We took your question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder Partner of The Explorers India, a travel organisation that specialises in experiential tourism and adventure.
Over to him:
Come monsoon and most people begin to dread endless traffic and having to wade to office through water logged roads. But you only have to travel a short distance from the cities to soak in a light drizzle, the sound of a gushing waterfall, the sight of abundant greenery, and the monsoons don’t seem so bad at all.
Pack a light lunch, put on a trench coat and head on a monsoon hike – it’s the best way to welcome the rains. To begin with, those in Mumbai could trek from Vasai to the waterfall in Tungareshwar. The flattish path lies between thick woods and is a great way of being close to nature without being too far from the city. The adventurous can either consider Chanderi for a difficult but worthwhile two-day hike or embark on the gradual climb to Kalsubai, Sahyadri’s highest peak. If you’re considering a trip to the hill station Matheran this season, skip the toy train or road and trek through the Garbett Plateau instead. You’ll be rewarded with great views as soon as you begin.
As most national parks close entry to visitors come rains, you could drive to the small town of Ramnagar in Uttarakhand from Delhi and hike through the buffer zone of Corbett National Park. It’s highly recommended for wildlife enthusiasts who can learn about the flora, spot birds and animals from a close distance, and enjoy the trek all the way till Nainital. Rishikesh and Kasauli are great bases for some short monsoon treks as well and so is B.R. Hills in Karnataka.
Another activity that is best enjoyed in the monsoons, especially in Mahrashtra, is Waterfall Rappelling. Kune waterfall near Lonavla can be accessed after a two-hour long trek and once there, through a certified agency and guide, one can start rappelling at a height of 75-80 feet. Kondana caves near Karjat are a good spot too. For those interested, rain-fed rivers like Kundalika and Pej offer opportunities of rafting.
Cycling through the countryside also makes for an extremely pleasant activity during monsoon. Karnataka provides plenty of traffic-free, scenic routes to cyclists. The Bangalore-Mysore Highway is a great way to start and you can cycle onwards to Ramnagara, a small town about 50 km from the city known for its 400 year old Big Banyan Tree, and Manchinbele Dam. Those in Mumbai can consider cycling towards Vasai to the beachfront of Arnala or you could take the route from Alibaug to Murud Janjira that goes through Korlai fort and small hospitable villages.
If you can, however, manage to take a few days off work, skip all the above options and escape to Wayanad in Kerala instead. Whether it be a trek in the drizzle from Kalpetta to Soochipara falls, gliding through the backwaters or cycling across stretches of tea gardens and forests – you’ll have plenty to do and thank the rain gods for.
Aloke Bajpai spoke to TS Correspondent Sarita Santoshini.
We took the question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder and Partner of The Explorers. A certified mountaineer and skier, Bajpai has also trained in river rafting. His advice:
Being a city dweller with not enough time for extended vacations, I find camping by a lake or in the woods with friends to be a perfect getaway. Fortunately, one is never too far from a great camping spot in India.
Maharashtra, according to me, provides abundant camping opportunities that lie only kilometers away from the bounds of its capital city Mumbai. I have fond memories of a weekend in Tikona Fort that sits on a scenic hill and is accessible through an easy 45-minute trek. Once there, we had uninterrupted views of Pawana Dam and Tung Fort in the day and a clear sky for star gazing at night. Peth Fort in Karjat also makes for a great site owing to the presence of Peth village at the base and the ample open space available to pitch a tent at the top. Tandulwadi is another camping site located very close to Mumbai.
Those in Bangalore can drive to Madikeri in Coorg for a weekend of camping amidst coffee plantations or to Chikmagalur if you are looking for some adventure and great sunset views. The best experience, however, can be had in a camp site in Bheemeshwari where you can go for fishing, birding and wildlife spotting by the majestic Cauvery River.
From Delhi, you could drive to the hill station of Dhanaulti in Uttarakhand. There, you will find established camp sites on the meadows with a backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Himalayas. If you are looking for some place even quainter, the valley of Rajgarh that lies 40 kilometres from Solan in Himachal Pradesh is the best option. Longer Himalayan expeditions like Parvati Valley trek and Chandratal trek also provide excellent camping opportunities.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
• Study the map carefully to have an idea of where the motorable roads will lead you.
