Travelogue: Day trip to Places near Pune
Come long weekend and the trend these days is that you need to be going out with family for the long weekend trip. However this also means that one has to make the bookings well in advance as otherwise usually nothing much is available at the last min. For the 26th Jan weekend, we did realize a bit late and unfortunately as expected, didn't get any bookings anywhere.
Spending the 3 days at home, wasn't making any sense, so we decided to rather make do with day trips so that we don’t have to stay anywhere. With this intention in mind, we looked up Rajaram’s PlacesNearPune blog site, and like in past, I did find options near Pune that were within 30-40 km range. The first was the Kodit Maskoba temple and the other was the Kanifnath temple. Both are on Pune Saswad road and hence easily doable in a single day trip.
Given that many temples tend to close during noon, we decided to start early in the day so that we get sufficient time to spend in the temple, but the good part is that both these temples are open through the day. We planned to first visit the Maskoba temple, which is on Khed-Shivapur-Saswad link road and then on return visit the Kanifnath temple which is Pune-Saswad road near Bopgaon.
To reach to the Maskoba temple from my place in Wakad, there were mainly two options. Take the Pune-Mumbai by pass, going towards Bangalore and take the Katraj by pass and then take a left and get onto the Khed-Shivapur-Saswad link road from Khed (after Ramnagar). The other option was to not take the Katraj by-pass but rather cross over via Katraj to the Pune Saswad road and then just past Hiware take a right and get onto the Khed-Shivapur-Saswad link road from the other side. The first option meant a much longer drive on the Khed-Shivapur-Saswad link road and I wasn't sure of how the quality of such a link road will be. So I decided to take the second option. Being the 3 day weekend, we found lot of traffic on the road and saw very many vehicles getting onto the Katraj by-pass, possibly going towards Panchgani or Mahabaleswar. In fact there was a slight traffic jam near the Warje flyover. The road connecting from Katraj (from near the Katraj Zoo) to the Saswad road, is also pretty crowded (even on regular days). So after being forced to drive slowly till I managed to get onto the Saswad road, we finally got a bit of clear road.
The Pune Saswad road is a state highway and while the road quality was good, it wasn't very wide. There is a small ghat section on this road, which isn't very clear from the Google map. We were driving in our automatic gear i10 and I had to put the car in gear 2 to ensure that I could negotiate some of the steep bends and climbs in the ghat. The last 2-3 kms when you turn right into the Khed-Shivapur-Saswad link road to get the temple is fairly decent road. A small stretch in the Kodit village is pretty bad. There are signs at some places and at some you may have to ask someone for the directions. The last 100 m or so is properly laid concrete road. Surprisingly, this temple isn't really visible till you are almost at it.
|Kodit Maskoba Temple Entrance|
The temple is wonderful with some exquisite carvings from Mahabharata and other Indian mythology. The entire top perimeter of the outside wall is full of carved idols. The main temple is in the center and is more brightly colored. The outside walls are just white washed and still need to be colored. Only some patches here and there are colored in it. The place was almost deserted from visitors but there were local people busy cleaning up the entire area. On inquiry, we found out that there is a big bhoj from 12 noon to late in the evening, every Sunday and they were busy cleaning up for that. This being a Saturday, not many people visit this place. The bhoj on Sunday is free for all. We enjoyed both the wonderful carvings and also the peace and spent about an hour and half at this temple.
As per Rajaram’s blog, he had recommended Madhuban hotel and with no other option that we knew of, we decided to give it a try, though it was about 20 km from the Maskoba temple and is in the opposite direction, towards Jejuri. To reach this hotel, you need to get back to the Pune Saswad road, and drive towards Saswad. At Saswad junction, get onto the Pandharpur Road and drive past Kumbharwada towards Jejuri. This part of the road was getting constructed (most of it was already widened) and so it was a pleasure driving here. The hotel is on the right side, just after you cross the Belsar Phata. There is a huge name board, so you cannot miss this hotel. As you enter you are surprised by the beautiful landscaping that has been done and there are many artifacts places all around this place. These are for sale. The food was good, though the hotel mis-communicated the change in the special Maharashtrian thali. They used to serve soup as appetizer initially, but have stopped it now. When we asked for it, we were initially given mango pickle and then later were told that the menu card is out dated.
By around 1.30 pm we left from here and started on our way back to Kanifnath temple. Near Bopgaon, there is a big entry gate kind of structure, with Kanifnath mentioned clearly. We got onto this side road and after driving on road under construction for about 2-3 kms, we reached the foot of the hill on which the temple is located. This hill is pretty steep and again I had to drive specifically and gear 2, to ensure that the car will pull up. As you reach the hill top you are greeted by a nice sculptor of the 9 teachers of the Navnath Sampradaya.
Towards one side is the 2 wheeler parking and from behind the hill the road goes all the way up to the temple’s backyard where there is the 4 wheeler parking. But we decide to park below and rather climb the 115 steps to the temple. The steps fortunately are evenly placed and it isn't very tiring to climb. Lord Hanumana blesses as you start the climb.
The main temple has only a small square opening, just about a foot wide and tall, from which one can get into the main shrine. The entry is restricted to males only and that too just wearing a saffron dhoti. Ladies need to sit in the main temple area and can just watch from a distance. Due to small opening, it is almost impossible to see inside the main shrine. There are smaller structures all around and the view is also good. Here again they were serving free Prasad that included varan bhat. Since we had our stomachs still overflowing with the food at Madhuban, we had to just politely walk away. Incidentally there aren't very many hotels on the way till the Maskoba temple, but there are lots of them after Kumbharwada.
|Getting into the main shrine|
|Sculptors all around|
By around 3 pm we left this place and onto our final destination for the day the Pune Okayama friendship garden. Like all day long, Google maps on my phone helped find the place accurately. There is ample parking place for which they charge Rs 10 and the garden entry ticket is Rs 5 per person. Interestingly they don’t allow you to carry a camera, as an actual camera, but you are OK to have it in your mobile, which all of us today have. So I had to walk back to keep the camera in the car, but the security person happily allowed mobiles to be taken inside and almost everyone was clicking pictures on their mobile. Not sure why the management doesn't remove this ridiculous restriction of no camera’s inside.
The garden as such is not very big, but sure is very beautiful. Very nicely planted trees and plants and nicely but. There is a small water body all across the garden and bigger pools towards the center which have good amount of fishes as well. There is well laid pathway to walk all around with small wooden bridges to cross over the water body. You aren't allowed to walk on the grass. Security is pretty vigilant and you can hear the whistle blow almost instantaneously if you break a rule. There is a section where you can sit and dip your legs in the water, but this place is crowded, so you may have to wait a long time to get your chance to enjoy a dip in the water, because this is the only place where you can do it. You can enjoy a nice quit walk and easily spend maybe an hour and a half here. There is ample seating space, but most of it is occupied by… you know the kind J. The backdrop of the garden is the only sour spot, which is the slum area on the hill behind.
Looks like we wouldn't have enjoyed as much in a resort as we did visiting all the three places.