai road. Drive on through Khadki, Bhopadi (again a flyover) and turn right towards Nasik. A new flyover is under construction there. May be in an year or so, you can directly drive through the flyover towards Nasik.

Drove through Manchar on the way to Bhimashankar. The road is not bad considering all the rain that battered these areas. Looks like the PWD took some care to fill up the crates. At Bhimashankar, stayed at Blue Mormon Resort, the only decent place to stay in Bhimashankar. It is a couple of km off the road, and there is Hotel Natraj at that point. But this Natraj hotel doesn't inspire any confidence. I was told the temple administration is in the process of building an integrated Bhakta Nivas down this road. However, it may take a couple of years to be ready.

From Bhimashankar we decided to go to Pandharpur, even though the earlier program was to go to Parli Vaijnath. From Bhimashankar, according to Ashish Pallod, the best route to Parli will be: Bhimashankar-Manchar-NH 50-Khed-Chakan-left turn-Shikrapur-left turn-4 lane road-Ahmadnagar-right turn-ashti-Jamkhed-Patoda-Manjarsumba-Neknoor-Kej-Ambajogai-Parli Vaijnath.

To reach Pandharpur, drove back via Pune. On the Pune-Solapur road (NH 9), just short of Indapur there is right turn towards Akluj. There is indeed a sign saying Akluj 27 km, pointing straight on NH 50. This is misleading. The right turn is unmarked and is very likely to be missed. So take care there. This route takes you to Akluj-Velapur-Pandharpur. Surprisingly this road is fantastic. Even though it is a 2-lane road, I didn't even see a speed breaker on this road, in spite of several villages en route. There is a Swami Gajanan Maharaj Ashram for devotees at Pandharpur. I will highly recommend this place. This organization is doing commendable service to the devotees. I had stayed at their Omkareshwar Bhakta Nivas too. Apart from decent rooms, catering to all strata of society, they offer tastey, hygienic food at a very subsidized rate.

From Pandharpur, we took the Ashti-Shetfal-Padsali-Kurduvadi-Barshi-Kallam (of Kallamb)-Ambajogai-Parli route. Both Ashti and Shetfal fall on the southern side of NH 50 and the road cross over NH 50 towards Padsali. If you are not sure as to how to proceed towards Ashti from Pandharpur, ask for Kurdvadi. That is because Ashti and Shetfal are nondescript places and people may not be able to guide you. On the other hand, if you ask for Barshi, you may be directed towards Tembruni or Mohol or even Solapur, all of which is roundabout route. Shefal road up to NH 50 is very good. Once you cross over the highway and take the Kurdvadi road, you will encounter mixed conditions of road. Sometimes it is very good and occasionally there are rough patches. But luckily no potholes. Looks like PWD is active is these areas. There are good signages all the way. There are several lonely stretches on this route, so it is advisable to drive through day. Barshi and Ambajogai are the only decent towns in this route. However, if you are going towards Parli, you take the by pass at Ambajogai and do not go into the town.

After Parli Vaijnath, we drove on to Parbhani via Gangakhed. Destination Aundh Nagnath. From Parbhani drive on towards Nanded highway. At about 27 km or so, you will come to Zero Phata (I really don't know how this name came into being. There is no sign saying this.). You need to be on your toes to not to miss this all-important left-turn at this T-junction. Once on this road, you will signs stating Hingoli etc., but there is no sign on the Highway about it. You eventually hit the Hingoli-Nanded road at which point take left to go to Aundh. The Nagnath temple is about 4 km from the main road. Again, there are adequate signs.

From Aundh Nagnath to Hyderabad is a breeze via Nanded. From Nanded it is better to take the Narsing-Bodhan-Nizamabad route rather than the Bhainsa route as the condition of the former is better as on today.

The total trip was 1728 km. Started on 2 October. Overnight stay at Bhimashankar. Next night, stayed at Pandharpur. On Tuesday night we were back home.

A couple of observations regarding MH roads: You will see a lot of two-wheelers on the road. By and large they ride in the middle of the road. Honking the horn generally doesn't evoke any reaction. You need to skilfully negotiate through them. The other place where I noticed this two-wheeler menace is in Tamil Nadu. The only difference is that in Tamil Nadu, the riders are quite unpredictable.

In MH, internal roads are quite good when they are good. There are adequate signs in most places. However, there are also these metal-breaking pits on the so-called smooth roads. I am yet to figure out how these traps are created on a seemingly smooth road. They look like some conspiracy against the unsuspecting drivers. Another thing: there are vast stretches of no-man's land in this place. If you are driving through the day, it doesn't scare you. But in the nights, it is another story.
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