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Old 5th December 2008, 20:53   #1
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Default Blr-Pune-Mahabaleshwar-Ganapatipule-Blr (6days, 5 nights, loads of pictures and fun)

This trip happened quite unexpectedly. My wife had vowed to visit Tirupati and Shirdi once she was back on her feet after her Spine surgery last year. Tirupati, being close by had been visited, but the Shirdi trip kept eluding us. Many a time we reminded ourselves that we need to pay a visit to Shirdi to thank baba for helping us overcome the ups and downs of life.

Suddenly my wife was in the midst of changing jobs, and I got free at work for some time, so we decided that we would complete this piligrimage at any cost. There were not too many options discussed about how we would get there, we considered flying but then not only would we be spending a bomb on air travel but we would also feel the need for our own transport once we got off the plane. Another disadvantage, as we saw it was that flying to either Pune or Mumbai would mean that we would limit our travel to Shirdi and back.

A few messages and checks on the forum made me decide to drive all the way. I contacted H V Kumar and VJ Maverick as to how feasible it was for me to drive all by myself. I was assured that it would not be too difficult.

So here I was, all kicked up about the "Mother of all Drives" as far as I was concerned. The longest stretch I had driven in one go was between Delhi and Udaipur last year. This drive was going to be longer than that as we decided to drive to Pune in one go rather than take an overnight halt.

In any case I contacted some of my friends in Tbhp hoping that they would join me on an impulse, but work and other commitments prevented them from joining me, but they encouraged and wished me the safest of journeys.

The date of journey decided was Saturday the 29th of November 2008.
I hoped to get back from work early on Friday and rest for sometime before packing as we had decided to leave home by 3 am in order to eat up as many miles as possible before noon. But fate had other plans, I had to run around town on work for most of the day and could get home only by 9 pm, a hurried packing ensured, I had sent my car home earlier and instructed my driver to clean it in the evening. I also topped up the tank at Shell near Varthur. I went to sleep hoping that there would be respite from the rain the next morning.


Woke up to the alarm by 2.30 am, we were all dressed and ready by 3.15 am, it was dark and drizzling, loaded the car with our baggage and we were off by 3.30 am. Took the now familiar Doddaballapur-Dobbspet route to reach Tumkur by 4.45 am, here I made the mistake of taking the road through town rather than the incomplete byepass hoping it would be faster, but to my chagrin the road was non existent and I wasted 15 minutes to get back to the highway.

Once on the highway it was a fast drive till Chitradurga, we reached Chitradurga at 6.15 am, the road from Chitradurga to Davangere is still under construction so there were a lot of diversions from one lane to the other, at 7.15 am we were crossing Davangere and decided not to stop for breakfast as planned earlier.

The road from Davangere till Haveri is not so good and it slows one down a great deal, once we cross Haveri the road improves and it was back to speeds of 110 kmph. We were on the outskirts of Hubli when we decided to halt for fuel and breakfast, I saw a HP pump which had Vithal's kamat attached and we halted. A slow and leisurely breakfast made sure we left Hubli by 9.30 am.

Breakfast Halt
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From then on it was a nonstop thundering down the highway on some lovely roads till Kolhapur at about 12 noon. Spotting a McDonald's on the highway, we decided to break early for lunch. A brief half hour halt and we were back on the highway, luckily for us it was very pleasant throughout with a little rain which ensured that I did not tire driving non stop. The airconditioner was hardly switched on during the drive till Pune.

We were at Katraj going through the tunnel at around 3 pm and we got a call from my wife's cousin with whom we were supposed to stay, asking us how far away we were, she was quite surprised when we told her we were almost at her doorstep, they had expected us to land up no less than 7 pm. The entrance into Pune by road is a beautiful scenic drive, for us who had never seen the deccan plateau it was breathtaking.

