Despite having traveled the Mumbai-Pune Expressway almost a million times, I never find this route to be old, boring, or even monotonous. Such, perhaps, is the beauty of the Western Ghats. In every season, there is a different charm about the landscape here. If the summers are scorching and bright, then the winters are foggy and misty; each season projecting its uniqueness on the hills and the valleys. But monsoon, without a doubt, brings out the most gorgeous look of this landscape. The hills do come alive with the sights and sounds of the rains, blankets of grey clouds hanging over the hills, and the valleys are dreamy with veils of monsoon mist. To put it simply, a drive from Pune to Mumbai during the rains is a heavenly experience.
When I take a road trip, I prefer renting a car instead of driving and always book a licensed cab from Pune to Mumbai. Not that I don’t enjoy driving, but when traveling during monsoon, I prefer to sit back and enjoy the views of the rain-soaked hills, the endless expanse of greenery, and watch the rains splash across the window. We often tend to miss out on these little joys of life when driving ourselves and focusing on the road.
It takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to reach Mumbai via the expressway. When I’m not traveling for work or with a particular agenda, the travel time goes up by at least a few hours, because, I prefer to make pit stops, catch the views, grab a bite, or even make a quick detour at interesting places. Over the years, I have found that the Pune-Mumbai route has almost everything any kind of traveler could ask for. Whether you want a romantic getaway, a soul-searching trip, or some serious adventure, you can find it all here. The road through the Sahyadris is laid out with enchanting trails, historic forts, and charming hill stations that can satiate your wanderlust of all kinds.
Here are some of my favorite spots.
While this plateau region is best known for its paragliding tours, and peaks in tourism in the winters, there’s no reason you cannot visit it during the rains and enjoy the views. If the rugged terrain is all ruddy and golden in the dry season, the rains cover this place in a velvety green cloak, which is a real feast for the sore urban eyes. You can trek through the hilly slopes and stop by the cliffs to capture the panoramic views.
This is a place always on the top of my list of pit stops between Pune and Mumbai and I have some fond memories of. The fort is a popular trekking destination and you will find everyone from amateurs to pro trekkers making at least one trip to Rajmachi in the monsoon. To start the trek, you have to take the exit towards the Gold Valley from the highway and reach Kondhane Village. I remember the first time when I decided to join my trek buddies and walk up the slippery slopes. The rains make it quite challenging to tread the rough terrain and I would recommend that you always go with a group which includes a couple of professionals. Even if you don’t want to trek, there is a way to drive around and catch the incredible views of the two peaks of the fort. There are camping options also at the village base.
As a nature lover, I have no words for this exquisite site, right outside the bustling town of Lonavala. The huge reservoir (resulted from the Pawna Dam) and its surroundings perfectly define what ‘tranquil beauty’ should be. I have camped here on the lakeshore in all seasons, and every time, it has been a unique experience. But somehow, the trip I had made in September a few years ago, remains my favorite. Right after the rains recede, the weather is cooler with fresh foliage, and lake area is swarmed by fireflies at night, painting a picture that you want to live in forever. You can do an exclusive Pawna Lake trip, instead of stopping by en route to Mumbai. Book a comfortable taxi from Pune to Lonavala and camp on the shores, go fishing, or take a boat or kayak down the lake, and enjoy this jewel of the Sahyadri in your way.
It has almost become a religious practice for me to make at least one road trip in the rains from Pune to Mumbai, down the highway and bask in the magic of the season. No matter when I travel, the roads flanked by hills, dotted with tunnels, waterfalls, and dainty little hill towns and farms, is a sight I can savor over and over. Am sure, if you ever plan a road trip as I do, you would feel the same way.