Have been living on this side of the ghats for the last 40 years but I am always fascinated by the western ghats whenever I cross them to reach Mumbai.
Said to be 1600 kilometers in length, these Ghats are a part of the Sahyadiri range, that starts from the border of Gujarat and passes through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and ends at Kanyakumari.
Recently it has been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world.
The highest spot in this range is at Anamudi (Iduki – Kerala) which is at a height of 2695 meters.
To enjoy the scenic beauty, the best way is to travel by trainespecially in the monsoons. It’s a wonderful sight when the trains chug up the steep gradient with two engines in the front (and at times one pushing from back). Small streams of gushing water from the hills the lush green country side and the grazing cattle are a sight to behold.
The Mumbai- Pune rail line was laid about 150 years ago by the British who ruled India at that time. The terrain was hilly and it was tough boring tunnels and laying the lines. The local people were engaged in the work and there were a few casualties due to wild animals and snake bites. It is said that to feed the manpower, the local people concocted a highly nutritious mixture of jaggery and peanuts. This was the origin of the Chikki which is now popularly known as the Lonavala Chikki. You will find every third shop in Lonavala selling Chikki. These chikkis have now gone beyond the ordinary peanut to come in many assortments like Almond chikki, Kaju (Cashew) chikki, coconut fudge, dry fruit chikki, etc.
En route there is a station by the name of ‘Monkey hill’ and it is mandatory that all trains stop here. This is to check the brakes. The monkeys just wait for the trains to stop as they know that they will get some food.
Lonavala and Khandala are the two major stations in between Mumbai and Pune and is considered as a hill station due to its elevation from the sea level. People from Mumbai and Pune drive down to Lonavala for a weekend retreat especially in the monsoons. Many trekkers use these ghats for trekking, rock climbing and river crossing as all the terrains are available here.
There is an annual cycle race held in between Mumbai & Pune which gets live coverage. Incidentally earlier Mumbai was known asBombayand Pune was calledPoona.
Last week I had been to Mumbai by road. Even though there is an expressway connecting both the cities, I prefer traveling by the old highway (NH 4)
It is really relaxing (and challenging) to drive on this road. There is a section where one has to use the expressway even when we drive by the old highway.
People often stop en route to take pictures and have steaming hot tea from the roadside stalls (but that is allowed only on the old highway, on the expressway stopping is strictly prohibited due to safety reasons)
All the pictures above were clicked during this journey.