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25th May 2009 7:00 am

Come a long weekend and invariably the questions pour in: “What’s a good place to go to?”, “Where can I get away from the maddening crowd?”, or “Goa’s too far for a three-day break from Mumbai and the other hill-stations will be packed

Come a long weekend and invariably the questions pour in: “What’s a good place to go to?”, “Where can I get away from the maddening crowd?”, or “Goa’s too far for a three-day break from Mumbai and the other hill-stations will be packed.” Now the answer is here – Lavasa! Poised as it is to become India’s first — and its largest planned hill-station — Lavasa is still in the development stage. Some parts have already been built like the community centre and the Ekaant Resort. The water sports department is up and running and that itself makes for a fun day out on the lake. But before you even get there, the joy is at the wheel. The roads leading to Lavasa from the Chandni Chowk turn, off NH4, are uncrowded and mostly with very little traffic. The views are good, the surfaces are smooth and you can feel your shoulders start to loosen up because the drive is stress-free. It’s an ideal weekend driving getaway. Remember to: Take along swimming gear and walking shoes. Don’t forget to: Pop some car sickness pills if you are prone to feeling sick on drives. The last stretch is very twisty. Getting there: Trip set point: Start of the Mumbai Pune Expressway – Kalamboli.

  • 0.0 Expressway begins.
  • 32.1 First Expressway toll booth (Rs 140).
  • 33.5 Exit for the Food Plaza on left. Continue straight.
  • 53.8 Second Lonavala exit. Continue straight.
  • 82.3 Second Expressway toll booth (show receipt from first toll booth).
  • 82.6 Two simultaneous food court exits on left. Continue straight.
  • 92.3 Expressway ends in 1.0km. Reduce speed now! 93.3 Expressway ends.
  • 101.7 Hinjewadi signal crossroads. Continue straight under the flyover.
  • 110.6 Toyota dealership on the right.
  • 113.6 Chandni Chowk. Bear left off NH4 and take a U-turn under the flyover.
  • 114.1 Turn left onto toll road.
  • 114.3 Fork. Bear left.
  • 115.0 Toll booth (Rs 18 and same day return fare also available).
  • 120.9 Shell fuel station on the right.
  • 122.3 Pirangut Ghat starts.
  • 125.4 Pirangut town.
  • 126.8 Turn left.
  • 141.8 Fork on road. Bear left.
  • 147.1 Turn left towards Lavasa.
  • 154.9 Lavasa main gate.
  • 160.5 Ekaant Resort.

You will be driving the entire length of the Expressway — do remember that sticking to the correct lane helps every Expressway user. The simple rule is stick to the middle lane if you are not overtaking; if you are not going too fast, then stay in the third lane. The first lane, which is the one closest to the divider, should only be used for overtaking. While driving through tunnels, switch on your headlights, take off your glares and DO NOT put on the hazard lights. It serves no purpose and only highlights the driver’s ignorance. The Expressway ends in a very sharp and sudden right-hander and when you hit the yellow warning lines before the end you should have already lifted off the power and started braking. NH4 or the Pune bypass has its fair share of bikers and pedestrians and there will be some congestion at the Hinjewadi signal, especially during morning and evening rush-hours. But once you hit Pirangut town, the real fun at the wheel begins. The road up is fantastic, very scenic and superbly smooth.

However, the corners are sharp and if there is any luggage that is not secured it is definitely going to slide around. Also, if there are passengers who are prone to car sickness, spare a thought for them and take it easy. Inside Lavasa itself the roads are smooth and once again with many corners and steep inclines, but mirrors have been conveniently been placed at such places. There is still a lot of construction work going on and you do have watch out for dumpers and tractors. Watchmen are also very finicky about where you park – do listen to them as it is a safety concern. It is best to park in designated parking areas. A Slice of Seclusion Lavasa is a grand idea. Conceptualised as a self-sustained township situated in the sprawling lap of nature, it is far from the din and racket of urbanity and yet not far from cosmopolitan buzz and excitement. We found it to be a harmonious blend of technology and nature. Which is why you can go for a nature walk and reach a secluded peaceful area, switch on your laptop and log on to the internet through free Wi-Fi that is omnipresent everywhere. The vision behind Lavasa is to promote maximum living and celebrate life to the fullest. No doubt it is a holiday or weekend destination but once it is fully developed you could easily live life here. There are schools, apartments, villas, retail outlets and hospitals planned.

The aim is to create a unique setting to live, work, play and learn in harmony with the highest environmental standards. The drive itself hints at the height which is 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. Lavasa is spread over 25,000 acres of lakes and hills with an extensive master plan covering half that area. At present, the Ekaant Resort is operational and the views of the hills and the lake from it are fantastic. Yet we were told that these are the kind of views that will become standard in Lavasa. Maybe that is the reason that the first phase of apartment blocks and villas that are still under development is almost completely sold out. Development in the second phase is to begin soon and bookings are expected to open in the near future. So what do you do in Lavasa? For a weekend’s break from Mumbai, it is a very good option as it is a four-hour drive. If you drive in from Pune, it is under two hours. At present there are two stay options — the Ekaant Resort and an ITC Fortune Hotel. Though there is a flurry of construction underway currently, the water sports facility is up and running and this is what makes a visit here right now worthwhile. The facility has luxury launches where you can go for a gentle stroll in the river sipping on champagne, and then there are water scooters for joy rides and also kayaks and paddle boats. For the kids there are unique water bumper cars that are great fun as they also have their in-built jet sprays with which you can give each other a jolly dousing. Sedwyn, the manager of the water sports facility, is a very enthusiastic chap and will ensure that singles, couples or families all have a great time. Once the first stage of development is completed, there will be a host of recreation options available to residents. These include swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasiums and a wellness centre.

Lavasa will also have a professional 18-hole golf course, where club and amateur tournaments will be conducted on a regular basis. The surrounding environs will also feature 50 nature walks and trails, which are sure to be popular with city dwellers who are starved of green cover and are increasingly travelling to find just that. Lavasa has all that and more. The town centre itself is planned to have a promenade resembling a European waterfront. Called the Portofino Promenade, it will feature boutiques and cafes and will give visitors several reasons to stretch their legs, shop or just hang out. Lavasa is on track in becoming a hill-station like one India has never seen before. Drive there and you’ll know what we mean.

Ekaant, the retreat This is a fully functional 20-room retreat that greats visitors with refreshing interiors and lush surroundings. It provides a breathtaking view of the valley. It features free internet, a conference room and a multi-cuisine restaurant. For bookings: 020-66757000 www.lavasa.com

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