I had never gone beyond Wagholi on the north eastern border to Pune, so when my mom, dad and cousin proposed a trip to Shirdi, I jumped at the offer. And since my Konkan trip this weekend had failed to materialize, both Samara and I were desperate for some action.
After tanking up on food and diesel, we hit Nagar road by 1000, and after a beautiful drive in the intermittent rains and a stop for tea, we reached Nagar around 1200. The road is well maintained, 4-lane all the way, and the drive was very smooth and relaxing. Nagar was a disappointment, a muddy, crowded 15 mins through the city thankfully ended with another nice stretch of recently-4-laned state highway to Shirdi, where we reached before 200, the rain progressively increasing until we parked in the muddy lot in front of the temple complex.
A couple of phone calls had ensured we had our VIP passes, the darshan took less than 15 minutes.
It was barely 300, and we had the whole evening to ourselves. We stopped for lunch at Nisarg, a nice, simple garden restaurant a km or so outside Shirdi, and gorged on some wonderful gavraan chicken fry and hot tandoori rotis washed down with Pepsi.
Next stop, Shrirampur, a few kms from Shirdi, 20 km off the road to Nagar, my friend's hometown, and a place I had always wanted to visit. Unfortunately, the highly recommended lassi joint Parijat was closed, and we decided to move on to Shani Shingnapur, famous for its door-less houses.
That's when the fun began.
My Navigator seemed to have clue on how to take me directly from Shrirampur to Shani Shingnapur, and later we found out the reason why - Google Maps showed roads radiating out from both places towards each other, but ending over 20 kms apart.
Well, we just trusted our instincts, the ever-willing-to-help villager, and Samara, and set off on one of my rewarding drives through beautiful villages with hard working, poor but happy farmers that depend on mother nature and their efforts to eke out a tough living from the rolling fields and herds of cattle and buffaloes, places that seem to sometimes just fall off the map, even though we were barely 150 km from Pune, where roads were defined more by the shrubs on the sides rather than the tarmac underneath.
And though Samara took a flat and bravely pushed on till we got onto the highway again (the emergency air pump came in very handy as a temporary measure!), never once did we feel like turning back.
By the time we reached Shani Shingnapur, it was almost 730, the night was falling, and we still had to take care of Samara's flat tire, and decided to move on rather than hang around for a darshan.
An eager to help mechanic got our tire repaired in flat 5 mins, and we were back on the 4-laned highway to Pune by 800. 150 Km and 2 hours later, the drive aided greatly by the Xenon lights, we pulled into the parking lot at BBQ Nation near Kalyani Nagar, tired from a long day, but excited, energized and filled with some beautiful memories of a wonderful outing.
Some more beautiful pictures from the trip below.
Greenery envelopes you, welcomes you every where you look, including the sky!
We were amazed to run into this herd of over a hundred exactly identical brown cows.
Bullock carts are still the preferred mode of transport in these parts.
Beautiful rolling hills as far as the eye can see, this is not Montana! Just a few km away from Pune, these are the farms around Shrirampur in Maharashtra.