Silent moonlight

Oct 2015

My wife had a long awaited wish to visit Wai (Satara, Maharashtra). Usually people prefer much famous and touristy Mahabaleshwar and Pachgani, near by hill stations. I just knew that at Wai, lot of bollywood films are shot. Wai though just 12kms away from Pachgani is not a hill station. Situated at the base of a hill station. Its a beautiful cool place. 

It was a motorcycle trip. My Bullet Standard 350 and Parag’s Thunderbird 350.

The plan was to drop a friend, Poonam, at Alibaug for her performance for Dhol band and Parag, Shanti & me proceed to Wai via Poladpur route. Since we were up late earlier night we decided to leave home little leisurely in morning. I got up at around 7.30am got fresh. Some last minute packing. Fixed a new air horn on handlebar. Wife was busy in her own getting ready. As usual we were late. Meanwhile Parag left home, picked Poonam and reached my place. By the time i had started to tie luggage on my Bullet’s ladakh carrier.

Sun was getting hotter. A perfect start of October heat. I was not sure about my jacket. There was no such thing as breeze that morning or maybe i was too busy to notice it. Ride started with little low traffic on western express highway. We had a quick stopover at Vile Parle to collect a house key from Parag’s Aunty of their Pune’s home, in case we had to stay there while returning. From Parle we left for next destination Alibaug. We had done Alibaug ride couple of time earlier. So we knew that its going to be a 3hrs affair. And it took exactly 3 hours. Including breakfast at Dutta Snacks, Panvel. As per Poonam’s latest update the performance was in Revdanda, 20kms still further from Alibaug. The road condition was really bad. By the time we reached Revdanda we were pissed by potholes. And the scorching sun made it worse. After Seeing off Poonam our first target was to find good food. We inquired some locals about where can we find some good Fish restaurant. So in Revdanda there is a small restaurant which was quite famous among locals. But to our luck when we reached, only Surmai curry and Bombay duct fry was available on menu. It was pretty late for lunch, 15:00, so we could not complain for not having variety of food. The food was great. Owner showed us a large fish from recent catch called Patang. Imagine a 2 ft long Pomfret. We finished lunch, 15:30, we came out of restaurant. And surprise. It turned cloudy. Cool soft breeze. And little shower started in no time. We set off with our rain jackets. Saw a couple of ganpati visarjan procession. Roads were wet now. This year it didn’t rain much. But still Sahyadri was covered with green velvet. Rice fields were in action. These are last few days of monsoon. 

We crossed Roha and reached NH 66 (old name NH 17) at Indapur. We had a quick Vadapav and tea. We proceeded towards Poladpur. While crossing Mahad Sun took our leave and left us with moon. And moon left us with clouds. Lots of them. Some of them were touching the peaks of Mountains on our left. They look so beautiful in this blue hour. We reached Poladpur in dark. 19:45. 5 mins break for further last leg of today’s driving. Later this last leg turned into 3 hrs long ride. We called our host Indrajeet. He suggested to spent night at Poladpur & shouldn’t take risk of crossing ghat. As it would take appx 3 hrs to reach Wai. None 3 of us had been on this route. We decided to move. After a few kilometres ghat started. Road condition was unexpectedly good. Parag’s Thunderbird was leading, his LED lights were doing wonders in this dark night. It felt like Bat-mobile is being chased by Jokers. Speaking of devil – Drizzle started. And it was on & off till Mahabaleshwar. Lightning showed us the whole mountain silhouette in front of us. There was a good amount of Fog ahead. Lightning continued. Every time when it lights we get to see the full surrounding around us. And i can say undoubtedly this ghat section was one of the most beautiful in Western Ghats. Yeah like Amba Ghat or Tamhini. Soon fog caught us. Made us slow. + rain. Have you ever got this ‘we are f****d’ feeling. 3 of us in a the middle of fog and a dead jungle around us. But that’s what riding is all about. That’s the fun part. There is no option as quit. Specially when we ride solo bike. If we just wanted to travel we could do it happily in a 4 wheeler. Last year on our Ladakh ride, we started to climb Wari la (pass). As we approached pass, road condition was one of the worst in the Ladakh region. But when we crossed it, the other side was most pleasant. Awesome views of Nubra Valley. Roads were too good and straight. That was the only place we touched 100 kmph in Ladakh. Riding tests you, not only physically. It teaches you lot. Its an experience. Live it, Embrace it, Respect it.

