In the last 24 months of my MBA days, I have been on 15 trips, few small and few grand ones. Among all those trips, this trip to Pune is close to my heart, probably because this was my longest solo trip spanning three days and four nights. Before I begin writing about the trip, it’s imperative to know that the biggest hurdle in traveling for any middle-class student is the budget, and when you go solo, the budget shoots up to become the double of what it ought to be with a group.
It was February and MICA was hosting their biggest sports event SAMAR, but I have never been interested in sports and so decided to head on a trip during those three days. An invitation complemented the choice of the location to one of my batchmates’ wedding, which was to be held in Nasik. I decided to go to Pune first and then go to Nasik to attend the wedding. I had only Rs 4500 with me, and this was all I could afford for the entire trip. Out of this 1500 was used for the tickets from Ahmedabad to Pune and the return tickets from Nasik to Ahmedabad.
Let the trip begin with a warning that such kind of journey is not advisable for anyone in India!
I reached Pune in the afternoon around 12 and had the iconic Missal Pav before heading for the city tour. The best part about significant tourist places in the city is that they are all in the vicinity of 2-3 km of each other. I headed straight to Shaniwar Wada in a bus from the railway station and reached there around 1:30 PM to see the iconic fort of the Peshwas. The strategic built and architecture was commendable. The royal garden within it and the canons in place for protection all around. Well, unfortunately, I don’t remember all the details of its history, but somewhere around the 1800s, the Peshwas lost control of this glorious fort to the British.
Within walkable distance was the famous Ganapati temple of Dagadusheth. I went there to take my share of blessings before heading to the National War Museum. It was a long walk, and it was almost 4:00 PM by the time I reached there. Taking a look at the artillery used not just in the Indo-Pak war at Kargil but also a replica of INS Trishul which was used in the India-Portuguese war. No wonder India is the 3rd most potent military power in the world.
I can proudly say that I have a few friends on whom I can always rely. A friend at SIMC invited me to stay with him for the night. The symbiosis campus in Lavale is one of the most beautiful colleges I wanted to visit. But the only problem is, there’s no public transport till the campus which is situated on a little hill on the outskirts of Pune. My friend told me the cab was the only option to reach college. With 2700 in my pocket I kept looking at Uber app which was showing a fare of 700 till the campus. I started asking about buses to symbiosis, but there seemed to be none. Well, I finally went to the main bus stand in Pune and found out that there are buses to the village of Lavale. I boarded a bus, and it took me nearly 1.5 hours to reach the foot of the hill on which the campus was located. 7 in the evening with no street lights I started my hike on the hill towards the campus. It was supposed to take me half an hour to reach the campus, courtesy google maps. But the village people were more courteous; a biker gave me a lift to the gates of the campus from where my friend received me.
With the night being sorted, I found out that the first bus from the campus leaves for the city at 7 am. I had Sinhagad on my mind for the next day and aptly left in the seven o clock bus to get down on the highway. I took a bus to Sinhagad happily but realized it would only take me halfway to the Sinhagad fort. From there I took a sharing cab again only till the foot of the hill of the fort. The sun was almost above my head now at ten o clock, and I had two ways to reach the fort. Pay Rs100 for another sharing cab to save the money and trek the way. It took me 1.5 hours to complete the trek at the end of which I realized I had spent Rs100 in drinking nimbu pani by the time I reached the fort. The trek, however, gave me a sense of satisfaction that I wouldn’t have got had I taken the cab. It was a massive fort with different stories in each corner. Starting from the hawkers to the priest in the temple, each had a different tale to tell. I also found out about Lohagad and wished I could visit that as well, but with no place for the night, I thought Pune was a safer bet. I headed back to Pune after exploring the magnificent fort of Sinhagad.
