It was on 9th August 2013, that we planned our trip to Lonavala in Maharashtra, India. It is among 13 main hill stations of Maharashtra and renowned for its production of hard candy(chikkis) and fudge.
My friends were very excited to go there. A countdown had begun for this day on the social networking site. Then, finally, the D-day arrived. We also set out early in the morning to the C.S.T. station from where we boarded the train to Lonavala. Although we had planned to take Intercity Express. We ultimately went by Bangalore- Udyan Express. We could be flexible because we had not booked tickets in advance. One of us got late reaching the station, as she had overslept and everyone was trying desperately to reach her.
At the station, we boarded the ‘Ladies’ bogie/ coach which was just next to the luggage compartment. As we were waiting/seated in the ‘ladies’ coach for the train to move at its scheduled time, I observed many things at the platform.
Flashback, (tracing back a few moments) before we boarded this train. The platform at C.S.T. where the train was to depart from could not be located. It was the platform no. 16. The far end of the platform had the display of only platform no.15. Then someone guided us to it. One had to go through Platform 15 and then arrive on to platform 16 which was to the extreme right of it. As we approached platform 16, we could see platform 17 and 18 also linked to it. This reminded me of ‘Harry Potter’ movie where he and his friends had to board a train to ‘Hogwarts’ Express’. The train was on platform 9 ¾. They had to come on platform 9 and then go through a wall in order to reach this platform which was magical.
We then were on the lookout for our ‘ladies’ coach on this Udyan Express. The coach was next to the engine and after the luggage compartment. We were at the tail/ or the fag-end of the train. We entered the coach which was empty as we were early and found ourselves a good place to sit. I found a place near the window. Seated near the window, I started observing things on the platform. I saw how the luggage was being loaded onto the coach from the handcart by the porters.
Another train arrived on the platform no. 17. This was the Vidarbha Express. When the luggage had to be unloaded from this train’s luggage coach, I saw tiny baskets weaved out of bamboo which had been covered and neatly packed with other of the bamboo basket on it. I could not understand what was inside the baskets, but the entire luggage coach was full of them. They were carefully stacked on shelves. The porter/ railway personnel was removing them one by one and throwing them onto the platform thereby unloading the entire coach. These baskets which were being thrown onto the platform were all resembling to be a tiny garden of baskets on the platform. One basket containing something and covered with another empty basket overturned on it. This was carefully packed with strings so that nothing fell out of them.
This sight reminded me of an autobiography I had read of ‘Urmila Pawar- Aaydaan- the Weave of my Life’. The cover page of this book has the bamboo basket. Urmila Pawar describes in her autobiography how the weaving of this bamboo basket resembles her own personal life- the sorrows/joys that she has experienced have been woven of her life like this bamboo basket.
Soon it was time for our train to depart and the movement the train started everybody cheered. During the journey, we played ‘Antakshiri’, ‘Dumb charades’. We also started enjoying the greenery outside after we crossed Karjat station. When we were at Karjat station there were many who came selling piping hot vada pavs which are a speciality of Karjat served with ‘lasun’ chutney.
Another interesting thing which I like about such trips to these hill stations is the tunnels that we pass through. It is such an exhilarating experience. I counted each and every tunnel which went through. There were 16 in total. The last one which came before Lonavala station could arrive was the longest and I was so excited/ elated. Entering these tunnels felt like going through a maze where we find a way out to the other end.
Places to visit–
Bushi Dam– The most renowned spot in Lonavala is Bhushi Dam which is situated a few kilometres away from Lonavala Railway Station. Lonavala to Bhushi Dam is around 5 Kilometres by road.
The best time to visit this place is during the monsoon (June to September) when Bhushi dam overflows, water passes over a step and then over some easily accessible stony landscape. The landscape and the water create a fun mixture and this is why Bhushi dam gets jam-packed on weekends as well as during the holidays. It’s so crowded, that if you are a visiting for the first time you would be left searching for the “steps” as every inch of the steps is full of people thronging them.
Wax Museum– ‘Celebrity Wax Museum’, modelled on the famed Madam Tussauds in London, is found solely three kilometres away from the railroad terminal at Varsoli, has become a new attraction for the tourists.
Some of the famous personalities in this museum are Anna Hazare, Rabindranath Tagore, Rajiv Gandhi, Mother Teresa etc. There are also some Bollywood and Hollywood actors like Jackie Shroff, Angelina Jolie and so on.
All in all, it was a fun trip with friends!