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Old 11th May 2014, 13:13   #31
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

I took yesterday’s road towards Sawantwadi, and planned to join the NH4 to ride towards Pune. The Sun was partially covered with clouds now, so the heat was not as unbearable as it had been at the start of the ride. I parked Vesta in a narrow road in Sawantwadi, and went on a stroll in the market of wooden toys.

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Sawantwadi’s toys and lifelike fruits made out of wood are famous world over. These toys or artifacts look great, and last really long. They ranged from mundane one like push up toys, to complex ones that included moving parts and springs.

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This region is also famous for a pack of cards, called Ganjifa. Ganjifa, or originally Ganjifeh, is a Mughal era game of cards. In Sawantwadi, an Indian version of the game is played. The pack of cards has 120 hand-drawn round cards, and it is played by three persons. The system of the game is interesting, though a bit complicated. The cards however were very beautiful to look at, with each card painted intricately. It requires a lot of time for an artist to create one pack of such cards.

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When I was young, I had a wooden car from Sawantwadi, and I had a lot of happy memories playing with it. I was overjoyed when I saw the same model still on sale, after 20 years!

I shopped for few artifacts and cashews, and had lunch at Sawantwadi. I was not sure where would I find a good hotel later on my route, as it was a weekday and the villages I’d pass on were small.

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After the lunch, I entered the steep and twisty Amboli Ghat. The ghat consisted of many small steep patches that curved at the end into another steep road. I enjoyed the twisties a lot on Vesta, and slithered on like a snake.

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Near Amboli, there was a site for the waterfall that had become Amboli’s identity. It was of course dried up now, but in its grandiouse avatar in rains it would be a terrific sight.

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There are a few tourist points in Amboli, like Hiranyakeshi river origin, some view-points etc. But this was not the season to enjoy them the fullest, so I kept on accelerating and passing them one by one.

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After Amboli, my halt was at Ajara. There is a place about 3 kms inside the main road, called Ramtirth. Similar to Amboli, there is a waterfall here that comes into bloom in monsoons. But unlike Amboli, it is not dried up for the rest of the months. There is always good amount of water in the depths of the stones that form natural basins for the flowing water from Amboli.

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There is a legend that Lord Rama had stayed here for a few days when he was in exile, hence the name Ram-Tirth.

I joined the main road for heading towards the NH4. The road was gleaming bright in the late afternoon light, and riding on the beautifully canopied smooth tarmac was a pleasure.

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Old 11th May 2014, 13:16   #32
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I could sense the atmosphere slowly changing its appearance. From the usual burning attire, it went cold to windy very fast. At one point, when I was riding towards Kolhapur, I literally shivered inside the jacket, such was a sudden drop in temperature. I wondered whether there had been a rainfall nearby, and whether I would have to face one.

Soon I could see clouds gathering up in the skies in the direction I was going. I kept on looking at the sky, trying to judge the direction I was heading and the condition of sky in that direction. For the first time in my rides in Maharashtra, the sky started to scare me. It was not the possibility of rain, I was prepared for that. But it was this sudden change in the atmosphere and the gathering of clouds that kept me on my toes, and I kept on accelerating Vesta.

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But the speeds were not enough, and soon I could feel the 150KG Vesta slightly wavering and swinging due to heavy crosswinds. The trees on the road appeard as if they were waving their arms, with all the branches swinging wildly. I had to find a shelter fast, but there was no village nearby.

Luckily, there was a petrol pump on the road. I took Vesta inside, and the attendant hidden under a shade gestured to me ‘No petrol’. I took the bike near the shade, dismounted and got in.

‘I am not here for petrol.’ I said. He understood my purpose, and didn’t ask any more questions.

The winds took on wild forms, and soon the dry sand on the roads was being blown up everywhere. We heard a loud tearing noise, and peeped out of the shade to find that the roof of a nearby structure was in tatters, and now it was fluttering in the strong winds.

It was scary, and it was quick. It was over in about 10 minutes. Slowly I and other refugees came out go see whether there had been any damage. One of the bikes had fallen due to the winds. Luckily Vesta had stood strong, and there was no damage except she was covered with dust all over. I quickly dusted her, and rode her hard in order to pass this region. But again, the momentary break offered by the thunderstorm was over, and it was planning its next move again.