Reaching Pune around 4, I had a late lunch and was wondering what to do now, when I heard of a magical sunrise at Ramdara temple situated 30kms from the city. With no place for the night, I’d look for a place near the temple, but sadly there were very few guest houses there, and there were no rooms available at a price I could afford. Now I had Rs 2200 and one more day to spare along with a trip to Nasik. I couldn’t afford anything above 500, and there were no rooms below 1000, so I had no option other than heading back to Pune. But at 9 in the night I couldn’t get any buses on the highway, and autos were too costly for a trip back. Just when it was looking like I had to spend the night on the streets, I saw an alto stopping at some distance and started running towards it. I saw a few cartons of fruits and jam in the back seat and the driver was talking on the phone. I stood there patiently as he completed the call. I asked him where he was headed, and he said Mumbai, I asked him if he could give me a lift till Pune and in turn, he asked me what was I doing at that place at that hour. I told him my story, and he agreed to drop me to Pune. This farmer with whom I was riding was now a small scale food processor. He had an Inspiring story to tell, and it showed me how commercial farming was shaping in the state of Maharashtra. Reaching Pune around 10:30, I headed straight to the station because I knew that’s where all the cheap hotels in any city could be found. I spent the night in one of the worst hotels I have ever stayed in all my life.
The final day at Pune started at 6 am for me, as I headed to Pataleshwar caves. After completing my early morning darshan here, I took a zap cycle from there to go to good luck café for my breakfast. This Irani place was 4kms away, and they have been baking their buns since ages, and it has the best cheese masala omelet bun you would have ever tasted. There I spoke to a few people about what more there was to visit in Pune and realized there was nothing much the city had to offer apart from pubs and clubs which I could find in any metro city. One of them suggested I go to Mahabaleshwar and at 9 am I was on a tight schedule as I had to leave for Nasik the same night to attend my friend’s engagement the next day.
I headed to the main bus stand again on the zap cycle, which was around 4kms from there. From there I took a bus to Mahabaleshwar and reached this temple hill station around noon. I had no idea that the bust stand and the temple were so far away. Upon asking about the ways to reach the temple, I was given just on option. Take a cab. A cab that would cost me a thousand bucks when I had 1500 in my pocket. Now that I had come this far, it didn’t make sense to return without visiting the temple and the viewpoints. I started walking towards the temple, which was 7 km away. I had walked around 1 km when an Omni van stopped and asked me where I was headed. I said I am going to the temple and as if God had sent him for me, he offered to take me there. Along the way, he told me there was a shiv festival at the temple, and they would serve prasad for lunch, and said I must have the prasad before leaving. Near this ancient temple with all its stories was the place of origin of the river Krishna. Having visited the temple now was the time for the eight viewpoints. These viewpoints were 7 km from the temple, and I started walking towards them after lunch. Having received a lift twice, I felt confident to ask lifts from people now. I could see people in cars laughing at me as they passed, but I had no choice because it was four already and I had to hurry. So I went on, and a biker stopped to help me.
He was amazed to know that I planned to do all the viewpoints on foot and offered to accompany me as he anyway had to go to all those points for collection. “Collection,” what did that word mean? I was scared a little now; I asked him what collection? He answered, “I go to all the shops every day to collect money from them.” In my mind, I was getting ready to jump off the bike, thinking he was a local goon, but I asked him one last time, “what do you do?”. He then told me that he worked for a cooperative bank, and it was his job to collect money from hawkers every day on behalf of the bank. That was a relief. This guy Shyam was an entertaining chap, and he acted like a tour guide for me as he collected money from the hawkers I got a basic understanding of how the cooperative bank worked. How some people were saving up for their daughters’ marriage and how some had already taken a loan for their business.
After visiting all the points, he dropped me off on the highway stating that I would get a bus to Nasik from there.
At 8 pm standing on the road, I watched buses pass by without stopping. There were around 20-30 people there waiting to take a bus to somewhere. Slowly I saw this number of people dwindling, and I observed some trucks were stopping a little ahead. Next time a truck stopped, I walked up to it and saw people climbing in and going. I started asking the truck drivers if anyone was headed to Nasik. Finally, after some time, I got a truck which was headed that way. I reached Nasik early morning at 5 am. With no uber service in Nasik, the local autos were my only hope to reach the wedding venue. At that hour they were charging a bomb, so I decided to wait. As the city woke up around 8, I took an auto to the wedding venue to meet my other friends.
The roller coaster of this trip had finally leveled at Nasik, where we visited the famous Sula vineyards which lived up to the name they had built all across the country.
We also visited the Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga here. Well because of the wedding we couldn’t explore more of Nasik, but I am sure it’s a beautiful place. For all the Lonavla fans out there, I didn’t go there because I was told it doesn’t have much to offer to a solo traveler. Such was my backpacking across Pune to Nasik when people are off backpacking across Europe.
This post was written by Ritesh Kar, you can find him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/r__kar/
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