Entry Into Pune
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Khambatki Tunnel
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With the trip meter reading 820 we reached our host's home at 3.45 pm.
I was quite surprised when I looked back on the journey and had made it to Pune from Bangalore in just over 12 hrs with a total stoppage time in between for slightly over an hour. Now I understood how some of the Highway kings on the forum do the same distance in under 10 hrs. At no point in time did I cross speeds of over 110kmph, most of the good roads were covered at speeds from 100 to 110.

Day 2

Since it was a Sunday, we were told to leave early for Shirdi to avoid the crowds, but we could leave only by 7.15 am and were accompanied by my wife's aged aunt and niece. We stopped for fuel at Rajgurunagar and was amazed at the mileage, the car had returned 14.99 km/lt on our drive from Hubli to Pune. Just after topping up, we stopped for breakfast comprising of typical Maharashtrian Poha and Batata Vada.

The road was a mixture of good and bad, also post our breakfast halt we noticed that the road had got a lot of traffic and it was literally bumper to bumper and I had a slightly difficult time overtaking vehicles on the dual carriageway. But we managed to reach Shirdi by exactly 12 noon. The odometer too showed 12. So we had travelled 1012 kms from home to Shirdi.

Enroute Shirdi
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The road enroute Shirdi
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1000 kilometres from Home
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It looked very crowded and we were fending off touts who kept knocking on the windows telling us that they would get us parking and darshan. Finally managed to get parking in front of a hotel not very far from the temple and called a contact in the temple who was supposed to help us get darshan easily, he asked us to come to the main gate and a particular room in the office, we were told to leave our cameras and mobile phones behind.

On reaching the office, we were made to wait as the aarti had begun and we were told that people are not allowed to walk in or out during the aarti. So a 20 minute wait later, we were escorted by a security guard who allowed us in through a gate directly into the shrine, we had a good darshan and were again escorted out all in a matter of 15 minutes. We spent some time at the temple looking around and then the ladies did a bit of shopping for photoframes and other giveaways for people back home.

Since it was close to 2 pm, we decided to have lunch at Shirdi itself as we did not know of any other good place. We had delicious Maharashtrian lunch and were feeling quite nice and happy, once back on the road, I realised that I had taken the Ahmednagar road rather than the road going to Sangamaner, this road was not so good and to add to our woes there was a huge traffic pileup for almost 45 minutes, but once we reached Ahmednagar the road was good and had divided lanes and was new,

Ahmednagar-Pune road
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The road from Ahmednagar to Pune is extremely good and closer to Pune it reminded me of our own Bangalore - Mysore state highway. We reached home at Pune at 7.30 pm after a halt for some chaat inside the city.
So at the end of day 2, we had travelled 1223 kilometres from home.

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Old 5th December 2008, 21:02   #2
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mmmmmmm... so this is what you were upto last week Hari. Now we need to plan a group drive to this place. I am tempted after what you described in your sms/phone call and also from the pics in another thread about this place.

I think it's customary to say the following in travelogues, so i will be the first one to say:

Nice pics, keep them coming :-)

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Old 5th December 2008, 21:05   #3
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So, finally its out.

Man you do have lots of contact everywhere. Wish I was also with you to get easy dharsan.

But, this is bad. You went all the way there and SMS people saying we should do this... Just kidding.

Since Khan has already said what we are "suppose" to say, I am not repeating it here. lol
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Old 5th December 2008, 21:16   #4
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Day 3

Now that the Shirdi darshan was done and we were at peace with ourselves, we had decided to explore some parts of Maharashtra, post Shirdi we had two more days to kill and had decided on Mahabaleshwar and Ganapatipule which was suggested by H V Kumar in place of Goa which I had suggested on our return journey.

So, Monday morning after waking up late, we bid goodbye to our hosts who were getting ready to go to work too. So we managed to get out of Pune city only by 11.20 am after a few missed turns, which saw us speeding away towards Mumbai. After correcting our direction of travel we took the awesome Pune- Bangalore highway again. Back through the Katraj tunnel and a brief fuel halt and we were soon climbing the Khambatki ghats, I stopped for some snaps of the dramatic landscape.

Katraj Tunnel

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Inside Katraj Tunnel
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Khambatki Ghat
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At 12 noon we were at the turnoff (Mahabaleshwar Phaata) from NH4 into the road leading to Mahabaleshwar. This road again is very scenic and we kept stopping for photos.

On the way to Wai
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We start climbing into the hills after Wai and it is a lovely drive up amidst breathtaking vistas.

Near Wai
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Near Panchgani
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Sky near Panchgani
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We were at Panchgani by 12.45 pm and we turned right at the circle towards the Tableland.
This is a series of flat topped mountains (5 in number) from which the name 'Panchgani' is derived. We were surrounded by some chaps who wanted us to take a horse ride round the plateau, I climbed onto one just for a photo op.

The Presidential Guard
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1 HP Vs 102 BHP (Change in ride)
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View of Tableland
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View from Panchgani
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From the Tableland, we proceeded towards Mahabaleshwar, just before Mahabaleshwar there is the famous MAPRO Garden, this is an initiative by the Maharashtra govt to sell it's agro produce, it has a lovely garden cafe which sells yummy sandwiches along with the famed fresh 'Strawberry with cream 'n icecream'. So we gorged on some pizzas and sandwiches and downed it all with the Mahabaleshwar special.

MAPRO Garden
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Flowers @ Mapro Garden
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Strawberries with Cream And Icecream
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Sales counter @ Mapro
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Fresh Strawberries
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Carrots and Turnips
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Post lunch we drove into the picturesque Mahabaleshwar town and reached the MTDC resort where we had booked a family room, the whole place comprising of 110 rooms and cottages was empty because of it being a weekday.

Cottage @ MTDC Resort
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We were shown an ancient humungous room which could house an entire family, the beds were comfortable and sheets and bathrooms extremely clean, only the structure gave away the fact that it was a government resort. Room service was extremely quick and we got piping hot tea and onion pakoras.

After dozing for some time, we set out again to explore Mahabaleshwar.
First we drove out to the Venna Lake for an hour of boating. It was a tranquil ride and we asked the boatman to take us away from the boisterous tourists.

Boat ride on Venna Lake
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Dusk @ Venna
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It was getting dark by the time we returned from the boat ride.

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Old 5th December 2008, 21:26   #5
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Next, we went to the main shopping street which is a trademark in all hill stations. But somehow, this street seemed full of life,the air was nippy and the lights colourful. There was some sort of religious procession with live music on this street and it reminded me of the Goa carnival.The singers seemed extremely talented and it did not sound like a cacophony that we are used to in such processions. There were people in costumes and I clicked away to my heart's content.

The Shopping/Walking Street
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The Street Singer (Man, he had talent)
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Shivaji !!
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Shirdi Sai Baba (I had a double darshan)
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Is it Jhansi Ki Rani??
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Even Ranis get phone calls!!!
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Chikki Paradise
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The goodies on Display
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No end to the goodies
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We Tbhpians have a knack of sniffing out "Eye Candy"
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Dinner was in two parts, we stopped by at a vegetarian restaurant for mom, and then since it started to rain we returned towards our cottage and stopped at the PWD canteen for some
authentic Maharashtrian non vegetarian cuisine.

End of day 3 saw a power outage and heavy rain which we slept through.

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Old 5th December 2008, 21:50   #6
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Day 4

I woke up by 6.30 am, and went out for a walk which I customarily do when on holiday, there was no power and it had rained hard all night, I got down to cleaning the car and spent close to 2 hrs doing it, we were supposed to check out at 9 am but since power was restored only by 9, we had our baths and ordered a room service breakfast, ate a heavy breakfast and checked out by 10 am, asked for directions to the Mahabaleshwar temple which is in Old Mahabaleshwar, it is a nice short drive to old mahabaleshwar, the road was covered in fog and it was a lovely drive.