• When looking for a secluded spot, remember to ensure that there is a water body in the vicinity.
• If possible, camp close to a village that can provide you food as well as safety in case of any emergency.
• Check if your camping spot requires permission of the Forest Department.
• Reach the camping site at least 3 hours before sun down. Once there, get a clear perspective of the surroundings to be able to navigate later in the dark.
• Practise how to pitch a tent well in advance; remember to mark a snake pit around it and light a fire only at an adequate distance.
• Carry essentials like sleeping bag, a good torch, first-aid kit, adequate water, Swiss knife, as well as a stove and food supply if you plan to cook.
Short answer:Bade Miya in Colaba. The not-so-tiny road side stall that opens its kitchen every night to thousands of hungry Mumbaikars is no longer a secret, actually. But it is the best in Bombay, without doubt. Open from 7 am to 1 am. Located on Tulloch Road, Apollo Bunder, Behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai – 400039
But let’s not forget the many other places that serve equally great kebabs and some that even offer greater variety. TS intern Sarita Santoshini takes you on a tasty tour.
Located in the bylanes of Fort in South Mumbai, this small food joint has a loyal customer base for its Chicken Sheikh Kebabs and the Reshmi Chicken Kebabs that are also offered as rolls. The kebabs here are extremely affordable: a hearty meal for two will cost you around Rs.300.
Where: 43, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai
Mega popular stall located in Byculla. 90 years and still going strong. No sign board; just ask around and follow your nose. . The signature Sheek Kebabs, both chicken and beef, have been nominated as hot favorites by many foodies, chefs and websites. Head there early in the evening and shell out Rs. 200 for a tummy-full of these bestseller kababs.
Located in a neighborhood packed with restaurants and clubs, Ayaz dishes up Chicken Reshmi Kebabs that beat competition hollow. A plate will cost you Rs.90. For the same price, you can also try the Mutton Seekh Kebabs.
Known for drawing a large crowd until 3 am during Ramzan, the small restaurant serves a delicious Tandoori version of its Tangdi Kebab. You could also try the Chicken Reshmi Seekh Kebab, two pieces of which cost you a mere Rs.50.
Where: 4, Pakmodia Street, Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, Near J J Hospital, Sandhurst Road, Mumbai
Izzy’s Kebab Kona
This food cart will go onto your list of best food discoveries once you have eaten there. Served with cream cheese, caramelised onions and green chutney, both the chicken and mutton kebabs are a complete steal. You could order a platter for two for Rs.300.
The restaurant opened a few months ago and is already famous among locals for its delicious and filling Gilauti Chicken and Lamb Seekh Kebab. A meal for two would cost you around Rs.1000.
Where: 10 Adarsh Nagar, Next to Costa Coffee, Pali Naka, Bandra West, Mumbai
Known for hosting the likes of Richard Gere and Paul McCartney, Khyber will spoil you for choice of Kababs. If you are confused, we suggest you simply go ahead and order the Kabab Platter for two that is available in vegetarian, chicken and mutton as well as sea food varieties.
Also recommended: a plate of Tangdi Kebab (Rs. 400) or Mutton Boti Kebab (Rs. 500).
Where: 145, MG Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai
A little heavy on the pocket, but the perfectly marinated and grilled Peshawri Kabab and Murgh Malai Kabab here are worth every penny. A lavish meal of kababs will cost you Rs. 2000 at this restaurant.
With outlets in Mahim, Sakinaka, Oshiwara and Bandra West, the restaurant is well known in the city and beyond for its Kakori Kabab, Mutton Galawati Kabab and Murgh Kastoori Kabab. All three plates can be savored for Rs.750.
Where: 3, Sag Baug, Near Times Square, Andheri Kurla Road, Sakinaka, Andheri East, Mumbai
A: Mumbai is eye-wideningly huge. It’s got 19 million people—and counting. It’s India’s largest and the world’s sixth largest city. And it’s got a whole year’s worth of things for you to see and do.
So, keeping just one day for Mumbai is like picking an olive off a family sized Margherita pizza!
BUT. TS intern Sarita Santoshini is a Mumbai local, and a smart one at that. Hold her hand and off you go!
7 am: Hire a cycle!
Where? – Happy Cycle Shop, Colaba
They open at 6:30 AM and insist you knock the shutter if you find them closed.
