The recipe for a perfect weekend involves a nice hotel, good food, few friends, perfect drive and most importantly a good location. Mahabaleshwar is one such place we Mumbai people often run to for a weekend getaway. The best way to reach here is by road and we take the BMW X1 on a drive along the western ghats. The X1 comfortably seats 4 people and has a huge boot to carry the luggage with the automatic transmission making for a comfortable drive.
Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are two different places but just 18 kilometers apart. There are 2 ways to get here from Navi Mumbai, one through Pune via the Mumbai – Pune Expressway and the second via Mahad. We had booked Hotel Ravine in Panchgani and it was coincidentally about the same distance (222 kilometers) via either route. Route 1 was our pick since almost 50 percent distance was covered on the expressway. The driving time is 3.5 hours which does not account for stops made for snacks.
Hotel Ravine is situated at the entry point of Panchgani. You have to pay a toll once you enter Panchgani levied by the Muncipal Corporation of Panchgani. This toll is not only for your vehicle but they also charge you for the number of people entering. (Rs 50 for the car and Rs 30 per person). This hotel offers the best value for money package and the restaurant serves good food too. It was recommended by a fellow auto journalist.
Mahabaleshwar served as the summer capital of Bombay during the British rule in India and the British influence is still there. There are various points of interest and their names are the same as they were in British India. One can enjoy scenic views from these points and there are 14 points in total. It is said that when the British were leaving India after Independence, they gave away the property to the Indians working under them.
Berries are famous in the region and Strawberry and Mulberry (Seasonal) are the favorites. Also based in Mahabaleshwar are the Mapro foods, which are famous for their squshes, crushes, jams etc. Mapro gardens serves the best vegetarian food in the area with the local delicacy being strawberry cream. Strawberry cream is something which you will get everywhere, but nobody beats the one you get here. Even pizza’s and sandwiches here are the best in town.
Most hotels have cable TV which does not show Star Sports/ESPN. If you happen to be there on a race weekend, you might have some trouble before you can find a place which shows the race. We searched the local area only to find one place which was running Tata Sky and was showing the race. Power shortage persists and there are daily power cuts for 2 – 4 hrs in different area but Velocity’s has generator backup and you wont miss a single lap of the race here. They also have a small go kart track and both, veg and non veg restaurants. It is located on the way to Mahabaleshwar from Panchgani.
The region is also known for its shoe industry and is known for its Kolhapuri chappals which are available at really cheap rates. If ladies are around, they will certainly not settle for just one pair.
The main market area has numerous shoe shops. At the end there is a small superstore which is owned by a Parsi gentelman, you have to try the strawberry cheesecake here, its still tingling my taste buds.
There are numerous activities in and around the area. The main attraction is the boat club on Venna Lake where you can rent out boats with/without a chauffeur. Other activities include horse riding which is at the boat club itself. There are a few Go Kart tracks but the karts and the tracks are strictly average.
Our total trip distance was 707 km out of which approx 500 km were covered traveling to and fro and the rest were in and around Mahabaleshwar. The X1 returned an impressive mileage of 12.5 km/liter.
The roads are pretty good throughout with occasional rough patches in between. The passengers were pretty comfortable but did complain on rough roads. The X1 is stiff when it comes to suspension setup and the rear passengers felt it most on the potholes. On the drivers seat, it was a different story altogether. The steering is a bit heavy but the handling dynamics are phenomenal and one can have a lot of fun especially on the winding Wai ghats.
Hotel was instructed to wash the car every morning (we don’t like to drive dirty).
It was two days of full fledged fun. As mentioned at the beginning, there are many factors which contribute to a perfect weekend getaway and if you have all of them in your favor, it results in an awesome weekend break. The BMW X1 did the job perfectly with abundant boot space, good music system and best of all, its fun to drive character which was the best of the lot, truly, JOY is indeed BMW.