Lonar - The Crater Lake

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August 31st 2016
Published: November 23rd 2016
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Once you start traveling around, if you stay without at least a weekend getaway for 3-4 weeks, you start craving to go to some place the next week. I had barely traveled out of Bangalore until my 2nd or 3rd year in college when my relationship with travel started (I had infrequently visited a few places but nothing major). After that it has just grown and grown. So, what do you do if you are bored and need a change in scenery ? Pick a nearby tourist spot which you have been waiting to visit and just go there (even if you are 2 or 3 folks). In my case, this resulted in visiting the unique Lonar (Crater) Lake in Maharashtra.

A few months back, I and Vivek had registered for a trip with one of Hyderabad travel groups to travel to Lonar lake. Unfortunately, that had been cancelled and since then we had been waiting for another chance. It had been a while since we had been on any trips and so we thought "Ah! What the hell. Let's just go". Because of the various trip plans I and Vivek have been involved in, where we ask a lot of folks and half of them say "I'm in" and then most of of them drop out, we had very low expectations. But every once in a while there are these shockers and within 2-3 days of our query mail, about 7-8 folks had agreed and we even finished planning quickly thanks to Ankur whose hometown was at Jalna (not far from Lonar). The final list included Ankur, the one and only Biswadip, Jyothi, Neha, Nishchay, Ravali, Sidhi, Vivek and obviously me. After a few eventful meetings in our conference rooms, we were all set to visit Lonar and Ajanta - Ellora caves.

On the day of boarding our sleeper bus, as expected Vivek was late and boarded the bus at a later point than expected getting Biryani on the way (No the delay wasen't at the Biryani counter). Along with him was his Bengali bro, Biswadip with his Munna Bhai imported body like accent (Sorry Biswadip but you do remind me of him :P). The rest of us had already boarded the bus earlier. We had had our introductions with us getting garden path sentence (you can check it out in wikipedia) gyan thanks to the punny (alias grammar nazi) duo, Neha and Sidhi. After having rations of the biryani brought by Viviek and Biswadip, we decided to play Uno cards. After a lot of wild draw 4s and reverses, we decided to rest up.

The bus was on time the next morning and dropped us at Jalna. Ankur's parents had arranged for a cab to take us to their house. There we freshened up and had our breakfast. The breakfast was delicious and included poha, omlette, some mixture and a few sweets. From there, it was on to Lonar lake in the 10 seater arranged by Ankur. On the way there were fresh grapes available and Biswadip in his full stylish manner bought 3 bunches with a failed attempt at negotiation. The rest of the ride was pretty eventful with different playlists being played continuously by our DJ Vivek da (who drew energy from the grapes he kept devouring). The distance was about 80 kms and though initially the driver kept irritating us by stopping at every other shop we saw on the road, we reached the place around noon. From a view point we could see the whole lake reflecting the surrounding crater at the edges and the rest of it completely green. Before going down near the lake, we visited a Daitya Sudan temple nearby where we also got to know the history behind origins of the lake. The temple got its name from Daiyasudan avatar of Vishnu, who killed the demon Lonasur who resided nearby. A guide who lives near the temple gave us all the details of the temple also and showed us some mineral stones (Copper, iron) which reminded us all of our chemistry lessons from school. We even had a debate on calcium carbonate (Remember it has multiple forms - marble, limestone, chalk). He explained us that the crater formed long time back when a meteorite hit the place. The lake has an amazing eco system and also is supposed to have a hidden water source at the bed which continuously supplies water to the lake. It hosts a plethora of flora and fauna (More on that later).

Armed with the knowledge, we decided that before we visit the lake we should finish our lunch. As it was super hot, we decided to first have some sugarcane juice and ice golas.
Sunset at the lakeSunset at the lakeSunset at the lake

