We Are Losing Our Beautiful Drives

When we search online for ‘Great Drives Near Mumbai’, we typically get similar results (Mumbai-Pune, Alibaug, Lonavala etc). But over a period of time, we have been losing these beautiful drives to over-‘development’ just as we are losing our environment, clean air and water, bio-diversity, silence levels and night skies (amongst many other things.) Beautiful drives are a resource too, and losing them is a huge loss in every which way.

Actually there aren’t many beautiful drives left anymore. When you search for this query, you will find many articles claiming the following as great drives. But in the last 10 years, we have destroyed the scenic beauty on these routes. Check for yourself:

Mumbai to Lonavala Khandala Drive : These twin cities have become super congested and hot (weather wise). The approach to them via the Mumbai – Pune Expressway or Mumbai Pune Old Highway are both no longer charming. Rampant construction, skyscrapers that cover the hill view and increased traffic ruin the experience. Also once in Lonavala Khandala, the only thing you notice is every shop selling Chikki and all routes are now covered with holiday homes in varying stages of construction. No charming cafes. No beautiful homes. Just concrete. Now Lonavala even has a large Mall with McDonald’s. The drive is best avoided. (Bad photography warning).

Mumbai Pune Expressway Drive : About 15 years ago, it was a beautiful scenic and mostly empty highway stretch with agricultural fields on either side. Not anymore. Billboards, skyscrapers, holiday homes, investment homes, educational institutes eating into the hills, and vastly increased traffic have killed the charm of this once beautifulk drive.

Mumbai – Goa Drive : Busy highway, full of rash drivers, mostly single lane, and heavy accident rate. It used to be very scenic but increased traffic and lots of slow moving trucks on a single lane ruin the experience. In places the highway is being widened but the construction never seems to be over. Be happy if you cross Vadkal Naka without much traffic. I avoid this route. See this: Mumbai Goa Highway Sees 1000 Accidents A Year.

Mumbai – Alibaug – Kashid Drive: The same as above. Only the last few kilometers are decent.

Mumbai – Malshej Ghat Drive : Terrible till about 20-30 km AFTER Kalyan. From anywhere in Mumabi till Kalyan it’s full of traffic, road construction, holiday homes, and an annoying number of large speed breakers (I once counted some 23 speedbreakers within Kalyan). Hopeless. Only after 20-30 km after Kalyan does it start to become somewhat nice. But its not going to last, considering whats panned out in the past. Large townships, skyscrapers and investment homes are already being constructed.

Kamshet – Matheran Drive : Much of this route is only accessible via the Mumbai Pune Highway so read above.

Mumbai Mahabaleshwar Drive : Same as Mumbai Pune Highway. Only the last few kms are half decent. Mahabaleshwar itself has become densely congested and over priced with vast traffic jams.

Mumbai – Igatpuri Drive  : Very bad. From Mumbai till a little ahead of Kalyan Bhiwandi the highway is full of truck traffic and construction. There is a tiny stretch in Kasara Ghat which is as yet beautiful (about 4-6km, July 2017). The entire hills around Igatpuri, and surrounding villages have their trees chopped off and you get a view of naked hills. In summers even these are set on fire so all you see are charred hills. Definitely not pretty. When returning, be prepared for dense traffic around Kalyan crossing.

In early summer/spring you will find the entire region (all of the drives mentioned above) full of smoke. Forests are burnt and the smoke hangs thick in the air. The drives are no longer to enjoy the scenic beauty (which are are losing at a rapid pace) but more to be able to drive, because we aren’t able to, in our cities. Well, looks our like highways will soon resemble our city roads.

There are still some good drives left, but I take pains not to write about them, lest the selfie wielding, ‘like’ seeking crowds populate these too. But obviously that isn’t the answer. Maybe we need some kind of protected status for highway scenery too?

Mumbai Goa.
From around 2003-4, the ride to Goa from Pune. We stopped at these ghats near Kolhapur and could almost hear our own heartbeats. Not anymore.
Sawantwadi in 2005
Sawantwadi from around 2005. Its nearly impossible to find only one vehicle here.
Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003
At Lonavala, these kind of open vistas are no longer visible.
Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003
The Mumbai Pune Expressway had agricultural fields all over. Note the rolled up hay. Kodak consumer negative on Nikon FM10.
Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003
Mumbai Pune Expressway, around 2003. Note the empty highway.
Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003
Mumbai Pune Expressway around 2003. Note only one vehicle in sight. And nature all around. No billboards.
Billboards kill the scenery in Lonavala.
A panoramic shot in Lonavala on Mumbai – Pune Expressway. Billboards kill the scenery.
Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003
Rolled up hay from agricultural fields on Mumbai Pune Expressway 2003. A sight now extinct.
Kashid to Murud Janjira.
The road from Kashid to Murud Janjira, around 2006. You could once drive next to the sea. Now the sea view has been taken over by private bungalows.
Kashid to Murud Janjira
Kashid to Murud Janjira drive in 2006. Note how you can see the sea throughout. Now its no longer possible with construction on the beach side…
Ghoti to Bhandardara 2008
The gorgeous road from Ghoti to Bhandardara, around 2008.
Bhandardara traffic on 2018
Ghoti to Bhandaradar in 2018, 10 years later. These are all mostly ‘tourist’ buses who bring people here to bathe and take selfies in the the many waterfalls.
Construction in the Himalayas
Even in the Himalayas, the scenic beauty is being devastated. Ever since I remember, construction is the main sight along with Chandigarh – Manali Highway
Dense market near Katrain, Himachal Pradesh
And this is Katrain, a town on the way towards Kullu. It looks like a dense market from old Delhi, doesn’t it?

15 thoughts on “We Are Losing Our Beautiful Drives”

  1. Very well written post Paramvir. As you mentioned there are multiple reasons for disappearance of scenic beauty on these long drives from Mumbai. The main ones are road widening and local infrastructure development near the highways which will continue to happen in years to come. Only spots will be remaining are the hill stations near by city. But you are right we are losing these beautiful drives. Something needs to be done.

  2. What a griefful post you have shared. Actually, it is a harsh reality of today’s world. If you don’t mind, we all somewhere itself responsible for the loss to mother Earth and the saddest part is that we can’t do anything because it is an on-going process.

  3. Its sad the way all these scenic spots are disappearing, and so is true for all cities as well. First they had a flavour of their own and local food and culture defined it. But now everywhere globalisation is killing it. No difference in Mumbai and Jaipur… Driving on the highways is also losing its charm… its sad and no one is doing anything about it.

  4. Sad reality. Have seen the deterioration over decades. I wistfully remember the rides on these roads in the 80s and 90s. Used to be so much fun! Ah, you got me nostalgic all over again…

  5. I stay in Panvel and I know how was the express way when it started and now all over billboards.

    Even I have been to kashid – Murud Janjira. I used to tell people go for such coastal bike rides.

    Nowadays, everything is changing. Sometimes really I wonder is this a growth or we are killing our mother Earth slowly.


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