driving trips are always a lot of fun. in mumbai, you’re hardly driving. every day you practise your 1st gear starts and gear shifts. the rains are finally coming to an end. the greenery in maharashtra is at its peak, before the descent into dried yellow oblivion. also the weather is still cool till second summer hits before cool winters. this is the best time to head out on that long drive and soak up the peace and quiet of being on the road. here travel is not about the destination but about the journey, in the truest sense. here are my favourite drives out of mumbai.
mumbai to nasik
this is one of the best drives not only because of the smooth road, but also thanks to the changing landscape. you go from baobab trees of concrete to the relatively open greens with trees lined till the highway and then, before you realise it, the landscape changes. from forest like cover that we indians are used to, it turns to grassy meadows, undulating hills and announces ‘wine country’ in the most spectacular way. there are no trees or few trees close to the highway and you look far into the distance and see mountains and pastures and herds of cows and sheep grazing. this change in the vegetation always manages to amaze me. what about you? have you noticed it?
pit stop: there are many restaurants that pepper the way. oye punjabi, closer to mumbai is decent; we’ve stopped there once.
mumbai to bordi
last month we took off on an impromtu holiday – bordi it was! we’d heard about it from different sources and seems to be a rather popular destination amongst mumbaikars. we weren’t sure how this road would be but we needn’t have worried. it is a quality road, lined with a sea of green, hills, valleys and tiny streams bubbling down the hills. there are many signboards that invite you to check out heritage forts on the way– from vasai fort, to some others whose names i cannot remember! if mid-way you wonder if its the right highway (given a few junctions while exiting mumbai) here are my quick tips: lots of white cars + restaurants names in gujarati + lots of vegetarian restaurants. that’s it. it’s the right highway and it leads straight to surat. for bordi, you turn off for dahanu earlier.
the road from dahanu to bordi is by the sea. it doesn’t have the pomp of the ECR (chennai to pondicherry) but it has this simple beauty about it that can never be underestimated. you’ll see a typical konkan coastal scene; with empty beaches and endless stretches of sand, grey skies and that greyer arabian sea lined with green trees. read about the rest of that trip to bordi here and my experience at the village haat here. p.s. go on your own you do not need to go via any travel companies, they’ll fleece you!
pit stop: kamat’s comes up a good hour into the highway and that can be quite a long wait if you have a hungry tummy. but their misal pav is really good…
mumbai to goa
this is a notorious highway. it has blind bends, people speeding and a lot of accidents. there are always talks about doing something and making this safe, but to my knowledge, nothing has happened. you can choose to drive down at one stretch and reach goa in 12 – 14 hours, depending on the traffic. or take pit stops on the way and break the journey. i have done with thrice, with pit-stops every time. why? less strain + you let the experience linger… it’s not one fast dash down to goa with the strain of wanting to make it before nightfall but a long drawn drive with you stopping to smell the roses on the way… oh and the roses are just pristine beaches, lovely sunsets, soft sand .. .. .. fill in those blanks!
i’ve always returned to mumbai via kolhapur probably because i’ve halted at pune everytime. it’s a bad road till kolhapur, but after that it’s great, much like an expressway till pune and then, as you know… there is the expressway!
mumbai to karnala fort (panvel)
if you aren’t up to the entire stretch all the way go goa, get a sampler on this drive. it manages to mix a trek with a drive — the best of both worlds?
mumbai to alibaug & kashid
you start off with the goa route, and then turn away and go towards alibaug. this might be a longer drive than taking the ferry to alibaug but it’s a peaceful road. it is almost as if the minute get out of the traffic of mumbai the road settles down, and the holiday begins. you meander along with gentle turns, smooth tar and linger, savour your way into alibaug or rather kashid (who stays at alibaug anymore!)
mumbai to pune
pune is home, so drives to pune happen often. (maybe not often enough, my mum would say) but last week we drove to pune and came back, and i must say, this expressway still amazes me. it’s been around for more than 10 years but still i am wowed by the experience. it isn’t that crowded yet and we completed the expressway on a sunday in just one hour! door to door in 2.5 hours! every time i drive out of that last tunnel, mumbai announces it’s proximity through the green surrounding littered with factories!
mumbai to malshej ghat
this is one drive i have heard a lot about, but not really done this. it’s on my list and hope to drive down this road very soon!
september and october are the best time to drive out of mumbai. the monsoon greens juxtaposed against the black tar of the road signals peace, calm and a good break for me. always. most of the roads across maharashtra are mostly in decent shape, except for some small stretches. but compared to city roads, they are all BLISS! the weekend is here and a long one is up next week. the road is calling out.
(psst. we’re off next week on a 10 day driving trip to the temple trails of karnataka. i can’t wait to get going!)