TLC once said, ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes….’
But when the river is damned and the lake stays in the same spot, one cannot simply watch the waterfalls cascading without a proper chase.
The city of Lonavala is one such place. The river has a dam(hence damned:)) and the lake is a pretty spot among the trees so once you’ve clicked the pictures and done the waterbodies justice, it’s time to chase them waterfalls.
In my previous post, I finished with our visit to Khandala lake in the city of Lonavala, after which, we drove to a series of viewing points to get a glimpse of the greenery that adorns the hills and the valleys during the rainy season.
This is the Rajmachi View Point, a little outside the urban centre of Lonavala. The city has a large number of View Points, offering different angles of the scenery but I feel that this one here is one of the best view points in the city as it covers all the aspects of Nature in her greatest moments. The vast greenery, complete with the waterfalls and faint border of the city reminds me of the medieval forests that one finds in the ‘Legends of King Arthur’. I mean, who’s to say there’s no Druids in the forest down below?:) Magic or no, this view is a miraculous cure for a stressed mind. All you need to do is get out of the car, stand in a convenient spot and just breathe.
This is a glimpse of the hills in the distance, taken from the same viewing point. The gathering rainclouds bring an Olympus-like vibe to the surroundings and I love the little patch of sunlight on the hill at the side. The forests in Maharashtra do have wild animals such as leopards and some tigers. I haven’t been lucky enough to spot one here but there have been sightings by locals.
Viewing Points, such as the one above, are lined by small stalls of locals selling handmade toys and bubble wands. The vendors have one bubble wand for show and they keep blowing bubbles as they sell their goods and sometimes, a stray bubble makes for a beautiful picture.
The bubble in this picture makes me feel as though there’s a secret space-time portal inside it. I was lucky to get this one bubble before it drifted away. The bubbles blown here don’t burst that easily and you can see a lot of them simply drifting towards the hills, like tiny balls of fairy light. Bubble blowing is quite popular in scenic spots such as hill stations and beaches in India and it’s one of the things that really makes me excited and thrilled whenever I visit these places.
Our next stop was a park called the ‘Rajmachi Garden’ close to the viewing point itself. The park overlooks the highway and has its own set of views to thrill the eye.
Hilly roads such as the one here always fill me with excitement. I love the winding drives and the very presence of a road built on a hill slope never fails to fascinate me. I like how the road seems to disappear into the hills in this picture and the clearing sky provides for excellent lighting.
The Rajmachi Garden is a lovely spot to relax when travelling with family. It has a small play are for children and benches for the adults. There’s also multiple places which form a natural photo-booth and tourists are often seen taking selfies at these places. One such spot is a leafy hut in the middle of the park.
This reminds me of a witch’s cottage. All you need is a few dangling dreamcatchers and bottles of potions:) My dad loved this hut and it was probably his favourite part of the trip. It was a good spot to get a bunch of family photos.
The Rajmachi Garden is also home to monkeys. Places like Lonavala have a large number of monkeys and you can see them lining the viewing points or parks such as this one. If you’re lucky, you might find a baby monkey with its Mama:) I was lucky enough to get only a baby monkey, walking on a railing before joining some adults for a short meal.
There’s always a word of caution against feeding the monkeys and tourists are told to keep their belongings close as the monkeys can snatch your camera. I had a jolt as well when I was leaning a bit over the railing to get a good picture and suddenly a huge monkey just jumped on the railing and began walking towards me. I did back away slowly which didn’t get the monkey agitated but it’s scary. Also, never make faces at the monkeys, it won’t end well.
We had a small snack of roasted groundnut and hot sweet corn seasoned with chilly and lemon from a stall right outside the park. There’s seriously nothing better than steaming corn on a rainy day.
As you can see, the stall was put up on a cart and the lady managing the stall had multiple tasks. She not only cooked the corn but also sold fruits for tourists as well as locals. Despite being a small cart, the stall had a dustbin to ensure that there was no littering which really made it a perfect hangout spot. I also love how the cup of corn is wrapped in a maize leaf to prevent the fingers from getting burnt. I really think it’s a clever idea. Besides, the snacks were fresh and yummy so the culinary angle was well taken care of.
From the park, we headed back towards the city for a bit of sweet shopping. I came across this curious little stream as we drove towards the city. It looks straight out of a woodlands fairy tale and I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw fairies darting on the stream.
We also passed many resorts on the way back to the city and while we didn’t stay this time, the resorts here are really brilliant and have everything, right from comfort to a nice association with nature. I have a picture of one of the resorts from the inside, taken by my cousin who’d visited for a stay in Lonavala previously.
Personally, I would recommend a day trip to Lonavala which doesn’t include staying overnight as it makes for a thrilling and adventurous trip which can easily be covered in a few hours. However, if you plan on visiting the nearby towns as well, Lonavala is a good resting point and the resorts have you covered:)
Right, back to the road trip. The weather had cleared when we re-entered the city and we made straight for the market for a round of retail therapy. As you can see in the picture, there’s a whole row of shops with a board saying ‘Chikki’. This brings us to the very food item that forms the pride of Lonavala: the Chikki. Lonavala has multiple chikki shops but the one which my family is loyal to is called ‘A-1 Chikki’
A Chikki is a multi-flavoured sweet, often cut into thin slabs or blocks. It’s made of various ingredients depending on the flavours, right from cashewnut to rosewater to strawberry crush and groundnut. Nowadays, you also get savoury variants as well as low calorie variants but personally, the original sweet ones taste best.
These are the flavours of chikki available at the A-1 Chikki. Some of the names are anglicised Hindi names of the ingredients, for instance, ‘badam pista kaju’ refers to a mixed flavour of almond, pistachio and cashewnut. The store also gives free tasting samples to be sure of which flavour you want to buy. My favourite flavours are cashewnut crush, groundnut crush and strawberry. I don’t much like the flavours with whole nuts and seeds but if you haven’t tried chikki before, I’d recommend tasting them all before you take a pick.
The store also sells other items like fudge, syrups, jelly sweets and lollipops as well as savoury items like crisps.
The shopkeeper gave me five complimentary lollipops of my choice after we were done shopping. That, mi amigos, is what I call capital service:)
A fun thing to watch in a chikki shop is the way in which a slab of chikki is packed. I got a video of the shopkeeper packing our chikki and it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.
Once we’d filled our bag with chikki and fudge, it was time to bid farewell to Lonavala and make the trip back home. We stopped at a highway restaurant for a late lunch, ending the trip with a lovely culinary angle.
The restaurant was called ‘Sunny Da Dhaba’. A dhaba is the hindi word for restaurant and it’s usually used to describe the food joints on highways. These restaurants have the best Indian food you can get and it feels quite close to home for a local, bringing in a lovely sense of comfort.
For our lunch, we ate Butter Chicken, Paneer Butter Masala(which is basically the same recipe as Butter Chicken but you add cottage cheese instead of chicken), Dal Makhani, which is a kind of a creamy lentil soup and Roti, the Indian flatbread. We also had a starter called ‘masala papad’ which is a roasted snack topped with tomatoes, onion and chilly powder.
After lunch, we didn’t make any stops and drove straight home after a fulfilling day trip. We saw some lovely sights as we drove. Like this statue of Lord Ganesha atop a hill. I love its unique position and it feels quite daunting when you pass it. Almost like an actual encounter with a divine power:)
At the end, Imma bring to you the shopping haul from the trip as no trip is complete without a round of retail therapy.
That’s all the haul right from the chikki shops to the stalls at the viewing point. A piece of Lonavala at home for the memories:)
And that is a wrap!
Until next time:)