Wet and Wild

The annual slush season is still playing hookey, but here's a plan you can make in advance for a rainy day. Explore the city's wild side

Monsoons in Mumbai are a messy affair with potholed roads, ineffective storm water drains and chronic flooding. But here are some unusual small joys you can find in even in the city's 'worst season'. So, chart out some fun outings to ensure that the forthcoming wet months are full of thrills and chills.

Take an untested forest trail
This one is for the nature enthusiasts. The 104 sq km Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali — the world's largest protected forest within the city limits and a saving grace for the otherwise congested Mumbai— comes alive with colours, sounds and smells after the first rains.

If it is your first time in a forest, a simple walk through the Krishnagiri range or a mini-train ride exploring the lion and tiger safaris will be enough to thrill you. The forest, mostly shades of brown through the summer months, magically turns green after just one heavy shower. New grass sprouting, small streams gurgling everywhere, the croaking of frogs and the sounds of crickets and birds fill the air while an earthy fragrance of wet mud and new blossoms fills the nostrils.

If you are into serious trekking, NGOs like the BNHS and the WWF offer guided treks to prohibited areas of Tulsi lake and Nagla Block— a track that will bring you face to face with breathtaking wildlife, including unusual birds, reptiles and langurs. For the more adventurous, you could spend a night in the forest guest houses and if you are lucky, experience the awe of seeing a leopard pass your doorstep. The forest guesthouses, according to SGNP conservator P N Munde, can be booked in advance for Rs 500 a night and are situated in the heart of the forest.

However, if SGNP is too far for you, Mumbai has another green haven that you can explore during monsoon. Mahim's Mahastra Nature Park, a park built on a garbage dump in the 1970s. The 37-acre park boasts of 380 varieties of flora and is said to attract 80 species of birds and more than 40 species of butterflies and other insects.

Listen, the sea has stories to tell
To many in Mumbai, the rainy season is not complete without watching the sea go wild. While sandy beaches like the Juhu or the Girgaum Chowpatty become out-of-bounds during the peak monsoon, feisty Mumbaiites have found their own monsoon-watch points across the city. The Marine Drive promenade, stretching about three km from Nariman Point to Malabar Hill, is an all time favourite. While the turbulent sea sprays those on the road, the waves crash into the tetrapods against the wall, providing you some safety and more thrills. No wonder then that the Marine Drive sees droves of visitors just aimlessly staring into the sea all through the monsoon.

In the suburb, you can hear similar stories from the sea at Bandra's Carter Road promenade, or the rocky beaches of Bandra Bandstand or Versova beach.

Drive off, city clickers
There is a special excitement in driving on a smooth highway in the torrential rains. In Mumbai, you could experience this pleasure of a long drive only on one stretch— the 10-km-long Palm Beach road running parallel to Thane Creek. This six-lane state-of-the-art road that connects Vashi to CBD-Belapur, often labelled the second Marine Drive, may have seen several accidents but still remains the best stretch for those in search of a thrilling or calming drive. "We love to speed up uninterrupted on this smooth road, with large droplets of rain crashing on your face and skin. The experience is as thrilling as a joyride," a couple says.

Snack corner
For those who'd rather spend their rainy day lying on the couch and watching the raindrops go pitter-patter on the window sill, here's a list of quick munchies to pick from.

Corn: Boil them, spice them up with salt, pepper, a dollop of butter and some chilly flakes. Or roast them on hot coals, the old fashioned 'butta' way, and smear them with salt and lemon. Or just pop them in the microwave. However you have it, nothing can taste better than the good old corn, while watching the first rains from your window.

Soups: You can make them out of a 2-minutes instant-soup pack or cook them from scratch. You can even order them your nearby Chinese or Udipi restaurant. A spicy hot-and-sour, manchow or clear veg/ chicken with some croutons will not just satiate your rainy day appetite but also act as a healthy filler.

Tea: If you have returned home from a long and cold day at work, a hot cuppa chai flavoured with adrak, elaichi or masala from a neighbourhood chaiwalla is sure to lift your moods. Exotic green teas to will do the trick.

Momo: Hot steamy momos —or dimsum— filled with chicken, vegetables or meat fillings can satiate your monsoon hunger. You can have them with honey sauce or dropped in clear soup, steamed in a pressure cooker, or deep fried.

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