Panchgani & Around (Maharashtra/India)

Situated among the Sahayadri Range in Western India, Panchgani, a beautiful hill retreat is a welcome break, well adorned with lush green amid rocky hills, valleys, rivers and nature trails and home to Asia’s second largest ‘Tableland.’

On reaching Panchgani, we spent the rest of the day in the hotel, relaxing. Next day, early morning, we set out for the vast plateau. As we drove up the hilly slope, I could sense, what we would be seeing at that early hour of the day would be breathtaking, and I wasn’t wrong.

The plateau, or the tableland, as it is called in the language of Geography, was a vast flat rock, of the colour of crushed red brick, never ending and suddenly plunging into a deep drop, almost touching the River Krishna. The dramatic view of the undulating five hills of the Sahayadri Range that faded away in the blue sky with the beautiful River Krishna meandering its way through various ravines was too beautiful.

The entire tableland is around 5 kms long; we walked on it as much as we could, with not a soul around to disturb. Since it was early morning, the air was fresh, the view was fabulous and it was only us and a few birds to get a marvelous view of the landscape. Immensely happy, we even sat there, on the mats that we had thoughtfully carried in our car, just relaxed and soaked in all the beauty that nature had to offer. He took us to visit the Pandav's Feet, a rock formation that has the imprints of the feet of Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu from the epic Mahabharata) when they had crossed this land. The other attractions were the ‘one tree point’ where a single tree had grown on a rock, quite nice actually.

About 20 kms away from Panchgani was another interesting place, Mahableshwar, known entirely for its pristine Lake Venna and juicy strawberries, jams and crushes. Being the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency, Mahableshwar still maintains its old-town charm with its mansions built during the British Rule and its numerous sightseeing points, all named after its former British Residents.

Even though the town derived its name from the famous temple of Mahabali, the lake was the most enchanting sight. Picturesquely set amidst hills, it was a very well maintained lake with lavish arrangements of boating and we quickly joined the group who were keen on boating around the entire lake. It was a magnificent sight; with the lake glittering like a jewel amidst the rocky yet green hills with variety of trees, parks and strange rock formations.

Happy with the boating, we set off for the various hilly points namely, Wilson’s point, known to be the highest, Arthur’s point, Kate’s point and Needle point, all well known for sunrise, sunset and other views of the densely forested hills and the valleys of the rivers Krishna and Koyna. The most interesting place was perhaps the Lodwick Point. Named after the first European to set foot on these hills, there is even a monument built in his memory, and beyond this was the end of the hills known as Elephant's Head. From far away, the cliff resembled the head of an elephant and is considered to be a landmark of Mahableshwar.

Since strawberries were synonymous with this hilly retreat, no trip would be complete without visiting one of the farms that are dotted on both sides of the main road. Visitors are allowed to visit the gardens and even pluck the fruit from the bushes; of course they would be expected to buy their products. But I guess no one would mind spending for Strawberry milk shakes and ice creams, any time of the day. Jams and crushes were also readily available for sale and if one intended to buy strawberries, the farm would pack it expertly to make it stay fresh for a considerably long time.

It was time for us to return home, happy with memories of the tableland, beautiful valleys and bag full of strawberries.