Driving from Goa to Pune, passing through pretty hamlets & lush ghats, and stopping for a taste of the fiery Kolhapuri cuisine
Principal Skinner would have been proud of us – who wakes up at 7 in the morning in Goa? (that’s usually the time to finally call it quits on the beach party). There we were – fighting a thick blanket of mist at our B&B in Anjuna, as we loaded our bags for the onwards journey to Pune. But we weren’t going anywhere without our morning cup of coffee – and as we sat cowering under the banyan tree, Senor Sun took pity on us and decided to make an appearance. The battle between fog and light persisted for the next few hours, and mottled daylight kept us company till Sawantwadi, a pretty town in the Western Ghats on the Goa-Maharashtra border.
For those whose visits to Goa are restricted to the beaches, driving through Old Goa and the state’s numerous villages is highly recommended. The lanes are lined with pretty bungalows and are in excellent condition, and the air is redolent with cashew, pepper and hibiscus. For a peek into Goa’s colonial history, visit the beautifully restored mansions, many of which are a fascinating blend of Hindu & Portuguese architecture. One of our favorites is the Palacio do Deao in Quepem, a 200 year old mansion with breathtakingly lush lawns and beautifully restored furniture – don’t miss the large cupboard standing in the corner of a bedroom which served the purpose of a lavatory when the house was first built!
Our route from Goa to Pune along SH121 required us to head back towards the Western Ghats, and then drive further north till the town of Kolhapur, where we would join NH4 to Pune. It took us nearly 2 hours to cover the first 50 km through the charming hamlets of Goa – there were far too many temptations to pause and stare at the pretty cottages, wave hello to the early risers or just take a deep mouthful of the dew fresh air.
After a drive around the pretty Moti Talab in Sawantwadi, we made our way towards Amboli, the evergreen hill station of the Western Ghats. Amboli is blessed with fantastic weather all year round, due to its pole position on the rainfall chart of Maharashtra. It is also blessed with several cozy resorts that serve as a great pit stop, and scores of monkeys who we shockingly discovered during a loo break at the Valley View Resort!
We bid goodbye to the verdant ghats at Amboli and headed towards the more industrialized towns of Ajara, Nipani & Kolhapur. The road from Amboli to Kolhapur is peppered with banyan trees and hundreds of trucks groaning under the weight of sugarcane – after all, Maharashtra is one of the leading producers of cane in India. A short detour to Kolhapur is worthwhile – for a sampling of the famously spicy Kolhapuri cuisine (we love succa mutton with phulkas and the Kolhapuri misal), a short walk around town and shopping for Kolhapuri chappals and lacquer boxes to nicely round off the visit.
From Kolhapur, it’s a speedy run of 230 km along the 6 laned NH4 – fast and furious, but somehow lacking the distinctive character of the state highways.
Goa – Pune is a compact run of 450 – 500 km (depending upon where you stay in Goa) – easily accomplished in 8 – 10 hours. The first 100 kms through the villages of Goa and the ghats of Sawantwadi and Amboli are the most picturesque, so take your foot off the accelerator and enjoy the ride!
Anjuna – Sawantwadi (50km) – Amboli (30km) – Kolhapur (120km) – Pune (233km)
All images are the property of the author. You may link to the article and the images, but please do not re-produce without prior permission.
My Big Red Bag brings original content inspired by life’s joys and passions. Check out other articles in Travel, and stay tuned to our latest content by following us on Twitter and FB. See you on the other side!