Here it was a different story. Moon was lost somewhere in clouds. And clouds were lost in this thick fog. The engine sound from our Enfields was enough to keep our hope alive. No vehicle passed us. Just after we caught up on couple of trucks. Steady as we crossed Pratapgad. Further Mahabaleshwar, the road climbs up. The road started to show signs of destruction made by storm which came apprx 1-2 hr before. Lots of potholes. Fog got milder as we entered Mahabaleshwar. Ohh boy, it is colder here. And we’re wet inside our raincoats. Checkpost was lit but empty. Maybe people do not prefer this route to enter the town. Roads were silent. Shops are at sleep. Very few locals here-there on streets. Hotels were lit but calm. 22:00. I think it is the best time to roam around the town. With no reason to stop, we move ahead. Late comers (like us) were entering the town from other side – from Wai. We crossed Pachgani and started to descend ghat. Wai is situated exactly at the base of this ghat. From a cliff we could see the whole town. And parts of Krishna river. In night this small town was lit by small lights. Beautiful view. Thought of setting up my tripod and do a long exposure shot crossed my mind. While crossing Pachgani we called Indrajeet to check out directions. Just at the entrance of Wai, we took a left. His camping place is about 7-8 kms from Wai, Its called Sahyadri Boating club (Check out on Google Map). Situated on the bank of a beautiful krishna lake. We all had a big fire in our stomach. Its been a while since we ate at Indapur. Last few kilometres always feels like forever. At 22:45, after Dhom dam, Sahyadri boating board appeared. Indrajeet & his family welcomed us. We parked our bikes. Unloaded our baggage. We were wet & tired. Had a little chat with the host. This family is one of the best host we have came across. We sat around the barbecue and got our cold fingers back in action. Dinner was served. Delicious food. Meanwhile Indrajeet set our tent. Its a beautiful place. Just what we needed. Perfect dark. You see i stay in Mumbai, City that never sleeps & never lets you sleep. My nights are usually lit up with sodium & tungsten bulbs & sometimes LED’s at marine drive. Here it was dark as moon was still behind clouds. Wind was enough to keep us cool. Time slowed down. So did we. Our tent was spacious enough for 3 of us. Within a minute we were in deep sleep. But night doesn’t end here for me. After a day long ride. I was up at 5.30am, Stepped out of the tent & wow, What a Beautiful view. Clouds had disappeared, Clear sky, Moon was right above the tent. There was a halo ring around it, Clear moonlight, A still lake in front, Cool breeze. I had to wear my jacket. Beyond lake there was a small village followed by a backdrop of mountain range. On left was Raireshwar fort & Kenjalgad. Further left side mountain was famous for background in Swades movie poster. On my right was Dhom Dam. A small village across the lake. All i needed this silent moonlight. Got my tripod and shot the moon with halo ring. There was still time for sunrise. I slept for around 45 mins more & i was up again at dawn. Stepped out of the tent. The landscape just got more beautiful. The blue hour just started. The village across was wrapped in fog. So the Dhom Dam, Raireshwar was lost in mist too. Sun started his journey behind Dhom Dam. With some clouds to diffuse the light. Sun rays hi-lighted the ridges of mountains in front. Lake shines as true blue. Ducks on the bank, accessorised it. Peacock calling from mountain on our back, added a wild flavour. Kingfishers, Red whiskered Bulbul’s have started their day. An old man from nearby village brought his cattles to water them up. It was pure magic. This was the best sunrise till date. I wish it lasted long a bit.

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