At one point in time, the road became very smooth and I felt the car gliding on it. Inside, the stereo was off and the windows were all drawn up. I barely heard a sound. My eyes were on the road, my hands were on the wheel and with a tranquil mind, I noticed the green expanse flanking the road disappearing behind the corner of my eye. The sky was overcast, and the earth was clean. And then, my windshield was splattered with large drops. The rain lashing my car made a quite funny sound – like the crackling made by tasty tidbits tossed into boiling oil. Time for the wiper again. Along with the rain, came the clouds – they just descended there on the road. When I could not see even a few meters ahead, I slowed down my car to a crawl. We should have been already there, I could not have missed it. Just inching forward in the rain, I could finally make out the silhouette of a green signboard. I literally parked besides it and there it was .. “Igatpuri”. We were there.
We planned for a drive to Igatpuri on Saturday 17th Aug. Starting early, to beat the traffic, I took the ghodbunder road from Goregaon east, and reached the Mumbai Nagpur Expressway (NH 47) via Thane. The Western Expressway upto Ghodbunder had stretches of bad potholes, and we kept coming across these monsoonal speed breakers even on NH 47, till the village Murbad crossing. After that, the road was pretty good and made for a lovely zippy drive. It was my first drive on that route, so I was a bit careful – I could maintain a 50 kmph speed on average. This is a good highway with a broad divider, which felt quite safe from the opposite traffic.
Once we crossed Murbad, the landscape changed to spectacular fresh green splattered all around the dark grey expressway, which itself snaked its way out into the horizon. Ah, if always our paths are so clear! FM connectivity was great throughout, but most of the songs did not do justice to the drive – if I am zipping down such a smooth concrete stretch surrounded with light green vastness, with a thick grey cloud and rain of varying thickness, then “Lungi Dance Lungi Dance” is not quite what I wanted to hear.
There were stunning views on the road, large stretches of the highway where you can pull your car to the left side for a brief halt. Touching the grey sky were the Western Ghat peaks, covered with dark green foliage. Running down from their foothills to the road were vast farmlands – all boasting of manicured paddy fields. You will see tiny coloured flecks among the paddy fields – farmers working covered with bright pink/yellow/red polythene sheets due to the rain. Sprinkled along this green-ness were houses – from huts to farmhouses. They added a sparkle to the scenery with their multi-hues. The Mumbai-Nashik raillink follows this highway at many parts – this becomes another indelible part to your trip.
One great thing about this drive was the Ghat section of the higway (drive up to Igatpuri after Kasara) has been completely segregated between up and down traffics – so while on the sinewy curves of the Ghat road, you do not have to bother for oncoming traffic. One caution though – I found few motorcyclists coming down the wrong lane!
Igatpuri, as a town, has one attraction – Dhammagiri Centre for Vipassana school of meditation. The huge pointed arched gateway reminded me of the Thai temples architecture. There is a visitor centre with lovely paintings depicting various stages of Buddha’s life. Apart from this, all other attractions are basically trek-points starting from Igatpuri. We were not prepared for trek, nor for a night halt. So we decided to drive upto the village Tringalwadi. This road is a single lane concrete path starting from the NH 47, opposite the Shagun Hotel (landmark). This road is a usual inter-village road – good at points, gone at the most. However, driving slowly, I could return back without my car loosing a tyre-cap. We passed small villages on the way – some just 2-3 mud huts. Monsoon had touched everything – the roofs looked like an overgrown lawn and the walls had glazy green cover.
Overall, a good drive. But I realize if one can plan a night stay, it is much better to travel further to Bhandardara and stay for the night. Well, maybe that will be my plan on the next trip.