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201424 Nov

ford ecosport pawna lake driving holiday

 

Pawna Lake, one of the major reservoirs providing water to Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, is located in a part of Maharashtra rich in biodiversity. Accessible from Pune and from Mumbai, it takes some getting there, but a journey entirely worth taking. We drove to the venerable Pawna Lake in the extremely versatile Ford EcoSport, a vehicle which proved more than up to the task.

 

There are places which breed legends, and Pawna is one of those places. The Pawna Lake has two significant forts in its vicinity, one called the Tikona fort, and the other being the Tung fort. Two more forts, Visapur and Lohagad are also in the vicinity. Together, these forts formed key defense positions, and featured in many significant battles throughout history. Tung, also referred to as ‘Kathingad’ is a small fort, located at the top of a steep hill. Although not a very big fort (it couldn’t hold more than 200 troops), it enjoys commanding views of the valley. The sheer rock face to the peak made it nearly impossible for an invading army to mount an assault without artillery. However, recognizing the significance of the place, legend has it that Shivaji’s guerrilla warriors managed to capture the Tung fort from the Deccan sultans with help of Iguanas. In fact the name Kathingad is derived from the word ‘ktahin’ in Marathi, which means difficult, and ‘gadh’ which means fort, giving you enough of an idea about the venerable Tung fort.

 

ford ecosport pawna

A lucky few own private estates in this most gorgeous part of Maharashtra.

 

History lesson aside, the drive to this region is absolutely gorgeous. Nestled among the Western ghats, the veritable bounty of nature isn’t hidden but in abundant sight. Thankfully, it hasn’t really been discovered by the touristy lot, yet, and hence has preserved much of its charm and original topography. Enthusiastic trekkers do however walk to all of the forts mentioned above, but they are environmentally responsible, ensuring they do not litter. Considering the arduous nature of this exercise, it has ensured that the casual chip-eating, soda-glugging ‘tourist’ has been kept out.

 

pawna road ford ecosport

 

Driving there is possible, but a vehicle with good ground clearance is an absolute must. In the monsoon, four-wheel drive could be required. We chose to go to the beautiful Pawna Lake is a Ford EcoSport, which proved to be the right choice.

The 205 mm of ground clearance the Ford Ecosport has meant we could tackle the worst of the ruts with ease. Although parts of the road were metalled, once, there has been no repairs carried out for very many years. Whatever is left of the bitumen has only made it worse, and so the dirt tracks, while dusty, provide a smoother ride. Given that you first ascend and then descend to go towards Pawna provides a clue; the abundant rainfall in the region which drains into the Pawna basin has washed away much of the road, and left plenty of tricky, rutted portions to negotiate.

 

pawna lake views

The beautiful Pawna Lake.

 

However, the drive still took us almost 2 hours from Lonavala. This had as much to do with the condition of the road as it did the stunning vistas. The feeling of serenity and the freshness and sweetness of the breeze is indescribably wonderful. Speaking of legends again, if one was to imagine the Garden of Eden, Pawna Lake and the surrounding areas would come close.

 

pawna lake view

At water's edge in the Ford EcoSport. It proved a trusty and willing companion.

 

We drove up as close as we could, beyond which the road narrowed to a walking track down to the water’s edge. It was early evening by then, with the calls of the birds, the teeming chorus of insects and the gentle rustling of the leaves. As we alighted from the Ford EcoSport to take it all in, our happy Labrador bounding away in the grass, we heard it – that unmistakable guttural growl.

 

pawna lake leopards

This lovely scene was before we heard the leopard...

 

Being wildlife enthusiasts both, my wife and I were at once excited and fearful. That sound could only come from a big cat. Panthera pardus, or the Indian leopard, was close, and we were in its territory. There we all were, too young to die, with baby and dog. Considering the direction the sound came from and the direction of the breeze, a quick mental calculation confirmed that our urban, goofy Lab was oblivious of this threat, nonchalantly bounding away in the tall grass. 

 

With reflexes fuelled by adrenaline, we bounded back in to our blue EcoSport. With baby quickly buckled up in her car seat, my wife reached for her camera. The stupid dog, meanwhile, was having too much fun running about, heading straight for the lake, ignoring my calls and whistles. As we sat tight, we heard another growl, this time longer and louder and much, much closer. The leopard, famed for its stealth, was literally within petting distance of us.

 

lonavala to pawna driving route

Driving route from Lonavala to Pawna Lake front. Map courtesy GoogleMaps.

 

Thinking quickly, I started the EcoSport, blew the horn a few times, and began to reverse slowly back up the path, flashing the headlights and blowing the horn. By now, Misthi, our silly little dog, was a few hundred yards away, but the horn seemed to jolt her out of her reverie. For a few heart-stopping moments we watched as she charged up the path back to the EcoSport. Quickly, I grabbed her, threw her back in the boot, and climbed back into the driver’s seat.

With the entire family accounted for and safely ensconced within the vehicle, we switched off the engine and waited. And waited.

 

pawna driving ford ecosport

 

As the shadows grew longer and dusk gathered, it became increasingly evident that our crepuscular friend would not grant us a visual audience, and so tired, but very excited by the evening’s events, we hung a U-turn back to Lonavala, back to civilisation and all the trappings it brings. The traffic jam and hordes of human beings within the town were a jarring reminder of the Garden of Eden we had just left behind.

 

But no matter, for Pawna had succeeded yet again in giving us a legend to share. 

 

wild flowers pawna lake

Wildflowers are abundant along the way, as are a variety of insects and birds.

 

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Ford Car Features


Counting legends - Mumbai to Pawna Lake in a Ford EcoSport

Pawna Lake, one of the major reservoirs providing water to Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, is located in a part of Maharashtra rich in biodiversity. Accessible from Pune and from Mumbai, it takes some getting there, but a journey entirely worth taking. We drove to the venerable Pawna Lake in the extremely versatile Ford EcoSport, a vehicle which proved more than up to the task.

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