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Old 1st November 2012, 22:10   #1
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Default My Ashtavinayak Yatra

Finally last weekend we did the Ashtavinayak yatra.

In a classic case of 'map proposes, God disposes' (Yes, it's written 'map' and not 'man'!), the route planning went haywire once we left the national highways. There were lessons to be learnt, but finally and most importantly we did manage to visit all eight places.

The journey started on Friday evening as we left for Pune. Four people with two days' baggage on board the Nano was a first, and I was eager to see how it performs. The traffic jams out on the Kalamboli section ensured we were delayed by a better part of an hour. I used the traffic jams to text moralfibre about our delayed arrival.

Finally we hit the e-way and drove to Pune with just a refuelling halt. The Nano performed admirably in the ghats and on the e-way in general, but then that was no test as the e-way ghat section is a ghost of the old highway. But it did keep pace with the other biggies. I could actually overtake other vehicles with as much ease as my Santro used to provide.

Reached Baner and turned in to visit moralfibre. Unfortunately he couldn't meet up for some prior commitments, so I picked up the Nikon D40 from his wife, handed over the money, checked the camera by taking a couple of snaps and drove on. We reached our destination at around 10:30 in the night.

Early morning we woke up at 5:30, finished the morning chores and left on the journey. There was a drop to be made in Pune itself, and after that we headed off towards Morgaon. Morgaon is supposed to be the starting as well as ending point of the Ashtavinayak yatra.

We reached Morgaon at around 9. There was a big queue for darshan as it's the starting point and being a Saturday morning a couple of travel company groups had flocked there at the time. After finishing darshan, we had a mini-breakfast of misal-paav and tea. The bread was warm and fresh, and soon we knew the reason for the same: there's a bakery bang opposite the hotel.

From Morgaon we headed towards Siddhatek. My idea was to cover the far-away places viz. Morgaon, Siddhatek, Lenyadri and Ozar on the first day and try and reach Ranjangaon for the night. From Morgaon a brisk drive took us to the Pune Solapur highway, and from there we headed towards Daund.

At Daund the pace slackened a little as the entry was crowded with vehicles on a narrow road. The road had a relatively steep angle of incline, and in the stop-n-go traffic I first sensed the Nano wasn't as eager to pick up as I had felt in moving traffic. The engine died once, and I had to coax her into gaining momentum. After she was set in motion there was no problem.

The road towards Siddhatek was fairly ok, though the narrow and winding road was not in a top condition and the pace was quite slow. After crossing the railway tracks we turned right to the Siddhatek temple. The newly constructed bridge took us over to the other side in no time and we soon found ourselves back on the road after a swift darshan. Had sugarcane juice and moved on. The next destination was either Ozar or Lenyadri. We were to soon realize the pitfalls of this choice.

En route we bypassed the earlier road we had come by and drove straight on towards Belwandi. Filled up the tank again and started off towards the longest journey of the tour. As the heat was intense, I switched on the blower and then the AC. The cool air flowed into the cabin, but I decided to increase the blower speed to two and then to three. As I moved the knob to the highest position, there was a clicking noise and the blower went dead!

The windows were rolled down again and we continued down the road. Crossing the railway line again at Belwandi we moved on in the direction of Shirur.

By the time we reached Belhe, and then to Shirur it was already 5pm. Took a right from Shirur towards Junnar, ignoring the Ranjangaon temple which was a mere 24km away, since we planned on visiting it on our return leg.

The highway soon ended and we were back on the so-called state highways. The state of these highways has been pathetic throughout our journey. However the Nano showed its true colours here, riding the rough patches with ease and never even once hitting her bottom. I doubt if the Santro would have come out unscathed from here.

There was a scary moment en route as we attempted a waterlogged place from the left side and the car tilted to the right, scaring away the passengers and making me rethink of the route. I backed her out carefully and got out to survey the road. The offroading threads came in useful here, as I decided to check the ground myself (despite an elderly local assuring us that the car could easily make it across from the right side), and using my 'grandfather umbrella' I poked the ground to check the water levels and also if there was mud or solid road underneath. Once I was satisfied the water was hardly a couple of inches and the road underneath was solid, I was back in the car and carefully drove it through the water, on the extreme right of the road towards the other side. The whole incident cost us another precious ten minutes. Soon we were back onto the broken roads and towards our destination.

