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Old 19th December 2013, 20:47   #1
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Default Monsoon Drive: Bangalore > Mumbai > Nashik > Aurangabad > Lonar > Mahabaleshwar

After the initial fury of the monsoon this year, the entire family was raring to go on a trip to see the lush green that the monsoon brings with it. On a Thursday evening in September, we decided on a long overdue trip to from Bangalore to Mumbai, but wanted to see more of Maharashtra so decided on a schedule that covered most of the western part of the state. It would be the first long road trip on our year old Innova and I was really looking forward to see how it would fare.

Members included me, my wife, two sons aged 5 and 2 and my in-laws. We booked the YMCA international in Mumbai (which was the only booking we did before starting the trip) and started out from Bangalore on Friday afternoon.

Day 1 (Friday) > Bangalore to Hubli (439 km) > We started out in the evening at around 5 PM and took the Pune Highway. It was a route we take quite frequently to go to Hubli where my brother in law stays and we decided to camp at his place for the night. It was an uneventful drive with just a stop at Chitradurga for dinner and we reached Hubli at around 11:30 P.M. Picture below taken on the bypass at Hubli

Day 2 (Saturday) > Hubli to Mumbai (590 km)> We started out from Hubli at around 08:30 in the morning after having a breakfast of Puttu ( Traditional Kerala Breakfast) from my brother in laws place. We took a road that passed the Hubli airport an re-entered the Hubli bypass and tool the road to Pune. The road was excellent and we could see the landscape for long distances.
We stopped for lunch near Karad at a local Maharashtrian Joint. I failed to note down the name of the hotel, but the food was amazing and was typical Maharashtrian lunch including Bajra bhakri. We started off again and crossed Pune at around 4 PM, where the traffic increased, but didnt slow us down as the roads were excellent.
After Pune, we reached a junction which read Mumbai -Pune Expressway and Mumbai Pune Highway. Being late, we decided to take the expressway even though we felt it will be less scenic, but it turned out to be a pretty scenic route and the road was spectacular even in the Ghat section. We hopped off the highway at Lonavla hoping to buy some of the famous Maganlal's Chikki. We then decided to do a small detour and reached Dukes Nose which is a scenic overhang on the way to Amby valley. It was sunset, and the light was not ideal for photography, but we took a few pics there. After dark we started off again and reached Vashi in Navi mumbai by 9:00 P.M and did a lightning visit to a distant relative. After the short stop, we continued again and reached Chembur where we took the newly opened Eastern Freeway which took us at lightning speed into the heart of Mumbai. We reached the YMCA at aroun 12:00 in the night. The YMCA is in a nice small locality right behind the Maratha Mandir theatre. The rooms were comfortable.

Somewhere near Kolhapur

Tunnels on the way

Pune Expressway

Day 3 (Sunday) > Tour of Mumbai (~ 80 km)>We started our tour of Mumbai at around 9:00 A.M. We decided to firstly just drive around the city. We went through Malabar Hill, Nariman point and reached the Gateway of India. After taking pics in front of the magnificent structure, we decided to take a boat ride. Elephanta was on my mind, but it was quite hot and since we anyways had plans to go to Ajanta and Ellora, we decided to skip Elephanta. We took a boat ride around the harbout and got a good view of the Gateway of India and the Taj hotel from the sea. We then had lunch at the famous Leopold Cafe. They still have kept a bullet from the 26/11 attacks. The food and ambience was great. We then did some shopping and my wife was very happy. We then went to Juhu via the Bandra-Worli sea link and spent some time at the Beach. In the evening, we went to one of my cousins in Khatkopar and had dinner at his house before returning to the comfort of the YMCA.

At the gateway of India

The skyline of Mumbai at Nariman point

On the Bandra Worli Sea Link

Day 4 (Monday) > Back to Lonavala and Day 2 tour of Mumbai (250 km)> Having driven through the Khandala Ghat section in the nights, I was disappointed and managed to convince the family for a quick drive back to see the ghats in the day time. I really have to say that it was worth the effort. We started at around 09:30 AM from the YMCA and reached Lonavala by around 12:30 P.M. we bought some more Chikki's and one the way back had a view of the Majestic Tiger Valley. It was Ganesh Chaturti week and the highway was quite deserted. We sped back to Mumbai, enjoying the scenery on the way and reached Bandra and spent the afternoon shopping. In the evening we decided to visit the famous Bade Miya Kabab center behind the Taj hotel. People eat in their car's and they have innovative ways of making your car into a dining table. In the case of of our Innova, they used a Coke bottle to convert the bonnet into a table. After the sumptuous meal, we took the now-deserted roads of Central Mumbai back to the YMCA intending to start out early to Nashik. It dawned on us that we havent booked accomodation in Nashik, and I immediately whipped out the Tripadvisor app on my iPhone and looked up hotels in Nashik. Going through reviews, we zeroed in on a homestay called Gulmohur, and we called their number. Luckily their guests were leaving that very day and they had availability the next day. After confirming the accomodation, we retired for the night at the YMCA

Near Lonavala.

