Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trek: Sandhan Valley, Asia's 2nd most beautiful valley

Hello people,
Monsoon is here. So take a break & let me take you a Visual tour of my trek to Sandhan Valley. Asia's 2nd most Beautiful valley.

My colleague & Friend Reuben messaged me that his group is conducting a trek to Sandhan Valley on 22nd August 2015. I have trekked with his group before to Ajoba Parvat, again a monsoon trek.
This was a 1 day trek & on a Saturday, so I agreed immediately. I messaged my younger sister Asawari & she agreed to join in. My mom's friends daughter Bhakti wanted to join too. Both of them 1st time trekkers. So I HAD to go now ;)

Sandhan valley also called the Valley of Shadows is located in Nashik region. 165kms from Igatpuri. The base village is called Samrad. We started from Thane at 7:30 am, reached the base village at 12pm with one halt.

Singing all the way. Gana Bajana full on !

 If you are with Reuben, Sumi & Salil there has to be a Live orchestra playing non-stop on both sides of the way. Reuben is an exceptional singer, can belt out oldies, jingles with full background score. Plus if the crowd joins in then its Super fun. This was what happened on this trek too.
We were 43 of us including 3 young boys.

Fog, showers, smell of wet mud, cool winds, streams,waterfalls,.... everywhere.

Beautiful na? Check the lil island.
A part of the Bhandardara dam

Sandhan Valley, base village Samrad
If you can read Marathi, check the sign post giving directions & declaring Sandhan Valley, Asia's 2nd most beautiful valley. This was the base village, Samrad. 
Here our Guide Dutta, had a house where we freshened up & kept our bags. We were advised to carry only our windcheaters/raincoats, caps. Water was being carried by the team leaders.
There are no shops around here. Nor toilets, so be prepared to go in the open :D

Thumbalina, guess this one is called.
The mountains continued to play hide and seek with fog & clouds. Slight drizzles to cool us down in between.

We trekked for 30-40 mins and came to this cliff. There it was drizzling or so we thought from far off.
On nearing we saw water getting sprayed, but couldnt figure out from where. Once there we saw the waterfall and the valley below. The wind was blowing so hard in the valley, it sprayed the water upwards.
Pleasant and Super Phenomena to experience LIVE. Full paisa vasool :)

Check the video to Re Live it :)


The waterfall and the spray. Its not haze, I tell you.
In winter, you can sit here like its a Jacuzzi. Pitch your tents, no one to disturb. Hardly a soul stirs here. Till few years ago, the village and the valley was hardly known.

The Konkan kadda.

Such picturesque waterfalls throughout the way

Same waterfall from opposite side
Check, the wind hardly lets the water reach the base of the water. It tosses it back up :D

Waterfalls, streams, lush green mountain range
Our guide Dutta, guided us towards the Sandhan valley now. He said we could go on top of the mountains where the edges meet each other. The distance between them were so small you would think you can jump and cross over. But even experienced, lithe mountain goats dropped down the fatal gaps. So we just hiked towards the mouth of the valley.

Mouth of the valley with gushing water.
The valley in monsoon fills up with strong current of waters. Right now the water was neck deep. Our group of novice trekkers and kids was not fit to make the trek. So we decided to just check the mouth of the valley and return to base village.

Mouth of valley
The mouth of the valley. Google images to get an idea of how deep and narrow the passage into the valley is.

A natural pool with a strong shower
Our PS3 loving and resort experienced young trekkers were hooked to this natural water ride after the first forced head dunking. Most of us cooled ourselves here. Experienced trekker now Sumi, hiked down some more.
My sis Asawari, unfortunately slipped and got a cut on her ear. She was given immediate first-aid and she enjoyed the trek back.
After returning and changing our wet clothes, we were served authentic Maharashtrian food. We had given our food preference of Veg/Non veg when registering. Zunka bhakar, batata rasa, varan bhat. Slurp. It was a much needed and loved by all.

My veg authentic Maharashtrian thali. Followed by varan bhat, yummy !

Our trek organizers having their well deserved lunch

Last roll call for the day

Vote of thanks for the day to our Dutta in yellow Tshirt. He has been trained by a Trekking group and has equipment, knowledge, experience to cross this adventurous Valley of Shadow.

I hope to do the full trek sometime in winter. Obviously it will be a night stay in the open below the stars lit sky.
Would love it, I am sure.

Check out some more Trekking posts to get in the mood ;)Travel
Trek: Ajoba Mountain, Valmiki ashram-samadhi, luv-kush cave 
Trek: Kalsubai peak Maharashtra's Mount Everest 6th nov 2011 
Travel: Raigad Fort Trek 2009
Trek:Karnala Fort
Trek-River rafting at Kolad
Travel- Kanheri caves !
Trek: Tungareshwar-2010

Bye. Take care. Go Trekking this monsoon season.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Food: Prakash Shakahari Upahar Kendra, Dadar

Good day people !