On reaching the highway connecting Junnar with Khed/Chakan, we took a right towards Ozar. Just when Ozar was claimed to be 4kms away, there was a road on the left towards Lenyadri which was proclaimed to be 19kms away. I was tempted to climb up and down Lenyadri in the late evening, when the sun's heat was gone, and then visit Ozar and then rest for the night somewhere nearby. So ignoring my wife's suggestion that we visit Ozar first, I took the left and drove onto the town of Junnar, and then onto Lenyadri.

It was 7pm by the time we reached. We could see the lightening in the sky above the mountain, and as we climbed the first few steps, the raindrops started falling. They were harmless at the moment, but the risk of getting caught in a thunderstorm on the open climb was something we weren't willing to take. So after a brief team meeting we decided to quit.

The situation now was instead of completing an ambitious five temples, or a reasonable four, we had only visited two! But there was hope still. A brief team meeting ensued. The general consensus was we should visit Ozar, which was just about 14kms away. Then was the question of the night halt. We finally decided to book for a place in Junnar itself and then proceed towards Ozar. The very first hotel we enquired at quoted Rs. 700/- (after a discount of Rs. 100/- over the list price) for a three-bed room with attached bathroom/toilet and hot water. No tea or breakfast! After some hesitation we booked it and went to Ozar.

The winding and lonely and often bad road finally saw us reaching Ozar in considerably more time than a 14km stretch would have required, but the tally finally went up to three! After a quick darshan we had dinner there, ogling the signboards which proclaimed bed and hot bathing water in just Rs. 35/-

We returned to Junnar by 10:15pm and hit the sack. Woke up in the morning and the next big problem dawned: where is the hot water? I went out in search of the janitor, but he was nowhere to be found. After a few frantic moments, I finally entered the bathroom and turned on each of the taps, and voila! The other tap brought out hot water! Relieved, we finished the chores and sped away towards Lenyadri.

At the entry point, there was an entrance fee of Rs. 10 to be paid, which we had paid the previous night as well. I asked the chap if we could go ahead without paying, as we had already paid last night but not taken darshan. He smiled and waived us on. Surprise!

The climb up and down was brisk (I mean the up part was less brisk!) and I put the D40 to good use by clicking photos of the monkeys and a squirrel. An interesting thing I observed is while monkeys behave like monkeys, humans don't behave like humans. There was a small 'vihar' near the temple (similar to the one you find at Karla, near Lonavala), and tourists who ventured inside were screaming, just to hear how it sounded, with utter disregard to the sanctity of the place. People offering food to the monkeys and being careless with water bottles which were promptly snatched away by the ancestral animals prove that humans haven't entirely forgotten their original genes. Sad.

After getting down, we had a sumptious breakfast before moving on. From there we returned the way we came, towards Junnar, and from there onto the highway to Khed. En route near Manchar I stopped by to check the air pressure and then at a petrol pump to refuel. The petrol pump attendants assured us there was a road immediately to the left which would take us to Shirur. We thanked them and proceeded on in search of this road. We soon found it and took it. Only it took a lot of time to get off it onto the Shirur highway.

The road snaked through numerous small villages, and often you would prefer to drive a tractor on it than a car. I actually remarked that the locals must have ploughed the road with a tractor, looking at the condition of it. I could also see the Pradhanmantri Gramin Sadak Yojana boards all over, and I suspect the roads have been purposely dug up to claim money from this Yojana. Just kidding! (but hey, you never know!)

Finally we reached the highway, and were bang opposite the Ranjangaon temple! Happiness! After the darshan and a cup of tea, we enquired about the road to Theur. Then we joined the highway and taking the left turn drove on towards Theur. There's a place called Sanaswadi, and near this place a small road branches off the highway towards Theur. In due time we reached this road and drove onto it to reach the sixth temple. It was 1pm and after darshan we decided to join the Mahaprasad. It was a simple but filling affair with dal-rice, chapati and a rassa-bhaji. The tables weren't cleaned up well, but the plates were, and it was Rs. 15/- per head. After the meal we headed back to Pune.

As we exited Mundhwa area and entered Pune, my wife called up my uncle to inform him we would reach in an hour. I was skeptical, saying it would be a matter of a few minutes, and not an hour. How wrong I was! We did take an hour to reach Kothrud through the maze of roads and the one-ways and signals and the traffic, but finally we were home.

After an hour's halt and picking up my mom, we drove off to join the e-way and then onto Mahad, non-stop, the seventh of the temples. We reached Mahad at 7pm, finished darshan and returned back to the car to debate if we should persist and complete the eighth one the same day, or give in to the mortal problems and return home to enjoy a peaceful rest in the night. But it was now more of an Izzat Ka Sawal, and nobody wanted to quit now, when it was just one place left. So we decided to complete the eighth one, come what may, and drove off towards Pali.

The road from NH4 turned inwards and took us deep inside the region. With darkness having fallen, the few villages we encountered en route were already sleepy and it was with luck we met a couple of people on the road who confirmed we were on the right road. We reached Pali at about 8:30. As I switched off the engine in the parking lot, I noticed with a shock the fuel guage was now only showing one line. Which meant there was barely three litres of fuel left.

Darshan over, we had a hot and fresh meal with chapatis, chhole, pithale and bhakari, accompanied by solkadhi and taak. Meal over, we enquired about the return journey. There were few petrol pumps en route the way we had come in, so it made sense to follow the other road out, the Mumbai Goa highway, where the local drivers assured us there were pumps within a few kilometres of each other. The nearest one was about eight kilometres. However it was already past 10pm, and they warned us that most pumps closed by 10pm. I started the car and to my horror, the fuel guage started flashing E, indicating the tank was near empty!

Well, getting stranded at Pali would never do, so off we went, secretly praying to each of the eight places we had visited. The tripmeter crossed 280 and the blinking E was soon replaced by a single bar. I was relieved. By this time we were nearing the highway. However as soon as the tripmeter crossed 301, the bar went out and was replaced with the blinking E. I knew there would be no miracles now, and it was a race against time. Bad roads and frequent slow-downs behind trucks meant I couldn't achieve the best FE, and each passing moment added to a heavy burden on my mind. It wouldn't do to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, with three ladies on board. After being despaired by the sight of three petrol pumps which were closed already, we finally found a fourth one still open and with great sighs of relief pulled into it. Only to be told it only served diesel and had no petrol.

The truck driver sitting next to the pump offered to carry one of us to the next petrol pump, about eight kilometres ahead, where he was sure we would get petrol. However the return journey was to be arranged by us. Weighing the pros and cons we decided to press on. The logic being if we got stranded midway, it would only be four kilometres one way instead of eight. We drove off with a light foot on the accelerator, the odo now having crossed 306. My daily drives had seen the odo rarely reaching 300, and I knew we were on our last drops of petrol now.

Another painful journey to Vadkhal and we found the HP petrol pump on the right side of the road. With exclamations of joy we pulled into it and asked him to pump all the petrol he had into the Nano! Just kidding, the Nano wouldn't take more than 15.03 litres!

Once her tummy had been filled, I gunned her for the homeward journey. The roads are eternally bad on this stretch, I remember the patches near the Karnala forest being bad many years ago from a drive to Alibag, and the same patches still remain there after so many years!

Finally it was home sweet home, though well past midnight. After putting the bags away we all hit the bed and dozed off, satisfied that finally we had completed the Ashtavinayak yatra.

Lessons learnt:

Of course the experienced travellers will notice many 'lessons to be learnt' from the above tale. For me the biggest lesson was that it is indeed possible to complete this yatra in two days, something I was apprehensive about in the beginning. Yes, we did face challenges, and yes, we may have made the wrong choices on a few occasions, but we did complete it in two days.

