Within two days of arrival at Atlanta, US we were off on a trip to Savannah. Savannah is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia . Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War,Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia’s fifth-largest city, with a 2018 estimated population of 145,862.
On arrival we checked into Marriot Resort and Spa which had been booked by my daughter. This resort is seperated from Savannah by the Savannah River and you need to take a ferry to get into Savannah Downtown.
The skyline looks beautiful from Marriot side of the river. We had arrived late so we had our dinner and went to sleep. Exploring the town began the next morning.
Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors to its cobblestone streets, parks, and notable historic buildings.
Savannah’s downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District, and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States . Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
This quaint historic town has much to offer to a discerning visitor. Take a hop on hop off bus if you are short of time. The bus stops at all attractions worth visiting.
You can also take a carraige ride if you want to see the attractions at a leisurely pace.
Almost everybody makes a beeline for the Forsyth Park right in the centre of the city.
You may consider visiting many museums and art centres which you will find all across the town.
A visit to the market city is a must. The quaint shops have some unique stuff to offer.
The town also has many restaurants which can satiate your hunger with their culinary delights.
This historic city provides some excellent opportunity for street and people photography.
It will be worth your while to end the day with a river Cruise and watch the sunset.
We made a visit to Goa in mid august 2014 to capture the moments and moods of Goa and to see how it braces up in monsoons. Mostly the resorts and beaches had very few visitors but the atmosphere was captivating. Sharing with you few snaps taken during our visit.
Our first halt was at Chorla Ghat, a quaint hill station in North Goa. Nice place to chill out, go for treks, view waterfalls, walk in the rain, enjoy the flora and fauna and photograph reptiles and insects.
Twin waterfalls as seen from view point at Wildernest ( The resort where we stayed).
The area is covered with thick monsoon forest. There are paved tracks on which you can go for a walk.
The place is a must visit in monsoons if you love nature.
Vine Snake. If you are observant you will spot them hanging on branches. Beware, there are Malabar pit vipers in this area too.
Next day we were off on our way to Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary at Mollem. The journey was lovely as the entire country side was lush green and the water bodies full to the brim..
We halted enroute to visit the Harvalem Waterfalls. A must visit in monsoons.
Next two days were spent chilling out at Dudhsagar Spa and resort. This resort is spread over 40 acres and has deluxe rooms, tentage accomodation, a restaurant, a Spa and a swimming pool. During this period we visited the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Tambdi Surla Mandir and Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. In this resort you can also spot various species of birds which fly in search of food.
Grey Hornbill spotted at the resort
A Red Whiskered Bulbul, spotted at the resort. We saw many more species which were high up in the trees. May be next time we will get them.
The local cat.
We did a jeep safari in Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and saw a barking deer and a serpent eagle but they vanished before I could frame them in my camera. The flora here is exotic.
During our stay here, we also visited Shiva Mandir at Tambdi Surla. Tambdi Surla is a 12th-century Shaivite temple of the Lord Mahadeva and an active place of Hindu worship. It is notable as the oldest temple in Goa, India. Tambdi Surla is also famous as a birding spot, though we did not see any due to intermittent rain.
The temple has vintage carvings
An ornate ceiling of the temple
I shot this in the temple garden.
Our visit to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary was also very interesting. There is a mini zoo here which can keep you engaged for hours.
A leopard at the sanctuary
Crocs cozying up.
….and not to miss the monkeys.
Having had our fill of the wilderness, we headed for the southern beaches of Goa. We were booked at Baywatch Resort, Serbatim Beach. But before checking in we visited two famous temples of Goa.
Shri Shanta Durga temple at Ponda.
Having checked in we decided to visit Palolem Beach, South Goa. Enroute we also visited the Cabo De Rama fort. Cabo De Rama is a famous fort located in the Canacona district of Goa. It is also known as Cape Rama Fort. Today most of the fort is in ruins except a chapel located inside the fort which is still in use. Cabo De Rama got its name from Lord Ram the hero of the epic Ramayan. It is believed that Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Laxman lived here for quite some time during their 14 years of exile.
Being off season there were no water sports and the beaches were devoid of the usual crowd. We were lucky as it did not pour during our stay and we had ample opportunity to walk along the beaches.
