After having completed a project successfully and the recent stress in my life (I know I keep complaining, but life is life), I was so looking forward to this road trip. Especially since I got my Dhanno repaired and just got it back – all new (hope so), I was looking forward to a safe trip without any troubles with my car. My Zen Estilo has never ever let me down or stopped on me in the 10 years that I’ve had it. We’ve travelled thousands of kilometres with it and it has been such a boon in our lives. We were so satisfied and happy with it, that we didn’t ever bother looking at other newer brands and models that kept coming in the market. If Maruti wouldn’t have shut its manufacturing, then I would have bought the Zen Estilo all over again. Me and my small car with which I can travel anywhere. For so many months, I couldn’t take it out anywhere, but its now in perfect condition. Yay!!!
Another reason of my excitement was that my old friend Hetal was accompanying me for the first time. She had read about us in Mumbai Mirror and she was very intrigued and excited about meeting our gang. I promised her it would be a trip which she would remember always – a cherished one. So I left home at 6am, picked her up at JVLR crossing and happily chatting away, we drove for an hour to reach the meeting point at Kalamboli – just at the threshold of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. My dhanno was going good and that drive put all my worries to rest. It was ready for the drive ahead. Hetal doesnt drive and that was fine by me as in this trip, I just wanted to enjoy driving. Not do anything else.
Always good to meet Rucha, Suraj, Muffin, Shivani, Chidamber, Archit and Aarin along with Yayawar. Sunil was also joining us again. Was happy to meet Pyro again who’s the newest member of the Pujar family. Naughty, fearless and very cute. Introduced Hetal to them and I think she was amused to meet Rucha who was at her hilarious best in the morning. And we had three cuties with us on this trip – the white oldest Muffin, Colonel’s trained and army personified brown Lucy and the naughty black youngest Pyro. All three labradors and totally adorable. After a briefing by our Captain Chidamber Pujar and lineup decided we started the drive onwards to Shilimb with our convoy of 6 cars.
Chidamber & family – Maruti Ertiga
Meeta & Hetal – Zen Estilo
Colonel & family – Hyundai I20
Suraj, Rucha & Muffin – Hyundai I10
Sunil Naik – Hyundai I20 Asta
The Roadtrippers team (Yayawar, Vishnu & Rohan) – Mahindra Scorpio
Next stop was at Lonavla’s Rama Krishna where we stopped for breakfast. It is one of the places which has hot tasty breakfast and we have been going there for over 20 years or more and the quality hasnt gone down. Hot idli sambar is just my favourite and then Chao’s memories also surrounded me. We would eat there so often. When Hetal ordered Rawa Masala and said kadak karna – it was like Chao was sitting next to me and ordering it. Was difficult to hold my tears, but I did. That whole area, every nook and corner filled with hundreds of memories. Anyway I was determined to not cry and enjoy this trip as much as I can and that is a promise I made to myself and Chao. Tummies filled, we left for the resort at Shilimb Valley.
RTC’s specialty is to pick the most scenic routes and so once we left Lonavla, the beauty was spectacular. The winding roads, Pawna lake, it was just nice to breathe in the air and enjoy the drive. Yayawar along with Captain had identified a few photo stops along the way. After so long, this was the most satisfying experience for me. Hetal and me had a heart-to-heart chat and caught up from where we had lost touch since 2008 almost. This is the beauty of friendship. Like we never lost touch and just that we were meeting after ages. I was so glad she had agreed to come for this trip.
A few kms more and we arrived at Anjanvel Agro Tourism Resort. They have 4 cottages, 2 dormitories and tents enough to accommodate 50 guests. With our bags left in the rooms, we walked around exploring the resort. They have a huge space where they’ve put a jhoola on the tree and I loved this spot. There was a ladder kept near the tree and Shivani climbed up so effortlessly on top. It was so cute of her to take a few pics for me while I was on the swing. Every time I meet Shivani, there’s so much you can learn from her. Her free spirited nature, kindness, fearlessness and no inhibitions of any kind, she continues to inspire me always. I’m fearful of falling down, or walking down a narrow path, or treading in an unknown territory, but she’s fearless and so inquisitive to learn something new and imbibe. A wonderful human being and a brilliant mother.
We also met Ashish, Aishwarya and Sachin – they were called the instagrammers all along as they went crazy clicking pictures. Ashish runs a very popular feed on Instagram with the name Maharashtra_ig with over 113K followers. Aishwarya had won a road trip with the Road Trippers Club and Sachin is a wonderful sketch artist. I’ve requested him to sketch something of Chao for me. Will explore it with him soon. It was also lovely to meet Vishnu and Rohan from ScoutMyTrip. Rohan was our official photographer as well.
Flowing 2 mins from the resort is a stream and the cold water was a welcome relief from the heat. Aarin jumped in with joy and Pyro and Muffin also couldn’t be restrained for a long time. And dada (Yayawar) had his photo session. Me and Hetal also took a walk in the water and settled down on some stones for a bit, our legs dangling in the cool water. Could have sat there for a couple of hours with a book reading. As I got up to leave, I slipped and was in the water, laughing and giggling away. It was extremely amusing for me and Hetal was in splits as well. Hot lunch was awaiting. Bhakri, with besan ki sabzi, papad, bhindi ki sabzi and dal with ghee was simple and nourishing food. There was a variety of non-veg as well and the food was very tasty and homemade with lots of love and caring. I just enjoyed the ghee so much since it had fragrance and taste just like the old days. Relished it!