Just after a few kilometers, I saw the storm approaching in a distance. I did not want to wait under a tree in case of lightning; I kept on looking for shelters while controlling the shivering Vesta in the strong winds. There was a big petrol pump up ahead in a distance, but the winds were gathering strength, and reaching there seemed impossible. There was a small house made out of laterite stone on a corner of the road, so I directed Vesta there.

I got down hurriedly, and parked Vesta properly, and told her to hold her ground strongly in case of heavy winds. I was wondering where I should hide from the impeding storm, when I heard the door open behind me.

‘Do you want to come in?’ A man peeking from the gap asked me.

I had no choice but to accept. I hurriedly entered in the house, and he closed the door behind. I could not see anything inside the room, it was pitch black inside. As I was coming from bright sunlight to the dark room, my eyes took some time to adjust their aperture.

I fumbled my way towards something to sit upon. The electricity was gone, that’s why it was dark inside the house. Once my eyes settled down, I could see outlines of two scared stiff goats tied in one corner of the house. I was sitting on a wooden bed with a few pillows but no mattress. A grandma joined me on a plastic chair with a small child on her arm.

Soon the lady of the house offered me a hot cup of tea, and I found my voice again. I introduced myself, and asked a few general questions. I found out that I was in the house of a farmer living on the farm itself. While I was bit ashamed to barge into their house, they were very cool about it.

I couldn’t help but feel awkward by their hospitality, and wanted to leave as soon as possible, risking a little safety. But the blowing winds and rains made sure I stayed put inside the dark house, intruding their privacy.

The father-son farmer duo had terrific grasp on weather terms. When I heard the storm getting weak, I announced my plans to move out. They opened the door, looked at the sky and told me to wait for 5 more minutes. They estimated that the storm was almost on its way out, and I would be safe towards the Kolhapur side.

(Photo from mobile)

The storm really subsided in next few minutes, and life started getting back on track slowly. A few neighbors and passersby were stopping by, to chat with the owner. I heard discussions of how roofs of some houses were damaged and how some trees had fallen.

‘How do I repay their generosity?’ I wondered. Money was out of question, paying it would be an insult. Going through my backpack, I found a wooden spinning top that I had bought at Sawantwadi. I gifted it to the grandchild, who was still too young to play with such toys.

It was some new design top that required a smooth surface such as glass or a tile. In order to demonstrate them the working, I began searching for a smooth surface, and soon realized with a sinking feeling in my stomach that there was no smooth surface in that house of stones and mud. Right from the hard floor made out of mud to the wooden surface of the bed without any mattress, there was no smooth surface to demonstrate the toy.

I am not an emotional person, but this was the only time I was glad that it was dark inside the house, and they couldn’t see my eyes. I turned the spinning top, and it spun weakly and shortly dropped to a side.

‘You will get the gist of it soon!’ I exclaimed with faked enthusiasm, and got out in a hurry to meet Vesta. Thankfully, she was still standing, and the rains had washed her properly. So she was gleaming out in the open waiting for me, just like the first day of the tour. I mounted her, wondering what more I had in store, after facing two storms and one heavy session of rains. Turned out there was more.

I was on my way to Nipani, the point where I would join the highway, when I spotted some traffic in distance. What could be causing a traffic-jam on village roads at this time, I wondered? Surely there’d be no wedding procession in this weather! I approached the jam to find out: A huge tree was sprawled across the road, uprooted from the storm!

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Traffic at both the sides had come to a standstill, and people were looking at each other clueless. Upon inquiring, I heard various answers that a tractor was called, or people would cut down the tree! Both the options were time consuming, was there any third option?

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Some brave souls on two wheelers ventured into neighboring fields to cross the fallen tree, only to have their bikes sunk into the wet soil! I didn’t want Vesta to suffer unnecessarily, so asked around for an alternative route. Turned out there was a diversion that would add some 5-7 kilometers to the journey. It was anytime better than risking getting stuck in the middle of a field! So I turned back, and accelerated hard to reach the highway. Finally, as the last light of the Sun went away, I touched the highway and was set for my ride to Kolhapur.

From the highway, it was a safe ride henceforth, and the nature Gods decided I had faced enough of their wraths for that day, so they didn’t bother me either. I checked in at one of the hotels near the Mahalaxmi temple, and called it a day.

While sleeping, I wondered that if we humans suffer so much because of the storms, what the poor helpless birds in the Charao island would do if they had to face the same?