Palolem Beach I think is the best beach in South Goa.
People at play, Palolem Beach.
Beach Football, Palolem Beach.
Posing for a photo
Just having fun, Palolem Beach.
Capturing memories to take home.
Taking a walk at Palolem Beach.
The west side of Palolem beach
East side of Palolem beach.
A Foodie shack at Palolem beach.
At colva beach
Family fun at Colva Beach.
at Colva beach.
Watching the bay at Colva
Serbatim Beach, Goa
Serbatim Beach, Goa
Serbatim Beach, Goa
Getting stormy at Serbatim Beach
Beach hut at Serbatim Beach.
Calm before the storm, Serbatim Beach
Golden hour, Serbatim Beach.
Counting the waves, Sebatim Beach.
Elusive sun, Serbatim Beach
Crow chasing a Sea Eagle, Serbatim Beach
A Goan Landscape
Flag hoisting at the Resort, 15th August 2014.
Before we knew it was time to travel back home. You can never have enough of Goa. Waiting for another trip, this time just to have fun.
After having a good night’s rest at Kashid we woke up early next morning to reach Murud Janjira( about 28 km from Kashid) to go to catch the first ferry to the fort of Janjira.
As we approached the jetty at Murud we saw a long line of people already there to catch the ferry.The man who was running the ferry service said that he would only move after he got 35 passengers or Rs.800.when my hubby heard that he volunteered to pay the differences and off we were towards the fort about 2kms off the coast on a rocky island in the Arabian Sea.
As we approached the fort we were transferred from the ferry to a sail boat which took us to the Massive Entrance of the Fort.
The main gate faces the Rajapuri village and can can be only seen when one is quite close.At the gate there is an inscription in Persian and the coat of arms which were of a tiger like animal with an elephant in its mouth.
The fort seems in relatively good condition even though its outer walls are battered by sea waves since the last six centuries.It is made of a combination of lead , sand and ‘gud’.
We got off the sail boat and hired a local guide for the whole group.He was a lively young fellow who kept us entertained with stories and anecdotes of the past.This made the climbing of the 150 stairs to the second floor and ramparts of the fort more bearable-the poor knees groaning and creaking at the sudden exercise.
He told us the fort has 19 round bastions and is made in a crescent shape.It took 22 years to complete the fort on 22 acres of land.He told us the original fort was was asmall wooden structure built by a Koli chief in the late 15th century.Later an Abysinian origin Siddi regent of the Ahmed nagar king captured it.Then the Siddis became independent owing allegiance to Adil Shah and the Mughals.
The Marathas under Shivaji and later Sambhaji tried to conquer it but were unsuccessful.Sambhaji even tried to make a tunnel towards it and started building a fort on another rocky island closely but eventually had to leave it incomplete.
As we reached the second floor or the ramparts of the fort he showed us the main canon of the fort known as ‘Kalak Bangadi’ and weighs 22 tons. It was brought to the island in the form of ring and assembled there itself. Made of ‘Panch Dhaatu’ it was mobile in those days but still required 30-40 able men to move it. The entire fort had 145 cannons.
I was very impressed by the architecture because you could stand in the inner courtyards and still have a clear view of miles over the sea on any side. The arches towards the outer walls were very small and as you went towards the centre of the fort they became larger and larger. The guide rightly explained the logic behind it as we realized that from outside the fort you could not see the interiors at all, which made the fort almost invincible.
The topmost floor (the second floor) was used for military purposes and defense. The first floor was for living so, the houses, rooms and living quarters were all situated here. The lowermost level was used for storing arms and ammunition. With only one entry and a sheer drop of 40ft into the sea on all sides the fort was impenetrable.
There was a small escape route at the postern of the fort for escape towards the sea, but it was beautifully camouflaged.
A tunnel also ran under the sea from the fort to Rajapuri, for administrative purposes. It was 60ft under water and usable up to 1991 when the last of the Koli tribe stopped visiting the fort and settled in Rajapuri and adjoining villages. While shifting to the mainland they took the wooden frames, doors and windows with them.