Fully satisfied and exhausted, everyone was sleepy and retired for a couple of hours of afternoon siesta. I crashed having slept for only a few hours last night since I was working on a project till about 12 midnight. Hetal, Rucha everyone took a nap. Woke up at 5pm and ready for some hot tea. The ladies made some fabulous tea and I generally do not enjoy it, but just loved it. It was the prefect cuppa with right amount of tea and sugar. Had another cup for Chao since he loved tea. Cheers Chao! The three labradors went running around the property as we all kept chatting away. There was a trek planned but everyone turned it down since it was going to be dark soon. They promised to explore it in the morning but I knew that after they had their drinks and slept late chatting away, no one would get up in the morning early.
The evening was spent chatting away on different topics like Bollywood films and the celebrities and their lives. Also why do they teach us cos, sin and theta – we just fail to understand that since it has never ever been useful in our lives so far. Interesting topics and the gist of the matter is that we should all live our lives the way we want to, not enforce our wishes on our children and just do what we are passionate about. But most of our lives we end up doing the opposite. Anyway no more gyaan. The starters were a mix of fish fry and barbecued pineapple, paneer, tomatoes, onions and capsicum. The dinner was again super tasty with super soft Ghavan – a soft, lacy, rice pancake, a favourite of the Kokanastha community along with Vangichi bhaji (brinjal curry) and an assortment of chutneys made of javas (Flaxseed), til (black sesame) and peanuts. The crispy alu wadi (colocasia leaves smeared with spiced, sweet and tangy gram flour paste) was just unavoidable. Khane mein tripti ho to phir kya baat hai. Everyone was off to sleep by around 10.30 pm which is unheard of in our road trip history.
It got cold and chilly at night and I slept with 2 blankets. At 4.30am, I could hear the singing of some villagers from far away. At 5.45 am I woke up, crawled out of bed and quietly slipped out of the room and went for a quiet walk along the road. The sound of the music and the raw Marathi bhajans intrigued me and I just followed the voices and reached a temple where they were singing bhajans. They completed their aarti and the ladies invited me in. Adorned with a tikka, aarti done and welcomed by the elders, I was invited for a cup of tea by one of the farmers. I was confused but couldn’t refuse the offer. As we walked to his hut, he happily introduced me to his family. Wife, his son (he works at the Hilton Shilim which is next door), daughter-in-law with their two kids. The little one Jia was a joy to play with and for those few minutes, all my worries disappeared. I was just content with this feeling and meeting this lovely family and being in their home made with so much love. The simplicity of the village life had filled my being. Chao always talked about doing some farming and having a simple hut in the middle of nowhere. The hot tea was refreshing. As I bid my goodbye, I backtracked towards the resort and an elderly farmer told me – that it was God’s will that I had walked and reached their village. This was a special moment which I will cherish all my life.
Back at the resort, took a shower and after a tasty breakfast of jowar parathas with onions and pickles, we were ready to leave. All of us bought tasty nachani, rawa, moong and besan laddoos from Rahul – our resort owner, farmer, host (all-in-one). He has quit his job to take care of this resort and live the good life. Really happy to see that and we should support him as much as possible. So request all of you readers to promote The Anjanvel resort as much as possible. I’m going to write a detailed blogpost about his resort next. Watch this space!
After a lineup shot and group shot, we were back driving towards the Pawna dam. We took a different route while returning to Lonavla and this was also totally striking. Driving up and down the narrow roads, we enjoyed different views of the dam at different spots and stopped to click pictures. Aishwarya, Ashish and Sachin were going crazy clicking pictures. They had already collected 1200 shots and kept going berserk trying to get creative and at times fun shots. Their bonding was really cute to see, just like they had known each other for years, when they had only met yesterday. Road trips are for lifelong friendships. I keep saying that and seeing that. Once we reached the Mumbai-Pune highway, it was time to bid goodbye to the Roadtrippers and my friend Hetal who went along with Dada. She had lots of questions about our club and I’m confident Dada was able to provide the answers. I was headed to Pune along with the Instagrammers to meet my friend Renu Nagpal (who I had connected with during our road trip to Anjarle) and my friends Anu Manu who have recently shifted into their new home.
This trip was as always memorable and extraordinary in many ways. Anjanvel Agro Resort was one of the best finds of RTC and I’m definitely coming back soon to make a short film for them. It will be a purely personal project for me and most satisfying as it will have both – roadtripping and filmmaking together. I let go of some more inhibitions this trip, went into the water, drove just like the old days, enjoyed the local food and woke up early morning. I did avoid sleeping in the tent since we got a room for ourselves, but maybe next time. That will be different too. All in all, it was a unforgettable trip for me – feeling confident and charged again and ready for my next project. I will not be defeated by life! That’s a promise I’m making to myself. That I will seek and enjoy every moment of my life looking at it in My Rearview Mirror!
For joining us on road trips and to get more information on upcoming drives, please visit The RoadTrippers Club!