We had arranged for a car and driver to pick us up on the morning of Sunday, February 14th from our hotel in Mumbai. We met our driver, Suresh, loaded up the Toyota Innova, and hit the road around 8:00am. We were on our way to Nashik, the centre of Indian wine country. Yes, that’s right, wine country. It took some time to get out of the Mumbai flatlands and then started the climb up into the Western Ghats mountain range. It was very arid and the vegetation was quite brown as it was getting close to the end of dry season.
After some time, we left the comfort of National Highway 3 and turned north on a secondary road. After passing through some amazing landscape, we arrived at our first stop, the Grover Zampa Vineyard. February and March is harvest time and the vineyard was busy with a truckload of Chenin Blanc. We had a tour of the vineyard and enjoyed a tasting in the dark cellar room. We stopped for lunch at Curry Leaves restaurant in Nashik after our Grover visit. Once our bellies were full, we headed to our next tasting at York Winery overlooking the Gangapur Baandh Sagar reservoir. After our last tasting we arrived at our vineyard accommodation, Beyond at Sula Vineyard. Being Valentine’s Day, there was an alfresco buffet and live band at the hotel that night, but Uncle Steve and I chose to take our dates to the restaurant for a quieter and more romantic setting.
The next morning, we set off for the sacred town of Trimbak, which contains the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple and was once one of the 4 sites for the Khumbh Mela festival. The Temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, but unfortunately this temple is not open to non-Hindus. Despite these important religious sites, the purpose of our visit was to hike to the source of the Godavari River, also a popular religious pilgrimage. Suresh dropped us at the bottom of Brahmagiri Hill and we started up the staircase. We slowly ascended above Trimbak and that afforded some great views of the valley. We soon arrived at the bottom of a cliff and picked our way up the rock cut steps that switch back and forth up the steep face. Throughout our trip up to this point, we had a friendly little dog with us that seemed to know how to work for her lunch…she chased away the macaques and we gave her some crackers and water for her efforts. From the top of the cliff, it was only a bit further to the top of Brahmagiri Hill. It was an incredible view in all directions and we could see the small cluster of temples that house the source of the river. We wandered down and visited the sacred temples. There were many others on the pilgrimage route and I think most people were surprised to see us up there. Everyone was really friendly though and I’m sure we made a few social media sites via all of the selfies that were taken with us.
After returning to the hotel and freshening up a little bit, we headed over to Sula for a snack and a glass of wine on the patio before doing our tour. Oddly enough, this was Bec’s second visit as she previously visited Sula with Jami and Jen back in 2011. That night, we walked to the nearby Soma Vine Village for one last tasting and a nice dinner. We would be leaving Sula the next morning, but the Innova would be well stocked with a few bottles of Nashik’s finest.