Amazingly there was a sweet water well and pond at the centre of the fort on an island surrounded by sea water. This came as a lovely surprise as I had been wondering how they must have procured their drinking water.
I wanted to salute the brains behind the design and architecture of this totally unique fort. We were told that the surviving regent ROBY PHILIPS resides in New York. We saw his castle on the mainland on the way to Kashid from Murud. This is another pearl in architecture and still seems quite well maintained.
While capturing images of this castle the over enthusiastic spouse had a toss and landed up hurting his hands and knees-thanking God that his camera was safe.On the way back to Kashid we also saw a beautiful Siddhi Vinayak Temple,but did not linger as we needed some medical attention.
Murud also has a variety of good accommodation right from private shacks , cottages , MTDC rooms to ‘The Golden Swan Resort’ which is on the steeper side.
The main stay of local population seems to be tourism and fishing. Here are few snaps of the surroundings.
With that another adventure culminated and we are waiting to embark on the next one.
Another one of our ‘we must be on the road in an hour’ trips fructified and before it even registered we were on our way. This time the goal was two less known beaches of the Konkan – Kashid and Murud Jaljira.
As we cruised along the Pune – Mumbai Expressway up to Khapoli I was really worried, as we had moved out without reservations. With the Diwali vacations on I was doubtful if we would get any accommodation – at the drop of a hat. However ‘the spouse’, optimistic as usual, made light of my fears and kept consoling me that the worst case scenario would be that we would sleep in the car.
My God! I shivered even at the thought of it as (over time) I have grown quite fond of my creature comforts and refuse to rough it out, as they say.
From Khapoli we turned left towards a place known as Penn and from there to Alibaug. We didn’t linger at Alibaug for too long as we had been here before, plus I was on pins and needles about our accommodation .So we headed south to Kashid about 38 Kms ahead on the western coast.
The drive from Alibaug to Kashid was so beautiful and picturesque that one felt one could stay there forever. The coastal road meanders along the coastline and offers you glimpses of the sea at regular intervals with small private beaches, and stretches where you could see revelers enjoying the quiet, uncrowded and clean stretches of beach areas. Small cottages on both sides of the road gave it a surreal feel.
We both wished we could live in one of those shacks or cottages, but then reality crept in that – the grass is always greener on the other side.
Anyway, we reached Kashid and started our hunt for accommodation. Five stars were Choco bloc full, advertised cottages turned out to be ‘basic shacks’ as I started envisioning the actuality of sleeping in the car. God answered the SOS I had sent out and at our third attempt we came across “Kashid Beach Resort”- a three star. The suites and surroundings were neat and clean with an ‘old world’ feel about it. So, we checked in and were overwhelmed at their hospitality as they offered us a sumptuous lunch- though way past lunch time. After having a quick lunch and freshening up we headed out as we wanted to capture the setting sun.
On reaching the Kashid beach the better half got lost in his world of photography, as it was lovely to watch kids and adults enjoying the water sports on offer. The gamut of water sports available had me impressed as there were banana boats, water scooters, speed boats, beach scooties, buggies, to horse and camel riding.
The ‘photography freak’ spouse couldn’t seem to get enough of the wide palate of kaleidoscopic colors and activities going on around him. He moved from group to group catching myriad moods, sports and activities.
I suddenly spotted a large joint family on holiday enjoying a game of water polo on the beach waist deep in water. It was fascinating to see three generations reveling in the game with good natured ribbing on all sides. They took me back in time, to my own childhood, when my whole paternal family would go for vacations together – O! The lovely carefree days, the love and sharing which nuclear families today are bereft of. Suddenly, a splash of water pulled me out of my reverie to find the ‘Hubby’ missing. Panic set in for a second, till I spotted him some distance away capturing some other antics.
While he continued being ‘trigger happy’ with his camera, I chatted with the shack owners. From them I learnt the reason for the relatively cleaner and quieter beaches compared to Goa. One of them told me that the electricity supply was erratic plus they were not permitted to serve liquor in public so they only catered for a variety of colas, nariyal pani, tea, coffee and snacks like wada pao, pohe and maggi.