Breathtaking view of the sunset
Then we drove to the MTDC resort restaurant for lunch. We were pretty hungry and devoured whatever was available there. The food was ok and we took our time sitting in the shade from the blazing sun. The lake is best viewed from below during sunset and so it was then time to trek down. I initially wore my sandals and after going down for about 300 - 400m, realized what a stupid idea that was. Because of the heat and sweat, the sandals became very slippery. I had to go back to our vehicle and change to my shoes. On my way back though, I was able to add quite a few new species of birds to my collection of photos. There were Green Bee-Eaters, Indian Robin (male and female), Sparrows, Black Winged Stilt etc. I finally caught up with the rest of the folks near the lake. We walked further towards a temple and took some time off to enjoy the surroundings. Near the temple there were a troop of langurs which entertained us for a while. While waiting for the sunset, a few of us noticed peacocks, a bit away from where we were. To try and capture their shots more closely I was interested in walking forward, but the guy near the temple told us it is not very safe. He then told us to keep to the edge of the lake and not wander of into the dense trees. I, Ankur, Jyothi and Neha started walking hoping to quickly spot them clearly and come back. On our way we even found a skeleton of some dead animal which added to the creepiness. But being the courageous souls, we soldiered forward. As we got near the peacock spot, they started running inside (apparently they don't allow others to dance with them). As we had walked quite a bit already, we decided to take the longer route to reach the rest of our group. The walk was serene and beautiful and I was able to find Brahmini ducks, Pond Herons, Wood Sandpipers and so on. As the sunset began, I tried to experiement with my camera which resulted in my first HDR shot. Though I did not know then (HDR involves merging at least 3 different exposure shots during post processing), the shot had come out superbly without a tripod which is not easy. After an enjoyable walk for an hour or so, we finally joined the rest of the folks and started climbing up. The panoramic view of the lake from the top was no less picturesque. It took about half an hour to absorb the splendor of what we were seeing post which it was time to head back. Such a long walk deserved something to quench the thirst and that turned out to be the buttermilk and lime soda from the MTDC resort.

With songs playing in the background, I slept for quite a while on the way to Ajanta. After we reached the MTDC stay for the night (at around 10 PM or 11 PM), most of us decided to have some of the grapes and mur muri mixture which Ankur had got from his house for dinner as we did not feel like going out to eat. Vivek, Nishchay and Biswadip decided to have a heavy dinner and went out to find some good place to eat. Then everyone slept stating it would be very difficult to get up early the next day otherwise (One of the very few trips I have been in where people just decided to sleep early). I got up early next morning, freshened up and went out to photograph the beautiful garden of the hotel we were staying at. I was able to capture pretty good shots of Oriental White-Eye, Indian Robin etc and some flowers in the garden. The breakfast took time but was pretty decent and once everyone was done, we started towards the Ajanta caves.

The Ajanta caves are about 30 rock cut Buddhist caves which display the exquisite Indian art through the paintings and sculptures. They formed the ancient monasteries and residing shelters for monks and tourists in ancient India. A number of caves have deteriorated and are being reconstructed to preserve our heritage. We visited all the caves and listened to some of the explanations given by guides about the caves. Ravali was deeply engrossed in the history of the caves and kept explaining us the significance of the caves in between. It was a pretty long walk but was interesting overall. Once out, we moved on towards Ellora caves. It was getting late and we quickly finished our lunch outside the caves. By the time we entered, it was almost 4:00 PM with the closing time being 5:30 PM. The Ellora caves are also similar to Ajanta caves except for the fact that while Ajanta caves were purely Buddhist caves, Ellora caves are a mixture of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu caves. It is supposed to be one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple complexes in the world. The site is supposed to consist of more than 100 caves but only 34 are open to the public. We spent quite some time at the Hindu caves which were ornately carved. One of the caves had a good place to rest where we all sat down and relaxed (Everyone sat as if expecting someone to serve food but unfortunately that did not happen). To reach the Jain caves we had to cross a bridge and by that time the sun was dropping below the horizon. We explored them till sunset and then decided to move out. Ankur then dropped us to the bus boarding point (he was staying at Jalna for a while) and we reached Hyderabad the next day, safe and sound.

Lonar lake is an extremely beautiful place which is a must visit for any traveler. Its environment and wildlife is something to crave for. If not for the weather at the time we went there (it was scorching hot in March), everything else was perfect. The sunset on the lake is a view one would cherish. Lonar is located slightly away from the din of the city. One can stay in the MTDC resort which is right opposite to the crater of the lake. Ajanta and Ellora caves show the skills and mastery of ancient India. The beautifully crafted art displays our rich heritage. Ajanta and Ellora are more of the standard tourist spots and hence, accommodation is not an issue there.

Last but not the least, this trip gave us the "That's what you think" reply as an answer for any question for which one doesn't have a comeback for :P It's a recursive reply which will finally fizzle out when either party gets bored. And thus ends my recollection of a great weekend getaway 😊

Additional photos below
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Who is serving the food ?

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