Charges: Rs 30/hour
Ride around the empty morning streets of Colaba and onwards to the Gateway of India or Worli Seaface to NCPA on Sunday.
9 am: Breakfast
Option 1: With Rs.200 to spend, Kala Ghoda Café is the place to go for a Veg Morjim sandwich and a glass of fresh orange juice or Waffle with chocolate sauce and maple syrup.
Where: Ropewalk Street, Kala Ghoda – Colaba.
Option 2: Prakash. Their Sabudana vada and Dahi Misal is a foodie’s delight.
Where: Shiv Sena Bhavan, Next to Kithe Hall, Gokhale Road, Shivaji Park, Dadar West.
Option 3: For Pineapple Sheera worth Rs.35, plate of Idlis worth Rs.20 and filter coffee worth Rs. 15 – Café Madras is the place to go for an authentic south Indian breakfast.
Where: 38 -B, Circle House, King’s Circle, Matunga
Travel Smart: Get a one day BEST bus pass at Rs. 70 which is valid for travel across the city.
11 am: Adventure
Option 1:Chor Bazaar – Open from Saturdays to Thursdays, this market is a shopaholic’s paradise. We suggest you get there as soon as the shops open at 11 am.
Where: Get down at Grant Road (East) and take a cab. You’ll easily locate the market between S V Patel and Maulana Shaukat Ali Road.
Option 2:Bassein Fort in Vasai is a great option for a getaway from the city. The Portuguese buildings in ruin, chapels, and greenery around are all worth a visit.
Where: After taking a Virar local and getting down at the Vasai station, you can take a bus which is available every half an hour and charges Rs.7 for a ticket. .
2 pm: Lunch
Taste of Kerala is popular among students and professionals alike, for its authentic food that you could savor for hours without drilling a hole in your pocket. Try the Chicken Chettiandu for Rs. 123 and the Pomfret Masala.
Where: 6/A, Prospect Chambers Annex, Pitha Street, Near City Bank, Fort, Mumbai.
Post Lunch: Siesta
Option 1: Even if you are 300 bucks rich, you could head to Hiranandani Gardens in Powai. Forget the post lunch nap – Go Karting, Paintballing, Zorbing, Dirt Biking and Mini Golf are the many things you could do here.
Option 2:Yazdani Bakery offers you Brun Maska and Chai for Rs. 30 and mouth watering Apple Pie for Rs. 50.
Where: Fountain Akbar Ally, Saint Thomas Cathedral, Fort
Post 6 pm: Enjoy the vast stretch of sea
Head to the MTDC Information & Booking Counter at Gateway of India during the weekend and you could take a one hour ride in an Open Deck Bus either at 7 pm or 8:15 pm. At Rs. 120, you could experience the perfect ride around the heritage centers of South Mumbai.
Post 7 pm: Entertainment
Option 1: Shows at Prithvi Theatre are for only Rs. 80 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Once there, be sure to tuck into one of the many delights at Prithvi Café, that plenty of theater-goers and others swear by.
Option 2: Karaoke Nights with friends are always fun. We suggest you head to either Soul Fry on Mondays or to Soul Fry Casa on Saturdays – both guarantee good music.
Soul Fry Silver Croft, Pali Mala Road, Bandra West.
10 pm: Dinner
Café Universal that dates back to 1921 is still a lesser known restaurant in Mumbai. We suggest you head there to take in some old world charm and sip your draught beer worth Rs. 80 with Grilled Chicken or the Fish Sizzler while at it, both the dishes being totally worth the price. The menu is extensive and gives you plenty of options.
Option 1: Whether a paan lover or not, Muchhad Paan wala is one place you must go to for the Sweet Paan or the Ice Paan.
Where: Opposite St.Stephens Church, Near Oomer Park, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy.
Option 2: We believe no dessert or ice cream beats the legendary Gola. Head to the nearest beach and try either the most loved Kala Khatta or Milkmaid Gola. You could go to the famous Gola wala opposite the stretch of Marine drive. Situated a little after Girgaum Chaupati, the crowd around the stall will help you spot it. Juhu Beach has great Gola stalls too, that remain open till late hours at night.
Can’t get enough of Mumbai? These websites could help find your way around: