Saturday, 3 September 2011


I had been invited away for the weekend to a place called Panchgani, which is about 3 hours away from Pune, by a group of people that I know through my volunteer work at DGS. There was Anurag and Sharish, (volunteers for Wake Up Pune), Annie (Susannah’s housemate) Bradley, Liam and Josephine (all students from Canada studying in India and friend’s of Annie), we were later joined by Joe (a previous DGS volunteer who now works for an English volunteer company Development In Action).

On the Saturday, we all met at Swargate bus station and boarded the 5.45pm bus to Mahabaleshwar (Panchgani was on the same route).

The bus ride was long and very bumpy and by the time we arrived at our destination it was 9pm and very dark. The bonus was though that the whole journey only cost us 109 rupees (Less than £2)!

Panchgani is a small typical Indian town with one main road that has shops and a few restaurants on. As we were all starving, we stopped at one of the restaurants and ordered loads of Indian dishes to share. It was actually really delicious food; however, Liam did chip one of his teeth on a lump of glass that he found in his food! Oops!

After dinner and stocking up on alcohol supplies, it was time to find the chalet that Anurag had organised for us to stay in. We walked about 10 minutes down the main road away from the centre of the town and stopped at the top of a long dark, steep cobbled drive. As we weren't sure that we were in the right place, we sent Anurag down first to investigate in the foggy scary gloom with only a mobile phone for light.

After five minutes or so, he shouted back up that this was the right place and we all followed him down. It was a bit scary walking down the drive as it was so dark and the floor was quite slippery I was worried that I was going to slip all the way down.

Halfway down the drive, was a chalet on stilts, which belonged to the owner of the land and other chalet and our key was hidden underneath a flowerpot.

We carried on walking down the drive and came to a dead end. Where was the chalet? Anurag had camped at the same place a year ago and remembered that just to the right was the field where they had stayed, so maybe it was beyond that. We all traipsed through the field which was covered in long grass that came up to my knees and all I could think about was being attacked by a cobra or something equally scary!

When we got to the end of the field, there was only toilet cubicle, the chalet wasn’t there, which then meant that we had walk back through the field the way we came. I walked very quickly!

As we were walking back up the driveway, I noticed a break in the hedges that lined the drive and decided to investigate. There was a steep stone staircase that led down to another part of the land. It was in fact the way down to our chalet.

The chalet was basic but beautifully clean. It had three rooms, two with single beds in and one with a double bed and two bathrooms; which were probably some of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve been in so far in India.

Main bedroom.

Another bedroom.

Once we were all settled and our drinks had been distributed, we all descended on the large double bed and began to play a fun game called 21. The idea of the game is to have everyone sitting in a circle and each person says a number and moving round in a clockwork motion, count up to 21. Whoever gets to 21 is then able to make up a rule for the game, for instance, swapping two numbers around so when it gets to 7, instead of saying 7, you have to say 11 and vice versa when you have to say 11. The more the game goes on, the more rules are added, like you have to do a silly movement or say other words instead of the numbers. If someone gets it wrong, they have to have a drink and the number counting would start from 1 again.  The game was so much fun to play and it was so difficult to remember all the rules!

Chilling on the bed.

We finished off the night with some dancing and lessons on how to do ‘proper’ Bollywood and Panjabi style dancing from Anurag!


When I woke in the morning, I got up and opened the door to the garden outside and I was greeted by the most spectacular view that I have ever seen in my life! It was absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful surprise. It had been so dark when we had arrived, I had no idea that we were practically on the edge of a cliff that overlooked an amazing valley.

Amazing view!

Beautiful quite spot to sit.

Before everyone else was up, I went to explore the area around the chalet. There was a small garden next to it which then led up a few steps onto the piece of camping land that we had been on the night before, trying to find the chalet. We had been so close all along!


Garden next to the Chalet.

Anurag and Josephine, the first ones up.

Crazy ant's nest in the garden.

Once everyone was up, we all walked into town for breakfast at one of the small restaurants. Most of us decided to try a Veg Frankie which was a chapatti wrap with shredded vegetables in it and some had Poha which is a spicy flattened rice dish.

Veg Frankie with Poha in the background.

Friend's Treat Restaurant.

Happy! Anurag and Shirish waiting for food.

Just a bit further down the road, we stopped off at a smoothie shop where we were joined by Joe (who had just arrived from Pune on an early morning bus) and had the most delicious real strawberries and cream shakes!

