Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fighting the PANTA Trip Murphy. - RC 1

I have previously spoken at length about honourable Mr. Murphy. Here, I am going to deal with our endeavour to fight the Murhpy that was haunting our trip plans for a while now. A bit of a background - First time Mr. Murhpy hit us on the face was last year when we'd decided to go to "वासोटा" for a trek. pilot, was then called for a late night last minute duty and we'd to drop the idea. Next time Mr. Murphy hit us was when we'd almost finalized the plan for an overnight trip to 'तारकर्ली', when Bayani was suddenly diagnosed with a tumor. Thankfully, it turned out to be benign one hence no Mr. Murphy there.

Inspite of such lost battles, we had continued planning for the next trip. This time one was an overnight to 'कशिद' beach, and then people started dropping down like Indian Cricket team wickets. Initially, we started with eight and were down to five. But still five and we'd decided, never mind we are going to go ahead with the plan. And then, and then Bayani calls me on the previous night saying one of the five had met a small accident!!! We were deliberating about possible choices and a few came up (of course dropping the whole idea of trip was one of them). But one thing just put me off - Bayani said we'd start at 10.30am next day. I said, nothing doing we are going to the trip as planned, which was by the way trimmed down to a single day trip to मुळशी and then to लोणावळा. If Mr. Murphy has to meet us, let him do that at मुळशी not here.

So fighting these odds - We started finally on Saturday morning. Absolutely nothing eventful for the good part of the trip initially, when we started testing our luck, initially with Diesel in the car. While there was 'enough' diesel in the car, we were certainly stretching it a bit. Then we reached a point where the closest Petrol Pump that we knew was 30kms away. Which was not all that intimidating (Interesting dialogue - Bayani - माणगाव is 37 KM. Unmesh - पाली is 36 KM. Bayani - What is a big deal about 1km? Unmesh - When you've to push the car for that much, you'd know!) So finally getting down from the ताम्हिणी घाट, we asked the local shopkeeper about the nearest Petrol Pump. He suggested, there was one at भिरा (That is where Tata Power Company has a power plant. We decided to take a lunch in the canteen there, but shunted right at the gate by the dutiful 'Security') Looking at the state of the Petrol Pump, I asked the guy atleast three times - 'Are you sure this is diesel?' Surprisingly, he wasn't annoyed. But so far so good.

Initially the 'plan' was to go to लोणावळा via मुळशी - लोणावळा Road, which is about 50 odd kilometers just from the beginning of the ताम्हिणी घाट. So dutifully we came back to a place where we wanted to start from, taking a detour of 30km for filling the freaking fuel, never mind! Bayani suggested a place where we get 'excellent कांदा भजी' and it was already 1.30pm in the afty and we decided to get some fuel for ourselves and then go ahead. After going about 10km in that direction, we realized that it was a bit too far to be trying that, hence we decided to take an about turn and head towards our planned venture. 20km detour for nothing in particular.

The road from मुळशी to लोणावळा is 'treacherous' to say the least and the guy who actually put a sign board indicating that this road goes to Lonavala must be a sadist of the first grade. This one was certainly one of the less travelled types!! First kilometer was 'uneventful' apart from thick forest we were in and I was reasonably scared at 1.30pm in the noon to be outside the comfort of the car. After taking a small break and a bit of photoshoot, we decided to move on. A kilometer and half further, we saw a curious railing and a nice flat space and broken beer bottles suggested this place was visited by a few atleast. It was a consensus to halt there and take a peek. That decision was worth it! The splendid scenary out there was ammmaaazinnngggg (pun intended), cannot be described in words! Curious of such wonderful sights in store, we decided to move on.. Next couple of kilometers were rather bland, nothing spectacular happening. In the meanwhile, we were a bit surprised about how Mr. Murphy was still so silent, it was quite unlike Mr. Murhpy. Then going further we came across to a bus stop called 'Luthra Van Bus Stop', and crossed a bridge. If one regrets crossing a few bridges in life, it was certainly one of them, a stretch of next 4-5 kilometers was tasting. There was nothing 'resembling' a road, everything was just stones laid with no particular intention in mind. It didn't strike us till then we'd not seen a single vehicle in either direction, hence may be 'one was not supposed to go this path', and in the middle of that stretch of 5 kilometers, we were counting every single meter of the 52000 we'd to cross to reach our destination. I was certain, Mr. Murphy has saved everything for the end-game. Crossing a couple of kilometers, we decided, the best bet was to move on. For the first time, in my life, I was actually believing 'An unknown friend is better than a known enemy'. Unknown friend here being 'The Road Ahead' and known enemy was the 'The Road So Far". Honestly we had no choice, the only thing that was left to us was pray and move on. There were atleast 20 occassions, where we believed this road is never going to lead to Lonavala or we're lost somewhere. If I ever wanted to know what 'Himalayan Car Rally' is all about, this was certainly a trailor to that. A couple of times I'd to ask the junta to get down, so that the freaking car could climb the 40 degree slope with no chance of getting a grip on the road and everything that can go wrong could go wrong there! Finally we came to a point where I had lost almost all hopes of reaching Lonavala, or for that matter reaching any place where human civilization existed. We did come across a few humans along the way, but none suggested us that, only a fool is going to go by this road, or probably they were too nice to call us fools. For the benefit of those who know Crooked Street in San Francisco, Just imagine that without a tar and a slope 5 degrees too steep and yes a few stones here and there. And finally, after a trecherous four or five kilometers we reached a point of 'No More please' and I came across a guy, asking him "How much more?" He said just a bit more. I had heard that answer twice or thrice before, so wasn't really sure how long 'just a bit' is. Meanwhile, people who were asked to get down of the car joined and we got into the car, and guess what, in less than fifty meters, that was over! This does not mean we were out of the woods, well literally!! But there was atleast no 'visible damage done'. We still had to go good forty kilometers and we started our countdown. What was remarkable was while all of this was happening, no one not a single one of us pressed the Panic Button (of course there were no usual suspects who'd, still..). A few kilometers further, we started seeing some cars in opposite dirction. I even saw a 'मंदीर' and I suggested 'मंदीर is a positive thing' and everyone burst into a laughter. (I am not sure whether it was for my saying it or for thorough hopelessness with which we were going on!) and continuing in that fashion an hour or so later, we reached a place called 'अंबवणे', yes that is where the famous 'Amby Valley' is. Mr Murphy not in action yet! Oh and yes all this while, there was not a single drop of drinking water with us!

The road from Amby Valley to lonavala is a perfect anti-climax to what we'd gone through just now, if one has to experience hell and heaven separated by one hour and few kilometers, we'd done just that. It was just a smooth ride from there to Lonavala to Kamat hotel for some snacks. Finally, we dropped the idea of going to Sunset Point for it was already past 6pm and there was no Sun left to set. Thus we began our return journey to Pune, nothing much to write about!

In a span of less than 6 hours, we'd driven on every possible road one can see in India, save the one that goes along the beach. A village path, a state highway (which is barely 4 meters wide), a national highway and finally the Mumbai-Pune Expressway the best road in India.

And when we finally reached Pune and stopped for the customary chai, we'd defeated Mr. Murphy of PANTA Trip atleast for now! (A feeling tantamount to defeating Australia in any form of game)

Next release of this will have a picturesque version. Tough luck for those who missed this, well I can say that now!! I wouldn't dare saying it 32 hours back!!!!

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