“ We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us”
I always wanted to visit Lonar to see the mystic crater lake and when the opportunity came my way, I just grabbed it and booked myself with HappyMates.I also contacted my friend Mercy with whom I had bonded well during my visit to Malsej Ghats and was happy to learn that she too was excited to join the trip. We hopped into the group traveller from Vashi flyover at 11pm, being the last ones to be picked up and as usual we had to travel sitting on the bumpy seats of the last row. After travelling for an hour, we had a halt when we learnt that a fellow traveller –Ramesh was travelling alone in his car. we requested him if we could join him in his car and he was happy to have our company during the journey. Self and Mercy shifted to his car and we enjoyed the drive listening to melodious old songs of the 60s and 70s .
Lonar is around 512 kms from Mumbai, in Buldana District of Maharashtra. It took us about 11 hrs to reach our destination via the Mumbai -Pune expressway – Aurangabad –Ahmednagar. While both of us were dozing off, Ramesh was very alert and drove us safely. On the way, we stopped for tea at roadside tea stalls to refresh ourselves. Enroute, we were delighted to see the marigold fields in full bloom – a riot of orange and Yellow !!.As we approached our destination, we got a glimpse of the lake and we stopped and clicked some pictures.The sight was breathtakingly beautiful with the green water shimmering in the sunlight.Around 10 am next morning, we reached our destination Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) resort. Ashish(The organizer) had done the booking to ensure the whole group stay together but we had a problem with the availability of a limited number of washrooms and thus it took us quite some time for all of us to freshen up and get ready for breakfast.In the dining hall, we met with many foreign tourists, some of whom were visiting Mumbai from Lonar and we were pleased to guide them for a smooth and safe journey.
Although Lonar crater is the third largest meteorite crater, it is not commercialised as we were given to understand that this is done so as to protect the place and its flora and fauna. Besides a large number of tourists , this place is visited by researchers, geologists and scientists from all over the world as well as by the nature lovers. NASA scientists are also carrying out studies of the crater. It has its genesis nearly 50,000 years ago, when a 2 million-ton meteorite impacted the earth to create a depression 1.83 kilometers in diameter and 150 meters deep. It is a saltwater lake, which was created by a meteor hitting the Earth during the Pleistocene Epoch. The impact crater thereby formed, is the only hyper velocity meteoritic impact crater on basalt rock. A lake that evolved in the resulting basaltic rock formation, is both saline and alkaline in nature. The outer diameter of the lake is 1.83 kilometers and the circumference is around 6-7 Kms. Descent to the lake i.e. distance from the rim to ground level is about 140 meters.
Our guide mentioned that the water has substantial amount of sulphur and phosphorus too.He carried out some demos to demonstrate the sulphur content of the water by adding a pinch of turmeric powder and lo behold the water turned blood red !The lake water has medicinal properties especially for those suffering from skin infection.
The Guide demostrating
It was October, the monsoon had just retreated leaving behind a lush green canopy, which we appreciated standing at the rim of the lake.I had expected something remarkable but was not prepared for a sight of such wonder and beauty.No where had I seen such a majestic shade of emerald green which was so exquisite and rare.The green colour of the water is due to the presence of Algae.I was mesmerized by the scenic view.Many of us in the group did not want to do the parikrama of the lake but nothing could stop me from going further down from the rim. Eventually everyone agreed and accompanied by our guide, we set out to explore the place.
The slopes of the lake are covered with jungle interspersed with teak trees. A belt of large trees about a mile broad runs all round the basin; this belt is formed of concentric rings of different species of trees. A ring of date-palms followed by a ring of tamarind trees (nearly 1.6 km or a mile broad) leads to a ring of babul trees, bounded on the inside by a belt of bare muddy space. Lonar is very rich in biodiversity at times lapwings and horn bills fly across, but monkeys and peacocks are regular sights.This trek is very interesting for bird watchers and one can easily spot more than 50 species of birds.On the way we sighted many of them and many milipedes
The Mating Milipedes
There is a rickety watch tower which one can climb to have a panoramic view of the lake.One has to be careful while climbing up as a few rods are missing Walking along the muddy space one can explore the temples there – about ten of them.These temples were built during the Chalukya dynasty around 8th/9th century A.D.Some of the temples are homes for thousands of bats.It is very dark inside these bat infested temples.The roofs of most of the temples have beautiful carvings and the ones on the ceiling can be seen using a torch which fortunately our guide had carried with him. Walking along the periphery of the lake, we could experience a strong foul smell of rotten eggs which as per the guide is because of presence of hydrogen sulphide in the lake. The intensity of the smell diminishes as you walk further away.The sun was soon about to set and the guide requested us to hurry as the climb up was through a dense forest.we however decided to wait for the sunset which turned out to be the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen.We captured its beauty in many a photographs.
During our ascend, as we were waiting for the remaining members of the group to catch up, I suddenly looked down and noticed a motionless creature with smooth coat of white and grey scales about 2 feet in length. when I pointed it out to the guide, he did not say anything but started running and seeing him, all of us began running behind him.On reaching a clear patch he told us that the creature was a baby python !!! We however continued our ascend with our hearts racing and by the time we reached the Dhara, it was quite dark. The stream is considered holy and has medicinal properties. It took us about 4 hours to complete the Parikrama the Daityasudan temple and nearby temples.
Many of us had a shower under the stream. By the time we reached the resort, it was around 8 pm and we rushed to freshen up and change as the Dining Hall closes at 10 pm. We had already placed our Dinner order earlier(It is better to place the order for dinner in the evening so that the food is ready when you are back hungry and tired).After a sumptuous dinner, it was time for a game of Mafias which soon turned into an addiction amongst the members.One group got addicted to this while another to karaoke.I joined both the groups playing Mafias as well as karaoking which I tried for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed. I went to bed around 2 am while the younger members continuedwith Mafias and the addiction continued throughout our drive back home to Mumbai. The group was accordingly renamed “Lonarke Mafias “
Mafia Cards and Karaoke
Finally, I reached home around midnight with lots of happy memories of Lonar.Learning about my experience, many of my friends want to visit Lonar and I am planning a second trip with them.
Enroute to the Rim
The Bat infested Temple
How to get there :
By AIR: Aurangabad is the nearest Airport.It is about 131 kms from the Airport.You can prebook a Cab or hire one at the Airport.
By Train :From Mumbai take the Devgiri express (check the days)cc.It leaves CST at 9.05 pm and reaches Jalna at 5 am.From Jalna, you can take a cab.Distance from Jalna to Lonar is 69 kms.Many local buses are available or you can also take a cab.it takes about 2 hours depending on the speed you travel.While returning you can take the Nandigram Express.
BY Road: Depending on the group size you can hire a vehicle to proceed directly.
Accommodation: MTDC resort which is close to the location is the best bet.The food is passable but rates are pocket friendly.
Best season to visit : After the Monsoon and in Winter.One should avoid Summer months as the temperature soars upto 40 deg C.