Last edited by ani_meher : 11th May 2014 at 13:18.
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Old 11th May 2014, 13:33   #33
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Day 7 – Homeward bound

For second day in a row, I woke up at 4.30 AM again today. Today my first place to visit was the grandiose fort of Panhala.

Panhala fort has a glorious history to tell. It was here that the King Shivaji was trapped inside the fort by Adilshahi’s Siddi Jauhar. Despite of numerous attempts, the siege showed no sign of relief, and the situation became desperate. A direct attack was not possible, because there were about 10,000 Adilshahi soldiers whereas King Shivaji had only 600. King Shivaji then planned a daring escape, that would be subject of numerous songs and folklores ever since.

King Shivaji spread false news that he was willing to negotiate a treaty, and relaxed Siddi Jauhar a bit, as his many months siege would finally end. Then on a full moon night, a group of soldiers surrounded the King and they made their way out quietly, via a hidden path. But they were sighted, and Siddi ordered them to be arrested and brought before him. When the small group was nabbed and was brought ceremoniously in front of him, Siddi Jauhar realized with a shock that this was not the real King Shivaji, but rather an imposter! A lot of time had already been spent, and the team with real King Shivaji would have reached far ahead. Yet, with renewed vigour, Siddi sent forces to capture King Shivaji, who was now heading to Vishalgad, about 60 kilometers away from Panhala.

When King Shivaji was nearing Vishalgad, the group could hear the approaching Adilshahi forces. It was here when the General Baji Prabhu Deshpande took position at the narrow pass of Ghod Khind (Horse Pass) that allowed only a handful soldiers to pass at once, and asked King Shivaji to move ahead. The battle at Ghod Khind was fierce, with 300 soldiers stopping thousands. Every one of them was bloodied, and yet was brandishing swords and weapons madly towards the enemy soldiers, with one thought in mind – the King should be safe.

Meanwhile, Vishalgad was under siege too, but King Shivaji with his handful men attacked it with a grand vigor and broke it. Once he reached Vishalgad safely, the cannons were blasted, indicating the King has arrived. Only after hearing this assurance did the General laid his life down.

Baji Prabhu Deshpande remains a chapter of courage in the Maharashtra history, and Panhala was the place that Siddi tore up his hairs when the King escaped from such a tight siege.

Panhala fort is hardly an hour away from Kolhapur city by vehicle. A nice road leads you to the fort. Kolhapur city was already up and running by the time I hit the road. The Sun had not yet rose, but his rays were already arrived. It was refreshing to ride in the early morning rays and the chill.

The fort is located at a height, so there is a mild ghat section that leads on to the fort. While covering the ghat, I noticed that it was time of the sunrise, and the Sun had reported dot on time.

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There was a masjid en route to the fort.

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The fort is like a proper village, with schools, hospitals and many hotels suitable for all budget ranges. I had seen a number of forts, but I had not yet seen a fort where one can drive a motorcycle around and into!

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As there were tar roads leading to everywhere, I explored the fort using Vesta. Panhala is a large fort, and the locations are scattered a distance away from one another. One would have very tough time to walk his or her way through all the points. It is better to take a vehicle and cover the interim distances between various places on the fort.

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Old 11th May 2014, 13:44   #34
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I first visited the Andhar Baav – the hidden well. The structure of this well is similar to a small fort, and a new person would never guess the stairs leading to the water.

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Whenever an army would besiege a fort, the water supply would be the first to get contaminated. In order to avoid this, this well was constructed in appearance of a small fort, and had recesses where soldiers could be stationed.

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There are several escape routes from the Andhar Baav that lead outside the fort.

I then went to Ambarkhana – the granaries.

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There are 3 big buildings used to store grains. It was this huge storage that allowed King Shivaji to hold put for 5 months despite the tight siege. The three kothis – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati could hold about 8000 tons of grains.

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There is a pathway that allows two wheelers to pass through another structure – Teen Darvaja. I was surprised to see the two wheelers and Omnis wheeling past the stony structure.

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The teen darvaja is the main entrance to the fort, consisting of double gates with a court in between.

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Konkan Darvaja – another entrance to the fort

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The fort had many scenic locations, and I really enjoyed my time spent on top.

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Unlike many other forts, here I did not need worry about getting food or water thanks to the numerous hotels.

