Marc and I celebrated our anniversary last weekend by taking a trip out to the country for some fresh air and relaxation. We chose Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa, located about 2 hours from the city (if you take the direct route), on high recommendation from friends who'd stayed there previously
We drove up early on Saturday morning around 7 and hit almost no traffic via the old Mumbai-Pune Expressway. We decided to take the scenic route by driving north to Lonavala since we'd both never been there. Cute area, lots of shops and holiday homes. The route took us through the Sahyadri Mountain peaks, and back down on the west side of Pawna Lake. It took us about three hours to reach the resort.
The drive was incredibly beautiful, and the scenery was so green, drastically different from 3 months ago when the mountains looked instead like desolate, burnt brown shards sticking up from the earth. Everything was vibrant and alive, there were countless tiny waterfalls and streams, and flowers blooming everywhere. It was India as I had never seen it!
Coming down from Lonavala meant that we would come directly through the mountains. We hit high peaks, hairpin turns, and at the very top we experienced fog so dense we couldn't see more than 4 meters in front of us! It felt like we were driving through a dream.
Once we got out of the mountains and in the valley, we passed through a few little villages and lots of farms. The smell of cut grass, manure, and dirt coupled with the cool temperatures reminded me of New Jersey in the late spring.
The last 8kms was completely off-road, and I'm really happy (once again) that we have a beast-mobile (see here) that can tackle any pothole. At times it was so bad that I was certain we had taken a wrong turn, but when I called the hotel they assured me it was normal. So if you happened to be on that road, don't worry, just keep going :-)
Arriving at Hilton Shillim was like taking a step into a completely different world. The place is absolutely amazing, the surroundings are lush, and the service was the best we've ever had. I won't bore you with a full review and I think the pictures speak for themselves, but if you're interested you can see what I wrote on TripAdvisor.
On the way back we took a more direct route into Pune, which was about half an hour less than the drive up there. There's even a more direct way, according to Google Maps, but we didn't take that.
We passed a lot of farms, more villages, and lots of animals! I think the drive up and back ended up being almost as much fun as our stay at Shillim! We saw farmers planting rice, water buffalo taking a dip in a pond, and of course more streams and waterfalls than we could count. We kept the windows rolled down the entire time so we could really soak up all of the fresh air and smells of the country.
Marc has taken a bunch of other pictures and he said he wants to upload them on his blog, so stay tuned if you want to see more. They're probably a lot better than the ones I took on my iPhone!
Note to self: buy a new camera the next time we're home.