View of tiger valley. Mumbai Pune expressway in the background

Having dinner at Bade Miya.. innovative use of Coke bottles to make our bonnet a table.

Day 5 (Tuesday) > Mumbai to Nashik (190 km) > We checked out of the YMCA in the morning and were looking forward to the drive to Nashik. We took some time to exit Mumbai as my wife decided to change some of the stuff she had bought from near Leopold. It turned out to be lucky because we saw the Chattrapati Shivaji terminus on the way which we had missed so far. We also made an accidental wrong turn and were apprehended by the super-efficient mumbai traffic cops. They realized that we were from out of state, and let us go with just a warning and also told us to renew our pollution certificate that had expired. We started again for Nashik and crossed Thane at around 11:00 A.M. The road to Nashik is not as good as the Pune -Mumbai expressway, but nevertheless, is excellent. The rain washed scenery was excellent as well. We had lunch in a road side Dhabha and started off again. It started raining heavily and slowed us down a bit. Since the distance was just 190 km, we stopped amply on the way to take pictures. The owner of the homestay Gulmohur, directed us to the place which is slightly out of the city in a village called Belgaon Dhaga on the way to the famous Trimbakeshwar temple. It was a nice cute homestay and the owners (Kamala and Vinod Parekh) were excellent hosts. They did not have dinner and suggested a place called Sanskriti which was nearby. It is a traditional restaurant and you get the experience of having food on a Khatiya (traditional bed). But it was mostly open air, and it was raining heavily, so we decided to go to another place nearby called Anand Resort which too had good Maharashtrian food. We then retired for the night at Gulmohur.

Mumbai to Nashik

Mumbai to Nashik.. All green landscapes from the monsoon

Mumbai to Nashik. Heavy rain coming

Day 6 (Wednesday) > Nashik to Aurangabad (190 km) > We had an excellent breakfast of Poha and sausages which Mrs Kamala Parekh made for us (and taught me and my wife to make Poha in the process). We then set out for the famous Sula Wineyards at Nashik. It is a short detour from the road back to Nashik from Gulmohur. Overall Sula has around 1800 acres of wineyards around Nashik, and around 100 acres in Bangalore, but the one surrounding the factory is around 18 acres. The place has a wine tour that includes a tour of the factory and wine tasting. The actual manufacturing process is only from Jan to March, so we didnt get to see wine made, but they took us on a tour around the factory. The wine tasting is at a restaurant on the first floor of the factory. Overall the experience was amazing and you get a feel of Napa valley. After wine tasting we started out back to Nashik for our onward journey to Aurangabad. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant called Radhakrishna in Nashik. This was recommended by Vinod Parekh who understood that we are mallu foodies who love seafood. The food here was amazing and I will recommend it to anyone who likes good sea food. After the sumptuous meal, we started again on our journey to Aurangabad via Niphad, Yeola and Vaijapur . The road started out ok till Niphad, but then it quickly deteriorated. Till there was practically no road. We had hoped to reach aurangabad by 5 ish and look for a hotel, but it seemed that it will be dark by the time we will reach. We reached Vaijapur by 6:30 PM and had some Vada Pav's and hot tea at a local shop. The road was a little better from Vaijapur and we reached Aurangabad at around 8:00 P.M and me and started looking for a hotel. Everything that seemed to be decent was quite expensive and we went back to our trusted tripadvisor app. We found a hotel called Panchvati which had good reviews and was cited as value for money. We used google maps to reach the place, but it had only one room left and we needed two. The receptionist realised that we were a small family with kids, so did some improvisation and figured out a free room where the TV was not working. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the hotel also served Korean cuisine and tried a few new dishes for dinner. Apparently Aurangabad has a lot of foreign tourists especially from the Orient because of the proximity of Ajanta and Ellora. We settled down for the night in anticipation of seeing Ajanta and Ellora in the coming days