We Mumbaikars seek food, good food all the time.

Recently Misal pav was awarded 'the tastiest vegetarian dish in the world'. The recipe served by Aaswad restaurant won the award. Read more here.

So just off Shivaji Park and opposite Sena bhavan, Dadar you have loads of options to choose from. If you are looking for Maharashtrian heavy breakfast/lunch you can choose from the stylish,AC cooled Aaswad or the bench styled Prakash Uphar Gruh. If you want(ed) to try the true Maharashtrian meal, you can try the thali at Dattatreya Arogya Dham. Its super finger licking. But last I saw its closed down I believe.

I prefer Prakash anytime. Both places have a queue, if you visit on a Tuesday or any fasting day be prepared to wait a long time. I went alone and was lucky to visit on an odd day& get a seat immediately. Prakash has been relocated recently in the opposite building. So returning customers should ask around.

Prakash Shakahari Upahar Kendra, Dadar

The clientele ranges from executives in suits to daily wage laborers. The items are pretty cheap.

Entrance to Prakash.

Topi sporting efficient,no-nonsense waiters.

Aaswad you will get a table according to your group or yourself. Prakash you share the table with strangers.
The waiters have their uniforms & sport the Maharashtrian style Topi. They are brisk & efficient. Most of them working since decades. The entire atmosphere feels like you are in an automated factory, even the customers order,eat,pay & leave. No time pass or unnecessary cordiality. Strictly no frills enterprise this.

The laminated menu cards are kept on each table with a plate full of steel glasses of water. The regulars dont even glance at it. If you ask the waiters, whats hot & ready, they will say 'everything' & rattle off a long list.

Sabudana wada & Piyush, yummy!
I ordered my all time favourite Sabudana wada & Piyush. If you dont want to try deep fried items, you can order the Sabudana khichadi. The wada is perfectly fried and contains sabudana, groundnut pieces, green chili slices. I usually never finish chutneys, but here you might want to order extra chutney. I discovered Piyush here at Prakash. Its in simple words, liquid shrikhand elaichi scented. Simply yumm & takes care of any heart/tummy burn you might get after a heavy meal ! Cant miss it! I am ready to forgo Tea(impossible for me) for Piyush here.

Misal Pav from Prakash Uphar Gruh, Dadar
You cant just have 1 item on the menu here & leave. 

They make everything there, else it is not served. Like no Pav(bread) here. 

Also not all items are available everyday. Click on the menu pic to enlarge & see the items & days they are available on.

Generally I order Thalipeth but this time I ordered the Misal. I prefer only to eat Misal made by my Mom or FIL(father-in-law). This was OK-OK for me. But my friends & colleagues rave about it & cant have enough of it. 

You should try the Thalipeth though, if you have some more space in your tummy. People love the Batate wada, kothimbir wadi, Dahi misal from here too.

If you are looking for a proper meal you can order the Masale bhat, watana usal.

The bill came around Rs.130 & I was full. Give me a rocking chair & I will doze off. Better go for a short walk after this.

For authentic dessert choice you can have Kharwas or Halwa but it gets out of stock fast.

Ya, you might be surprised to see a celebrity from the Marathi film & theater field amidst the crowd waiting their turn with Maratha Mandir & Plaza theater being few minutes walk away.

More details:
Name: Prakash Shakahari Upahar Kendra
Location: Gokhale Road (North), Dadar, Mumbai 400028
Cuisine: Maharashtrian
Phone no: 02224304921
Timings: 7:30 am-10:30pm

Next time around Dadar also try:
Lassi near Dadar Station
China Bistro, authentic chinese food
Status restaurant, Mahim
Irani snack time,Crown Bakery, Mahim

If you have visited Prakash, let us know your review as comments.

Till then Bye Take care & Happy food eating & hunting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Travel: Taxi interior decor new trend, photo collection

Good day people !
 This collection is from a year back. Ya, you can call me weird for collecting photos of Taxi interiors.   But I have traveled by taxi as much as by Auto rickshaws. We Mumbaikars cant live without them.

My maternal grandpa used to own a fleet of taxi's. I still feel thrilled if I flag a Premier Padmini taxi & more if they have the gear shift connected to the steering wheel. Also used to love the beautiful glass globes at the end of the gear shifts. During my pregnancy I preferred the new taxi's. Hate it when they smell of cigarette smoke, if the driver seems chatty ask & scold him if he has allowed smoking. Thankfully the RTO has issued notices which the Taxi drivers stick on their dashboards announcing the fines. But some old taxi's smell musty & dirty with or without rains.

This is how old taxi's look from inside.
The roof or headliner was covered with printed fabric which starts looking grimy after a period of time & if it gets wet, god save the passengers.