Panchgani town.

After chilling out for a while back at the chalet, we all decided that we wanted to explore a bit of the surroundings. From the garden, we could see a huge waterfall in the distance and planned to try and get to it. Bradley and Liam thought that it would be a brilliant idea to climb down the cliff and try and reach it from the chalet garden. We watched them climb down and it looked quite steep and a bit treacherous, so the rest of us chickened out and didn’t follow them. We watched them for ages though until they were finally out of sight.

We decided to be sensible and try and get to the waterfall in a safer way, by road. We headed off towards town and on the way managed to speak to the owner of the chalet who told us about another great waterfall 10km away that we should visit.

In town Shirish managed to barter with a cab driver to take us to the waterfall, wait for two hours and bring us back all for 700 rupees (£10).

In the taxi.

Bradley and Liam actually made it to the waterfall and were still surprisingly all in one piece and they managed to make it in time for our new little expedition.

The driver dropped us off at the side of the road and we had to climb through a hole in a wire fence and hike down a steep rocky, muddy hill. As we were walking, we got separated, Bradley, Liam and Josephine went one way and Joe, Sharish, Annie, Anurag and I went the other.

Once at the bottom of the hill, we could hear the rushing water of the river and found an old rickety bridge that led over it. There was a pathway through the trees that led up and around the edge of another hill parallel to the river. As we followed it and got higher, I noticed Bradley, Liam and Josephine below in the river in just their underwear!

As we walked further along the track, the noise of the water was getting louder and louder. When we reached the top, we could see the most amazing waterfall cascading down the cliffs into the lush green valley below.

Breathtaking waterfall 

Beautiful valley.

We stayed on the top of the hill admiring the view for a while and posing for pictures.

Annie and Shirish

Anurag, Annie and Joe.

Anurag, Annie, Joe and me.

Wondering where the others had got to, we walked a bit further around the hill to see the waterfall from a slightly different angle and we spotted them. Bradley was sitting on top of a huge rock at the top of the waterfall! It was quite scary to watch as the water was gushing so fast and he could've easily been washed over the edge!

If you look really carefully, you can see the pink body
of Bradley on a rock at the top of the waterfall!

We went for a short walk a bit further on around the hill and realised there wasn’t much else there so we decided to make our way back down.

Further up stream, on the way down the hill, we spotted the others again in the fast running water paddling around with it up to their waists! It looked like fun, but I was glad that I had seen the waterfall from above. The view was great and I think that being a scaredy-cat, I would’ve been scared of getting washed away!

Bradley, Liam and Josephine.

We met up with each other the other side of the river over the bridge and headed back up the rocky hill to the taxi.

By the time we got back to town it was 7ish and we decided to grab some dinner before getting supplies of drink and coal for a fire that we were going to make.

Driveway down to the chalet.

Name of the camp where the chalet was.

Owners chalet.

Instead of spending another evening in the chalet, we spent it in the adjacent camping field on a concrete sheltered platform where we tried to make a very unsuccessful fire and we danced and drank into the wee hours of the morning.

Sheltered area for our fun evening.

Our pathetic fire!

Only 3 candles for light!

In the morning we all went for breakfast in another restaurant in town and got ready to leave Panchgani on the 12pm bus.

The bus ride felt so long and the roads were so windy and bumpy, I felt extremely travel sick and had to swap seats with Annie and practically stick my head out of the window!

Just a short while into the ride, there was a lot of commotion on the bus, a bang and the bus came to a sharp halt! What had happened was that a young guy had missed the bus and had run alongside it, jumped, grabbed hold and was then swinging off the side of the bus! The bus conductor did let him on to the bus, but after he gave him a huge telling off! He could’ve fallen and gone under the wheels!

Halfway back to Pune, we stopped at a bus station for a while and various sellers kept coming up to the bus trying to sell us snacks such as popcorn and crisps through the windows. There was one guy who was selling fresh cucumber. He carried a big silver tray on his head and spun a metal cylinder stand as he walked and when he stopped at the bus, he placed the tray on top of it - he had his very own makeshift table. We bought some cucumber from him, two for 10 rupees. It was really deliciously refreshing and had some tasty spicy, salty seasoning on it.

Cucumber Man!

Instant table!

We arrived back in Pune at about 3pm and I was so glad to get off the bus onto some solid ground. After such a great busy weekend, I was glad to get home, relax and catch up on some sleep.      

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