Horrible roads from Nashik to Aurangabad

Sula Vineyards

Entering Sula Vineyards

A view of the vineyards

Day 7 (Thursday) > Aurangabad to Ellora and back (100 km) > We started out from the hotel in the morning after having breakfast. Ellora is around 30 km from Aurangabad and we reached by 11 A.M. We decided to take an Auto to cover the caves quickly. We first visited the Jain caves, and then came back to see the Kailashnath temple which is simply spectacular. The genius of carving a gigantic temple from a monolithic rock formation is simply mind boggling. we climbed to the top of the temple, and since it was monsoon season, even the surroundings were very beautiful. We walked to the buddhist caves as well which too were amazing. After around 3 hours of walking around the caves and being amazed, we started back to Aurangabad to see the Bibi ka Maqbara or the mini Taj Mahal. On the way back we also saw Emperor Aurangazeb's grave which is a pretty simple even though he was the most powerful and rich emperor on the planet in his time. We reached the mini-taj mahal and took some pictures. The guide told us that it was built by Aurangazeb's son for his mother but unlike the one built for her mother-in-law by Shah Jahan, he kept it simple. One of the reasons was because Aurangazeb himself didnt like spending the royal treasury on himself and lived a very simple life.

After the mini-Taj, the shopping instinct took over my wife and her mother and we went hunting for Paithani sari's. After some shopping in the heart of the city, we went to MTDC and booked the MTDC hotel in Lonar because that was our next destination after Ajanta, and we had heard that there werent any other hotels in the area. We then retired for the night at Panchvati.

Waterfall at Ellora

Kailashnath temple

Kailashnath temple from the top - See the size of the people below to understand the size of the temple

Bibi ka Maqbara

Day 8 (Friday) > Aurangabad to Ajanta and Lonar (280 km) > We checked out from the hotel in the morning and moved on to Ajanta. It is around 100 km from Aurangabad. My wife was driving and I have the habit of doing some explorations on google maps when she drives. Near a place called Balapur, I realized that there is a deviation in the road where there is a viewpoint for Ajanta. Further investigation on the net showed us that it is the very point from which the British hunter discovered Ajanta. We took the left turn and reached the view point which was pretty impressive because we could see all the caves from a good height and distance. After clicking pics, we backtracked back to move to the official entry to Ajanta. We reached the parking lot and then the MTDC buses which are the only ones allowed to ply to Ajanta. We had lunch at the MTDC hotel and started walking towards the caves. The caves are amazing to say the least. Just the feeling that people were actually living and meditating there more than two thousand years ago was moving. We ran into some Japanese students whom we met at the hotel. They too seemed to be loving the place. We didn't cover all the caves, because it was getting late. After we reached midway, we turned back and took the bus back to the shopping lot. we were besieged by vendors selling statues of Buddha made from basaltic rock. We finally bought one and then started out with the Innova to head towards Lonar at around 5:00 PM . The road to Lonar is similar to the road to Ajanta. Single carriageway, but no major potholes. we could keep a pace of around 60-70 kmph. We took the route via Buldhana, Chikli and Mehkar as per the travelogue of another Team-BHPian. We reached the MTDC at Lonar at around 9:00 P.M and checked in. We had a simple dinner at the resort and went to sleep.

Day 9 (Saturday) > Lonar to Panchgani ( 480 km ) > I woke up early in the morning and walked to the lake. The lake is almost a perfect round and the water is supposed to be 7 times saltier than sea water. Apparently it was created by a meteor that hit here 500,000 years ago. The vegetation in the lake is also unique and has brought many researchers to the lake. We thought of trekking to the lake bed, but it would have delayed our trip back, so we just drove around the lake and climbed on a couple of Vista spots on the rim of the lake. We then came back and checked out of the hotel for our trip to Pune. The road to Aurangabad was not good but it wasnt as bad as the one from Nashik to Aurangabad. We reached Aurangabad by lunch time and had lunch in the Madhuban restaurant on the Beed bypass. The food was good and the restaurant also has a good play area and the worlds largest Kaleidoscope apparently. We started off after lunch and followed googles instructions to turn left and take the road to paithan to eventually merge the Aurangabad > Mumbai highway . It turned out that this section of road is very bad and it took is almost 1.5 hours to cross this 20 km stretch. The better route would have been to go back to Aurangabad city and then take the highway. After we got on the highway, the road was excellent and we breezed by Ahmednagar. After that I got back to my exploring Google maps, and decided to move off the highway and take a detour which would be a shorter route to Panchgani. So right after Shirur, we took a left and took a route via Kedgaon, and Lonand. Though the initial route was scenic, the road condition deteriorated drastically and we were moving at snails pace. We started regretting the decision. At Kedgaon we stopped and asked people about the route. A couple of truck drivers warned me not to go without company, but when I checked with the locals, they said that the roads are safe. The roads were much better even though they were still single carriageway. We reached the Pune-Bangalore Highway close to the Panchgani exit and then reached Panchgani in time for dinner. Here we didnt get much help from Tripadvisor, and we checked out reviews on google to finalize on a place called Gayatri hotel. It is right in the middle of Panchgani, near to the school made famous by Taare Zameen Par. The hotel seems to be a formerly good hotel that has lost its glory. They didnt even have a card swiping device and only accepted cash, which is a bit strange in a tourist destination. Anyways we settled for the night and wondered about the next days plans.