Went and saw the Panchganga temple which is supposed to be the origin of five rivers, next went to the Mahabaleshwar temple which is situated adjacent to Panchganga temple but I somehow missed it at first.

The Panchaganga Temple
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The Source of Panchaganga
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Old Temple @ Mahabaleshwar
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The Mahabaleshwar Temple
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The fog had cleared by the time we reached the town of Mahabaleshwar and we left the town towards Polhadpur at 11.20 am.

This is a complete ghat road for around 55 kms, with some bad patches close to the Pratapgarh fort, we did not stop for the climb into the fort as we were late but just took some snaps from the road below.

Pratapgarh Fort
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At Polhadpur, we reach the junction of the Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH17). We turned left at Polhadpur and I was on one of the best highways I've travelled that too in the hills. This part of the drive in the entire trip was the best, I loved every kilometre of it.

At 1.30 we were close to Chiplun, I had been told about this resort 'Quality Resort' by H V Kumar , so we went there for lunch. It was a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere with a lovely view of the river 'Vashisht', food too was very tasty and slightly on the expensive side, but at par with any good restaurant.

View of Vashisht River from Quality Resort
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The Quality Resort
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The Well Kept Garden @ Quality
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Left Quality at 2.30 pm and it was a catch me if you can with a tatamobile and a trax, both of whom were hell bent on overtaking me, but everytime I let them, they'd slow down again ahead and so I had to overtake them and the chase would begin all over again.

Reached this small village called Nevali from where we need to turn right towards Ganapatipule, this turn later, the landscape changes dramatically, it is a winding road which snakes along plain land which one can see all around for miles. A drive for about 28 kilometres with no sign of the sea and suddenly as you coast up a small incline, it is down there shimmering in the afternoon sun. A truly wonderful sight.

First View of the Sea
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Optra @ Ganapatipule
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Here again I had booked the MTDC resort which is on the beach. We reached Ganapatipule at about 4.15 pm, checked into a pretty room with a view, and ordered tea.

The rooms @ Ganapatipule
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We were itching to hit the beach and gulped down our tea and rushed to the beach. It is a very clean beach with clear water and no gawking crowds.The sea seemed very calm and there were no rough waves, the beach too inclines very gently into the sea, so one can wade into the water for a fairly large distance safely.

The Ganapati Temple on the beach
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Beach @ Ganapatipule
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The next one hour till sundown, we were treated to such a magnificient spectacle that we decided then and there that we would stay for one more day.
The sky was fairly clear and the sunset was worth dying for.
The feeling one gets is complete bliss and tranquility. No words can describe the feeling one gets when mother nature treats us to one of her magical displays.

Sunset views
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Returning home after a day at sea
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Twilight @ Ganapatipule
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A good dinner at the resort's canteen (No room service here) and we were ready to hit the sack. The rain which had stayed away the whole day, decided to follow us and sneaked in at night and poured it's heart out all night.

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Old 5th December 2008, 22:06   #7
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Excellent notes.
Man, I love those sunset pics. Has really come out well. Especially the diagonal one. Did you do any PP or its just from cam?
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Old 5th December 2008, 22:30   #8
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Originally Posted by khan_sultan View Post
Now we need to plan a group drive to this place.
I think it's customary to say the following in travelogues, so i will be the first one to say:

Nice pics, keep them coming :-)
Yes let's plan a group / family drive to this place.

Shahnawaz, I beat you to it - not on the forum but over the phone. Called Hari up as soon as his post was up and told him - nice pics. keep them coming :-)

By any chance, if you spotted a KL-04 registered NHC in the opposite direction, that would have been TBHPian trrk on his way to Belgaum.
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Old 5th December 2008, 23:03   #9
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Did you do any PP or its just from cam?
Just pics from camera, don't know anything about PP.