What I started noticing now-a-days is that the fabric or whatever material they use is being sort of laminated. Reminds me of certificates being laminated.
They do a lot of funky variations & designs to the entire interior.

The bunch of grapes hanging from
the rear view mirror is old now.
Going all fruity

I asked the drivers how much it costs them to decorate this way. They say its pretty cheap around 3-5k depending on your request. Also it gets done in 2 days max.

Some are sober, classy styled.

The punches/pins add a new look
Dell is going to be very angry at the
use of their logo this way :D

They say the cleaning & maintenance is easier. Just take a wet cloth & wipe all around. If the interior is done recently you will immediately notice the smell of plastic.

The same look throughout
Healthy choice

Some go creative

Some go floral

Flower & fruits

I used to have a great time collecting these pics and chatting with the drivers. Some tell their family stories, some tell you the latest updates of the locality you are travelling by, some about the taxi unions,RTO,...

I hope to continue & enjoy my taxi rides. Come back to check if I clicked any more weird pics. Earlier I had clicked:
AutoRickshaw interior design idea
Automobile engineer at work
Funky Scooter color combo

Till then Bye. Take care.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Whats that pic-43

Good day people !

Bringing to you another 'Caption this' image.

Anchors anchored for life.

So look at this image & tell us what you would caption this. We have captioned it already.
This was captured on our trip to Malvan, Konkan. 

Waiting for your 'creative captions'.

The other's we had earlier were:
Heart crossed by Arrow seeming Tubelight
Walking in Air
Sunday lunch material

Check the entire Whats that pic series.

Till next time Bye. Take Care. Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Activity: Mickey Mouse themed birthday party

Good day People !

Posting after a long time !
In May, my son turned 2. His favorite Cartoon character these days is Mickey Mouse. So about 4 days before his birthday I decided to center the birthday party around Mickey mouse theme. I was strictly asked by my family not to bake the birthday cake. Their reason being I will tax & tire myself out on the main day :|

Happy Birthday Pranav !
But I didn't just want to host a party with a ready made cake & snacks. So 4 days before the birthday, I researched on the net what can be done for a Mickey Mouse themed party. There are tons of articles & websites on the topic. Some are event management website which will showcase previously arranged parties & ask you to hire them. Then there are creative mommas who created everything from scratch, sharing their tips/secrets/flops/successes....

If you go through each of these articles, you sure will raise your BP. God knows how these moms manage such fun looking parties every year per kid ;) Check this Seshalyn's Party Ideas which got me thinking. Here is KarasPartyIdeas which looks the work of professionals.

So I decided to do something I am good at & make it more fun with the Mickey Mouse theme in mind.
What am I good at ? Cupcakes, thanks to Cute Cupcake Factory for teaching me these.

I made tiny chocolate cupcakes.

 To make them more fun, I saw this article on MomDot where they made Chocolate Mickey mouse silhouettes. And on OurHomemadeLife they gave a stencil to download & use. I used it, but then just went freehand. These look ugly here but the end result was pretty good.

The end result was.

Chocolate cupcakes with frosting and Mickey topping
I stumbled upon the new trend in cakes & cupcakes called Cake Pops. Its basically cake rolled into balls, dipped in chocolate & stuck to lollipop sticks.  I searched & found this article on Divas can cook giving detailed recipe & instructions to make them. There are lots of articles on how to decorate them to look like mickey mouse. You can use Oreo minis as ears, but not available in India. Then you can use Candy Melts in chocolate flavour as ears, but again they are not available in India. At short notice its impossible to order them online plus you need to buy in bulk if you have time :p, not working for me.

So the stencil idea again stuck me & I made those small circles with Chocolate to use as ears. It is a messy affair I tell you but worth the effort. Out of 20 cake pops only 11 reached the wrapping up phase. Some more fell off the sticks while distributing, arrghhh :X.

The cake pops after dipping in liquid chocolate
The cake pops after freezing. They say use thermocol board to keep the pops in standing position. Mine kept falling off, so my FIL suggested use Bananas to hold them upright. It worked I tell you! The ever resourceful banana ;)


The wrapped Mickey Mouse Cake Pops
My contribution to the Mickey mouse theme party

Mickey Mouse chocolate truffle cake
We wanted a small party for my kiddo with his friends & our close relatives. So we ordered McDonalds burgers, french fries & coke for kids. Pav bhaji & Pulao for adults. Not to forget the Cupcakes, Cake & Cake Pops.

Post party I was getting more ideas of what else I could have tried if I had the time & resources. Thank fully my sis came a day before to help & inlaws as usual encouraging me :)

 Better luck next year, I am patting my back ;)

If you have tried some funky birthday party themes, do share with us.

My baking hobby starts with these: 
Cream Birthday cakes

Bye. Take care.