The setting sun played truant again as clouds covered its beauty among their layers leaving us bereft of the view we longed to capture “The sun setting in the horizon of the sea.” The lovely scene slowly darkened as we traced our steps back to the resort to rest and recoup for the next adventure.
We made a visit to Elephanta Islands on 16 September 2014. Elephanta Island is an island off Mumbai that is home to the Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
To reach Elephanta Caves, we went to the Gateway of India in the Mumbai . From here, we took a boat. The journey takes 1 hour to reach the island by sea. The tickets are available at the Maharashtra tourism development corp (MTDC) at the entrance of Gateway.
The Caves are off-visit on Mondays. The boats leave from gate no.4 at the rear of Gateway of India.There are 2 types of boat: Economy and Deluxe. One is big, the other one is slightly smaller in size. The ticket for Deluxe boat is Rs.160 for Adult, Rs. 90 for Child (3 to 7 years) which includes return journey. If you want to see the view from the upper deck, you have to pay Rs.10/-extra to the boat operator. Economy boat charges are Rs. 20 less. The first boat leaves at 9AM. They have a boat going to Elephanta Island every 10 minutes.
When you arrive at the Elephanta Island, there will be lots of locals offering you the service to guide you around, avoid them as the cluster of caves are in close vicinity of each other and can be visited without a guide. There is a toy train available to take you to the base of the hill which houses the caves (you can even walk it.) You have to climb several steps to reach the caves.
Jetty at Elephanta Island
You can take the toy train to base of the caves.
You will have to climb a number of stairs to reach the caves.
There is a tourist tax of Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children. At the entrance of the park, one needs to pay an entrance fee, i.e., Rs 10 for Indian citizens and Rs 250 for foreign nationals. Remeber to keep the counter foil of tickets with you.
There are several caves you can visit. Except the first two caves at the entrance, other caves are small and not well developed. You can also walk up to the top of the Island, it is called Cannon Hill. There is a old cannon there and nothing else to see. The trip to Elephanta Caves is a journey back in time, the caves are a symbol of rich heritage that India can boast of. The caves and statues have been carved out of stone. The environment is tranquil and de-stressing.
Take some time, sit around and appreciate the murals and ancient architecture.
Take some time to walk around leisurely. The environment is peaceful and serene.
Beware of the monkeys that roam around. There have been many cases of people having been scratched or attacked by monkeys, usually in retaliation. Try to be with the crowd, especially if you have got some packed food with you and want to have a picnic in the area.
There are many things for sale. Most of the stuff is brought in from Mumbai and sold at a double or triple price, so while purchasing mementos, make sure to look out for something unique to the Island and the craft skills of the local people.
If you are interested in Indian food, MTDC resort offers a fine spread at a reasonable cost. There are a number of restaurants available on the island.
Overnight stay at Elephanta Caves is not permitted.
The first boat leaving Elephanta Island for Mumbai is at 12:00 noon and the last one is at 5:30PM.
If you are fast, you can take the first boat from Mumbai to Elephanta Island, visit all caves, go up to Cannon Hill to see the old cannon, come back to the dockside, and take the first boat back to Mumbai.
Elephanta Caves are certainly worth a visit if you are interested in art and culture of India or even if you just want to go for a picnic.
I wake up to the insistent voice of my husband urging me to get up and pack an overnight case for the two of us.
“Pack for what?” I ask irritably, still groggy and not too happy about being hurried in this manner without any forewarning.
“It’s a surprise. We have to be on the road in an hour.” comes the reply. I hurry out of bed and quickly pack. After a hurried cup of tea and some freshening up we hit the road.
It is only after we turn at the Nashik Phata that my spouse reveals that we are off to a little known hill station called Bhandardara, in the midst of the Sahayadris. I am a little skeptical as I have never heard of the place, even though I am a diehard Puneri.
Soon, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, helps me get rid of my grouchy mood. We breeze along the Pune – Nashik highway past Chakan, Shiroli and Narayangaon to Sangamner from where we turn left to Akole. From here we turn right towards Rajur, which is 18 kms away. As we pass the rich and verdant fields all around, with sunflowers and rice plantations, I am reminded of an earlier drive in the Himachal hills. The foliage in these Ghats is different but just as lush and vibrant. The entire stress of urban living just seeps out of us, as the ecstasy of the beautiful surroundings creeps in.