The second lesson was that the Nano was of immense help. She handled the bad roads with as much ease as she sped onto the highways. Even when I jumped a couple of speed breakers coming in at a higher speed, she never allowed her bottom to graze against the humps on the roads. The rear seat passengers never once complained of a harsh ride, though I rode through the kachcha roads at 30kmph on average.

The third lesson was engine braking is an important tool, with the Nano it is as important as braking itself. Travelling at high speed if you want to brake immediately you MUST downshift in the Nano.

The fourth lesson was the interior roads are all bad. The next time I need to plan the route along the national highways and a couple of other state highways which we found to be good (Chakan - Khed - Junnar being one of them, and the other at Ranjangaon). Also the city of Pune should be bypassed through any possible means. The Solapur highway entering Pune would land you at Hadapsar - Swargate - Katraj road which is full of traffic. On the other hand from Morgaon you could enter Pune at Katraj itself, which is fairly light in terms of traffic, and head onto the bypass road to reach e-way. So the return journey to Pune would ideally start from Morgaon.

The fifth lesson was I should always carry extra fuel, or refuel at the right time. With four bars on the guage as we touched the e-way, I was confident of completing the remaining journey in the available fuel, but prudence dictated that I fill up to the brim, since it would be late in the night by the time we headed back home. Carrying a two-litre bottle with fuel would provide an emergency relief in such a situation.

The sixth lesson is in most of these places you can find acceptable accommodation, specially if you are all youngish and singlish. We were three people, in mid-thirties and without kids, and we wouldn't mind a budget accommodation. So the next time our first option would be to scout for accommodation nearby a temple so that we can not only save money but also save time.

I am so excited by this Nano-Ashtavinayak I am thinking of doing this regularly, two to three times a year. Let's see how it goes.

That's all friends!

Here I also want to thank all the BHPians who guided me on the route of the yatra. Though I couldn't follow their advice all the time, it was invaluable.

I am processing the pictures to make them enough low-res so they can be posted here. But that would have to wait for now.
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Old 3rd November 2012, 17:45   #2
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Default Re: My Ashtavinayak Yatra

Congratulations on Completing the trip sucessfully Honeybee

Its surely a feat to do it in 2 days.
What happened to the blower? has it conked out?

That the car did well on the trip is not a Surprise, we hope to see more such trips from you sir.

My car takes 18 litres easily.

Also E is supposed to have 3 litres of Fuel ( Owners Manual ) , it is possible your's might also be taking more than 15 litres.

Awating pictures.

Last edited by silverado : 3rd November 2012 at 17:49.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:03   #3
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Thanks Silverado, the blower motor went kaput. I got it replaced under warranty last Saturday. But that's another episode.

Here are some of the pics, the major share of thanks for the pics goes to MoralFibre from whom I bought the D40 on Friday night, and the next vote of thanks to my wife who clicked these pics (alright, some of them are mine!).

Here's the first lot of the photos. There are too many, so I shall have to split them across posts.

Start of the Yatra behind the PMT bus:
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En route to Morgaon through Katraj:
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The view from top:
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Another view from top:
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The small ghat section:
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The greenery:
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More greenery:
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The road to Morgaon:
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The raging bull (thankfully it wasn't raging!):
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The animal farm:
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The farm:
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"Jotibacha Dongar" at Jejuri:
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The bridge over the railway:
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The railroad tracks (I wish our roads were at least as smooth as these!):
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"Jotibacha Dongar" from the top of the bridge:
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A squirrel at Morgaon:
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The first excellent road from Morgaon towards Solapur highway:
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Lots more greenery (the sun is now shining with all its might):
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Behind a bullock cart (elsewhere we saw bullocks into the carts, this is the first and last instance of a bullock cart we encountered in the journey):
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The road widening/concretization going on on the Pune Solapur highway en route to Daund:
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Railway crossing at Daund:
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The river crossing at Siddhatek:
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The bridge over the river:
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En route to Lenyadri (journey towards the end of the earth!):
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The empty roads with tall trees on both sides:
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Cattle in the cart:
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Yet another railway crossing (we had halted here for something):
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You can see people crowding all over the road behind the gate. As soon as the gates opened, there was a brief traffic jam on the tracks. Typical Indian mentality.

