Weekend Roadtrip, Driving On The Expressway.
This weekend, I took a short trip to Lonavala, a hill station in Maharashtra. It is roughly around 100 km from Mumbai and takes around 3 hours to reach by road. Well technically time taken should be 1 hour +/- 15 minutes, but traffic in Mumbai is hideous beacuse of which you one must prepare themselves for a 3 hour drive.
I am not such a fan of this place, actually I don’t enjoy holidays at these kind of commercialized hill stations. Lonavala is just that. It is congested, extremely commercialized with malls and eateries springing up everywhere, and extreme chaos and commotion. It has lost its essence as a holiday destination. It has its speciality – chikki. However somehow its value is diminishing, with food brands like Cafe Coffee Days and Dominos opening all over the place. So I really don’t see the point going to Lonavala, because really, how different is it from Mumbai (except for the climate)?
However, the temptation of spending a weekend with my cousins and my favourite aunt and uncle, and of course my parents superseded all my inhibitions. Also the lure of experiencing winter (Mumbai tends to skip seasons- from summer to monsoon and back to summer), wearing hoodies was strong.
Another attraction is driving on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. As the name suggests it connects the two most important cities of Maharashtra and lessens the travel time to 2 hour. Lonavala comes midway, thus making the Expressway an obvious route choice. It starts at Kalamboli (near Panvel, Mumbai) and ends at Dehu Road (near Pune). It carves through the scenic Sahyadri Ranges i.e. the Western Ghats via passes and tunnels.
So you can imagine the experience. Lush green valleys and hilltops surround you. It is extremely windy and chilly, being almost January. The roads are smooth and wide. And you are travelling at such a speed that gives you such a rush of adrenaline, that you just don’t want it to stop. It actually is a undescribable feeling.
I have been driving since over a year now, and I am still totally addicted. I am quite careful which has been noted by my parents too. Still unsure and hesitatingly I asked my father who usually is the one to drive on such long journeys, to let me try my hand at driving Expressway. He chose to drive his Honda City on this trip, which I am not very accustomed to. Inspite of this, surprisingly he agreed, but insisted that I drive on the way back.
I just couldn’t wait. What a chance!!
I really can’t convey what I was feeling when I drove those 18 km on the Expressway. A little nervous at first, which just vanished when I got control of the speed. There are speed limits which one has to follow, lanes to be maintained which means no overtaking. I had no wish to break any of these because I wanted to elongate the moment as much as I could.
One has to also pass through 2 tunnels intermittently on the way. Bhatan which is 1 km long and Madap which is around 300 m. That too was an unusual event for me. Bhatan seems long and never-ending. It is extremely well illuminated from the inside, however the opening on the other end is not very visible when you enter. Then it widens more and more, and finally you are out in the open again. I don’t know why, but it seemed kind of magical. I feel like a small child satisfied along with being delirious.
I can’t wait to take a shot again..
Here are some pictures of the route to and back from Lonavala.
Disclaimer: Looking at the photographs will not be equal to the thrill. Experience it to know it!