After roaming on the fort and taking in its historical contribution, I headed back to Kolhapur, but not without having the breakfast of the region – Kolhapuri Missal.

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Old 11th May 2014, 13:54   #35
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After returning to Kolhapur, I went to the Mahalaxmi temple. This temple is one of the three and a half places of power ( Sade Tin Shakti Pith). Mahalaxmi – The Goddess of wealth - is the wife of Shri Balaji of Tirupati, and pilgrims visit both the temples in one trip.

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Luckily it was a weekday and there was not much crowd. I could see the temple and its surroundings in peace.

It is a beautiful temple, buzzing with many people. There are numerous small temples in the periphery of the main temple within its campus. But due to the security, I could not take cameras inside.

After the darshan, I came out of the temple, collected the cameras from the locker counter, and went on a stroll in the Kolhapur market.

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As expected around any temple, there were many flower-sellers doing their business. The smell of such fresh flowers in early morning was rejuvenating.

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The Kolhapuri chappals have become an identity over the years. Their particular style and their typical Karr-Karr noise when the wearer walks proudly are clearly distinguishable.

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I too roamed around looking at the various chappal shops. I found one store with the biggest chappal I had ever seen!

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And the smallest ones too!

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After the stroll in the market, I returned to hotel and checked out. Loaded the luggage on Vesta and asked her not to burn any part of it again. I was riding to home, and I did not want to reach showing smoke rising from my behind.
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Old 11th May 2014, 14:02   #36
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The highway ride was easy, and high speeds were easily possible. But by getting up very early for two consecutive days, I was feeling extremely drowsy. I would not feel so sleepy on twisty roads, but on straight highways, it was hard to remain completely alert. So I took a lot of halts for coffee and water, to brush off sleep from my eyes.

At one halt, a runner with a burning torch in his hand passed me. I was seeing such torch bearers for a few days now, and wondered what the story was behind their run. A support group was on a motorcycle behind him, and I hailed them down.

‘What’s the running all about? What’s with the torch?’ I asked genuinely.

’This is for King Shivaji’s birth day today.’ One of them replied in earnest. ‘We began our run from Sindhudurg a few days ago, and now we are making a run towards our village near Satara. We take turns after every 12 kilometers.’

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After the running torch bearer, many thoughts started overflowing in my mind. I had been riding for past seven days across various portions of Maharashtra. The places, the people, the situations, all the memories came rushing forwards, overwhelming me. I had to halt at the side of the road to write whatever came to my mind, in order to keep it with me forever and not lose it in the passage of time.

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I reached Satara, and halted for lunch at the previous hotel, where I had lunch on the second day of this ride. I was feeling drowsy, and decided to take a power nap. Suddenly I felt the curtains of the hotels fluttering, and looked at the highway. The dry dust flew off in one swift motion, and I realized this was a prelude to another storm! The sleep that had been bothering me for past few hours suddenly turned chicken and ran away. I was fully awake and alert.

I had one last point on agenda before heading on home. There was a small village called ‘Sangam Mahuli’ not too far from here. It is located on the confluence of two rivers, Krishna and Venna. It is famous for its three old temples, Vishveshwar, Sangameshwar and Rameshwar. But now the incoming storm was threatening my plans to visit this beautiful place.

‘What should I do now?’ I thought hard. ‘Should I rush forward towards home and reach safely, or should I visit Sangam Mahuli and risk facing the storm?’

I decided a wanderer is not deterred by a natural event, and I would not let a freak storm decide my itinerary for the day. So I paid the bill at the hotel and turned towards Sangam Mahuli, keeping a weather eye on the horizon.

The temples were located near the confluence, two on one side and one across the river. These temples were huge and breathtaking in their appearance. I parked Vesta under a tree and went on clicking the photos. The beautiful tall temples had stood the test of times, braving the weather and the years.

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After Sangam Mahuli, I returned victoriously to Vesta, and mounted her to ride home. But on the highway, the storm had already gathered up friends and was becoming stronger every minute. I took refuge in a big petrol pump.

Soon other travelling people began gathering as well, as none wanted to travel in a windy storm. There was no room to hide, only a tall roof to stand below and each other for company and support. Suddenly we could feel drops of water hitting us at an angle, and it was a full blown hail storm!