Reason why the gates were closed:
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"Dekho Woh Jaa Rahi Hai", Look, there she goes!:
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The reason why we had stopped:
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The blower had conked off by then, we had crossed more railway lines than rivers, and no lunch but only small snacks here and there. Onward to Shirur and then on to Lenyadri!

Last edited by honeybee : 6th November 2012 at 09:22. Reason: Laying out the images
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:26   #4
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Here's the next set:

The road conditions are bad and only get worse:
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Cattle often disrupted our journey:
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Occasional better surface:
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But not for long:
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Can you spot the horse grazing at the foot of the hill?
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The farms are a welcome change from the city landscape:
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Broken roads again:
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The tall trees surrounding the road on both sides:
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More cattle:
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Road work going on (obviously the road is an absolute nightmare here!):
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One of the craters we passed through - the first attempt was made from the left side - or right side of the photo. Halfway down the pit the car tilted to the right, a bit precariously. It wasn't prudent to blindly drive through, so I backed up and attempted a safe route from the wrong side:
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The new Alto 800:
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The setting sun:
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Lenyadri in the early morning - we did miss the sunrise!
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The last kilometre or two of roads leading up to Lenyadri are in beautiful shape:
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Lenyadri up close:
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Monkey up close:
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Two monkeys busy cleaning up each other:
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This baby jumped off a nearby tree and hopped to the two monkeys sitting below the stone stairs:
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Here's the baby:
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Up close:
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The entrance to the cave - you can see a dog patrolling on the upper lair and a monkey rapelling down the pipe:
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The monkey reaches the bottom and then jumps away:
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The dog patrolling the top balcony - this dog patrolled the whole area where monkeys are likely to attack the visitors:
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On the upper lair, this chap decides to drink water the human way:
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The road to Lenyadri from the upper lair:
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The parking lot:
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The parking lot and the approach road together:
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:48   #5
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This vihar is very much similar to the one we saw at Karla, Lonavla, except there are no elephants outside the entrance:
My Ashtavinayak Yatra-dsc_0185.jpg

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The squirrel - continuous shooting mode of the D40 came in handy, something I could never attempt with my FE:
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A shot at macro:
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Shivneri in the distance:
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The bus does have Windows!:
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Somewhere near Manchar:
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Saw this strange contraption en route to Ranjangaon:
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More broken roads - ideally we should have taken the Khed - Shirur route which might have been in a better shape:
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Cattle of a different variety:
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Near Theur - the worst quality of water found so far - so much so that wife refused to take any more shots of it on the return journey!:
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The river snakes around in the distance:
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Another Nano inspiration?:
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The young calf:
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The road out of Theur:
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The setting sun - this time on the Aundh bypass:
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The homeward - rather Mahad-ward journey:
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That's all for this trip, folks!
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Old 7th November 2012, 06:42   #6
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Thanks for sharing your experience and pics! Some good insights there.

Can you please share a map of the entire route that you took?

PS: No pics of the actual temples? I know you can not click inside, but external shots?

Last edited by SDP : 7th November 2012 at 06:43.
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Old 7th November 2012, 08:27   #7
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Its really commendable that you did complete the entire trip in two days. There were bound to be some issues as the darshan would not have been sweeter if not for the ordeals faced.

I remember at Lenyadri, we faced the monkeys who looked more fiercer than the humans as they would snatch anything looking plasticky. The ladies esp have a touch time while traversing the monkeys sitting on the steps.

Any ideas about the reason for the blower conking off (or are you starting a new thread on that). Lovely pics. All in all the journey was worth taking.
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Old 7th November 2012, 16:08   #8
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Default Re: My Ashtavinayak Yatra

Thanks all for the feedback.@SDP, I haven't plotted the route on the map, but it goes like this:Pune - Katraj - Jejuri - Morgaon - Daund - Siddhatek - Belwandi - Belhe - Junnar - Ranjangaon - Theur - Mundhwa - Kothrud - e-way - Khalapur - Mahad - Pali - Vadkhal -Panvel - Dombivli.
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