When we reach Bhandardara, I am awe struck by the raw beauty all around and the lovely resort we check into. It is called Anand Resort and is built to merge in beautifully with the surroundings. The support staff is courteous and helpful, the food good, the ambience beautiful, the scenic beauty awesome – though a little over priced.
After a quick bite we want to take the first look around Lake Arthur. A huge lake about 27 kms long and approx 270 mtrs deep, having a circuit of about 55 kms. It is surrounded by the majestic Sahayadris, with a handful of dams, the base camp of the Ratangarh fort –one of Shivajis’ famous forts, a panoramic view of Mt Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra with a height of 1646 mtrs.
We’re advised to hire a local guide who would be able to tell us the history of the place. The guide turned out to be an educated young man, a tribal, who was full of folklore.
We first headed to the Wilson Dam, which is one of the few dams constructed at this height encircled by the hills. It was completed in 1910, and named after the Englishman who had it commissioned. It has huge metal gates which are lifted when the water has to be released, to water the nearby towns. When the water overflows the sluice gates an umbrella waterfall is formed over rounded rocks on one side of the dam. It looks like a huge umbrella of water shimmering like silk.
From there we went to the Randha Falls which drop down 170ft into a deep gorge surrounded by beautifully weathered rocks and a deep valley. The sheer beauty of the place took our breath away. Tearing ourselves away from this place, we reached the Amriteshwar temple which is about 16 kms away.
This place is also the base of the Ratangarh fort built at a height of 1515mtrs. It is known as Ratangarh – they say – because Shivaji is supposed to have stored all the precious jewels he conquered here. It is a trek of 4.5 hrs from here and can be undertaken by experienced trekkers. Being on the wrong side of fifty we decided to admire it from afar.
The Amriteshwar temple is a Shiv temple constructed in 1100 AD. The shivling remains submerged in water for half the year. According to folklore, it was built by the pandavas while they were in hiding, in one night. It has beautiful Khajurao kind of carvings, some of which are unfinished. On enquiry, I was told that the pandavas built a temple wherever they halted during exile. However, they stopped work at dawn so the unfinished carvings. A local river is supposed to have its source at the base of the shivling. It is an unobtrusive serene temple which emits peaceful vibes from each stone and carving.
From there we started towards Kokankada – also known as sunset point. From there, the guide said, you can see Thane and Vashi on a clear day. It is also supposed to have the most awesome view, of the sunset. We however, couldn’t witness the spectacle as the clouds had rolled in and it made you feel that you were standing at the edge of the world, looking down into nothingness.
We were enthralled by the raw natural beauty of the surroundings but, had to make a reluctant retreat as it started raining. While we were driving back we were informed that Bhandhardara has an average rainfall of 300mm and winter temperatures dipping down to 4 degrees Celsius.
The clouds parted long enough for us to see a glimpse of the majestic Mt Kalsubai, the highest point in Maharashta, at 1646m above sea level.
With rain coming down in buckets we decided to head back to Anand Resort, where we settled in for the night, after a sumptuous meal.
The sunrise was crystal clear, with the clouds having vanished, so we freshened up and rushed outdoors to see the places we had missed. The reflection of the hills and trees in the still waters of the lake were a photographer’s delight. There is also a wildlife sanctuary covering 361.5km which is teeming with various kinds of wildlife, though hardly any can be spotted due to the thick foliage and heavy undergrowth.
Heavy heartedly we bid adieu to Bhandhardara as we headed home to the hum drum of Pune life, promising to unearth more hidden retreats we Punekars are so unaware of.
How to reach ?
Bhandardara is the highlands before the Konkan plains. In fact the unique feature of this entire region is that the western slopes plunge directly into the Konkan plains giving it a magnificance like none other. Just over 2 hours drive from bothe Mumbai and Pune Bhandardara is a great weekend location.
Best Route from Pune to Bhandardara
Pune – Nasik Phata – Narayangao – Sangamner – Okole – Kotul – Rajur – Bhandardara
Pune – Nasik Phata – Narayangao – Otur – Bhramanwada – Kotul – Rajur – Bhandardara