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Tiny bits of ice began hitting fast, and I was amazed and terrified whether they would take a bigger form. Luckily their shape didn’t exceed the acceptable limit, and there was no damage because of the hail storm. But it drenched me completely by the time I donned the rainwear.

It took a breather a while later, and people started making their way out. I too proceeded cautiously. A few kilometers later, it was dry as a bone! There was no sign of rains or storm, and I started to feel ridiculous in the fully covered rainwear. But I was too tired to get off and remove it, so I kept on riding, thankfully so. Because after a few kilometers again, I entered into a rainy area, and it continued giving me company till almost all the way till Pune.

Now I had it with the mood swings of the weather, so I twisted the accelerator and Vesta rushed forward, cutting through the winds and the rains like knife cuts butter. She rode hard and strong, and brought me safe towards the entry bridge of a dry Pune.

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There is this bridge built across a valley. It is Asia’s biggest such bridge, and it is a matter of pride for many Pune-ites.

Just after this picture, the rain God started showering his love and didn’t give me chance to take out my cameras again. The city’s traffic signals were not working due to rains, and it was a jungle out there. After travelling on empty roads, I was finding it odd to tackle so much traffic. But I kept my patience, and kept on riding sanely. While I was returning from my True Wanderer journey, in a way everyone was returning to their homes after a wandering of their own.

I finally reached my home, and parked Vesta in the parking lot. Tomorrow there’d no early wake up to watch beautiful birds, or to witness sunrise from a fort. There wasn’t going to be any lullaby by the roaring sea to put me to sleep, nor was I going to be awakened by a peacock’s call. The journey had just completed, and I was already beginning to miss it dearly.

I took a last look at Vesta. She too looked content and proud, having never let me down at any point during the journey of 1600 kilometers in seven days.

I unloaded my luggage, and let Vesta breathe freely without anything on her. I stood besides her, petting her absent mindedly. The True Wanderer journey had come to an end. And I felt so different than I did seven nights ago standing on this very same spot. ‘That’s the beauty of wandering’, I thought. ‘It fills one up with happiness and humility’.

Lost in the thoughts, with an aching body, I climbed up the stairs and rung the bell. The door opened to a number of happy faces – I had returned to my world.
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Old 11th May 2014, 14:05   #37
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The wanderer returned home

And the wanderer returned home, sometime late at night
He expected everyone to be asleep, but they were up and bright
Happily they gathered around him, helped him unlock the things
They asked him about his well being and they inquired about his wanderings

‘How was the past week?’ they wanted to know everything
‘I am really tired now’ he said, ‘can we talk tomorrow morning?’
‘No, no!’ they shouted in unison, ‘we wanted to hear it now!’
‘If not everything, then tell us one best thing you’ve come to know’

He pondered a while, and said ‘Went to places I’d never been,
I tasted many new foods, and saw the things I’d never seen
I travelled far away, and finally faced my life-long fears
Sometimes got into situations that jerked out my stubborn tears!’

‘I had grand plans’, he kept on musing,
‘I wanted to learn about everything’
‘I went in hopes of finding a few good stories
And I returned with a precious treasure of memories’

‘I saw man made miracles and natural wonders.
Met interesting people, faced treacherous thunders.
But one thing I remember above it all,
That in past seven days I really missed you all’

A wanderer never travels alone; he rides on the prayers of his loved one and friends.
‘I am honored by the support you have always been, I hope that this love never ends.’

------Special thanks to Wrangler, Myntra.com, Shoppers Stop, xBhp.com for True Wanderer 3.0 and for making this ride possible-----

Last edited by ani_meher : 11th May 2014 at 14:11.
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Old 11th May 2014, 14:10   #38
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

That's all, folks! If you liked what you read, please consider voting for me on bit.ly/SOq5TP. The last date for the voting is 15th May 2014.

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Comments most welcome!
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Old 12th May 2014, 13:28   #39
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Default Re: Seven stories - Roaming in Maharashtra

Originally Posted by ani_meher View Post
That's all, folks! If you liked what you read

Comments most welcome!
One word simply brilliant, you have covered various shades of Maharashtra so beautifully that i was lost in good old memories of some of the places visited.

I was glued to my computer screen.

Rated it 5 stars for excellent narration, description, quality content and pictures.

Keep it up

Edit: Voted

Last edited by driving_smartly : 12th May 2014 at 13:29.
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