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Published: June 16th 2008
A quick note from the hill station of Panchgani, high in the Western Ghats. It's beautiful here, surrounded by woods, and it's cold too; i need either a jumper or a constant supply of warming masala chai. We're staying in a tiny bungalow on the hill, overlooking the valley below and the true blue reservoir of Dhom Dham. At night, fireflies flash green around the windows and in the morning you can hear wild peacocks calling. We came here to visit the nearby town of Wai and the village of Menavali. These places don't feature much in guidebooks, but we've seen a handful of Hindi films shot in the area, and the temples and ghats (steps leading down to a river or tank) are gorgeous. In Wai, we visited the Ganpati temple and walked around the town. There was a stampede near here in 2005 in which around three hundred people were crushed to death. It was hard to imagine that happening in such a shanti place. After Wai, we drove to Menavali. If someone were to ask me where the loveliest place in India is, right now I'd say, on the banks of the Krishna river, sitting on the ghat,
with Menavali's beautiful waterside Shiva temple nearby, watching the locals washing their water buffalo, whilst koels fly overhead. Amazing. Nobody minded us enjoying the scene with them. We chatted with a couple of people, but mostly just relaxed. It was the total opposite of being in an Indian city. Time felt gloopy, like honey. There were white cows with purple tikka stripes on their heads. Girls were washing metal cups, thali plates and clothes in the river. There was a warm breeze. Sometimes i think i can fall in love with India in a thousand different ways. Whilst in the area, we also took in the fort of Pratapgadh. It's on a hilltop and has blackened walls with vines creeping up it. Clouds of mist race up the walls; it's a moody place.
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