Friday, 29 January 2016

10 Things to Buy from Mahabaleshwar.


Luscious strawberries at the Mahabaleshwar market
I had been to Mahabaleshwar for the first time in December 2009 but I had not started travel blogging then. My second trip to the charming hill-station in Maharashtra brought back fond memories and also an opportunity to explore and shoot many pictures keeping in mind my travel blog.

Last Sunday, I had been for a refreshing strawberry picking trip organized by The Western Routes, after which we headed out to the Mahabaleshwar market. While I’ll be writing a post about my strawberry picking experience, here’s a must-buy list in the Mahabaleshwar market.

The market runs for over a kilometer on both sides of a narrow lane and was bursting with colours. While I walked almost the entire stretch of the market, I identified a few things that one should or could pick up which are unique to the region.
Strawberries and black raspberries. 
Strawberries: Well, that’s the obvious 1st on the list. If you are going to the farm to pick strawberries, you could buy some from the market. The strawberry season is from October to April and strawberries were pretty cheap at Rs 120 per kg compared to Pune, where it is sold for Rs 320 a kilo. I also bought some black raspberries, which are not available in Pune.
Crunchy, bright and fresh carrots and red radishes. 
Farm fresh carrots and radish: If you look at the picture of these carrots and radishes, you will know how irresistible they are and how hard it is not to buy them. I used them in cooking and salads, and they were absolutely delicious.
Imtiaz bhai, the wood crafter with his wares. 

Some of his creations. 
Wooden items: I saw an old man carving something on wood, so I walked upto him and had a chat. Imtiaz, the artisan told me that the wood is sourced locally and is called Bhurkhadi and Lokhadi (these are the phonetic spellings of the local names as I couldn’t get the English ones). His entire family is involved in making these wooden items, different members involved in different activities like cutting the wood, polishing it, carving on it, etc. They are also invited to participate in exhibitions and fairs by the government. In the market you will see many such craftsmen selling their wares ranging from trays, toys, combs, ladles, etc.
Leather footwear of Mahabaleshwar.
Leather footwear: There are numerous shops in in the market selling leather footwear. It differs from the Kolhapuri leather chappals, in the way the leather is treated and processed before the final product is made.
Juices and syrups in a hundred varieties. 
Syrups, juice concentrates, fruit crushes: Since the hill station is a berry bowl, many factories such as Mapro, Mala’s and Manama have set shop, producing and selling fruit crushes and concentrates of almost any and all flavours under the sky.
Varieties of homey. Image taken from Madhusagar
Honey: Many agriculturists are into bee keeping in Mahabaleshwar and so there are many outlets selling pure honey in different varieties too, having varying health benefits.
Packets of fresh turmeric powder for sale. 
Turmeric: Bet, you didn’t see this coming! Even on the way to the farm where we picked strawberries, I saw the roads dotted with stalls selling bright yellow packets of something. Only when we stopped later to have some sugarcane juice, I realized that the shop nearby was selling the same; pure unadulterated turmeric powder as well as fresh turmeric root. The aroma was beautiful and so was the colour much brighter than the powder one buys at supermarkets.
Strawberry cream to make your day! 
Strawberry cream: After all this shopping you may refresh with a tall glass of strawberry cream, which is ubiquitous, with almost every second shop in the market selling the same. Another variation is strawberries with ice cream. Both taste equally good.   
Cane items of different shapes and sizes. 
Cane baskets and items: There were quite a few of these shops as well in the market, selling baskets, holders and cases in different shapes and beautiful designs.  
Pappads of different colours and flavours. 
Pappads: There are many shops set up by families who sell home made items like pappads, pickles, noodles, etc. I bought a packet of multi-coloured pappads which colours such as green, orange, white, and brown lent by ingredients such spinach, dal, rice and finger millet, respectively. 

I guess all this shopping will leave your bags stuffed and your wallets empty, but what’s a trip without shopping, isn’t it?


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Amantran Agri-tourism and one of the Cleanest Public loos!

The entrance at Amantran. 
After our heads and hearts were appeased by the visit to the 2000 years old cave clusters, Amba-Ambika and Bhutlinga, organized by Heritage Insights, it was now time to refuel with some good food. We headed to Amantran agri-tourism and were truly impressed by the lunch spread and more by the clean toilets, so far the cleanest public loo I've used in India.
The walls are covered with Warli paintings. 

....And plastic bottles recycled as planters....
The d├ęcor of the restaurant which part of this set up is simple yet interesting keeping up with the rural setting with warli motifs. The owner Shashikant Jadhav himself goes around serving and attending to people who come to eat.
The owner Mr. Shashikant Jadhav.

Let me allow you to drool at the picture of the lunch- thaali. 

One of the best meals I've had! 
There was bajri chi bhakri (flat bread made out of pearl millet flour). I was intimidated by the size of the bhakri which was almost 12 inches in diameter. Then there was a chutney made of garlic and chilies, a delectable spicy bhaji or subji made of broad beans and peanut powder, a very special Maharashtrian dish called maasvadi served with peanut gravy. Maasvadi, the name is a misnomer since ‘maas’ usually means meat, but this dish is made from cooked chickpea flour with a stuffing of spices and coconut and then rolled on to a cloth, opened and then sliced. Do eat this dish whenever there is an opportunity. In November last year when I had visited the Bhimthadi Yatra (will post about that soon), I ate it there too. The dessert was some lip smacking, scrumptious sheera, kesari or sooji ka halva with banana in it. There was rice too, but my stomach was full with the 12 inch bhakri, so I did not take that.
The kitchen where the women make bhakris. 

Bhakris are made on the coal stove which enhances its taste manifold. 
We had a peep into the kitchen where Mr Jadhav's wife oversees the cooking and herself cooks for the guests. We were told they women together make around 350 bhakris or flatbreads each day with around 30-40 kgs of pearl millet flour. 
The menu on the board. 
After our plates were served, Mr Jadhav, himself went to each and every person asking them to eat well, in the spirit of true Indian hospitality.
There are nests made for the birds.....how nice! 
The loos were the cleanest, as I’ve mentioned, so it is highly recommended for people travelling on the Nagar - Kalyan Highway No. 222 (7 Kms from there), Pune - Nashik Highway No. 50 (18 Kms from there), to take a pit stop, and refresh.
Other activities at Amantran. 
They also have rooms where one can stay overnight, although I did not have a chance to check them out. Amantran provides agri-tourism activities like bullock cart ride, farm visits and rural games for weary urban people longing for a getaway close to nature. They also have a counter where there sell fresh farm produce like black raisins, kakvi or liquid jaggery and other things. 

You may check their website: http://aamantranagritourism.com/



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