By any chance, if you spotted a KL-04 registered NHC in the opposite direction, that would have been TBHPian trrk on his way to Belgaum.
At the speeds on the Belgaum stretch, it would have been very difficult to spot any reg. plate more so if he was headed in the opposite direction.
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Old 5th December 2008, 23:23   #10
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Day 5

Woke up as usual by 6.30 am, it was still dark, with the sky slowly turning bright, took my camera and went for a walk. walked to the temple and saw the priests getting ready for the day, I did not enter as I had not had a bath yet, went to the beach just outside the temple gates and started walking savouring the fresh morning air. It was what one would like to do
everyday for the rest of one's life, but then, we live in the real world.

As I walked along the beach, I saw an old couple holding hands standing facing the sea lost in thought, it was such a sweet sight that I felt I was tresspassing just walking past them.

Beach early in the morning
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I saw a crab which had been washed ashore and was trying to dig it's way into the sand.
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As I approached the beach opposite to our resort, I saw that my wife too was drawn by the magic of the sea and was coming down to the beach, we walked together and I was thinking that I too would love to spend another such morning at the beach holding her hand many many years down the line.

Lonely Planet
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As the sun rose it was getting warm and so we went back to the room for a bath and then it was time for the temple visit.
We went into the temple and asked for a puja ticket, we were told to just go right in and inform the priest, the priest looked at me and said that I would need to wear a dhoti for puja and my wife would have to be in a saree, he said he can provide dhoti for me and then asked my mom who was in a saree that she could sit instead but in a different sari which was also provided.

The puja was performed right in front of the deity with such fervour that I felt an inner peace creeping into me, once puja was done, we were given 'prasad' and I changed back into regular clothes, but not before my wife took some snaps of me in religious garb.

A devout pilgrim
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The Mahaganapati Temple
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Breakfast again at the canteen and we decided to check out the "Water Sports" which was advertised. We took the car along a path to the backwaters where the other part of the resort comprising of 'Konkan Huts' was situated.

Konkan Huts @ MTDC Ganapatipule
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The "Water Sports' consisted all of one motor boat, one water scooter and a paddle boat, the ride on any of them was 30-40 bucks per head for a 3 minute spin, we went for the heck of it with nothing better to do, we spent more time getting into the boat and getting off it than the actual time of the ride.
I tried my hand at the water scooter only to discover that the handle was actually a dummy and the scooter is controlled by the guy sitting behind operating the outboard motor. I pretended to be riding in one of the speedboat races while the wife took some snaps.

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Catch of the day

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After the stint at "Water Sports" I decided to actually do some sporting myself and changed into beach wear, wife too reluctantly joined me telling that the sun is bad for the skin etc etc.
We hit the beach and played around in the water till we were famished and burnt dark.

We went back to the room and showered. This was literally like living between meals. Promptly we descended at the canteen for lunch and had some awesome fish fry and prawns.

Post lunch it was siesta time and we slept till 4.45 pm. Ordered Tea, which incidentally is the only thing that is served at your room.
I did not want to miss another view of the setting sun and taking my camera started off to the beach.

Pathway @ MTDC resort
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My wife too joined me and we walked for almost a kilometre along the beach and this time spent together will be cherished by both of us for a long time.

A Cormorant
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After it Landed
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We were not disappointed, we were given a ringside view to another magnificient display by mother nature and we spent a long time quietly staring at the sea. That is the kind of awe nature can bring out in you.

Sunset yet again
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The sky changing colours
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A Starfish washed ashore
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As we walked back to the room, I was filled with mixed emotions. My heart longed for more but like I said earlier, we live in a real world and we have to return to it, though unwillingly.
Took some snaps of the room and went for dinner.

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Had a bland dinner as we had planned to set out early the next morning.

.... Contd
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Old 5th December 2008, 23:35   #11
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Woke up again by 2.30 and by 3.30 am we were ready to check out, we had already loaded the car with most of our bags the previous night itself so it was quite quickly that we were ready to roll.

We left Ganapatipule by 3.40 am and drove in the dark till NH17, traffic was sparse at that time of the morning and we made good time till the Ratnagiri turning, I got muddled up here and thought I had to go through Ratnagiri and ended up entering town only to discover that we had to just continue straight on NH17 and not take the turn towards Ratnagiri, so a wasted 20 mins and 30 kilometers later we were at Hathkamba where I refuelled. From there on it was on to Pali a small village where we needed to turn left towards Kolhapur.

Pali to Kolhapur was again ghats and very foggy which cut down our speed drastically, visibility was down to a couple of metres in some places and we were literally crawling,

On the way to Kolhapur
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We were about 15 kms away from Kolhapur at the break of dawn,

Dawn just before Kolhapur
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Reached Kolhapur by 7 am and went around asking for directions to the Mahalakshmi temple, reached the temple at 7.30 am and went in for a quick darshan, the temple was getting crowded even at that early hour. came out and went to a nearby hotel for some awful breakfast. Spent another 20 minutes navigating our way out of town and then we were back on NH4, zipped through the highway with only a short stop for using the facilities just outside Belgaum and then we were aiming for Davangere for lunch.

The sun was constantly in my eyes and that's when the journey seemed tiring, it was a welcome break for lunch at Davangere where my wife's colleague met us and forced us to visit his house, we then forced him to take us to eat the famous 'Davangere Benne Dosa', he took us to this small place opposite to BDT Dental college and we had the tasty dosas.

Davangere's famous "Benne Dosas"
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With our hunger sated it was time for the last leg home. But then I was feeling quite exhausted and felt the impact of the long drive after 5 days.

Windfarms @ Chitradurga
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I could not continue longer so stopped just before Tumkur and had a short nap for about 15 minutes. This short nap did wonders in rejuvinating me and we stopped for tea at our regular 'Pavitra Idly Hotel', but how can one have just tea at an Idly hotel, so we ate idlies even though we were not at all
hungry and then it was the usual route back home. We reached my house at 7 pm, with the trip meter showing 373. Which meant that we had covered a distance of 2373 kilometers.

I'll be putting up the route details later along with the distances between places.

I would like to thank Mr. HV Kumar who spent yet another sleepless night mapping out the route for me, we were constantly in touch over sms. My family also would like to thank you for excellent directions and suggestions of good choices of places to stay and eat. Thank you Sir.

I wish to also thank Vijay (VJ Maverick) for his assurances about doing this trip single handedly, your words of encouragement egged me on.

Also I wish to thank all my friends on TBHP who constantly enquired about my progress and kept in touch throughout. Thank you guys.
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Old 6th December 2008, 09:36   #12
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So its finally here...needless to say but excellent write up and the pics are great as usual. I've actually been browsing the site for the last two days for the travelogue since i remember you telling me you were back on Thursday.

completely with Khan, we need to do one trip here for sure,

Cheers and Welcome back

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Old 6th December 2008, 09:45   #13
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Amazing Travelogue Hari, I particularly like the pics which you post that truely capture the essense of the place where you have been. Kudos to you and your family.

We just experienced a nice MH trip sitting in our bangalore home. Must say Ganapatipule beach is damn clean and well maintained.

I am very sorry that I couldnt make the SHirdi trip with you (although we planned this in Farm meet itself), the december workload just couldnt take me anywhere.

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Old 6th December 2008, 10:13   #14
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hi hari,
nice pics and travelogue.
pics of strawberry tempted me for one day quick trip to mahabaleshwar which is just 115 km from my place.
ganapatipule is most visited family beach in Maharashtra.

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Old 6th December 2008, 10:18   #15
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Hari !
Ganapatipule is indeed a paradise by the sea with excellent maintenance and definitely your trip has put that stretch on my radar now. Excellent pics there and how is the bad stretch condition on NH4 ? Also is Shirdi too dense now with pilgrims visiting the city?
I will give you a call on this and find out and definitely your trip is making me think about visiting Ganapatipule in the near future.
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