I love the rain. It’s my favourite weather. The smell of wet soil just when it begins to rain is not only sweet, but brings new hope and makes you look forward to the rainbow and sunshine. So when life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles! Or better still head to Aamby Valley a picturesque resort nestled amidst mountains and lakes, just 23 km from Lonavala.
A visit to this scenic and mammoth resort was long overdue and thanks to Food bloggers Association of India (FBAI), it finally happened last month. So here’s a first person account of the five things you ought to do at Aamby Valley.
Get down and dirty in a jungle safari
For thrill seekers, 19 Degree North, at Aamby Valley is a must visit. The area is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts with activities such as speed boating, hiking, rappelling, rock climbing, zorbing and zip lining to enjoy. But as I found out first-hand, the most popular activity here, and for good reason, is the Jungle Safari.
Thrilling, muddy, fast-paced, exciting…addictive. Those are the best words to describe my first jungle safari. The trails have been designed for riders of all grades – whether seasoned or novice. I loved the thrill of it all, zooming atop a Gypsy along the paths, careening around the corners, wind in my face and even traveling full speed through the puddles.
When I came back from the ride, I was drenched in mud and I had a huge grin plastered across my face. My first cruising experience was incredible and I was already thinking about when my next ride would be. Addictive indeed.
You only live once, why not jump?
I did exactly that before fear could talk me down. Zip lining is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you just can’t miss. So I pulled up the harness and buckled up. The bird’s eye view of the breathtaking landscape across the lake is worth the butterflies in the stomach. Fear did grip me and I also had second thoughts. But all was well as soon as I felt the wind whipping past my face as I soared above the earth. It’s only when you step off the ledge, you’ll understand the remarkable difference between standing on the edge of something beautiful and actually being among it.
Remember to bring a camera and entrust it to a friend or a fellow zip liner to snap photos of your adventure. Live videos of the zip line are fun reminders of the trip, and a way to relive the adventure years later. As you zip along, take a moment to smile for the camera for a scrapbook-worthy photograph. Just like I did.
To wear long pants that cover your legs because the safety harness has straps that can irritate the skin. Avoid skirts or dresses if you are riding on the zipline. Not only is it a safety hazard, you don’t want a Marilyn Monroe moment later.
Get drenched under the waterfalls
Few things capture the imagination like a majestic and impressive sight and sound of a roaring waterfall cascading down to Earth. There are as many as five charming, some powerful and thundering, but all perfectly stunning waterfalls at Aamby Valley.
I visited one of them after a short hike through awesome scenery and a rope bridge. Watching water cascade over the lip of a waterfall is hypnotic. From below it starts as a raging torrent, plummeting to ground zero before feathering into a cloud of mist and soaking everything around. After watching fellow bloggers and journalists brave it under the falls, I too feebly attempted it for a few seconds before cowering back to safety. Raging, angry yet oddly beautiful, the waterfall experience is something I will never forget. If one fall is not enough, then continue on the waterfall trail to access the others that require a longer trek.
It’s a bus…it’s a boat…it’s an aqua bus!
Riding in an amphibian bus is a unique experience but riding in the only amphibian bus in the country is matchless! This duck faced yellow bus drives over the roads like a regular bus but when the road ends at the edge of a lake it just keeps going, taking to the water like a swan. As I clambered the drawbridge style stairs leading up into the bus I was all geared for a thrilling ride. But that was not meant to be. The Aqua Bus experience doesn’t quite translate into a big adrenaline rush of speed but that’s quite okay. Just gliding along the serene lake in the first Aqua Bus is memorable enough.
Eat your heart out
A good vacation is also about good food. And Aamby Valley has two brilliant restaurants that appealed to the foodie in me. Namak the Indian specialty restaurant serves a delectable spread of Awadhi and Hyderabadi dishes.
The Nalli Gosht, Dal Makhni, Gosht Biryani and Burrah kebab are just superlative. The view of the lake adds to the dinning experience.
But if you are looking for dinner and a show, all wrapped up in one yummy package – head to Mabruk the Lebanese, Turkish and Moroccan specialty restaurant. The décor is appropriately moody, in drapes and hand-carved woodwork. Belly dancers make their way onto the scene later in the evening. These very sexy (think bared midriffs and swaying hips) dancers will make you want to hold on to your boyfriend’s/husband’s arm once they enter. The show takes place every night, so grab a table, sit back, and enjoy. What to eat? Hummus with pita bread is awesome as also the Shish Touk (Lebanese chicken kabab), Gambheri Mishwee (barbecued prawns) and Kunaf a cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Aamby Valley is about 23 km from Lonavala, 87 km from the city of Pune and 120 km from the city Mumbai. You can drive down or hop on to any state owned buses that connect with the hill station Lonavala.
NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR