The Motherland || The Gems of Maharashtra (Part 1)

I know it's been a while - I got on the blogging bandwagon, and then promptly got distracted by all things life. But not to worry, I am totally back! These last few days I've been having some intense nostalgia for my trip to India - all the sights and smells, and warmth, and the ever-welcoming atmosphere of being home. One of the biggest highlights of my trip was getting to travel to Maharashtra, a state that I had never been to prior to this trip. Here, we got to see some absolutely beautiful natural beauties, and got to take in the bright hustle and bustle of Pune, a large city in Maharashtra, and eat some absolutely yummy food. Pune, in all its charm and chaos, will be covered in another post, because this post is entirely dedicated to the mountains of Maharashtra!

Our first stop in sightseeing in the outskirts of Pune was going to the ancient Karla caves, which you can read more about here. Soon after, we took off to Lonvala to get a glimpse of some spectacular mountains, rowdy monkeys, and a breathtaking sunset. 

The following day, we trekked out to Mahabaleshwar - another famous hill station known for its majestic mountains, sheer drops, and breathtaking views. I was having the worst allergies (I love Pune but definitely not its pollen count!), and didn't get any sleep the night prior to our 7am departure time. But, the allergies were totally worth some of the most gorgeous natural beauty I have seen in a long time! 

At Mahabaleshwar, we climbed all the way to Arthur's Seat Point - a walkway that juts out over the Savitri River below, down 5000 feet straight below. It was a dizzying sight - but absolutely stunning. During the winter time, the valley looks rather harsh and brown, but I can just imagine how lush and green it would look during the warmer months! After our long trek, my brother and I were parched and starving - so naturally, some snacks were in order. We ordered vada pavs - a popular Marathi snack consisting of a spicy potato patty (vada) wrapped in a fluffy, buttery bun (pav), and topped off with spicy chutney (sauce) and fried chilies. It's basically heaven on a plate! 

Just like in Lonavla, monkeys are abound in Mahabaleshwar - and they seem quite used to the humans around them. Sadly though, due to the steady human encroachment on their territories, many don't get enough food or shelter as they usually would out in the wild. The monkeys in Mahabaleshwar were particularly playful and fearless, often coming close to us humans in hopes of getting some food. As we were ending our outing in Mahabaleshwar, we had quite an encounter with a mama monkey - she keenly spotted the parcel my brother was carrying (wafting, no doubt, of freshly cooked vada pav), and gave chase. Before I knew what happened, right in front of me I saw my brother running in a wide circle, and our monkey friend not far behind, her eyes on the prize. Just as I was about to shout to my brother to just drop the food and run, mama monkey got distracted for a split second by one of her babies, and we made a quick getaway to our car. Whew!! It was a bit of a scary experience, but definitely makes for a great story!

Our very last stop of the day was the quaint and lovely town of Panchgani - not far from Mahabaleshwar. More on that coming up in the next post - because Panchgani stole my heart and deserves its own post for sure :)

The Motherland || Ancient Beauties of Maharashtr

Going to Maharashtra was truly a treat and a highlight of our trip to India. Every time we go to India, we hardly end up having any time for traveling or sightseeing, because of course we love spending time with our family and friends. This time, we had a great balance of both, and I'm so so happy that we got to travel to Maharasthra, a state in Western India that I've never been to. We stayed at my Mashi's (Aunt) house in the city of Pune, and from there traveled to Mahabaleshwar, Lonavla and Panchgani - three surrounding hill stations that are accessible in under two hours by car. Each of these places was different, and offered up some absolutely breathtaking views that my photographer self just couldn't resist. It was super fun to do a mix of phone and camera photography! 

First up, we went to see the Karla Caves near Lonavla, Maharasthra. The caves - which are actually Buddhist shrines - were carved from the mountainside by Buddhists around between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD. It's amazing to see a structure that is thousands of years old, and built without the ease of modern technology and architecture, still standing in its ancient majesty. The actual caves, high up on the mountain, are not accessible by car, so you have to drive to the foothills of the mountains and then take the rest of the way by foot - climbing about half a mile up an ancient staircase carved right into the mountain. The stairs are actually quite sturdy in most areas, but there are quite a few flights that are crumbling and slippery from being polished by the foot traffic of thousands of visitors. The entire way up, there are plateaus where you'll find dozens of tiny shops selling snacks, drinks, fresh nimbu sharbat (fresh squeezed lemonade), handicrafts, souvenirs, jewelry, flowers and other temple offerings, and sweets. It's definitely tempting to stop and look until you realize how many stairs you have left to climb! 

But, it was absolutely worth it to see the caves in all their glory. What made the climb better was getting to meet a few adorable puppies along the way - like the cutie pictured below! 

The Motherland || Bhilai Diaries

After Kolkata, we spent a whirlwind two nights in Bhilai, which is a steel plant town in the state of Chattisgarh. We spent the entirety of our time in Bhilai with family - laughing, catching up, drinking coffee, and of course eating our hearts out! In fact, our very first stop from the airport was to eat - in the course of an half an hour, we guzzled down some of my favorite street foods! Gol gappas, chole bhature (with the most yummy mango pickle), aloo tikki chaat, and the most delicious, buttery pav bhaji. I'm pretty sure I gained a few pounds just during that meal, but it was totally worth it. 

It was a lovely but very short stay, and absolutely wonderful to see some of my family that I hadn't seen in years. In Bhilai, I realized that family is something that stands the test of time, always. No matter how many years it has been, some things never change, and coming back always feels like coming home.