The Lonar Crater

Day 10 (Sunday) Panchgani - Mahabaleshwar - Tapola -Satara- Hubli (450 km) > In the morning, we did the mandatory visits to Parsi point, and had breakfast at a small place near the Tablelands. We then drove on towards Mahabaleshwar stopping at the Mala's factory to buy some yummy Jam which is made there. I started playing with Google maps again, and being always fascinated with reservoirs, I found a place called Tapola which was a dead-end to a the ShivajiSagar reservoir. So we crossed Mahabaleshwar and carried on towards Tapola. That was probably the best decision of the tour. After the Monsoons, the beauty of the place was unbelievable. I have some snaps, but the pics do not do justice to the beauty of the place which essentially is hills and small villages in between. Looking at google, I figured that Tapola is an upcoming tourist destination as well with watersports trekking etc. We had lunch in an awesome but small restaurant in Tapola (I cant remember the name. There are just a couple of them so you cant miss it). We then took the boat trip across the reservoir which was awesome. All hills around were bright green and also misty at the top. After the boat trip, we started the journey back to Satara and crossed a place where many people had parked their cars and were walking in the fields. On enquiring, we understood that the place is called Kas Patthar, and in a week or so, the entire place blooms with flowers. Unfortunately only a few flowers were there at that time, but the place was beautiful nontheless. We then drove on to Satara where we hit the Pune Bangalore highway and reached Hubli at by brother in laws place by 9 PM.

Parsi Point at Panchgani

On the way to Tapola - Near the Shivajisagar Reservoir


There were landslides all along the way. Not exactly the safest season


All green around

Near Kas Patthar

Day 11 (Monday) > Hubli to Bangalore (450 km) > It was Onam on Monday and we being Mallu's, celebrated it at my Brother in law's place. After a sumptuous Onam Lunch, we started out in the evening for the stretch back to Bangalore which was rather uneventful. We stopped for dinner at a highway hotel near Chitradurga and reached home by around 10:00 P.M.
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Old 20th December 2013, 20:47   #2
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Default Re: Monsoon Drive: Bangalore > Mumbai > Nashik > Aurangabad > Lonar > Mahabaleshwar

Bade Miya food on the bonnet is very novel way, heard about their yummy food.
Waterfall at Ellora - Wow too good.
Kailashnath Temple too unheard of places, wonderful trip, you have covered a lot of distance and some fantastic places, great going , read through the entire writeup and enjoyed it thoroughly, cheers and happy driving.
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Old 21st December 2013, 01:19   #3
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Default Re: Monsoon Drive: Bangalore > Mumbai > Nashik > Aurangabad > Lonar > Mahabaleshwar

The best thing about this holiday, your Innova.
I don't think there is a better car (In this budget) which can keep you as comfortable as the Innova can.

If you don't mind me asking, what was the total amount spent of fuel?

And next time you wish to eat at BadeMiya, they have an air conditioned dining space near Asiatic Library.
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Old 21st December 2013, 09:56   #4
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Default Re: Monsoon Drive: Bangalore > Mumbai > Nashik > Aurangabad > Lonar > Mahabaleshwar

Wonderful travelogue ; really nice photos. Ellora & Ajanta are one of the finest example of the stellar heights Indian art & culture reached thousands of years ago. Do the authorities permit photography inside Ajanta caves?
O.T: How did you upload the images? I don't see T-BHP logo present in any image?

Last edited by ankan.m.blr : 21st December 2013 at 09:58.
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Old 21st December 2013, 11:03   #5
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Default Re: Monsoon Drive: Bangalore > Mumbai > Nashik > Aurangabad > Lonar > Mahabaleshwar

Hi , parrys the total distance covered was 3576 km and the total fuel cost was Rs 15500 with half a tank left over by the time we reached bangalore. Yes, the Innova was very comfortable. My in-laws are in their sixties and they had absolutely no problem while travelling this distance.

Hi ankan.m.blr.. In the menu above the message section of the post, There is an option to insert an image with a URL. I uploaded the pic into my own cloud based storage and have given the url.
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