Mahabaleshwar is a hill station in the Western Ghats at an elevation of about 4,500 ft. It was the summer capital of the Bombay presidency during the British Raj and its enjoyable climate continues to attract flocks of tourists in the warmer months.
"The woods are lovely dark and deep..."
My main goal for the trip was to walk; I miss unobstructed walking in India. We tried to buy a map in town, but could only find a cartoonish one that didn't serve our purposes. So when we found Tiger path by accident, we were all too happy to spend the rest of the afternoon sauntering down it. The lack of signs along the trail probably keeps most non-local 'walkers' at bay and we didn't rub shoulders with more than a handful of people.
Mahabaleshwar is not known for its restaurants but we managed to get a respectable masala dosa and a steaming cup of chai for lunch/dinner on getting back to town. We then walked down the main market taking in all the sights:
He was about to cut into the fabric. That's not much space to work in!
Lots of sandals, some made here, some carted all the way from Pune.
Prettily stacked up - it was still a little early for strawberries.
Some of the power lines running through town had to be repaired after the storm, and we didn't have electricity through the duration of our stay. I enjoyed the candlelight and didn't mind so much.
No sandals, no harness, no safety gear.
After a good night's rest, we walked up to Wilson's Point to take in the sunrise but since the sun was hiding behind a thick layer of clouds we had some masala chai instead.
Chai at Wilson's Point.
After brunch, we walked to Babington Point (not a remarkable viewpoint) and then drove out to Arthur's Seat for sunset views.
No sun, this is all we saw. Pretty, nonetheless.
In the evening, we were witness to scores of tourists descending upon Mahabaleshwar (it happened to be a Saturday). Luckily we didn't have to fight for elbow room at the dining table; we had arranged for a special Parsi dinner at Hotel Mayfair the day before. I wasn't sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. It was quite the spread: sweet corn soup (nothing specifically Parsi about it), dhansak and spiced rice, an omlette-quiche-like egg dish (no Parsi meal is complete without eggs!), a spicy tomato veggie dish, bottle gourd Parsi style (??), and meat and vegetable kababs. My least favourite was the bread and butter pudding, but I was so full of food by then, I didn't care. It was a memorable way to spend our last evening in town.
The highlight of our trip however, was sighting the Giant Malabar Tree squirrel. Three times. I don't have a lens appropriate for wildlife photography, but I did my best. Both these pictures are of the same squirrel.
A lot of effort is being made by residents and civil society to protect Mahabaleshwar's natural heritage but it is an uphill battle. Over the years several unsightly hotels have sprung up all over town, many of them built illegally. I really enjoyed Mahabaleshwar for its views, walks, and quiet but I would definitely avoid visiting during the summer or over the weekend.