In early March 2018, just after my child’s board exam was done, we took a short trip to Club Mahindra’s Sherwood Mahabaleshwar resort for a much-needed break.
For those who have never heard of Mahabaleshwar, it is a hill station at an average elevation of 1,353 metres, located in the Sahyadri mountain range. Situated about 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Pune and 285 km (177 mi) from Mumbai, it is blessed with a pleasant and bracing climate and has one of the few evergreen forests of India.
Because of its proximity to Pune and Mumbai, it is a popular vacation spot for city-dwellers looking to escape the heat and pollution of these two cities. It’s not easy to get a booking here. In fact, I tried to get one (albeit unsuccessfully) for a few days during the long Holi weekend, but instead only managed it during the week after.
This is one of the downsides of owning a timeshare and a major issue I’ve faced with Club Mahindra in recent years – the difficulty of getting a booking in the resort of my choice during the dates I want.
We set out from Pune on a Tuesday morning, thanks to the travel desk that helped us book a taxi for the three (or so) hour drive to the resort.
A long, winding road takes you to the gate of the resort, which is situated in a woody, forested area about 4 kilometres from Mahableshwar town. The first thing that hits you is how peaceful and quiet it is here, with only the sounds of chirping birds to disturb your reverie.
Exhausted from my sleep deprivation of the previous week, I slept the entire first day, while my child entertained herself in the fun zone. The family-friendly theme of Club Mahindra resorts is why I took on the membership around 10 years ago, and I haven’t regretted it since.
My child has spent many a blissful afternoon in the welcoming arms of the Fun Zone – an essential element of every Club Mahindra resort – whether painting with one of the creative kits or playing games with another kid or participating in the evening’s housie or karaoke session.
This time we also planned to spend a day in nearby Panchgani, a charming town known for its many excellent boarding schools. This was only the second time I’d visited Panchgani, the last time being a stay at a tented Club Mahindra resort that seems to have been eliminated from the roster.
But our visit was not for the purpose of sightseeing (which we avoided altogether), but to a very special landmark called the M.V. Roach bakery, started by my great-grandfather, Manuel Vincent Roach, in 1901, and now run by my second cousin, Christopher Savio Roach, and his mum, Ruth.
Before our visit, though, we stopped in the main market in Panchgani for some delicious parathas at a tiny (and not very hygienic) place called Akbarali’s. It came highly recommended by a friend who spent a few years in a boarding school in Panchgani.
The parathas were delicious and, if you omit the butter, would make an excellent vegan meal. They were massive and a bit too heavy for us. Not being big eaters, we could hardly finish off two slices each.
We then dropped in at the Roach bakery, where we spent an enjoyable afternoon with my cousin and aunt. Christopher showed us their massive wood-fired oven that can bake around 450 loaves at a time.
My aunt, Ruth, took us on a tour of the Roach (previously called Rochas) family through all the old family albums. I was chuffed to find a photo of my great-grandpa, M.V.Roach, founder of the bakery.
Christopher’s grandpa, Francis, and my grandma, Kathleen, were brother and sister, which makes him my second cousin. With our massive family, it would be impossible to keep in touch with everyone, were it not for the twin blessings of Facebook and Whatsapp.
When we returned to the resort a few hours later, we were so exhausted, we slept all day and missed our dinner. I reminded myself that this was supposed to be a relaxing break, with the kind of downtime we couldn’t really get with all the distractions at home.
Thanks to a weak mobile network (only Vodafone and BSNL work consistently in this neck of the woods), I attempted to connect to the net only when I had some work pending. If you’re looking to disconnect completely for a few days, this is a good thing. For me, it was a working holiday, so it became a bit of a nuisance.
The upside was that waking up in the morning to the chirping of birds in the green canopy above us (which continued almost all day), catching sight of a beautiful specimen of the Indian (or Malabar) giant squirrel (Ratufa indica) endemic to this area, and being startled by a large monkey outside our room, made me feel pretty close to nature. If the objective was relaxation, we achieved that pretty well.
One problem I have with Club Mahindra’s resorts is that most of them are far away from the nearby town or city, and there are few or no restaurants in the area. Which means you’re stuck having to eat the (very expensive) food in the resort restaurant.
This is not entirely a bad thing as the food, especially the buffet, is excellent and doesn’t leave you wanting. You can opt for a package that includes 1, 2 or 3 meals a day. Members get a 25% discount. This is a cost that you need to factor into your holiday expenses whenever you visit a Club Mahindra resort.
Considering that most of their resorts have the equivalent of a 4 or 5-star rating, this is par for the course. Other than the expensive food, we really have no complaints when we visit a Club Mahindra property, and the Mahableshwar resort was no exception.
The rooms are spotlessly clean and well-maintained. The beds are extra-comfortable. The staff are polite, extremely attentive and helpful. They will organise excursions and transport for you at the drop of a hat. And the locations where these resorts are situated are often exceptional.
As someone who hates waste, I was happy to see that they’ve switched to soap and shampoo dispensers instead of those wasteful plastic bottles, but what gives with these plastic stirrers in the rooms? Why not provide reusable stainless steel spoons to stir our coffee, as most of their other resorts do?
This was our first time at Club Mahindra Sherwood Mahabaleshwar and we really enjoyed our downtime and the time spent with our family in Panchgani. Watch the video below to enjoy some more glimpses of this charming resort. And if you’ve been here, do share your experience in the comments below.
All images and videos are © Priya Florence Shah