Katraj-Sinhagad Moonlight Trek: Take Two

It all started with a mail from Shiva asking me if it would be a good idea to plan a trip to Mahabaleshwar sometime during the coming weekend. The Hydventura team had not been for any treks for more than a fortnight now! The anxiety was quite understandable! But then a trip to Mahabaleshwar during this hot summer would do no good. Instead I suggested they come down for the Katraj – Sinhagad trek that I was planning to do the coming weekend.

A flutter of mails and calls, a week of pooling in and pooling out and all was set! The HydVentura team was all set at a head count of 18 despite a ‘Statutory warning’ e-mail from Adi ( You’ll know who Adi is, had you read my post on my first trek to Sinhagad ). Two days before The Hydventura team arrived I enquired with Abhishek, Abhijeet and Ravi ( The Deccan highlanders Anchors ) if anyone from DH would be interested in joining us. Friday evening, Abhijeet says he had a volatile head count of 20 from the DH team. Boy , this is gonna be real fun!

17th Morning – Saturday.

I barely manage to open my eyes and have a look at my watch. Damn! It was 07:45 hrs already. Two days back, i arranged for a Tempo Traveller for the Hydventura team. The driver was to pick me up from my house at Aundh at 8:00 hrs. Right at 08:05 hrs I get a missed call from the Driver. I get ready in a haste, pack my bag and make sure I have at least 2L of water in my bag. Well, you learn from mistakes…Just one month back on the slopes of the sahayadris we were stalking like dogs for water. Every drop of water was like elixir then!

We make it to the station by 08:45 hrs and I while away my time till the Mumbai Express crawls into the station. The team had finally landed in Pune! Gourav, Reshma, Aishwarya, Kirthi, Jemshed, Animesh, Yeshwanth and Venki had been for a few treks along with me. The new faces were Siddharth, Ranjan and Trishna. We moved over to Infy Phase I where they refreshed and had a decent breakfast. Munni and Deepika joined us there. Prasanna was to join us directly at the trek base point – Old Katraj tunnel. It was already 12:30 hrs by the time everyone was ready.

At 13:00hrs We moved over towards Bunshi Dam. Not that we expected to see much water, It was only accommodated to keep us busy. We reached the Dam at around 14:20 hrs and idled some time there. Sat by the lake and under the trees not because it was really inviting but just because we had nothing else to do. The water was murky by the banks and the only thing appeasing was that the water was cold. At 15:30 hrs we started moving towards the vehicle when we spotted a guy selling lemon juice and ‘Kala kutta’. ( ‘Colored Katta’ is basically Frothed, Shaped and packed ice dipped in colored syrup / sherbath) .Knowingly or unknowingly we spent almost three fourth of an hour here and spent about 250 Rs. Just for the ‘Mineral water’ Ice’d cream and the lemon juice ! It was worth every rupee! Reshma and Ranjan had their slurps from literally every ‘Colored katta’ that came from the vendors hands! I bet, He must have closed the shop and gone home after all the profit that we gave him!

It was high time, we moved over to Katraj. Besides we hadn’t yet had Lunch! At about 17:00 hrs we had our lunch at a roadside dhabha and moved towards Old Katraj. A small accident on the Satara highway caused us to be delayed by a few more minutes. It was almost 18:30 hours by the time we reached the Katraj Muncipal Bus stand. Prasanna, Vishnu, Hari and Pavan joined us there. Gourav and I went on a shopping spree for Chocolates and Biscuits while Animesh and Venki ran about for water bottles. It was a literal shop loot in both the shops. All in all we bought about sixty Five-stars , sixty dairy milks, forty Goodday biscuits and about Sixty five Mineral water bottles. All set , we reached the base trek point at around 19:30 hrs. The DH team had just arrived there a few minutes earlier. Abhijeet was still put up at the city outskirts as he couldn’t find proper transport.  He turned up too a few minutes later on a tractor!

After a quick distribution of chocolates and Water, the 36 strong team splited into six teams. Suhas and I were the only two people in the team who had been to this trek recently. So the onus of guiding the whole team on the right path was on us. Moving a bit ahead we realized this modus operandi would simply not work. So once we reached a tableland , we regrouped ourselves into four teams. Each team would have a lead and a sweep. Abhijeet opted to be the sweep of the last team so as to keep a tab on the movement. We had quite a few noobies in this trek and no compromise on safety could be made. I was the lead of the first team and Suhas the sweep of the first team. Abhishek, Nitin, Gourav, Animesh and Zohar took up respective responsibilities of lead and sweep for different teams.Though being a huge team, after a reordering of people, we noticed the team picking up speed. The first hill was definitely a solid motivation to the team. ( That was after they got down from it  ) . I wouldn’t comment on the trek path now because I’ve already covered that in my previous post. In fact this was a bit more challenging to me as I had seven 1litre water bottles in my backpack! Reshma couldn’t continue with the 2l in her bag post the first hill. So we shifted them into my bag on condition that she’d carry the Emptied bottles. Surprisingly, We’d covered about seven hills before midnight and the spirits were still high. But for Trishna who had cramps developing on her legs not many had their energies low. But, Later in the morning it so happened that Trishna was in the leading team .

18th May – Sunday

I thankfully had not much problem recollecting the trek route from my past experience. Being in the first team is always advantageous. You have the discretionary power to set the team’s speed and at the same time you get to rest more frequently than the other teams.

I missed the track twice during the trek. First time fortunately a Hanuman temple indicated we were in the wrong path. I rightly remember not coming across any temple during my previous trek. Deepika, Meenu and Ranjan helped me track back to the right path. All in all we could have saved about an hours time had I led them in the right direction. Nevertheless, this only added some more thrill to the trek! The second time i missed the track was at the fag end. But then a few other folks were pretty quick in tracing back to the right path.

We reached the last hill at about 06:30 hours. All we did once we reached the final hillock was to rest on the Gravel. One view of the sunrise on this peak is enough to rejuvenate you. The soaring sound of the chilled wind, Dew settling on those lucky few shrubs and the rays of the sun slicing through the clouds – Can anything match that feeling?

We stayed on the peak for a few more minutes and started moving down the last hill to reach the Sinhagad fort base by 19:30 hrs. Not many of the team members were interested in climbing up the fort. So based on group decision the plan was dropped. Balaji, The TT driver picked us up at around 09:00 hrs and we managed to reach Infy at around 11:00hrs. I got dropped back at Aundh and the Hydventura team left for Hyderabad at around 14:00hrs after refreshing in the Infy Campus.

All in all , it was one wholesome experience to trek with such a big enthusiastic group. This time surprisingly we didn’t use much water. In fact my bag still had three full water bottles!

Stats/ Details :

Team: 36 ( 18 – Hyd , 18- Pune )

Distance: Approx 10Kms

Start Point: Old Katraj Tunnel

Direrctions to reach Basepoint: Pick a Rick/Bus from Swargate and reach Katraj Muncipal Bus stand. From there try pitching a lift from someone to The old Katraj Tunnel.

Precautions: Always carry a Torchlight! You never know when the clouds would shroud the moon even if it were to be a Moonlight trek! ( As it happened in our case ).

Complexity: Low

Endurance : High

Estimate time : 7hrs.

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